Medlin Law Firm - March 2020

The Medl in News

MARCH 2020

I should have booked plane tickets and a hotel room ahead of time, just in case. But honestly, some good old-fashioned superstition took hold — I just didn’t want to jump the gun and jinx their chances. So, perhaps a little like Bilbo, I scrambled to put this last-minute adventure together.


It may not be on your standard calendar, but March 25 is “Tolkien Reading Day,” a day dedicated to the fantasy works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I confess: I’ve never really read any of “The Lord of the Rings” books myself, but my wife is a big fan. So, in honor of the author’s first adventure in Middle Earth, I thought I’d share some unexpected journeys of my own. The first came almost exactly a year ago. The NCAA tournament was in full swing, and I was watching the proceedings with growing interest. Normally, I’m not one to make brackets or get too invested in the “madness,” but this year was different. This year, my team was winning. Basically, I was born into the Texas Tech fandom. My dad graduated from the school, and I remember rooting for the teams since I was a kid. This appreciation for the Red Raiders only deepened when I was accepted to the school myself. I wound up getting my undergrad and law degrees there, and I made it to almost every home game for our basketball team. Still, I never would have imagined we’d get as far as we did in 2019. Don’t get me wrong, Texas Tech has always had a strong basketball team, but compared to the national heavy hitters with massive athletic budgets, we seem eternally destined to be the underdog. This didn’t seem to matter last year, however, when the Raiders managed to win upset after upset, surprising even die-hard fans like me. When they reached the semifinals, I knew I had to go to Minneapolis to see the final game. March Madness and the Grand Canyon


The plane tickets weren’t too much of an issue, but finding a place to stay the day of the finals was next to impossible. I wound up settling for a motel room that left much to be desired, but I didn’t care. I was going to see the team I’d rooted for since I was a boy play basketball at the highest level — that was worth risking some bed bugs. The sports fans reading this already know how this story ends. After a nail-biting game, Texas Tech ultimately lost in overtime, but I certainly didn’t regret the journey. Being in that stadium, I felt just like I did cheering on the Raiders in college, with one key difference: My work as a lawyer made their uphill battle feel very familiar. Being a defense attorney asked to square off against the government and all their resources can feel a lot like playing as the underdog. The fighting spirit Texas Tech brought to the entirety of that tournament was a testament to the kind of attitude that shapes great attorneys and athletes alike.



could handle a downhill walk. Of course, I’d heard downhill is actually harder on your body, but I never really believed it.

Shame on me. About halfway down to the raft launch site, my right knee started to swell, and by the time we were near the bottom, it was about the size of a basketball. It just so happened that there was a radiologist in our rafting group, and he was convinced I had severed a tendon. Worse still, we couldn’t radio the National Park Service for help thanks to the steep canyon walls. We ended up having to wait for a passing airliner, radioing the pilots who then relayed the message to a rescue team. A helicopter piloted by a Vietnam veteran ended up swooping in to save me. On the bright side, I was treated to a fantastic view of the Grand Canyon. And so my journey took an unexpected detour to the hospital. After X-rays and tests, the doctor gave me the news — my knee was bruised. That was it. Just a bruise. A bad one to be sure, but not exactly an epic finale to my tale, so I resolved that it wasn’t the end. After a week on crutches, I rented a mule and set off down the same trail that had done me in. The trip was still grueling, and I had plenty of blisters thanks to the hike out, but I’m glad I made it. The views were spectacular, and I’d proved to myself that I could tackle the challenge. From basketball to basketball-sized bruises, these journeys didn’t exactly end with a dragon’s treasure, but I still took away something valuable. Both trips underscored the importance of perseverance and taking one step at a time toward your goals, despite the odds. Those are the kinds of lessons that make it worth going there and back again.

Of course, the loss in the final round did sting. But compared to my other unexpected journey, March Madness 2019 was a painless experience. At least I could physically walk out of the stadium when the lights came up. I can’t say the same about my trip to the Grand Canyon. Several years earlier, I made the trip to Arizona to explore everything it had to offer. Unlike my March Madness trip, this adventure was well planned. I had already rafted the top half of the canyon, hiking out on the rugged Bright Angel Trail, so this time around, I wanted the full experience: hiking down the back half and rafting the entire length of the park. I wasn’t too worried about the hike down. After all, if I could handle the Bright Angel Trail — an uphill journey that rises a mile in elevation in just 8 miles — surely I The Freedom of Information Act, commonly referred to as FOIA, has been a crucial part of the democratic system for decades. It was designed to improve public access to governmental records, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as intended. In most cases, requests are only answered if a lawsuit is filed. Nevertheless, FOIA has had a crucial role in many high-profile legal cases. Here are a couple of the most significant ones in American history. A Journalist’s 16 Years in Court California-based journalist Seth Rosenfeld has had some serious contention with the FBI. In 1985, he filed his first lawsuit against the FBI for ignoring his requests for information about the Berkeley protests of the 1960s. The case was eventually settled in 1996, and Rosenfeld was awarded $560,000 in fees. In their settlement agreement, the FBI agreed to be more thorough with FOIA requests. Rosenfeld filed a second lawsuit in 2007 accusing the FBI of withholding information during former President Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Five years later, he was awarded $479,459 in attorney fees. Rosenfeld is known DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH

FOIA Lawsuits That Changed How Americans Participate in Democracy

for having some of the longest-pending FOIA requests and has received over 300,000 pages of FBI documents since the 1980s. The SCOMM Scandal In a landmark FOIA settlement concluded in 2013, the federal government paid $1.2 million to settle a suit brought by several civil rights groups over the Secure Communities (SCOMM) Immigration and Customs Enforcement program. The litigation exposed a plan to create a multi-agency database focused on collecting DNA, a person’s gait, and iris scans. When evidence was uncovered during the litigation, governors of New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts tried to opt their states out of the program, but the Department of Homeland Security determined SCOMM mandatory, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The case also changed how the government is required to identify, collect, and produce data for all FOIA requests. Thanks to FOIA and these important cases, the people’s right to government information (and honesty) will continue to progress in America’s democracy. | Pg. 2


Every so often, a personal injury case makes national news, polarizing the nation as it unfolds. The media has a habit of sensationalizing these stories that may otherwise have been run- of-the-mill legal battles. The good news is that they can serve as important lessons about howwe view civil suits in this country. The Doctor’s Dog In a case that was likely only elevated due to the fame of the defendant, a skin care specialist named Janet Harris took Dr. Phil to court after his dog bit her. Based on that description of events, Harris’s initial suit for $7 million may seem outrageous, but let’s delve deeper. At the time of the bite, Dr. Phil and his wife urged Harris not to seek medical attention for fear of bad publicity. Being their friend, Harris obliged, only to sustain a serious infection from the wound that resulted in hearing loss and hand tremors, which made it impossible for her to treat her patients. Not only was Harris left with medical bills and permanent disabilities, but she was also out of a job. Suddenly, $7 million doesn’t seem all that unreasonable. Freshly Brewed Trouble In what is probably the most well-known personal injury case of all time, an 81-year-old woman took McDonald’s to court over a

spilled cup of coffee and was awarded over $2 million. Again, this seems like “the poster child of excessive lawsuits,” as ABC News called it at the time. Yet the truth is more complicated. Stella Liebeck, the woman involved, was hospitalized with third- degree burns that left her partially disabled for a number of years. Initially, Liebeck only sought to cover her medical expenses with a $20,000 settlement. McDonald’s replied with an insulting counter offer of just $800. That’s when Liebeck lawyered up. The punitive damages awarded to Liebeck represented just two days’ worth of McDonald’s coffee sales and would later be significantly reduced by a judge. Ultimately, the two parties settled out of court for less than $600,000. As these cases show, the threat of frivolous lawsuits has been greatly exaggerated. The next time you see an accident victim being derided in the media for seeking damages, take a closer look. Chances are that there are rich and powerful interests trying to protect their bottom line at the expense of a person whose life is changed forever.


Brain Buster


1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 eggplant, peeled and chopped

1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

2 tsp salt

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3/4 cup olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, sliced

5 sprigs thyme

2 pints cherry tomatoes


and cook onion, pepper, garlic, and thyme for 8–10 minutes. 6. Add half the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. 7. Stir in original eggplant and zucchini mixture and top with remaining tomatoes. Do not stir. 8. Transfer pot to oven and bake mixture for 15–20 minutes. 9. Remove pot from oven and remove thyme bundle before serving.

1. Heat oven to 400 F. 2. In a colander, toss eggplant, zucchini, and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and pat dry. 3. In an ovenproof pot, heat

1/2 cup olive oil. Add half of eggplant mixture, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from pot.

4. Tie thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine. 5. In the same pot, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil,

Inspired by Bon Appétit | Pg. 3

1300 South University Drive Suite 318 Fort Worth, TX 76107 682-499-9222




Hobbits, Basketball, and the Grand Canyon

2. Influential Freedom of Information Act Lawsuits

3. The IssueWith ‘Frivolous Cases’


4. March Madness Fun for the Whole Family


March Madness Fun for the Whole Family

Madness matchup into a little party. It doesn’t have to be fancy; make fun snacks to eat while you watch or bet pieces of candy on who will have the most points to create great family bonding opportunities. Reward the winners with prizes. Offer prizes to each round winner as well as the overall bracket winner to get the whole family involved. Small prize ideas for each round can include a homemade dinner of the winner’s choice, a week’s supply of their favorite snack, or a coupon for getting out of a chore. Whoever wins the whole tournament (or makes it the furthest with their bracket) deserves a bigger reward. Offer them the chance to see a movie of their choice in theaters or to eat a meal at their favorite restaurant. Create a learning opportunity. Learning math or geography might not sound like your child’s idea of fun, but it can be when they learn it through the lens of March Madness. See if your kids would be interested in understanding the inner workings of the ranking system or studying where some of the qualifying colleges are located on a map of the United States. They may find it so interesting that they don’t even realize they’re learning valuable skills.

One of the greatest things about March Madness is that you don’t have to be a huge college basketball fan to get in on the fun. Kids of all ages can fill out brackets — or have a parent fill one out for them — and watch their picks duke it out on the court. While healthy competition among family members can be fun all on its own, check out the following tips if you’re looking to go the extra mile and reap as much fun from March Madness as you can. Turn each game into an event. Not every kid may like watching basketball, but if they fill out a bracket, then they might gain at least a passing interest in who will win each game. To elevate their interest, turn each March | Pg. 4

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