Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Growing our Blog

After approximately two weeks of just ignoring us, the Law School officially declined to have anything to do with us today. We were informed by the Law School to "understand that [our blog] is not in any way affiliated with the University or the Law School," and we were basically wished the best, just not with any help from them.

So, the email announcement that I had planned, and the possible link from the Law School's website, aren't going to happen anytime soon. But, despite that, I think that our blog has the potential to expand quite nicely in the next couple months. There are a good number of people who have indicated that they wish to contribute to this blog, we just haven't heard from everybody yet.

However, one doesn't need to write a post to contribute to this site. What we need right now is publicity. If anyone has any creative ideas to get the word out, post a comment to this blog, contact me directly, or just take it upon yourself to do some marketing. There are already other contributors to this blog contacting me about potential marketing ideas, we just need some more help.

It would be great to get our link out there, or get some written press, but word of mouth is probably the best marketing out there. Remember to mention this site to any of your former classmates. Also, if you learn that your opposing counsel, or other colleagues, are from NIU, please mention this site.

If enough people start following this blog, it is possible that it could turn into a nice referral system with people posting requests for services outside of their practice areas, asking for help covering court calls, etc.


The Northern Law Blog

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Reminder of the ISBA / Young Lawyers Division Networking Event and Bean Bag Tourney.
The deadline to register has technicaly passed, but email Meghan if you still want to attend.

When: Saturday, May 3, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where: Durkin’s, 810 W. Diversey, Chicago, IL
What: Pizza and domestic beer, house wine, mixed well drinks and soft drinks
Cost: $30.00 per person per wristband or $100.00 for entrance fee for Bean Bag Tournament for a team of two with two wristbands. You must be 21 years old and older to participate.
Deadline: Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Bean Bag Tournament is a fundraiser for the IBF/YLD Children's Assistance Fund. The YLD raises funds that are used for grants for child-related programs. The main funding is for establishment and ongoing support, supplies, toys, etc, for Children's Waiting Rooms in Courthouses throughtout the state. These waiting rooms provide children a safe space while their parents or guardians have business with the Court.
Prizes will be given to the first and second place teams. Questions? Email Meghan at mobrien@ridgeassoc.com

If you want to enter the tournament, but do not have a teammate, let me know and I will try to team you up with someone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Great and Mighty Secretary of State

For those of you who practice DUI defense and Traffic law, this may come as a nice little surprise and question for your practice.Recently in Champaign County the Secretary of State requested that approximately 100 ADR records of convictions for DUIs of convictions in 1998 be sent to the Secretary of State. The Circuit Clerk reviewed the records and told the Secretary of State that of those records some had been previously sent and well oops some of them had not. The Secretary of State did not care and requested all of them be sent.

Subsequently notices of Revocation were sent out to the people whose records were sent. Now realize some of these people knew this was a potential as their record had never been sent and their license never revoked. However, for other people who had already had their license revoked and had already had gotten their license reinstated it was quite a surprise. Not to mention, there was no warning - just a letter stating that their license was effectively revoked as of the date in the letter. Now the kicker to this whole scenario is that the application process to have your license reinstated can take quite a while. Also, in order to apply to have your license reinstated you need to have your original alcohol evaluation, a new evaluation, etc..... - well for those who did not keep good records, they were unable to get a copy of their original alcohol evaluation (the circuit clerk microfilmed the files and alcohol evaluations were not microfilmed and the main evaluator in 1998 for DUIs had since closed, etc...).

Now comes the question for the attorney, did the attorneys violate ethics or potentially liable to a malpractice claim for not making sure the ADR record was sent by the circuit clerk? And the most often question asked by the clients is there anyway around this? Well the simple answer I found is no - not really.The Circuit Clerk is required by statute to send the ADR conviction record within 5 days of the conviction. However, since there is no punishment for if they do not send it, they can send it at any time without repercussions. The Secretary of State by statute is allowed to impose a suspension or revocation of a driving license on the date it receives notice of the conviction. NOTE: date it receives notice of the conviction, NOT date of conviction. Thus, the Secretary of State could theoretically revoke a 90 year olds license for a DUI he/she received when they were 16.

How do you resolve the problem? Still to be determined, but if it is not alcohol related, I can tell you it takes a lot of calls to the Secretary of State before you will get any kind of answer. The answer I finally found after being told there was nothing they could do, was that when considering revocations and suspensions traffic ticket convictions over 7 years old cannot be considered (Lucky for me and my client).Will this issue come up again - Most definitely - previous to the Champaign County event, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) found boxes of records that had not been sent to the Secretary of State in another County, and promptly made sure they were sent causing many similar revocation letters to be sent out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lawyer Sentenced to 90 days for Contempt

It turns out that Adam "Bulletproof" Reposa is not so "bulletproof" after all. The oddly-nicknamed Texas criminal defense attorney was found to be in contempt of court for making an obscene hand gesture while making direct eye contact with the Judge. And it wasn't the one-fingered salute.

I'm not even going to describe it here. Please click here to find out what this idiot did.

No More Internet in Class

According to this article from the National Law Journal, the University of Chicago Law School has banned Internet usage in classrooms. The Law School Dean is quoted as saying that he has been trying to persuade students to stop using the Internet in class for some time, but he just learned that the building had the ability to block wired and wireless access from certain classrooms. So, he shut them down.

There are obviously positives and negatives on both sides of the argument, but aren't these people adults. But, maybe it was a distraction to the professors, who knows?

What do the readers think about computers/internet in class??

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Home Repair & Remodeling Act

On April 3, 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court finally released its highly anticipated opinion in the case MD Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Abrams. Well, maybe it wasn't too highly anticipated by the legal community at large, but I argued the case in front of the Supreme Court back in September, so after more than seven months without hearing a word from them, it was at least highly anticipated by me and my client.

The good news is that the Supreme Court affirmed the 2nd Dist., so I won the case...for now. (Click here for the full opinion.) The bad news is that Justice Freeman's dissent, while not binding, outlines a course of action that the circuit court could follow on remand to make an eventual victory back at trial very difficult.

For those unfamiliar with the Act, it requires "all persons" who perform home repairs or remodeling which cost more than $1,000 to have a written contract with the homeowner. The Act also requires contractors to hand out a Consumer Rights Brochure to the homeowners. The Act provides for enforcement through the Attorney General's or State's Attorneys' offices and violations of the Act are also considered violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

The issue of this case was whether the Act applies to sub-contractors. My client was an electrical sub-contractor who performed services well in excess of the $1,000 limit on a very large remodeling project in Naperville, but didn't have a written contract with the homeowners, or hand them the brochure. When my client did not get paid, we sued under a quantum meruit theory to recover for the work performed. The homeowners moved to dismiss on the theory that my client did not comply with the Act, the trial court agreed, and the case was dismissed.

The 2nd Dist. Appellate Court found that the purpose of the Act was to protect homeowners from unscrupulous contractors. The Court found that the legislature could not have intended the Act to apply to sub-contractors because that would force homeowners to have to sit down and contract with potentially dozens of different companies on a large project, instead of just dealing with the general contractor

The Supreme Court affirmed. The Court noted that the use of general and subcontractors is a common business practice in the home repair injustry. Generals have always contracted directly with the homeowners. Subcontractors never deal directly with the homeowners. The Court anticipated that if the Act were to apply to subcontractors, and if homeowners were required to negotiate and contract with each individual subcontractor, it would throw the system into upheaval because homeowners generally do not have the experience necessary to coordinate a large project. For instance, should the drywall guys hang the sheet rock before or after the plumbers run the pipes? And dozens of other questions of that nature.

So, the Court held that the Home Repair and Remodeling Act does not apply to sub-contractors because that is the way that the current general contractor/subcontractor system has evolved.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Commercial Driver's License Cheat Sheet

The Motor Vehicle Code states that CDLs shall be suspended if the holder is convicted of:

  • One “major offense,” or
  • Two "serious traffic violations," arising from separate incidents, occurring within a three year period.

“Major offenses” all involve alcohol, controlled substances, or death.

"Serious traffic violations" are defined in 49 C.F.R. 383.51 and include only the following offenses:

  • Speeding excessively (15 mph or more over the limit);
  • Reckless driving:
  • Making improper or erratic lane changes;
  • Following too closely;
  • Violating any state or local law in connection with a fatal accident; and
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL in the driver’s possession.

I have a guy involved in an accident while driving a tractor-trailer on I-90. He was ticketed for Failure to Reduce Speed and Following too Closely.

According to the CDL Cheatsheet, he can take the hit for Failure to Reduce Speed, if it comes to that, without any consequences to his CDL. Looks like all I have to do is get rid of the Following too Closely.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Donald Trump is an Idiot

Donald Trump hired a prominent Manhattan law firm to represent him in a lawsuit against a contractor who Mr. Trump claims overcharged him in the construction of a golf course. Now, Trump is suing the law firm claiming that they also overcharged him. Click here for a post from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

The quote that is making all the headlines is where the Donald says that he has "a Ph.D. in legal fees," and that he "knows when fees are fair and when they're not." The quote that I found interesting, however, is where he says "We won the case because I am a great witness."

I hate clients like that. Nothing that the lawyers did in three years of pretrial practice made any difference whatsoever. The Donald showed up, testified for thirty minutes at trial, and single-handedly won the case. Great job, Mr. Trump.

On a side note, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog points out that the firm that Trump is suing employs Joshua D. Saviano, the former child actor who was once known as Paul, Kevin Arnold's best friend on the Wonder Years. Check out his profile on the firm's website.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Only in Cook County

As any Cook County resident knows, it is time for the annual Homeowner's Exemption (and Senior Exemption & Freeze) paperwork to be submitted. I was extremely excited to learn that you could apply for the exemption online this year. The instructions said something like file online and save time....or something along those lines. In my mind, online filing eliminates two potential problems with receiving the exemption. First, you do not have to risk the U.S.P.S. losing your exemption in the mail (or it being found in a dumpster five years later). Second, it takes it out of the hands of County employees who could lose it, enter it wrong, not enter it at all, etc. Cook County entering the 21st Century, right? Wrong.

So I apply for the exemption online and everything is going smoothly and quickly. There is a code to enter along with the PIN. It asks you to verify your informaiton and certify that you owned the house as of Jan 1. At the bottom of the page I hit SUBMIT. It opens a new page where it says "YOUR EXEMPTION IS NOT COMPLETE UNTIL YOU PRINT THIS CERTIFICATION, SIGN, AND MAIL IT TO THE ASSESSOR."

What?!? Huh? Only in Cook County could some wizard on high decide that we are going to make things for the taxpayer easier, quicker, cheaper, and smoother by turning a one step process into two. I could have just mailed in the original paper form, rather than doing all the hoopla online and then having to mail it anyway.

Hopefully Todd Stroger's third cousin twice removed will personally handle my exemption in the fourteen hours he works this month.

Friday, April 4, 2008

There should be an exception

This post is about three months too late, but I just realized that it is illegal to warm up your car by leaving it running in the driveway.

From the Vehicle Code:

Sec. 11‑1401. Unattended motor vehicles. No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any perceptible grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.

What? Are you serious? No exceptions? Other sections of the vehicle code talk about "on a public roadway," or "outside a business, no one shall...," etc.

Shouldn't there be an exception for people starting their cars in their own driveway? Or am I missing something?

What do the readers think? Let me know by posting your comments below.

Heath Ledger

I happened across an article about Heath Ledger yesterday and it brought me back to a question I was asked a while back. "What would have happened if Heath had died in Illinois?" Well the answer to that is nothing different than what happened when he died in New York, because he was an Australian resident, Australian Will, mostly Australian property, etc. However, what if Heath had lived in Illinois and had an Illinois Will? Well, the legislature addressed his daughter Matlida's problem with 755 ILCS 5/4‑10 (from Ch. 110 1/2, par. 4‑10), Sec. 4‑10. Effect of child born after will.

"Unless provision is made in the will for a child of the testator born after the will is executed or unless it appears by the will that it was the intention of the testator to disinherit the child, the child is entitled to receive the portion of the estate to which he would be entitled if the testator died intestate and all legacies shall abate proportionately therefor."

So, unless Heath expressly disinherited after-born children in his Will (or it appeared that was his intention), Matlida would inherit and the other legacies (in this case to his parents and siblings) would abate. Michelle would not be so lucky, as the legislature affords no special protection to ex-fiancee's, so hopefully she has some of that Dawson's Creek money stashed away.

Why would anyone disinherit after-born children you may ask? Anna Nicole did...but did she mean to? For an excellent discussion on that topic from the Death and Taxes Blog, click this link.

So, how does one avoid this problem altogether? It's quite simple actually, careful drafting. Instead of leaving my estate to my son Daniel (as in Anna Nicole's case), how about "I leave my entire estate to my descendants who survive me, per stirpes" or "I leave my entire estate to my children who survive me, per stirpes." A little planning and forethought go a long way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More than 25% of top law firms have blogs

The ABA Journal reports that more than 25 percent of the nation's top 200 law firms have blogs.

A recent study shows that 53 of the AmLaw 200 law firms have blogs, and 20 of those firms have more than one blog. In all, the top firms publish 110 blogs.

The number of firms in the AmLaw 200 that have blogs increased by 36 percent in the past six months, while the total number of blogs published by those firms increased 49 percent.

Looks like the Northern Law Blog is on the ground level of this exploding trend.