opinions, everybody's got one...
Friday, March 01, 2002
e-z come, e-z go?
I received a violation notice in the mail from the E-Z pass Regional Authority in late December from a trip that I had made to New Jersey during the Thanksgiving holiday. Coming in to Delaware across the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I got into a poorly marked "e-z pass only" lane, and there was no one there to take the three dollars I was holding in my hand. I stopped my car at the booth, only to see cars in my rear-view lining up behind me, and at the sound of the first honk, I drove on.
The notice asked for the three dollars, plus another $25 dollars administrative fee. The temptation was to send them three dollars, and send a nasty letter to Governor Minner, the Wilmington News Journal, and the e-z pass authority. The letter required that the money be sent in within 15 days of the date of the notice. Fourteen days had already passed when I received their letter.
I held on to the letter for a couple of days, considering all possible options, and then figured that it wasn't worth arguing over, and facing the possibility of additional fines leveled against me from some faceless multi-state agency. The check went out in the mail.
I recently had to make a number of trips within Delaware using a car that had an e-z pass, and the convenience it brought was great. And then I heard from a friend how she had mistakenly driven through a wrong lane, an e-z pass lane, and couldn't back up to drive through the correct one. In a panic, she called the police on her cell phone immediately afterwards. They told her to keep on going, and that she would probably receive a notice in the mail, and should just pay it when it came. A few miles down the road, she saw a number of police cars ahead with their lights flashing, and thought that she was the subject of a roadblock. She said she was envisioning being arrested in front of her young children. The squad cars were for an accident ahead, and she passed without incident.
It seems like New Jersey is also experiencing some problems with E-Z pass.
Since E-ZPass was launched in November 1998, the state has taken in $13.3 million in fines but has spent $19.2 million to collect the money, she said. Officials originally projected that $190.7 million would be collected from 1999 through 2001.I hope that they do get their equipment fixed, and the e-z pass program working correctly. But until they mark their lanes more clearly, and until there is a way set in place to appeal administrative fees imposed, and a responsible government body becomes attached to the program, I don't expect citizens of New Jersey care too much about paying the E-Z Pass Authority.
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Haven't seen the movie Blackhawk Down yet. I wasn't aware that before it was a movie, it was a newspaper serial in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Audio, video, pictures, and "questions and answers with the author" accompany the article, which starts off with a first chapter, entitled: Reliving a firefight: Hail Mary, then hold on.
The commencement speaker from my winter graduation at the University of Delaware didn't show up. I don't remember his name, but he was a journalist who won a pulitzer prize, and he was unavoidably detained. His non appearance didn't leave much of an impression. This year's commencement speaker (another pulitzer prize winner) might have left more of an impression, if she hadn't been uninvited.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was to give the commencement address in May. Over the past few months, it was uncovered that some text made it into her writings that she hadn't authored, or credited to the proper author. I wonder if this year's graduates will remember her name in a few years. The request that she not speak came after the University's student newspaper, the Review, criticised her appearance, and the $ 20,000 speaker fees her presence demanded.
From the Acme License Maker.
It made me a little angry tonight listening to the last hour or so of the grammys, when I got to hear a rant about how ripping music from cds, and downloading songs from the internet, is taking food off of the plates of the children of millions of recording artists, sound engineers, and record executives. The problem isn't electronic distribution of music. The problem isn't that the Grammy staff could have three college students successfully download 6,000 songs from the internet in the period of 24 hours without paying for the music. The problem isn't that people are making archival backup copies of their cds to be stored offsite (under the supervision of friends).
The problem is that an industry is acting myopic. There's a very large market out there waiting for industrious people to release music in mp3 format. The format has been out for five years, and players are becoming common. Where are they getting this music? Where are they supposed to get it if no one will sell it to them?
An excellent foray into the problem with music and mp3s today from Matt Haughey brings a message to those who produce music. On their web site, the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), answers the question: What is your stand on MP3? Maybe they should read Matt's article and try answering again.
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
If you have a web site, you can learn more about legal issues that you may run face first into in the shape of cease and desist orders, subpoenas, or disputes involving your domain name. A site on those subjects, and copyright, trademarks, defamation, and others, has been put together by the Electronic Freedom Foundation and law school clinics from Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco Law Schools.
The name of the site is chillingeffects.org and the title is an apt description of what happens to people afraid to express themselves when they are fearful of oppression in the form of legal actions against them. The Frequently Asked Questions section has some great information on a number of topics. For example, check on the section on John Doe lawsuits.
Part time or full time office position available for a responsible, honest, reasonable person with good people skills, who isn't afraid to learn and work. Send resume to L.D. Sullivan, Esquire, 111 Barksdale Professional Center, Newark, De 19711 or fax to (302) 286-6337 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
freedom of information
I remember the first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request I ever made. Looking up information on Delaware's DUI statute, I accidentally opened the Delaware Code to a random page in the section on Civil Defense.
And there it was - the Communist Registration Act of 1953. The title stopped me in my tracks. I was compelled to read the Act, before going on to discover whether Delaware's DUI statute would call for the automatic revocation of someone's driver's license for a specific period of time, or merely gave the Division of Motor Vehicles the right to take a license away for a time determined at their discretion.
Older versions of the Delaware Code are filled with treasures of legislative history, and often offer an glimpse into the minds of our legislators. For instance, pick up an old copy of the Code, and you might just come across the section which made it a crime to bring a camera with you to a public whipping. Up until 1967, it was legally possible in Delaware to sentence someone to be whipped as a punishment. (What types of crimes were eligible for such a sentence? One I came across was Wife Beating.) There's something just wrong about a state sanctioning a punishment when they would then make capturing the sentence on camera a crime.
The Communist Registration Act required any communist plotting to overthrow the government of Delaware, or of the United States of American, to register with the Office of Public Safety every year, within the first 15 days of the year. This was regardless of whether they were a card carrying member of the Communist Party, or just a communist intent on hiding their allegiance to the communist party, acting in sympathy with the Soviet Republic, while causing (or just planning) the downfall of democracy.
Since the Soviet Republic had been a defunct governmental body for at least a couple of years at that time, I thought that it might have been a good thing to let the law find its way out of the Delaware Code, and into the social studies textbook that it belonged within. The best thing to do might have been to write a letter to a state senator, calling it to his or her attention.
But curiosity got the better of me. Instead, I considered it interesting determining if the law had always been useless, and not just one that was now useless because it was obsolete. I wrote a letter to the Head of the Department of Public Safety requesting to find out if anyone had ever been prosecuted under the law. I didn't want names, just numbers. I mentioned my interest in writing an article about the subject. Never did write that article (until now).
About a week later, I received a response for the Delaware Attorney General's Office letting me know that they had deemed my request worthy of a response. Three weeks later, a letter was in my mailbox from the headquarters of State Police Intelligence. To the best of their knowledge, no one had ever registered under the statute. My guess was that no one had ever been prosecuted under it either from that response. I occasionally wondered from that point on, when within the eyesight of someone from the Attorney General's Office, whether they thought I was harboring secret thoughts about bringing the camaraderie of communism to America.
A few months after my letter, one of the editors from the Wilmington News Journal asked the same questions I had been asking myself about the Communist Registration Act. But he did it within the confines of the editorial page. The law didn't last on Delaware's books too much past his musings about its continued need.
Regardless of my experience with Delaware's Freedom of Information Act, I've always been happy that there was a way for people to ask about such things. And the last couple of years has shown the government providing information online that would have been unimaginable until recently. But, we really do have to be concerned about the types of information that should be disclosed.
Should a detailed map of New York City's power grid be online? What about a map of the reservoirs of the city, or floor plans of government buildings? These are the types of things that might have been released through a Freedom of Information Act request. These are things that were online recently, and have been taken away. The State of New York has been reviewing the information people have access to (registration required) and it's made them nervous. And they have every right to be.
I just hope that someday we can look at the policies being issued now about restricting access to information and find them as obsolete as I thought the Communist Registration Act was when I stumbled across it.
Monday, February 25, 2002
Tricks of the Trade
by Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a Paralegal with a law firm that occasionally utilizes Nexis.com to locate media articles pertaining to individuals or corporations.. The site is expensive. Are there any free sources on the net we could check out?
Answer: Yes, findarticles.com is a great site, and it's free! The web site is a collaboration between LookSmart and the Gale Group. Although the site isn't as content rich as Nexis, it is very useful, and the cost makes it worth a look. Findarticles provides access to 300 publications (Nations Business, Chicago Reporter, PR Newswire, etc.).
Question: Anything new to help a paralegal working in the real estate law arena?
Answer: Absolutely! Check out www.datatree.com. These people have optically scanned over 800 million deeds, mortgages, and other public filings and delivers them instantly to you for about 3 dollars per document. Coverage areas include California, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington State. In addition, the 5 counties in the Philadelphia metro area (Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware) are included. To entice you to check out their site, datatree is offering 25 free searches. I have found this site very helpful in skip tracing as well.
Question: A copy of a defendant's credit report would be helpful to our case. How could I obtain a copy?
Answer: You should be aware the release of credit information is regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and various state statutes. Understand the law before attempting to obtain this information. The best way is to obtain a copy is with a signed release from the defendant. If that is not possible you may mail a subpoena (signed by a judge) to the addresses below. The report is free. You must provide a ssn and current address. There are three major sources:
Attn: Custodian of Records
1600 Peachtree St.
Atlanta GA 30309
Ph: (770) 375-2613
Attn: Custodian of Records
P.O. Box 1240
Allen TX 75013
Ph: (972) 390-4016
Attn: Custodian of Records
555 W. Adams St.
Chicago IL 60661
Ph: (312) 466-6401
Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association.
A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA, Michael specializes in Insurance and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
Or you may e-mail him at DE Irish email@example.com