Delaware Law Office
of Larry D. Sullivan, Esquire

A Weblog?
The column to the right, is a news/editorial/comment column. It is a weblog, also know as a blog.

The weblog thing comes from, which offers us a convenient way to manage the posting, administratively. You don't really need to know all of that, but we have included this explanation so that you won't be confused by the term "blog".

Another important topic here is that since the column includes editorials and comments, you can be sure that we are just exercising our free speech rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and as not yet abridged by a reactionary opportunistic vocal minority.

opinions, everybody's got one...
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We encourage the exchange of responsible ideas.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

enjoy digital music legally
Dave Thomas, Tom Carvel, Lee Iacocca; these are CEOs who made commercials for the companies they headed. Add Ted Waitt of Gateway to that list. The pony-tailed CEO of Gateway, with a sidekick cow, has been rapping his way into the homes of millions of Americans with a couple of ads that ask Americans to protect their rights when it comes to digital music.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has taken notice of the commercials, and has called them, and the gateway web site, a "gateway of misinformation" intended to entice viewers to buy Gateway computers with cd burners on them. Gateway has a number of songs on their site that you can download, as well as information about digital rights, and the dangers that proposed legislation brings to those rights.

The official response from RIAA President and CEO Hilary Rosen:
"The Gateway commercial is fun, but their website is nothing but a gateway to misinformation. No one has proposed anything that would 'prevent all digital copying.' If Gateway truly believed that illegal copying hurts all artists and labels who make the music we enjoy, they wouldn't be relying on these misleading scare tactics -- they'd be working with us to find a solution to the piracy problem. If only they would devote a little bit of the millions of dollars they're spending on this ad campaign to help stop illegal downloading...but that wouldn't help them sell more CD burners, would it?"
A strong statement. It ignores a couple of facts.

One is that advertisers try to sell their products. Gateway isn't hiding the fact that they are advertising their computers. The second is that they are pushing for legal downloading and recording of music. If they are engaged in a bit of citizen advocacy against a harsh bill being proposed that will make even legal copying of music illegal, that is within their rights. I didn't see "misinformation" on the Gateway pages. "Enjoy digital music legally," are the words that come at the ends of the Gateway ads.

And RIAA, it's not just the CEO of Gateway criticising this bill. It's your customers, also. If you don't stop treating all of them like thieves in the night, you're going to lose them.

philadelphia gets tough on drivers
Just how many cars are being driven in Philadelphia illegally? Six years ago, the estimate was at about 500,000. The city decided to take some action back then, and passed a law allowing police officers to seize any car driven by someone without a driver's license, insurance or registration.

The vehicle seizure law is known as "live stop," and it hasn't started yet, except for a few pilot projects. While it's been on the books, it's barely been enforced. Plans are in the works to change that. As of July 1st, the city will begin enforcing the law citywide.
"We estimate that at the beginning, we are going to take 1,000 cars a day," said Traffic Court Administrative Judge Fortunato N. Perri Sr. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this ... It kills me that we had this law on the books for six years and that we didn't enforce it."
The additional work and resources that implementing this law will take is mind boggling. Longer police stops for lack of identification or registration or insurance. A lot of towing. Lots needed to store the vehicles. Appeals of seizures, and due process hearings. Sales of unclaimed vehicles.

The results of the pilot programs look promising, and the city has spent money on new tow trucks, and lots for cars. If it makes driving in Philadelphia safer, I'm all for it. I might drive into the city more often. But I'll definitely remember to bring my license, insurance and registration with me when I do.

taxing the irs
In the news today comes the story that the IRS had paid up to $30 million last year to people claiming a non existent credit for slavery repararations.
Although it has caught most of those claims for tax credit, IRS officials have paid out millions of dollars, Rossotti said. A published report put the figure at $30 million. One IRS employee is under investigation for allegedly helping process returns that claimed the credit, government sources confirmed Friday night. Four current and eight former IRS employees also have applied for the credit, government sources acknowledged.

It was unclear Friday whether those IRS employees--largely low-level workers--were aware that their claims were fraudulent, or whether they also were taken in by a burgeoning cadre of promoters who have recently stepped up efforts to market the idea that African Americans can take tax credits for the value of "40 acres and a mule," a Civil War-era reparation proposal that was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson.
This is a mess, and a shame. There are probably a good number of people who were somehow scammed into filing for the fictitious credit. Chances are a number of them have already spent the money from last year's refunds. Now, they are going to be asked to pay it back to the government.

courthouses as icons
A new book from a lawyer in California is about courthouses in California's 58 counties. It looks like an interesting volume. As our new courthouse in New Castle County is having its finishing touches put upon it, I can't help but wonder what it would have looked like if the people planning the building had read this book first. These lines from the article particularly strike me:
American county courthouses are a kind of icon right out of a Norman Rockwell painting: the shade trees around the courthouse square, a handsome domed building with a statue of justice and the grandest ingredient of all:

"Pride," McDevitt said, "civic pride."

The county courthouse, he thinks, is the heart of the diverse regions that make up a state -- "the center for local democracy and the law," McDevitt calls it.
That's not the feeling I get when I look at the new Delaware Justice Center.

The City of Wilmington can't be lambasted for trying novel approaches to making it a better place to live and visit.

For instance, the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation is working to:

  • bring a trolley car to Wilmington,

  • redevelop a six block area between the Christiana Riverfront and downtown, known as the Ships Tavern District,

  • bring schools and education opportunites to the city,

  • make more people interested in living in downtown Wilmington.

Wilmington has always had a good relationship with the business community. For years, the DuPont Corporation has given back to the community. MBNA is a relative newcomer in comparison, but that hasn't lessened the impact that their arrival in the city has had. They have been very involved the community, purchasing land and donating it to expand the Grand Opera House, taking part in educational programs and grants, and being involved with groups like Meals on Wheels, the Delaware Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

While many companies in the chemical and banking fields have made Delaware their home, there's a push to get some other types of industries active in the State. One newcomer is Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc. which recently announced plans for moving a number of jobs to the city. While writers and editors would not be moved, their shared services center, with accounting, information services and technology positions, would find a location within the Hercules Building in downtown Wilmington. The State and the City provided a number of incentives to attract the company. There's a lot of excitement in their arrival, and many hope that they will recognize the involvement that companies like MBNA and DuPont have had with the city and state.

Their divisions include: Condé Nast Publications, Fairchild Publications, The Golf Digest Companies, The Condé Nast Bridal Division, Ideas Publishing Group, Parade Publications, and CondéNet.

Some of their magazines are: Allure, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, Bride's, Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour, Gourmet, GQ, House & Garden, Lucky, Self, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Wired

Sports are also acting to change Wilmington's landscape. One of the stars in the efforts to renovate Wilmington has been the minor league Wilmington Blue Rocks, playing at the Judy Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium. They returned to the area in 1993, and were just viewed by their three millionth fan on Sunday.

The stadium is built on land that was once a brownfield near the Christina River. It's now the home to mascot Mr. Celery. For a picture of Mr. Celery, visit the celerysquad web site, and make certain that you heed their advice:
***If you too would like to be part of the Celery Squad, make sure to bring stalks of celery to every home game, but remember: no throwing the celery!! Treat Mr. Celery's family with respect***

The stadium was partially the inspiration behind a plan to bring outlet shopping, hotels, restaurants, and an art exhibition hall to Wilmington, as well as a nature area. Known as the Riverfront Project, this stretch of land was once an almost completely abandoned industrial area. The transformation from a brownfield is a great idea.

As wonderful a notion as this is, the project has seen some troubles, and a recent study was critical of the Riverfront Development Corp. The State has had a heavy investment in the development of the area.
State taxpayers have invested more than $95 million to help develop the Wilmington riverfront since 1992. The Riverfront Development Corp.'s 16-member board of directors includes elected officials, community leaders and business people who are appointed by the governor and state law. It has overseen waterfront development by bringing shops, offices and restaurants to the Wilmington waterfront.
Hopefully, the development will go on. We need successes like the Delaware College of Art and Design, which is bringing something unique to Wilmington.

The latest Wilmington news is that musician and violin-maker David Bromberg is moving in across the street from the Delaware College of Art and Design. Bromberg and his wife, artist Nancy Josephson, were given a building in the city which they will pay to renovate.
As part of the agreement, Bromberg will perform or be the master of ceremonies at up to five city-sponsored concerts a year for five years, according to city records. He also will act as a consultant to the city on musical and nightlife issues and serve as a mentor to children.

Josephson will assist in community art projects for five years. "We like the city because the government and private businesses 'get it' when it comes to having what it takes to creating a cultural scene," Josephson said.
They also mentioned the possibility of putting on some live performances of music on Market Street Mall. The mall hasn't seen much live music since the late '70s and early '80s, when performances were put on regularly. The last mall performance I saw was a lunchtime show a couple of years ago by Mary Arden Collins, who recently relocated to California. Hopefully the Bromberg family's input will help attract new artists, and keep talented artists like Collins in the area.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

old new castle workshops announced
One of the treasures of Delaware is the town of New Castle. With its roots stretching back to 1651, the municipality is unique in a number of ways. At one point in time, the city rivaled Philadelphia as a center of commerce. It was the colonial capital of the State of Delaware.

While it holds a more modest posture these days, it is still an extraordinary place. Especially when it comes to the Trustees of New Castle:
The Trustees of New Castle Common are a most unusual organization. They are unique within the State of Delaware, and perhaps among these United States. The Trustees have a history as old as New Castle because the common land has existed as such since the days of early Dutch colonization when New Castle was Fort Casimir in 1651.

Now more than 200 years later, this body of 13 Trustees oversee a nonprofit charitable organization founded by William Penn, which was incorporated in 1764 and reincorporated by assembly in 1792. The Trustees purpose is to benefit the citizens, to preserve the historical City of New Castle and the remaining lands and open space now held in trust. Its income is derived primarily from property rentals and investments.
The City's code needs updating, and a series of workshops are being planned to get public involvement in the process.
The city of New Castle will hold four workshops beginning today to invite public input for its update of the city's comprehensive plan and zoning codes. Each workshop will focus on a specific issue: Today, land use and redevelopment; April 23, annexation and city edge; May 7, economic development and tourism; and May 21, parking and transportation. All workshops will be at 7 p.m. at New Castle Middle School, 903 Delaware St.
It's one of my favorite places to visit for a few hours when I get a chance.

sign up for environmental alerts
Governor Ruth Ann Minner made a promise in her campaign for governor. The vow was that she would have an environmental release notification system set up so that concerned citizens could be warned of environmental problems such as oil spills or accidental discharges of chemicals from factories. The notices would be sent out within a short time after the events happened.

The notification system was unveiled on Monday. If you would like to receive a message by phone, fax, or email when there are "releases or discharges of contaminants or pollutants," you can visit the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's (DNREC) pages. There, you can sign up for the zip codes for which you are interested.

I think this is a great idea. Citizens often feel like they are out of the loop when it comes to being informed of problems like these.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

telemarketer pays
Ever come home and listen to the answering machine and find it filled with pre-recorded messages, attempting to sell you something? My machine has been host to some of those messages recently. It's a tactic that ought to be reconsidered. It's legislated against in Washington:
Ben Schroeter, a Magnolia paralegal and live music Webmaster who hates telemarketing calls, knows that holding companies accountable can be a long, weary struggle.

So he was stunned when his e-mail complaining about an automated message left on his answering machine yielded a $500 check and an apology two weeks later.
Good law in action. It may be worth forwarding this article to a state senator.

Chancellor Chandler
A nice article from the San Francisco Chronicle focuses on Delaware's Chancellor, who is reviewing the attempted merger between Hewlett- Packard and Compaq Computer. The author calls the Chancellor smart, fair, hard working, sophisticated, practical, very balanced, and extremely well liked. He also cited Chancellor Chandler's sense of humor.

As an example of that sense of humor, he points to the Chancellor's statements at Sunday's morning hearing on HP's motion to dismiss Walter Hewlett's lawsuit:
"Welcome to the morning service," he quipped at the start of the session, adding that he would have to explain to his mother why he was not in church that morning.
On Monday, a 28 page long opinion on the hearing was sent to the parties deciding that the issues involved in the case should be more fully explored in a trial, scheduled for April 23th.

While there are a number of predictions being made regarding possible outcomes of the case, the only one I'm willing to make is that the opinion deciding the case will be intelligent, sophisticated, and practical, just like its author, Chancellor William Chandler, III.

marriage made in heaven
On their way to get married, a young couple are involved in a fatal car accident. The couple find themselves sitting outside the Pearly Gates waiting for St. Peter to process them into Heaven. While waiting, they begin to wonder: Could they possibly get married in Heaven? When St. Peter shows up, they asked him. St. Peter says, "I don't know. This is the first time anyone has asked. Let me go find out," and he leaves. The couple sat and waited for an answer . . . for a couple of months.

While they waited, they discussed that IF they were allowed to get married in Heaven, SHOULD they get married, what with the eternal aspect of it all. "What if it doesn't work?" they wondered, "Are we stuck together FOREVER?" After yet another month, St. Peter finally returns, looking somewhat bedraggled. "Yes," he informs the couple, "you CAN get married in Heaven."

"Great!" said the couple, "But we were just wondering, what if things don't work out? Could we also get a divorce in Heaven?" St. Peter, red-faced with anger, slams his clipboard onto the ground. "What's wrong?" asked the frightened couple. "OH, COME ON!" St. Peter shouts, "It took me three months to find a priest up here! Do you have ANY idea how long it'll take me to find a lawyer?"

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

aggressive drivers beware
State Police Superintendent Chaffinch is going to get you off of our roads!

Last night as I was driving home on I-95, I read the large lighted sign over the highway, "State Police Enforcement Ahead". I thought..."what the heck!?", and like most of the other drivers, I slowed down.

It seems that the sign did what it was intended to do. It slowed down traffic. And, the newly formed State Police Unit that is now exclusively assigned to patrolling the highways will add substance to the words.

Loreto P. Rufo, gracefully steps from the bench.
After 10 years on the bench, Larry Rufo has left the part-time Newark Alderman position. Last night a surprise farewell party was held for former Alderman, "Larry" Rufo. The recently renovated second floor of the Deer Park hosted the upbeat and congratulatory affair. There were resounding thanks from the City of Newark for a job well done, in reducing the backlog of cases and in collecting delinquent fines. And many amusing reminiscences were shared reflecting Rufo's distinctive judicial style.

When asked what he would do with himself, Rufo said 'It's the first time in a long time that I have only one job. I am going to spend more time with my family.' Deputy Alderman, Robert F. Welshmer, will be struggling to cover all court sessions until the position can be filled.

Deer Park Tavern cir. 1900

Monday, April 08, 2002

law in popular culture
I was reading through some law review articles online at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas School of Law. There's a great collection there, in their Law in Popular Culture Collection.

One that made me think back to law school was Res Ipsa and Fox Hunting, by Lowell B. Komie. A graduate from Northwestern University School of Law in 1954, Mr. Komie writes about a visit to Law School in 1996, and how the institution is different. He doesn't seem to be happy about some of the changes.

While I'll probably read over a number of other articles in the collection, these titles attracted me: Images of Lawyers and the Three Stooges, and Be Led Not into Temptation: Ethics Lessons from The Rainmaker. If you're not a fan of the stooges, you might be better off skipping over the first. The second makes some insightful points.

The last article that I skimmed through quickly, and will read in more detail asks, and answers the question, "Why should lawyers study popular culture?"

When we started this blog, one of the main reasons was to keep track of the latest legal news, and to think about it enough to write about it. Since we are in Delaware, we also wanted to write about how some legal issues might affect people in Delaware. An article like the last one I pointed to tells us that we can't just focus completely upon the law. The world isn't segregated neatly into little categories.

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