Saturday, September 11, 2010

L "The Ticket" - Epilogue

I wanted to take a brief moment and tie up a few loose ends that remain from “The Ticket” and address a few issues that did not become a part of the story. Perhaps a little hindsight perspective would be beneficial.

First and foremost I wanted to clarify that, unless otherwise noted all of the names mentioned in The Ticket are the real names of the individuals portrayed. These are after all public officials and I feel as though their words, not mine, should speak for them. As a result, all of the dialog expressed in The Ticket is essentially the exact dialog taken from the court transcripts themselves, which in the interest of accuracy (and to help my case building at the time), I went to the trouble to obtain. I say essentially because as unfortunate as it was, both of the transcripts I received were incoherent at times and in a few instances, varied from what Bishop and I remembered of the hearing. For the purposes of this story, I went to incredible lengths to ensure that the court hearings were fashioned in a truthful and factual manner and as such, the arguments and concepts represented therein, despite the incapability of a word for word rendering, can and should be regarded as fact. If there is any doubt about that, I would mention again that these documents are public and available upon request for a small fee.

Which brings up a point; I mentioned in The Ticket that it was a $55 fee to obtain a copy of the transcript but that is not correct. I believed that to be the case at the time. For a long time actually. But I learned much later that in fact the $55 was the fee to schedule the appeal, and that fee would have been refunded had I been victorious. I decided to omit this fact in The Ticket in the spirit of being true to what myself or the character knew to be true at that time. The actual fee to obtain the documents ranges on cents per page. If memory serves, the last one cost me $2.50.

A few words about the language of the Statute:

NRS 706-8845-9 Standards of conduct while on duty: While a driver is on duty he shall-not load or unload passengers or luggage at an intersection or crosswalk, or at any place or in any manner that will interfere with the orderly flow of traffic.

I raised the question that the statue does not expressly forbid simply “stopping in a lane of traffic” If we were to break down the statute for a second, you can see that there is really two parts to it. Kind of an A & B thing. There are two different ways you can violate the statute. A) Load at an intersection or Crosswalk. Or B) Interfering traffic while loading.

If we just focused on the A section for a second, it says that I cannot load at an intersection and or, I cannot load at a crosswalk. Personally I feel like that part of the statue is very clear. You can’t really debate much about that can you? If I loaded at an intersection, or a crosswalk, then I broke the law. If we can all agree that what I have just said is accurate, then we can move on. So now ask yourself this question, if there was no intersection present, and no crosswalks present, for example if I loaded halfway down a block, nowhere near a intersection or crosswalk, could any reasonable person still find me in violation of this A section? If there was no intersection, could you find me guilty of loading at an intersection? Of course the answer to this question is no. I think any reasonable person would agree. As I said in The Ticket, the intersection or crosswalk is a requirement, as without their existence a violation is not possible under the A section.

So I think we have established, under this premise, that there must actually be an intersection (or crosswalk) present in order to “load at an intersection”. And yet, it’s the stance of the TaxiCab Authority that no traffic needs be present in order to “Interfere with traffic” or the B section of the same statute. Which as you now know, has been my argument from day one. Somehow, miraculously, we can interfere with non-existent traffic while loading and yet are unable to load at a non-existent intersection.

If you assumed that “stopping in a lane of traffic” is sufficiently bounded within, or perhaps even the essence of “any manner that will interfere with the orderly flow of traffic” then I would say a couple of things about that. First the word “orderly” is very peculiar. What’s the use of it? If I’m stopping in a lane of traffic, than what does orderly traffic have to do with it? And for it’s part, why is the word traffic in there? If indeed all one has to do is stop in a lane, then there is absolutely no need for the word traffic. And for it’s part under this scenario, the entire A section of the statute becomes totally irrelevant for the same reason. It’s this sort of inconsistent and illogical word play on the part of the TA that leads me to my old adage, “Just tell me to fuck off”.

I say that all the time about a wide range of things. If you need to bullshit me or what have you, then please just tell me to fuck off instead, so I can go about my business. Tell me to fuck off and we can be friends. We really can. However when you bullshit you me as a way to prove me wrong or show that you’re right, or in an attempt to justify something, you really just end up wasting everybody’s time and as such, we can no longer be friends. If you’re dumb enough to think that I’m buying this nonsense then literally, there is no way that we could be friends anyway. To say nothing of your wasting my time. If however, you can just look me in the eye and tell me to fuck off, then if nothing else at least I know where I stand, and our friendship still has a shot. In Yiddish you say "gornisht hellfin"...nothing will help you. If I had walked into the TA hearing and the board had said, “We thank you for coming here today Mr. Funk, but we feel as though you have already lost, so in the interest of time we would just like to say fuck off and have a nice day.” If that is what I had heard that day I can honestly say that I would be perfectly ok with that. That might have made for a better story anyway, a shorter one too. However, when attempts are made to justify a ruling using illogical connections, inconsistent stances and questionable courtroom behavior, it really is the same as saying fuck you. Isn’t it? Personally, I would have much rather they did just that. If you love Jesus that’s great, but just tell me you have faith, and leave it at that,. Do this and we can be friends till the end. However the moment you start talking about Mt. Ararat and how science can prove the bible you’re going to lose me, and we can no longer be friends. That’s basically what’s going on here-the TA is using Mt. Ararat to prove the bible. Tell me to fuck off, tell me gornisht helfin. Tell me you have faith. But please please, don’t tell me that your interpretation is valid, just, and logical and mine is misguided. We can’t be friends then. Tyranny in democracy’s clothes does not suit me. But I digress.

I wanted to get back to the language, and perhaps spirit of the law for a moment. Some of the on goings of this ordeal have been played out already on a few online discussion boards that I frequent (shout out to phook and PT woot!) Considering the large number of people that visit these sites you are bound to get a wide variety of people weighing in, and it just so happened that an expert emerged. The gentlemen asked that I withhold his name, but he did comment on some of my thoughts regarding the statute. He was kind enough to allow me to publish his words so here:

“…To qualify my opinion I will share that I wrote regulation for a state agency for a number of years and grappled with this type of word play on a day to day basis. To me the statute consists of two independent clauses, which create two distinct methods of violation:

1) load/unload at an intersection/light
2) load/unload in a manner that will impede traffic

I do agree with your definition of 'will' and note that it is being interpreted too broadly. So I do not think you violated the second clause, which you believed the Officer thought you were violating. Unfortunately, by responding to the 'Judge's' questions you inadvertently may have admitted to violating the first clause.

However, if her questions and actions were out of the scope of her position, the admission is not relevant because it evolved from improper questioning. So I do believe you have grounds for appeal. If granted a new trial you could argue that there was no traffic and you were not an intersection.

As for your point about the reason for the rule's ambiguity it is likely written like that on purpose. I know that in my job I sometimes have to not write what I mean to write in order to enact a regulation that is not popular. If written in a particular manner it may excite the regulated parties, attract media attention and create backlash. Instead I would tasked with writing it broadly and contacting enforcement to give advice to them on interpretation.

In my opinion, the State legislature did not come out and write "it is unlawful to load/unload outside of taxi stands" because it would probably attract attention of cabbies like yourself. Questions would be asked, rationale would have to be given, ect. Instead they write it broadly and can probably sneak it into a budget amendment without serious backlash, then the TA is given advice on how to enforce it. If questioned they can point to public safety/traffic as the rationale and it will appear so because of how the clauses are written.

This type of sneaky writing is all too common and was the impetus for my career change. I found myself too honest to work in government. The day I asked, 'why can't I just write what we are intending to write?' and my boss replied 'because what we are trying to do would be DOA,' I knew that I was done.”

Outstanding stuff right there, to which I responded:

“If what you're describing is the norm when it comes to penning laws, isn't there a constitutional argument that can be made against them? If seems like part of a lawmakers duty would be to enable laws that are not susceptible to being misinterpreted. Isn't that your charge? It seems that misinterpretation for it's own sake sends one down a very offensive path constitutionally speaking. Perhaps this dilemma is the source of some of your moral conflicts?”

To which he replied:

“My agency was given the statutory authority to write regulations under a number of different state statutes. We have to follow the rules, which means we have to publish the regulations, hold a public hearing, and have it approved by a non-governmental body.

The non-governmental body is supposed to protect us from abusing our powers because they are/were members of the industry we are supposed to regulate and most of the time they do. However, lets say we have a problem to address that needs to be addressed. The agency realizes that by writing it a certain way we may be able to solve a problem want to address but don't have the support to do so.

So we write the regulation a certain way. It addresses problem A, and it also allows us a way to address problem B. We then call our friends in enforcement and tell them to be broad in interpretation. Now I am not saying this is the norm, but I will say this is not unusual.

When it comes to the legislature there tends to be less direct oversight of what they do. Things like this often get slipped into the budget. Some of the most asinine laws I have ever seen have come out of budget amendments. It is very easy to push in two lines of bullshit within a multiple thousand page document. This is more common and in my opinion a huge problem in this country, and I imagine it was the impetus for your law.

As for my moral conflict, I just saw that government was less like what I thought it would be and more like what I feared it was like. I realized I could be having a better impact elsewhere and had the experience to be taken seriously...“

Fascinating perspective right there I do believe. Personally, it had never occurred to me that it could have been over-broad on purpose. I wonder how that guy felt reading The Ticket? He’s probably never had the chance to experience something like that from the other angle.

In this vein, and to me the most troubling thing about this whole situation, was the shell game-esque justifications for the conviction or the upholding of it. If you followed The Ticket closely, you may have noticed that I was cited for violating the B section of the statute “interfering with traffic while loading”. I was prosecuted under that same premise, “interfering with traffic”. Yet strangely I was found guilty of violating the A section of the statute, “loading at an intersection”. Even more bizarre is the fact that the justification for upholding the conviction for “loading at an intersection”, became something linked back to the B section but in reality not a part of the statute at all, “stopping in a lane”. It seems that none of these things are related. I made a comment in The Ticket about how it’s hard to imagine a more obvious example of trial by surprise and this is what I was referring to. If any of you legal eagles out there would care to expand on the ramifications of such antics, if any, I would love to hear more about this. There may in fact be no issues whatsoever with something like this and that’s just it, I don’t know for sure. But it does seem a little odd. Doesn’t it?

That was what troubled me the most. What troubled Bishop the most was another thing entirely. Bishop can’t get over the actions of Board Member Miller. To Michelle and Bishop’s point, I too got the feeling that the two girls, the Chair and Vice Chair as it were, were against me from the very beginning. I think actually that this fact was not illustrated efficiently in The Ticket, and I only bring it up now to illustrate the difference between them and Member Miller. The Chair & Vice Chair, in my opinion, were basically just telling me to fuck off, and pursuant to my adage, I’m actually ok with this. There wasn’t anything I could have said to convince them I don‘t believe, regardless if they were biased or I’m just wrong. However Mr. Miller is on a different plain. Mr. Miller said for the record that the felt that the Judge overreached in some of her findings, proclaimed that the admission of the map is a slippery slope and even went as far as to explain how to avoid the problem in the future, and yet still for some reason he votes to uphold the decision?

That didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. For the longest time I just took that to mean that I almost convinced him. He seen what I was saying but he didn’t completely agree. But this is actually not true. The more Bishop laid it out for me, and the more I thought about it, it became clear and I believe that I actually did convince Mr. Miller. I think he was in my boat from the very beginning, possibly even before I began to speak, and yet he still voted to uphold the decision. This is puzzling. Bishop believes this amounts to the ultimate fraud. From what I understand, when any form of governmental body is composed of a board such as this, there are certain fundamental duties that each member has an obligation and likely an oath to adhere to and participate in. The very reason that there are multiple members on a equal plain, is so that each member can express and more importantly, vote in accordance with, their own personal beliefs. To do otherwise is to breach your personal duty and in the process rob the body of its foundational nature and purpose.

Other Laws:

I turned to a fellow blogger and Las Vegas cabbie who goes by the name of "Unk", for some information regarding some of the other rules that seem to apply to our little issue as well. Those of you that are interested in the long-hauling topic as well as all of the behind the scenes of the industry itself, and I know that’s many of you, should visit Unk‘s page I’ve tried to put my focus on the creative side of things and the interesting person in the backseat and Unk is the guy who goes to all the meetings and is out there with his sign when the protests are going on and is always letting drivers know what’s what. I'm not aware of anyone more knowledgeable about the business.

Clark County Code 14.36.070 Pedestrians soliciting rides or business-
No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment or business from the occupant of any vehicle.

No person shall stand on or in proximity to a street or highway for the purpose of soliciting the watching or guarding of any vehicle while parked or about to be parked on a street or highway. (Ord 230 & 10(G), 1965)

Most states or counties have a law similar to this one and I believe its purpose is to prohibit hobos from hitching rides. Seems like everywhere you go you hear about a law where people can’t do this. Definitely around prisons. But interestingly, around here this law is interpreted to included taxis as well. In theory, myself and the people I loaded could have been cited from them flagging me, and me picking them up. I doubt many people are actually cited for this, but it helps serve to perpetuate the myth about flagging cabs being illegal.

Furthermore, Unk brought up a point that had I knew about at the time, there is no question that it would have became a part of my arguments. First read this law, it talks about a drivers right of refusal.

NRS 706.8847 Compliance with passenger’s directions; exceptions:

1. A driver shall not refuse or neglect to transport any orderly person to that person’s destination if:
(a) That person requests the driver to transport the person; and
(b) The requested destination is within the area allocated to the certificate holder who employs the driver.

(Added to NRS by 1969, 1247)

This law says that anyone that requests my services I must transport. I’d see this going down something like this.

DRIVER FUNK: Officer Hinkle you said that four people flagged me down is that correct?

OFFICER HINKLE: That’s right.

DRIVER FUNK: Flagged me down how?

OFFICER HINKLE: They were raising their arms, waving them.

DRIVER FUNK: I see, so they were requesting taxi service?


DRIVER FUNK: Officer are you familiar with NRS 706.8847?

OFFICER HINKLE: I believe that’s compliance with passengers directions.

DRIVER FUNK: That’s right. very good. So you’re aware of your ability, and duty, to cite me if I deny transport of any orderly person, correct?

PROSECUTOR: Objection your Honor, relevance?

DRIVER FUNK: Your Honor it’s the officer’s testimony that I can be cited for loading as well as not loading these passengers. It seems like there is little but of a conflict here and I request that this case be dismissed…

…Maybe it would have been more dramatic, I don’t know. But there point is well taken. By law I must transport orderly patrons.

Moving along, I raised the question in my first trial in TA court regarding lanes. I sufficiently showed that the officer was mistaken about that, and undoubtedly honestly so. But Judge Winner said something that I found peculiar. When I asked what the standard protocol regarding the number of lanes, she said that “there is no standard way of doing it”. I can’t believe that is true. If there is no standard method, and every officer has cart-blanche to label things as he or she see fit, it seems inevitable that vast confusion will arise when exact locations are very much relevant. I concluded that there is a standard method, and Officer Hinkle may have even been in compliance with it, although still incorrect about which lane, but for whatever reason Judge Winner seems to be unaware of it. Again, I refuse to believe there is no standard protocol in this regard.

The question was raised in the comments I believe asking me if this whole experience has soured me on the legal system? Will it deter me from trying again in the future? The answer is I don’t think so. One thing is for sure, my fangs will be much sharper the second time around. I made two vital errors by my estimation; the first was talking to Officer Hinkle at the scene. I should have remained silent. And the second was the way I handled the Officer and his name in court. If I could go back, those would be the first two things I would fix. And for that matter, to Officer Hinkle if you're reading this- I wanted to offer my apologies for my behavior. I don't condone your actions butI should have conducted myself with more respect, and held more tact. So knowing that, and simply what I’ve learned about the law throughout the processes, will make me a much tougher out the next time around there is no question. If anything, I would say this experience will make me more determined in the future. The system is a tough egg to crack but I'm confident that enough logic and what is right we can always prevail.

Last but not least I need to acknowledge a few individuals. As I eluded to in The Ticket, Bishop proved himself a vital asset to this adventure. Thankfully at some point it seemed he became personally vested in my plight and that commitment made my case exponentially stronger. I think he sees me as his prodigy, or perhaps a version of his younger self. My Daniel San to his Miyagi. In fact, I think he took the defeat harder than I did. It’s worth noting that shortly after the hearing, Bishop bought me a copy of the LSAT prep book, along with the encouragement to go to attend law school. A very awesome gesture and I am very thankful for all your help.

Sr. Investigator Henneforth was also very kind in taking time with me on multiple occasions to hear me out as well as offer his viewpoint on the matters. His candor and insight where extremely valuable to me and I appreciate that very much. Thank you Sr. Investigator!

So that’s it folks. The Ticket. The 50th fucking story. Doesn’t seem like a lot does it? I donno, I’m trying what can I say. I had a little bit too much fun doing this and I hope you liked it. As you may have conluded, I spent a significant amount of time putting all this together. It seemed like the more concise it got, the more concise it needed to be, perhaps even to a fault. But you guys stuck around for the whole ride and I am very happy for that. I have few things planned for the future, it'll be nice to start writing and thinking about other things, so stay tuned and as always I am very grateful for your readership so thank you to you too!

Back to work.

P.s. The Ticket is dedicated to my lost friend Tony LaForgia. I call Tony a friend but in truth I only knew him very briefly. Tony happened to hang out at the 3rd street stand downtown all the time. In fact, that was the only place I ever seen him. There was a period there where I started hanging out at that stand too, as another driver had recommended it, and soon thereafter I met Tony for the first time. Tony was your typical New York City Italian. The retired NYPD cop skinny as a rail, Phil Donahue look-alike was naturally gifted in the art of gab and considering his colored past, he always had a good tale to tell. And tell them he did. Tony may have been the last non-longhauling cabbie. I knew he was getting pressure from his company, but Tony was not the kind of guy to give into that bullshit. He would always talk shit about guys where were doing it.

At some point, I shared with Tony my experience about getting my flag tickets and how I was fighting them and every time he seen me he asked about it. I valued his background in law enforcement and would constantly be bouncing ideas off of him. Then he started calling me Clarence Darrow, which then allowed him to give me a hard time because I didn't know who Clarence Darrow was. Tony was the guy who would get in your face, and wave his finger at you, if you didn't know something that he thought you should know, but at the same time you knew he was a total sweetheart.

Not long my day in court had ended. I received the news that Tony had died of a heart attack. I was on the 3rd street stand one night and a guy came up to me that recognized me from talking to Tony and he told me the news. It was the only way I would have found out, I never had Tony's phone number. In an strange twist, I brought up in our conversation Tony's life as a cop and the guy looked at me like I was crazy? "You thought Tony was a cop?" the guy said. "Well yeah, that's what he told me. We talked about it all the time." "Tony wasn't a cop, his wife was a cop. Tony was a butcher."

Well what do you know? You got me there Tony you old bastard, I give you that. God bless you sir, it was a pleasure having known you and I hope you may rest in peace. ...and don't worry, I know who Clarence Darrow is now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

LVCC featured on Tao of Poker

Dr. Pauly is a poker writer & blogger first made famous for his comprehensive coverage of the World Series of Poker and his popular Tao of Poker blog, and now for his newly released hilarious account of his time living in Las Vegas covering poker in his book "Lost Vegas".

"Tao of Five" is Dr. Pauly's take on the Rolling Stone classic and a ongoing feature on his blog. Dr. Pauly recently reached out to me to see if I would be interested in being a subject for the series and of course I accepted. What an honor.

Below is a link to my 5 question interview, thought some of you might like to read it.

Tao of Five with Mr. Funk