Top 5 Neighbor Disputes

Aren’t we supposed to “Love Thy Neighbor?” According to a new FindLaw.com survey, 42% of Americans say they’ve been involved in a dispute with their neighbors.

Although most arguments neighbors get into don’t necessarily turn into seriously heated ones, they can still be difficult, cause considerable stress, and in some cases, land you in court.

Here is the list of the top 5 disputes neighbors broken down by FindLaw.com:

Noise (48% of all disputes). Whether it be from a late-night party or different sleep schedules, noise is apparently the No. 1 way to annoy your neighbor.

Pets and animals (29%). Pets and animals frequently create issues, especially in condominium complexes where people don’t keep their dogs on leashes or pick up after them, or where there is excessive barking.   In New York City, one HOA recently decided to take DNA samples of all dogs so that owners who did not pick up after them could be caught and fined by doing DNA testing of the mess the pet left behind!

Children’s behavior (21%). Similar to pets, children noisily running about is a common complaint.

A visual nuisance, the property’s appearance, trash, etc. (18%).  Unkempt lawns, offensive signs, or overflowing trash cans are a common source of neighborly discord.

Property boundaries (17%).  In these types of disputes, neighbors often have misconceptions about where their property begins and ends, especially in the hills where there are non-conforming, curve-non-linear lots.

How do people usually go about resolving their disputes?

Many people report that their dispute has become so heated that they had to call the police or report the problem to their Homeowners Association.  Respondents also report resolving their dispute by sending a letter or an email.

Dr. Wayne Dyer has always inspired me.  His advice was as follows:  “When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace.”   [RIP Dr. Wayne Dyer, August 30, 2015]

Connecting with Clients

None of us get along with everyone or each other perfectly all of the time.  It simply is not possible, and if we did I’d be out of a job.   Relationships are often strained during stressful times.  This also happens during litigation.   It sometimes also happens between me and my clients.   Although I try, I’m not perfect and neither are my clients.  (Nor are jurors, judges, DA’s or opposing parties and their counsel for that matter, but that’s another story.)

 

I had a case recently where my client and I had what you might call some fairly serious “communication breakdowns” during his civil case.   I can’t go into the details, but it was pretty bad.  I was very angry, and hurt by some of his accusations; he was incredibly angry and frustrated with me.  But we worked through it (short of him firing me or me quitting altogether), settled on the eve of trial, and now his case is over.   I was surprised yesterday to get the nicest thank you message from him, and he gave me permission to publish it.   Here is what he wrote:

 

“I finally got my settlement money, just wanted to thank you again so much for everything & really going to battle for me even though we started out on the wrong foot..  Lol    I really appreciate it all just wanted to let u know & keep up the good work your awesome!  J  J

Take care & God bless J”

 

It is particularly gratifying to transform a rocky relationship into a solid one, where everyone is happy, and even more so when you are working together on a matter involving another rocky relationship.  It’s not possible all the time, I know, but I strive to make that happen in my personal life and in my practice – whether it’s between me and my clients when we don’t see eye to eye, and especially in the courtroom.    A hugely important part of my job consists of transforming relationships and shifting the perceptions (and feelings) of others about those relationships and what really happened between the people in them.   It is impossible for me to separate the process of being human from my work.   This posting is a special “thank you” to my now-happy client for helping me keep all this in mind.

“Who Started It?!” or Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases

Ray Rice and Jay Z have a lot in common, actually. Both were attacked by women. However, how they chose to deal with it has everything to do with why Ray Rice was initially suspended from the NFL and Jay Z emerged from his situation smelling like a rose.

Many times the alleged victim is the initial aggressor.

The video of the Ray Rice showdown in the elevator and the video of Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z illustrate just how complicated domestic violence or assault cases case can be. It looks to me like Ray Rice’s wife hit him twice and then came towards him again before he delivered the knockout blow. This is exactly like the scenario that I often see I my cases time and time again, where the alleged victim is the initial aggressor. If people disagree with each other enough to argue to the point of blows in the first place, of course they are going to also disagree about who actually started the fight in the first place.

In California, “defense of self” and “defense of others” are well-known doctrines criminal defense lawyers use when defending their clients against domestic violence and assault charges.

Years ago I spoke to a group of female “lifers” who are incarcerated at California Institution for Women. Each one of them had been convicted of murdering their romantic partner. Most of them believed that they were poorly represented a trial by male, public defenders, and that their “victims” were actually their batterers and the initial aggressor in the conflict which led to their arrest, trial, and ultimate incarceration. Many times, they claimed, they were unable to introduce at trial evidence of the history of domestic abuse that occurred prior to the incident for which they were serving time. Most of them believed that their lawyers did not want to take the time to listen to their stories, that their story never came out in their trial. Now, to me, that is a crime.

Even with a lawyer who is passionately committed to vigorously defending you, it is still always a challenge to mount a self-defense defense. You will have to prove that amount of force used was reasonable.  Very often I have had to deal with pro-prosecution judges and who did all they could to stop me from putting on my client’s case and from introducing all the evidence we had to support of a self-defense defense. Reality check: Judges have a lot of power.

As long as there are humans on the planet, they will fight. There will always be occasions where one must use force to defend oneself or another, where one will have to stand their ground. And inevitably, in some of these cases the question will arise as to Who Started It?”   If you or someone you know has been charged with assault or domestic violence, choose your lawyer wisely.   Make sure that you feel in your own heart that he or she has the insight, the compassion, the commitment and the heart to discover your story and to fully understand the context in which the conflict arose. Next, ask yourself whether they have the passion and the tenacity to fight for you in court so that your story will be heard.

 

Connecting with Clients

None of us get along with everyone or each other perfectly all of the time.  It simply is not possible, and if we did I’d be out of a job.   Relationships are often strained during stressful times.  This also happens during litigation.   It sometimes also happens between me and my clients.   Although I try, I’m not perfect and neither are my clients.  (Nor are jurors, judges, DA’s or opposing parties and their counsel for that matter, but that’s another story.)

 

I had a case recently where my client and I had what you might call some fairly serious “communication breakdowns” during his civil case.   I can’t go into the details, but it was pretty bad.  I was very angry, and hurt by some of his accusations; he was angry and frustrated with me.  But we worked through it (short of him firing me or me quitting altogether), settled on the eve of trial, and now his case is over.   I was surprised yesterday to get the nicest thank you message from him, and he gave me permission to publish it.   Here is what he wrote:

 

“I finally got my settlement money, just wanted to thank you again so much for everything & really going to battle for me even though we started out on the wrong foot..  Lol    I really appreciate it all just wanted to let u know & keep up the good work your awesome!  J  J

Take care & God bless J”

 

It is particularly gratifying to transform a rocky relationship into a solid one, where everyone is happy.  Not possible all the time, I know, but I strive to make that happen in my personal life and in my practice – whether it’s between me and my clients when we don’t see eye to eye, and especially in the courtroom.    A hugely important part of my job consists of transforming relationships and shifting the perceptions (and feelings) of others about those relationships and what really happened between the people in them.   It is impossible for me to separate the process of being human from my work.   This posting is a special “thank you” to my now-happy client for helping me keep all this in mind.

Cell Phones in Prisons: Shocking but TRUE!

You may or may not be surprised to know that many inmates serving time in our prisons (and jails) have cell phones. You may also be surprised to know that often, they get them from the guards. Shocking, yes, but true.

 

In fact, in October of 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported about the “growing problem for California corrections officials. Just five years ago, only 261 of the devices turned up behind state prison walls. This year, guards are on pace to seize about 15,000 phones — nearly one for every 11 inmates. Almost as troubling as prisoners gaining access to cellphones is their frequent source: prison employees.”

As a lawyer practicing criminal defense, I have clients who have served their time be denied the right to parole when they are caught with contraband cell phones. If one of your loved ones is behind bars and he is calling you on a cell phone — hang up if you want to see him or her soon again.

Jennifer Gardner is a Los Angeles Attorney practicing criminal defense and complex civil litigation. Read more about her work at: http://Los AngelesCriminalLawDefense.com

Convicts Opt for Death Row Rather than Serve Time in Regular Maximum Security Prison

This is a fascinating article from the Atlantic Monthly which explores and explains why certain convicts ask to be sent to “Death Row,” rather than serve their sentence in a maximum security prison.  The reason: better living conditions, such as larger cells, liberal phone privileges, and daily human interaction.  Also, it takes 20 years on average for a criminal defendant to exhaust his appellate remedies.  The article explains how “If juries continue to send an average of 20 convicts to San Quentin’s death row each year, and executions continue at the present rate, by 2030 the ranks of the condemned will have swelled to more than 1,000, and California’s taxpayers will have spent $9 billion to execute a total of 23 inmates.”   http://tinyurl.com/438so57

In my criminal defense practice, I am often asked to represent clients in cases where they are facing life without the possibility of parole, or the amount of time they would serve if convicted is so great, that they could conceivably spend the rest of their lives in prison.  To find out more about this part of my practice, go to www.LosAngelesCriminalLawDefense.com.  Jennifer B. Gardner represents individuals in complex civil and criminal matters, operating a boutique practice for the last 25 years and serving Southern California.

Prostitution and Solicitation Sex Crimes On the Rise

By Jennifer Gardner

Being a Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer, I am often asked to represent people who are charged with sex crimes, including prostitution and solicitation-related sex crimes charged under Penal Code Section 647(b).   It seems these days that the requests for sex crimes-related legal defense is on the rise.  Recent local media reports confirm what I myself am seeing in my own practice:  prostitution tends to go up during tough economic times because more people walk the streets looking for ways to make money.   NBC News recently reported that some prostitution rings have been using abandoned homes that are in foreclosed in order to operate.   In the San Fernando Valley, prostitution often rotates between Lankershim and Sepulveda Boulevards.  Many of my cases involve arrests near Venice Beach and also in Hollywood.   Despite the efforts of Los Angeles Police Vice Squad, it is difficult to completely eradicate the “oldest profession” in the world.

Still, that does not stop law enforcement from trying: the number of prostitution-related arrests in the San Fernando Valley jumped 21 percent, from 28 in the first 66 days of 2011 to 34 in the same period this year.  Police are also busting massage parlors and escort services, and even setting up elaborate sting operations for people who use the internet (i.e., Craig’s List) to find customers.

We defend individuals accused of the following prostitution-related crimes:  soliciting an act of prostitution, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution, escorting without a permit, engaging in lewd conduct, pimping and pandering.  If you have been arrested, investigated and/or charged with any of these prostitution-related offenses, we can help and defend you.  Don’t just plead guilty – contact us today for a free consultation. To read more about our services, go to: www.LosAngelesCriminalLawDefense.com

“Courage” from “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Here is our favorite quote from To Kill A Mockingbird, by Atticus:  “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

This best describes the character that I have observed in almost  every client I have ever represented at trial. Each and everyone of them have taught me the true meaning of courage.  As a criminal defense attorney, I am committed to seeing every case I take through no matter what, come hell or high water, and come what may. It’s not an easy job, but it is certainly not easier to be one of my clients sitting in that chair next to me, listening to the evidence against them, and to me as I fight for them, and then waiting for 12 jurors to decide their fate.  I am often humbled by their courage.

 

Does It Really Cost $900,000 to Hide The Fact That You Are Having An Affair??

I am equal parts entertained and disgusted while reading about the John Edwards criminal trial that is going on now in North Carolina.  This story hits so many archetypal high notes.  His former “longtime trusted aide” has already sold the movie-rights to the story and is testifying against him today, saying how he was “suspicious” all along of Edward’s affair with his videographer-mistress-nowbabymama.  All the while, Edwards was spending the money he raised from a couple of rich people and the rest of his average-Joe followers in order to cover up the affair from the public and his dying wife in order to protect his ticket to the presidency.  Great story.  Too bad it’s true.

Sins, but not crimes, gifts not contributions, his lawyers say.  I would probably spin it that way too.  But still, it’s pretty sickening.   I don’t know, folks.  Do we forgive this one?

http://tinyurl.com/892ubo6

 

WOULD THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM CRASH IF EVERY CASE WENT TO TRIAL?

In my criminal defense practice, I am constantly presented with the question of whether to settle a case or go to trial.  I love to try cases, but sometimes it is simply not in the best interest of the client to risk a trial.  And sometimes the opposite is true:  the case is so over-charged, the deal that is offered is so bad, that sometimes you simply have to try your case before a jury.  This issue is one that every criminal defense lawyer I know has to deal with.

In a New York Times piece this past weekend, Michelle Alexander writes about how things would be different if instead of only 10% of all criminal cases going to trial, 90% of all defendants charged with a crime actually exercised their constitutional right to a trial by jury.  She writes about how that would crash the system, and perhaps bring about a change where the prosecutors were forced to scale back dramatically the number of criminal cases charged:

“The system of mass incarceration depends almost entirely on the cooperation of those it seeks to control. If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation. Not everyone would have to join for the revolt to have an impact; as the legal scholar Angela J. Davis noted, “if the number of people exercising their trial rights suddenly doubled or tripled in some jurisdictions, it would create chaos.”

Such chaos would force mass incarceration to the top of the agenda for politicians and policy makers, leaving them only two viable options: sharply scale back the number of criminal cases filed (for drug possession, for example) or amend the Constitution (or eviscerate it by judicial “emergency” fiat). Either action would create a crisis and the system would crash — it could no longer function as it had before.”

To see the whole article, go to  http://tinyurl.com/7e2wuaj