Contracts with Hostage-Takers Probably Not Enforceable

All-around stand-up guy, Jesse Dimmick

Two years ago, fugitive murder suspect Jesse Dimmick kidnapped newlyweds Jared and Lindsay Rowley after bursting into their home on a Saturday morning.

Now, he’s suing them for $235,000.

Dimmick contends in the breach of contract suit that after he entered the couple’s home in September 2009, they reached a legally binding, oral contract that they would hide him for an unspecified amount of money.

“Later, the Rowleys reneged on said oral contract, resulting in my being shot in the back by authorities,” Dimmick wrote in a notarized legal document, which said he was filing the counterclaim in response to a suit the Rowleys filed against him in September.

Ironclad reasoning, right? Not exactly, wrote the Rowleys’ attorney in their motion to dimiss. Kevin Underhill summarizes:

First, there was no agreement. Second, if there was an agreement, there was no meeting of the minds on the amount of money (Dimmick admitted the “offer” was for “an unspecified amount”), and so no binding contract. Third, agreements made at knifepoint are, you may be surprised to learn, not enforceable as they are made “under duress.” Finally, a contract to do something illegal (e.g. hide a fugitive) is also not enforceable.

Read the pleadings here.

Via Lowering The Bar.

CA Appellate Court Affirms: “Driving” Includes Stopping and Being Stopped at a Red Light

A traffic officer observed Carl Nelson using his wireless telephone with his hands as he paused his car at a red traffic light. The officer cited Mr. Nelson for infraction of Veh. Code §23123(a). Mr. Nelson contested the citation on the basis that he had only been using the phone while he was stopped at the signal to check his e-mail. Mr. Nelson contended that he was not “driving” as required by §23123(a) pursuant to Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1991) 53 Cal.3d 753. The trial court found Mr. Nelson guilty.

The court of appeal affirmed, holding that Mr. Nelson was “driving” within the intended meaning of §23123(a).

The court acknowledged that the §23123(a) terms “drive” and “while driving” are ambiguous as to a driver’s fleeting pauses as he drove on public roadways. However, the court continued, §23123(a) includes such stops because “drive” and “while driving” commonly refer to a person driving along the public roadways, regardless of whether he stops fleetingly for a red traffic light or other impediments to movement that are beyond his control.

Further, the court found that Mr. Nelson’s narrow volitional-movement interpretation of “drive” and “while driving” in §23123(a) would likely result in numerous significant public-safety hazards on public roadways. Were Mr. Nelson’s interpretation adopted, it would open the door to the picking-up of phones to place calls and check voice-mail while driving but paused momentarily in traffic, with a car in gear and only braked, however short that pause in movement. This could include fleeting pauses at traffic signals and signs in stop-and-go traffic as pedestrians crossed, as vehicles ahead navigated around double-parked vehicles, and many other circumstances.

People v. Nelson via Law.com

Things That Matter: Map Projections

Mercator v. Winkle Tripel

Map projections don’t get much play in the news these days, what with the economy continually going to hell. Yet they are truly one of the most contentious topics among cartographers today. Most are familiar with the Mercator project (ideal for sailors due to their true navigational charts) and the Winkel Tripel (found in most text books and National Geographic since formal adoption in 1997). Despite the ubiquity of rectangular world maps, for years the American Cartographic Association’s has called for their abandonment in favor of a projection that more accurately displays our world, despite the fact that every map must make compromises in depiction of a spherical shape.

In 1989 and 1990, after some internal debate, seven North American geographic organizations adopted the following resolution, which rejected all rectangular world maps, a category that includes both the Mercator and the Gall–Peters projections:

WHEREAS, the earth is round with a coordinate system composed entirely of circles, and

WHEREAS, flat world maps are more useful than globe maps, but flattening the globe surface necessarily greatly changes the appearance of Earth’s features and coordinate systems, and

WHEREAS, world maps have a powerful and lasting effect on people’s impressions of the shapes and sizes of lands and seas, their arrangement, and the nature of the coordinate system, and

WHEREAS, frequently seeing a greatly distorted map tends to make it “look right,”

THEREFORE, we strongly urge book and map publishers, the media and government agencies to cease using rectangular world maps for general purposes or artistic displays. Such maps promote serious, erroneous conceptions by severely distorting large sections of the world, by showing the round Earth as having straight edges and sharp corners, by representing most distances and direct routes incorrectly, and by portraying the circular coordinate system as a squared grid. The most widely displayed rectangular world map is the Mercator (in fact a navigational diagram devised for nautical charts), but other rectangular world maps proposed as replacements for the Mercator also display a greatly distorted image of the spherical Earth.

Think it doesn’t matter? Think it’s just a bunch of poindexters sitting around tapping their slide rules against their collective shoe? Wrong!

Who can forget the Baker-Shevardnadze agreement?

On June 1, 1990, then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze signed a deal demarcating the boundary between Russian and US territory in the Bering and Chukotka Seas. The purpose of the deal was to clear up an 1867 deal ceding Alaska to the United States. After the deal was struck, it was unclear whether the boundary used the Mercator projection (a straight line on the map) or the conformal projection (a straight line across the surface of the earth).

Enter Baker and Shevardnadze who came to a compromise between both projections that seemed to be a perfect marriage for all parties involved. But the honeymoon was not to last.  The USSR contended the U.S. had cheated them by using a “crooked boundary,” yielding the lion’s share of assets and minerals to the U.S. With no way around the dispute the USSR refused to ratify the treaty before its collapse and Russia declared the treaty null. Since then, the U.S. has continued efforts to enforce the boundary based on the Baker-Shevardnadze agreement.

Via the BBC and Richard Sale.

If Samuel Gerard Were A Judge…

…he’d write opinions like this!

And such news of an amicable settlement having made this Court happier than a tick on a fat dog because it is otherwise busier than a one legged cat in a sand box and, quite frankly, would have rather jumped naked off of a twelve foot step ladder into a five gallon bucket of porcupines than have presided over a two week trial of the herein dispute, a trial which, no doubt, would have made the jury more confused than a hungry baby in a topless bar and made the parties and their attorneys madder than mosquitoes in a mannequin factory;

The Honorable Martin Sheehan of the Kenton Circuit Court of Kentucky spiced up these proceedings through this opinion peppered with mixed metaphors and country-fied adages so delightful it makes readers happier than a lawyer in a nursing home.

Via Politico.

Defining Pimpin’ Aint Easy

Jomo Zambia wants his previous conviction for pandering expunged despite already serving his four year jail sentence, leaving the California Supreme Court to mull over Too $hort and 50 Cent lyrics. Specifically the Court has been trying to figure out exactly what the California definition of pandering means: a crime for anyone who “induces, persuades or encourages another person to become a prostitute.”

What Zambia’s lawyer contends is that only a pimp who recruits innocent victims and not working already prostitutes can be guilty of the offense of pandering. All other pimps are merely guilty of attempting to pander or solicitation of a prostitute. “You can’t become what you already are,” Zambia’s attorney, Vanessa Place, argued.

And her argument seems to have legs (fishnet-clad ones at that). While Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin and Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian seemed ready to side with the state, Justice Joyce Kennard said Zambia made a compelling argument. “When one is already a prostitute, one can’t be encouraged to be a prostitute,” Kennard said. “That seems to be a common-sense interpretation.”

Read more about the origins of the word pimp in a 2008 Slate article and forward it along to the Court while you’re at it.

From the Chron.