Category: Life’s Little Legal Problems

On Long Lost Lawyers

Being a lawyer at a cocktail party is a little bit like being a doctor at a cocktail party: everyone wants you to diagnose their legal problems. That can be very challenging what with the liability issues involved, and problems with stepping on another lawyer’s toes. But the most disconcerting question lawyers get asked is “Why won’t my lawyer return my calls?

This is a really great question.  You pay your lawyer a lot of money, shouldn’t you expect him to call you back when you want him to?  As with all questions to lawyers, the answer is invariably “That depends.”

There are two main reasons a good lawyer isn’t calling you back.

1. NOTHING IS HAPPENING Oh, this can be very frustrating, but very true. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation. Waiting for discovery, waiting for a trial setting, waiting until it’s time for a deposition. If your lawyer called you just to let you know that it’s time for more waiting, your legal bills would be astronomical, and you’d be livid!

So how do you know, without calling, if nothing is happening or if your lawyer is slacking off?  Your lawyer ought to be sending you copies of any court filings, notices of court dates, and even some correspondence.  This way you can be “in the loop” without wasting your precious legal fund calling and checking in every other week.  If you’re not getting these documents automatically, call and ask your lawyer’s paralegal or secretary to forward them to you.

2. SOMEONE ELSE IS IN JAIL/BANKRUPTCY/DIRE NEED Believe it or not, this isn’t just a lame excuse. We spend a lot of time putting out our clients’ fires. Whether that’s jail, bankruptcy, injunctions, or just threatening letters, it’s important that we’re available in an emergency. So if your call isn’t returned the same day, it’s not because your litigation isn’t important, it’s just not as immediate.

This goes back to number 1, above. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation, so lawyers will put off till tomorrow returning your call, in favor of bailing someone else out of jail.   Think of this as a good thing.  After all, if you get thrown in jail, you’ll want us to be there as quickly as possible, right?

Other Tips:

You should be getting itemized bills so that you can keep track of the funds you pay to your attorney, and how he’s spending his time.

And any complaints that you make about poor communication, shoddy workmanship, etc. should be in writing.  You always want a record of your interactions, even with “your” lawyer.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Recusal and Disqualification

One of the scariest things in a lawsuit is when a litigant believes the judge has it in for him or her. Of course, everyone thinks at one time or another that the judge “just doesn’t like me!” But it’s different when you’re firmly convinced that the judge has aligned with the other side against you.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen much. The judiciary is, on the whole, a really respectable bunch. They even have their own special sets of rules to keep them on the straight and narrow (and here in Texas).

But occasionally judges really shouldn’t sit on a particular case. For instance, if your brother is a judge he can’t sit on your criminal trial–even if you’re ok with it the other side wouldn’t be.

There’s two sorts of “shouldn’t hear the case” situations governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 18a and 18b. The first shouldn’t is known as disqualification. This covers previous legal associations, monetary interests, and family relationships. The second shouldn’t is recusal. Recusal includes everything else: bias, questionable impartiality, and looser professional and financial relationships, to name a few.

Motions to Recuse or Disqualify a judge are important legal tools. They’re used in some high profile cases, and here. While it may seem frightening to ask a judge to recuse himself, a good judge shouldn’t take it personally. And if he does? Well, there’s always the appeal!

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Dodging Service

We get to see and do some fun things as lawyers. Usually serving papers on folks isn’t something we watch. We hire a process server, or let the local law enforcement take care of it. But sometimes you have a special party, one that you make an effort to be there for. Just in case your process server needs a witness!

We had one of those special sorts lately. The Gentleman was an executive for Big Company—no, that’s not really their name—who was in town for a speaking engagement. He was from out of state, so we were particularly excited to be able to serve him in Texas—in Dallas, even, and eliminate the sometimes pesky personal jurisdiction discussion.

Our process server approached the Gentleman from out of town, announced himself and his business and offered the Gentleman the papers. The Gentleman declined to take them, so the process server dropped them at his feet. The Gentleman then bent down, picked them up, and walked away—disgruntled I’m sure.

So what’s the legality of dropping the papers at his feet? Completely legal, if he refuses to accept service.

Rule 103 of the rules of civil procedure provides, among other things, that the citation shall be served by any person authorized by rule 103 by “delivering to the defendant, in person, a true copy of the citation with the date of delivery endorsed thereon with a copy of the petition attached thereto.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 106(a)(1). Generally, a person within the jurisdiction has the obligation to accept service of process when it is reasonably attempted. See Dosamantes v. Dosamantes, 500 S.W.2d 233, 237 (Tex. Civ. App.—Texarkana 1973, writ dism’d). He is usually held to have been personally served if he physically refuses to accept the papers and they are then deposited in an appropriate place in his presence or near him where he is likely to find them, if he is also informed of the nature of the process and that service is being attempted. Id.; see also Texas Industries, Inc. v. Sanchez, 521 S.W.2d 133, 135 (Tex.Civ.App.-Dallas), writ ref’d n.r.e., 525 S.W.2d 870 (Tex.1975).” Rogers v. Moore, 2006 WL 3259337, 1 (Tex. App.—Dallas, 2006).

So why did our Gentleman bother refusing service? Perhaps he thought it would help him, somehow. But then, folks do a lot of crazy stuff to avoid service.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Pro Se, saving money, but at what cost?

We wrote a little about going pro se—representing yourself—in our FAQs, but this recent article in the Los Angeles Times got us thinking about the issue even more.

There’s no question that the current economic climate makes representing oneself look very appealing, but the risks are daunting. In a criminal case you could face fines, a criminal record, probation, and even jail time. Civil court could spell financial disaster, or the loss of important rights and privileges.

But realistically we know some folks are going to give it the old college try, anyway. For you intrepid aspiring lawyers, here are some valuable resources…

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.  And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Another Appellate Victory

Another appellate victory as Mosser Law vindicates our client’s interests.

Things don’t always go the way we want in the trial court. Fortunately we’ve got the Courts of Appeal to fix those minor problems. Recently one of Mosser Law’s clients witnessed this firsthand.

Mosser Law was able to have an unfair ruling by the trial court reversed and remanded. Read the trial court’s opinion for more details.

Mosser Law at the Texas Supreme Court

It was a great day to be a lawyer at Mosser Law on January 19.  Alexis Steinberg, Mosser Law’s newest associate, argued in front of the Texas Supreme Court on crucial issues of takings jurisprudence.

The Court was considering the issues encapsulated by VSC LLC v. City of Dallas, which include whether it is appropriate for the City of Dallas, pursuant to its police power, to seize vehicles that are lawfully towed and stored, if those vehicles are later alleged to be stolen, and to subsequently deny that the towing and storage companies are due any compensation.

Although several other issues were raised by the petition of the City of Dallas, the Court focused it’s questions narrowly on the takings question, despite attempts by counsel to raise some of the other issues.

Oral argument in this case can be viewed, but a special player must be downloaded.

This case was also noted in the news.

What Not to Wear

We recently went to court on a minor matter for one of our clients.  The lawyering part wasn’t so interesting–the plaintiff didn’t show up–but the people watching was fascinating.

One thing that really struck us was the way people were dressed, and what that conveyed about their general attitude towards the court.  A lot of folks came before the judge in sweats, showing a lot of skin, and generally unkempt.

As lawyers, we know that it’s very important that we dress appropriately–which means conservatively and formally–in order to give folks a good impression about our clients.  But clients should dress that way, too.

What does that mean?  Ideally men and women both should wear a suit (with a tie for men).  Conservative colors are easiest–think navy, black or dark grey.  Everything should be clean, wrinkle-free, and it should fit.

Worried about the cost? Inexpensive suits are available for both men and women, and consignment stores are also a good place to look.  If your budget and wardrobe don’t allow you to wear a suit, slacks for men, with a button up shirt, and conservative dresses for women, are a good second choice.

Think of going to court like a job interview: no overwhelming jewelry, perfume, loud prints, revealing clothes, or writing on your clothes. If you have questions, ask your lawyer for advice! Or find another reputable source for information.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

To sue, or not to sue?

We’ve danced around the issue of whether you should sue, and how quickly you have to decide. But we really have avoided the underlying issue: suing responsibly in what is often regarded as an overly litigious society. When we’re faced with cases like the Washingtonian who sued for $64 million over his pants, which were lost by the dry-cleaners, it’s easy to see why society is all up in arms about changing the way lawsuits and damage awards work.

But lawsuits, jury verdicts, huge damage awards–these aren’t bad things. They are just processes, which are subject to abuse by folks looking to make trouble.

Fundamentally, civil suits are about righting wrongs, leveling the playing field, and making sure the world is better for those who come after you. If that’s your goal, and not just a desire to grind someone into the dirt, you may be on the right track with a lawsuit.

If you’re still unsure whether a lawsuit is for you, think about mediation. Some folks mediate for a fee, and other places have volunteer mediators who will help you for little or nothing.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own. And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Mediation at Mosser Law

Alexis Steinberg, Mosser Law’s newest attorney, is furthering her education with training as a mediator.

“I participated in a mediation competition while in law school,” says Alexis, “and I’m interested in the value that the training will bring to my clients.”

Mediation and pre-trial settlement are becoming more prevalent, and Alexis’ new skills will certainly prove valuable as she deepens her knowledge of the settlement system.

Alexis anticipates completing the 40 hours of training by the end of September.