Thursday, August 31, 2006

If you ever want to fly Mulholland Drive...

So this crossing guard got hit by a car while working for the Nassau County (that's where I live now!) Police Department and is now disabled and unable to work.

After the accident she sued, retaining the law firm of Mulholland, Minion & Roe, and the agreement was that they would get a contingency fee of one-third of any money she recovered. (That is often how it goes for plaintiffs bringing civil suits.)

Well, the law firm settled the claim against the Other Guy's insurance, which had a policy limit of $10,000. They urged Crossing Guard to accept the settlement, so she got a little more than $6000, after deducting attorneys' fees. Turns out, Crossing Guard had her own insurance through GEICO, and she had underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage that would have given her a $100,000 benefit. The condidtion was the insured must cooperate with GEICO and inform them and obtain their consent before any other settlement or release on a particular claim.

In Campagnola v. Mulholland, Minion & Roe she sues her lawyers for malpractice because she says they were negligent in handling her claim and not talking to GEICO. Now, the issue in my Contracts class, where we are studying the case, is about this malpractice suit. The question is not whether she wins. The court has affirmed that "the unique relationship between an attorney and client, foundedin principle upon the elements of trust and confidence..." blah blah blah...basically that her lawyers screwed up. The question is, does she get damages of $100,000, which is what she "lost" out on from GEICO, or does she get $66,000, which is what she would have ACTUALLY received because her attorneys would have received a one-third fee had they handled the claim.

The first court said the "hypothetical" fee was canceled out because she had to pay a NEW attorney to bring the malpractice suit. The appeals court affirmed, but because they felt she should receive the full $100,000 settlement amount since Mulholland & friends didn't perform the $100,000 service. We study the case in the highest court, the next level up on appeal. They affirm that she should get the full $100,000 because if she had learned of the "malpractice" during the case and fired them they wouldn't get a fee anyway. To me, all this begs the question:

Why didn't she read her own insurance policy?!

Seriously--why didn't she know she had underinsured/uninsured coverage? Why do people waste time hiring lawyers after a car accident? What do you think you've been paying your insurance company for all this time? I think the whole thing is a colossal waste and totally stupid. None of it would have happened if she had known she had $100,000 flat out coming to her, with no fees deducted.

So that's what I learned in law school today: read your auto insurance policy!

"If you ever want to fly
Mulholland Drive
Up in the sky
Stand on a cliff and look down there
Don't be scared, you are alive
You are alive..."

--- R.E.M., 'Electrolite'

Monday, August 28, 2006

Religious things on our heads

Dude I am ABSOLUTELY FASCINATED, as I have mentioned before, with the way religion makes people put things on their heads. (Or shave their heads. Always something with the head.)

It was all I could do not to reach over and touch the black velvety yarmulke of the dude sitting next to me in class today. It looked so soft! And they're so small and cute!

I really think this is why I so adored Ernie's story on the Sesame Street Fairy Tale Album about the fairy princess with tennis shoes and a pancake on her head. Bert was all, fairy princesses don't look like that. They are sparkly with magic wands and Ernie was like, why not? It's *my* story too and I say she has a pancake on her head.

Why not, indeed?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Calling all extremists

This will be quick! Here I am at law school. It's amazing and strange and wonderful and true. I am quite busy being orientated and whatnot. We also had our first class meeting today, "Intro to Legal Methods," as part of orientation. I am officially studying, doing homework and reading assignments, and learning about the law. And I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT!

I'll have a lot to say when I have more time to post again but I'll just share three thoughts from the welcome session this morning.

First, our law school dean spoke and he said, "Who are you 327 people anyway?" He then talked about the variety of the class by telling us we came from 36 states and 15 foreign countries...that among us were a school board trustee, a marine, a former Martha Stewart Living intern, and so on...including "someone who taught English as a second language in Korea." So, hey! I made the dean's welcoming address.

Side note, speaking of Korea, I may FINALLY be done with Ding Ding Dang forever. Rejoice! When teachers leave the school keeps a "utilities deposit" of approximately $300 to cover final bills. Fine. Well, my remaining deposit money has been wired into my U.S. bank account this week, but not before in addition to $100 for May and June phone, Internet, gas, and electricity--that's all well and good--they took an additonal 40,000 won or approximately $40 for a cleaning fee for the apartment. I did point out via e-mail to Betty that that is clearly insane--remember the hours I spent scraping the freezer mold?! and the dead bugs from the walls? Go on, relive my horrifying move-in adventure--but I knew they wouldn't change their minds. I'm just so glad to be done with them and on to law school.

SO, back to Hofstra.

Second thought, in the dean's speech he talked about the law and his view that it's not a job, it's a calling. "You want a job, go sell shoes or tennis rackets," he said. "As lawyers people will be coming to you in their hour of need..." I liked all the things he said very much.

Third, another professor spoke and she compared examining a legal issue to peeling an onion. She even brought an onion and knife and peeled it to illustrate her analogy. She also added, "I didn't realize there was going to be someone here who'd worked for Martha Stewart!" Anyway, her point was well taken, that you must uncover all the layers and might end up with something that looks very different from what you started with. She said the study of law means "taking logical and analytical thought to its most extreme."

Well, I've certainly been accused of that enough times before! Anyone else think I'm in the right place?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Imagine no possessions!

"Everybody's movin'
if they ain't already there.
Everybody got to move
Stick with me baby
Stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting
right about now."
--- bob dylan, 'mississippi'

I would like to state for the record that it took me only 2 1/2 hours to pack.

That's right. I waited until the last minute (hello) and although I am leaving for New York tomorrow and I started packing around 9 p.m. tonight, I will still get a full night's sleep. That, my friends, is the glorious result of shedding extraneous crap.

I have really been enjoying my new hobby of selling my books on I love seeing what people will buy, and what they will pay for it. I really love getting rid of some of my books. So far I have sold about 10-15% of my books through that site. I even like sitting here at the computer packaging them up to ship while listening to music and chatting with friends on-line. At first I used padded envelopes, but I quickly realized that the cost of those bubble envelopes almost erased any profit I'd make. ( reimburses for shipping, a flat rate, but those envelopes are like $1.40, so when you're selling books for $2 you don't want to spend $1.40 just on the envelope!)

Then I remembered when we used to have to cover our textbooks in elementary school, particularly in SAGE (the gifted education program). Those who were there, remember how obsessed Mrs. Muscato was with making us cover our books at the beginning of the year? We had to take them home and cover them with a brown paper grocery bag. But it totally worked. Brilliant, thought I, I will wrap my books in grocery bags to send them out, thus recycling the bags and packaging for free. So far, no complaints, and buyers have reported that the books arrived in good condition. Excellent!

As for what I haven't sold, I am bequeathing my remaining possessions to my friend Liza's production's garage sale fundraiser or else to my roommates here at the house (the futon, for example). The entirety of what I am moving can fit into a compact car, and so it shall when I drive it down to Long Island.

And speaking of that, Hofstra has placed me in housing! I have received my official housing assignment in one of the grad student/professional on-campus complexes.

I haven't started my homework yet, though.

I was so productive today! I did laundry, talked to friends, sold some books for quick cash in hand at used bookstores in Cambridge, watched the end of the Red Sox loss, etc...not to mention packing in under three hours!

A parting thought, from one of the books I sent out today, If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino:

"Renouncing things is less difficult than people believe: it's all a matter of getting started. Once you've succeeded in dispensing with something you thought essential, you realize you can also do without something else, then without many other things. So here I am walking along this empty surface that is the world."

Monday, August 14, 2006


A busy week lies ahead.

I have many, many things to do before I leave this glorious House on Orchard Street for parts only slightly known: Hofstra, Hempstead, Long Island, New York...and at long last the study of law.

My current reflections:

1. If I drink iced tea there, will I be tempted to call it a long island iced tea? (You know, just to annoy people.)

2. It only occurred to me this weekend that if I switch my residency including, for example, voter registration, then Hillary will be my senator!!! Hello! Clearly I will be doing that. I'm long since over the Special K twins (Kennedy & Kerry) from Smashachusetts.

And on that note, I have been thinking a bit about departing Massachusetts - again. Obviously, this place has become home over the past almost-four years, even/especially while I was in Korea. I'm delighted that it all worked out for me to have this little summer of fond farewell back at the Medford house with the girls. It has been a summer of much reflection -- a little too much, maybe -- and contending with all the logistical and emotional issues of life. There has been no shortage of either!

I have also rather enjoyed being unemployed and I highly recommend it. : ) My temp jobs have been great, and I love that they are temporary. I defnintely know in a way I never knew for sure before that I would be exquisitely happy working only from home. I would write and free-lance and enjoy the blessed Internet for making such a life ridiculously easy if I could only get someone on the other end to pay me for my words. But first I am going to law school.

This last weekend in Massachusetts I spent as a volunteer crew member on the Mass Red Ribbon Ride. It's a bike ride across the state, from Pittsfield to the Boston suburbs, that benefits several AIDS organizations. You may recall I used to volunteer at AIDS Action Committee when I lived here before, and when I returned to Mass. this June I was a bit late to train for and do the ride, but crew -- that I could do. So, I went out to the western reaches of the State on Friday and slept on the floor in a camp cabin (night 1) and a high school gymnasium (night 2) with other riders and crew and woke up at 4:45 a.m. and spent the days shuttling back and forth along the route looking for ailing or injured riders, working pit stops, and so on. I have a lot more to say about it, but no time to do so right now.

I will spend the next five days packing as few earthly possessions as possible and getting rid of as many as possible.

My list of things to do is large and it looms...

Monday, August 07, 2006

At the Ready

"This is your voice of reason, this is your voice of calm, this is your heart that's saying don't look back just keep on going..." mcc