Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ΦΘΩΖΔΓΣΠ

My boss was in a fraternity during college. He likes using Greek org. analogies. Rush is over for me. Now the hazing begins.

In Other Words, You’re a Finicky Eater

How can one categorically dislike a particular cuisine? I can understand not liking a particular dish, but having an aversion to Thai food, Indian food, or Spanish food altogether seems a bit unreasonable. Usually, there is enough variation within the cooking of a particular nationality that some would argue that there is no such thing as “Italian” food, or “Indian” food. I think this is just an excuse for being an unadventurous diner or for being close-minded.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Texas 1015’s

Texas 1015’s, the super-sweet onions developed by Texas A&M University, are beginning to appear in stores! I bought about four-and-a-half pounds of them. Onions form the base of much of what I cook. A good number of recipes begin with sautéing chopped onion. Interestingly, according to Suvir Saran’s Indian Home Cooking, Hindu Brahmans’ and Jains’ religions proscribe the consumption of onions. This is not to say that onions do not figure prominently into most Indian cooking.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

If You Want My Taxes, Send Me a Bill

Don’t make me do the work of calculating how much of my money you are going to take. If the government is going to make people pay taxes, it could at least spare us the time and stress of determining how much we owe. Then, instead of the government auditing us, we could review the government’s work to ascertain whether its numbers are correct.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Annals of Criminal Law Are Rife with Cases with Significant Problems

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said of prosecutorial misconduct in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, “I don’t think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems.” That seems like a significant overstatement, to me. Powell v. Alabama comes to mind as an example of a monumental failure of the judicial system.

In Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (U.S. 1932), seven black youths were accused of raping two white women aboard a train in Alabama. The defendants were not afforded an opportunity to retain counsel and no counsel was appointed until the day of trial. The trial judge invited members of the bar to come forward to represent the defendants, and the appearance by the two attorneys who did participate, who were unable to prepare or conduct an investigation, was “rather pro forma than zealous and active.” The defendants pleaded not guilty, but they were ultimately found guilty and sentenced to death. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the convictions.

The United States Supreme Court addressed the novel question of whether, in a capital trial, a defendant is denied due process of law when he or she is not afforded the aid of counsel from the time of arraignment until the beginning of trial. The Supreme Court, of course, resolved the case in favor of the uneducated, illiterate youths, against whom public sentiment had been aroused, and who were cut off from communication with their families. “A defendant, charged with a serious crime, must not be stripped of his [or her] right to have sufficient time to advise with counsel and prepare his [or her] defense.” The highest court in the land determined that the necessity of counsel was so vital and imperative that the failure of the trial court to make an effective appointment of counsel was a denial of due process within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The alleged victims later recanted.

Most of the Supreme Court cases construing the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments have come about because of failures in the criminal justice system. I doubt that the Zacarias Moussaoui trial is any more exceptional than are some of the other cases in the annals of criminal law.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

County Jail Is Not a Desirable Place to Hang Out

I do not like visiting Montgomery County Jail. I had to go there three times in two days last week. I particularly dislike being sent to the jail ten minutes before I thought I was about to go home for the day. When I go to the jail, though, at least I am able to leave.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Time Spent

At the office, whenever we have any interaction with a client, or do anything that relates to a client’s case, we make an entry in “time spent.” For example, if we take a telephone call from a client, make a court appearance for a client, or conduct research on a client’s case, we make note of it in the client’s file in Amicus, the “law office on computer.” Keeping track of work performed on a client’s matter is not done for the purpose of billing, since we do not bill by the hour. Rather, maintaining copious notes allows us to know the status of a client’s case. If one of us talks to a client, or makes a court appearance with a client, the other attorneys can know what has been done and what needs to be done. It also serves to protect us, in the event that a client alleges that we have not been diligent in our representation of him or her. “Time spent” will reflect that we have been in contact with the client and that we have been working on the client’s case.

I have become so accustomed to making entries in “time spent” that, when I conclude a personal conversation with a friend or a family member, I begin to contemplate the record I will make in Amicus.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve nothing green to wear for St. Patrick’s Day. I do get paid today, so there will be some green associated with this March 17th.

Is fearr focal sa chúirt nápunt sa sparán.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Juvee

I think that if a judge decides that he or she is going to keep a juvenile in detention, and if the assistant county attorney recommends detention, there is nothing the juvenile’s attorney can say to obtain the juvenile’s release from detention. In the few juvenile detention hearings in which I have participated, I have been unsuccessful in springing the kids from detention. I think the kids do it to themselves, though.

When I was in school, kids who misbehaved received ISS (in school suspension). Now, offenses such as fighting or stealing will land a kid in juvenile detention. It must be heartbreaking for parents to see their children clad in day-glo orange jumpsuits and restrained in handcuffs and shackles.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Damned Girl Scouts and Their Cookies

Instead of peddling cookies and contributing to the epidemic of obesity in America, the Girl Scouts should be selling exquisite fruits, such as Harry & David offers, or conducting aerobics or yoga classes – something to promote healthy lifestyles, perhaps.

As I was preparing to go to the grocery store, my sister requested that I buy Girl Scout cookies. She specified the variety with peanut butter on the inside and chocolate on the outside. She also stated that I should buy copious quantities of Girl Scout cookies. She had already consumed several boxes of the little pixies’ pastries this season, but I knew I had better not return home without the demanded sweets.

I do not remember the last time I ate a Girl Scout cookie, but I remember the last time I shelled out my cash to satisfy my sister’s Girl Scout cookie fix.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Japanese Taxis

I had a conversation last weekend with a lady from Japan who owns a tea boutique. I learned that, in Japan, when one calls from a drinking establishment for a taxicab, the cab arrives with two drivers. One of the cab drivers operates the car in which the fare rides, and the other driver operates the patron’s car, following along to the fare’s destination. This reduces the incidence of driving while intoxicated, as imbibers are not faced with the inconvenience of abandoning their cars for which they must later return. I also understand that the cost for a taxi in Japan is considerably higher than elsewhere. I am not certain that I have all the facts correct, but this seems like a good idea. I don’t know what effect this would have on people’s decision not to get behind the wheel after having a few too many drinks. It may be attributable to my practice area, but I have the impression that driving while intoxicated is a common occurrence.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I Like Indian Food, but Buffets…

I do not like buffets. Getting my money’s worth aside, I always feel compelled to try just a little bit of everything. When there are so many offerings, though, a little bit of everything turns into a lot.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday at Khyber.1 To my recollection, this was only my second Indian dining experience. I had lunch with my sister at Sitar a few weekends ago. A fellow student in law school mentioned Khyber when he remarked that he could not live outside the loop because he had to have his ethnic food.2 I did not find that Khyber, an inner-loop restaurant, was superior to Sitar, an establishment situated where dragons reign. Sitar, way outside the loop, compared favorably to Khyber. I am hardly sufficiently well versed in Indian cuisine to begin critiquing the dishes I sampled; I cannot even remember the names of the dishes. Save for the beef meatballs, the meat – chicken and lamb – were tender and juicy enough. The dal was not splendid; the lentils and kidney beans could have been softer (kidney beans in dal?). The potatoes and “fresh” green peas were not spectacular, but, by then, I had consumed more than my fill. I was not overly fond of the yogurt and mint condiment sauces, but I did enjoy the little bit of the turmeric sauce I tried. The vegetable curry, with champignon de Paris, carrots, and bell peppers, was palatable, with a pleasing sauce. I preferred the saag paneer at Sitar. Khyber's rice pudding with almonds and coconut in it was the best rice pudding my dining companion recalled. None of the food was too piquant. When tomatoes are not in season, don’t offer a tomato and cucumber salad. Sitar cost about a third less than the Kirby-area Khyber. Despite the Chronicle’s appraisal of Khyber’s owner as doting, I found the wait staff at Sitar to be friendlier. They also shut of the A/C at three o’clock, and stopped refilling the water long before that. I would save the time and gas, and visit Sitar to satisfy my ethnic fix.


1Neither of these restaurants has a website.
2The 610 loop is a highway that encircles Houston. I live outside the loop. I even live outside the beltway, which is beyond the loop. Some people think the world ends and dragons roam beyond the loop. Admittedly, there is a dearth of ethnic food, or good dining, for that matter, outside the loop.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bad Analogy

Recently, I was conversing with someone about the Texas primary elections. I abstained from voting, because I did not want to disqualify myself from lending my signature to Kinky Friedman’s petition to be on the ballot for governor as an independent. I mentioned some of Kinky’s positions, which are generally humorous. One of these was his opinion regarding same-sex marriage. Kinky supports gay marriage and equal rights for homosexuals, and says, “they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us.” Apparently, the person with whom I was holding this conversation was one of the close-minded people who is opposed to gay marriage. In support of her position that it is “unnatural,” for people of the same gender to have an intimate relationship, she put forth that giraffes and zebras don’t couple. I did not pursue the matter further, as it is not worth having a discussion with someone who uses such illogic to rationalize his or her biases. Efforts to enlighten her would have been pointless.

Appellate Brief Be Gone

Glad am I to have that appellate brief in the mail to the 9th District Court of Appeals. It had dominated my work-life for the last month. I had grown tired of looking at the thing.

We actually represented the appellee, as opposed to the appellant. It was the State that was appealing. We had been appointed to represent an indigent inmate on a Motion for Forensic DNA Testing. These motions are rarely granted, because the convicted person must show that there was untested DNA evidence or DNA evidence that was tested, but that more probative results could be obtained through retesting with newer technology. The convicted person must also show that the test results would be exculpatory and that there is a 51% chance that he or she would not have been convicted had the test results been available at trial. Our position was that current DNA testing methods have advanced considerably since 1997. I obtained affidavits from forensic scientists to that effect. We also contended that there was untested evidence, which there was. I also made an equity argument, urging that the reviewing court should afford some deference to the trial court when such a motion is granted, despite the de novo standard of review applied to these appeals, which are generally appeals from a trial court’s denial of the motion.

I do not know why the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office appealed the trial court’s grant of the motion. All that the order allowed was testing of the few items in the possession of the State. It does not open the jailhouse doors. The client is currently serving a life sentence. He was excluded by DNA tests conducted in 1997, that is, none of his DNA was detected. If DNA testing is performed, no one loses. The client could be excluded, again, in which case he would continue serving his sentence. A DNA component from the client could be identified, as a result of improved testing methods, in which case he would continue serving his sentence. A third scenario would be that a DNA component from a third individual would be detected, as a result of improved testing methods, which would tend to exculpate the client. In this event, a wrongfully convicted person would be exonerated, and the authorities could begin the search for the “real” killer, who may still be free.

Given the recent incidences of convicted persons being exonerated by DNA evidence, what reason is there to balk at testing and retesting?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Walk, Don't Stand

People who stand on escalators, as opposed to walk, annoy me. I hate to become stuck behind someone who does not speed along the ascent or descent on an escalator. Just because the ground beneath your feet is doing part of the work, you need not abdicate all the effort of moving yourself along.

In Excess

I was considering spending less money on alcohol. It was adding up. My mom mentioned an adverse health effect of alcohol consumption about which she recently heard and that prompted me to explore further (but not further than the Internet).

I knew that excessive alcohol consumption could cause Cirrhosis of the liver. My mom, though, some eye-opening depictions of how alcohol consumption shrinks the liver. Apparently, alcohol causes the liver first to enlarge and become fatty, and then to shrink. Additionally, alcohol shrinks the brain, according to some sources. The Sociology Department, State University of New York, Potsdam, Alcohol Problems & Solutions website, on the other hand, seems to suggest that alcohol is good medicine.

I suppose the key is to consume in moderation. Does even one drink, though, have the deleterious effects that these sources suggest, so that, over time, even drinking in moderation will diminish the ability of the brain and the liver to function?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Time for a change in the 22nd district

The Houston Chronicle is supporting challenger Tom Campbell over Tom DeLay in the District 22 race. Will the Sugar Land voters choose pork or integrity and principle?

Friday, March 03, 2006

PB&J

I do not recall the last time I packed a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. That is what I am having today – a peanut butter and honey sandwich, replete with fat. I used the PB from Whole Foods and 100% whole wheat bread. I also put a leaf of romaine lettuce on it. I snuck some raisins in there, too.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I’d Settle for Gas Money

Our public dollars are being used to allow our lawmakers in Washington to make “congressional delegation journeys” to locales such as Rome, Greece, Romania, Turkey, Hungary, the Marshall Islands, Iraq, Spain, Poland, Bosnia, Switzerland, and Germany. The costs for meals and lodging in excess of $5 million in 2005 do not include the expense of ferrying congresspersons on military planes. Lawmakers are not required to report the costs of military transport.

Our elected representatives’ presence on these trips “enhances our relationship with the government, think tanks, and even (local) media” in these countries, according to .S. Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre. One legislator said it allows the delegates to observe how U.S. aid money is being spent by its recipients. I’m sure Rep. Tom DeLay’s attendance at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and later at the installation of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City served both of these purposes.