Justice Has Prevailed

It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes before he said, “We’ll send you a check for the towing.”

Early in July Stef got a parking ticket. She was babysitting that day and didn’t see the “No Parking–Street Sweeping” sign. If you want to follow this story contemporaneously from the first day, click here to read all about it.

By the time she was done for the day her car was gone, towed to a local garage and held pending payment of $77. That was on top of the ticket.

Originally I was upset my daughter had been so cavalier not seeing a sign she surely should have noticed. But the more I looked into it and the more I saw the more I realized the deck had been stacked against her.

There had to be rules governing this sort of situation, so with the help of a friend who’s a lawyer I began to read up. I’m pretty confident right now I’m New Haven’s number one expert on no parking signs. The rules are actually well thought out and if followed wouldn’t have led Stef astray.

Today was my turn to convince the city they were wrong in their enforcement. My goal was a dismissal of the parking ticket and refunding of the towing fee–and that’s just what I got!

You might be saying (and I can understand why you would) you got off because you’re TV-boy. I have after all gotten everything from free desserts to a bump to first class by virtue of my job–absolutely. But today I’m pretty confident that didn’t enter into the equation. This was being argued on the merits.

My hearing was scheduled for 10:00 AM in Downtown New Haven. Helaine wanted to come to keep me from letting my temper get the better of me. My friend Peter came because he had a stake in it, having helped with my research.

We were there early–first to sign the sheet. We patiently waited. When the hearing officer came to fetch us (a few minutes early), there were only two others in the room. We were taken across the hall into a small conference room.

I don’t remember the hearing officer’s name, but he was very business-like. He wore some sort of law enforcement badge on his belt. In the room with us was a uniformed traffic officer. She said nothing.

I came with printouts of the applicable state rules and photos from the scene. It had the potential to be Alice’s Restaurant II.

The hearing officer asked me to present my ‘case,’ which I did. Did he want me to quote the actual regulations, I asked? No, he knew what I was talking about.

It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes before he said, “We’ll send you a check for the towing.” And then he proceeded to tell me why he thought the sign had been incorrectly placed.

I’m pretty lucky. I was able to attend this hearing without missing work. That gives me a major advantage over many others who have to pay regardless of the circumstances. And I was looking forward to the hearing as a personal challenge. There’s probably some deep seated sickness at work with that.

That’s it. All done. Justice has prevailed.

Privacy At Peril, Again

I have nothing to hide, but that’s beside the point. I want my privacy preserved.

Viacom has sued Youtube (owned by Google). The issue is copyright infringement. That’s between Viacom and Youtube. Unfortunately, you and I have been dragged into this case in a way that makes me uncomfortable..

From Daily Tech: As part of its $1 billion lawsuit against user-video site YouTube, Viacom will receive a complete log of all users’ activities, which will include a list of usernames, IP addresses, and videos that each account has viewed in the past.

Whoa! I don’t want Viacom, or anyone, knowing where I go and what I look at on the Internet. I have nothing to hide, but that’s beside the point. I want my privacy preserved.

I am not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding Viacom couldn’t get at this info if I was watching rented DVDs or videocassettes and not streamed video from Youtube.

This decision will be appealed, no doubt. Right now, it’s just another example of America’s diminishing respect for privacy.

Are Forecasters Liable?

Drudge has linked to an article from a Central Florida TV station that’s interesting and worrisome.

Hotel Mogul Threatens Lawsuit Over Hurricane Expert’s Gloomy Forecasts

Rosen: Fla. Lost Billions Of Dollars Because Of Incorrect Storm Outlook

I’m a non-believer in seasonal forecasts because I think, by and large, they’re awful – aka, inaccurate. By the way, the same goes for all the Global Warming hype.

Here’s what I wrote to a viewer earlier tdoay:

Viewer: I’m just wondering what the outlook is for the 2007-08 winter season. A lot of snow, not much but colder. I heard we arent’ going to get much snow. Please advise. Thanks.

Geoff: I don’t believe in them. We don’t currently have the skill. Most long range forecasts end in embarrassment for the forecaster.

Should there be a monetary downside to a bad prediction? Neither Gray nor anyone other forecaster claims divine insight and 100% accuracy. He used the best techniques known to science.

More importantly, I don’t think anyone expects 100% accuracy.

I tend to think Harris Rosen’s rhetoric is bluster and no more… but who knows? Maybe he does have a case. I’m sure there’s a lawyer willing to help him.

But why go after Dr. Gray? There are other seasonal hurricane forecasts from forecasters with deeper pockets. AccuWeather comes to mind, though there are probably others.

I’ve got a dollar that says the attorney won’t forecast the outcome nor guarantee it.

Continue reading “Are Forecasters Liable?”

New Trial For Julie Amaro

I turned on the noon news to see a live report from Norwich.

Julie Amero, a substitute teacher convicted after pornographic images appeared on a classroom computer, was granted a new trial today. Amero’s lawyer says there is new evidence casting doubt on her conviction.

Outside court Amero, 40, was simply relieved, relieved because Judge Hillary Strackbein granted her attorney’s motion for a new trial. William Dow, III says new evidence discovered by state police investigators after the trial discredits information presented in her trial.

I don’t know whether she is guilty or not, but this obscure story about a Connecticut substitute teacher became a major cause c

My Creative Family

We are a very small family. Even then, I am only in touch with a smaller subset of my relatives. Outside my immediate family, my closest relative is Cousin Michael. He and his family live in California – in the OC.

Michael is our most educated Fox. He has a closet full of bachelor and masters degrees, plus a law degree and PhD.

When he was in high school, he wanted to be a farmer&#185. That’s not the normal career path for someone born within walking distance of the Flushing El, who could see the Empire State Building from the front steps of his Queens apartment building.

If I remember correctly (and he’s not shy about correcting) he then studied library science, and of course, law. I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

He ended up working for the federal government as a staff attorney for the Labor Board in Washington. I remember visiting his office in a government building so depressingly institutional, linoleum and green wall paint would have classed the joint up.

At some point in Washington, he got hooked on theater. I don’t know how that happened, because Michael and I were out of touch for many of those years, but he got the bug. Michael gravitated to directing.

Though he taught and occasionally did ‘lawyer work,’ directing was obviously his vocational passion.

I have never seen Michael’s work, but now I’ve gotten to read about it. His latest production, Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” is in the midst of a short run in Santa Ana, CA.

The Orange County Register’s reviewer was very positive.

This could be some bizarre, post-nuclear world where everyone struggles for survival, or it could simply be the extreme result of societies that value ideologies or materialism over human life. The time, place and context are never specified because, as director Michael David Fox’s staging proves, Beckett’s ideas transcend such specifics, creating disturbing images while raising philosophical questions deeply troubling once dwelled upon.

Beckett means for us to dwell on these issues, and Fox and company oblige with a compact staging that, like “Godot,” can be achingly funny one moment, stark and bleak the next.

I wish I could pop on down to Southern California to see it. The show runs through May 20, Friday and Saturday evenings and a Sunday matin

The Modern Diagnosis

Steffie had a pretty bad allergic reaction this weekend. It wasn’t fun for her, or for us. Your child can grow up – but she’s still your child.

As the week went on, the allergic reaction went away. That’s good.

Our family physician said Steffie should see an allergist. I called the to make an appointment with the allergist I see… or anyone in his practice. June – the earliest available appointment is June!

Popular folks these allergists.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sent my allergist an email, with a photo of Steffie taken while she was in the midst of the reaction. He took a look and wrote back.

His response suggested what we were already doing was right, and it wouldn’t be necessary to see him until or unless there were more problems.

I’m glad he wrote back, but this is a hell of an imposition on my part, isn’t it? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the new era and have our insurance companies (or, shudder, me the patient) pay for this service.

As far as I can tell, when my internist or allergist gives me advice from his keyboard, he’s doing this out of the goodness of his heart – literally giving away the work he usually charges for.

My guess is, in some cases, Internet consultation is a good thing. From an insurance standpoint, isn’t this a chance to purchase a more cost effective service for their customers? Shouldn’t the physician be compensated to encourage this?

I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on television&#185). I’m sure those I know will tell me if I’m off base here.

&#185 – That line, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on television,” was actually used in a TV commercial about 40 years ago.

Blogger’s addendum: And, my primary physician did respond:

If there were something that were more than 100%, I’d agree with you that much. Does the accountant or lawyer or guy at the gas pump EVER give it away for free? I think that our ethic and culture is different, though. Medicine is rightly called a “caring profession.” and when we care, we really do care. So we do it, without listening for the sound of the cash register ringing.

And don’t hold your breath waiting to hear that Aetna or Anthem or, God forbid, Medicare will ever pay me or your allergist for giving you email or even telephone advice. Not in my lifetime, and I plan to torture all of you for many years to come.

Howard Stern’s Tsuris

Tsuris is a Yiddish word for trouble or aggravation. I’ve heard it all my life (as the Fox family specialized in trouble and aggravation). Tonight, there’s tsuris in store for Howard Stern. He’s being sued by his former employer.

I’ll start with the obvious – I am not a lawyer. Still a quick read through CBS’s press release shows some reasonable grounds for CBS to sue Howard.

I don’t think it was just luck that this came out after the first post-Stern ratings. Now they can show damages. The former Stern stations have tanked.

Most entertainment law suits look like hot air. This looks real. I’m not anti-Howard nor am I pro-CBS. I’m just fascinated by what will come next.

A Day At The Tables

24 Feb ’06, 2.22pm EST

Originally uploaded by geoff_fox.

Very windy – went to Foxwoods. Wish me luck.

That line above was thumbed onto my phone while playing poker. It was about all that went right early in the day.

After my big ‘score’ in the PokerStars satellite tournament, I thought some real poker might be fun. I don’t usually sit face-to-face while I play… in pajamas.

Foxwoods is around an hour from here. We drive by another beautiful casino, Mohegan Sun, to get there. About twenty minutes before poker became hot, Mohegan Sun shut their room. I’ve heard all sorts of rumors, but never an official explanation for why they closed.

As has been my custom recently, I sat down at a $10/$20 table and proceeded to bleed money. I’m a little embarrassed by how much I lost (and won’t put the amount here), but with the bets being in increments of $10 and $20, it mounts quickly.


My mood had shifted from good to bad. So, why not spread a little sunshine around? I headed toward Helaine in another part of the casino.

I took the shortcut to get to where she was from where I was. That involves cutting through the men’s room!

Helaine was having fun. She really didn’t want to go. We compromised and had an early dinner… or late lunch… take your choice.

We sat along a wall in the lounge attached to Cedar’s Steakhouse. On one TV, foreigners with unpronounceable names were playing hockey in an Olympic medal round. Go guy with 15 consonants and no vowels! On another TV, Scooter Libby’s lawyer explained how much classified data he’d need for Scooter’s trial, while commentators speculated it was a ploy to get the charges dropped.

Scooter’s my age for heaven’s sake. No one our age should be named Scooter.

Loaded up on chowder, burger and French fries the size of waffles, I decided to give poker another chance. Helaine told me an attitude adjustment was in order.

I went back, sat down and began to win.

I had an incredible mountain to climb… which I did. By the time we left, I was down $5. It’s so incredibly unlikely, I’ll say it again. I lost $5 for the day. And that was after tipping the dealer on every winning hand and tipping the waitress who delivered bottled water, coffee and a Baileys (the only alcoholic beverage I drink. What a wuss I am).

I got up from the table and we left. I am a happy man.

Before I close out this entry, two casino observations.

As you walk toward Foxwoods’ poker room, you pass a portion of the casino with unusual games. I don’t know their names. I have no idea of the rules. They are played, almost exclusively, by Asian men and women.

It is astounding to walk through this area and see nothing but Asian faces – most of them puffing cigarettes. I don’t know if the number of smokers here reflects the Asian-American population in general, but it is quite noticeable and a much higher percentage of smokers in one place than I remember seeing in decades.

The second observation concerns something we saw just before we left. Helaine was alongside my table, waiting for me to get up and cash out. She told me to turn and pointed to a coterie of security games and other uniformed casino personnel. Some of them were scurrying around, others standing and milling and others still were holding a white sheet aloft, hiding whatever was behind it.

If someone didn’t die tonight in the poker room, they surely got real sick. I guess that’s inevitable with so many people there all hours of the day and night. It was a little spooky.

As far as I could tell, no game stopped while this commotion was in progress.

Blame The Lawyers?

Since returning from Chicago, I’ve been catching up on the news. One of the recurring themes today is the question of whether Martha Stewart’s attorneys failed her?

There is an implication that good lawyering should achieve the desired result, no matter what the cause of action. We, unfortunately, live in a society that believes the goal of a well presented defense is to allow someone to be unaccountable for their actions. If that’s the criteria by which the Stewart verdict is being judged, the critics are right.

But, isn’t the whole idea of competent counsel, a fair and just result?

It is in the selfish interest of the accused (if guilty) to get an unfair and unjust adjudication. Hey – if it were me, that’s what I’d want. That’s not what’s in the best interest of our society – and our court system is supposed to be operating in the best interests of society.

Maybe it’s time we reassess exactly what it is lawyers do. Is a lawyer who can get a guilty client ‘off’ any different than a trainer who supplies an athlete with steroids that can’t be detected?

In a fair and just society, the question shouldn’t be about what Martha Stewart’s attorneys did, but what Martha did herself.

I Can’t Throw Stuff Away

I grew up in a small apartment, in a development of 2,300 apartments, in Flushing, Queens, New York City.

There is no one who grew up there who really thinks of it as New York City. Sure, you vote for the mayor and go to New York City schools, but it’s a bus and subway to get to Manhattan… and it’s Manhattan that’s called “The City.”

Queens, and its sister borough Brooklyn, are both on Long Island. Yet when we’d venture to Nassau County, we’d say we were going to “The Island.”

Flushing in general and Queens in particular have an inferiority complex – some of which is well deserved.

Our apartment, 5E, was tiny. For my sister, our parents, and me, we had two small bedrooms, a microscopic kitchen, dinette, living room and bathroom. There was no closet space to speak of.

The apartment, with only a northern exposure, had no direct sunlight. My bedroom window looked out on a fire escape, which overlooked a huge parking lot. In the distance I could see the Throgs Neck Bridge.

As a child, before air conditioning was allowed in the apartment complex, we’d leave our windows wide open in the summer, hoping for a breath of air. The slow, lumbering, propeller driven planes of that age would rattle the building while taking folks much higher in the social strata to La Guardia Airport.

We weren’t well to do. In our section of Queens I never knew a doctor or lawyer or professional. These were working people, many union craftsmen, some laborers.

Anything we kept that couldn’t fit in a closet was moved into position along the wall of the single hallway that connected our rooms. My mother had a sewing machine, and it snuggled against the wall where the hallway met the dining room. It didn’t seem like the walls were closing in – they actually were, as we accumulated more stuff.

Still, we did accumulate things over time. I believe my folks were adverse to throwing anything away. Helaine tells me I still have some of that pack rat mentality.

This is a really long way to go to tell you what I just did… and I apoolgize. I cleaned out the email folders on my computer. For me, that was a painful decision and process.

I don’t like throwing anything away.

First, I backed up all my messages to a DVD-R. There’s now 3.5 GB of penis enlargement ads, Nigerian scams, viewer mail and important correspondence on that disk, and I have no idea if I could re-import it if necessary! Still, I couldn’t do what followed without that first step.

I wiped out everything in my deleted folder that was put there prior to July. It wasn’t too much – NOT! I have just deleted 38,660 messages. There are still over 9,000 left in the deleted folder.

Tomorrow (I’m getting tired right now), I will purge my sent messages. I guess I’ll, again, arbitrarily pick a date a started chopping. The sent folder has 14,788 messages.

Why do I save them all?

Every once in a while, I’ll look for an email to find an address or remember what someone had said to me (or vice versa). Over time, as with apartment 5E, the walls have started to close in. My computer became more and more sluggish when I had to load the deleted folder. Often, it wouldn’t let me directly read what I had searched for, because the database had used so much memory.

Like my folks, as the boxes piled up, I worry that I’ve thrown out some gem. Hopefully, it won’t be a rude awakening.

Silence of the Litigants

This morning, The New Haven Register reported the story of a man who claimed employment discrimination against McDonald’s. He contended he wasn’t hired because of his size.

I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the case, because I just don’t know them.

What did come out in this case, as it does in so many others, is the settlement has been sealed. To quote the attorney for the plaintiff in The Register, “This matter has been resolved amicably, and without further litigation. The terms of the settlement are confidential, and both parties are prohibited from discussing the terms of the settlement.

It seems to me, and I’m certainly not a lawyer, that settling charges of discrimination without revealing the settlement shortchanges the rest of us who might benefit from hearing about the actual practices of the defendant. Did McDonald’s discriminate? Did the plaintiff fold under overwhelming odds? Are there others, under similar circumstances, who might benefit by knowing what went on and who got what?

Isn’t the press being used when litigants are willing to talk only until they get what they want?