How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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TPB, Esq.

Mostly, I envy those train engineers, driving along the coast from my town all the way up to Boston.


Trains are rare enough around here that I generally like getting stuck at one. I always count the cars. There is a very silly narrow gauge tourist railroad running along the water that sometimes gets in the way when I go on my long walks.


Despite noise levels up to 98.6 decibels, I sleep now. In my younger days, I would in fact listen to a cd-walkman, but the volume had to be so loud to hear it over the subway that I was doing more damage to my hearing. I dream some day of having those trains impede my progress and cursing the fact that I'm late for some appointment from the comfort of my car.

David Giacalone

Like all other forms of commerce in this sad region, there are far fewer trains running than in the past, so I can't remember the last time I was caught at an RR crossing. Also, we have lots of overpasses at crucial intersections (infrastructure put in the good-old days of prosperity).

On the other hand, Evan, it's just possible that the p/i Karma gods are trying to give you some spare time to think about your overdue apologia for the use of standard contingency fees.


Even here in Nebraska we get stopped by the trains at times.

George Wallace

Here in Pasadena, two of our major east-west streets are brought to a halt approximately every ten minutes during the day to permit the passage of our newish light-rail line to and from downtown Los Angeles. I also detect those trains, at least subliminally, throughout the day as they slide electrically by, three stories below my office window.

And on quiet nights at home in nearby Glendale, we can hear the horn of the last Amtrak run from the north as it heads, crossing by crossing, toward Union Station. That line, which makes the run all the way up to Seattle, is officially known as the "Pacific Starlight," but is so frequently behind times that the crew refers to it as the "Pacific Star Late." A train in vain, indeed.

Carolyn Elefant

No trains of that sort here, mostly underground metro. However, relatedly, there are some evil 4 way traffic lights which have delayed me as long as 10 minutes on those days when I hit them at the wrong time.

Howard Bashman

In reading your post, one cannot avoid concluding, "You need help!!" After your prompt and, one hopes, successful return to sanity, perhaps a class action would be in order, such as "In re Travelers Whose Valuable Time is Stolen from Them at Lengthy Freight Train Crossings Litigation." You could just end up with that hometown MDL assignment after all.

Fortunately, my current commute to work is just five minutes and crosses no rail lines. When driving home I therefore only miss dozens of headlines. Sometimes work causes me to take the commuter train into Philadelphia (see, for example, tomorrow), but those trains consist of only four to seven passenger cars and are relatively harmless (except to people and/or vehicles who seek simultaneously share the same stretch of track with the train).

A few years back someone trying to cross the tracks at a street crossing near a train station that I sometimes use was hit on the head by a crossing gate that was descending, and the person was thereby knocked to the ground, only to be run over by the train. But that's a story for another time.

David Giacalone

This Evan dude sure is good at driving up his traffic and Comments by dropping a link or two (or twenty). And we lemmings keep on coming. Ain't it fun!?

T P B,  Esq.

Either that or he's just proven that lawyers are pretty obsessed with trains.

George Wallace

He also seems to prove that lawyers would rather, given the opportunity, read and write about something other than law.

David Giacalone

No Fool, you, George -- at least with regards to the proclivities of lawyers with weblogs. At this point, I have the excuse that I'm officially retired (your excuse is not quite as apparent). Of course, there has never been a time in my life when law was even near the top of my topic list for reading, writing, or conversation.


I do curse uncivilly, frequently, but the only "train" in my vicinity is the one caused by the morning commute on the freeway I take into the city.


What are these things called trains you speak of?
Are they like my beloved Boston subway cars?

P.S. We are having a "thing" on Madison Co. at school next Wednesday.


Thanks to you all for your comments. I agree with TPB that "lawyers are pretty obsessed with trains." Or at least they seem that way today.

As for you, Howard, you mentioned that if I filed a particular class action (I'll look into it, by the way), I might "just end up with that hometown MDL assignment after all." You are obviously referring to my wish that the Multidistrict Litigation Panel hold one of its hearing in East St. Louis. That is something different, however, from what you call a "hometown MDL assignment"--that I've already achieved, thank you very much (it was a case against Worldcom, pre-bankruptcy).

As you imply, Howard, a hometown MDL assignment can be a very good thing for a lawyer. But now that that's behind me, my new dream seems even more difficult: I wish to persuade all the judges of the MDL panel to hold their hearing (which takes place once every two months) in East St. Louis, whether or not they assign one of my cases there. I think it would be good for the city and good for the area. Hard to believe, but it's not about me!

So, Howard, if you think my goal is a worthy one, I would appreciate your support. I'll be notifying my readers when the MDL panel announces the location of its next hearing. Will it be East St. Louis? Probably not, but in the meantime, I can dream . . .


Houston once promoted itself as "the City where seventeen railroads meet the sea!" And our Official City Seal — adopted in 1840, when Texas was still an independent Republic — bears a picture not of the Astrodome or NASA, obviously, but of a railroad locomotive. So yes, there are still several major rail lines that crisscross Houston and Harris County, with resulting delays to traffic. About once a week, my weekday morning commute taking my kids to school has a five-to-ten minute interruption because of a crossing train. [As originally written, before I caught the typo, that last sentence ended with "cross train" — Freudian slip, perhaps?]

Our newly elected mayor, Bill White — who was a year ahead of me at Texas Law School and who I had the pleasure of working with when I was a mere member and he the EIC of the Texas Law Review — has just announced a campaign to keep trains from stopping for long periods while stretched through blocked intersections, which seems like a reasonable (if fairly modest) goal.

We also have a new commuter "light rail" system in Houston, but most of the controversy surrounding it has related to its cost-effectiveness and to the amazing difficulty of local motorists in adjusting to it — there have been an astounding number of light-train/vehicular collisions since it started running, mostly with cars making illegal left turns across the tracks in seeming oblivion to the oncoming trains. It's as if our free-range Texan mentality can't quite absorb the notion that something which looks like it should be on an elevated monorail at Disney World might come barrelling "out of nowhere" when we're exercising our God-given rights of the road. (That is in both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution, isn't it?) One recent collision was between one of the light-rail trains and a wheelchair whose occupant had just gotten off another train! (Amazingly, I don't believe he was seriously injured.)

But even if less so today than in the Nineteenth or early Twentieth Centuries, rail transportation still means commerce, and Houston's pretty pro-business. I don't expect them to be pulling up the tracks any time soon.


I'm also reminded of my favorite very obscure Texas railroad joke, involving the names of two Central Texas towns that were both railroad depots: "Question: How far is it from Willis Point to Hearne? Answer: Not very far." I guess that passed for a dirty joke back in the Twenties.

David Giacalone

Beldar, thanks for the interesting history lesson. It jogged some of the cobwebs from my mind, reminding me that I live in the City that was the home of The American Locomotive Company (ALCO). Schenectady even called itself "The City that Lights and Hauls the World." Of course, Alco closed its doors in 1969 and GE has less than 5% of the workforce it had in Schenectady at its peak. A sad tale for another day. See The Iron Horse in Schenectady: Locomotives for the World


Like all other forms of commerce in this sad region, there are far fewer trains running than in the past, so I can't remember the last time I was caught at an RR crossing. Also, we have lots of overpasses at crucial intersections (infrastructure put in the good-old days of prosperity).

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