On the passing of Chief Justice Thomas Moyer

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer; 1939-2010

I had the privilege and honor of meeting the Chief on several occasions over the last fifteen years.  We were not close personal friends, but we knew each other and a mutual respect was in place.  Mine for him much, much greater in scope.  When I was sworn in as an attorney in 2002, I had the fortune to shake hands with the Chief (the new lawyers would only personally greet 1 of 3 Justices participating in the ceremony).  He pulled me close and whispered into my ear “Glad to see you made it, Jerry.”  Believe me, I was too.

The last time I saw the Chief was in the Charlotte, NC airport about two years ago.  We were both waiting for a connection back home to Columbus.  We chatted about his trip and mine, swapping stories and the casual smalltalk of the importance of family and hard work.  Had I known that I wasn’t going to see him again, I would have had a lot more to say and even more to ask.  I always presumed I would get to argue a case before him one day.  Now, when I enter the Supreme Court to argue, I will feel like there is one chair missing.

From day one of law school and now here, 11 years later, I always felt secure knowing Tom Moyer was at the helm of Ohio’s courts.  It always seemed that the Ohio community just felt good about the law, just felt good about its administration, and felt secure in knowing that the Rule of Law would prevail in Ohio with Chief Justice Moyer as Captain.

He had a grand presence about him without ego.   He was academic, certain, and steadfast in his logic.  He cared very deeply for the State of Ohio and it cared for him as well.  He has left the Court much better than he found it and my deepest concern is whether his successor will do the same.

I will miss Tom Moyer and whether consciously or not, so will the State of Ohio.

Public Records Press: Should I worry about complying with public records law when I use my private email for work?

Every month, my firm sends out the Public Records Press to its clients.  With the Press, we hope to assist our clients with educating their staff about the importance of public records compliance. We hope that our clients will post the Press in a prominent place or distribute it to all employees for maximum benefit.  The March edition is reprinted below answering the question in the subject line.

Private emails may not be so private after all.

The Ohio Supreme Court has already answered “yes” to this question. State ex rel. Glasgow v. Jones, 119 Ohio St.3d 391. In addition to seeking emails on some specific topics, the requester sought “all emails, including, but not limited to, any and all emails on private email systems.”

The Court held that public work done on a personal email account creates public records.  This means that someone may receive access to your personal email account because you advanced your public business with your private email account.  While truly personal emails are not public records, you and potentially others may need to sift through your personal email account to determine what records must be provided to the public. Continue reading

Small Claims Court. So, do I need a lawyer to sue this guy?

The muscles cringe, the strain sets in, and the resentment, scorn, and frustration boil over whenever someone hears this answer from a lawyer to what seems like a simple question:  “Maybe.”

You can go it alone, or bring a lawyer.

But, believe me, the lawyer is not trying to get you to pull your hair out.  The quick answer is “yes,” anyone can represent themselves in Small Claims Court.  However, going it alone might be the worst decision depending on the circumstances you are facing.   For instance, who is going to be on the other side of the battle?  If you sue a person or company that shows up with a lawyer, then you’re likely outmatched.  It may have nothing to do with the merits of your case.  The truth will prevail, but you have to play by a set of rules in order to properly present that proof to the judge.  This is where the professional guidance of an attorney can make all the difference.  The biggest part is just being ready.

Small Claims cases involve matters where $3,000 or less is in dispute and are filed in the Small Claims Division of the Franklin County Municipal Court if you live in my neck of the woods.  If you want to pick a bigger fight, you can claim up to $15,000 in the General Division of the Municipal Court.  Anything higher than that, and it’s Common Pleas Court time, my friend.  We’ll look to a practical example to illustrate the small claims process: Continue reading

Legal Funnies: Juror No. 5

Every now and then, my friends and colleagues share real life legal tales that not only make you laugh, but they provide a different lens for looking at the legal profession, how we handle cases, how we interact with the public, and how the public feels about lawyers.  In this first edition of The Funnies, we have the tale of Juror No. 5.  This was a hand-written letter that a juror in a trial supposedly sent to the judge seeking relief.  It reads:

Your Honor,

These lawyers and this case are literally boring me to death!

I am tired of spending day after day wasting my time listening to this bullcrap.  This is cruel and unusual punishment.  The Plaintiff is an idiot.  He has no case.  Why are we here?  I think my cat could better answer these questions…and he wouldn’t keep asking to see a document.  I’ve been patient.  I’ve sat in these chairs for 7 days going now.  If I believed for a second this going to end on Thursday I might not go crazy.

This is going to last for another 4 weeks.  I cannot take this.  I hate these lawyers and prayed one would die so the case would end.  I shouldn’t be on this jury.  I want to die.  I don’t want to be thanked for my patience.  I want to die!!  Well not die for real but that is how I feel sitting here.    I am the Judge, you’ve said that over and over, well I am not fair and balanced.  I hate the Plaintiff.  His ignorance is driving me crazy.  I know I’m writing this in vain but I have to do something…for my sanity.  These jury chairs should come with a straight jacket.  An entire day today and we are still on the same witness.  The defense hasn’t even started yet and we have 3 days left.  3 days my ass.  Not that the defense needs a turn considering the Plaintiff and his lawyer (who looks like The Penguin) have no case!!! Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  Please keep the Disorderlies nearby.  I may need them

-Juror #5

This is an extreme (and funny) example, but it’s also a good education for trial lawyers on how much the jury is judging the advocate as well as the case.  I have a copy of the actual letter if you are interested.

Posted by Jerry

JK-Q&A: Landlord’s letting the place go! Can I get out?

I know I have 8 months left, but can I have one of these?

People seem to ask this question a lot and it often sounds like this: I’ve told my landlord several times that the kitchen sink is leaking, the cabinet doors are falling off, and my toilet starts making these crazy noises in the middle of the night and not because it’s in use.  He hasn’t done anything!  At best, he says “I’ll get to it,” but most of the time, he just ignores me.  I would love to move out of here, but I have 8 months left on my lease.  Can I get out with a clean break?

The Ohio Landlord-Tenant Act, Revised Code Chapter 5321, provides several statutory duties for a residential lease relationship that both the landlord and the tenant must follow. A proper Lease Agreement should spell out most of the duties and will be your “instruction manual” on how you can get relief. Some terms that may not appear in the Lease Agreement are nevertheless enforceable as they appear in the Revised Code.

For instance, the Landlord has a duty under the Act to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition, including making repairs in a timely fashion. Most leases specifically spell out this duty by the Landlord. If you have notified your Landlord (notice in writing is always recommended and certified mail is not a bad idea either) that you need repairs in the unit and the Landlord fails or refuses to respond or make repairs, it is possible for a tenant to terminate the Lease Agreement without any further liability for the rent on the remainder of the Lease term.

It is not advisable to proceed on any course of action without referring to the Lease first or to follow a lawyer’s answer if that lawyer has not reviewed your lease agreement…(including this lawyer!). My best advice would be to read your Lease carefully and, if you are still not sure how best to proceed, to contact a lawyer and ask him or her to review your Lease Agreement.

Posted by Jerry

It’s Not Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog…

It’s Jerry Kaltenbach’s law blog.  I’m a native of Columbus, Ohio and practice with the law firm of Isaac, Brant, Ledman & Teetor, LLP.   I’m a business lawyer and civil litigator by both training and passion and I enjoy representing people, companies, and organizations in a wide field of matters.  I’ve handled cases both large and small representing big companies like Lowe’s and McDonald’s and the Mom & Pop businesses that have that great idea and just need to know how to get started.  Check out the “About” page above for more information.

Law is a fickle thing and navigating through the minutiae of “fine print” we come across in our lives can seem daunting and leave you feeling confused, irritated, and ready to pen the next great lawyer joke (I have a couple books full of them).

I’m going to discuss legal topics in this blog, share some of my own stories, and maybe even write some posts that have nothing to do with the law – and isn’t that refreshing?  Join me, feel free to ask questions and thanks for visiting.

Posted by Jerry