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What's Up in the 8th

Mamas, don't let your children grow up to be personal injury lawyers.  And while you're at it, you might warn them about the dangers posed by the combination of women and crack pipes.

I had an old client, whom I'll call Marilyn, telephone me last week.  Her daughter had been involved in an auto accident, which Marilyn found out about when she got a letter from an attorney who apparently spent time each week culling through police reports.  Was the daughter injured, I asked?  Well, she says her neck is a little sore.  Any medical treatment?  No.  Much property damage?  No, a little to the fender, that was it.  Sorry, I'll pass; I told her to call the lawyer who sent her the letter.

The attorney who represented Mary DeCapua should probably have done that, too.  DeCapua, a 61-year-old woman, was involved in a rear-ender in 2005; she declined medical treatment, drove home, then left the next day for California by train, and spent two days sleeping in a seat.  She started receiving chiropractic treatments three weeks after the accident, then saw some other doctors, and got some physical therapy.  At the trial, she presented witnesses who testified about how the accident had "drastically" changed her lifestyle.

She'd asked for a million dollars in her complaint.  Her medical bills totaled just shy of $7,000.  The jury gave her three grand, and last week, in DeCapua v. Rychlik, the 8th District said that was all she was going to get.

DeCapua was one of the ten civil decisions handed down by the 8th last week.  Another of interest included Neamonitis v. Gilmour AcademyYoung Master Neamonitis allegedly showed up at a school dance in a highly inebriated state, and was expelled.  But if Mum and Pops can afford to send you to Gilmour Academy, they can afford to hire lawyers to keep you there. Which they did, and the lawyers promptly obtained a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction keeping the school from expelling the boy.  The school appealed, but the court held, over dissent, that there was no final order.  If your circle of acquaintances includes rich parents with a wayward kid who attends a pricey private school, it might behoove you to read the case.  You never know.

On a more somber note, the court in Cleveland v. Solomon affirms the trial court's ruling that the defendant can't operate a haunted house unless he obtains an occupancy certificate.  On occupancy permit for... what?  Cue ominous-sounding music.

Over on the criminal side, in State v. Boyd, the defendant shacks up in a hotel room with a woman possessed of the delicious name of Lacquita Outlaw.  A bit of foreshadowing, it turns out.  The relationship turned sour, and Boyd had security escort her from the room.  She returned while he slept, entered the room with a key he'd given her -- one of, as it turned out, any number of questionable decisions Boyd made that night -- and stole "a large sum of money, clothing, shoes, and jewelry."  ("Shoes"?  I have difficulty figuring out why you'd take a lot of money and jewelry if you were planning on shacking up with some woman in a seedy motel.  But why would you take a lot of shoes along?)

Boyd summoned the police, and in the course of their investigation they observed "in plain view" a cookie tin containing a crack pipe with residue.  Boyd ungallantly pointed to Laquita as the owner of the contraband, but she was long gone and Boyd wasn't, so the appellate court has little trouble rejecting his claims of insufficiency and weight of the evidence.   Those claims were not helped by Boyd's testimony that he had moved the pipe from the jacuzzi to the table.  Which brings us to Digression No. 2:  what seedy hotel -- and the Day's Inn on Euclid Avenue would seem to qualify for that distinction -- has a jacuzzi?  Also left unanswered by the court's opinion is why the defendant, Richard Boyd, apparently changed his name to Dingiswayo Rahman, or why the court would choose to mention it.

Although the defendant in State v. Williams shared Mr. Boyd's/Rahman's same poor judgment of women, he wound up in a better place.  He had called the Housing Authority to tell them that his girlfriend, a young lady by the name of Miller, refused to leave his apartment.  The officer came, Miller and Williams got into an argument, with each accusing the other of using crack.  Miller said that Williams had a crack pipe on his headboard, and the police officer obligingly looked into the bedroom and saw it.

Miller testified to a slightly different series of events:  she told the officer she didn't live there, at which point he began walking about the apartment and looking into rooms.  Hardly the point.  In order to claim the benefits of the "plain view" exception to the warrant requirement, the officer would have to show he had a right to be in the place where he observed the pipe.  The only way he could show that was by demonstrating that someone consented to him entering the bedroom.  Nobody did, but even if Miller's statement that there was a crack pipe on the headboard could be construed as consent, that would have required Miller to have the authority, real or apparent, to consent to a search, and since she didn't live there and the officer knew it, there's not much left of that, is there?

And the last mystery of a week full of them is how Williams lived in the public housing projects but still managed to get one of the city's oldest and most prestigious law firms, Squire Sanders & Dempsey, to represent him in his appeal.  Hey, guys, tell you what:  I won't do any corporate bond work if you agree to stay out of criminal appeals.


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