An Interesting Use of the Word Award

In Respublica versus Chapman, 1 Dall. 53 (1781), the Chief Justice asked the defendant “why execution should not be awarded against him.” Never occurred to me that an award could be a bad thing.

Aside from the curious use of the word “award,” I really found this case to be quite interesting. Chapman was tried for high treason during the American Revolutionary War in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania during the April Term of 1781. In terms of historical perspective, Cornwallis would not surrender at Yorktown for another six months.

In Chapman’s defense, he claimed that he was a subject of the King of Great Britain, and therefore owed no allegiance to the Commonwealth. Hence, he could not have committed high treason. The court actually engaged in quite an extensive inquiry into whether the defendant owed a duty of allegiance to the Commonwealth. I really respect a court that can be principled in a case involving treason during a war, without resorting to victor’s justice.


Respublica v. Malin

1 Dallas includes a case entitled Respublica versus Malin, which was heard by a Court of Oyer and Terminer. The case is not one you would have encountered in law school.

In studying the American Revolution, we don’t hear much about traitors, except for the infamous Benedict Arnold. However, Respublica v. Malin provides some insight into the times where the Defendant mistook a corps of American troops for British and went over to them. At issue was whether the Defendant’s words constituted high treason. Interesting not from a legal perspective, but a historical one.


Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania Before and Since the Revolution

I obtained a copy of Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania Before and Since the Revolution by A. J. Dallas, Esquire. Cited as 1 Dall., the volume provides cases from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and other courts. For a 220+ year old book, the text is pretty clean for the most part, and I’ve been adding images to older cases, such as Price v. Watkins, and cleaning some of the original transcription.

The difficulty is when I come across a word that I do not recognize. It could be because the word is no longer in use. Or, it could be because of the long s problem, which should be familiar to anyone who has seen a copy of the Bill of Rights: “Congrefs shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of the prefs, or the right of the people peaceably to afsemble, and to petition the Government for a redrefs of grievances.”

Not too difficult to figure out that Congrefs is Congress, prefs is press, afsemble is assemble, etc. Now, in the sixth line of Price v. Watkins, I came across a word that appeared to be Mefiuage. Interestingly, I searched for mefiuage in Google and saw a result from, which just reported “no dictionary results.” The other results were scans from old texts. I got the same results searching for Mefluage.

However, in looking at some other texts, the term clearly appears as Meffuage, which is really (because of the long s) Messuage. That does make sense since Messuage is an archaic term for a dwelling house.


Warning: Unreinforced Masonry Building

Walking down Murphy Street in Downtown Sunnyvale, I spotted this warning affixed to the wall of a building:

The warning reads as follows:

This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a mojor [sic] earthquake.

I’ve walked past many buildings both old and new, but I’ve never seen such a warning sign before. Further down the block, I spotted the same warning again.

Interesting. The warning notice cites Assembly Bill 2533. Possibly not a law, but a bill. And, the other important item that was omitted was the all important session during which the bill was introduced because the California Assembly has this practice of reusing Assembly BIll numbers. So, from the most recent AB 2533.

AB 2533. Introduced February 19, 2010 regarding “health care coverage: quality rating.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 21, 2008 regarding “disability access: remedies.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 23, 2006 regarding “sales and use taxes: exemption.” Nope.

AB 2533. Introduced February 20, 2004 regarding “seismic safety.” Bingo!


SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the

(a) Jennifer Lynn Myrick, known to her friends as Jenna, was
killed by falling debris while fleeing a building in Paso Robles,
California, during the San Simeon earthquake of December 22, 2003.

(b) The building, known as the Acorn Building or Mastagni
Building, in which Jenna worked was an 1890s era unreinforced masonry

(c) Section 8875.2 of the Government Code requires local building
departments to identify all potentially hazardous buildings within
their respective jurisdictions. The Acorn Building was identified as
a potentially hazardous building, but had not been retrofitted to
meet widely recognized building codes for earthquake safety.

(d) The California Seismic Safety Commission reports that, as of
2003, 1,413,398 people live in jurisdictions that had not completed
their inventory of potentially hazardous buildings, and 705,782
people live in jurisdictions with no program to retrofit unreinforced
masonry buildings.

(e) It is the intent of the Legislature to improve the public’s
awareness of potentially hazardous buildings so that occupants and
passers-by are better equipped to protect themselves in the event of
an earthquake.

SEC. 2. Section 8875.8 of the Government Code is amended to read:

8875.8. (a) An owner who has received actual or constructive
notice that a building located in seismic zone 4 is constructed of
unreinforced masonry shall post in a conspicuous place at the
entrance of the building, on a sign not less than 5 X 7 the following
statement, printed in not less than 30-point bold type:

“This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry
buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake.”

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), unless the owner of a
building subject to subdivision (a) is in compliance with that
subdivision on and after December 31, 2004, an owner who has received
actual or constructive notice that a building located in seismic
zone 4 is constructed of unreinforced masonry and has not been
retrofitted in accordance with an adopted hazardous building
ordinance or mitigation program shall post in a conspicuous place at
the entrance of the building, on a sign not less than 8 X 10 the
following statement, with the first two words printed in 50-point
bold type and the remaining words in at least 30-point type:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings
during an earthquake.”

(c) Notice of the obligation to post a sign, as required by
subdivisions (a) and (b), shall be included in the Commercial
Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety.

(d) Every rental or lease agreement entered into after January 1,
2005, involving a building subject to the requirements of subdivision
(b) shall contain the following statement: This building, which you
are renting or leasing, is an unreinforced masonry building.
Unreinforced masonry buildings have proven to be unsafe in the event
of an earthquake. Owners of unreinforced masonry buildings are
required to post in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the
building, the following statement:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near an unreinforced masonry building
during an earthquake.”

(e) An owner who is subject to subdivision (b) and who does not
comply with subdivision (a) may be subject to an administrative fine
of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) to be levied by the local
building department no sooner than 15 days after the local building
department notifies the owner that the owner is subject to the
administrative fine. If the owner does not comply with the
requirements of that subdivision within 30 days of the first
administrative fine, the owner may be subject to an additional
administrative fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000).

(f) If an owner who is subject to subdivision (b) does not comply
with subdivision (b), any person may bring a civil action for
injunctive relief if all of the following have been met:

(1) He or she has made a request to an appropriate authority for
administrative enforcement of this section at least 90 days prior to
the action.

(2) An administrative fine has not been levied since the request
was made pursuant to paragraph (1).

(3) At least 15 days prior to the filing of the action, the person
has served on each proposed defendant a notice containing the
following statement:

“You are receiving this notice because you are alleged to be in
violation of Section 8875.8 of the Government Code, which requires
that the owner of an unreinforced masonry building post a sign, not
less than 8 X 10, in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the
building with the following statement, with the first two words
printed in 50-point boldface type and the remaining words in at least
30-point type:

“Earthquake Warning. This is an unreinforced masonry building.
You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings
during an earthquake.

Failure to post the sign in compliance with subdivision (b) of
Section 8875.8 within 15 days of receipt of this notice entitles the
sender of the notice to file an action against you in a court of law
for injunctive relief.’ “

(4) The owner has failed to post the sign in accordance with the
requirements of subdivision (b) within 15 days of receipt of the
notice served pursuant to this subdivision.

(g) The prohibitions and sanctions imposed pursuant to this
section are in addition to any other prohibitions and sanctions
imposed by law. A civil action for injunctive relief pursuant to
this section shall be independent of any other rights and remedies.

SEC. 3. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Jennifer
Lynn Myrick Memorial Law.”


California Vehicle Code 22658

I was walking around Mountain View and wondered what CVC 22658A referred to on the Parking Restricted sign.

The owner or person in lawful possession of private property, including an association of a common interest development as defined in Section 1351 of the Civil Code, may cause the removal of a vehicle parked on the property to a storage facility that meets the requirements of subdivision (n) under any of the following circumstances:

Interesting. I wonder if the sign complies with CVC 22658 because it requires that the sign contain “the telephone number of the local traffic law enforcement agency.” While the sign does list the phone number of the Mountain View Police Department as 415-903-6344, the sign is quite dated since Mountain View left the 415 area code for the 650 area code permanently on January 31, 1998.


Confederate History Month

Not sure which is more appalling: California’s Cuss Free Week or Virginia’s Treasonous History Month.

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”; and

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.


Censorship is in Eye of the Beholder

On on hand…

S. Res 405 (Feb 2, 2010)

[T]he Senate–

(1) reaffirms the centrality of freedom of expression and press freedom as cornerstones of United States foreign policy and United States efforts to promote individual rights;

(2) expresses serious concern over ongoing official efforts in many countries to restrict speech and expression, including attempts to censor, restrict, and monitor access to the Internet;

(7) urges companies to engage in responsible business practices in the face of efforts by foreign governments to restrict the free flow of information by refusing to aid in the curtailment of free expression[.]

On the other hand…

H. Res. 224 (Mar. 7, 2007):

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that corporate owners of websites that share user-posted videos should take action to remove jihadi propaganda.


36 USC 220506

I am watching the Opening Ceremonies to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics when I spot the above commercial by Proctor & Gamble. Sure, the commercial presents a touching tribute to the moms of Olympians, but what really caught my attention was a citation to 36 USC 220506 in the closing frame of the advertisement. Of course, being the curious sort, I had to immediately look up the language of the code. Title 36 of the United States Code governs Patriotic Societies and Observances. With that hint, you can probably guess that 36 USC § 220506 pertains to the United States Olympic Committee. Here’s the relevant portion of 36 USC § 220506(b):

The [United States Olympic Committee] may authorize contributors and suppliers of goods or services to use the trade name of the corporation or any trademark, symbol, insignia, or emblem of the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, the Pan-American Sports Organization, or of the corporation to advertise that the contributions, goods, or services were donated or supplied to, or approved, selected, or used by, the corporation, the United States Olympic team, the Paralympic team, the Pan-American team, or team members.


California DMV

If you have to visit a local California DMV office, make an appointment. Even though you will still have to pick a number and wait in line, the line for people with appointments will likely be shorter than the line for people without appointments. However, the DMV calendaring system is a bit non-intuitive. Ideally, the DMV will let you select a date and it will offer available times. However, that’s not the way the DMV works. You have to pick a date and time, and the DMV will let you know whether that date and time is open. Feels like playing Battleship. Just guessing different dates and times and looking for a hit.

Not sure why the DMV calls its employees technicians. If it was the person inspecting a vehicle, I will understand. But, the guy handing out wait tickets?

After you get your bingo ticket, you take a seat and wait for the announcer to call out your winning combination. If you owe money, be prepared. Unlike the rest of the world, the DMV does not accept credit cards! Cash, check or debit cards.


Pedro Nava Seeks to Punish Witnesses of Violent Crimes

Inside Bay Area reports that Assemblymember Pedro Nava will be introducing new legislation to punish witnesses of violent crimes. Do legislators have to approach every single problem with a hammer?

Someone needs to think this through very carefully. Right now, there is no upside to being a witness. If you report the crime, you face real problems with witness intimidation. And, from the Broadcom saga, witness intimidation isn’t the sole province of the mob.

It will be a great day in America when the police starts Mirandizing witnesses before interviewing them. I think that will really encourage them to open up.