Category Archives: Law

At This Moment

I am ashamed of those moments I privileged law over justice or valued order over community. The opposite of law and its attendant order is not, as we fear, anarchy and violence. Anarchy and violence, rather, result from law and order which try to exist for their own sake, instead of which try to serve.

Law and order cannot be the master because law is but the means. Justice is the end.


Half-formed thoughts on a Saturday Morning

QotD: And to think all of this is over secular marriage licenses! Not life & death. Not war & peace. But secular marriage licenses!

Was proud of myself this week from walking away from an Idiot Begin Wrong on the Internet, who was defending the bigoted clerk by saying that all marriage licenses were the government practicing religion.

There’s a reason why the phrase “Christian religion” is not redundant and is common.There’s a reason why the anti-tax movement is associated with fringe Christian sects. (SPLC link that touches on the connection).

Government and religion (to differing extents and possibly different ends) proscribe human behavior. People (to differing degrees and different results) chafe at having their behavior dictated by rules they did not create (Note how angry people get when you suggest that there is a convention of etiquette contrary to how they want to behave). But there are millions of us people and there is necessity both to common rules and to strong commendation of behavior that harms the whole.

That explains why and how people get confused over the intersection between a local government-issued marriage license that confers local and federal legal benefits (inheritance rights, tax effects, property rights) and social benefits with a religious covenant of the same name but which carries only social and religious benefits.

It does not, however, explain why we should countenance the confusion.

Still Quite Angry About it

I rode home on the lakefront last night. Coming up on the merge at Fullerton where the shoreline is under heavy construction, two women were walking on an odd path (perpendicular to the path, directly toward the construction entrance)–one of them had her head down, completely ignoring every single thing around her.

There was a man on a racing bike, decked out in all the racing gear, who was going quite fast, headed directly for her. He never slowed down, did not call out to her, did not even change his course. The only reason he did not hit her is because he almost hit her and she was so startled, she stopped short.

I apologized to her, though I had done nothing wrong. In the legal world, we have a concept of responsibility: “the last best chance to avoid harm”. There were four of us in the position here to avoid harm: the woman who was nearly hit, her companion, the man who nearly hit her, and me. Each of us had a responsibility in the situation. I was the furthest away, but I have both a voice and a bell–clearly I should have called out. The woman’s companion was only an arm’s length away and she was watching where they were walking; she could had called out or grabbed her friend’s arm. We both were in an excellent position to warn and should have.

The woman herself most certainly should have been paying attention and checked the path before she walked across it. It’s a heavily traveled path; it was right after work and a beautifully sunny day. She was irresponsible taking a perpendicular path, directly toward a place she could not logically be going (into the construction site) without checking for traffic or being aware of her surroundings.

But the last best chance to avoid harm was squarely with the man on the racing bike. It’s a heavily traveled path; pedestrians are slow and hard to predict. He was going quite fast (although not too fast for conditions–the day was chilly and pedestrians were sparse enough on the Lakefront for me to be there in the evening) entering an intersection.

The most vulnerable road user requires the most care from the least. It was pure luck that he did not hurt her badly and I am still angry at his lack of care.

I guess generally right now, I’m just angry at lack of care in the world.

I Don’t Have Much to Add

Unpaid child support became a big concern in the 1980s and ’90s as public hostility grew toward the archetypal “deadbeat dad” who lived comfortably while his children suffered. Child support collections were so spotty that in the late 1990s, new enforcement tools such as automatic paycheck deductions were used. As a result, child support collections increased significantly, and some parents rely heavily on aggressive enforcement by the authorities.

But experts said problems could arise when such tactics were used against people who had little money, and the vast majority of unpaid child support is owed by the very poor. A 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income in child support — a percentage that declined precipitously in higher income brackets.

The Obama administration is trying to change some of these policies, proposing to rewrite enforcement rules to require that child support orders be based on actual income and consider the “subsistence needs” of the noncustodial parent, to bar states from allowing child support debt to accrue while parents are incarcerated and to finance more job placement services for them.

“While every parent has a responsibility to support their kids to the best of their ability, the tools developed in the 1990s are designed for people who have money,” said Vicki Turetsky, the commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. “Jail is appropriate for someone who is actively hiding assets, not appropriate for someone who couldn’t pay the order in the first place.”

Frances Robles and Shaila Dewan in the New York Times, emphasis mine.

I’m working a domestic relations pilot project at work right now. It’s a hybrid court, based off a community courts model, a triage courts model, and court-based legal services model. It’s a big project, with impressive goals and I hope we’re able to meet even some of them.

One intent is to connect families with non-judicial services that will help resolve conflicts and facilitate stability in the new family structure. Parents who no longer live together, after all, both remain part of the child’s family–that’s the family structure which needs facilitation when the family ends up in domestic relations courts. Among these moves to stability are providing job support services for precisely the reasons outlined in this article.

We have support from important people for the project and we’re getting excellent input from the community as to how the program should work. But I know there are problems not addressed by our proposal, chief among them the pull quote from Vicki Turetsky: “Jail is appropriate for someone who is actively hiding assets, not appropriate for someone who couldn’t pay the order in the first place.”

My Thoughts Are Undeveloped

Mostly because employment law and workers’ rights are something I know enough to know I don’t understand well. I do know that my personal experience of Uber has not impressed me (but I also know that my neighborhood & the places I go are places where hailing a cab is a trivial matter 23 hours a day/7 days a week–it’s that 4:30 am to 5:30 am stretch that gets tricky). I also believe that employers manipulate schedules and employee classifications to screw people out of benefits and paychecks that amount to a living wage. I also believe that regulation of things like taxi-cab safety and bonding workers (like maids) who have keys to your house are necessary to protect both the users of the services and the workers.

I think, in the end, I’m in Liss-Riordan’s camp, but I know I don’t have enough information.

[Shannon] Liss-Riordan, 45, has spent her entire legal career going after employers for allegedly short-changing their employees. She specializes in worker misclassification lawsuits—the illegal practice of companies who classify their workers as independent contractors, rather than normal employees, in order to avoid paying them benefits they’re owed under federal law. She’s filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of truck drivers, waiters, delivery men, cable installers, call center workers, and exotic dancers. FedEx and Starbucks are among companies that have paid out millions of dollars for misclassifying workers and misallocating workers’ tips, respectively, as a result of suits she’s filed.

Now, her sights are set on the so-called “on-demand economy”—the constellation of tech start-ups that provide transportation and delivery services at the tap of an app.

Meet the Lawyer Taking on Uber and the Rest of the On-Demand Economy

Although I’m twitching because the article–in quoting U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria’s Order denying the cross-motions for summary judgment–calls it a “Motion“.