What's in a Name?

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Every night I am given information from our booker/producers about how a guest would like to be introduced. Sometimes the info comes straight from the guest, sometimes from the booker and what he or she thinks is appropriate and sometimes it comes from "bad habit" — meaning what others on different shows and networks have done before us.

On Friday night I was told by a booker/producer to introduce Gloria Allred (search) as "victims' rights attorney." I nixed that idea. Yes, I have done it before but it suddenly occurred to me that there is no such specialty in the law. There is no such thing in my mind as a "victims' rights attorney." We lawyers may want to think all our clients are the victims and that the opposing lawyer's client is not, but sometimes your client is not the victim. And just because you represent a woman does not make you a "victims rights attorney." Sometimes women lie and thus are hardly "victims." It is not an "all-or-nothing" situation.

Let me give you an example: Suppose a lawyer represents a woman who claims a man raped her. The man will be charged criminally and prosecuted by the state and perhaps the subject of a civil assault case (for damages.) You might think at the outset that lawyer for the woman is a "victims' rights attorney." But what if the woman claiming rape is flat out lying? Who is the victim? That is obvious — the defendant falsely accused of rape and not the woman.

To automatically think a lawyer represents in all cases only the victims and thus call the lawyer a "victims rights attorney," is wrong in my opinion. Many times you must wait for ALL the evidence before you can make the determination as to who the victim is. Of course there is the obvious victim — in a murder case, assuming there is no suggestion of self defense, the decedent IS the victim. You don't need all the evidence for the obvious.

But in a case involving allegations of sexual misconduct, in most instances, you need to hear all the evidence before you can decide who the victim is. Sometimes both parties are the victims — with each lying a bit. Sometimes the accuser IS the victim. Sometimes the person accused IS the victim. But calling yourself the "victims rights attorney" does not automatically mean your client is right. Sometimes clients lie and some lie very convincingly. You may THINK your client is the victim but you have only heard one side. Sometimes when you hear it ALL, a light bulb goes off in your head. The problem is that you don't hear it all until all the evidence is in at the conclusion of a trial ... and even then you may not know all. When a client shows up in your office that first day, often you hear only the information that makes the client look 100 percent right. Trials are, in theory, the search for the truth but, in reality, they are far from perfect forums. They remain the best solution we have — but, as you know, mistakes are made in trials. Sometimes the mistakes are big (e.g. an innocent defendant ends up on death row.)

In law school, unlike college, you don't "major." You don't "major" in constitutional law, securities law, etc. You don't major in "victims rights." You may take a concentration of courses in a particular subject but you don't emerge from law school with a JD in victims' rights. The concentration of courses is also quite limited since all law schools require you take many courses in the basics.

When I was in law school, there were no courses entitled "victims' rights" — maybe some schools now offer that topic in a seminar.

After you receive your routine law degree (JD), you can go back and earn an LLM (Masters) degree. Very few lawyers go on to earn an LLM, since a JD is all you need. The most common LLMs are in tax law because tax is a specialized area of the law. At the risk of having everyone with an LLM criticize me, I think LLMs are not a big deal and usually mean you had the money and the discipline to do more schooling. You can learn tax and other topics by "on the job" training and research and studying — which is how law is learned. LLMs seem to me to be just a little "snob value." You can be a great lawyer without an LLM and you can be a lousy lawyer with an LLM. [And before you LLM people write me and tell me I am dead wrong ....let me tip you off: I have one! Yes, I learned while earning one, but the truth is that I could have learned it without the degree. Law is best learned by experience and not in the classroom.]

Here are your randomly selected e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

I know this is going to sound critical, and that is not my intention, but I’m sorry, I’m not as eloquent as some, so please forgive my bluntness. I have to admit that I normally go channel surfing when your show comes on. Usually by the time your show comes on, we (FOX viewers - in this family anyway), have seen report after report of who is missing and the story behind them missing or being murdered. I have to ask … are you trying to solve the mystery of the day/week from your desk?

Tonight I’m watching your show, and your questioning of the field reporter and the gentleman who you questioned over the toxicology tests that were done on the three victims … it honestly sounded like you were attempting to solve the crime right there from your desk! I know you are/were a lawyer, but do you actually think you’re able to ask a question, or prompt a “professional” into considering something you thought of that will break the case wide open?
It very well may be your lawyer training coming out during interviews, but you come across more like a condescending lawyer questioning a hostile witness.

We’re viewers out here, not jurors … we aren’t out to pass judgment on a reporter, or a local coroner for HOW they did their job. You could have provided us the same information by asking him if toxicology tests were done, and what they showed … end of the drilling … if you needed to kill time until the next commercial break, then you could have asked him what the “average” autopsy procedures included and what evidence is required or necessary to consider additional testing. There are plenty of directions you could go from there, however … you are in the position you're in because of who you are, and what you’ve accomplished … God bless you and your accomplishments and successes. Yet I think your ratings would probably jump dramatically if you didn’t “sound” like a lawyer drilling a witness. Americans have never had a warm fuzzy feeling about lawyers in general and I would like to think most Fox viewers are honest hard working people that are not in need of a lawyers services.

Anyway … I wish you luck with your show, but as long as you act and sound like a lawyer, I will continue channel surfing when your show come on.
Art Jones
A small Po-dunk little town in KY.
(But we love the peace and quiet)

ANSWER: I confess — I would like to find the missing children. I don't find that shocking that I would like to find the children or solve the murder. Frankly, wanting to find those kids sounds like the goal of a good citizen. I would hope that I use the platform I have — prime time TV — to help accomplish that goal. Those kids need our protection and those victims of murder need justice. I know the power of TV and I know that talking about this crime generates tips — lots of them. Why do you think the police and the families are so eager to appear?

The murder scene and the bodies have clues — that is why murder scenes are investigated. Police measure scenes, photograph them, study them, etc. Why? Clues. I ask questions because 1) that is my job; 2) I am curious and 3) (most important) maybe some question or answer we have on our show will provide that information or provocation for someone who might know something to pick up the phone and call the police.

As for my training, we don't get "trained" in law school to be curious — that is simply my nature. For the most part, all my viewers — maybe not you — are curious. Curious viewers want facts. They don't want me to berate and scream — that is not productive on our show. Our viewers want facts. I am blunt and to the point — if you want drama and histrionics, perhaps our show is not for you.

Time is of the essence in investigations and drama by me is not going to be productive. I don't have to worry about how I sound for ratings as you suggest — our show is doing very well. Yes, I admit I want lots of viewers (ratings) but it would thrill me so much more just to be part of finding those two kids in Idaho or solving the murders and bringing justice. After more than 10 years anchoring successful news show, I know that it would be so much more exciting, so much more fulfilling, to think to myself that I have helped. So, while you worry about style (I won't), I will worry about helping.

E-mail No.2

Why have the Greta vote thing at all? It NEVER works right. Plus the whole Fox site has to be reloaded 50 percent of the time because it does not load the first time.
Uncle Jer
Wakefield, MI

ANSWER: I think I need to check out why this is not working...

E-mail No.3

It would be interesting to hear what the three victims from Idaho were wearing when found. Were they still in the same clothes they had on at the BBQ on Sunday or their night clothes?
J Prahl

ANSWER: Great question ... I should have asked it.

E-mail No.4

99.5 percent of the time I vote on your on-line poll, and 98 percent of the time I seem to hit the majority. However, I find myself in a bit of a quandary with this week's poll question (What is your opinion of Saddam in his underwear?).
How can I vote this week if you don't have an option for "Laughed my butt off"?
Jim Peck
Port Richey, FL

E-mail No. 5 — Note from Laura Ingle at the Jackson trial. She e-mailed me after sending this asking me to spell check it. She wrote it in a hurry from her Blackberry and said there are probably lots of spelling errors. I don't know how to spell check on e-mail. So enjoy the spelling…

Subject: Laura note

Mark Geragos has swaggered back into the courtroom at his former client's trial. He had a late night last night, after hosting the seventh annual “Armenian Music Awards” in Hollywood. I heard it was a happening event, sold out, and Geragos was treated like a Hollywood celebrity.

The attorney, formerly known as Michael Jackson's counsel, is continuing his testimony from last week. There was a significant scrap between the attornies [sic] and judge this morning outside the presence of the jury. When we last left off, Geragos had revealed that he had only signed a PARTIAL attorney client privilege [sic] waiver, which stopped him from talking about events after Jackson's Nov 2003 arrest. The waiver was drafted by Jackson's current attorney Tom Mesereau. Judge Rodney Melville told him today he felt like he had deceicved [sic] him, and was considering sanctions against him. Judge decided to allow Geragos to continue with his cross, but he would have to say he is claiming “attorney client privilage” [sic] on the questions he won't answer, as opposed to saying “I can't answer that." The judge wants him to make the distinction, so the jury understands the serious nature of his refusal. Legal experts say, it makes him look like he's hiding something.

This cross exam with prosecutor Ron Zonen is turning into a battle of will between the two. Zonen's tone is terse, and he is NEEDLING Geragos about what his private investigator was doing to follow and track the accuser and his family in 2003. It feels like a WWF smack down is going on with the verbal sparing. Zonen wanted to know if Geragos had known his P.I. had secretly taped a meeting the accuser's mother had with the department of child and family services. He said no. Zonen was working on that angle, when Geragos kept explaining he had concerns about the family ... he didn't trust them etc. Zonen fired back with, "You say you had concerns ... did you have concerns that the boy would end up back in Michael Jackson's bed?"

And it went on. Geragos has been trying to almost "school" Zonen on parts of the law concerning his cross exam and has at times given a sheepish grin to jurors.

Outside the courthouse: The Jackson “SUV caravan” was reportedly pulled over on the 101 highway this morning. Apparently, it was car No.2. MJ rides in car No.1, which did pull over while the 2nd car's driver was dealing with the fuzz. It doesn't sound like any tickets were issued, just a warning to the driver that the tint on his windows was too dark. Weird that happened today. Just yesterday, a group of reporters and cameramen were standing around after court and talking about the "P.J. day" when Jackson's caravan came screaming down the 101 after he got out of the hospital for his sore back. The judge had ordered him here to court ... saying he'd have one hour to make it or there would be a warrant issued for his arrest. Reporters were talking about how lucky it was no one got hurt in the high-speed hustle to get Jackson here, and that no one got pulled over. Hmm...

Week 13 gets underway Monday. Jay Leno is reportedly coming Tuesday. Can't believe it will be the 58th day of trial — not that anyone here is counting.

E-mail No. 6 — Note from Jim Hammer at the Michael Jackson trial:

Trial Note - May 20, 2005

Today was Mark Geragos — Part Deux. It started with real drama as the judge told the full courtroom that was he not sure how to proceed, but most chillingly for Tom Mesereau, said he thought the defense lawyer had deceived him and that the judge would decide later whether to sanction him. I can tell you, as a lawyer who tried a lot of cases, that there is no worse thing for a lawyer to hear a judge say. It hung heavy in the courtroom even after the judge moved on. It shows that the judge was truly mad at Mesereau and I would not be surprised if the judge does impose some sanction after this case goes to the jury.

Before Geragos resumed testifying there was a big fight over whether or not the defense had waived ALL of Jackson’s attorney client privilege last Friday. Last week, the jury heard Geragos refuse to answer questions on more than 6 occasions. Today, the judge ruled that Jackson could indeed make a limited time waiver of that privilege and generally limited the D.A.’s cross examination to the months of February-April 2003. This really cut off the D.A.’s ability to get into the time around Jackson’s arrest. If the D.A. had been able to ask about those areas, I think there would have been some damaging dirt on Jackson. In reality, though, even if the judge had allowed that, Geragos would have refused to answer questions form that time period since Jackson himself wouldn’t waive his right - the bottom line would have been that Geragos’s testimony would have been stricken.

Today’s cross was heated at times, some questions drew not one but five objections! At times, it was funny, as D.A. Zonen even joked with Geragos on the stand. At breaks, the jurors were laughing and whispering to each other. It was great theater as far as trials go, and the jurors had front row seats.

The big news came at the end of the day when the judge refused to force the DA to grant immunity so that one of the alleged co-conspirators, Vinne Amen, could be forced to testify. That with other rulings excluding defense witnesses from testifying, left the D.A. to tell the court that the defense has indicated that they might rest as early as next Tuesday. This case is rapidly winding up. Soon, both sides will be standing before this jury with lone last chance to argue their cases and then the jury will have Jackson’s fate in their hands. Stay tuned…
Jim Hammer
Santa Maria Courthouse

And finally…

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) — Bill Brownell, who 34 years ago founded the WeTip crime hot line — which has aided in the capture of more than 15,000 criminals nationwide — has died. He was 71.

Brownell died of congestive heart failure at his Rancho Cucamonga home on May 13, after a long battle with emphysema, his daughter Susan Aguilar said Friday from WeTip headquarters in Ontario.
"He remained CEO until 2002 when he turned 68, when he decided he was going to retire," his wife Miriam Brownell told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. "He was our idea person. We were all worker bees and he was the idea person."

Bill Brownell founded WeTip in 1971 and it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1972. By 1982, WeTip had expanded nationally.

Law enforcement officials describe WeTip, which allows callers to anonymously report crimes or criminals, as a valuable crime-fighting tool.

"Absolutely, it helps prevent crime. It provides people with an easy-access, anonymous way to report crime. They feel safer," said Deputy Scott Gage of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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