Six Things to Know Before A Divorce

The divorce may not be guaranteed:

Mississippi offers eleven possible grounds for fault-based divorce.  These are impotence, adultery, incarceration, desertion, habitual drunkenness, habitual drug use, cruelty, mental illness, bigamy, pregnancy by someone else at the time of the marriage, blood relationship to your spouse, and insanity at the time of marriage. There is also a no-fault divorce called “irreconcilable differences”, but this can only be obtained if both parties agree to the divorce.   Mississippi courts will only grant a divorce if the parties agree or you prove at least one of the fault-based grounds.  If there’s not agreement and you cannot prove one of the grounds, the court will deny the divorce.

No one Wins:

No one wins in a divorce. By its very nature is an exercise in dividing the whole of the assets and time with children such that no one leaves the marriage with exactly what they had during.  Of course, when someone makes the difficult decision to leave a marriage there are multiple factors which have brought someone to that determination.  However, there is simply no way around the fact that a divorce does not produce winners, but rather an ending.

It will take longer than you want:

In Mississippi, even for an irreconcilable differences divorce to be finalize, the complaint must be on file for at least 60-days. This is usually in addition to the months that the parties have gathered the relevant financial information and negotiated the settlement agreement.  In short, no form of divorce is fast.  Even those where the parties agree to everything can take several months.  And of course, if there is a dispute as to custody or property distribution that requires a trial, the process can take much longer.

Consider the impact on the children:

To their credit parents often start the divorce process not wanting to effect the children.  Unfortunately, this is rarely achieved, regardless of whether custody and visitation are contested.  The fact is that the divorce will change children’s schedules.  The children will travel from one home to the other during their regular visits.  There they will have new houses, rooms in perhaps entirely different towns.  And due to visitation exchanges during holidays, long-held tradition are abandoned.

Always put what’s best for the children first.  When drafting the agreement avoid taking a position that attempts to limit a parent’s time with the children in an effort to punish or hurt the other parent.  If there is a reason to limit a parent’s time, make sure it’s based on that parent’s inability to care of the children and that any limitations are in the children’s best interests.

Gather the assets and liabilities:

The first step in any divorce is to determine the assets and debts of the parties.  This may include your home’s equity, investments, vehicles, boats, household items, mortgages, vehicle loans, credit cards and other such debts.  Once these are determined, the process can begin of how to share these between the parties in the divorce agreement.  There are many ways in which this can be done and it depends very much on each parties’ circumstances.

Negotiated Settlements:

Allowing a judge to decide the outcome may not be the most desired way to resolve your differences.  Be willing to consider a negotiated settlement.  This is often faster and cheaper than holding a trial and then allowing a judge determine your fate.

Mediation is a growing method to negotiate settlements in divorce cases.  Mediation may be best described as an assisted settlement discussion.  During a mediation, the third-party neutral assists the parties reach a resolution of the outstanding issues.

A negotiated settlement provides the parties a method to work toward a resolution.  By working with one another the parties gain some control in the outcome of the case.  In many cases a negotiated resolution is a faster method to resolving the issues which allows the parties to move on with their lives.

Holcomb Dunbar Attorneys:

Holcomb Dunbar’s Domestic Relations Legal Team assists families facing divorce and child support challenges throughout North Mississippi.

Jonathan Masters or Stacey Golmon provide representation in all matters of domestic relations, including adoption, alimony, child custody, child support, divorce, grandparent’s visitation rights, division of marital and non-marital assets, modifications of current custody and support orders, paternity, separate maintenance actions and name changes.

Stacey W. Golmon is also a certified Guardian Ad Litem and serves courts by investigating child custody and abuse allegation proceedings, while upholding the child’s best interest.

Please call Jonathan Masters or Stacey Golmon at 662-234-8775.

For more information about Mississippi divorce

Fun Legal Facts about Thanksgiving

As you get ready to depart for Thanksgiving, why not take some of your free time to learn a little bit about the laws surrounding this holiday?

Here are a few fun legal facts about Thanksgiving to help you through awkward small talk around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

How Thanksgiving Landed on the Fourth Thursday

Three of the most prominent Presidents in American history, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, all contributed to Thanksgiving’s place in federal law. The holiday’s initial appearance in the annals of law was the result of a resolution passed by the first Federal Congress in 1789 for President George Washington to declare a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” He proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution.

It was not until 1863, however, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamationofficially declaring that the last Thursday in November as a day of “thanksgiving and praise.”

In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month, which would shorten the Christmas shopping season — possibly causing fewer people to lose their minds from the constant influx of holiday music.

FDR wouldn’t have it and issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. As a result of the proclamation, 32 states issued similar proclamations while 16 states refused to accept the change, dubbing the new holiday “Franksgiving” and proclaiming the true Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For the next two years, President Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation and two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving.

Congress decided to settle things once and for all with a fixed-date for the holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day, and the Senate amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays. FDR signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

This year we can be thankful that the only disagreement will be over who gets the last drumstick.

Shoppers Sing the (Sober) Blues

Care more about Black Friday shopping than Turkey Day itself?

Shopaholics in Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts will have to wait for their shopping fix. In fact, it’s the law. Blue laws in these states prohibit most retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving — even grocery stores.

The rules vary among the states. For instance, retailers less than 5,000 square feet can operate in Maine. Convenience stores are also generally allowed to open, as are movie theaters, pharmacies, restaurants, and some other businesses. Retail alcohol sales remain barred on Thanksgiving Day in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Texas so either plan ahead or learn to handle screaming kids and nosy in-laws with liquid assistance.

Turkey Innovation

Let us not forget the intellectual property of turkeys. After all, what better way to celebrate a holiday than reading patents appropriate for the festivities?

While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t exactly track the growth in turkey innovation, dozens of inventors hold patents on a range of turkey themed gadgets and processes.

IP Watchdog has compiled some of the more notable ones, including this frightening remote controlled turkey decoy, this Turkey decoration that seems like a sneaky way to hide your leftover Halloween pumpkins, these toy turkeys made out of a pine cones, this collapsible hunting blind that resembles a 6 foot tall turkey plastered onto a giant umbrella laid on its side, or even this ornamental design for a turkey hunter’s safety placard named “Mr. Cautious Tom” whose tail feathers are emblazoned with the word “Hunter” and whose ascot is labelled “Caution.”

In fact, Thanksgiving leftovers even lead to the invention of LASIK eye surgery. One turkey innovator was sitting at the dinner table with his family on Thanksgiving in 1981 when he realized that leftover turkey bone cartilage would provide the perfect test subject. On November 27, 1981, his team used a laser to etch on the turkey’s cartilage in a way that could be viewed when placed under an optical microscope — leading to the invention of LASIK.

Turkey wishbones, too, have been subject to intellectual property law disputes. In 2010, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was sued for copyright infringement for producing wishbones similar to those  designed, copyrighted, and produced by Lucky Break Wishbone. The court found that the plastic replicas were copyrightable because the wishbones were designed using graphite electrodes to make it smooth and “attractive and sleek” with thinner arms and more rounded edges – making them worth $1.7 million in damages.

Some states have even passed laws requiring utilities to convert turkey waste into energy. In light of prolific turkey farming, North Carolina, and Minnesotahave both passed energy policy mandates requiring utilities to use a small amount of turkey waste-generated power. Minnesota currently has a 55-megawatt power plant designed to burn poultry waste as its primary fuel that can power  44,000 homes with 100 daily truckloads of this turkey litter. A new North Carolina plant will reportedly be the first facility designed to run on 100% turkey waste which will use 55,000 tons of turkey litter a year to produce the equivalent of 95 million kilowatt hours of electricity and feed that renewable electricity back to the grid.

One law professor took to full legal analysis of the Law of the Turkey. Claiming that nearly all contract law concepts can be learned with turkey cases. Professor Meredith R. Miller expanded this idea to cover criminal law, tort law, and just about everything else.

In Turkeys, Oral Contracts, and Mr. Gouge and Turkeys, Damages, and Alternative Damages, she recounts the many ways turkey contracts can possibly go awry. In her casebook proposal for The Modern Law of the Turkey (which I really hope comes to fruition), the chapter on Turkeys and Torts tells a tale of a Wal-Mart shopper being knocked unconscious by frozen turkeys.

Thanksgiving truly holds a little something for everyone. Be thankful.

Who’s liable when autonomous cars are involved in accidents? | PropertyCasualty360

Who’s liable when autonomous cars are involved in accidents?OCT 10, 2017 | BY DAVID J. OBERLYEMAILLINKEDINTWITTERFACEBOOKGOOGLE+SHARE THIS STORYThe Tesla Model S is an electric car capable of operating fully autonomously. (Photo: P. Harman/PC360)Desktop computers. Mobile phones. Wi-Fi.Seemingly almost overnight, these advances in technology have fundamentally transformed the way society operates and functions on a daily basis.However, these and other modern technological developments may pale in comparison to the impact felt in connection with the introduction of autonomous vehicles onto our nation’s roadways.Today, the world’s leading car makers are racing to build fully autonomous vehicles. The goal for many is to have self-driving cars on the road by 2020. The benefits of this advanced technology will be significant, as autonomous vehicles will substantially reduce the number and severity of accidents caused by human error — the primary catalyst for the vast majority of current automobile accidents. However, the benefits will extend well beyond roadway safety to matters such as aiding in traffic congestion and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of transportation systems.The rise of this new technology brings an array of unique and thorny legal issues that will cause wholesale changes to many different areas of the law in the years to come. By far the most predominant legal issue concerning the advent of autonomous vehicles pertains to liability for accidents involving self-driving cars.Related: Tesla automation faulted by NTSB in 2016 fatal Florida crashRemoving human error from roadways doesn’t mean that accidents and the resulting litigation will no longer exist. (Photo: iStock)The shift to products liability lawHuman error is the predominant cause of automobile collisions today. Contrary to humans, however, autonomous vehicles don’t drink and drive, text and drive, or otherwise get distracted at the wheel. As autonomous vehicle technology becomes standard, there will be fewer negligent people on the road, which will negate the primary rationale underpinning motor vehicle accident litigation today — driver negligence.While the human error element may be removed from our roadways, it does not mean car crashes and related litigation will become a thing of the past. Rather, the type of litigation that arises out of car crashes will change. Instead of focusing on driver negligence, future litigation involving autonomous vehicles will focus on the safety of the self-driving vehicles involved in the collision.Accordingly, motor vehicle accident litigation will shift from driver negligence—and liability on the part of the operator—to products liability, making the automotive industry the principal responsible party for liability-related matters. Consequently, while vehicles and roadways become safer, vehicle manufacturers, technology manufacturers and other suppliers will almost certainly see their liability exposure increase considerably, with the autonomous automotive industry bearing a bigger slice of a smaller pie of total accident costs.Related: Crash test: An inside look at the Insurance Institute for Highway SafetyPhoto: Shutterstock4 keys to determining product liabilityProducts liability law has already been applied to many types of famous litigation involving automobiles, including the Ford Pinto’s fuel system, Takata air bags and Firestone tires. As such, existing liability frameworks exist to assist in resolving the legal issues that will arise in connection with autonomous vehicles.Fortunately, modern products liability law is adequately developed to allocate fault for injuries and damages stemming from autonomous vehicle accidents, which will allow litigants to utilize the current law to answer the question of whether an autonomous vehicle is at fault for a collision. Moving forward, the legal framework for autonomous vehicle accident liability will be segmented into strict product liability, breach of warranty liability, misrepresentation liability and negligence liability.Related: Autonomous vehicle technology could shrink auto insurance sector by 71%(Photo: Shutterstock) Products liability litigationStrict liability is the dominant legal theory in products liability litigation, and is thus poised to be the theory most consistently applied to autonomous vehicle accident litigation. Strict products liability requires that: (1) the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s control; (2) the product was unreasonably dangerous; and (3) the defect was the proximate cause of the injuries.As automobiles become more autonomous, manufacturing defects will likely represent a large portion of defect claims, as errors on the production line will never vanish completely. Here, manufacturers can be found strictly liable for manufacturing defects even if they have exercised “all possible care” in manufacturing the vehicle. Similarly, the automobile industry will almost certainly see an upt

Source: Who’s liable when autonomous cars are involved in accidents? | PropertyCasualty360

Do I get my attorney’s fees back?

American Rule“Do I get my attorney’s fees back?”  This is often one of the first questions I get from a new client who’s been sued.  And this is understandable.  After all, my new client doesn’t believe she should’ve been sued, and is now having to hire an attorney.

Probably Not

As difficult as the answer is, it is almost always probably not.  Here’s why.  There is a bedrock principle known as the American rule.  This rule provides that each litigant pays his own attorney’s fees, win or lose, unless a statute or contract provides otherwise.  The theory is that having a contrary rule – loser pays – would deter and limit access to our courts and ultimtately from receiving justice.  This rule is not without its critics, but remains a deeply rooted concept in the U.S.

As a result, many of the general negligence actions such as car accidents and slip and fall injuries do not allow a party to recover attorney fees from the other side – win or lose. There are however a few exceptions.

The most common exception involves a suit over a contract which specifically provides for recovery of attorney fees.  For example, loan documents from a bank almost always have such language.  If you are sued for failing to repay a loan, the bank will also seek recovery of its attorney’s fees under to the loan contact.

There are statutes that also provide for recovery of attorney fees. Under Mississippi law, some of those include some shareholder derivative actions; open account collections provided certain prerequisites are met; Mississippi Uniform Trade Secrets Act; Unsolicited Residential Telephonic Sales Call Act (a/k/a “The no-call list”). At the federal level there are similar statutes such as those governing antitrust actions, civil rights actions, class actions, copyright and patent infringement matters, Freedom of Information Act suits and Lemon law matters.


In addition, most jurisdictions have statutes and rules allowing for recovery of attorneys’ fees for the filing of frivolous or baseless claims. In my experience, however, the other side never agrees that the action is in fact frivolous.

Under Mississippi’s Litigation Accountability Act a frivolous action is one “without substantial justification,” or “groundless in fact or in law, or vexatious, as determined by the court.”

Similarly, nearly every jurisdiction has procedural rules that may allow sanctions.  These can be imposed when an attorney or party files papers with the court that were submitted solely to harass the other side, unnecessarilly delay the action, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.

In Mississippi, the primary rule is Rule 11 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.  Like the Litigation Accountability Act, the question again arises of what exactly makes a claim frivolous. To determine this Mississippi courts look to see if there was any hope of success.  Again, it’s a bit of a nebulous concept, and certainly the party asserting the claim will argue that there was indeed some hope that he might succeed.

Because of these difficult standards and the court’s inherent dislike of limiting litigants access to courts, sanctions of this type are rare.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court in Goodyear v. Haeger, reviewed sanctions awarded during an action for particularly egregious discovery violations.  The court unanimously ruled that a judge must determine which fees and costs would not have been incurred “but for” the misconduct.  To award more would be a punitive award which requires additional due process similar to a criminal defendant under the Constitution.  Thus, the Court can only assess “fees the innocent party incurred solely because” of that misconduct.

This is yet another example of the Courts timid approach to sanctions and illustrates its general dislike of awarding them.  And even when they may be justified, that should be carefully reviewed and limited to fit the actual costs or harm incurred.

I’ve Been Sued – Now What?

You’ve Been Served

 First, don’t panic.  Lawsuits are filed every day.  And there are few barriers to filing one.  Anyone can craft a complaint and file it.  What matters now, is how you respond.

A civil action will begin with a Complaint or sometimes a Petition or Declaration.  Those documents are typically served by a process server or deputy sheriff.  The summons will provide you with a date to respond, or sometimes a specific court date for you to appear in court.  Don’t ignore these dates.

Answer the Complaint

Complaints must be “answered” within a specific time which is governed by the court’s rules.  By answering you can assert your side of the allegations and there may very well be defenses that can cause the lawsuit to be dismissed at this stage. In addition, there may be a related counterclaim that you may be required to assert at this stage or waive that opportunity.

Don’t Default

Failing to timely answer may cause a default judgment to be entered.  This effectively means you lose before ever defending yourself.   For example, you receive a complaint claiming you owe $10,000.  You have undeniable proof that you paid the entire sum.  A default judgment would likely be entered for the entire $10,000 and you could be liable to pay the entire amount again.

Discover the Facts

 After the complaint is served and the answer is filed, in most cases, “discovery” begins.  At this stage, the parties gather as much information about the allegations and defenses as possible. Here, each side serves written questions and requests copies of any supporting documents from the other side.  In addition, the parties may depose one another as well as witnesses.  A deposition is an informal questioning session, somewhat like what you might see in court that is transcribed by a court reporter.  However, the evidentiary rules are usually very lax to allow the parties to fully explore the testimony and allegations that may ultimately be offered at trial.  However, not everything learned in the discovery phase is admissible at trial.

Settlement and Mediation

 Around 95% of civil lawsuits settle before trial.  After the completing discovery, the parties and their attorneys often have a good idea the appropriate result.  Usually the parties will want to discuss settlement.  However, even with the discovery it is common to seek the help of a neutral mediator to assist the parties to reach a resolution. A mediation is a meeting held with all the parties in a single location.  The mediator will shuffle between the parties attempting to broker settlement.

Summary Judgment

At some point between completing discovery and trial, one or more of the parties may seek to dismiss the case by a motion for summary judgment. Such a motion is an effort by a party to show that based on the discovery that that a party does not have enough facts to support one or more of their claims at a trial.  If the court agrees with the motion the case will be dismissed or at least some of the claims or defenses may be dismissed.  This is called a partial summary judgment and when this happens, only the surviving claims will proceed to trial.


The trial is the part of a lawsuit that most people are familiar with from movies and television.  Though they are rarely as exciting as movies portray.  Trials can be either before single judge or jury.  It depends on the type of case and the court where the case is filed.  In either case, the evidentiary rules will apply and all testimony and evidence must meet these standards before presented at trial. This can be frustrating at times as some evidence may never be admitted at trial that was freely discussed during discovery.  And, of course, at the end of the trial the judge or jury will decide the issues and a judgment will be entered.


Once a judgment is entered, the parties may appeal seeking an appellant court’s review.  The typical appeal seeks a review of how a particular law was applied to the facts presented at trial.  However, changing the ruling on appeal is rare.  Moreover, an appeal can take several years before the issues or finally reviewed.

If you’ve been served with a complaint, consult with an attorney as soon as you can.  Lawsuits are expensive and taxing on the persons involved.  Addressing the issues directly and early can lead to substantial savings for all involved.

“Modest” Overstatements of Amount Due and Interest Rate Actionable Under FDCPA, Ninth Circuit Rules | The National Law Review

“Modest” Overstatements of Amount Due and Interest Rate Actionable Under FDCPA, Ninth Circuit RulesFriday, September 1, 2017A debt-collection law firm’s overstatements in a state court complaint of $3,000 in the principal amount due and 0.315 percent in the interest rate were actionable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as material false statements, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled. In Afewerki v. Anaya Law Group, the creditor that hired the law firm to collect the debt provided the law firm with the correct principal amount and interest rate. The law firm discovered the overstatements in the complaint while preparing its response to a demand for a bill of particulars from the debtor’s attorney. The law firm asserted that the overstatements were inadvertent and filed a notice correcting the errors within 12 days of receiving the demand from the debtor’s attorney. In his lawsuit filed in federal district court, the debtor alleged that the overstatements violated the FDCPA and California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Rosenthal Act). The district court granted the law firm’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the errors in the complaint were not material. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from making false statements when attempting to collect debts. The Ninth Circuit described the requirement that a false statement must be material to be actionable under the FDCPA as a corollary to the “least sophisticated debtor” standard. According to the Ninth Circuit, a false statement is material if it could “cause the least sophisticated consumer to suffer a disadvantage in responding to the collection attempt.” While noting that a materiality inquiry focuses on the reaction of a hypothetical least sophisticated debtor rather than on the plaintiff’s reaction, the Ninth Circuit observed that “the district court’s determination that [the plaintiff] would not have proceeded differently absent the error might mean that he did not suffer actual damages and might disqualify him from obtaining such damages.” The Ninth Circuit treated the law firm’s correction of the overstatements as irrelevant in determining whether the errors were material (but noted that the law firm had not attempted to invoke the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense). In the court’s view, the least sophisticated debtor in the plaintiff’s position, concerned about being sued, “may well have simply paid the amount demanded in the complaint and would have overpaid by approximately $3,000.” The court also raised the possibility that the state court case could have proceeded to a default judgment for the overstated amount, citing a California decision that held a creditor was not required to prove the amount sought was correct prior to entry of a default judgment. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the law firm on the FDCPA claim but affirmed its grant of summary judgment in favor of the law firm on the Rosenthal Act claim. While observing that the Rosenthal Act incorporates the FDCPA’s false-representation prohibition, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the law firm could avoid civil liability under the Rosenthal Act by relying on its 15-day cure provision, and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that 1999 amendments to the Act removed the cure provision.

Source: “Modest” Overstatements of Amount Due and Interest Rate Actionable Under FDCPA, Ninth Circuit Rules | The National Law Review

Eclipse Not Delay Trial Says Florida Judge

2017 Eclipse

Florida Judge says the trial must go on, despite celestial events.

Judge Merryday denied the United States Attorney’s motion, that “… boldly moves (where no AUSA has moved before) to postpone a trial because an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, has pre-paid the cost of visiting the zone of “totality” of a solar eclipse.”  Unimpressed with the motion, and apparently the eclipse itself, the opinion notes, “An eclip


se is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula (although some contend for an earlier discovery).

Here’s the full opinion:





v. CASE NO. 8:17-cr-266-T-23JSS



Definitely recurrent, sometimes consequential, and occasionally spectacular,

the solar eclipse understandably occupies a provocative and luminous place in

history and in art. For example, Herodotus reports that a solar eclipse during the

war between the Medes and the Lydians caused the combatants, who interpreted the

eclipse as a divine omen, to suspend hostilities and to negotiate peace. In Borodin’s

magnificent opera, an eclipse portends disaster for Prince Igor’s military campaign

against the Polovtsians. In a popular 1970s song, the splendid Carly Simon

introduced the attendance of a former suitor (reportedly the actor Warren Beatty) at

a solar eclipse as probative evidence of his putatively insufferable vanity:

Well I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not, you’re with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend,
Wife of a close friend, and
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
On a higher plane, Wordsworth wrote about an eclipse in 1820:

High on her speculative tower
Stood Science waiting for the hour
When Sol was destined to endure
That darkening of his radiant face

The solar eclipse is no longer mysterious, supernatural, foreboding, or

ominous (or even “total”; owing to the solar corona, the darkness of a “total” eclipse

is only partial). An eclipse is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the

day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula (although some contend for

an earlier discovery).

On this occasion, an Assistant United States Attorney boldly moves (where no

AUSA has moved before) to postpone a trial because an agent of the Bureau of

Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, has pre-paid the cost of visiting the

zone of “totality” of a solar eclipse that will occur on August 21 (about the eclipse,

the motion oddly uses the phrase “scheduled to occur,” as if someone arbitrarily set

the eclipse, as an impresario sets a performer, to appear at a chosen time and place,

subject always to some unstated exigency).* Cruel fate has dictated that the August

21 eclipse will occur during the trial of an action in which the agent is a principal

participant on behalf of the United States.

In any particular month, about four-hundred actions pend before each active

district judge in the Middle District of Florida; each action typically involves several

lawyers, at least two parties, and an array of witnesses. A trial prompts the clerk to

summon scores of potential jurors. The present motion proposes to subordinate the

time and resources of the court, of the opposing counsel, of the witnesses, and of the

jurors to one person’s aspiration to view a “total” solar eclipse for no more than two

minutes and forty-two seconds. To state the issue distinctly is to resolve the issue


When an indispensable participant, knowing that a trial is imminent, pre-pays

for some personal indulgence, that participant, in effect, lays in a bet. This time,

unlike Carly Simon’s former suitor, whose “horse, naturally, won,” this bettor’s

horse has — naturally — lost. The motion (Doc. 31) is DENIED.

ORDERED in Tampa, Florida, on August 18, 2017.


  • According to the motion of the United States, a total solar eclipse last occurred in June
    1918. (Doc. 31 at 2) But total eclipses occur far more frequently than the United States claims; the
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration identifies six opportunities in the last decade to
    view a total eclipse. Eclipses and Transits, Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Admin., available at

Happy Fourth of July !!!

Happy Fourth Of JulyHave a save and Happy Fourth of July

John Adams said that Independence Day “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” So before you celebrate the Fourth of July and ring the bells and light the bonfires, take a moment to read the document that started it and detailed some of the guiding principles of our country.


Declaration of Independence: A Transcription


In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton


North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn


South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton



John Hancock


Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton



George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton



Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross


Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean


New York

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris


New Jersey

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark


New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple



Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry


Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery



Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott


New Hampshire

Matthew Thornton


Happy Fourth of July from Jonathan and  Holcomb Dunbar Attorneys!