The Legal History of the Lawn

At one point in time, mowing the lawn and maintaining a landscape was a sign of wealth and land ownership.

Now, the lawn is so ingrained in society that not maintaining your lawn could lead to a fine, or even losing your home.

It gets even crazier, but some people claim adverse possession of others’ land, simply by maintaining it.

So what is the legal history of the lawn, and why do we have them?

The History of the Lawn

The theory for the original lawn is believed to stem back to the ancient African Savannah, where the people could see for far distances, with little visual obstruction.

From the grasses of the African Savannah, the earliest written existence of the lawn comes from ancient Japan. Where the text called “Aatu-tei-kaiI” or Sakuteiki” was written. This book covered the first known writing on the practices of sodding.

It wasn’t until the 12th century that we started to see the emergence of the lawn as we know it today. These lawns were maintained by scythe and grazing animals. It is believed that the lawn began as a sign of wealth, as most land surrounding homes was reserved for growing crops and food.

But, there are some legal theories that suggest that lawns were actually a method of owning a landscape through maintenance.

Here’s the deal, to understand the lawn, we have to take a look at the theory of “property rights”.

What are Property Rights?

As you may already know, property rights refer to:

” …any type of right to specific property whether it is personal or real property, tangible or intangible.”

-Blacks Law Dictionary 5th Edition. Page 1096

In the US, this includes the individuals right to private property. Whether that purpose is to hold, rent, or sell that property.

For the most part property rights are pretty straight forward, and most of us have a general understanding of them.

However, by looking at the legal history lawns have played in society, we can begin to develop a deeper grasp of what it truly means to “own” property.

Locke, a philosopher and an original proponent of the scientific method of the 17th century, had a legal theory of his own. His theory reasoned that labor rights (or maintenance) of property could lead to property ownership.

Locke argued in support of individual property rights as natural rights. Following the argument the fruits of one’s labor are one’s own because one worked for it. Furthermore, the laborer must also hold a natural property right in the resource itself because exclusive ownership was immediately necessary for production.

Labor theory of property

How Far Back Does the Labor Theory of Property Go?

It is unlikely that Locke was the first to come up with the labor theory of property.

In fact, it would seem that if you look at the history of property of land ownership, it is a logical assumption that the original land became owned by those that worked the land.

“You own what you can maintain…”

-Unknown Origin

Though the history of property ownership through labor rights is largely undocumented, logically the idea is nothing new. Similar laws are still on the books to this day.

Adverse Possession Through Lawn Care

Though we don’t have a written historical record for land ownership through property maintenance, we do have laws today that stem from an unseen past.

It’s true, property ownership through mowing the lawn. It’s actually a thing!

At least in some states.

Similar to “squatter’s rights”, a person who maintains a lawn through mowing it for an allotted amount of time, can come to own the land!

According to the article by Home Steady, paying property tax may assist you in claiming adverse possession of the land you are maintaining.

Losing Property For Failure to Mow the Lawn

This is crazy, but it goes even deeper.

Cities across America levy fines against homeowners that fail to mow or maintain their lawns.

Some cities, like those in Dunedin, Florida. Have gone as far as to foreclose and auction off properties when their owners refuse to maintain their lawns.

That’s right. Failure to keep your lawn maintained, and refusing to pay the fines may result in your home being auctioned off.

But is this legal recourse just history reminding us of where we came from?

Legal History of Lawn Care– What is the Bottom Line?

The legal history of lawn and property ownership has a surprisingly little documented history. We see through the legal theories of Locke, and even modern statutory laws, that the history of lawn care may have been much more important than we have yet recognized.

I anticipate that one day we will uncover that maintaining lawns and property was indeed one for the original methods of land ‘ownership”. Though I have looked into the topic before it seems that our written history does not recount this theory.

Only time will tell.

  • The Legal History of the Lawn

    September 16, 2019 by

    Lawns are often bashed for being impractical. But is there perhaps a deeper legal history which gave rise to the lawn? Did property maintenance lead to ownership? The truth may surprise you…

  • Farmers Charged with Organic Food Fraud

    August 18, 2019 by

    A U.S. District Court Judge, Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Randy Constant to 10 years in prison for his fraudulent actions. During the years between 2010 and 2017, Constant defrauded 10,000’s of consumers across America. These customers thought they were buying foods such as eggs and steak, they thought were raised using organic food manufacturing methods.

  • Does Equifax Owe You $125 or More?

    August 12, 2019 by

    Looking for more information on the Equifax Data Breach. Check out this article and find out today if you qualify for $125 or more from the Equifax class action lawsuit.

  • What is the oldest law in the world?

    July 7, 2019 by

    What is the oldest law in the world? Well it depends on how you look at it. There is The First Existing Law, The First Written Law, and the First Spoken Law, lets take a look at all three.

  • The Ultimate Guide To Working With a Public Defender

    July 2, 2019 by

    Working with a public defender may not be your first choice, but the good news is there is a lot you can do to make your situation better. In this ultimate guide you will learn all kinds of techniques which will better enable you to work with your public defender.

  • Heart Attacks, and Air Conditioning

    June 29, 2019 by

    It may seem like an odd thought at first, but have you ever considered what the effects of sitting in the AC all day may be on your heart. To be honest, I never really had. In fact, I haven’t used an ac in years, but last night I  put one in my office, which… Read more

  • It’s Science, Not Propaganda.

    June 13, 2019 by

    If the scientific community truly respected the scientific method as much as they claim to, they would respect those who have disbelief in ideas, for which, they posses no first hand experience. It’s very ironic that those who tought science around have no respect for the core principles upon which the scientific community rests. This… Read more

  • The History of the Letter J

    June 9, 2019 by

    The History of the Letter J is quite intriguing indeed. It was first discovered in 1524 when a “Father of the Letter” was looking at the name Iesus, or as its known currently, Jesus.

View all posts

Farmers Charged with Organic Food Fraud

Organic food has been becoming more and more prevalent in grocery stores across America.

Unfortunately it is easy to fake organic foods, and some farmers have done just that.

In fact, 4 farmers have been sentenced in an organic food fraud scheme.

Get this, one was even sentenced to a decade in prison for fraudulently selling organic produce. This is the largest organic food fraud scheme in US history.

So what is the deal? Lets take a look…

Organic Food Fraud Scheme

A U.S. District Court Judge, Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Randy Constant to 10 years in prison for his fraudulent actions.

During the years between 2010 and 2017, Constant defrauded 10,000’s of consumers across America. These customers thought they were buying foods such as eggs and steak, they thought were raised using organic food manufacturing methods.

Instead this livestock was raised by feed falsely labeled as organic by Constant and his conspirators. Unsuspecting farmers were simply buying conventional livestock feed labeled as organic, and at an increased price.

“Thousands upon thousands of consumers paid for products they did not get and paid for products they did not want,”

“This has caused incalculable damage to the confidence the American public has in organic products.”

US District Court Judge Williams

Constant, a 60 year old farmer used his Iowa based grain brokerage to sell products he claimed were organic, at a rate which undercut other companies selling organic products.

On August 16, 2019 Constant was sentenced to 122 months in prison along with 3 co-conspirators. Micheal Potter was ordered to serve 24 months, James Brennan was sentenced to 20 months, and James’s father, Tom Brennan, was sentenced to 3 months behind bars.. Judge Williams said that Tom Brennan’s light sentence was due to his service in Vietnam.

conventional corn and soybeans

What Organic Foods Were Fraudulently Sold?

During the two year investigation, which is still ongoing, uncovered that shocking amounts of corn and soybeans were sold which were falsely labeled as organic.

On the bright side most of these produce were actually sold as cattle and livestock feed. But the numbers are shocking!

What percentage of soybeans and corn were falsely labeled as organic?

During the year 2016 it is suspected that:

  • 7% of Organic Corn
  • 8% of Organic Soybeans

Were fraudulently sold by constant and his conspirators.

How Much did the Organic Food Fraud Cost Consumers?

Assistant Attorney Jacob Schunk estimates between $250 million and $1 billion dollars were spent on these fraudulent grains. To defraud consumers and the USDA Constant mixed small amounts of organic grain in with his grain which was conventionally grown, and not actually organic.

Whats the Bottom Line?

With Roundup exposure lawsuits numbering in the 1000’s , people are perhaps more vigilant than ever when it comes to awareness of pesticide exposure. This case isn’t even over. A 5th co-conspirator has pleaded guilty and is still awaiting sentencing.

With this Organic food fraud case undermining the public’s trust in food manufactures. Will we see an increase in public demand to increase food safety, and oversight? Only time will tell...

Looking for more to read?

Does Equifax Owe You $125 or More?

Look, we all love free money, but…

If you qualify for compensation from the Equifax class-action lawsuit,

The cost you may be facing could be that the Equifax data breach let your personal data get leaked to malicious parties.

This may come as a surprise, but information of over 143 million Americans was leaked through the Equifax Data Breach.

Get this, if you are one of those 143 million Americans, Equifax may owe you $125 or possible more, much more.

How do you find out? Lets take a look…

Do you Qualify for Money from the Class-action Lawsuit?

Here’s the deal, I know why you are here. You want to know if you qualify for free money.

I’ll cut to the chase, if you want to see if you qualify for financial compensation from the Equifax Class-action lawsuit you can go to the Equifax Data Breach Settlement linked above to see if you qualify.

By going to the link above you can see if your information was breached in the hack, and you can even file your Equifax data breach claim.

Was Your Identity Compromised By the Equifax Data Breach?

If your information was compromised, Equifax may be liable to pay you $125, and it only takes a few minutes to see if you quality for the Equifax class action and file your claim.

I first found out about this class action from Wired magazines article.

But the $125 is only the start. If your identity was stolen, or other issues occurred with your credit. You can claim the time it takes to repair your credit. Although you may want to hire a lawyer or accountant to help you work out the costs. But you may even qualify for much more than $125.

Possibly 10’s of 1000’s of dollars. This is all dependent on the amount of time it has taken you to repair your credit, and of course if your identity or credit issues are a result of the Equifax Data Breach.

If you feel like your information may have been compromised, you may be compensated for the time and it may be worth your time to consult with a lawyer or accountant on the matter.

Free Credit Monitoring Data Breach Compensation

If you qualify for compensation from Equifax data breach, you may opt out of financial compensation and instead opt for 10 years of credit monitoring from Equifax.

If your credit is something you are worried about, you may opt for the credit monitoring option over financial compensation. This may be a good idea, as your identity was possibly compromised by the data breach.

The Bottom Line on Equifax Data Breach Compensation

In 2017 it was uncovered that the financial information of 147 million Americans was compromised. If your information was leaked you may qualify for compensation. You may qualify for much more from the data breach via the class action lawsuit brought against Equifax if your information leak resulted in identity theft or similar issues.

To see if your information was compromised you can check here. If you have any questions you may want to consult your attorney or accountant.

Interested in more reading?

Looking for an attorney for your legal troubles?

Lawyers in Hampton Virginia

Lawyers in Virginia Beach, VA

Attorneys in Durham, NC

Attorneys in Elizabeth City, NC

Do I Have to Answer The Front Door if a Police Officer Knocks?

So, you hear someone knocking on the front door.

You peer out the window, and…. It’s the Police.

Here’s the deal, they have some questions for you.

But, you only have one question…

Is it illegal to not answer your front door if a police officer knocks?

Let’s find out!

Do I have To Answer the Door When Police Officers Knock?

Look: sooner or latter almost all of us will hear a knock at the door from a police officer. Maybe its a complaint from a neighbor, a neighborhood safety check, or just a curious officer.

Whatever the reason that there is an officer at your front door, the simple answer is no. No you do not have to answer the door.

In fact, unless the officer has a warrant, or a very good reason to suspect there is a crime taking place, there is no reason for police officers to enter your home either.

And you are certainly allowed to ignore a police officers presence at your door. But…..

Should You Answer the Door for Police Officers?

Whether you answer the door for a police officer or not is entirely up to you. As far as the law is concerned, it is not illegal for you to ignore police knocking at your door.

But, there may be circumstances when it is simply a better option to answer the door and see what the officer is knocking for. There. may be some circumstances in which talking to a police officer can stop things from escalating even further.

As Jeff Lewis Graduate ar Florida Coastal School of Law explains on Quora:

No, unless they have a warrant to search the premise, are there to serve a warrant on a resident of the home, or have extingent circumstances to enter (I.e. they were in “hot pursuit” of a suspect they visually saw enter your home), you are not legally required to open the door. The vast majority of police contact when they're knocking on your door usually has to do with them combing an area to search for witnesses to a crime that has been commuted, not because anyone in the house has done anything wrong. But something important to keep in mind. One reason a police officer does knock on a person’s door is the part of the job every police officer hates the most, doing a serious injury or death notification of a person living at the home or close relative of someone living at the home. So just because you may not legally be required to open the door for them, having the courtesy to do so may in some cases be far more advantageous to you than it is to them. Just something to consider.

Also, bear in mind, that it is not unreasonable to assume that the person at your door, may just be dressed as a police officer. Anyone can get their hands on a police uniform and pretend to be an officer on duty.

In the end, it really depends on your individual circumstances. You have to decide what is right for you. But, if you do answer the door, you should also know you don’t have to, nor should you let the police in your home!

Your Home is Protected from Searches from Police

It’s true, the Supreme Court of the US has ruled time and time again that your home should be protected from searches and the government to the fullest extent. And, it’s no secret that the 4th amendment protects us from unwarranted searches and seizures.

John Lee of University of Southern California had this to say on Quora:

The US Supreme Court has observed and ruled that a man’s house however humble is his castle. Therefore, no warrant no entry absent an bonafide emergency, I.e., raging fire, screams of an assault victim. In some jurisdictions the warrant is restricted itself by the hours that it may be served, traditionally, between sunrise and sunset. Night time warrant executions are the exception and must appear on the face of the warrant. The warrant must be shown to the persons subject to the warrant. If you're not home it must still be shown to whomever is occupying the premises and a copy is to be left behind if no one answers.

However, opening the door and letting the police in your home can open you up to an unwanted and even unwarranted search of your home.

There are also a few other specific reasons police may be allowed to search your home.

5 specific circumstances when police are aloud to search your home:

  1. When You Consent to a Search– If you or a roommate do open the door for an officer, and let them inside. It is quite easy for them to have you “consent” to a search. Remember implied consent is still consent
  2. Warrant– This is the most commonly known method a police officer can use to enter your home.
  3. Something is In Plain View- If the officer sees illegal activities, or items from where he stands he may “invite” himself inside.
  4. After an Arrest– Immediately after an arrest, police officers can search for evidence or accomplices. If you are arrested at home, officers can search your home.
  5. During an Emergency– Police officers in pursuit of a suspect, or if there is an emergency. Officers can search your home as part of their investigation.

Answering the Door for a Police Officer

In conclusion, you are absolutely within your rights to ignore an officer knocking on the door. Whether you do answer or not is up to you. But if you do open the door, remember that you do not have to let them inside, and you likley shouldn’t.

Whether the police are just doing a routine neighborhood safety inspection, showing up on a noise complaint, or investigating a crime, remember that you have rights. Most specifically you have a right not to answer the door when police come knocking.

Though it is not something we often think about, it is important to research police interactions ahead of time.

Knowing how to act around and with police officers can save you a world of legal hassle, and may even save you your life. There is no simple answer when it comes to police interactions. In the end it is up to you to study so you can make an informed decision.

If you are in legal trouble you can:

And, whether you are looking for criminal defense attorneys in Virginia Beach, VA, or a lawyer in Greenville, NC. if you are looking for criminal defense attorneys near you, you can find one at

Interested in more reading?

What is the oldest law in the world?

Here’s the deal, there are several laws which might be considered as the worlds oldest.

Some of the oldest laws existed before writing did. As such oldest written law in the world is a different law than the oldest law that ever existed.

Then of course, there are the first spoken laws.

Look, for the sake of being thorough, we are going to take a look at all 3.

The First Existing Law, The First Written Law, and The First Spoken Law.

1. The First Existing Laws: Natural Law

Natural laws are those unchanging observable principles of life itself.

Natural laws have been in existence since the beginning of life itself, albeit in an unwritten form. Surly these laws predate all forms of written law.

According to The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The term “natural law” is ambiguous. It refers to a type of moral theory, as well as to a type of legal theory, but the core claims of the two kinds of theory are logically independent. –Source

An even more thorough Definition of Natural Law can be found at All About Philosophy

Natural Law is a moral theory of jurisprudence, which maintains that law should be based on morality and ethics. Natural Law holds that the law is based on what’s “correct.” Natural Law is “discovered” by humans through the use of reason and choosing between good and evil. Therefore, Natural Law finds its power in discovering certain universal standards in morality and ethics. – Source

Though natural laws exist, they have to be discovered or observed to be known. Though natural laws are discovered through theory and observation, they are different from the “Laws of Nature”. Laws of Nature, such as gravity, etc. are based on purely scientific theory and principles, rather than morals and ethics.

John Sproule provides us this insight into natural law from his Quora response to the question: “What is the oldest law in the world?”

As funny as John’s description of the oldest law is, it provides an excellent example of natural law.

Here are a few more examples of natural laws:

  • Killing Without Reason is Wrong
  • The Right to Be Heard in Court
  • The Right to Private Property

These laws may seem like common sense, and in many ways natural laws are a sort of common sense. Depending on what you mean by the oldest law, natural laws are the oldest laws, though these laws existed before witting and were not man made.

2. The Oldest Written Law: The Ur-Nammu Codes

Now, what is the oldest written law. What is the first set of laws made and written by man?

Now, when most people talk about the first set of laws, they often point to the Hammurabi Babylon Codes, as this is what most of us were taught in school.

This is crazy, but the lesser known Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100–2050 BCE) predate Hammurabi’s Code (1754 BCE). From Mesopotamia, Ur-Nammu’s codes were written in Sumerian and are the oldest known written laws .

This code of laws was very similar to Hammurabi’s and be warned, they were brutal. Here are a few of them:

  1. If a man commits a murder, that man must be killed.
  2. If a man commits a robbery, he will be killed.
  3. If a man commits a kidnapping, he is to be imprisoned and pay 15 shekels of silver.
  4. If a slave marries a slave, and that slave is set free, he does not leave the household.
  5. If a slave marries a native (i.e. free) person, he/she is to hand the firstborn son over to his owner.
  6. If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.
  7. If the wife of a man followed after another man and he slept with her, they shall slay that woman, but that male shall be set free.

There are 32 codes in total of the Code of Ur-Nammu.

3. The First Spoken Word: God’s Law to Adam

Arguably the first spoken law, was the law God spok to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. A simple law given in Genesis 2:16 16-17 that most of us are familiar with:

16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

And as we all know that law was quickly broken. Of course there are many more laws in the Bible as well which may be among the oldest. But the oldest of the old is certainly the law in Genesis.

So what is the Oldest Law in the World?

As you can see from the above information, it really depends on what you mean by law. Natural laws have existed ever since life began, yet it took much longer to find their way to the minds of men, and then to paper.

The most obvious answer for the worlds oldest law is the Ur-Nammu Codes, which although very similar to the Hammurabi Codes by hundreds of years.

Finally, the first law in the world may also be the law spoken to Adam and Eve to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

Depending on how you slice it, the oldest law in the world must be left somewhat up to the observer.

Did we miss one? Let us know below!

Interested in Reading More?

The Ultimate Guide To Working With a Public Defender

Look: Working with a Public Defender may not be your first pick.

But, if you can’t afford a lawyer, what else can you do?

But, before you work with a Public Defender, there are a few things you should know.

Here’s the deal, from the first interactions with police officers, to the final court date.

This is your go to guide for working with a Public Defender.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Untitled(1)

The Public Defender

You have probably heard rumors about how terrible Public Defenders are. You have likley even heard these lawyers referred to as “public pretenders”. Unfortunately, seeing the Public Defender in this light may only end up harming you.

Public defenders are dedicated lawyers

Truly, many Public Defenders have made the active choice of being a Public Defender in order to serve those in need. They even take a pay cut for defending the public as well. With Public Defenders making $1000’s less a year than privately hired attorneys.

table of attorneys pay public defenders vs. private attornies

Even worse, this means they often have very little time to work on your case due to their heavy case load. It’s also true,  Public Defenders or attorneys hired to defend those accused of crimes are often personally close to the prosecutor, and judge. This may seem like a conflict of interest, but things don’t have to be as bad as they seem.

A public defenders job is tough

It’s no secret that attorneys are often loaded down with case work, and often don’t have the time to handle each individual case with the time it needs.

Many private lawyers have worked in public defense offices or directly as Public Defenders. Nearly any attorney will tell you that public defense work is no easy job.

WORST OF ALL, Public Defenders are often not trusted by their clients.

Public defenders are burdened with case work

In the Words of Matthew S. Boomershine, a criminal defense attorney with Bogin, Munns, and Munns, who served as a Public Defender had this to say:

“Many who deal with them incorrectly assume that Public Defenders are some kind of second tier attorney bought and paid for by the State with no regard for their clients’ cases.  This is simply not true, and if you think this way then you’re likely to be working AGAINST your Public Defender, instead of WITH them.  Working against your Public Defender will almost assuredly hurt your case.” –Matthew S. Boomershine

The Best Practices for Working with a Public Defender

Look: in order to write this article, I reached out to several lawyers and attorneys with experience as Public Defenders. And I got some amazing responses. There were a number of issues each one of them hit on.

Throughout this ultimate guide on working with Public Defenders I will be sharing some of the great statements I received from lawyers, combined with some of the best information currently available.

defendants can help their public defenders

There are a lot of downsides to working with a Public Defender, but the good news is that most of the downsides to working with a Public Defender can be made better by you!

And this guide aims to show you how to work with a Public Defender in an effective manner.

Step 1- When Interacting with Officers:

Keep Quiet!

Look, its easy to get heated when the cops get involved with something. But from the beginning of any interaction with a law enforcement officer, to being arrested and booked.

It is important not to discuss the case with anyone, except for your attorney. This can be hard when you want to get your emotions off your chest, but it is very important!

Defendants statements used against them

This sentiment was was expressed by several of the attorneys I spoke with. One, Falen O. Cox, of Cox, Rodman & Middleton had this to say:

‘“Do not give statements to police; do not allow your children to give statements to police; do not consent to searches of anything, but do not resist arrest or obstruct an officer executing a search warrant.”

“This seems like a no-brainer, but in many cases the defendant’s own statement to police is the strongest evidence against him/her.

“(A person) is obligated to give “booking information” e.g. name, address, date of birth, etc. there is no obligation that anyone, under any circumstances, give a statement about whatever it is that the police are investigating.” – Falen O. Cox

Don’t Consent to Searches and Seizures

You see it is not only important to keep quiet, but you should also not consent to unwarranted searches and seizures.  This can be challenging when faced with heavily armed officers, but you do have a right to not consent to searches which are not warranted.

Do not consent to searches of anything

In some cases consenting to a search can be as simple as allowing the officer in your home. Refusing search and seizures takes tact. It is important to NEVER loss your temper, be patient, all the while firmly stating your refusal to consent to a search.  This takes being informed about what police may and may not do and learning how to interact effectively with police.

This video does a very thorough job of explaining the topic of your rights during police interactions:

Step 2: When Being Booked

When you arrive at the police department, Step 1 is still important. In Best Practices for Working With A Public Defender Attorney Falen O. Cox really goes into detail about what to do before and while being booked or detained.

First, invoking your 5th amendment right  and 6th amendment right to counsel should be done from the beginning of the booking process. This means you will not discuss the case without an attorney present. However you are still required to provide booking information.

Once you invoke rights no longer communicate with police

Attorney Cox says that:

“This (invoking the 6th amendment) is stronger than the Defendant’s own 5th Amendment right to silence.”

Once either or both rights are invoked defendants should no longer communicate with police, except for booking information.

“A defendant who has invoked the 5th or 6th amendment who later initiates conversation with law enforcement has waived that prior invocation (e.g. defendant says he wants a lawyer, the police leave the room then return to tell him he’s being arrested, and then the defendant says something to the effect of “I didn’t even do this, why are you all arresting me, I wasn’t there, let me tell you what happened…).” – Falen O. Cox

  Although a public defender is assigned to help a defendant in a criminal case, the defendant can also take actions to help their lawyer.(7)

Now its time to wait for your attorney, and if you are reading this, you are likley looking at working with a Public Defender. Once your right to counsel has been invoked, do not discuss the case with anyone but your attorney.

Invoke the 5th or 6th ammendment rights

Step 3: Working with Your Public Defender

Now that you are finally working with your Public Defender, here is what you need to know!

Public Defenders have really gotten a bad rap, but just like a private attorney, Public Defenders are legally required to serve your best interests. They are  required to keep the details of your case private.

Additionally, most Public Defenders genuinely care about defending the public, but they often receive little or no cooperation from their clients. This is a huge hitch when it comes to their ability to defend you.

Cooperate with your Public Defender and trust them.

Trust Your Public Defender

Copy of _Cooperate with your Public Defender and trust them._(11)

According to a few attorneys I spoke with, trust is a must when it comes to working with your Public Defender. The lack of trust currently present between Public Defenders and their defendants is a huge, crippling hurdle, many Public Defenders face with their clients.

Matthew S. Boomershine, the criminal defense attorney with Bogin, Munns, and Munns, had this advice on trusting your public defender, and taking their advice:

“Cooperate with your Public Defender and trust them. If your Public Defender asks you to sign a document or handle something a particular way, LISTEN TO THEM and COOPERATE.  They are there to help you, and often times they are your last line of defense against prosecutors, Judges, and a justice system in general that won’t lose any sleep over locking you up.”

Individuals end up derailing their own cases by thinking that they know better than their Public Defender. Deviating from your lawyer’s advice is almost NEVER a good idea. Trust that they will help you, and follow their instructions.  Don’t trust a guy-who-knows-a-guy that got a better deal or who got off of his charges over your own lawyers advice.”

“These types of stories are almost never accurate, and you’re better off trusting a trained lawyer who knows your case, knows the prosecutor, knows the law, and knows the Judge, than some guy-who-knows-a-guy.  Your case, and your life, will be better for it.” – Matthew S. Boomershine

It’s true, trusting your Public Defender is a crucial element in helping your attorney defend you.

Show up to court hearings on time

Cooperate with Your Public Defender and the Courts

The lawyers that I spoke with really honed in on the importance of cooperating with your lawyer. Though trusting your attorney is a crucial first step, cooperation is just as key.

All of the attorneys mentioned different methods for cooperation.

However, Samuel J. Randall IV, a criminal defense attorney at Randall & Stump PLLC  in Charlotte, NC, really kept it simple by making these four points

1. Arrive early

“Whether it’s for a meeting or hearing, the defendant should always arrive early. This gives you time to review your case and details with the public defender. The attorney will likely have a few minutes before your hearing to consult, so show up 20-30 minutes early.” –Samuel J. Randall IV

2. Read court mail

“Your public defender will not likely have time to remind you of every hearing and deadline. You should read all mail you get from the court or your attorney and make sure you discuss anything in advance.” –Samuel J. Randall IV

Bring records, letters and information to your attornies attention.

3. Follow up

“If you call or email your attorney, give them a few days and then follow up. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall between the cracks of a public defender’s schedule. Let them know you have questions that need to be answered.” –Samuel J. Randall IV

4. Collect information

Your case may be complex, and the public defender has little time for an investigation. They will likely do their best, but you can help by bringing any information that you feel is relevant as well. If you have recordings, pictures, letters, or other information, bring it to the attention of your attorney.” –Samuel J. Randall IV

Those are certainly 4 great ways in which you can cooperate with your Public Defender.  When you arrive early you have time to talk with your Public Defender and establish a plan of action.

Reading court mail (as stressful as it may be), helps you cooperate by showing up on the right days. Locke’s point about following up is important as well.

Ryan C. Locke, Esq. of  Locke Law Firm, LLC a Criminal Defense & Personal Injury attorney, spent 3 years as a Public Defender.

“A public defender’s job is tough because they have too many cases and not enough time. Anything that helps the public defender have the information she needs will help her prepare the best case.” –Ryan C. Locke

I know, I know, its been said a million times in this article, but the more time you can save your public attorney, the more time he can spend defending you!

Attorney Randall also tells us:

“Send the public defender information to use in a bond argument, or potential witnesses, or the existence of helpful evidence, or a list of witnesses to present at sentencing and what each one can talk about.” –Samuel J. Randall IV

Communicating with Your Public Defender

Lawyers communicatin with clients

Another point that a few attorneys touched on was that Public Defenders not only have to keep up with their clients themselves, but they also have to help defendants stay in touch with the outside world if their client is in jail.

As you can imagine, a Public Defender with 10 clients in jail would have A LOT of family members and friends to keep up to date. This isn’t exclusive to Public Defenders. the main complaint about attorneys is that they are bad at communicating.

Ryan C. Locke of Locke Law Firm explains:

“…find out how your public defender prefers to communicate and then do that. The biggest complaint about lawyers in general is that they’re bad at communicating with their clients. For public defender it’s especially difficult because of the number of clients they represent and because they’re usually in court for most of the day.”

When I was a public defender, I used to call my clients back on Saturday mornings because I didn’t have time during the day to take anything but urgent calls. Other public defenders prefer to email or text. Find out what works best with your public defender and then do that.” -Ryan C. Locke

Nominate one person to communicate with public defender

It gets better. There are some other methods which can help you save your Public Defender time on their case. Falen O. Cox, of Cox, Rodman & Middleton had this piece of advice on saving your Public Defenders time.

“Nominate 1 person in your family to communicate with the public defender. Everyone knows that public defenders, and all other lawyers, have multiple clients. While most do not mind updating family members about the status of your case, relaying the same information to multiple people is time consuming and can lead to confusion.”

Communication between a lawyer and their client is a cornerstone

Now, I know that we have covered a lot so far, and you are working your way though this article quickly. But this is THE ultimate guide for working with your Public Defender, so we must leave no stone unturned.

Matthew S. Boomershine, with Bogin, Munns, and Munns had a few important points to make about how to handle communication issues with your Public Defender.

“Stay in constant communication with your Public Defender and their office.  One of the biggest problems Public Defenders face is a lack of communication with their clients.  …  Communication between a lawyer and their client is a cornerstone of competent legal representation, and it is virtually impossible for any attorney to provide effective representation without regular communication.”

Be sure your Public Defender knows how to get a hold of you. Call their office early on in your case, and be sure they have the correct address, phone number, and email address for you in their file.”

“Call the office regularly to inquire about the status of the case.  If you’re having difficulty reaching the attorney assigned to your case or getting any helpful information about the case, ask to schedule a meeting at their office, in person, to discuss your case.”

If that’s not possible, ask for a scheduled telephone call with the attorney.” -Matthew S. Boomershine, Bogin, Munns, and Munns

Most Courtrooms record any conversations

Boomershine made a lot of good points about communicating with your Public  Defender, and how to address possible issues in communication which may occur. He also stresses the importance of communicating your case before arriving at court. Saying this:

“If you have a meeting or a scheduled call with your Public Defender – make sure you are there as scheduled and on time for the appointment. Don’t wait until your Court date to speak with your Public Defender or meet with them.”

“Often, these scheduled Court dates will involve hundreds of cases scheduled to be heard at the same time, and Public Defenders will not have extra time to sit down with you in Court and discuss your case.”

“Even if they could make time, talking about your case with your lawyer in a public courtroom, in front of your Judge and the assigned prosecutor, is never a good idea. Most courtrooms are recorded, and anything you say in there could potentially be used against you later by the State.” -Matthew S. Boomershine, Bogin, Munns, and Munns

The client is the expert on the facts and the lawyer is the expert on the law

Collaborating with Your Public Defender

Many individuals may want to help their Public Defender. And in fact it may be a good idea to do so, due to the limited amount of time which Public Defenders can spend on your case. Learning the law may be helpful, but it may also put you in the way of your attorneys work.

Falen O. Cox had some great points to make on this subject saying:

“The client is the expert on the facts and the lawyer is the expert on the law.”

“While most good public defenders will welcome collaboration with the client about his or her case, a better use of the client’s time is making sure that the lawyer knows all relevant facts, letting the lawyer know who might speak for him or her, and helping the lawyer to tell his or her story.” –Falen O. Cox

Get copires of court records from your public defender

That being said, the most important thing you can do to help your Public Defender is to help him gather as much facts and evidence as possible. This starts with being honest, and trusting that your attorney must keep your conversations confidential.

Matthew S. Boomershine, with Bogin, Munns, and Munns made these points about helping your Public Defender build your case.

“Be involved in your case. Ask your Public Defender for copies of all discovery materials received in your case.  When you receive these – read them. Take notes on them. Go through everything. Look for anything that you think may be incorrect or incomplete about your story.”

“Write it all down, and send it to your Public Defender for them to review. Some of what you notice may not be significant for your case, but some of it may be. Ask for a meeting with your Public Defender BEFORE your scheduled Court dates to discuss your notes on the discovery materials.”

“Also, Keep your own folder and file of all documents related to your case so that you can stay organized and keep track of everything for yourself.” –Matthew S. Boomershine

Bring Witnesses to public defender meetings

In between now and your case you need to collect as much information as you can. The more information you can provide your Public Defender, the better he or she can defend you. Boomershine goes into detail about the information you can prepare to make the most of meetings with your lawyer.

“Make the most of your time with the Public Defender.  Understand that even the best of Public Defenders will have limited time to give each of their clients.  Make the most of it. When you know you’ll be speaking with your Public Defender or meeting with them in person, come prepared.  Bring with you any and all documents relevant to your case.”

“If you have evidence in your possession that you think will help your case (such as text messages, photographs, emails, etc.), print out copies of those items for your Public Defender to keep and bring them with you. Be prepared with the full legal names and contact information (address, phone, email) of any and all witnesses you feel are necessary for them to speak with about your case.”

“If possible, bring those witnesses with you to your scheduled meeting so the Public Defender can meet them and speak with them.  When you meet with your Public Defender or speak with them about your case, take detailed notes and keep those notes in your own file or folder for later reference.” –Matthew S. Boomershine

Know when you are required to be in court

Keeping Your Court Dates and Progress

Look, there are still a few more things you need to keep in mind when working with your Public Defender. I know that it is a lot of work, but your freedom and livelihood may be on the line. So I want to add a few more points about following the progress of your case.

It is your responsibility to show up to court dates and meetings on time. No Public Defender has the time to consistently keep track or you and remind you of your cases. Again, the more time you can save your Public Defender the better they can serve you.

Matthew Boomershine had these final remarks to make:

“Know your own Court dates, and be present and on time for each and every one when required.  Don’t rely on the Public Defender to handle your Court dates for you.  Stay on top of your case’s progress, and know when you are required to be in Court.

“If you don’t know, call the Clerk of Court in the County where your case is being handled – they can advise of your scheduled Court dates right over the telephone.  When you speak with the Clerk, be sure to ask them to update your current address in their system – this way the Clerk will be able to mail your Court notices to the right address to ensure you’re getting them as the case progresses.”

Also, many jurisdictions now allow the public to track criminal cases online – ask your Clerk if they offer an online system to track the progress of your case. If they do, locate that online system and learn to use it – there you will be able to find information about documents filed in your case and also be able to keep track of all scheduled Court dates.”

Most of these online systems are free and do not require any kind of registration or account setup. Many local public libraries now offer internet service for free – if you don’t have access to the internet, find a local library to visit regularly and keep track of your case.” –Matthew S. Boomershine

What’s the Bottom Line?

As you can see there truly is A LOT you can do to make the most out of working with a Public Defender. A lot of this is on you. It’s a lot of work to be sure, but rest assured that Public Defenders are professional attorneys. They are sworn by law to defend you.

Hopefully you find what you need in this guide, but be sure to continue your research. Falen O. Cox had a lot more to say on the issue, and you can find her full interview at Best Practices for Working With A Public Defender, an Attorneys.

Thank you to the excellent attorneys who took time out of their busy schedules and share their experiences and knowledge with the public.

If you learned something be sure to comment and share. With your support we can bridge the disconnection between the public and Public Defenders.

Again thank you to the attorneys that helped with this article more information on them here:

Matthew S. Boomershine, the criminal defense attorney with Bogin, Munns, and Munns, in Orlando Florida.

Samuel J. Randall IV, a criminal defense attorney at Randall & Stump PLLC  in Charlotte, NC.

Ryan C. Locke, Esq. of  Locke Law Firm, LLC a Criminal Defense & Personal Injury attorney. Atlanta, Georgia

Falen O. Cox, Esq. of Cox, Rodman & Middleton Personalized Legal Services of Savannah, GA

Heart Attacks, and Air Conditioning

It may seem like an odd thought at first, but have you ever considered what the effects of sitting in the AC all day may be on your heart.

To be honest, I never really had. In fact, I haven’t used an ac in years, but last night I  put one in my office, which is upstairs.

In fact, its the hottest room in the house, and it can be difficult to get work done in a blazing hot office. After sitting in the AC all day for the first time in years, I noticed that I felt a little groggy in the afternoon.

Much more than usual. I assume my blood pressure was high, but I didn’t measure it. Yet, I hadn’t changed anything in my routine. Except sat in the AC all day.

After realizing this I looked into the science. And there is actually a bit of science which shows that colder temperatures, and possibly even air conditioning are likley responsible for higher blood pressure, and even heart attacks.

Study 1: Air temperature is external trigger for heart attack

According to one study which took place over 16 years and evaluated over 280,000 patients. The study found that:

“The average number of heart attacks per day was significantly higher during seasons with colder outdoor temperatures as compared to warmer.” –Source

This wasn’t the only study which found a similar comparison.

Study 2: Temperature Drops Put the Squeeze on Heart Attack Risk

A second study published in the British Medical Journal found that:

“Researchers behind the new work assessed four years of hospital admissions from 15 sites across the U.K. and found that a drop in the mean daily temperature of as little as 1 degree Celsius increased the number of heart attacks for the proceeding four weeks.” – Source

Its not that surprising that this would be the case. Colder weather constricts blood vessels, and raises blood pressure. Additionally, cooler temperatures make the heart work harder to keep the body up to temperature.

So what about air conditioned atmospheres? Common sense says of course it would have the same effect indoors as it does out doors, but what do the studies say?

Study 3: Air-conditioning and health:

Effect on pulse and blood pressure of young healthy Nigerians.

The idea of  the effects of air conditioning on blood pressure are nothing new. A study from 1990 showed that there was a correlation between a higher blood pressure when the AC was on vs. when the people in the study where in a room with no AC. Though the study says they felt these differences were not of clinical significance. Here were the results:

“The mean systolic blood pressure (SBP) was 115.3 +/- 11.5 mmHg under air-conditioner (AC) and 108.5 +/- 10.1 mmHg without air-conditioning.” –Source

What’s the Bottom Line?

There are not currently a lot of studies on air-conditioning direct effects on heart health. On the other hand there are several studies which show that colder outdoor weather raises heart attack risk, as compared to warmer months.

Of course, overexertion, and overheating can have problems of its own too. But, there appears to be less risk of heart disease in warmer weather than cooler. Likely in large part due to constricted blood vessels.

It’s true that it is important to cool down at parts of the day in warmer months, but too much cooling may just be worse for your bodily well being than is commonly thought.

Putting the Law Back in the Hands of the People