Karen Koehler

Just the Law…

Under Washington law, wrongful death actions are strictly governed by statute.  Atchison v. Great W. Malting Co., 161 Wn.2d 372 (2007).  When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act of another, the decedent’s personal representative may maintain an action for damages.  RCW 4.20.010.

RCW 4.20.020 defines the beneficiaries of such a wrongful death action.  First, it specifies that the action is for the benefit of the spouse, state registered partner, or children of the decedent.    Then it provides if the decedent leaves no surviving spouse/partner, or children, the action may be maintained for the benefit of parents, sisters or brothers who may be dependent upon the deceased person for support.  This means that parents or siblings of a deceased adult person are not entitled to bring a wrongful death action unless the decedent supported them.  Cousins, aunts, and uncles are not included at all in the class of persons who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

The wrongful death laws of Washington were first written in the 1880s.  They sometimes result in extreme unfairness.  Primarily for unmarried adults who had no children and did not support their parents or siblings.

Photo:  Just before a nice visit with the City of Seattle attorneys.

To Whom It May Concern

On October 9, 2017, the above letter was delivered to the investigating Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys, Criminal Division, of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

7 bullets

I am looking at the Medical Examiner’s chart.  She has been shot 7 times.  7 pieces of metal are either in or have gone through her small body.  The same height as mine. But more slender.  Her face is beautiful.  It was spared.  They aimed at her middle.

I count the bullet holes on the front of the body diagram.  Then on the back.  There are more than 7 holes.  Some bullets count for 2 holes each.  In. Out.

What was she thinking when the first bullet struck.  Did she feel it pierce her flesh.  Did it burn.   My hand goes to my stomach.  I can feel the pressure of my blood as it rises through my body and up into my throat.  Rises up my head and needs to be released.  Through my eyes.  Through tears.  My breath catches. Did she feel them.  Did she know.   My stomach and heart ache.  They are screaming: NO.  Silently.  Awfully.

I travel laboriously through the ME’s report.  Bullet by bullet.   Until they are all accounted for.

Report: Seattle police shot Charleena Lyles 7 times, autopsy shows

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/autopsy-shows-charleena-lyles-was-shot-7-times-by-police/

Photo:  tree by me

 

 

 

 

 

The meanest motion ever

Sometimes my job is sickening.   I get the whole idea of defense lawyers attacking my clients in order to make sure they are telling the truth.  But what I can never get used to are the grotesque tactical maneuvers used by some defense lawyers to save an insurance company a buck.

Here are a few excerpts from an argument I made to the Court opposing defense counsel’s motion to dismiss a father’s claim for the wrongful death of his child.  Before reading this: a) put on a white jacket; b) stand up fully; c) employ wonder woman frown; d) thrust out chin; and e) use extra emphasis when using the word: “repulsive.”

Good morning, your Honor.  Your Honor, initially when I drafted the response to this motion, I asked for terms.  And I took it out because I believe that this motion was the result of a law firm letting an associate just run amok.  And I didn’t want to blame her for it.  But this is one of the meanest motions I’ve ever seen in a case.  It is without foundation…There’s a human element in cases as well as a legal element.  And humanity, I believe, should be an undercurrent of our legal system.  As well as respect of individuals.  And this motion is disrespectful and not based on the law.

And so what the defense is inviting us to do here is to go ahead and discriminate against a couple that is not yet married and put a burden on them that it would place on no married couple to prove paternity because of an alleged rape that they (the defense) has done nothing to discover.  I think it is repulsive.  In fact, stepchildren and stepparents do have rights under our wrongful death laws.  it started with natural, it went to adoption, and it went to step.  that was the progression of our law because it reflects the humanity of our culture.

In this case Mr. A was there for all the pregnancy.  He supported his wife (Freudian slip) throughout the pregnancy.  He was there witnessing the collision.  Was there witnessing when an emergency C section was required.  Was in the hospital every day of his daughter’s life.  And held her at the moment she died.  I just find this motion repulsive.

There is no case law saying that you must prove paternity before you can be deemed to be a mother or father.  To the contrary, all the case law says you act like a mother, a father, you take on those responsibilities, you love the child, you are the mother or father for the purposes of our laws in this state.

The heart of this motion is attacking the fatherhood of Mr. A.  I just can’t get over it.

Photo: a fighter of mean motions via snapchat.

 

 

Specifically with respect to our daddy’s love

Let me count the ways…

  1. Answered every question thoughtfully – including if there really was a man in the moon.
  2. Gave us puzzles and calendars featuring photos of sperm taken with his electron microscope
  3. Tucked us into bed every night.  Then came back to check half an hour later to see if we were really asleep.
  4. Brought home laboratory bunnies and hamsters for us to love as pets.
  5. Taught us how to fish
  6. Investigated the routes of the state department of wildlife fish trucks – so that he could ensure we would catch fish
  7. Put up with the endless choruses of “how much longer” as we went hiking
  8. Put up with the endless choruses of “how much longer” when we drove to the mountains
  9. Put up with the endless of choruses of “how much longer” pretty much all the time we went anywhere
  10. Would not let us play with toy guns – not even water pistols
  11. Taught us how to ski
  12. Showed us how to make beautiful turns on the slope with skis perfectly together, but didn’t mind when we pointed the tips forward and just went down straight
  13. Taught us how to ice skate
  14. Showed us how to glide with hands behind back, but mainly picked us up off of the ice rink and set us back upright
  15. Helped us reach our mobile home in the mountains by putting us on a sled and hauling us up the unplowed road during the winter
  16. Taught us cell biology shortly after we could sit still long enough to look into a microscope
  17. Wouldn’t let us have a color television for years  – then when we finally got one made us sit at least ten feet back so our ovaries would not be radiated.
  18. Helped us stock our mad scientist room with test tubes and other devices
  19. Took us to Malaysia for a year so we could experience life away from the US
  20. Went butterfly hunting with us most weekends in the jungle outside of Kuala Lumpur
  21. Burned the leeches off our legs from going through rivers in the quest for butterflies
  22. Pointed out all wildlife and foliage of any place we ever went – usually enabled by text or field books purchased for such purpose
  23. Taught us anatomy lessons at the dinner table when dissecting the chicken
  24. Didn’t get angry when Greg dissected Jenny and Susan’s dolls
  25. Explained to us exactly how many brain cells would die (never to be regenerated) if we became intoxicated
  26. In assisting with our loose teeth – secured a piece of dental floss around our  tooth, tied the other end to the door knob then shut it quickly
  27. Shared his love for music with us – so long as it was classical – this included removing the stylus from the record player to ensure we didn’t play hideous pop music
  28. Took us to the symphony
  29. Took us to the chamber music group
  30. Took us to every museum of every city, state or country we ever visited
  31. Explained the birds and the bees to us anatomically and precisely in no uncertain terms pretty much before we could read
  32. Made us dinner most nights -eschewing the typical gender roles of the 60s and 70s.
  33. Took us to every World War II movie ever made
  34. Took us to Husky football games
  35. Took us to Husky basketball games
  36. Showed us how to develop film in his dark room – mainly so we could help with his sperm pictures
  37. Introduced us to various professors our favorite of whom was Cornelius, an Australian, who came to the beach with us and wore a red G string.
  38. Packed our entire family into the Town & Country station wagon, drove down to the drive in theater, and had us all watch Jaws the week before we were going to travel to Hawaii
  39. Made us get in the ocean in Hawaii despite our fear of anything approaching a shadow due to seeing Jaws.
  40. Restrained himself from falling completely out of his chair when I brought my first boyfriend – a Pilipino wanna be gangster –  to dinner
  41. Found me my first apartment after my one month experiment of living with the first boyfriend failed
  42. Did his best to try to set me up with various post-doc students thereafter – though to no avail
  43. Took me with him to the International Swine Semen Symposium in Europe as a graduation gift
  44. Walked me down the aisle of my wedding
  45. Stood by me 14 years later during the divorce
  46. Came to watch me in trial
  47. Clipped news articles of interest, photo copied and mailed them to us
  48. Modelled how to be organized, methodological, respectful,industrious and kind

Happy Father’s Day dad – today and every day.

Love Karen

Photo:  Dad in his sartorial splendor – including sandals with white socks.

 

How to Fly Across the Country for the Weekend and Not Stay Overnight

Friday
9-10:00 am perform office work with Nala in tow
10:00 – 11:15 teleconference with AAJ committee. Anne takes Nala for a walk and brings her back.
11:15 – 12:30 Meeting with co-counsel and new client who is in full rigid body brace. Nala tries to tip her over.
12:30 – 1:15 Put Nala in car. Head to court but first stop off at Whole Foods Interbay as frig is bare. Pick up fruit.
1:15 – 2:00 Drive. Park. Walk into courthouse. Early. Chit Chat. Go inside courtroom and watch Judge Shaffer make a ruling on another case.
2:00 – 3:00 Status conference with Judge Shaffer and a dozen or so other attorneys on “the case which shall not be named.” Though it can actually be named because Judge Shaffer takes a moment to remind the defense that freedom of speech is okay.
3:00 – 3:30 Debrief with Andrew. Smile with pleasure. Walk back up hill to car. Drive Nala home.
3:30 – 4:00 Alysha has arrived. Put fruit in frig. Run upstairs. Take off lawyer clothes. Put on sweats.
4:00 – 5:30 Drive with Alysha to No Bonz Tiki Bar in Ballard and have favorite vegan meal of eggplant sticks and Caesar salads with blackened tempeh while watching continuous loop of movie Blue Crush.
5:30 – 5:40 Drive home.
5:40 – 6:00 Sit down do a bit more email and let stomach get some rest. Pull on running gear.
6:00 – 7:15 Cruise with Nala through Queen Anne.
7:15 – 8:30 Come back. Shower. Change. Lulu lemon tights. Sleeveless tunic. Short sweater. Northface coat. All black. It’s going to be colder there than here. Pack smallest duffle bag with computer and earphones. No extra clothes. Kiss Alysha goodbye. Nala watches me go.
8:30 – 9:00 Drive to airport
9:00 – 10:30 Do everything to get to airplane and get seated. Take a Nyquil as have had cold since Tuesday. Hoping it will knock me out. It doesn’t. My legs are twitching. Cannot get comfortable.
10:30 pm – 3:15 am which is now 6:15 am Arrive at Dulles airport WA DC.

Saturday
6:15 – 6:30 Go to restroom which is empty. Brush teeth. Put contacts into red eyes. Add a little mascara and give up on anything else.
6:30 – 7:15 am Take cab to Ritz Carlton for AAJ spring board meeting that starts at 9. Do not check into hotel. Do not go tidy up. Do not change outfit. Locate meeting room. No one is there.
7:15 – 8:15 am Since no one is there yet walk to Whole Foods. Buy and eat package of raspberries, old fashioned donut and drink some water. One of the two other men who are also eating appears to be finished. He is bent over. His face on top of the magazine that is lying on the table. Snoring.
8:15 – 8:30 am Walk back to hotel. Look at Chihully display on wall. Find another bathroom and brush teeth again.
8:30 – 12:40 am Say hi to AAJ staff. Sign in. Sit down. Read agenda. Watch meeting. Semi doze through part of it. Try my best not to. Pretty sure have caught most of the highlights.
12:40 – 1:00 pm Meet with Maria – co-board member from Washington state.
1:00 – 2:00 pm Make way back to airport. Arrive 3 hours early.
2:00 – 3:00 pm Walk up and down the B wing several times. Buy eye cream at Clinique counter (how handy). Consume delicious French fries from Five Guys. Buy a salad (to counteract French fries) for trip home.
3:00 – 4:30 pm Wait. Internet connection is poor. My devices won’t let me use the airport wifi because apparently it isn’t good enough. Call Noelle who is lying on a towel in her backyard sweating in 80 degree weather.
4:45 pm Board p lane. Ticket is rejected. Go to counter. Alaska my love has bumped me to first class.
5:30 – 6:30 pm Plane takes off. Guy next to me is already asleep. Since already napped during the meeting am now wide awake.
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Diligent maître d presents meal of gnocchi , salad and roll. The gnocchi looks and tastes like a Styrofoam peanut. Cover it in red sauce.  That doesn’t help. The salad could have been good except the suppliers forgot to stock salad dressing. The roll can’t be justified due to too many potatoes. They take away meal. Pull out salad from Potbelly and eat the top of it. Very nice.
7:30 pm which is really 4:30 pm.  Realize there are four more hours to go.

Why don’t I stay at least one night in DC.  Because Sunday is Mother’s Day.

Photo: Red eye flight to DC.

Dear Judge: Can you PLEASE muzzle that woman…and the press

In its third motion for protective order my least favorite tourism company asks the court yet again to stop the plaintiff from filing motions in the public court file.  Instead they want a special rule that requires us to give them five days notice before we can file a document so they can bring a motion asking the court to seal it or block us.  Kind of like an early warning anti-missile system.  We must tell them before we launch then they try to shoot us down before the paperwork can hit the courthouse file.

To justify this procedure, the defense attacks me yet again.  According to them I’m: a) self-serving; b)misrepresenting the facts; c)  garnering media attention; d) circumventing an existing court order.

I know I know.  You’re probably getting tired of reading about defense lawyers picking on me over and over again in the blog.  Trust me so am I.

But this time in its motion the company also attacks the media.  They charge: ” The media stories are contaminating the potential jury pool with false narratives.”

This is bothersome.  It is an echo of the “fake media” mantra that has been recently taken up around the country.

I believe we all need to stand up  for our right to engage in free speech and talk to the media if they are interested enough to ask.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

U.S. Constitution Amendment I.

Photo: Nala on her 9th birthday. 

Attachment:  Declaration of Karen Koehler in Support of Free Speech and the Press:  Koehler Decl. First Amendment

Keep your head to the sky

Judges don’t like it when us attorneys can’t stop bickering.  They are irritated by having to deal with our exchanges of snipes, digs and downright insults.

Last month after a trial ended, two jurors followed me down to the courthouse lobby.  They wanted to talk about what happened.  Both commented on how impressed they were that the attorneys acted in a civil manner.  Sure we disagreed with each other and objected and there were tense moments.  But we were not overly disrespectful like the lawyers they saw on television.  They appreciated that.    I thought this was an interesting comment because I could not stand the lead defense attorney.  Every time he opened his mouth I could feel my teeth clench.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight when we need to.  Our job as lawyers is not to make a judge happy.  But there is  merit to the old proverb that we should pick our battles wisely.

Here are some strategies on how to avoid being drawn into petty fights before judge or jury:

  • Learn how to maintain a calm yoga like façade
  • Master the art of not rolling eyes
  • Bite tongue
  • Be physically still – don’t ruffle papers, drum with pen, or slam iPad on table
  • Don’t use counsel’s first name
  • Slow down when speaking
  • Slow down when breathing
  • Do not interrupt
  • Don’t try to defend everything
  • Don’t try to justify everything
  • Have faith in the truth
  • Wait your turn
  • When the other side takes your turn wait for your next turn
  • You don’t need to be overly polite
  • Don’t be rude
  • Be respectful even when wronged
  • Carefully limit and pick your fighting moments and then maximize them
  • If you hear yourself whining: “but your honor” over and over again – stop it.
  • When you lose your temper and start fighting anyway – forgive yourself and move on

Photo:  South Lake Union totem

Title:  Keep your head to the sky.  By Maurice White 1973


Check out a recent interview by Super Lawyers about my blog. Yes, I'm a lawyer. But I'm also a human being. I have a doggie named Nala, three daughters, eat brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast, and wear jeans as often as possible when not in court.
Favorite Quotations

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela


Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've to say, and say it hot.
— D. H. Lawrence


Why slap them on the wrist with a feather when you can belt them over the head with a sledgehammer.
— Katharine Hepburn


Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
— Langston Hughes


There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.
— Jane Austen


Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. — Edgar Allan Poe


If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing! — Margaret Thatcher


Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
— Dr. Suess


Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
— Abraham Lincoln


If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. — Desmond Tutu


True eloquence consists in saying all that is required and only what is required. — La Rochefoucauld


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop


The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free. — Oprah Winfrey


If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative. — Woody Allen


The soul never thinks without a picture. — Aristotle


To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare


Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. — Muhammad Ali


Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. — Stephen Hawking


It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand. — Apache proverb


People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. — Dalai Lama


How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank


Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound. — Richard J. Foster


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein


Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain. — Helen Keller


Remember that lost time does not return. — Thomas á Kempis


If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small. — Proverbs 24:10


Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. — Gertrude Stein


It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom. — Albert Einstein


The right of trial by jury shall be preserved. — 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution


I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. — Ludacris


And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
— Erica Jong


Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. — Judge Learned Hand


You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefullness, But still, like air, I'll rise. — Maya Angelou


The moment that justice must be paid for by the victim of injustice it becomes itself injustice. — Benjamin Tucker


He who keeps his eye on results cannot give himself wholeheartedly to his task, however simple or complex that task may be. — Howard Thurman


An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. — Mahatma Ghandi


Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr


The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. — Flannery O'Connor


We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles. — Jimmy Carter


To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. — Simone Weil


It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. — Alexander Solzhenitsyn


It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service. — Albert Einstein


The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel


I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. — Bill Cosby


The time is always right to do what is right. — Martin Luther King Jr.


I had rather attempt something great and fail, than to attempt nothing at all and succeed. — Robert Schuller


It is very easy to break down something. You can take a stone and throw it through that window; that is easy. Try fixing it, and that takes longer. It takes longer to help someone who has been broken. That’s the work you’re doing. — Desmond Tutu


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard


Mine honor is my life; both grow in one; Take honor from me, and my life is done. — William Shakespeare


To straighten the crooked you must first do a harder thing – straighten yourself. — Buddha


A thought is an idea in transit. — Pythagoras


Fall seven times, stand up eight. — Old Japanese proverb


No generalization is wholly true, not even this one. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.


Of what use is eloquence? He who engages in fluency of words to control men often finds himself hated by them. — Confucius


There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. — Martha Graham