Tuesday, June 16, 2015

google yourself

I am rather old school when it comes to current fads.  The use of "old school" in that sentence is proof enough of my condition.

Plenty of cultural fads pop up either in my inbox or on Facebook.  Most of them involve activities that hold very little interest for me.  You know them.  There is little need for me to list mine.

For a couple of months now, I have avoided joining the "Google yourself" crowd.  I knew the world had become narcissistic, but I have no idea how far the affliction had advanced.  I had hoped it would stop with omnipresent selfies.

No such luck.  I am not certain where I first heard of "Google yourself" -- the act of entering your name in Google and being amazed at all the sites that are aware of your existence.

What broke down my resistance was a fellow blogger who was surprised to see what other people were saying about her away from her blog.  So, I said: "Why not?"  I suspected nothing would come of the search, but what harm could there be?

If you are now expecting the remainder of this essay to be about the "harm" that inevitably came from my jaunt into "me" land, you are going to be disappointed.  I was correct.  There was no harm.  But I did run across some interesting information about myself of which I had no memory.

I first tried entering "Steve Cotton."  And I gt exactly what I expected.  A link to Mexpatriate and to my pages on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Hardly earth-shattering.

I also learned I share the same name with a radio broadcaster, the president of a watchmaking company, a "multiplayer environment artist," and a New Zealand yacht racer.  But nothing more about this Steve Cotton. 

I thought it a bit odd.  After all, I have been around for longer than Mexpatriate.

So, I entered my full name.  I didn't expect much.  I had killed that name in 1988 when I ran for the state legislature under the streamlined "Steve Cotton" brand.

I was wrong.  My legal career came tumbling out onto the screen.  As I said earlier, I had completely forgotten about each of them.

Legal careers tend to live on in appellate decisions.  And that is what I found.

In 1988, I represented a fellow by the name of Doyle Boswell.  He had been convicted of unauthorized use of a vehicle by a jury after choosing to represent himself.  After looking at the court record, I concluded that the judge erred in allowing Mr. Boswell to represent himself without first finding that he had intelligently and competently waived his right to counsel.

Those "procedural" errors matter.  They are the very basis of how our Constitution works.  In this case, the Court of Appeals agreed the record did not show a valid waiver.  As a result, the conviction was reversed, and the court sent the case back to the trial court to allow the district attorney to determine whether or not to proceed to a new trial.

And, because I do not remember this case, I cannot finish the story for you.  I have no idea how Mr. Boswell fared after this victory.

That same year (1988), I represented Kerry Barker before the Oregon Court of Appeals.  He had been convicted of recklessly endangering another person, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a judge after waiving his right to a jury trial.  The judge had failed to have Mr. Barker execute a written waiver of his constitutional right to a jury trial.  Without that waiver, the conviction was unlawful.

The Court of Appeals agreed.  Mr. Barker's conviction was reversed, and his case was remanded for a new trial.  And, just like Mr. Boswell, I have no idea what eventually happened to Mr. Barker.  That is often the fate of the appellate attorney.  We see our clients for only a brief moment during their contact with he judicial system.

Even though there were other cases, I decided to stop at the third -- a 1992 case when I was a workers' compensation appellate attorney rather than acting as a criminal defense attorney.

In 1990, the Oregon legislature reformed a large portion of the state's workers' compensation laws.  The prior law was a terrible system -- premiums were some of the highest in the nation, and injured workers received some of the lowest benefits nationally.

This case involved one of those changes.  The injured worker's temporary total disability benefits were unilaterally terminated by the employer when the worker was released to work.  Under prior law, benefits could be determined only upon a finding that the worker's condition was medically stationary.

This time, I represented the employer.  The Court of Appeals agreed that the new law had changed the playing field.  A medical release to regular or modified work was a sufficient basis to terminate benefits.

It is simply a coincidence that the first three appellate decisions were wins.  I had plenty of losses.  But, what amazes me is that these cases were the center of my professional life.  I no longer even recognize them.  That is probably a healthy sign for a pensioner.

But I cannot let one more link pass without mention.  It is not even a link to me.  The link is to announcement of the people who passed the Oregon bar examination in July 2008.  One of them is "Sara Cotton" -- my nephew's wife. 

We are extremely proud of her.  I have no doubt that when she Googles herself in a few years, she will see a lot of her career out there on the internet.

Now that I have done it, "Steve Cotton" and Google will be strangers.

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