Old People

Confucius say: "Sit down and watch my home video of my Carnival cruise or I'll sue you."

Chinese New Year is this week (February 3rd). May the year of the rabbit bring you health and good fortune. Holiday preparations are well underway, and hopefully people will take the time to reconnect with family and friends.

And if you don’t visit your parents, they might sue you. A new proposal from the Chinese Civil Affairs Ministry seeks to mandate parental visits from Chinese children. And if the children don’t regularly visit their parents, the parents can sue.

We shouldn’t look at this as a new law: it’s just a modern update on an ancient law. Old people have long tried to find ways of forcing their kids to pay attention to them. Some societies use laws, others use the magical threat of eternal damnation. Some parents merely trust that their own skills in psychological torture will keep the kiddies hanging around on the off chance that one day mommy or daddy will be “proud” of them.

But as modern medicine artificially extends life, every society is wrestling with the problem of what to do with old people nobody cares about anymore. China has a long history of trying to regulate the most intimate of familial interactions, so when you think about it, this proposal isn’t really shocking…

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Judge Wesley Brown will be 104 in June.

When I clerked on the Ninth Circuit years ago, one of the judges on the court at the time was extremely old — and didn’t seem very “with it.” His law clerks seemed to take on a large amount of responsibility. One of his clerks that year, a law school classmate of mine I’ll call “Mary,” would negotiate over the phone with Ninth Circuit judges over how particular cases should come out — a responsibility well beyond the legal research and opinion drafting done by most clerks.

On one occasion, a vote on whether to rehear a case en banc emanated not from the judge’s chambers account, but from Mary’s personal email account. Even more embarrassingly, it was written not on behalf of the judge or the chambers, but in the first person: “I vote YES to rehearing en banc.” A law school classmate of mine who was also clerking for the Ninth that year remarked, “I thought only judges did that. When did Mary get her presidential commission?”

Some of us jokingly referred to that chambers as Weekend at Judgie’s. What appeared to be going on over there reminded us of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s famous quip to his clerks: “If I die, prop me up and keep voting!”

We joked about this delegation of Article III authority to a newly minted law school graduate. But as Joseph Goldstein suggests, in a very interesting article just published by Slate and ProPublica, the issue of superannuated jurists is no laughing matter….

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Please note the headline says “new” evidence. It does not say “good” or “credible” or “definitive” evidence. That’s because the evidence doesn’t really fall into any of those categories. In fact, the headline could have read “F. Lee Bailey Evades Caretakers, Gets to Internet Before Somebody Stops Him.”

But whatever, former Dream Team (and now disbarred) lawyer F. Lee Bailey says he can tell us things about O.J. Simpson that we didn’t know before, things that make O.J. look innocent. And Bailey says that this evidence was not used during O.J.’s trial because of a strategic mistake by the late Johnnie Cochran. That’s right, if Cochran would have just done what Bailey wanted, O.J. Simpson could have been more acquitted! Or something.

Let’s look at what Bailey has to say. It’s one of those things that makes me happy we have “the internet”…

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Late last night, Congress passed a compromise tax bill that will, among other things, cap the estate tax at 35% (with a $5 million exemption). If not for this compromise, the estate tax would have returned in 2011, at rates as high as 55 percent (with a $1 million exemption).

Hallelujah. Anytime you can save wealthy dead people millions of dollars during a time of crushing federal deficits, that’s something you just have to do. Way to go, Obama. When I voted for you in 2008, really I was just trying to vote for four more years of Bush’s ruinous fiscal policies.

Obama isn’t just saving money for all the dauphins eager to get their hands on their inheritances; he could be saving lives. Duke Law professor Richard Schmalbeck apparently thinks that rich old people might have killed themselves in droves over the next two weeks. Schmalbeck suggests that after spending a lifetime working hard and earning money, hundreds “or even a few thousand” of the aging rich might have committed suicide in the waning days of 2010, in order to pass on as much of their money to their children as they can before the estate tax returns in 2011.

I shudder to think that somebody would commodify their own life in such a way. But then again, I’m not rich. Maybe you only get rich in this country by being the kind of person who would gladly kill yourself if the price is right…

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Does Polly wanna cracker -- or to be a witness to a crime?

I overuse the words “horrifying” and “terrifying.” Most people do, but I blog, so I probably do it more than most.

But this right here, this is truly horrifying. This is something out of the movie Seven. I’m going to have nightmares over this. And now, so will you.

Let’s check out the allegations….

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Granny wants you to not be an idiot.

Pure lunacy is on display today in the Dear Prudence column on Slate. A prospective law student is set to take the December administration of the LSAT. But his or her grandmother — for ease of reference, I’ll use the male pronoun throughout this post — recently lost a battle with Alzheimer’s. Hence this question to Prudence (from questioner “Funerals and Such”):

I lost my grandmother yesterday, and I am devastated as we were very close. She had Alzheimer’s for years, and I made my peace with this some time ago. My family has planned the funeral for Saturday.

Here is the problem: My LSAT is Saturday, and I have waited for years for an opportunity to pursue law school. (I am near 30.) I told my mom that I couldn’t make the funeral because I cannot reschedule the LSAT, and she was furious! I have been on the phone with the LSAT people all morning, pleading to reschedule. No luck. Mom has informed me that she and my family are really disappointed with me, and I need to be at the funeral in order to pay my respects.

I don’t want to disappoint my family, but I have waited my entire life for this chance at law school, and I don’t want to give it up now. Additionally, if I don’t take the LSAT on Saturday, I will miss the opportunity to take it again in February (possible surgery), and I can kiss law school for next fall goodbye!

Yeah, this fellow is trying to decide between taking the LSAT or honoring his dead grandmother, and it’s apparently an open question. He’s going to make an excellent Biglaw attorney someday.

In the meantime, Prudence and I disagree about the appropriate response….

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I don’t remember the moment I first learned how to wipe my ass without hurting myself. I don’t think I received a special present or accolade for that momentous life event. But perhaps my parents did take notice in this way:

MOM: Our little boy just successfully wiped himself without incident!
DAD: Good. Maybe you were right when you prevented me from taking him out back and shooting him.

The point is that successfully using toilet paper is a basic skill in civilized society. If you have an accident while administering toilet paper to yourself, it’s the kind of thing you really want to keep to yourself.

Unless, of course, you think you can get money out of the mishap. America baby, the only place where hurting yourself while performing basic hygienic practices can lead to a tort payday.

A Michigan woman broke her hand while trying to get toilet paper out of a dispenser in a restaurant bathroom. And now the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that her case can be presented to a jury….

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This man's closet is very lucrative.

Here’s a fun one. Lawyer owes $72.5 million. Lawyer claims he has $50,000. Lawyer conveniently forgets the $8.9 million in assets he has, and the nearly $1 million he has stuffed in his closet.

That’s the story of Harry Pavilack, a lawyer who is well known in South Carolina thanks to his television ads. The ABA Journal reports that Pavilack produced $994,000 from the closet of his Myrtle Beach office when a bankruptcy investigator impressed upon him the importance of full disclosure.

Why does he have that much cash sitting around? I was hoping it was because Pavilack is old (he’s 70) and doesn’t trust these gosh-darned electronic transactions. But sadly it appears far more likely that Pavilack was just trying to frustrate his creditors…

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I already mentioned this in Morning Docket, but the issue deserves a full post. A little girl of 4-years-old barreled her bike into an old lady on a Manhattan sidewalk.

The 87-year-old woman broke her hip, and subsequently died.

Despite being just four-years-old at the time of the accident, State Supreme Court judge Paul Wooten ruled that a negligence suit could go forward against the child. Apparently, children under four are presumed to be incapable of negligence, but if you are over four you are capable of being an idiot.

So we’ve got a 4-year-old, an 87-year-old, a bike with training wheels, and the sidewalks of New York. Where do your sympathies lie?

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'Whee!!! I'm old!!!'

What’s the judge wearing underneath his robe? In the case of Judge Wesley E. Brown of the District of Kansas, the oldest living federal judge, the smart money is on these.

Judge Brown, the subject of a front-page profile in the New York Times (the news cycle is a little slow right now), is a whopping 103 years old. He was born on June 22, 1907. The president at the time was Roosevelt — Teddy, not Franklin. Judge Brown was appointed to the district court by President John F. Kennedy, and he’s one of just four JFK appointments still on the bench.

Despite his (extremely) advanced age, Judge Brown still regularly takes the bench to hear cases. And, impressively, he does so with his eyes open….

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