January 25, 2003

Adam Felber has discovered a Newer Testament: the Book of Lieberman.

January 24, 2003

Another good reason never to go to trial is what happened to me (or rather, my clients) today: a near-total defeat. I need a drink.
A sidenote about yesterday's post: I must reiterate that having a prospective competitor to the LA Weekly is a good thing, even if the initial set of contributors are the type of hack-pundits usually published by the L.A. Daily News. For those of you who live outside of LA County, one of the things you have to remember is that half the population in the city lives in the San Fernando Valley, myself included. I cannot remember the last time the Weekly published an informative or intelligent story about the Valley; during the recent secession vote, the only times it could be bothered to comment on the issue was to say that it was a movement of, by, and for, racists. As skeptical as I was about secession, quite frankly the notion that this was some sort of white separatist movement is bullshit.

Normally, I would be infuriated by that sort of take, as it derives from the outdated view that the Valley is a predominantly white enclave, which hasn't been true since Yorty was mayor, as well as unintentionally endorsing the view, widely shared west of the 405, that the rest of the city has a parasitic relationship to Valley homeowners. But the Weekly's coverage of this area is so bad (its restaurant guide lists more restaurants from the "trendy" Silverlake area than from the Valley) that I find the throwaway to be more a testament to provincialism than something I need to take seriously. In some ways, it resembles the cliched view that East Coast sportswriters have of California, as a place too "laid back", too "Hollywood", to be passionate about our teams. I am optimistic enough about the forward progress of human development to believe that such opinions will eventually die out, hand-in-hand with the morons who share them.

Considering that the alternative is the execrable Daily News, a newspaper whose only worthwhile attribute is that it reprints the NY Times crossword puzzle every day, a new weekly holds the possibility that the other half of Los Angeles is finally going to get covered in a serious manner. And for that reason alone, I am mildly excited by the debut of the Examiner.

January 23, 2003

For those of you who have neither read Jonathan Harr's classic book, A Civil Action, nor seen the movie, let me recap its moral, a lesson I have come to appreciate after Day Three: never, ever go to trial if you can somehow avoid it. There are just too many factors involved that are beyond your ability to control. Your success is dependent on unpredictable witnesses, evidence that might never see the light of day, and other factors that are just plain unforseeable. One moment you're convinced your client is about to be hung out to dry, the next, the other side commits some unbelievable blunder, on an issue not connected to the merits, that imperils its case. And then the next day, the positions are reversed. With one more day to go, I still have no idea how this is going to end, but there is no way I will ever go to trial again unless I have literally no other option.

January 22, 2003

With the recent demise of NewTimes, Los Angeles has been without competition in the free weekly department for the past few months (which was just the way the publishers of LA Weekly wanted it; the Justice Department has been investigating the deal they made to shut down their rival). The good news is, former Mayor Riordan is about to bankroll a new tabloid-style weekly, one that its editor, Ken Layne, insists will be "very big on sports, and we're also going to have a big gossip section right in the middle", and which will be available to the public in June. The bad news is, well, get a load of whom the LA Times reports will be writing for the new LA Examiner: "...Lynda Obst, Billy Crystal, James Q. Wilson, Joel Kotkin, Jill Stewart ...Susan Estrich, Gene Lichtenstein and Andy Klein." I guess Michelle Malkin and Norah Vincent weren't available. Too bad this venture, backed as it is by some of the top figures in SoCal blogging, doesn't possess a little more creativity in that regard. But at least it's something. [link via Matt Welch]

January 21, 2003

Day One of the trial is complete. I am not by training a trial lawyer, and have only done a few of these since I "got made" over thirteen years ago, but each one produces an incredible rush of adrenaline going into court. It's a feeling I haven't had since I ran high school track, just an enormous high mixed with nervousness, anger, frustration and intellectual fire; I can see why so many successful litigators turn to alcohol, since it's one of the few socially-sanctioned ways to come down afterwards. And the thing of it is, I have pocket briefs to prepare, will probably be up all night, and I have to be in court again at 9 a.m. tomorrow. I'm not cut out to do this.

January 20, 2003

Frank Rich explains it all...is there some way he could be persuaded to keep his column, or at least start a blog?
Tomorrow I begin a trial at the U.S. District Court, so I will be indisposed for most of the week. If anything of interest happens, I'll share.

January 19, 2003

I'll say this for major league baseball: having a zero-tolerance policy towards gambling has its advantages. Anybody who makes a bet on any game knows that it could mean disgrace, ignominy, and the end of his career. Although I feel that the sport's treatment of Pete Rose has been a travesty, based on a ridiculously biased report drafted by someone who could give Ken Starr a pointer or two about selling a slanted investigation, at least the punishment makes sense. Bet on a game, even if it doesn't involve your team, and you're out.

Overseas, the policy is a bit different. Rather than aggressively trying to keep the sport clean, the governing bodies for soccer have a different approach: unless the player bets against his team, it's not a problem. Mainly, that policy grows out of the tolerance for legalized gambling that exists in Europe, particularly England. As with college sports in this country, it is easier to find athletes willing to fix games because the salaries aren't extravagant, and the temptation is much greater.

Perhaps the best English player of the moment, and one of the most feared strikers ever, Michael Owen, is currently having to justify having established an off-shore account for purposes of betting, including wagers on Premier League soccer. The reaction of the Football Association has been telling: as long as he keeps his bets on the ponies and on Man Utd. and Chelsea, and doesn't bet on his team, Liverpool, to lose, there's no problem. Putting aside the fact that an athlete who is dropping a small fortune to bookies is likely to be an easier target for blackmail, the whole message this sends to fans and to other players is that the sport is more willing to coddle athletes and appease gambling interests than to deal with the appearance of corruption.