NOVEMBER 26, 2004

These are the Ramblings of a small town, (Holden, population 2,700), Missouri, country lawyer. They contain my random thoughts and observations on current events and my life and experiences in the Solo Practice of law.
Compiled here are the Ramblings for 2002 - 2004. 

Archived Prior Ramblings

In Memorium:
September 11, 2001

  02-22-02  03-30-02  04-05-02
  04-21-02  04-27-02  05-01-02
  05-03-02  05-10-02  05-17-02
  05-31-02  06-21-02  06-26-02
  06-29-02  07-04-02  07-05-02
  07-12-02  08-02-02  08-10-02
  08-21-02  08-23-02  08-30-02
  09-06-02  09-11-02  09-11-02F
  09-13-02  09-20-02  09-27-02
  10-04-02  10-11-02  10-18-02
  10-25-02  11-01-02  11-08-02
  11-15-02  11-22-02  11-29-02
  12-06-02  12-13-02  12-20-02

  01-03-03  01-10-03  01-10-03R
  01-17-03  01-24-03  01-31-03
  02-07-03  02-14-03  02-21-03
  02-28-03  03-07-03  03-14-03
  03-21-03  03-28-03  04-04-03
  04-11-03  04-18-03  04-25-03
  05-02-03  05-09-03  05-16-03
  05-23-03  05-30-03  06-06-03
  06-20-03  06-27-03  07-04-03
  07-11-03  07-18-03  07-25-03
  08-01-03  08-08-03  08-15-03
  08-22-03  08-29-03  09-05-03
  09-12-03  09-19-03  09-26-03
  10-03-03  10-10-03  10-17-03
  10-24-03  10-31-03  11-07-03
  11-14-03  11-21-03  11-28-03
  12-05-03  12-12-03  12-19-03

  01-02-04  01-09-04  01-16-04
  01-23-04  01-30-04  02-06-04
  02-13-04  02-20-04  02-27-04
  03-05-04  03-12-04  03-19-04
  03-29-04  04-02-04  04-09-04
  04-16-04  04-23-04  04-30-04
  05-07-04  05-14-04  05-21-04
  05-28-04  06-11-04  06-18-04
  06-25-04  07-09-04  07-16-04
  07-23-04  07-30-04  08-06-04
  08-13-04  08-20-04  08-27-04
  09-03-04  09-10-04  09-17-04
  09-24-04  10-01-04  10-08-04
  10-15-04  10-22-04  10-29-04
  11-05-04  10-12-04  11-19-04
Greets and Huggers.  Posted the evening of November 26, 2004. There was a post on the SFIG this week, which caught my eye:    "I have a client who has been contacted by investigators for Monsanto. He is suspected of cleaning and planting Roundup beans from the previous year's crop." ... <scratching his head> ...  So some farmer keeps a portion of his crop, which he grew, cleaned the seeds and planted them?  There is a problem with that?  Aren't they his seeds?  Sorta like buying a pregnant cow, isn't it ... why would the calf belong to the person who sold it? Well, seems there is a problem:  it's called the Plant Variety Protection Act, (PVP), administered by an arm of the United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA), Plant Variety Protection Office, (PVPO):   "The Act provides legal intellectual property rights protection to developers of new varieties of plants which are sexually reproduced (by seed) or tuber-propagated  ...  A Certificate of Protection is awarded to an owner of a variety after an examination shows that it is new, distinct from other varieties, and genetically uniform and stable through successive generations. The term of protection is 20 years for most crops and 25 years for trees, shrubs, and vines. The owner of a U.S. protected variety has exclusive rights to multiply and market the seed of that variety."   The penalty for infringement, (taking some of the crop you grew and planting it): "Upon finding an infringement the court shall award damages adequate to compensate for the infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the variety by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court  ...  the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount determined."  7 U.S.C. 2564 and an award of attorney's fees.  7 U.S.C. 2565. So companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical develop, (genetically alter) seeds, (food),  so farmers can produce more per acre, allowing farmers a greater profit,  (so they can pay for the equipment needed to plant and harvest that crop), but limit the use of those seeds?  Wow!  What a great policy, fostered by our elected representatives! What great foresight!!  So, share with me, 10 years down the road, when a few big companies own the world's food supply, (read what these great benefactors of humanity are doing in Iraq:  http://www.slowfood.com/eng/sf_sloweb/sf_sloweb.lasso ), you wanna plant your own garden?  Just where would you get the seeds without having to buy a license for their one time use?  What makes you think food plant species, (having survived natural selection, evolved over thousands of years), will survive their displacement by plants genetically modified, designed, to feed our fast food markets?  Low fiber, simple, genetically processed carbs?  Good to know, I suppose,  (as a benefit/saving grace, for all other living organisms on this small oasis in space and time), by our greed, ignorance and arrogance,  we have proven ourselves to be a self limiting species ... <smiling> ... how does "Creation Science" explain that? If God is all powerful and all knowing  ... why would he put us in charge? If you were God, would you?  Something to "pray" about  ... isn't it? :)  As an afterthought:  how about a "Human Variety Protection Act"?  "A Certificate of Protection is awarded to the parents of a child, after an examination shows that the child is new, distinct from other children, and genetically uniform and stable."  Upon emancipation, that child would have to pay his/her parents a monthly fee for the use of their parent's genes?

As a member, an officer of our Judicial Branch, I wish to take a moment and congratulate the new Vice-Chairpersons of the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee: Jim Boggs, Kansas City, (office@Boggslaw.com)  ...  my Dear Friend, Scott Gardner, Sedalia, (sgardner@gardnerlawfirm.net),  Mary Lou Martin, Springfield, (lawmlmartin@aol.com), Steve Scott, Columbia, (sscott@scottlawfirm.com) and Philip Prewitt, Macon, (philip@prewitt.biz).  I know the old Vice-Chairpersons, (like Fred Cruse and I),  have enjoyed the privilege of serving our Bar ... but I must add, there are still questions nagging me.  Perhaps you can share an answer.

Sadly, there seems to be a general consensus among Solo and Small Firm Lawyers that our Bar does nothing for us. It seems to exist to protect the public, from us. Why does such a perception exist? Doctors, medical/mental health professionals also have their Bar Association equivalent.  So, why do they have a 2 year statute of limitations for malpractice  ... while ours is 5.  Why do they have a statute of limitations for Board Complaints, (the equivalent of our OCDC, Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel) ... and we have none?  Why is there the perception that you and I pose a greater threat to life and limb than health care professionals? Don't insurance agents or financial planners pose a greater threat to financial interests than you and I?  Yet, why are they are less regulated than you and I?  Why does the general public perceive you and I, as, the creators of a health care crisis?  Why are we perceived as greedy, self centered parasites filing "frivolous lawsuits" for personal gain? Share with me:  when and why, did the public, our friends and neighbors, stop respecting us, looking at us, as the protectors of our collective civil liberties:  Atticus Finchs' incarnate? Share with me your thoughts when you wrote out the check for your Bar dues last year, (which, when combined with other Bar dues, generated $3,389,509.00 in income in 2003 for our Bar [according the Auditor's Report, published in the September - October 2004 "Journal of the Missouri Bar":  I would give you a link to the report, but although the "Journal" is available on-line, the Auditor's Report is not].  How about your thoughts when you wrote a check to pay for your Continuing Legal Education requirement, (which generated an additional $2,314,994.00 in income for our Bar).  Share with me what benefit, you believe, you received, for the $6,655,440.00 spent by our Bar last  year? Did you find it necessary to avail yourself of part of the $109,889.00 spent on the Lawyer Assistance Program?, (an excellent program, BTW.)  Did you use or see good use of the $441,520.00 given to Legal Aid?, (also an excellent program!)  Did you enjoy the Annual Bar Meeting?, ($329,191.00). Perhaps you benefited from the $142,897.00 spent by the Young Lawyers Section.  You must believe, there is something, some benefit, you received, from the $2,043,426.00 in general and administrative expenses paid by our Bar in 2003. If not:  share with me, share with our Board of Governors, (they spent $286,405.00 in 2003), what they can do to make you believe you derive a benefit for the Bar dues paid!   ...  <whispering> ...  How about a universal picture ID, honored at each Courthouse in our State?  How about a vacation rule, so you and your family can take a vacation without worrying about a default taken against your client?    How about a Statute of Limitations on Bar Complaints?

Perhaps, part of the problem is, that most of us don't have a clue about how our Bar Association is organized and how it works. Who to call.  Who to ask. Who makes decisions on any given issue. A modest beginning has to be a conscientious effort, on the part of our Bar, to de-mystify the organization, it's function, (is it's goal to further the interests of member lawyers or protect the public from member lawyers?) and the process. The Bar has to encourage, solicit the opinion of and inclusion of Solo and Small Firm lawyers in the decision making process, the decisions made, that affect those lawyers. As a simple overview:  the final say on any issue related to the practice of law, resides with our Supreme Court, working in conjunction with our Bar Association. Our Bar is run by a 42 member Board of Governors.  (Missouri is broken down into 15 districts, based on the number of lawyers in each district. The lawyers in a given district elect a governor: the lawyers, for example, in St. Louis County and St Louis City elect 14 of the 42 governors.)  The BOG is divided into committees that meet 4 times a year. The minutes of those meetings are available on line, (I would encourage you to read them!!! Especially the last meeting's discussion of changes to our code of ethics.). The "guts" of our Bar, are the 41 "practice area" committees, comprised of volunteers and a chairperson appointed by our Bar President.  The "worker bees" of our Bar are managed by Keith Birkes, (573-635-4128, a really, really good guy), who is the Secretary and Executive Director of our Bar. He implements the policy decisions made by Joe Whisler, (this year, our Bar President, 816-474-0777, elected by the BOG) and the BOG Executive Committee.  If you have a question:  call Keith, who can share with you which committee chair or BOG member to call to get an answer, (should he not have one).  It really is that simple. 

The SFIG was formed by David Browning, as a independent support group for Solo and Small Firm lawyers. It filled a vital need and grew large enough, to where our Bar agreed to host it as part of the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee.  Alan Gallas and Paul Henry, chairpersons of the Practice Committee recognized, on their watch, that the SFIG was a unique tool for the Bar ... and a vital resource for solo and small firm lawyers.  They elected to focus on the Solo and Small Firm Conference and let the SFIG evolve.  It did.  The SFIG developed a sense of "family":  lawyers sharing their lives and helping each other and it grew, on their respective watch, from 80 members to over 400.  The Solo and Small Firm Conference became, in essence, a "Family Reunion". Along the way, the SFIG developed "rules", by consensus, not imposed by the Bar, but rules agreed to by all:  the "Nettiquette Haiku", (just some common sense ways of dealing with each other's needs and wants as "family".)  The SFIG has become the loudest "voice" of the rank and file membership of our Bar.  It has become a means, for our Bar, to include the "rank and file" members of our Bar in the decision making process.  I pray our BOG members can see the potential, the benefit, of doing so.

Another modest proposal:  Solo and Small Firm Lawyers comprise 2/3rd of our Bar but feel we get nothing for the dues we pay. The vast majority of us don't get involved in Bar issues.  We don't volunteer for Bar committee service. Why is that?  Ignorance of the system for one:  the impersonal nature of Bar membership for another. There is a sense that the Bar leadership dictates, is an "exclusive" club run by the "big" firms and "a little guy like me won't change anything".  That needs to change.  Perhaps a way of doing so, is to have the Chairperson/Leadership of any volunteer Bar Committee, be nominated and elected by that respective Bar Committee membership ... instead of the Bar President? Doesn't it make sense to have committee members practicing in a given area of the law, chose the most competent member of that committee,  to further the interests of that committee, it's members and serve the public, and that area of the law? Wouldn't that foster a sense of "us", working together to make a difference?  Although I was an active member of the SFIG, I joined the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee when invited by my Dear Lady Friend, Linda O. and the then Chairman, Alan Gallas.  Just a thought.

Sitting here editing these Ramblings, (still stuffed from yesterday ... probably ate a three week allocation of simple carbs!!)  We are waiting for more snow tonight.  Haven't cranked up the fireplace, yet. Did bring in a load of wood.  Standard war stuff on the news tonight.  Standard warning, that we are facing an Avian Flu Pandemic that will kill millions. Small things have more meaning in my life:  like Susan and I putting our Christmas Tree together today ... and trying to figure out which *&^&% bulb is the bad one.  Watching the "damn cats" explore it's potential and trying like hell to keep Max, (glutinous maximus, because he is such a pain in the *ss),  from writing a message on the base of the tree, (damn Yorkies!!).   All is well and warm at Ft Timmerman, as I pray it is at yours.  We all have so much to be grateful for ...  so much to be thankful for.  I had the privilege of sharing this day, enjoying this day, with the best partner, lover and friend a man can have. I hope you did as well.  Be and sleep well, the best there is, is on watch so you can ...  and perhaps, while being grateful, while giving thanks ... could, would,  you take a moment to remember our men and women in uniform?  Say a prayer/send good wishes for their safe return, soon?  If my post offends, I apologize ... that is not my intent.  As always ...
A Warm Brotherly Hug
Karl  (the dumb ole country lawyer, from Holden, Missouri).

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Karl H. Timmerman M.A.J.D. 2004
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