Q: Do you have a legal wish list for 2001?
A: Even though everyone seems to come up with some sort of list this time of year, your question intrigues me, so here it goes. And remember these are my thoughts, and only my thoughts.
I wish that every high school and every college would require all graduates to take a general law course (not just a business law course). It distresses me that the glue which holds our society together is not clearly perceived, let alone understood, by the vast majority of the public.
I would encourage our court system to accelerate its movement away from the traditional advocatory theater to more informal mediation and even arbitration.
If I could become dictator for a day, for interstate litigation, I would put in place water attorneys who truly not only understand Colorado water law, our Constitution, and environment laws, but also the same for our seven water sister states, as well as compacts, federal common law, statutes, treaties, and the Constitution. Many of us are becoming hoarse letting out primordial screams when we see the strategy, arguments, and precedents of yet another losing effort by Colorado against these other states and the federal government.
If cutting taxes to benefit the vast majority of the tax payers and permit them to pass on their assets to the next generation without being eroded in the transfer is the true goal, then politicians need to redirect their time and energy away from eliminating the so-called death taxes and toward minimizing or eliminating the built in tax liability found in deferred retirement plans. Basic inexpensive estate planning can eliminate estate taxes, but nothing effective and long-term can be done with these retirement accounts. A modest start was made a few years ago with the Roth IRA accounts but no one has followed up. Too many people find their retirement funds dramatically reduced as they begin to remove funds.
Lawyers are supposed to be advocates but it would be nice for more of us to make an effort to reach a reasonable compromise instead of taking a basically "non-negotiable" position and then getting on our white charges and galloping into the court with our war lances down to "let the Judge decide."
Reporters covering events with significant legal elements should have some basic understanding, and even perhaps legal experience, before they are permitted to have their work printed or aired. Otherwise we are subjected to what is akin to the old Indian fable about ten blind men who were asked to describe an animal by touching different parts of its body. No one described the elephant correctly.
Finally, I would wish that all of the car bumper stickers would say nice things about lawyers.
Q: A tree limb fell on my car while it was parked on the street. Nobody seems willing to step forward and fix my car. What should I do?
A: Welcome to the Keystone Cop comedy show. There are at least three possible responsible parties – the City of Fort Collins, the adjacent homeowner, and your car insurance (or possibly your own home owner's policy, even though you were not parked in front of your house).
The City will probably say it only has a right of way, and unless it was "negligent," the City is not liable. The home owner's insurance company will say if it happened on the street, then the City is responsible. When I called your insurance agent, she just hemmed and hawed around and then never returned my telephone inquiry.
So in the best American tradition, just sue everyone in small Claims court and let the referee sort it out.