Some Thoughts About Contested Probate Cases

June 13, 2016

Family law was never my thing. Alas, we don’t often know how life will turn out. About 15 years ago my practice focus shifted much more heavily into probate and estate planning. And probate, it turns out, is family law without the divorces, mostly.

Most probate matters—no good stats, but far more than 90% is my best estimate—get processed easily, quickly, and for a few thousand dollars. Then there are the outliers, which almost always have in common: (a) a dysfunctional family; and (b) deceased or demented parents. Sometimes, there’s lots of money or complicated assets, but in plenty of cases an inverse relationship exists between value and the intensity of the battle.

The battle may arise in a conservatorship

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Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Donald J. Trump

June 6, 2016

Donald J. Trump has taken out after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who happens to be the judge in Low, et al. v. Trump University, LLC, et al. and Cohen v. Donald J. Trump. The basic facts, for anyone who hasn’t been following the situation, are laid out well in Why Is Donald Trump So Angry at Judge Gonzalo Curiel?, written for The Atlantic on June 3, 2015 by Matt Ford.

Mr. Trump is a jackass, going after the judge in his case in public while it’s pending. Judge Curiel holds a lifetime appointment. The case is his, unless he recuses or gets disqualified. And about federal judges, there’s an old joke: What’s the difference between G-d

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Abraham Lincoln on Law

May 30, 2016

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War (five years ago), Memorial Day (which tracks back to Decoration Day, dedicated to honoring those who died in the Civil War) and the notion that Donald Trump might be our 45th President of the United States of America, brought to mind Abraham Lincoln. Before he went to work for the federal government in 1861, Mr. Lincoln was a very accomplished attorney. Notes for a Law Lecture, dated July 1, 1850, may or may not have been used in a lecture, but they have survived for more than 165 years.

Age aside, the Notes are worthy of attention for attorneys and non-attorneys, for Mr. Lincoln focuses on four major, timeless themes: 

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Trump and Those Tax Returns

May 14, 2016

Timothy L. O’Brien wrote I Saw Trump’s Tax Returns. You Should, Too for Bloomberg News on May 12. Mr. O’Brien knows something about the Donald and his tax returns. He called Mr. Trump a millionaire in his book, TrumpNation, which prompted Mr. Trump to sue him for libeling him by understating his wealth.* Details are in What Really Gets under Trump’s Skin? A Reporter Questioning His Net Worth, written by Paul Farhi for the Washington Post. (The case was dismissed, but not before Mr. O’Brien got to see returns, subject to a confidentiality order.)

Mr. O’Brien does provide a succession of comments from Mr. Trump about the returns. (Aside: Can anyone truly fathom how irritating another four-plus years

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Thoughts About United States v. Texas

April 18, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument earlier today in United States v. Texas, No. 15-674. Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government to prevent the implementation of deferred-action regarding certain undocumented immigrants.

Lyle Denniston has an excellent overview of the case and the oral argument in Oral Argument: Search for a Fifth Vote on Immigration at SCOTUSblog. And, of course, Nina Totenberg is always worth reading and listening to; her piece, with a byline shared with Eyder Peralta for NPR, is On Obama’s Immigration Actions, Supreme Court Seems Sharply Divided.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The judge who heard the case, Andrew Hanen, was tailor-made

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Dis the Constitution

April 17, 2016

I’m about to dis the U.S. Constitution. It’s a Constitution I swore to support on October 17, 1981 and implicitly, on each and every one of the following 12,602 days. To be clear, given that I live in Arizona, a state which seems hell bent on challenging Kansas for Most Effed Up State trophy, I support the U. S. Constitution so long as it remains in place.

Many years ago I got involved in a case in which my client took over a business in bankruptcy. The operator spent too much time explaining the company’s very advanced totally inadequate accounting system. A few years later a small law firm tried to hire me and, in the process, bragged on its

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No on Proposition 123 … And More

April 11, 2016

Arizona faces a Constitutional amendment—Arizona Education Finance Amendment aka Proposition 123—which addresses school funding next month. And the entire nation finds itself in the midst of what might be called a democratic revolution, as “the people” have decided not to go along/get along, at least in the Republican Party. I have some thoughts.

In the early part of the last century, many states—especially those in the West—adopted direct democracy overlays, on top of the federal and state representative democracy models. In Arizona, our Constitution included initiative, referendum, and recall processes. The initiative process allowed the people to make laws by obtaining lots of petition signatures and placing a proposed law on the ballot. Referenda provide the people—again with petition

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Evenwel v. Abbott – The Decision

April 5, 2016

My primary piece on Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, One-Person/One Vote. Really?, ran on December 7, 2015. (It also discussed Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 14-232, which has not yet been decided.)

Yesterday, in an 8-0 decision, the Court affirmed the decision of a three-judge panel, holding that Texas need not have state legislative redistricting maps based on voters, as opposed to people. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the Court. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in the judgment.

The decision represents good news for Democrats and those who believe many voices should be heard. But it’s not especially bad news for the other side.

For decades, legislative districts have

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Open Primaries

March 22, 2016

For many years—decades, probably—the notion of open primaries has fascinated me. Why, I have wondered, should someone who chooses not to be affiliated with a particular party, or any party, get to choose that party’s candidate for any office?

The Grand Old Party aka the Republican Party raised this issue in Ravalli Republican Central Committee, etc. v. Linda McCullough, Secretary of State of Montana, etc., before the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s about damn time it has happened. Here’s the Emergency Application for Injunction, and here is Lyle Denniston’s analysis, Montana GOP Challenges Cross-Over Voters, at

Frankly, I’m shocked, shocked by the fact that issue has never been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Political parties are

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Judge Merrick Garland

March 16, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016. On March 16, 32 days later, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace him. Judge Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has been a judge on the DC Circuit since 1997.

Judge Garland is a highly distinguished jurist. He enjoys bipartisan support and affection, on his Court and in the United States Senate. In particular, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) like him very much. Here’s what Senator Hatch said on Friday, March 11: “[He] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” He also said, once, that there was no question about Judge Garland being

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