20 Hour Record: Receiving File, Trying Case, Closing File

We here at Abnormal Use are pleased to report on the trial of one of our contributors, Nick Farr.  Earlier this year, GWB lawyer, Rob Corney, set the modern (the 1970’s is not modern) firm record for the least amount of time elapsed between the firm’s retention in a case to the trial of that case at just over 30 days.  That’s now old news. Farr took the record after opening a file, trying the case, and closing said file all in a mind-boggling 20 hours.  And he secured a defense verdict to boot!

How you might ask?  GWB partner David Rheney received a call at 4:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon from a client with a new case pending in magistrate’s court.  Apparently, the complaint had been filed in October, served in November, and answered by the defendant in December.  The defendant remembered to tell the insurer that very Tuesday afternoon.  Once Rheney confirmed that there had been no default, we determined that we could amend the answer since we were within the 15 day period. All good things.

However, we then learned that the case was up for trial the very next day! Farr responded that he was up for the task. Armed with nothing more than two grainy black and white photographs , he appeared in court on Wednesday, obtaining a defense verdict in a non-jury trial.  Case closed.  He was pleased to report, as an added bonus, that the plaintiff’s daughter slammed the door in his face on the way out the courtroom.

Joe DiMaggio’s record 56 game hitting streak and Byron Nelson’s record of 11 straight PGA tour victories will be nothing more than ashes on the dust heap of history long before anyone approaches Farr’s record 20-hour Open-Try-Close.

The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Putting A Face On Depression

Singer-songwriter, James Taylor once wrote a song called “Down in the Hole.”  Here are some of its lyrics:

Welcome down underground, hunker down a spell.
Gets to feel like home to me though I know it looks like hell.
Down in the hole, Lord, it’s deep and the sides are steep.
And the nights are long and cold, down in the hole.
Light and love and the world above mean nothing to the mole.
Down in the hole.

James Taylor has called this song his anthem to depression.  He called it that because he has been there: down in the hole.  Taylor knew about the hole, the hole so deep, so dark, sides so steep, with no obvious way out.  He had been there. And, I have been there.  Over 20 years ago, during a time in which I had been feeling down and things had not been going my way at work, I noticed that I was not myself.  I felt down most of the time.  I had lost interest in most activities.  I was more tired and had less energy.  I had trouble thinking and concentrating at work, and I was indecisive.  I would be at work for hours on end and find myself having not accomplished anything at all.  I was more irritable and emotional, particularly at home. I experienced a change in my sleeping patterns that I had never experienced before.  I began to wake up early in the morning around 4:30, and then not be able to go back to sleep.  I thought I was going back to sleep, but I never did – and as a result, I woke up tired.

All of the things that I just mentioned are the warning signs for depression — or being down in the hole, the hole so deep, so dark, so steep, with no obvious way out.

William Styron was an American novelist best known for two controversial novels, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice.  In 1985, Styron suffered from a serious clinical depression which he would later recall in his popular memoir, Darkness Visible.  In that book, Styron talked about his descent into depression, his attempted suicide, and the triumph of recovery.  Styron described his depression this way:

The decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying – or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity – but moving from pain to pain.  One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.

Styron further described the madness of depression as a storm – a storm of murk.  There are the slowed-down responses, the energy throttled back close to zero.  Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped and drained. What did I do?  I got help.  Ninety percent of those with depression can be successfully treated, and I am a part of that 90 percent.  With the support of my wife and my law firm, and the help of medication, an anti-depressant, I slowly came out of the hole and back into the light.  It was not quick, and it was not easy, but slowly, I climbed out of that hole.  I could not have done it by myself.  No amount of alcohol or vacations or just pulling myself up by my bootstraps would have done it.  I needed help.

My story is not terribly dramatic.  I did not lose my job, and I was never suicidal.  I was never hospitalized, but I was sick.  I got help, and I got better.  At the time I first had the problem, I was an associate at our law firm, Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A.  About a year after experiencing this problem, and having recovered and climbed out of the hole, I became a partner in our law firm, where I continue to work today. Depression can be treated and you can recover, be successful and productive.

If you remember nothing else from this, remember these three things:

1)         Depression is a medical illness, not a personal weakness;

2)         Depression is a medical problem that can be successfully treated with medication and therapy; and

3)         If you or someone you know has a problem, get help from a medical professional.

Please remember that there is hope, and there is help.  You are not alone.

Revisiting The Lawyers’ Epidemic: How Lawyers Can Avoid The Vulnerability To Depression, Suicide, and Substance Abuse

We have previously reported on the prevalence of depression and substance abuse in the legal profession and why lawyers are vulnerable to these problems.  Let’s turn our focus now to how lawyers can avoid these problems and achieve a balanced life and fulfillment in the practice of law. In 2003, the ABA published a book, Lawyer Life – Finding a Life and a Higher Calling in the Practice of Law, written by the Honorable Carl Horn, III, who at that time was the U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.  Judge Horn later retired from the bench and entered private practice in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Judge Horn’s book addresses the daily problems facing lawyers and the general dissatisfaction many lawyers experience with their profession.  After a thorough examination of the profession and its various problems, including lawyers’ vulnerability to depression and substance abuse, Judge Horn set forth “12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law,” which is based on choices that the individual lawyer can make to enhance professional fulfillment.

1)         Face the Facts

By honestly and openly asking the right questions, we increase our chances toward a balanced, fulfilling professional life.  Do you feel good where you are professionally and personally, and where your life appears to be going?  Let honesty be the rule here.  We must face these facts on a regular basis if our lives are to remain balanced and on-course.  Lawyers who do not ask these kinds of questions, who fail to engage in periodic introspection, are more likely to experience what has been described as “the lingering feeling of emptiness despite material success.”

2)         Establish Clear Priorities

Judge Horn says that if we aim to live balanced lives, lines must be drawn beyond which we are not willing to go, at least not on a regular basis.  He suggests making time with your family a top priority, and to be sure your daily and weekly schedules reflect it.  Clearly, making enough money should be a priority.  However, the proper priority, in a balanced life, that should be given to making enough money, must not be a license for workaholism or what one commentator has called a money-centered world view.  If balance and happiness are among our life goals, we must be vigilant not to allow money to become an end in itself.

3)         Develop and Practice Good Time Management

Whatever time we spend on our work should be arranged for maximum productivity.  Judge Horn suggests that there are at least five areas in which many lawyers could begin to make significant progress simply by paying close attention.  These include better planning; minimizing interruptions by phone or in person; more careful scheduling and planning of meetings; mastering the paper flow; and more thoughtful and efficient delegation.  He suggests that if you live by the rule that the way to get things done right is to do it yourself, get over it.  The time and energy you alone have to give, can and will soon run out.  What you can accomplish by the thoughtful and efficient delegation to others is significantly less limited.  Anything that can be done by others, should be done by them.  Those who learn to delegate effectively, will free up many of their own hours and see their productivity significantly rise.

4)         Implement Healthy Lifestyle Practices

Judge Horn suggests that there is a positive correlation between lawyers who self-reported a sense of subjective well-being and those who engaged in certain habits or practices that are deemed “healthy.”  Those practices include regular exercise, attending religious services, personal prayer, hobbies, engaging in outdoor recreation, pleasure reading, and taking weeks of vacation.

Lawyers with other serious interests, those who successfully resist the “all work and no play” syndrome, also consider themselves the happiest.

5)         Live Beneath Your Means

The focus of Judge Horn’s comments in this section is that unless we actively struggle against it, we will find ourselves engaging in consumer spending that severely limits our ability to choose a healthier, more balanced life.

6)         Don’t Let Technology Control Your Life

How we do this is something each individual must work out.  Some get up early and work, either at home or in their offices, so they can have dinner with their families most evenings.  Others decline to carry cell phones or check email or voicemail much of the time they are away from the office.  Whatever our strategy, the core objective is the same: to establish boundaries that prevent technology from controlling our lives.

7)         Care About Character – And Conduct Yourself Accordingly

Judge Horn exhorts us to vow to do what most of us already know is right: strive to conduct ourselves honorably, which means refusing to lie, cheat or steal, however much pressure we are under, or however profitable the wrong choices may appear to be at that moment.  Do not pad your timesheets; do not tell lies to partners or clients or opposing counsel; do not misrepresent legal authority to judges; do not break your promises.  Do not do anything else that is contrary to the values that you now hold.  If we care about our character, and conduct ourselves accordingly, we will be able to sleep well at night.

8)         “Just Say No” to Some Clients

Judge Horn suggests that we should be scrupulously honest with our clients, including but not limited to, the work we choose to do and how it is billed.  We must be exceedingly careful not to cross the ethical lines and to keep a measure of professional distance, particularly where an objective third party might see our client’s conduct as deceptive.  We should strive to provide wise counsel, which often requires more of a big picture approach to problem solving and conflict resolution.  And sometimes we should “just say no” to some clients.

9)         Stay Emotionally Healthy

Judge Horn suggests that we must seek a healthy balance between our rational, cognitive sides, on the one hand, and our feelings, emotions, heart and imagination on the other.  We must pursue balance not only in how we spend the limited hours of our lives, but also between our outer and inner selves.

10)       Embrace Law as a “High Calling”

If we are to have a realistic hope of regaining professional self-confidence, Judge Horn says we must reaffirm ideals that transcend self-interest, including our individual and profession-wide commitment to the common good.  We must not allow the legal profession to become an amoral, dollar-driven business; indeed, we should not be afraid to make value-based decisions or give advice surrounded in moral conviction.  In short, if we are to find fulfillment in the practice of law, we must embrace law as a high calling.

11)       Be Generous With Your Time and Money

Judge Horn acknowledges that his primary point here is fairly selfish, that being generous with our time and money will make us feel better about our profession and our lives generally.  He notes that those who have been revered for their wisdom and empathy are often people who believed that the very purpose of life is to be of service to others.

12)       Pace Yourself for a Marathon

Striving for professional excellence is a good and worthy goal.  In sharp and important contrast, trying to achieve perfection is not.  Allen Dershowitz wrote a brief reflection which he titled “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Excellent,” in which he observed that “every book, painting, symphony or speech could be improved.  The search for perfection is illusory and has no end.”

We would do well to strive for professional excellence but be wary of any tendency we may have toward perfectionism. The challenges set forth by Judge Horn are those with which we can expect to struggle for the rest of our lives.  Thankfully, they are not impossible struggles and if we diligently take these steps, we can realistically expect to move closer to our goal of finding balance, success and fulfillment in the practice of law.

Revisiting The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Why Lawyers Are Vulnerable To Depression, Suicide, and Substance Abuse

As we have previously reported, studies show that lawyers are three times as likely to suffer from depression as members of other professions.  The rate of substance abuse among lawyers is twice that of the general population.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among attorneys, after cancer and heart disease.  If you believe the research and studies, we must ask why lawyers are vulnerable to these problems. In a recent article at Legal Cheek, the author, WaitroseLaw, asked: “Does the way that lawyers are encouraged to think and work make them vulnerable to depression?”  The author answers the question by starting with the obvious answers which are common to many other professions, including long hours, heavy workload, and less job security.

But as the author points out, there must be something more insidious at work. First, the author reminds us that lawyers are trained, and often temperamentally inclined, to analyze and pick apart the issues.  However, we then turn that instinct inward.  As the author suggests, “while a bit of self-analysis can be healthy, brooding on your mistakes can be profoundly self-destructive.” Further, the author says that the “prevailing culture of 24/7 availability only makes matters worse.”  And then there is the unwritten expectation that lawyers should put their work and firm first.  WaitroseLaw concludes that if we are predisposed to depression anyway or suddenly face extra personal or professional pressures, “the way we’re encouraged to think and work can be a real problem.”

Some psychologists have suggested that lawyers are more prone than other professions to the dangerous disease of depression because of two personality traits: perfectionism and pessimismAs Lynn Johnson suggests, the legal profession attracts perfectionists and rewards perfectionism.  Perfectionism drives us to excel in college, in law school, and on the job.  But, perfectionism can have a dark side which can lead to a chronic feeling that “nothing is good enough.”  When we make the inevitable mistake, perfectionism magnifies the failure.

Dr. Amiram Elwork, in his work Stress Management for Lawyers, agrees that perfectionism is rewarded in both law school and the practice of law.  However, perfectionism can lead to negative thinking such as “if I don’t do it perfectly, I’m no good; it’s no use; I should just give up” or “I have to do it perfectly and I can’t quit until it’s perfect.”  Such thinking can lead to depression.

As Susan Daicoff pointed out in her article in The Complete Lawyer:

Perfectionism can also lead to an overdeveloped sense of control and responsibility so that individuals believe they are responsible for situations over which they actually do not have complete control.  If things do not turn out well, these individuals often blame themselves, they didn’t work hard enough or they weren’t sufficiently prepared or vigilant.  They then either “beat themselves up” or resolve to “work harder” next time, not acknowledging that some things are out of their control.  This erroneous belief causes a great deal of angst, which is then expressed either as depression or irritability and anger, which are really two sides of the same coin.

(See Daicoff, Susan, “Depression is Prevalent Among Lawyers – But Not Inevitable,” The Complete Lawyer, 12/2/08).

In addition to attracting perfectionists, the legal profession also attracts pessimists.  Recent studies have shown that in all graduate school programs in all professional fields except one, optimists outperform pessimists.  The one exception: law school.  Pessimism helps lawyers excel by making us skeptical of what our clients, our witnesses, opposing counsel, and judges tell us.  It helps us anticipate the worst and thus prepare for it.  However, pessimism can be bad for our health, as it can lead to stress and disillusionment, making us vulnerable to depression.

Let us hear from you.  Why do you think lawyers are vulnerable?  Do you agree with the research?  What else may be involved?

For further resources on lawyers and depression, check out www.lawyerswithdepression.com, a website created by Dan Lukasik, a lawyer from Buffalo, New York.

Public Service Announcement: Beautiful Music for Beautiful Minds

In a departure from the usual, we offer this Abnormal Public Service Announcement.

As previously reported at Abnormal Use, I served as Chair of the South Carolina Bar HELP Task Force which was formed to educate lawyers, judges and law students about depression, suicide and substance abuse.  You can read my previous post on “The Lawyers’ Epidemic” here.  I am continuing my interest in mental health issues by serving on the Board of Directors of Gateway House, a non-profit clubhouse which provides rehab services to the severely mentally ill in the Greenville, South Carolina, community.

As with any non-profit, community support is vital to the development of Gateway’s programs.  On August 9, 2013, Gateway presents “Beautiful Music for Beautiful Minds,” featuring the music of local band Stereo Reform.  This community event will be held at Zen, 924 South Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina.  Tickets are $50.00 each, and include hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and beverages.

All proceeds benefit Gateway.

You may buy your tickets or make a donation online at www.gateway-sc.org or by calling 864-242-9193.

Gateway’s proven and unique clubhouse model offers the greatest hope for long-term success for adults with mental illness.  Why?  Because Gateway provides members with a sense of hope, confidence and belonging.  Gateway does this by offering a world of opportunities to develop social, educational and employment skills.

At Gateway, the focus is not on the treatment of mental illness, but on helping members become as productive and independent as possible.  Programs include Transitional Employment which gives members the opportunity to work in competitive jobs in business and industry, rather than in sheltered workshops or created jobs.  Most of these jobs are part-time and last from six to nine months.  Members gain experience, confidence and a sense of accomplishment, improving their chances for living a more productive life.

One of the key principles of the clubhouse model is to provide meaningful work.  Gateway does this by providing a day program in which members participate in various work units.  This includes the kitchen unit where members plan meals, shop for groceries, and prepare and serve breakfast and lunch on a daily basis.  Members also operate the member bank which allows members to deposit and save money, write checks and pay bills, and learn to manage and budget their money.  Finally, members operate the clerical unit, which involves recording clubhouse data and information daily, transitional employment wages and hours, and the compilation of monthly reports.  The clerical unit is also responsible for recording clubhouse attendance and handling all financial billing.

On behalf of the Gateway members and their families, thank you for your support!

The 76 Year Old Road Trip – Texas, Here We Come!

Seventy six years ago this month, on August 10, 1936, the small town of Shelby, North Carolina coped with a muggy Monday morning.  My dad, Grady Mauney, then 16 years old, and his best friend, George Watson, sat on the front porch of the Mauney home on North Lafayette Street.  They started talking about how fun it might be to go to the Texas Centennial Exposition, in Dallas, Texas that year.  But, that was a long way from Shelby!  “Wonder how long it would take us to thumb rides to Dallas?” they asked themselves.

Before they realized what they were doing, Grady and George had both scraped together a little money, packed a bag, and found themselves hitchhiking their way to Texas.  Grady chronicled his journey in a series of postcards sent home from the road.  Oh, one other thing, Grady left town without telling his parents!  The two would-be adventurers simply left a note at the drugstore where they had been working that they were headed to the Texas Centennial.

Grady’s first postcard was addressed to his mother, postmarked Royston, Georgia, 4:30 p.m., August 10, 1936.  My dad’s sister told me that she always heard that my grandmother, Macy, spent three days holed up in a closet, worried about her son.

Dear Mother,

I thought if I told you that I was going to Texas, you wouldn’t let me so I didn’t tell you.  I got $25.00 and I am now in a little town in Georgia.  It is 4:00 and we have already come nearly 200 miles.  We are going to stay in Atlanta, GA, with George’s sister tonite.  I will write you along.

Grady, Jr.

The next day, Grady wrote that it was Tuesday morning and that they had stayed with George’s brother in Atlanta, but had decided to stay for the day and tour around the area.  They hoped to make it to Texas by Saturday.

On Wednesday, August 12, Grady sent another note to his mother, postmarked Lanette, Alabama.

Dear Mother,

We just arrived in Lanette, Alabama.  It is 10:30 Wed. morning.  We have got a ride into Montgomery, Alabama.  We spent the day with George’s brother in Atlanta Monday and Tuesday.  It is a lot of fun riding with a traveling salesman in a big car.  We have had lots of luck.  We looked over Atlanta yesterday.  It is about three times larger than Charlotte.

Grady, Jr.

Grady further wrote that they stayed in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, and expected to cross the Mississippi River the next day.  On Thursday, August 13, Grady sent a postcard from Jackson, Mississippi, reporting that they had stayed in a hotel in Jackson, having traveled about 250 miles that day.  They still expected to arrive in Dallas by Saturday and anticipated it would be August 25 before they returned home.

On Friday, August 14, my dad sent a postcard from Vicksburg, Mississippi, addressed to his father, R.G. Mauney, in care of A. Blanton Company in Shelby, North Carolina.  He said he was having lots of fun and that he “might go on to California if my money holds out.  I bet Mother is cussing because I left.”  The cost of the postage stamp was 1 cent.  That same day, Grady sent a separate postcard to his mother.

Dear Mother,

I am in Vicksburg, Miss., getting ready to cross the Mississippi River.  Getting nearer to Dallas, Texas.  I still got about $25.00.

While most of the postcards were sent to his mother, Grady also wrote his younger brother and sister, Charles and Martha:  “I am having a good time hitchhiking it.  We hadn’t had to stand on the road over 10 minutes before we caught a ride.  It is lots of fun thumbing a ride.  We will be in Texas by Saturday.”

My mom recalls my dad saying that one night they stayed in a Hooverville, the name given for shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression.  If that was the case, such was not documented in his postcards.  Maybe he didn’t want to worry his already distraught mother!

As they neared Dallas, they became more anxious to arrive and caught a bus from Greenwood, Mississippi to Dallas.  “It is costing us a good much but we wanted to get in Dallas tonite.”

Grady and George arrived in Dallas on Saturday night, August 16, 1936, six days after they left Shelby.  The next morning, he wrote a letter home to his mother and father.

Dear Mother and Daddy,

We arrived in Dallas last nite.  We had to ride a bus from Greenwood because we wanted to get in here before Sunday.  We got up this morning early and went to the fair and stayed all day.  We got enough of this place so we are leaving for home in the morning.  The Centennial sure is a big fair.  They say it is bigger and better than the World’s Fair was.  It cost over 6 million of dollars to build it.  Dallas is about three times larger than Charlotte.

Well I will tell you about our trip out here.  Monday we caught a ride from Shelby to Spartanburg and from Spartanburg to Royston, GA.  From Royston to Athens, GA, from Athens to Atlanta, and stayed in Atlanta with George’s brother for the nite.  The next day we stayed in Atlanta which is about three times as large as Charlotte, and let George’s brother show us over the town.  We saw lots of interesting things there but I will wait until I get home.  So it was Wednesday before we started on the road again.  We came 170 miles Wed. and stayed at Montgomery, the capital of Alabama.  Thursday we came 233 miles and stayed in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi that nite.  Friday we came 171 miles and stayed in a little town named Ruston.  Saturday we came 290 miles.

Each nite after we get our room, we would take a bath and go to the picture show.  The next morning we’d get up about 8:30 and start hitch-hiking.

We have had lots of fun but we are ready to come home.  We will be there by Saturday.

We have ridden in all kinds of cars.  I will tell you more about the fair and our trip when I get home.

Grady, Jr.

This final letter was postmarked Dallas, Texas, August 17 at 10:30 a.m.  The envelope was from the New Dallas Hotel, 310 South Ervay Street.

According to Google Maps, traveling their likely route, the journey would be 1,014 miles.  By today’s standards, that’s about a 17-hour drive.  Grady’s estimate of the miles they traveled was 1,063, which is remarkably close to Google’s estimate.  He must have asked each driver to keep track of how many miles they had driven that day.

The Texas Centennial Exposition lasted six months and attracted over 6 million visitors.  I suspect none of them had more fun than those two teenage boys from Shelby, North Carolina.

This Post Contains Peanuts?

Ouch!  I have been called out by Max Kennerly of the Litigation and Trial law blog for perpetuating myths about plaintiff’s lawyers.  I recently wrote about the “CONTAINS PEANUTS” disclaimer on my container of delicious peanuts.  But, doggone it, I did not make reference to the federal statute which resulted in such warnings.  Max, a friend of the blog, reminded me that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) took effect in 2006 and requires the word “contains” when a food contains an ingredient that is a food allergen.  Kennerly correctly points out that this federal statute is why my container of peanuts says that it “CONTAINS PEANUTS” and not, at least presumably, because of some pre-legislation frivolous lawsuit.

Indeed, the FALCPA was enacted for consumers such as myself, the father of a young man who is allergic to peanuts, as I pointed out in my original post.  As Kennerly suggests, the rule is very sensible, at least generally.  But speaking of sensibilities, how about some common sense?  Sometimes, these warnings defy common sense, and as a result, the average consumer does not take them seriously.  Certainly, we here at Abnormal Use appreciate that it may have been “worth it,” as Kennerly says, to enact such legislation.  Yet we, as lawyer commentators ourselves, certainly reserve the right to comment on the occasional “silly result” and unintended consequences of even the most well-intended statutes and regulations. After all, it is one thing to warn consumers, who may not know the specific ingredients of a product, to a component of the purchased food product. But it is quite another to require that a separate “contains” warning be placed on the product’s packaging when the allergen is caused by the very product itself – not some component thereof. A peanut is a peanut is a peanut, and if you buy peanuts, which are clearly labeled as such by virtue of the fact that they are, in fact, peanuts, then it seems silly to require a federal warning that the package of peanuts – already clearly marked as such – contains peanuts.

On a side note, I must say that no one appreciates the consequences of allergens more than myself. In my original post, I mentioned that I had my own anaphylactic reaction to fire ant bites several years ago.  I hopped into a hot tub at a resort in South Carolina with my son, the same one with the peanut allergy.  Upon entering the hot tub, I immediately began experiencing a burning and itching sensation and noticed that a number of fire ants had trailed down into the hot tub.  There was a small mound of fire ants just several feet away from the hot tub, and some of them had actually gotten into the water.  My son and I immediately went inside to take a shower.  My eyes began to water, my lips swelled, my mouth felt funny, and I became quite dizzy.  I knew instantly that I was having a life-threatening reaction to the fire ant bites.  We rushed to the car and headed to the local convenience store to buy some Benadryl.  Before I could pay the cashier, the room started spinning, and down I went!  While I did not pass out, I also could not stand up.  While I was laid out on the cold hard floor, with my son standing over me, wondering what was going on, the cashier called 911.  The fire department arrived first and they tried unsuccessfully to get a blood pressure reading.  When EMS arrived, the paramedic asked the first responder about my blood pressure.  He said he could not get a reading.  At that point, I thought it was important to let them know I was alive and conscious!  When the paramedic did get a blood pressure reading, it was 60/40.  By the way, none of these folks were making jokes or even smiling.  This was serious business.

EMS loaded me into the back of the ambulance, and rushed me to the local emergency room, lights flashing and sirens blaring.  My son rode in the front seat of the ambulance, and an EMS attendant was in the back with me.  I received two injections of Epinephrine.  After four hours in the emergency room, and a course of steroids, I made a full recovery.

While we are on the subject, I wonder if that resort should have had a warning sign next to the hot tub: “CONTAINS FIRE ANTS!”.

Of Lima Beans and Peanuts: The Law of Adulterated Food

I recently enjoyed a container of “Hand-Cooked Virginia Peanuts” made by a noted Virginia company with the word “peanut” prominently in its corporate name. Thus, on the container itself, easy to see and discern, there were two prominent references to “peanuts” – one in the product name, and one in the name of the manufacturer. Yet, while I was eating those yummy, yummy peanuts, I noticed this disclaimer written on the container: “CONTAINS PEANUTS.” Really?  I thought I was eating lima beans! Given that I had now seen the word “peanuts” written sideways, upside-down, and in six different languages, I decided to read further: “Manufactured on shared equipment in a facility that processes peanuts.” There it is again! Peanuts.  (By the way, with whom do they “share” their equipment?)

You know what this means? Sometime, somewhere, somebody ate some peanuts that he did not know were peanuts, became ill, and almost died. Then he hired a lawyer.  (Before you get all fired up about my insensitivity to peanut allergies, my own son is allergic to peanuts. Further, I had my own anaphylactic reaction to fire ants, which could be the subject of another whole blog post.). Whatever the case, I am reminded of how far we have come in the area of product safety warnings. Of course, consumers must be adequately informed of a product’s features and tendencies. But, come on, now! I really did know I was not eating lima beans.  I don’t even like lima beans.

In many states, including South Carolina, there are laws about adulterated or misbranded food. Indeed, in our state it is found at section 39-25-10 of the South Carolina Code, and titled “South Carolina Food and Cosmetic Act.” I suppose there’s some interesting legislative history which would explain why they combine food and cosmetics in the same statute. But that’s for another day. For good measure, we note this  statute does not include any commodity subject to packaging or labeling requirements imposed under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act or the eighth paragraph of the “Bureau of Animal Industry” section of the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act. Who knew? The statute does prohibit the manufacture or sale of food or cosmetics that are adulterated or misbranded. A food is deemed to be adulterated if it contains any poisonous or deleterious substances which may render it injurious to health. Food is deemed misbranded if the labeling is false or misleading.  There is more to the statute, but I will leave the details for your late reading pleasure. Nothing on peanut warnings, mind you.

While I am not a regular consumer of cosmetics, perhaps some of our readers would be interested to know that the section on adulterated cosmetics “shall not apply to coal-tar hair dye, the label of which bears the following legend conspicuously displayed there on: ‘Caution-This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dying the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness.’” Moreover, under this particular paragraph, the term “hair dye” shall not include eyelash dyes or eyebrow dyes.  Further, a cosmetic is deemed adulterated if it consists of “any filthy, putrid or decomposed substance”.  I am not making this up.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go back and have some more peanuts. But I better read the warning first to make certain.

Disclaimer: Consult the laws of your own state for regulations governing the adulteration or misbranding of products containing lima beans.

A Tribute to the late Andy Griffith

Shazam!  The folks at Abnormal Use are saddened to learn of the death of the great Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the famed “The Andy Griffith Show,” on which he starred from 1960 to 1968. In addition to that role, Griffith starred in director Elia Kazan’s film, A Face in the Crowd (1957), and was nominated for a Tony award for his Broadway performance in “No Time for Sergeants.”  Griffith played the lead character in “Matlock,” a legal drama which aired on television from 1986 to 1995.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of music degree in 1949.  In addition to his career as an actor, he was a Grammy Award-winning singer.  After Griffith left The Andy Griffith Show in 1968, he starred in many television films, playing the villain in “Murder in Coweta County.”  He also appeared as an attorney in the NBC mini-series “Fatal Vision” in 1984.  Many will also recall his comedy routine, “What It Was Was Football”.

In tribute to Griffith, we have prepared this obituary for Sheriff Taylor, his most famous character.

Sheriff Andy Taylor was a resident of Mayberry, North Carolina.  During his years as Sheriff of Mayberry, he was a widower and father to Opie Taylor, his son by his first wife.  He later had another son, Andrew Jackson Taylor, Jr., after he married Helen Crump.  Andy’s Aunt Bee was his housekeeper and helped raise Opie.  Andy enjoyed using his favorite fishing pole, “Eagle Eye Annie”, and even used the pole to barter with Mayor Roy Stoner to obtain a beautiful bed jacket for Aunt Bee’s birthday.  After dating for several years, Andy eventually married school teacher, Helen Crump.  Opie had previously referred to her as “Old Lady Crump” when she forced Opie and some of his school friends to memorize historical dates.  As a result, Opie and his friends formed a local club, The Mayberry Minutemen.  Andy later left Mayberry and was an agent for the State Bureau of Investigation.  He then retired as a postal inspector in Cleveland before returning to Mayberry.

Before marrying Miss Crump, Andy had several other girlfriends, including Ellie Walker, the “Lady Druggist”.  He also dated several nurses, including Mary Simpson and Peggy McMillan.  Helen was his true love and they shared many double dates with loyal deputy, Barney Fife, and his girlfriend, Thelma Lou.  They enjoyed picnics at Myers Lake and parking at the duck pond.  Mayberry residents still talk about the time Barney helped “rescue” Andy and Helen when they got trapped in the cave.

In addition to serving as Sheriff, Andy was also the Justice of the Peace.  Barney was his only deputy, unless Barney deputized some temporary help, including town drunk Otis Campbell, mechanic Gomer Pyle, and barber Floyd Lawson.  Andy also performed marriage ceremonies, including Charlene Darling and Dud Wash.  Before doing so, he had to deal with Ernest T. Bass and his rock-throwing tendencies.  After Barney took a job in Raleigh, Andy trained a new deputy, Warren Ferguson.

Sheriff Taylor usually did not wear a gun, although Barney always had his pistol and one bullet in his pocket.  When Barney bought a car from Mrs. “Hubcabs” Lesh, Andy helped Barney capture the scam artists who sold him the car.  It was one of the rare occasions Andy authorized Barney to actually put the bullet in his gun.

In addition to monitoring Barney’s attempts to arrest jaywalkers (especially Emma Watson), Andy’s law enforcement duties included chasing down the local moonshiners.  These included Rafe Hollister, who was discovered to have a talent for singing.  Barney helped Andy nab the Morrison sisters, who were making moonshine in their greenhouse.

Andy enjoyed playing his guitar and singing with Barney, or other local characters, including Jim Lindsey, who later played with Bobby Fleet and His Band with a Beat.  Andy also played the guitar with the Darling family when they came to town.  He liked playing checkers and hanging out at Floyd’s Barbershop.  He had a good relationship with local businessmen, including Emmett Clark (Emmett’s Fix-It-Shop), Orville Hendricks (undertaker and television repair), Charlie Foley (grocery store), and Wally, down at Wally’s Filling Station.

Andy was known throughout the community for his honesty and integrity, and for his good heart.  Andy allowed bootlegger Sam Muggins to celebrate Christmas in the jail over the objection of Ben Weaver.  He ate Aunt Bee’s homemade pickles even though they tasted like kerosene.  He helped a Mayberry resident prove that his bad luck was not a jinx.  When struggling door-to-door salesman, Bert Miller, was complaining of his sore shoulder, tired feet and the sound of ringing doorbells, Andy helped him stay in business against the strong-armed tactics of Ben Weaver.  Certainly, his kind treatment of Otis Campbell deserves special recognition.

The town of Mayberry and the State of North Carolina mourn the loss of one of its finest citizens.

“When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s getting might really be fear.  So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.”

(Stuart Mauney previously memorialized actor George Lindsey, who played Goober Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” on the occasion of his death earlier this year.).

An Open Letter to Law Firm Associates

This is an open letter to law firm associates, everywhere, wherever they may be, regardless of the size of their firm or the nature of their practice.

I am aware that you are in love with the cut ‘n paste mode of creating documents and letters.  I love it, too.  A wonderful time-saver.  One can be very efficient in using this mode of document creation.  I have used it to my advantage many times.  Yet, there are traps for the unwary, a veritable minefield of explosives lurking below the surface.  That is why many law firms have adopted the Uniform Guide to Law Firm Associate Behavior (“UGLFAB”).  Rule No. 12.3(c)(2)(iii), of the UGLFAB states, in pertinent part:

Associates who employ the cut ‘n paste method of document generation, do so at their own risk and peril.  There will be NO EXCUSES, NO WAIVERS OF LIABILITY, NO WHINING THAT PARTNER IS UNREASONABLE, and NO GET OUT OF ASSOCIATE JAIL FREE CARD.  HEREOF FAIL NOT.

Perhaps your firm’s management committee has been busy with other stuff, like recruiting – which is important (especially since VIOLATION of the Cut ‘n Paste Rule can be TERMINABLE OFFENSE) – so I am taking this opportunity to provide this friendly reminder. Remember: Proofread everything!

I have previously referenced one of my favorite legal resources, The Official Lawyer’s Handbook, by D. Robert White, Esq., published in 1983 by Wallaby Books.  One of the chapters is titled, “How to Survive and Make Partner in Your Law Firm.”  Rule No. 3 in that chapter is “There is No Such Thing as a ‘Draft.’”  As White points out, the word “draft” is a term of art and “failure to understand its specialized meaning has left many an eager and capable associate consigned to proofreading loan agreements for the duration (short) of his stay with his firm.”  Perhaps you have encountered this potential disaster of misunderstanding the term “draft.”  A partner asks you to provide him with a “draft” on a particular point.  “More often than not, he will camouflage the trap by saying something like, ‘Just get me a quick draft,’ or ‘Just whip off a draft,’ or even ‘Just dictate a rough draft.’  The emphasized words should trigger flashing red lights in your mind.”

That the partner has asked for a “draft” does not mean that he will tolerate the sloppy cut n’ paste method, which you have failed to proofread.  It does not mean that the partner will tolerate typos or that you should not have checked all your cites in advance.  As White concludes, “everything you submit to a partner should be suitable for framing.  No matter how casual the request, how insignificant the task, or how few the dollars at issue, the test you should apply to everything bearing your name is its suitability for hanging in the Sistine Chapel of legal documents.”

By the way, Rule No. 1 is CYA.