Tag Archives: Florida

You might live in a swing state if…

…you’re more likely to run into a candidate for the White House than a Mormon missionary when you get a knock at the door.

I ran into an interesting set of data today: voter turnout nationally has never really been that high, and while it may be falling, it’s never really changed in Presidential years.

Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections from 1948-2008

Why is it that voter turnout seems stuck somewhere between 55 and 65%? What would it take to boost participation? Continue reading

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Bank of America Gets Pad Locked After Homeowner Forecloses On It | digtriad.com

Exterior Bank Signage | Bank Logo Branding | B...

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This is yesterday’s news, but it’s still a win for the small guy, and, frankly, hilarious.

It started five months ago when Bank of America filed foreclosure papers on the home of a couple, who didn’t owe a dime on their home.

The couple said they paid cash for the house.

The case went to court and the homeowners were able to prove they didn’t owe Bank of America anything on the house. In fact, it was proven that the couple never even had a mortgage bill to pay.

A Collier County Judge agreed and after the hearing, Bank of America was ordered, by the court to pay the legal fees of the homeowners’, Maurenn Nyergers and her husband.

The Judge said the bank wrongfully tried to foreclose on the Nyergers’ house.

So, how did it end with bank being foreclosed on?  After more than 5 months of the judge’s ruling, the bank still hadn’t paid the legal fees, and the homeowner’s attorney did exactly what the bank tried to do to the homeowners. He seized the bank’s assets.

via Bank of America Gets Pad Locked After Homeowner Forecloses On It | digtriad.com.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is taking on the bank over illegal foreclosures in the state.  Check it here.

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Random number generators and cable news commentators

The source of all those exit polls, hot air, statistics, and prognosticators fodder…

Also, exit polls in Florida and Iowa, financial analysis, and D&D.

xkcd: Sports.

See also “Mark Twain.” (“There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.”)

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Life at 133 questions an hour; or, do the Supremes really care what the lawyers think?

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Curiously, to many, Justice Clarence Thomas rarely asks questions during oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

If at all.

Here’s a run down of his stats, as well as some other interesting numbers related

to questioning by Supreme Court Justices (according to Constitutional Daily):

5 – Years Clarence Thomas has gone without asking a question in the Supreme Court.

133 – Average questions per hour asked by Supreme Court justices.

2.22 – Average questions per minute.

209 – Total questions in Thomas’s favorite movie, Saving Private Ryan.

1.24 – Average questions per minute.

64% – Overall odds of winning a reversal in the Supreme Court.

39% – Odds of winning a reversal if asked 50 questions more than opposing counsel.

18% – Odds of winning a reversal if asked 94 question more than opposing counsel.

1 – Justices that have gone an entire term without asking a question.

And here is my favorite:

0 – Answers the Justices are sincerely interested in.

As it turns out, getting a lot of questions from the Supremes does not mean that they are interested in your reasoning. Quite the contrary. It’s more likely they don’t care.

A few years ago, a second-year law student at Georgetown unlocked the secret to predicting which side would win a case in the Supreme Court based on how the argument went. Her theory has been tested and endorsed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and has been confirmed by elaborate studies from teams of professors.

“The bottom line, as simple as it sounds,” said the student, Sarah Levien Shullman, who is now a litigation associate at a law firm in Florida, “is that the party that gets the most questions is likely to lose.”

Not content to let a lowly law student’s theory rest, Judge Roberts–at that time not yet on the Court–did his own study and confirmed the findings. More questions does not equal success. The Justices aren’t talking to the advocate–they’re talking to each other.

The two studies do illuminate something about the nature of questions that Supreme Court justices ask lawyers for each side. In form, they are efforts by the justices to elicit information, clarifications and concessions from the lawyers. In reality, though, these arguments are for the most part attempts by the justices to persuade their colleagues.

“Quite often the judges are debating among themselves and just using the lawyers as a backboard,” Chief Justice Roberts said at Columbia Law School last year.

A third study, this time by empiricists, not lawyers or judges, found that, largely, Shullman and Roberts were right. They looked at 2,000 arguments and more than 200,000 questions. The conclusions were consistent and showed some interesting findings:

  • The relative number of questions asked is indicative. If both sides receive the same number of questions, the likelihood of reversal is 64 percent.
  • “But if the side seeking reversal gets 50 more questions than its adversary, the likelihood of a victory drops to 39 percent. And if that side manages to get the maximum number of extra questions in the study, which was 94, the likelihood of winning drops to 18 percent.”

And that makes Thomas all the more interesting. Because he isn’t asking questions at all. Perhaps he knows the questions don’t matter?

As he has said else where, all the relevant arguments are in the briefings, and if he hasn’t been persuaded by them, oral arguments are not going to persuade him, either.

On the other hand, Justice Thomas prefers a more laid back approach.

“If I invite you to argue your case, I should at least listen to you,” he told a bar association in Richmond, Va., in 2000.

The current court isn’t exactly conducive to that, however, with Justices firing off questions almost faster than they can be answered.  In the 20 years that ended in 1988, Justices asked an average of 133 questions per hour long argument.

(h/t NYT

and Constitutional Daily)

Large Numbers of Law, Week of 2/21/11.

The Fall of Scott Rothstein: “Miles Away…Worlds Apart” by Alan Sakowitz

Miles Away... Worlds ApartMiles Away… Worlds Apart by Alan Sakowitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s guys like Scott Rothstein that give attorneys a bad name. And it’s guys like Alan Sakowitz that prove that humanity is, at its heart, good.

I recently finished “Miles Away, Worlds Apart” by Alan Sakowitz, an attorney and real estate investor whose path crossed with Scott Rothstein, an attorney and one time Ponzi scheme artist. Billed by some as a “criminal thriller,” I found it to be more of cautionary tale, a combination memoir and homage to the good people in Sakowitz’s life compared to the tragic flamboyance that he found in Scott Rothstein.

Sakowitz first met Rothstein when he was invited to participate in an investment in what was billed as “structured settlements,” a scheme that would return investment of at least 20 percent, often more, in as short a time as three months. The structured settlements turned out to actually be pre-settlement funding or financing, and the promised return on investment would often be astronomical, even unbelievable. Investors, upon committing to secrecy, were investing large amounts of money and receiving large returns. Rothstein was a respected member of the bar, a partner in a reputable and growing law firm, politically well connected, and philanthropically generous. His sales pitch was convincing, and people were trusting him with their money to the tune of over $1.2 billion dollars.

But, as has been astutely noted elsewhere, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” and so thought Sakowitz. A veteran real estate investor and attorney, he began to do his due diligence on the scheme, and red flags began to pop up everywhere. The more he researched, the more questionable the investment seemed, and the less the numbers would add up. Finally, he concluded that what was going on had to be illegal, and he called the FBI.

The rest is history. Rothstein fled to Morocco just in front of an FBI warrant to search his law offices, one of a few countries that does not have an extradition treaty to the United States. He returned later, upon pleading from his partners, and turned himself into the FBI to cooperate in their investigation. Disbard for life, he was later sentenced to 50 years in prison, and is serving his time in a federal detention center in Miami.

That’s the Rothstein story, but it’s not half of the book. What makes Sakowitz’s book interesting and worth reading is the dichotomous nature in which he has written it. Instead of weaving a tale about Rothstein’s corruption, hubris, and crimes, which he does do, Sakowitz also intersperes the account with anecdotes about the selfless individuals that have added value and meaning to Sakowitz’s life. His stories include those of his parents, rabbis, community members, individuals he admires from afar, and others who he has seen selflessly give of themselves to others. It is intended as a contrast to Rothstein’s selfishness, and it is an intimate and touching portrait of many of the unsung heroes of our world. All too often we hear and read about the people and egos who thrust themselves into our consciousness in the news and media, and it is refreshing to hear the stories of those who quietly go about doing good without any hope or expectation of reward. Although I do not share Sakowitz’s faith, as a person of faith myself, I found much in Sakowitz’s book in common with people in my own life, and I was inspired by the thought that there are people out there doing good for good’s sake alone.

Scott Rothstein was a selfish fool, and his greed hurt a lot of people. But fortunately, there are good people out there, too and in Sakowitz’s account we see a few of them. They are unsung, usually, and only quietly going about doing good. But it is their actions and choices that give me hope that in the end we can choose the good side of our nature–what Sakowitz calls the “right side” of our hearts–over the bad.

Scott Rothstein...presumably before being caught.

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