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Posted August 10: 

Regarding your item (Aug. 6) on my legal action against a listserv dealing with aquatic plants, as well as various individual posters on the list, for defaming PetsWarehouse.com: it may help in understanding the lawsuit for readers to know that comments on the list had accused PetsWarehouse.com of "being dishonest" as well as allegedly providing bad service.  In addition, the listserv blocked my attempt to rebut those allegations.  -- Robert Novak, PetsWarehouse.com, N.Y.

[For further details on who was sued over what in this case, readers should consult the complaint.

Posted August 1: 

I'm so convinced "Loser Pays" is the only solution to the Jackpot Lawyer hustle, I had a friend create a personal bumper sticker for my vehicle. When visiting the courthouse, I always try to park as close to the record room as possible.  -- David Pinkston, Huntsville, Ala.

Truck with Overlawyered URL

You report (July 5) that the state of Connecticut has just agreed in a federal consent order to place mentally retarded students in regular academic classes.  In the linked story, Attorney General Blumenthal expresses his satisfaction with the decree.  My question is: where does Mr. Blumenthal send his kids to school?  Is he willing to subject them to the distractions, delays and disruptions entailed by requiring teachers to expend inordinate time on children who by definition are much slower than the rest of the class and may well have emotional problems to boot?  What exactly is the point of this policy?  Is it to see how unpleasant and inefficient the public schools can be made before all parents with the means to do so flee to private schools?  -- Douglas Levene, Wilton, Ct.

Flaming Pop-Tarts (July 30) have been known for some time.  See this website

"Abstract -- Strawberry Pop Tarts may be a cheap and inexpensive source of incendiary devices.  Toasters which fail to eject Pop Tarts cause the Pop Tarts to emit flames 10-18 inches in height."  -- Alan DeKok, Ottawa, Ont.

[WSJ OpinionJournal.com "Best of the Web" (July 31) also reports on "a whole Web subculture devoted to flaming Pop-Tarts," inspired by a 1993 Dave Barry column

Your March 7-8 entry contains this sentence: "David Post, an associate professor of law at Temple, called the ruling "unbelievable", saying that regardless of whether eReferee.com had violated copyright law, as was alleged, by using a logo confusingly similar to its rival's..."  Correction: the suit was not about copyright infringement (i.e. original works of authorship), but rather, concerned trademark law (words, designs and symbols which designate the source of goods or services).  Just keeping it accurate.  Thanks for the great site. -- David L. Iandiorio, Johnson & Kachigian, Tulsa, Okla. 

[The slip was ours, not Prof. Post's.  Sorry.

I wanted to reply to the July 6 letter from Mr. Schwalbe of the Netherlands regarding the Ohio Supreme Court's uninsured/underinsured motorist decision.  The decisions go far beyond providing coverage for all people riding in company vehicles.  The decision in the Scott-Pontzer case, et al. requires coverage for employees and their households in non-company owned vehicles on their own time.  To illustrate, I am currently defending the insurer for a small town hospital because the teenage son of an employee was injured when his friend drove a car of six teenage boys into oncoming traffic at a high rate of speed.  No hospital business.  No hospital employees.  No hospital vehicles. 

Because of this decision, the legislature is about to pass a bill to make the offering of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage optional. -- Mike McLane, Columbus, Ohio 

I've spent a couple of pleasurable (or should I say 
shocked?) hours reading your site and the articles you link to.  A personal anecdote: When writing contracts with American partners I'm very specific about spelling out everything, keeping things as watertight as possible and most of all requiring our partners to agree to using Norwegian law for all disputes. 

I must say that the litigious nature of the American way of doing business scares me; what if I do something which isn't watertight? Not that I feel that our partners and partnerships should be in a particular risky spot of hiccups, but I've worked with another Norwegian company who had a partnership with an American company. And each time there was trouble lawyers rained from the sky, and threatening letters were sent.  I think a court settlement released the Norwegian company from the partnership, but that was a real wakeup call for me.  -- Paul Egell-Johnsen, Norway 

I am confused about the trial lawyers' opposition to the Small Claims reform (July 25) since most trial lawyers would not touch a case under $5,000.  They want to have their cake and eat it too.  They want the right to refuse unprofitable cases (any claim, at $100 per hour, will quickly eat up an award under $5,000), yet they don't want to give the common citizen a chance in court unless they extract their fees. 

I was once involved in a pro se case for an initial claim of $1,500.   Small claims court was not an option since it was an estate case.  The small amount also ruled out hiring a lawyer to represent us.  I tried to hire a lawyer as a "consultant" since the case involved "formal pleadings".  That is, I was willing to pay the lawyer's hourly fee for him to review our motions for form and any obvious legal flaws.  Every lawyer I talked to refused saying they would not offer any legal advice unless they took full responsibility for the case and would not take the case due to the small sum. 

The most telling comment came from one lawyer who admitted that our case had merit.  He said that even if we won the lottery and were willing to pay him $200 per hour, he would still not take the case.  His reason was the amount of the claim.  He said that he had to work with the other lawyers and go before the same judges on other cases.  He could not risk the possible repercussions because they would view it as a frivolous case due to the dollar value regardless of the merits of the case.  This shows the extent of lawyers' true concerns about "protecting consumer rights". 

Epilogue: After seven years and five different court jurisdictions, including the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the other side settled for over $3,000, twice the amount of the original claim. -- Garnet Harris 

Thanks to Zero Tolerance

Who invented zero tolerance 
Deserves eternal fame. 
With a few strokes of a pen 
He made every case the same. 

An Uzi on a student's arm, 
A nail file in a purse, 
Neither one is tolerable, 
And neither one is worse -- 

By rules of zero tolerance, 
Where judgment's of no use, 
Where weighing circumstances 
Is a form of mind abuse. 

So thanks to zero tolerance, 
There's equal punishment instead 
Of all the tiresome effort 
Of trying to use one's head. 

-- Dominic Martia [website

As a mother of seven, I'm troubled by the increasingly regimented nature of our public schools, especially the way they can treat parents themselves as suspicious intruders.  In our schools here, it is forbidden for parents, without an advance signed note, to take their own children home at the end of the day.  Children are sometimes sent home to empty houses in the presence of the parent because of the lack of such an advance note.  It is also forbidden for me to pick up a child for a bona fide appointment unless I have sent a note in advance.  No note, no release of the child unless I can find a sympathetic secretary.  At the high school level, parents are not even permitted to enter the building without first surrendering their driver's license through an opening in a one way mirror.  Even when I have been called to pick up a sick child, I am not permitted in the building, though the secretaries know me, because I decline to surrender my license. 

I have worked in refugee resettlement and understand why people from around the world want to come to America.  It is summed up in the New Hampshire license plate motto: "Live Free or Die".  But the drug, weapons, medical and security policies at schools today seem designed to break down all sense of freedom and individuality.  Have other readers shared experiences like these?  -- Dona Witmer, Conestoga, Pa.

Like probably a zillion others, I saw your site mentioned on the CourtTV feed (on Yahoo).  As a former cop, I am always interested in hearing about the absurdities of the legal system.  You KNOW I've already bookmarked you.  Keep up the great work! -- Andrew Eckman

Regarding Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) programs (Jan. 31): In 1997 Pennsylvania, where I practice law, made it mandatory for lawyers to participate in IOLTA, and since then I have been in a running battle with the IOLTA board and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Basically, I requested an exemption from the program because taking my clients' money without their consent is stealing and a violation of my religious beliefs.  I also objected to other aspects of the program, such as the IOLTA board's being itself the one to hear my exemption request: it has an obvious interest in keeping the grounds for exemption as narrow as possible, especially since some of its members are affiliated with the beneficiaries of the program.  The whole mess has taken many turns and has wound up in federal court with me suing the Pa. supreme court on numerous counts. 

What surprises me is that few civilians show interest in this money grab.  According to the A.B.A., lawyers take in more than $125 million annually from IOLTA accounts.  So while my clients are having bake sales and car washes to support their charities, the lawyers and judges are just stealing the money to support their "charities", such as Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. -- Lawrence Casella, Pittsburgh, Pa. [website

[See also Charles E. Rounds Jr., "IOLTA: Interest Without Principle", Cato Policy Analysis #291, December 18, 1997.

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