Texas Supreme Court Okays Divorce Forms: Get a Texas Divorce Without Paying a Lawyer

Interesting thing happened recently here in Texas:  the Texas Supreme Court issued an Order that approves certain forms for use by individuals wanting a divorce -- no need for lawyers.

That's right.  In certain situations, married folk here in the Lone Star State can split their matrimonial blanket without the need to spend one dime on attorneys' fees.  The Texas Supreme Court has provided the forms for them to use, it's so easy peasy.

You can read the Texas Supreme Court Order here.  There's a majority opinion as well as some dissenting arguments if you want to delve into the rationale behind this new twist in Texas law.

This does take money out of some lawyer pockets.  It's my understanding that the intent behind this development is to help couples who cannot otherwise afford a family law attorney to get a divorce and move on with their lives.

Will savvy and sneaky couples try and find ways to use these forms and avoid a lawyer, even if they can afford one (and maybe need to have a lawyer check things over)?  Time will tell. (Of course they will!)

The Family Law Bar isn't pleased.   Surprise.


Sister Wives and the American Foreclosure Fraud Housing Crisis: It's Not Over.

Sister Wives.  Have you heard about this reality TV series on TLC, following a man named Kody Brown (that's not a misspelling) and his four wives and their gazillion kids through their daily lives as a polygamist family in Las Vegas, Nevada?  I bet you have.

It's polygamy brought into the American home, every week, by the same cable network that brings you shows about hoarding, gypsy weddings, and the lady from Long Island who talks to the dead. 

The Learning Channel.  That's right: you know it. 

Well, fine.  Here's my story.

I'm paranoid about getting zapped with another virus or trojan or some sort of evil malware these days after being hit twice (hard) in the past six weeks, so I'm stopping to do lots of full system scans on Malbytes and Norton.  Which is what I was doing earlier this week after a big research project, and since this kept me from doing more work on the keyboard I decided to take care of some chores.

Yes, of course, I'm building up to why I was watching Sister Wives.  Humor me.

Skip to a fresh load of laundry, a big glass of sweet tea, and a chicken roasting in the oven.  Bad hair, no make-up, stained sweats.  And a remote. 

I'm folding laundry having surfed through the TimeWarner "Entertainment on Demand" selection and coming across Sister Wives' latest two episodes (from the last week of May 2012).  I watch them.

Now, we're here: finally.  The point to my story. 

Seems the Sister Wives and Hubby Kody want to move from four separate rental homes (very nice, new ones by the way) into a cul-de-sac of homes in a neighborhood just being built.  Four houses, side by side, and if I understood this right, a shared backyard.  The husband would move between the homes and each wife (and her kids) gets their own place.

I'm intrigued. 

I wonder about the amount of money that reality TV generates for these people.  Less than the Kardashians, more than the medium? 

They don't seem to have jobs.  (I discover later that the husband has some sort of marketing sales gig and one of the wives is putting together a business plan for a Curves-type franchise work-out place.)

Anyway, I'm folding duds and watching as these five meet with a lender who has found them financing.   Seems there has been a big concern on their ability to get a home loan. 

This seems to ring true: who isn't having trouble getting a home loan in America today given the Foreclosure Fraud fiasco?  Another thing to ponder:  I cannot for the life of me figure out how any of these people are making money other than being on the reality television show.  Especially the kind of money to buy four nice two-story stucco homes with all that goes with that purchase, as well as the kids, the cars, the taxes, heck: the food. 

Let's hope that they've been chatting with Kate Gosselin, if this is the case.  That train doesn't run on those tracks forever.

Setting around the loan officer's conference table, the Sister Wives and Hubby Kody are told that they can get mortgages on four homes for the ... wait for it ... down payment of a mere 40% and this will be an interest only loan.  Balloon payment coming. 

The loan officer suggests that they get themselves into "traditional financing" as soon as possible.

This is my point.  Here. Right here.

The American housing crisis and banking crisis and overall economic crisis isn't going to end with this stuff happening.  

Here is a prime example of why the talking heads are talking about the Housing Bubble.  Because families get talked into loans like this and then they cannot pay them and they default.  

You know this.  I know this. 

I'm curious about who this lender is, where the 40% down payments were supposed to go, and if the loan was going to be sold (which is what happened so often -- risky loans were made and then sold in bulk to other lenders and the original lender skipped away, money in hand, long before any default issues reared their ugly heads).

Back to Sister Wives.  Did they take the deal?  Nope.  But it wasn't because this was a dodgy deal. 

They walked from the cul-de-sac because one of the houses sold and their plan of the shared back yard wouldn't work. 

You can watch the episodes for yourself online here.

My point:  there needs to be legislation to stop this stuff.  People, nice people, get pulled into these deals and lenders and builders and developers let them take these deals.  Could there be lawsuits now, before laws are passed?  I like the idea of a tort action.  Confidential relationship?  Fiduciary duty? 

Rusty wheels in my brain start to turn as I consider what I saw at that conference table and I'm thinking these are arguably confidential relationships, i.e., relationships of unequal bargaining power where the law places an additional duty of good faith upon the more powerful party.  Nice thing if this dog will hunt:  punitive damages.

Imagine that for a moment.  Sweet.  

I don't know if this works, though, under Texas tort law or that of any other state.  I don't know the fix.  Fixes

I do know that the crisis isn't over if this was lending offer shown on a national reality television show.  Yikes. 


Meanwhile, Back Along the Texas - Mexico Border Things Are Getting More Violent

Maybe you saw the news about the 49 bodies that were found near Monterrey, Mexico earlier this month: well, the 49 torsos.  Seems the heads, hands, and feet had been removed.  Good luck with those identifications, right?  

Actually, the torsos were found near San Juan, on the highway that you would drive if you were leaving say Houston to visit Monterrey.  And you just might do that -- Monterrey is, after all, a huge industrial powerhouse, home to lots and lots of major international companies and Mexico's richest city. 

And Monterrey isn't a common destination for Texans just because of business: lots of folk I know have family down in Monterrey.  One friend of mine has a father who owns an apartment complex in Monterrey, part of his retirement plan.  You get the idea. 

It takes around 5 hours to drive from San Antonio to Dallas.  It also takes around 5 hours to drive from San Antonio to Monterrey. 

Message 3:  100% Zeta

Let's put it this way: last year, in a special report, Reuters predicted "if Monterrey falls, Mexico falls."  So, when 49 torsos are found on a major highway near Monterrey with a nearby cement archway spray-painted, "100% Zeta," it's not hard to figure that the major drug cartels are something that the Powers that Be need to be considering as serious business here in Texas and in the rest of the country, too.

Now, though, the carnage is getting closer to home.  Well, at least to San Antonio.

Message 2:  "Parasites"

Last month, there were also 23 bodies found in Nuevo Laredo, which is across the border from Laredo, Texas, and a mere 157 miles from San Antonio.  Years ago, we used to take day trips to shop in Nuevo Laredo.  No more.

Nine corpses were hanging from a bridge.  The remaining bodies were found decapitated, bagged, and stuffed into an SUV parked in front of the local Customs building.  (Yes, they did find the heads.  Later.)

The message with those bodies, according to the San Antonio Express News:

"This is how I am going to finish off all the fools you send to heat up the plaza ...We'll see you around, you bunch of parasites.” 

Message 1: Sinaloa Taking Nuevo Laredo Back

Then, there were 14 bodies left outside of Nuevo Laredo's City Hall last month.  They were also mutilated.  With those bodies, another message was written on a banner and signed (according to the banner itself) by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is the head of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Part of that message?  Guzman was going to take Nuevo Laredo back from the Zetas, and had joined forces with the Gulf Cartel.

Who are the Zetas? 

Los Zetas are an efficient organization that originated as trained military personnel recruited by a powerful Mexican drug cartel, the Gulf Cartel.    These are commandos.  Special Forces folk.

Skilled, smart, savvy professionals - and understandably from a business perspective, in February 2010 they broke off to form their own independent organization.

Like an associate who becomes partner and then splits to form his own law firm, taking business with him.  Or at least, that's my analogy.  Point being, don't be distracted by the blood and gore: it's business to these guys.

Today, Los Zetas are known to operate out of Nuevo Laredo and they've got a big territory.  The biggest in Mexico, in fact.

Cartel business has expanded too: from drugs, it's gone into guns, and kidnapping for ransom, as well as human trafficking and who knows what else.  It's a business, and a growing business needs to diversify.

Los Zetas have diversified as well as expanding their territory. 

Which is what business does.  Now, if you were running the biggest company in your industry in Mexico, and you were projecting where your business would be in the next five years, where would your projections go?

Does Texas seem so farfetched?  Does Montana?  It's business

This isn't a gang war between two factions in the poor section of town.  This is two major, international combines fighting for who comes out on top in their market.  It's market share.  

So, in today's news where "El Loco" was arrested for taking part in the 49 beheadings event near Monterrey, a man named Daniel Jesus Elizondo Ramírez and a member of Los Zetas, this shouldn't be considered all that big of a deal.  He's an employee. 

Nor should the fact that the Treasury Department just put the names of four big wigs in the Sinaloa drug cartel to its "kingpin list," two of which are the sons of the CEO of the Sineloa organization, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.   Being on the Kingpin List means that the U.S. Government can freeze any assets found in the United States as well as barring anyone from doing business with them. 

"El Chapo" is the most wanted man in Mexico.   He's been on the Kingpin List since 2001.  "El Chapo" also made Forbes' Billionaire List in 2012 (he's number 1153) and Forbes lists Guzman as number 55 in this year's 70 World's Most Powerful People.

Would anyone be surprised to learn that the day that this post was typed, this guy was off someplace nice playing golf?  I know I wouldn't.  It seems like something a billionaire CEO would be doing....

Zetas vs. Sineloa:  Fight for Sales Territory and Market Share Between Two Industry Leaders

It seems to me that too many people hear about the nicknames and the bloodbaths and think that these are strange, emotional groups of illiterates who will just kill each other off in time.  I think that's stupid.

This is business at a scale that most of us cannot comprehend.  It's billions of dollars in revenue, and I'm wondering if that is monthly not annually.  

And maybe that's why we're not hearing that much or seeing that much happening here in Texas to stop this advance.  The profit-motive is a powerful thing. 


I Didn't Watch The Oscars and I Don't Go to the Movies Much Anymore: Doesn't Sound Like Hollywood Notices

I like reading Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood - for one thing, she was a respected traditional journalist who started blogging when that was such a no-no.  I suppose it still is, but I don't think that Nikki Finke cares much (then or not).  Good for her.

Today, I was surfing through her commentary on the Oscars show last night (I didn't watch it) and noticed her reporting that Brian Glazer explained to her that the "theme" of the Academy Awards Presentation Extravaganza this year was to celebrate going to see movies in the theater because so many are opting for "video on demand."

I'll leave it to those who watched the show (Nikki, you) to decide whether or not last night's three hours of stuff achieved that goal.  (Nikki didn't think so.)

My point:  wake up.  It's not just the convenience of watching movies at home that is keeping people out of the theaters.  It's the junk that is being sold to us for very expensive tickets -- not to mention the cost of popcorn. 

You are not competing against the technology with which we watch this stuff so much as the entertainment alternatives we have.  And yes, Mr. Grazer, I mean television.

Some of it is crap, true.  Some of it is not.  One example that comes to mind immediately:  I'm rewatching the Tudors on BBC America, and while it's not exactly 100% accurate (Henry could only hope to look that good, particularly by the time he got to wive number six)  it's well done. 

Another example: The Closer.  It's good entertainment.  I'm sure we can all point to other television programming that we have found to be preferable to the stuff being sold to us at the movie theatres.

Look, I love to go to the movies.  Love it.  Love the experience.  I would like to do this every week.
But I refuse to fill my head with the junk that is being offered to me.  I will not pay for it. 

Looks like film revenues mean lots of other people may share my position on this.  Check out the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes, Yahoo Movies, etc. and you'll see that there aren't that many five star, home run offerings out there right now either.

Not that every year needs to be 1939, but I mean really

Make better movies, and I'll go to the theatre again.  And, maybe, I'll start watching the Oscars, too.


Where Do the 2012 Presidential Candidates Stand on the Issues?

I cannot believe how many debates we've had in this Presidential Campaign.  Hasn't this gone on longer than Dancing With the Stars?  Close to a full season of American Idol, complete with the first few shows with all that bad singing?  I mean really.

Meanwhile, it's not that easy to find a nice, simple to follow web site that lists where the candidates, Democrat and Republican and Independent and Libertarian and Green and Whatever Else, stand on the issues. 

And yes, I just read that Rosanne Barr has announced her candidacy for President with the Green Party.  Perhaps Kinky Friedman will have some campaign advice for here, having run for Governor of Texas a couple of times now.   

Here's what I found in a quick surf:

1.  SelectSmart.com has a questionaire where you answer questions on where you stand on the issues and then the web tells you with which candidate you are most closely aligned.  Fine, if you like hand-holding.  And if you don't worry that Big Brother is gathering more information about you as you answer these questions than you'd like (my assistant Daniel doesn't trust this stuff, hat tip to Danny here). 

2.    VoteSmart.com has lots of info - bios, voting records, things like that.  Doesn't have all the scoop that you'd like ... when I clicked on select issues, it didn't work.  Frustrating. 

3.   Then there is 2012 Presidential Candidates  site that gives you a nice list, issue by issue (see the left sidebar) and candidate by candidate, for the 2012 Presidential Race.  Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, and some independents are listed here. 

This, in addition to the media coverage of the various candidates (which you have to read for each candidate and then compare as you wish) as well as the candidates' campaign web sites themselves.

Good voting, America. 


Casey Anthony Lawsuit Part Two?

Ye Gads.  Where will it end?  Minding my own business, surfing the web while doing the laundry and halfway watching a Mentalist rerun, and what do I find?

A breaking news story that Casey Anthony and her attorney, Jose Baez, are threatening to sue because her video diary has been hacked.  

You can read about it here at the LA Times

Oh, yeah, and how was this scoop released to the world?  Jose Baez appeared on his buddy Geraldo Rivera's show over on Fox TV.

Look, without a big word count here, a big fat plaintiff's lawsuit is a dream come true for Casey Anthony.  Dream. Come. True.

Key will be if there's a deep pocket anywhere to be found to pay for damages based upon copyright infringement, etc.  -- and whether or not there will be arguments advanced for indirect liability.


Gameover - The Latest Malware Threat Has the FBI Issuing Public Warnings

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning to the American public about a new internet attack they are calling "Gameover." 

Read their press release here.

Seems that the evildoers send you an email that looks to be from a very official looking site, informing you that's there has been a problem with a recent financial transaction.  You're instructed to follow the link provided in the message for further details. 

Wham.  If you click on that link, you've allowed the malcious software ("malware") access to your hard drive, where it will spend its time locating and forwarding the user name and passwords for your financial accounts.  Yes, like your checking account.

It's serious stuff -- they're taking lotsa bucks from people and it's called "gameover" because by the time that you know you've been hit, they're already finished with you and taking your hard-earned cash.

PC World has a nice article discussing how this latest threat is another version of the Zeus malware from a few years back.  Along with it, a discussion of the past year's internet thievery highlights.

Here's the thing.  Don't open those attachments connected to emails even if you know the person unless you are expecting them to be sending you a document.  And even then, it's nice to have your security software in place to scan the attachment before it's downloaded.  (Yahoo! Mail provides this via Norton, nice freebie.)


Drew Peterson and the TV Movie: I Admit It – I’m Gonna Watch Rob Lowe

I’ve been keeping up with the Drew Peterson case for it seems like years now (hey, it has been years if you count this December 2007 post) and truth be told, part of me is kinda irked that he’s getting to feel so darn important because now, yes, there is a Lifetime TV Movie bearing his name.

You know he loves this.  He’s even talking to the media via his attorney. 

And I hate that.

However, I am going to watch this movie.  From the previews, Rob Lowe looks to be giving an excellent performance and his hair looks perfect for the role, to boot.  I’m happy to see Penny from the Big Bang Theory getting a chance to show us that we really do need to know her name as an actress (besides hosting whatever awards show she’s doing).

Maybe this movie will help some battered wife out there get the heck out.  At least, that is what I’m going to be telling myself … because this is one guilty pleasure that I’m not going to miss. 


Nonlawyer Firm Ownership – I Think It’s Scary and Wrong.

Read today over at Law.com about a growing trend in having law firms owned by NON-lawyers.  Wow. 

To read the article, originally published by Corporate Counsel, check out “IBM General Counsel Robert Weber on Nonlawyer Firm Ownership.”

I agree with Mr. Weber.

Perhaps this is the final nail in the coffin of law being a profession and not a business.

Long ago, when all those challenges to solicitation regulation began hitting the U.S. Supreme Court right along with the local and state bars and there was an outcry that “country club solicitation” was unacceptably elitist … and the doors were opened to lawyer advertising and such, well I thought I got it.

Law practices were profit-making enterprises, after all. 

We would lose our professional status, our integrity, if this dam broke, I remember some of the elder statesmen (and stateswomen) of the local bar warning during bar cocktail parties.  How old school I thought.

Now, I remember what they said.  And I think they were right.  It makes me sad.  And it makes me wonder about our country and our society if lawyers don’t own law firms anymore.   Remember Shakespeare’s line about first thing, kill all the lawyers? 

It wasn’t because lawyers are shady or slimy or manipulative or greedy.  It was because lawyers and the legal system hold the society together like a steel skeleton in a skyscraper. 

Where are we going here?  Are we killing all the lawyers here with the concept of nonlawyer firm ownership?