legal beagle

by Lara on July 14, 2013

in life

Last night the jury released their verdict for Trayvon Martin’s murder.  I’ve followed this case since the beginning and have always felt that Zimmerman was looking for trouble that night, that he was a wannabe cop, felt he was above the law when the police advised him to stay in the car until they arrived, and got his ass handed to him by a kid who stood up for himself… a kid who didn’t deserve to die.  At the very least, I expected a manslaughter charge so, yeah.  This is infuriating.

While staying up all night watching TV, I noticed all the legal experts using certain terminology and I actually knew what the heck they were talking about!  I thought  I could do a little primer on the litigation process since I’m now immersed in it and find it totally fascinating.  You may find this completely dry and boring so… it’s up to you to read on! :)

While the Zimmerman trial was a criminal case, it was still standard litigation, meaning they are using the judicial system for an end result.  There’s a ton of different types of litigation but the basic process is about the same.  I don’t work with criminal cases but 90% of the cases I help with are in civil court and we are usually for the defense.  My team works with homeowners and car insurance companies (like if you hit someone with your car and the person you hit claims a TON of medical expenses and your insurance company pays to represent you to save themselves money).  I find these cases endlessly boring.  We also work with a bunch of national trucking companies, manufacturing companies, chain restaurants and stores where people injure themselves on the premises and then sue.  These cases are my favorite.  We also do plaintiff’s cases where we sue, but not very often.  My team of attorneys work in Virginia, Maryland, Alabama and West Virginia and the rules are different for each state.  Federal Court is a completely different animal and is my favorite.

So here’s the basic litigation process:

So when you sue someone, you file a Complaint.  Depending on the amount you’re suing for will determine if you are in General District Court or Circuit Court.  In Virginia, anything above $25,000 is Circuit.  There is a fee to pay and a Civil Cover Sheet to fill out and you have to have the Complaint served on the person/company you’re suing (either by the sheriff or a private company).  Once service is perfected, the person/company sued usually has 21 days to respond to the Complaint.  The response to the Complaint is called an Answer and you either admit or deny or say you don’t have enough info to answer the allegations laid out in the Complaint.  You also state your affirmative defenses where you say yeah, this happened but here’s why I’m still not responsible.  Of course, there’s a proper way to write all of these things out. Here’s a pdf example of an Answer from a Federal case.

If you don’t get an attorney you’re considered pro se.  My office cannot contact you if you do have an attorney.  The legal process is so complicated with so many deadlines, and every pro se person I’ve seen has not done things properly and the whole case got dismissed (in our favor) by default.  I always feel a little bad for the people.

After you’ve filed your Answer (you don’t have to pay to file an Answer or any other further legal documents) the Discovery process begins.

Both sides submit to one another a set of Discovery.  Depending on the state and the Court, it could just be Interrogatories (ROGs – asking a bunch of questions to get more info from each other) or ROGs and Request for Production of Documents (RFPs – asking the other side to hand over specific papers, photos, video, medical bills, phone records, etc.) and Request for Admissions (RFAs – admit that you were there, that the attached medical bills are from the date of the incident and are reasonable in amount, etc.).  This is something I never knew happened in legal proceedings.  I thought you sprung questions on people in court but no… you hash all of this stuff out before you even set a trial date in most cases.  You lay everything out on the table and in a lot of cases, both sides settle after this point.  You usually have 30 days to object to Discovery.  If you don’t get your Objections to RFAs in on time, you have essentially admitted to everything.  This is the most important deadline for my team.  You can object to whichever items you want to within 30 days and then you have some extra time to get your responses and answers together and turned in.  If someone’s taking a ridiculous amount of time to respond to discovery, you can file a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses.  You don’t have to file these things with the Court but some Courts require you file a Notice of Service of Discovery, basically letting the assigned Judge know you guys got that stuff out.

While all this is going on, the paralegals are sending out subpoena duces tecums (SDTs) requesting medical records from the places you say you went to the hospital, your driving and employment records, your police record, and maybe even setting up surveillance.  Both sides get copied on what SDTs are sent out so, if the person suing doesn’t want you to see something, they can file a Motion to Quash.  It may get granted, it may not.

A trial date usually gets scheduled soon after all this.  Clients get called, agreeable times and dates are given.  The Court is called and a date is picked.  Letters get sent out to the Court and everyone involved is notified of when the trial date is.  Trial Witness Subpoenas are sent out and have to get properly served.  A paralegal drafts the Pre-Trial Scheduling Order and it’s signed by all attorneys and filed – which basically sets out all of the important deadlines up to the trial date.  Sometimes the Judge will schedule his own Pre-Trial Scheduling Conference to hash out the deadlines with the attorneys if the Scheduling Order isn’t filed in a timely manner.

The depositions are arranged between the parties with Notices to Take Deposition and Witness Subpoenas to appear at said depositions.  A court reporter is secured to show up, sometimes they’re videotaped and  sometimes you need a translator.  It can be a logistical nightmare with dozens of emails and phone calls.  Sometimes there’s a lull of a few months until the depos are scheduled.  Medical records and other subpoenaed documents keep coming in and getting reviewed.  Sometimes you find a new target and request records from another place.  Update reports to the insurance company/client are sent out.  Everything for the case gets organized properly.  Then finally, everyone appears at one of the attorney’s offices (usually the plaintiff’s attorney) and the deposed parties are asked questions under oath.  Depositions require a lot of preparation in some cases, can last for hours, and even over the course of days.  After they’re over you request copies of the deposition transcripts and that sworn testimony can get used as exhibits at Trial or in Motions.

A lot of Motions can get filed and their respective Hearings heard before the assigned Judge way before the trial date.  A Motion to Strike can request all or part of someone’s testimony be excluded from trial.  A Motion for Summary Judgement can request that because of some huge bit of evidence, you should just get your amount awarded right now and without a trial.  A Motion to Quash a Trial Witness Subpoena can request that a witness not have to appear for whatever reason (not wanting to give up proprietary business information is a big thing for one our clients).  There are Objections/Responses to Motions, Responses to those Responses… omg.   A Motion to Continue (move the trial date to a later date) usually happens if you end up having a bunch of Hearings on all these damn Motions.  There are ton of other Motions that can be filed but I just covered some basics. I think I learn of a new one every few weeks.

Do you need a doctor to perform an  IME (independent medical examination) on the person that’s claiming injuries to determine that she isn’t really injured to the extent she says?  Then you need to retain an expert.  They will perform the IME, draft a report and may even appear and testify in trial.  They get paid for their appearance and it’s outrageous. (Also, if the case settles at the last minute, they usually get to keep their retainer fee of a few thousand dollars.)  So then you have to file your Expert Disclosures.

So when both parties keep having a standoff and no one wants to settle for any amount that’s been offered (you can participate in Mediation with a retired Judge or a Pre-Trial Settlement Conference, sometimes mandated by the assigned Judge) then you start preparing for trial.

I adore trial prep.  It’s my favorite part of the process.  There’s Witness and Exhibit Lists to exchange and file with the Court, then Objections to those lists.  Each attorney has their own way they like to prepare so they may want binders or file folders with all the exhibits organized neatly.  Courtesy copies for the Judge are needed.  You make sure all your service affidavits are on file from the SDTs and witness subpoenas that were served.  There’s Voire Dire (jury selection questions) and Jury Instructions to prepare, specific to each case, if it’s a jury trial.  There’s direct and cross-examinations to prepare for each witness and party.  You retain a court reporter and a translator if the Court doesn’t provide one and you go to trial (if you don’t settle at the 11th hour after playing chicken with one another for the better part of a year).

If you’re the person who got sued (or you had to hire an attorney to keep you from having to appear as a witness) and you win, you can file a Motion for Sanctions to get your legal fees paid for by the person who sued you. There are Objection responses and Responses to that Objection and the actually Hearing. You can also appeal it if you if your Motion is denied.

Also, a neat thing I learned is why you remove a case to Federal Court.  We’ve done this quite a few times and I had to ask why.  Say you get sued and it’s filed in the Circuit Court of a certain county of your state.  Well, that county’s court pulls all of its jurors from that specific county.  Some county’s jurors are notorious for awarding plaintiff’s with large amounts of money.  A defense attorney will remove the case to Federal Court instead because the jurors will be pulled from all over the state and therefore decrease the chance of their client losing a larger amount of money, if they lose.  I love Federal Court.  The U.S. District Court for Eastern VA is called the “rocket docket.”  It’s fast, it’s no bullshit and you can’t dawdle around.  Trial date is usually set quickly after a Complaint is filed and you have to act fast.  Deadlines are strict.

Plaintiffs can also file a Non-Suit if for some reason they don’t think they can take the case to trial in a timely manner because they’re waiting for a specific piece of evidence, can’t locate a witness, etc.  This means that the case is kinda put on hold and they have 6 months to get their act together and refile the Complaint.  If 6 months (generally) go by with no refile, the case is dismissed.

There are billing guidelines we have to abide by with corporate clients and they have a say in a lot of the ways we spend their money.  They may require that we request authorization before paying a bill for medical records we requested or they may even have a specific surveillance company we have to use, with a strict budget on everything from that surveillance to the experts.  There’s always a roadblock from us being able to provide a proper defense as we see fit and they’re usually pretty quick to settle.  Settling can be infuriating when I know that we’d win if we were allowed to take it to trial yet the plaintiff gets to walk away with a fat check.  I have sat at my desk with a $100,000 check in my hands, shaking in anger that someone we know to be a liar gets to go to the bank.  While these types of cases pay my bills, it’s still frustrating that so many frivolous lawsuits get filed and our insurance rates and costs for everything in general goes up to cover the cost of this crap.

So that’s what I know and I’m still learning every day.  Love it.





before and after

by Lara on May 7, 2012

in decor

So, I got those lockers on Wednesday April 25th and finished them on Sunday May 6th. Starting this right after finishing my last painting – I’ve got serious painting fatigue. SO glad it’s over!

After I got them, they were scrubbed down with 409 and David sanded them lightly with 180 grit  (one sheet was enough). I didn’t start priming until that Sunday.

After tightening all the screws, we laid it down in the kitchen and I got to work!

I taped around the latches (wish I hadn’t) and used a teeny 2″ dense foam roller meant for touch-ups. I got it for $2 and it came with the little paint tray too. Replacement foam rollers came in 2-packs for $2 each and I got 3 packs of those. I used a 1/2″ flat paint brush for tight areas the roller couldn’t get to, like around the vents.

For a primer, I picked Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 water-based primer. It says it’s for all surfaces with no pre-sanding needed, and for all top coats. A quart was about $8. I’m really pleased with this stuff and clean up is great. I also have a TON left for future projects!

Because I’m a maniac, I did 2 coats of primer. I chose not to do the interior of the lockers but I still had to paint the pieces that fold in, on and around the doors. Such a pain in the ass! This required the lil’ paint brush and took hours. I had 2 doors open at a time, propped on wads of paper towels and wooden dowels. Luckily the primer dries in less than an hour so, I would work and rest and work and rest. Once I started the colors, I had to do this same process again on the edges, coat after coat, only it was standing up.

For the frame and sides, I used Rust-Oleum gloss enamel in white. A half-pint is about $4. I got a quart and should’ve just gotten the half-pint. Rust-Oleum is an oil-based paint and SO nasty to clean up! The odor is pretty strong too and it takes a long time to dry. Coverage is great though. One coat over the primer and that was it. I did the Rust-Oleum white parts first since it’s easier to clean up latex messes off oil.

Rust-Oluem colors are limited so I had to get latex colors mixed. Home Depot had Behr High Gloss Enamel. Actually, they had 4 Behr gloss bases left so I had to get 2 Glidden brand ones as well. Glidden was far superior to Behr. Totally worth a little extra money! (Also, never get Valspar paint from Lowes. Crappiest crap I ever did use.)

For about $10 a quart on sale, I dropped another $60 on 6 colors. So criminal. I could’ve just done one color or 2 or 3 but I was dead set on 6, which turned into a major disappointment.

I wish they would do custom colors in pints. Oh well. If I ever need to paint anything else around my house a fun color, it’s going to be with this leftover paint I have!

(They do offer little sample tubs of paint in any color for $4 each, which would’ve been perfect, but they were only in flat finishes. So, keep that in mind if you ever need a special color for a tiny project that isn’t glossy, or just put on a gloss topcoat!)

Here are the color swatches (from the Behr site) I picked. Clockwise top left: Atomic Tangerine, Grenadine, Garden Sprout (more acid green), Solar Flare (more bright orange), Aqua Waters, Chocolate Sprinkle


After a couple days of doing other stuff and recovering from back and leg pain (squatting and bending and hunching killed me), I finally started the colors.

David had the brilliant idea to line my paint tray with plastic wrap for easy clean-up between colors! Muah! So great! I had so many lil foam rollers so I didn’t have to clean them out when I switched colors, and just kept them in ziplocks to stay wet until the 2nd coat the next day. Also, some regular printer paper was used in the cracks instead of taping taping taping.

first coats

HEY! GUESS WHAT? I HATED IT!!!! The 6 colors just didn’t work together. It may look okay in that picture but it’s totally different in real life – offensive to my senses. David was being a true diplomat and biting his tongue saying it was very “European.” I think he meant European pre-school for the colorblind.

Colors in your mind are NOT colors on swatches are NOT colors in paint buckets are NOT colors actually painted are NOT colors photographed.

Kelly, a graphic designer, also noted that when certain colors are next to each other in large expanses, it can change the way you see them, bringing out hues you wouldn’t notice if they were alone or smaller. So there’s definitely that.

So… I sucked it up and picked 3 colors instead – yellow, orange and brown – which was David’s original idea so he had the pleasure of hearing me say he was right. At least I tried my original idea first. I would’ve always wondered and you just never know until you do it… $30 and hours down the tubes. I got my wits about me and finished the sucker!

Aaaaand drum roll please!!


We’ve reorganized the kitchen and decided what would go inside the lockers, took meticulous measurements and I got wood dowels and shelves cut to by my dad to maximize storage. I cleared all my spices and cooking stuff off the mantle in the kitchen, got a 2-tier lazy susan that fits in a locker and now have all sorts of clean space on the mantle to decorate!

These two have a shelf 16″ up. The rest have 2 shelves 12″ apart.

repainted the mantle while I was at it

It was just a few days total of real work and about $200 (sigh… I wanted this to be cheaper). Still not bad for what’s on the market right now!

David thinks I should get more of these to paint and sell. Geesh… I just don’t know about that! Squatting and hunching down in my wrecked kitchen murdered my back and legs. I wish I had a workshop!


cat eye tutorial

by Lara on December 3, 2011

in beauty

I never leave the house without my eyes done and lately, I’ve had a few people ask me to teach them how to do cat eyes. This is my pathetic attempt to draw diagrams with my mouse.

The main thing to keep in mind is step 3 – the tail. Following the line of your lower edge is ideal. This is what gives your eye some tilt. It should also point to the end of your eyebrows, if you follow standard eyebrow rules, which frames the lid.

Whether using liquid eyeliner with a brush or felt tip, or using a slanted brush and gel liner – it’s never a one-stroke process. I always have to take the tip and touch up all over the place. Some days my hands, eyeliner and eyes cooperate like magic. Other days I’m ready to throw everything out the window.

I also recommend taking some black shadow and rubbing it along your upper lashes to cover up any gaps that your lashes can cause.It covers a multitude of sins.

Here’s a great tutorial showing both liquid (felt tip) and gel liners:

If you have any questions… feel free to ask in the comments!


sewing the shirt

by Lara on October 8, 2011

in crafty

I finally sewed that damn top! Honestly, the whole thing was a friggin disaster that frustrated me like you would not believe!

I haven’t sewed clothing in a long time and have never made anything without a store-bought pattern so, this was a great refresher and a major learning experience.

This isn’t going to be a full-on tutorial because well, it’s not. I will give the basic steps though, dotted throughout a bunch of bitching. This was mainly a trouble-shooting process that drove me insane. Like lying in bed at night and thinking of ways to make this work insane because… uhm… it’s impossible to line a tank top like I wanted to. Seriously. Impossible.

I had to give up on the lining and do interfacing.

Oh yeah, here’s the Badgley Mischka top I was attempting to copy:


First off, I used a top that I already had for the pattern. It has a similar shape, the arm holes are perfect on me and I can pull it over my head. I was really hoping I could avoid a side zipper and I DID!

I pinned it taut to some pattern tracing cloth.

This pattern tracing cloth is great. I bought a few yards of this years ago and never used it. It’s semi-sheer so you can line up fabric designs and it won’t tear. It’s cat proof! This is important considering Ulti was hellbent on helping me every step of the way.  Regular craft paper is fine too, of course.

I cut around the top, making it longer and giving myself about a 1/2″ seam allowance all around and folded the pattern in half. Of course the 2 halves didn’t match so I trimmed up a bit and cut it down the middle, keeping the side I liked best. I was using the same piece for the front and the back (and lining and later just the top part for interfacing). A lower cut version may be in the works for the future.

 When I cut out the fabric, I folded it in half and laid the center line of the pattern on the fold. A lot of store-bought patterns work this way and half-patterns guarantee an even piece if you’re making your own.

I cut the lining fabric too but all that got tossed in the trash after I figured it wouldn’t work and then cut out long interfacing that addressed the armholes later… much later.

This is neck interfacing in case you have no idea what I’m talking about. When you flip it into the garment, you have a clean line at the neck with no top stitching. Those little notches cut into curves prevent bunching:


I pinned the top together and put it on (carefully) and I was really happy with the fit but gave up on the side ties because the fabric looked too drapey. Then disaster happened over 2 nights of sewing.

I began to sew and everything went to hell. There is not a single tutorial online to show you how to line a tank top like I wanted. I ripped out seams so many times! There was no order in which to sew the pieces to be able to turn things right side out and have the wrong sides facing the correct way with clean seams and zero top stitching showing. To the trash it all went.

I cut everything out again, going with the interfacing instead, sewed it together, hemmed by hand and tried it on. It was so boring without the side ties so I gave em a shot. Thankfully I still had some more fabric. (2 yards would do the trick.) I eyed out and cut long triangles and on the 4th night of working on this, I then ripped the side seams out again, sewed up the side ties, tucked them in, pinned in place, sewed this bastard up, ironed it and it’s done!

So over it.


Seriously though, I’m really happy that I stuck with this. I’ve had a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them so I’m trying to be better about that. I also have a great pattern and when I make another one, it won’t nearly be as awful as this whole mess was.


adventures in Konad

by Lara on August 9, 2011

in beauty

I finally got the nail stamping plates!

So here’s the deal… it’s freakin awesome! Takes some time but so much fun! I’m an insane perfectionist who loves tedious tasks so this was right up my alley.

Like a dummy, I did a black pattern on already dark polish but I love how it turned out! I also did them in the evening so the lighting is terrible. Sorry sorry sooooorry!

So here’s my first stamped manicure and then I’ll get into the nitty gritty:

there’s a cat hair in every one of my nail posts

still not totally cleaned up either

I read and read so much about this process and found that the name brand Konad stamper was vital.

The newest model of stamper is the double ended one. I used the large red end since this was a large pattern.You get the scraper with the stamper for about $6 including shipping.

find them here at Amazon

I also read that an expired gift card works better as a scraper and now, I can agree but, that little pink one really is sufficient and you can’t not buy it w/ the stamper.

The design plates don’t need to be name brand to get a good pattern. A single Konad brand plate can cost $4+ while I got 16 off-brand plates for $18.48 (free shipping) from Born Pretty. They’re the identical designs, numbered the same. Yes, shame on me for buying faux-nad plates.

This is the design I used for my mani, the top right floral:

Here’s the plate and stamper so you can get an idea about size:

There are full nail designs, French tips, small patterns… all sorts of plates out there. If your nails are really long, you may not be able to fit a full nail pattern on your entire nail.

For stamping, choose a polish that’s opaque in one coat (I used Wet ‘n’ Wild’s black). There are Konad Special Polishes but you don’t need them. Here’s a huge list (constantly updated) of great polishes to use for stamping.


  • Paint your nails the base color you want and let them dry.
  • Lay out at least 4 layers of paper towels on a flat surface (maybe even some saran wrap underneath) and get out your polish remover, about a dozen q-tips, your stamper, scraper, and your pattern polish.
  • Put your plate on the paper towels and generously paint the pattern you choose with opaque polish.
  • Take the scraper and quickly, in one movement, scrape the excess polish off the plate, onto the paper towel.
  • Take your stamper and roll it, with pressure, in one movement over the design. It will pick up the polish.
  • Then quickly line up the pattern on the edge of your nail and roll it over your nail in one movement. (In the video below, she does it with her hand flat. I held mine close to my face to really see what I was doing.)
  • You will have a little bit of pattern on your skin and some left on the stamper. With your q-tips and remover, clean up the stamper and the plate – and your nail too, or save that for later.
  • Do it all over again for your next nail and so on.
  • Add a top coat, clean up your mess and you’re all done!

That’s all folks!

Here’s a quick video tutorial if you like visuals.You don’t need sound. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!