Category Archives: cars

Some people will try anything

I thought I’d seen all the pathetic excuses possible for trying to get out of legal proceedings (including seceding from Australia, declaring the Court to be a hotbed of Freemasons and/or claiming that the Constitution is invalid for spurious reasons). But this is one of the best:

Richard James Howarth was remanded to appear in the Ipswich Magistrate’s Court to answer a string of traffic offences, including four counts of driving with a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit.

However, his lawyers said he failed to appear after having earlier informed them he would not talk to them because he is was [sic] the almighty and above answering to Queensland laws.

Early this month, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service solicitor Kevin Rose, for Howarth, told the court his client refused his office’s attempts to talk to them.

A court and a mental health expert have already deemed Howarth was mentally fit for trial, but Mr Rose maintained he has obvious mental health issues.

Mr Rose said he did not doubt Howarth genuinely believed he was God.

The Magistrate issued a warrant for Howarth’s arrest. Now if Howarth can turn the handcuffs into loaves and fishes, he might have some possibility of being believed…

Incidentally, if he is God, I have a number of questions for Him:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Whose God are you? It would sure help if You mediated some religious conflicts waged in Your name.
  • What is your point of view about homosexuality? (a la Southpark)
  • If you are God, why couldn’t you just magic the alcohol away from your bloodstream before you got into the car? (I’m thinking here of Aziraphale and Crowley in Good Omens

(Via Iain Hall)

Update:

A friend has asked that I recount one of my own craziest litigant in person stories. I came across this litigant in person who had exhibited the Magna Carta to his affidavit. Now that’s pretty stock standard with these guys. But the extraordinary thing was that his primary source for the Magna Carta seemed to be a novelty tea towel. I’m guessing it was a tea towel because of the fabric weave visible in the photocopy. Also there was kitschy gothic script. None of the judges commented on it, and I’m not sure that anyone else noticed.

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Filed under cars, courts, crazy stuff, criminal law, driving, law, mental illness, religion

How the mighty may fall

I’ve never received a speeding ticket. Indeed, until this year, I was such a goody-two-shoes that I had never even received a parking fine, but the exigencies of working, mothering and studying forced me to take parking risks that I would never have previously taken, and I have received 2 parking fines in 2007. It’s depressing when you get the fine. But I paid each off immediately, so that the slate was wiped clean and I didn’t have to think about it any more. Better to get rid of it immediately.

Hence, I have been following the allegations against former judge Marcus Einfeld with interest. Put shortly, the allegations are that in order to get out of paying a speeding fine, he falsely swore statutory declarations that he was not driving his car at the time. The speeding offence was alleged to have occurred on 8 January 2006. He nominated one Teresa Brennan, a US law professor, as the driver of the car, but she had died in January 2003 in a car accident. Clearly she could not have been driving the car at the time.

I understand that he is an intelligent man and was a very good judge. If the allegations are found to be correct, I cannot quite understand how someone who seems to have done so much good as a judge and as an advocate of human rights law could get into such a mess. The prosecution case is that Mr Einfeld was concerned that he might lose his licence as a result: but surely that’s better than being convicted of perjury. Even if he does not stand trial or is not convicted, his name has been tarnished by the allegations.

I tend to take a dim view of speeding because when I was 15, my younger sister was hit by a car when I was standing just behind her. If the driver had been driving 5km faster, she would have been dead. As it was, her leg was broken and she was concussed. That moment when she flew into the air and landed in a crumpled heap on the road still sticks with me today. I think that’s why I’ve never gotten a speeding fine.

The same law applies to all of us, and if we break the law, we should wear the consequences, no matter who we are. Isn’t that a fundamental principle of the rule of law? Perhaps it’s silly of me, but if the allegations against Mr Einfeld are established, I will feel rather cynical about his professed championship of human rights and the rule of law. To err is human: but on the other hand, you have to practice what you preach, even in small matters like speeding fines.

Update

Mr Einfeld has been committed to stand trial.

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Filed under barristers, cars, courts, criminal law, driving, human rights, judges, law, morality, society

Transit, schmansit

This is a post I’ve been saving up for a while about the Transit Lane on the Freeway which I drive on every day I go to work. Be warned. This is a RANT.

The idea is that between 7am and 9:30am, cars with more than one passenger are allowed in the Transit Lane. Any car with a single passenger will be fined if they are caught. A friend of mine contemplated purchasing an old store window dummy to sit in the passenger seat of his car, but as far as I know he never put this plan into action. I wonder how many people do actually try it? I’m sure traffic cops would have some funny stories to tell.

What’s the policy behind the Transit Lane? Well, the idea is that single people driving into work alone is a terrible waste of petrol and resources. Therefore, single people in a car should be punished, and multiple people should be rewarded by getting a quicker drive into work. Presumably it is also meant to encourage car pooling and public transport use.

Car pooling

What a nice idea in the abstract. It is ridiculous to see all these almost empty cars on the freeway. However, I think this idea doesn’t really gel with the practicalities of modern life and workplaces.

When I was a kid, my Dad used to carpool with three friends, so that Mum could have the car to drive me to school. Then Dad’s hours started being more irregular, and he had to work later. It became problematic to carpool: everyone had to leave at the same time and go home at the same time, but everyone’s work hours had gotten longer and more irregular. Then one of the friends moved away from the area, another quit, another went to a different site…there was no one left to carpool with. Luckily Dad got a company car then, so that was okay.

I think the people who design these rules must have 9 – 5 jobs, and live in the vicinity of their co-workers. In that case, they are rare beasts indeed. Personally I don’t know anyone at my workplace who lives anywhere near me, so I’ve no one with whom to carpool . And it would have been totally impractical when I was a solicitor to carpool, because my working hours were long and irregular. No one wants to hang around until some crazy hour of the night to give me a lift home.

So I very much doubt that the Transit Lane succeeds in encouraging people to carpool. Life these days is too unpredictable, and workplace hours are much longer than they used to be, for many people anyway.

Public transport

Public transport in Melbourne is a crock. Dirty, crowded and unreliable.

A while back (before we were married) my husband broke his shoulder. Apparently it was a very interesting break, because he broke the ball joint into perfect halves. Obviously he was unable to drive for about 2 months. When he had been able to drive, the journey to work had taken him 15 minutes, or at maximum, 20 minutes. When he was forced to take public transport, the journey took him a minimum of one and a half hours. Sometimes longer. Either he had to get the train right into the city and right out again (problem of a radial train line system) or he had to catch two different buses which did not connect, and he had substantial waiting periods in between.

Public transport is passable in Melbourne if (a) you work in the CBD and (b) you live near a train line. Neither my husband nor I fit the above criteria. Who has the time to spend an  hour and a half of one’s life on public transport? I’d prefer to spend more time with my daughter, thank you very much.

Which brings me to another point – prams on public transport. I’ve only tried it once. What a nightmare. Although I don’t have one of those mega-monster prams that could rival a four wheel drive car, it is still big enough to block the aisle and inconvenience everyone. And getting the pram up the steps of the tram was terrible. There are no conductors any more – so you’ve got to rely on help from other passengers – which isn’t always forthcoming.

So public transport is not really a viable alternative to singular car travel for many people. And I doubt that the Transit Lane is going to encourage anyone to go on public transport if they don’t have to do so, because the service provided is so bad.

Conclusion

The Transit Lane looks all shiny and nice in theory, but in practice it’s just a bloody revenue raiser on the part of the State Government (I reckon I see people pulled over quite often). It fails in its objectives of encouraging people to share car use because (a) modern society and workplaces do not work in a way that facilitates this and (b) the alternative (public transport) is appalling. Furthermore, it means that the freeway is extra jammed as people try to get out of and into the lane, and all the other cars get squashed into a few lanes. It also may cause accidents – I have seen people try to dart back into the main stream of traffic when they see evidence of a cop car up ahead – because they panic, they can endanger other drivers.

P.S. I have to say that when I was heavily pregnant, I occasionally used the Transit Lane even when it was just me in the car, because technically speaking, there were two people in the car, weren’t there? Hmm, nice legal point there. I don’t think that a foetus is a separate person until birth, but then I think of those cases about murder of a foetus, where defendants are charged with murdering an unborn child.

P.P.S. Thank you for letting me have my rant (if you got this far).

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Filed under cars, driving, society

Career choices…

Eitan Erez is a candidate for the Israel Bar Association. Check out this report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz:

When Erez, 52, was certified as an attorney 26 years ago, only 7,000 lawyers were registered with the Israel Bar Association. After the upcoming certification ceremony, it will have 38,000 members.

“Do you now what an honor it once was to be a lawyer? Do you know how proud my parents were when I became a lawyer? Today a lawyer is worth less than a taxi driver. Lawyers work as house painters, plumbers and plasterers. A lawyer who works as a plumber takes on traffic cases once every 10 days, when he goes to represent people for NIS 300-NIS 400. That’s what we’ve come to. The rates are too cheap, it’s impossible to work for such fees, and lawyers who work for such fees cannot buy books, computers, equipment. They can’t keep up-to-date, attend continuing education courses. That’s why there are more claims of professional negligence afterward.”

I found this article via Adrian the Cabbie’s website, Cablog. He thinks he’s a cabbie in the wrong city (or possibly) the wrong country.

He recently drove a lawyer in his cab, and to earn the same amount of money as the hourly rate of this lawyer, he’d have to drive for 38 hours. Must have been a QC. The fees those guys charge are absolutely crazy – $2000 an hour. I can’t even imagine that kind of money. However, the perception that all lawyers are rolling in money is not correct. Lawyers who don’t work for big firms often don’t earn any more than “normal people”. This is especially so of lawyers who work for small firms, regional firms, Legal Aid, government, the Department of Public Prosecutions and the like. Another point is that junior lawyers don’t actually get the money they charge out at. I might have been charged out at, say, $200 an hour, but I wouldn’t actually get that money in my pocket. A lot of it would go to the firm.

I reckon I’d earn about the same amount as a cabbie these days. Maybe a little less. Should I become a cabbie instead?

Pros:

  • I like people
  • I like talking
  • I like political, philosophical and religious discussions, and wouldn’t mind if someone tried to engage me in one
  • I have a reasonably good knowledge of Melbourne and surrounds

Cons:

  • As I have explained before, I find driving very stressful and frustrating at times
  • I hate shift work
  • I wouldn’t know what to do if violent people got into my cab
  • There’s that same billable hours problem that lawyers have – how much you earn depends on how much time you spend in the car – hard with a young family!

So, I think I’ll stick with the law lecturing gig for the moment.  😉  Much more my cup of tea.

Seriously, however, there are a couple of interesting points raised by the Ha’aretz article. First, Erez raises the issue of increasing numbers of graduates. Things are similar here. At the entry stage, the market is absolutely flooded with young law graduates seeking articles, such that it’s very difficult to get a place. However, there is a massive shortage of lawyers at a second- third- and fourth-year level. I thought that I might find it difficult to get position as a junior solicitor after a number of years at the court. They were rather stuck as to how to categorise me given that I hadn’t been rising up through a law firm, but it wasn’t at all difficult to find a job! The question is whether you wanted to keep on going in that job…there’s a reason why there is such a dearth of young solicitors (see my posts on the law and depression here, here and here). Lack of morale is a serious issue which has finally come to the notice of the firms, I think, after recent publicity.

Another serious issue raised by Erez is the low public opinion of lawyers. I must confess that some of us are our own worst enemies in this regard. Some lawyers behave arrogantly and unpleasantly towards others: colleagues, litigants, opponents, random cute furry animals, anyone who crosses their path. Some use the law to bully and intimidate (like that Judge with the US$65M claim for a pair of lost pants). Some lawyers think that being a lawyer means the law doesn’t apply to them or gives them carte blanche to get around the law (like the recent notorious case of the lawyer with a dangerous strain of TB who illegally left the USA to go on his honeymoon). Then there’s the whole perception that we get guilty people “off”, described in a post (which coincidentally starts out with a conversation with a cab driver). And then there’s a perception that we argue for decisions which are against common sense (like the recent decision which held that a stationary driver on a hands free phone breached the law). Again there’s a crazy overlap between the law and cabbies… Maybe someone’s trying to give me a message??

I don’t think I’ll be putting down my law text books yet to drive a cab. But Erez’s comments do provide food for thought.

(Via Cablog)

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Filed under barristers, cabs, cars, depression, law, law firms, morale, society, solicitors

Is it worth risking your life to get one car ahead?

I just drove home on the freeway. Some cars were driving far too fast, and others driving far too slow. There was no rhyme or reason to it. Slow cars pottered at 80km/hr in the right hand land, whereas other cars roared at 110km/hr+ on the other side of me in the left hand lane. It was a stressful drive. I had a headache by the end of it.

Obviously, the cars going at 110km/hr+ are not driving responsibly. But I often wonder if cars driving at 80km/hr think that they are being “safe” because they are driving below the speed limit? I don’t mind cars driving at 80km/hr on the freeway if there’s a reason for it. But if there is a clear road ahead of the car and no obstructions or rain, it is actually dangerous to drive at well below the speed limit on a freeway. The cars which are keeping to the speed limit or going above the speed limit roar around the “slow coach”, overtaking on both the left and the right. There is more likelihood of a collision if people are darting in and out of lanes and getting frustrated.

I also hate it when a car tailgates me, when they should be able to see I can’t go any faster because (a) I am on the speed limit or (b) there are six cars in front of me. Funnily enough, a car was overtaking other cars like crazy on the freeway a few weeks ago, risking life and limb by darting in between lanes and coming up right behind other cars. Later, as I went up the exit ramp, I pulled up…beside the very same car. I guess all his darting and weaving didn’t get him much further ahead!

I mention this because of the terrible car accident in the Burnley Tunnel on Friday. It seems to have happened partially because two cars were trying to move away from a broken-down truck, and collided with another truck in the next lane.

I learned to drive in the UK, and when I returned to Australia, I was shocked by the lack of discipline on Australian roads. (A friend from Mumbai tells me I ain’t seen nothing yet – driving in Australia is child’s play compared to driving in India. For one thing, you have to stop for cows on the road in India.)

I note that a world expert has said Australian drivers are unaware of “tunnel etiquette”. I would say that there needs to be a greater awareness of driver etiquette generally. On English motorways, “slow” drivers take the left hand lane, “medium” drivers take the middle lane and “fast” drivers take the right hand lane. Initially, being a undisciplined Aussie, I thought this was crazy (akin to the English desire to queue) but it does minimise chaos caused by people trying to dart around “slow” drivers. Also in England, there doesn’t seem to be the same reluctance to let people in to moving traffic. A little bit of politeness can help frustration on the road. I always wave thanks to people when they let me in or are generally polite on the road.

It’s all too easy to get frustrated and forget that you are in a fast-moving vehicle which can cause harm to yourself and others if you lose control of it. When I hear people whinging about low speed limits outside schools, I think of the time my sister got hit by a car outside our school, and flew 20 whoops, I meant 2 metres through the air. (20 metres would be pretty spectacular!) Luckily, she was okay, but if the driver had been going just 5km faster, she would have sustained more serious injuries, or worse. As it was, she was concussed, scratched and had a badly broken leg.

Which brings me to the point of this post: is it worth risking your life (and worse, the life of other innocent people) simply to get one car ahead? I don’t think so.

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Filed under accidents, cars, society