Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Year In Review, 2021.

Books Read (in order read)
1. Live Not By Lies by Rob Dreher (2020)
2. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (2018) by Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin
3. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester (1998) [cd unabridged]
4. Rage by Bob Woodward (2020) [audiobook unabridged]
5. Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet by Lewis B. Puller, Jr. (1991)
6. The Racketeer by John Grisham (2012) 
7. Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Viktor Frankl (2019)
8. The Last Trial by Scott Turow (2020)
9. A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester (2005)
10. Limitations by Scott Turow (2006)
11. Exposure by Robert Bilott with Tom Shroder (2019)
12. Rational Male: Religion by Rollo Tomassi (2020)
13. American Pilgrim by Roosh Valizadeh (2021)
14. Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzler (2016)
15. Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal by Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz (2020)
16. The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success by Ross Douthat (2020) [cd unabridged]
17. At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic by Lawrence Millman (2017)
18. Disloyal by Michael Cohen (2020)
19. Innocent by Scott Turow (2010) [audiobook unabridged]
20. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins (2018)
21. The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow (1990) [cd unabridged]
22. Grant by Ron Chernow (2017)
23. The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray (2014)
24. The Psychopath by Mary Turner Thomson (2021)
25. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Kelly (2016) [cd unabridged]
26. Freedom by Sebastian Junger (2021)
27. Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O'Connor (2018) [audiobook unabridged]
28. Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy by Dan Abrams and David Fisher (2019)
29. Sooley by John Grisham (2021) [cd unabridged]
30. So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport (2012)
31. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (2009) [cd unabridged]
32. There's a Hole in my Bucket: A Journey of Two Brothers by Royd Tolkien (2021)
33. A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport (2021)
34. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder (2015)
35. The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict (2020)
35. Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong by Raymond Bonner (2012)
36. The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene (2011) 37. Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene (2020)
38. The Long Slide by Tucker Carlson (2021) [audiobook unabridged]
39. Mothertrucker by Amy Butcher (2021)
40. The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell (2021)
41. The Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (2018) [audiobook unabridged]
42. The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray (2019)
43. Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer (1954 [English trans.]) [cd unabridged]
44. The Parasitic Mind by Gad Saad (2020)

Book of the Year
Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet by Lewis B. Puller, Jr. (1991)
Honorable Mention: Exposure by Robert Bilott with Tom Shroder (2019)

Film of the Year
Dark Waters (2019). It's inspired by the environmental litigation and other events described in book Exposure by Robert Bilott with Tom Shroder (2019).

Appeal of the Year

"Federal Court Really is Different"

Someone filed a petition claiming that she was the surviving spouse of a decedent, who died in late December, 2019. The petitioner demanded a share of his multimillion dollar estate. In response, the administrator and the law firm presented to the probate court a certified copy of a divorce decree dissolving the decedent and petitioner's marriage--in 1972. The petitioner claimed it was a fraud. The probate judge found that judgment for dissolution of the marriage was controlling and dismissed the purported surviving spouse's petition. Dissatisfied with this ruling, the petitioner sued the administrator and the law firm representing her in federal court asserting federal claims and pendant jurisdiction. I represented the administrator and law firm. I brought a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss based on the grounds of (1) lack of standing; and (2) litigation privilege. In turn, the trial court dismissed the lawsuit against my clients. 

The plaintiff (and petitioner in the underlying probate) appealed. Before any briefs were filed, the Ninth Circuit issued an order indicating that upon its review of the record, it appeared to the reviewing court that the appeal might be frivolous and invited statements from the parties about whether the appeal should proceed. Appellant submitted one exceeding 30 pages, and I wrote our response.

The appellate court ruled: "Upon a review of the record and the responses to the court’s ... order, we conclude this appeal is frivolous...and dismiss this appeal as frivolous."

Federal court really is different.

Trial of the Year

"A Genius for a Client"

Many years ago, a Bay Area couple negotiated their own divorce. In their stipulation for dissolution of the marriage, they provided for monthly spousal support from husband to wife for a fixed period of time. However, they included an unusual provision. It stated that if the husband were to die before the expiration of the required payments, then the support obligation would be his estate's. Judgment was entered on the stipulation. Although husband was in his 40s when the stipulation was entered into, he unfortunately passed away as a relatively young man. He was married to another when this happened. The surviving spouse immediately discontinued the automatic payments to the prior wife, but paid other creditors. We filed a creditor's claim in the husband's probate proceeding, and then a lawsuit on the claim since no payments had been made. The lawsuit went to trial in Northern California and the court ruled that the estate breached the contract and awarded damages--including consequential damages on top of the unpaid support. Then, the court awarded virtually all of the attorneys' fees and other costs my client incurred over several years of the litigation (exceeding six figures) due to a prevailing party attorneys' fees provision in the stipulated judgment.

While I don't practice dissolution law, it seemed to me that the provision for support continuing after the death of one of the marriage partners was unusual. It was the idea of my client, who was representing herself at the time. Genius. Sometimes the adage--one who represents oneself has a fool for a client--doesn't apply.

Losses Sustained
Brian Sterzer

Athletic Achievement of the Year
PR in run distance (multiple runs in double digit miles)
Plus 365/365 workouts (7th year in a row)
Fulfilled annual trek to Sedona