Sunday, July 31, 2016

The One Reason Donald Trump Should Never Be President

This has been the worst Presidential campaign in my lifetime and likely in America’s history.

Let’s assume - for the purpose of preventing heads from exploding – that Hillary Clinton is a criminal, a liar, is responsible for the killing of people including a U.S. Ambassador, and is married to a former (impeached) (womanizing) President. For any of those reasons alone, I understand you may not want her to be President and you will not vote for her. OK? We good there?

The reason I wrote the above (other than it is reasonable) is because the “BUT WHAT ABOUT KILLARY, SHE LIED AND PEOPLE DIED AND EMAIL AND EMAIL” is not an appropriate response here.

Donald Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States.

And I know, he’s 35, he was born here and so yes “he’s qualified.”

Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.

I know, you don’t care. Plenty of “qualified” people have become President and disappointed you, so why not vote in this guy? Why not use the power of the internet to convince people to blow up the system? We have the power to do that. 

We can control who buys what from where, who gets fired, and who gets elected. Let’s put this guy in office.

There are many reasons why you should care. Donald Trump knows little about the responsibility he wishes to undertake, and what he does know is not going to help you.

So stop telling me that he’s going to let you keep your gun(s) and that he’s the best President for Israel. Donald Trump is going to do nothing but disappoint you, especially when you are still wondering why that wall that will help you get a job hasn’t been built.

And yes, I said there was “a” reason Donald Trump should never be President.

The reason is that he is running as a Republican, the party that claims to have the franchise on respect for our military.

Donald Trump should never be President because when the Muslim father (who has always voted Republican, until now) of a dead Muslim soldier (both Americans) stood at the podium at the Democratic National Convention, questioning whether Donald Trump had read the United States Constitution, and claiming Donald Trump had not sacrificed, Donald Trump responded that he has indeed sacrificed by having “worked hard” and questioning why the dead soldier’s mother stood quietly by her husband’s side (intimating that as a Muslim she is forbidden from speaking.)

Note: Ms. Kahn has responded to Donald Trump.

Of course Donald Trump wants his supporters to think that never in the history of men speaking in public - with their wives standing by – has the wife remained silent. No, this is an appeal to the other Muslim haters out there besides Donald Trump who are willing to believe that Captain Kahn’s grieving mother silently stood by her husband’s side while he, a lawyer, addressed the millions of people listening, because she was forbidden from speaking, because in Donald Trump’s world, Muslims are bad people and this was another bad Muslim moment.

To my Jewish brethren claiming Trump is Israel’s best friend in this election, or unemployed Americans believing that a wall is going to get them a job, or anyone watching the news convinced that Donald Trump is going to keep them safe, you are ignoring who this man really is.

You cannot respect our military while disrespecting the families they left behind. 

You cannot claim to be a member of the party that believes it is the only party that supports the military, and elect a man who just did to Captain Kahn’s family what Donald Trump did. You can claim that you don’t care what he says, but what he says is what he thinks, and what he hopes you think, and unfortunately, what some of you actually do think.

Yes, Donald Trump could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose voters, he can say anything he wants and any attack on his statements will be seen by his supporters as trying to take away the power of the people to vote for him.

Donald Trump is not about the end of political correctness. The enemy of political correctness is not attacking the family of a dead soldier. There is nothing political or correct about accusing a grieving mother of a dead soldier of standing silently by her husband because she is Muslim. That, is not only incorrect, it is despicable.

The reason Donald Trump should never be President is because what he did to the Kahn family shows that he doesn’t respect what America stands for, and this is true no matter how much you hate Hillary Clinton.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

On Fatherhood

Yesterday I dropped my oldest daughter off for a month away on a college campus. It’s a summer program. She’ll be back in 30 29 days. Back in the house, back for me to see every day, back to tell me where she’s going and when she’ll be home. Back to breeze by me on her way in from one thing to change her clothes and head off to another.

In this era where every moment of our lives is plastered on social media (as are my thoughts now), we are used to seeing kids at the airport going off to college or camp, or venturing away to a foreign country for an extended period of time. 

These are pictures. They never portray the feelings behind the camera. For years I’ve heard “it goes by quickly.” I always heard that as a message that I would feel sad when my kids were no longer living at home.

But yesterday I didn’t experience the feelings of separation, or wondering how much I would miss my daughter. I had one prevailing feeling.

Was I a good father?

This thought, feeling, came to me because a phase of fatherhood ended yesterday. My first-born is grown up. She’s not 10 years old and going to summer camp, she’s not going away for a week with friends. She’s in a program with other girls from all over the world. None of her friends are there. We are 1,500 miles away.

I am not sad because I miss her already, although I do. I am sad because I question whether I have been a good father to her. I’ve never thought about this until yesterday.

I know I have been. I know. I’ve provided for her, went to her dance recitals, her school events, allowed her to stay out late, explained politics and law to her. I know. I’ve been lucky to be self-employed and be with her when I chose.

But this trip is different. I now realize that her next long trip will be the beginning of college. I know that then she’ll be away for months at a time, and then, after graduation, she may wind up living far away, and seeing me a few times a year. I know that this is something parents live with and it’s part of life. 

Parents raise children. Children are supposed to grow and flourish and run off to make their goals and dreams come true. I’ve never wanted my kids to stay home, or close to home, and in theory I am excited for them to move on.

Yesterday, though, I realized that she no longer needs me to walk her across the street, or carry her, or be with her daily. She has grown up, and while I know she’ll need her “Daddy” in her life, as I will need my first born, it is not for the same reasons as before. It is those thoughts that cause me to hope that I have done everything I was supposed to do.

I am not unhappy that my oldest no longer needs me in the same way she once did, I am sad. There is a difference. I cannot escape the fear that I have not taught her everything I was supposed to teach her, or that I missed an opportunity to be with her and it may now matter.

I know that she will meet incredible people at this program, and that everything she learned so far will benefit her over the next 29 days. She will talk politics and law, and learn about life in foreign countries. She will come home with new friends and thoughts and ideas and likely be much different than when she said “goodbye” yesterday. I just wonder if anything I’ve done – good or bad – will be a motivator for her in her thoughts or actions.

I told her that I am proud of her, my voice crackling so much that I don’t know that she heard me.

That’s all.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice.Share/Save/Bookmark

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Professor Jeff Jarvis, The Joke

"Jeff Jarvis, a national leader in the development of online news, blogging, the investigation of new business models for news, and the teaching of entrepreneurial journalism, writes an influential blog, He is author of the books What Would Google Do? and Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live as well as the e-book Gutenberg the Geek."

And like those who have tied themselves to the internet for their career, I've never heard of him outside the internet. I never heard of him before I had a twitter account.

I do know the fake Professor Jeff Jarvis. He's someone who has a twitter account and tweets out the most ridiculous, funny exaggerations about the role of the internet in our lives. Stuff like this:

and this:

and this:

He takes the stupid phrases of the internet-centric and shows us the sillyness of it all.

This is Professor Jeff Jarvis.

This is the fake Professor Jeff Jarvis.

Prof. Jeff Jarvis

Can you tell the difference?

Well yesterday Esquire did a satire piece (now removed as you'll read below) on the good Professor.

The Real Professor Jeff Jarvis got mad. He had enough. He had enough, again, according to his whiny pathetic piece that contains this aw poor baby passage:

It was personally upsetting. My anxiety was pushing my heart back into afib for the first time in a few years. Oh, joy, this bozo is going to send me to the hospital. Enough.

No, really. that's in the piece, read it. He's had it. There will be no SNL skit on Professor Jeff Jarvis, mainly because no one knows who he is, and if they did, SNL wouldn't want the headache of this crybaby who claims to be teaching, of all things, journalism.

Thankfully no journalists will ever have to deal with satire. I mean, could you imagine if there were satire videos of someone like, let's say CNN's Wolf Blitzer all over the internet?

There is no bigger honor than making good fun of someone. It's called parody. It's called satire. Every politician, movie star, musician, and famous person prays that they will appear ridiculous and made fun of on Saturday Night Live or elsewhere. When I say "good fun," I mean harmless jokes.

When you read Professor Jeff Jarvis' whiny retort to the satire on Esquire, you will shake your head. If you don't, well, hello Professor Jeff Jarvis.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering Share/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Florida Court: False Online Review Of Lawyer = Libel

A Florida lawyer got some big damages in a libel case, and yesterday the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld them, with a great opinion.

The case is Copia Blake and Peter Birzon v.Ann-Marie Giustibelli, P.A., and Ann-Marie Giustibelli,individually.

The lawyer sued for damages due to false online reviews. After briefs were filed, one of the appellants filed a notice withdrawing the appeal. The other did not. The court began their opinion by stating that "even if she had, we would not have dismissed the appeal."

Usually not a good sign for the appellant.

The court noted that "one issue Blake and Birzon raised involves the application of free speech protections to reviews of professional services posted on the internet."

We lawyers call those "Yelp" or "Avvo" reviews.

The court understands this is an issue in the legal profession:

"We affirm in all respects, but this issue merits discussion as it presents a scenario that will likely recur, and the public will benefit from an opinion on the matter."

The facts?

Giustibelli represented Blake in a divorce case against Birzon. Things deteriorated between Giustibelli and Blake, so Blake (and as the court noted "oddly, Birzon as well,") posted defamatory reviews of Giustibelli.

Giustibelli sued for libel, as well as breach of contract.

Some of the offending statements:

"She misrepresented her fees with regards to the contract I initially signed. The contract she submitted to the courts for her fees were 4 times her original quote and pages of the original had been exchanged to support her claims..."

"No integrity. Will say one thing and do another. Her fees outweigh the truth."

"Altered her charges to 4 times the original quote with no explanation."

The client and her husband admitted they posted the reviews and "both admitted at trial that Giustibelli had not charged Blake four times more than what was quoted in the agreement.

Result: Giustibelli won, and got $350,000 in punitive damages.

Blake and Birzon claim "that their internet reviews constituted statements of opinion and thus were protected by the First Amendment and not actionable as defamation."

The court held that:

"...all the reviews contained allegations that Giustibelli lied to Blake regarding the attorney’s fee. Two of the reviews contained the allegation that Giustibelli falsified a contract. These are factual allegations, and the evidence showed they were false."

The court also noted that the argument "that libel per se no longer exists" due to the Gertz case in the United States Supreme Court, doesn't apply as after Gertz, "the Florida Supreme Court recognized that, with respect to a libel action against the media, it is no longer accurate to say that ‘“[w]ords amounting to a libel per se necessarily import damage and malice in legal contemplation, so these elements need not be pleaded or proved, as they are conclusively presumed as a matter of law.’”

What the court noted about this argument was that the lawyer here, is not a media defendant, so libel per se still applies.

Obviously this case applies to Florida Lawyers (and any other state that has the same laws on libel). There were reviews that were verified, and verified to be false. Most of the time you have anonymous reviews that are nothing more than protected opinion and all you can do is cry about it.

Congratulations to Giustibelli. Those were some expensive false online reviews.

 Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Minute Wine Gifts TO AVOID For The Wine Lover

I've lost count of the wine-gifts-for-the-wine-lover posts in the last few weeks. Seems as if there's a perception that people who love wine, love nothing else.

First piece of advice, that's not true. We like books, (i.e., Amazon gift cards), we like music, (i.e. iTunes gift cards), and some of us drink other things (i.e. Starbucks gift cards.)

But if you're focused on wine stuff, and desperate for a gift, let me help you with things that I've seen in some of these posts, that you should avoid.

1. This Wine Thermometer

Let's talk for a minute. Let's say your giftee is a serious wine drinker. I promise you this will be in a drawer, forever. The following scene will never occur: "Hey honey, I'm going to open this great Cabernet. Wait, it seems like it may not be 57 degrees, could be 54 degrees, let me check, where's that thing Joe got us?"

Serious wine drinkers use their hand to determine the temperature of wine. Novices couldn't care less.

2. Any wine club

I've seen these ads for "12 bottles of wine for $99," or "6 for $60."

Why do you think those wines are under $9 and sold through newspapers and hotels and other touristy sounding names like "The California Wine Club?"

It's because they suck. And the wines you will be sending your wine loving friend every month will suck as well.

It's because no one else will sell those wines. No, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Hilton Hotels, don't spend their time putting together great wines for their wine clubs. They are for people who think they are getting a deal for under $100. Avoid them.

3. Bottle Stoppers

Take a wild guess how many bottle stoppers I have. Wait, don't do that. Take a guess how many ziploc bags of bottle stoppers I have? We, the wine drinkers of the world, have enough bottle stoppers, and we never use them.

The only exception, are ones you bought from some artist in some foreign country, or that are festive, or have something on them that are unique - like a favorite sports team football helmet or monogram.

4. This Bike Wine Rack

We're wine drinkers, not alcoholics (hopefully). We ride bikes for the same reason you do, because we want to exercise, because we want to be healthy, because we drank too much wine last night. We don't need to carry a bottle everywhere we go, or ride.

5. Merlot Infused Coffee

So let me see if I have this correct, after a night of drinking wine, we want to wake up - and instead of some Hazelnut Cinnamon Coffee - we'd like something hot and caffeinated that tastes like wine?

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And LawyeringShare/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Here's Your Thanksgiving Wine Post

This post is written for the following two types of people:

1. You are in a panic about what wine in your house to serve tonight at Thanksgiving; or

2. You are in a panic about what wine to serve tonight at Thanksgiving and you're going out today, on Thanksgiving, to buy the wine.

First, let's be honest.

No one gives a shit.

The most important thing to do before panicking about wine is to close your eyes.


Now think about your guests.

Aunt Judy from Ohio? She's just going to be disappointed that there's no jug wine.

Uncle Joe, who has promised not to do his "I'm telling you, Trump's going to build that wall and kill ISIS for us," no matter what he drinks, he's going to ask "this a cabernet?"

Your guest list is not the sommeliers of your local restaurants. Scroll Facebook for a minute, no 12 seconds, and you'll see pies, sides, and the "I'M FRYING THAT BITCH" claims.

It's about the food, and trying to have a discussion with people that help you understand why things are the way they are. (No, ISIS is not walking around in UPS uniforms they bought on Ebay.)

So I'll make it simple.

The problem with pairing wine with Thanksgiving is 1. too many foods with various flavors, and 2. too many people who normally don't drink wine or if they do, they drink garbage.

So relax.

Thanksgiving is not a wine tasting for most, nor will your family be excited that the wine you served "costs $80 a bottle." They'll want to run out and buy that $15 wine they sucked down all night while telling you how much they love the new Adele album. "You know she's only 25, that's why she called her album '25.'" "No, she's 27." "Well I just love that 'Hello.' You sure she's not 25?" "No, she was born in 1988, she's 27." "OK, can I have some more of this wine?"

Here's what not to serve:

1. That heavy Cabernet you drink with steak. You are not having steak at Thanksgiving.

2. I know, you, are having steak, or lamb, or brisket. In that case, still, don't serve cabernet. I trust you are not having just vegetables with that meat. You still have a variety of foods and need wine that will compliment all of it.

3. Pinotage. I mention this because most people have never, thankfully, had Pinotage. It is a popular wine in South Africa and every time I get the chance to tell people that it is the worst wine I've ever had, I do. It is available in America, is not that expensive, and I've heard that it's been recommended when people go to a wine shop looking for something "different." No matter what you do, never drink Pinotage. The movie "Sideways" missed the opportunity to kill off this horrible wine.

4. Speaking of "Sideways," I wouldn't be serving Merlot either. It's a big, heavy wine.

Here's what I would serve:

1. Whites. Lots of them. I know, that's going to cause people to ask for reds. I'm not saying don't serve reds, I'm saying have a good amount of whites, and not Chardonnay. Serve Riesling (Dr. Loosen's entry level is about $13, Trimbach is very popular, although I don't know why.), Chablis (there are several between $19 and $25 that are very good). Other whites worth trying tonight - Viognier, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc.

2. The primary reds I would serve are Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. (NO, NOT WHITE ZINFANDEL) It's hard to find great ones for $10, but for $20, you're in business. Meomi, made by Caymus, is still the best under $20 Pinot Noir around. It's also a screw top for ease of quickly shutting up annoying guests. For cheap Zinfandel, look for Cline, Ravenswood. If you want to spend around $20 for a Zin, look for Seghesio. If you're feeling charitable and want to spend 30-40, pick one of the many made by Ridge.

3. I would also serve Malbec. For about $20, Catena is a great one. Not cheap enough? Find Alamos. A great value at about $10.

4. The best option if you just can't deal with this, go to the wine shop, give the nice man or woman your budget and what you are looking for, and have some faith.

Me, what am I serving? I haven't decided yet, because it really doesn't matter. Just make sure you tell everyone on Facebook what you are grateful for, and why you hate/love Obama.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And LawyeringShare/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matthew Chappell, Please Read The Rules Of Professional Conduct

"Young" lawyers are an interesting bunch. Bright eyed, full of hopes and dreams, and sometimes one or two have a thought that scares me to death as it evidences their lack of understanding that this is a profession with a code of ethics, not a lead-generating scheme to make money (despite what the marketers want us to believe).

Speaking of schemes, meet Matthew Chappell of Texas. Matthew is a "young lawyer," but not a young man. He's 42. He's a "young" lawyer because he's been practicing less than 5 years. Actually, less than 3.

Seems Matthew, understandably, is a bit impatient. It happens. Sometimes those pesky requirements of  "5 years" minimum as a practicing lawyer gets in the way of being on certain committees, or being appointed to other positions, or in Matthew's case, being eligible to receive work from Fidelity Investments.

Not wanting to wait the extra few years, Matthew sent this email around to his Texas brethren:

I’m going down the list of Board Certified Texas Attorneys to find a solo attorney with 5 or more years of experience to make this offer to. I have 2 years experience, graduating from STCL in 2013.
I have family friends at Fidelity Investments who promise me AT LEAST one new client a week (Estate Planning) if I were able to get on their Preferred Attorney’s List; however, I have to wait a three more stupid years, as Fidelity now requires 5 years of experience to be placed on this list (which wasn’t always the case).
I need to find someone with 5 years who my friends can nominate; the business would be filtered through that someone, but wouldn’t be intrusive AT ALL(I will set up a separate email acct or Google phone number for these clients).
There is absolutely ZERO liability or accountability or responsibility on your part. In exchange, I’m willing to either offer you a share of the clientele or to subsidize your malpractice insurance to bring it up to 2 million/per incident (usually around $3600/yr), which, in addition to the 5 years, is another Fidelity req to be on the list. I already have this type of policy myself.
Let me know if you’d be interested, and I’ll put you in touch with my Fidelity contact who can explain further. Like I said, I’m going down the Board Specialization list of names one by one and sending pretty much the same email. First come, first served.
Thanks, and all best,
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Mark Bennett, not a "young" lawyer, thought it would be beneficial to reach out to Chappell by email:

Not no, but hell no.
 Is there any chance I can, old dog to young pup, persuade you to stop now and not pursue this fraudulent course of action?
 Please let me know before noon.

Now this type of interaction is something "old" lawyers frequently discuss. "Should I reach out to him?" "Is he going to take it well or tell me to screw off?" Most "older" lawyers  just want to say "hey, I don't think that's such a good idea," as Bennett did here.

But Chappell argued with Bennett and refused to retract his unethical proposal. 

So Bennett decided to write about it:

As Bennett correctly analyzed:

So, lawyers. Let’s imagine what happens if you sign on as Matthew Chappell’s nominee, the strawman to whom Fidelity will refer cases, which will then be funneled to Chappell with no involvement from you.
It looks a lot like you’re participating in a fraud against Fidelity. Maybe Chappell’s “Fidelity contact” can explain this in some way that makes it non-fraudulent. Maybe it is fraudulent and Fidelity never finds out. Maybe Fidelity doesn’t care. But suppose that “your” clients start complaining to Fidelity about “your” service. How long do you think it’s going to take them to figure out what your arrangement with Chappell was?
Chappell, not interested in a lesson, doubled down:
And now you’ve committed a handful of torts, including libel by taking my words out of context and tortious interference with business.
Enjoy the lawsuit I’m in the process of filing against you, psycho, arrogant, inferiority complex-ridden moron.
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Now I don't practice in Texas, but I checked, and yep, I was right, they have this Rule that we have in Florida:
Rule 4.01. Truthfulness in Statements to Others 
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid making the lawyer a party to a criminal act or knowingly assisting a fraudulent act perpetrated by a client.
I dunno. Sounds kinda problematic for a lawyer who wants to do what Chappell wants to do.
Chappell of course hasn't filed his lawsuit, but he did send Bennett a certified piece of garbage which has already received a response from Bennett's counsel, Marc Randazza (both here).
Chappell's letter states in part:
Accordingly, please compose a written apology to Mr. Chappell in which you agree to, first, issue a clarification and retraction on your "blogsite", and second, remove the blog that refers to Mr. Chappell and/or any other media associated with Mr. Chappell's name and/or law practice. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TEN DAYS, SIR. 
I'm sure Mark Bennett isn't looking for a calendar to count when those TEN DAYS SIR start, but while we all wait for the failure of a lawsuit that will do nothing but again bring Matthew Chappell's stupid scheme to the forefront of his young legal career, I also have some advice.
Matthew, your proposal is unethical and possibly criminal. You are attempting to use your license in a way that I trust the State Bar, and maybe a prosecutor or two would find objectionable. Don't do it. Don't defend it. You were wrong, and your strategy here of trying to resolve your hurt feelings won't work. When you have been a lawyer 5 years, you can try to get work with Fidelity. Maybe they'll have forgotten about this by then.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering. Share/Save/Bookmark