Paula Franzese

Cerebral Equilibrium — Law school students are getting only half their brains trained, Professor Paula Franzese writes in a soon-to-be-published Seton Hall Law Review article.

Students are well-schooled in the left-brain skills of logic and analysis, but modern law practice necessitates more emphasis on the conceptual skills that are the product of the right brain, she says in "Law Teaching for the Conceptual Age."

Franzese cites social scientific theory that we are amid a shift from the information age, which emphasizes linear thinking, to a conceptual age that belongs to "empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers."

Law schools should inculcate the sort of "nonroutine problem solving skills" that Google says it looks for in job applicants. One way is to encourage students to present cases with discussion of emotional impact. In her property class, Franzese tells students about the excitement she felt when buying her first home, then has a student serve as her "counsel" and walk her through the land contract.

"We enhance our students’ capacity to develop a more nuanced feel for the material and create their own pathways to conceptual understanding when we remind them of the complexities of the humanity and the humanness of our work," she says.


1989 Rolls Royce Silver Spur

Smooth to a Fault — A Little Ferry auto dealership is faced with paying $178,000 for glib talk about a classic car.

In 2011, James Bishop III, a North Carolina car enthusiast, bought online a 1989 Rolls Royce Silver Spur from Richard Catena Auto Wholesalers for $14,814, allegedly based on its well-maintained condition.

Once delivered, the car was revealed to have dents, significant rust, damage to the signature Rolls Royce grill and unmatched hubcaps. It needed at least $12,000 of work to be drivable and another $7,463 in cosmetic repairs, a mechanic told Bishop.

Catena refused a refund and Bishop lodged claims under the Consumer Fraud Act. Catena answered that Bishop bought the car "as is" and kept it beyond a three-day return period.

After a bench trial, Bergen County Superior Court Judge Susan Steele awarded statutory treble damages of $45,620, finding "numerous affirmative misrepresentations and omissions" by Catena’s advertisement and salesman. She awarded attorney fees, including a 40 percent contingency enhancement, of $124,804.

Catena appealed, and on Tuesday, Appellate Division Judges Jack Sabatino and Susan Maven affirmed.

Bishop’s lawyer, Anthony Rainone of Brach Eichler in Roseland, calls the decision a good lesson for businesses. "It wasn’t a case of a plaintiff’s attorney trying to run up a bill," he says. "We made a good-faith effort to avoid suit altogether."

Catena’s lawyer, Paul Endler Jr. of Methfessel & Werbel in Edison, says they’re considering a further appeal.


Bottoms In — The city of Wildwood is drawing a line in the sand, or at least on the boardwalk, with a "decency" ordinance that would ban saggy pants — as well as shorts, skirts and bathing suits — that fall more than three inches below the waist "so as to expose either skin or garment underneath."

Police would ask offenders, age 12 or older, to comply or leave the boardwalk, subject to penalties as high as a $200 fine on a repeat violation and 40 hours of community service. Shirts would be required on the boards, and footwear too, for safety’s sake.

Mayor Ernest Troiano says the law was prompted by numerous complaints from people who did not want to walk down the boardwalk looking at someone’s backside. All three commissioners voted for the ordinance when it was introduced on May 22. It is up for a final vote on June 12, with a 20-day effective date that would put it in place before July 4.

City solicitor Mary Bittner says the law is modeled on one adopted by Dublin, Ga., in 2010. Based on her legal research, she says, "I’m confident that our ordinance is fully defensible."

The provision would replace one of unknown vintage that requires bathing suits or "scanty attire" worn anywhere off the beach to be covered with a fastened cloak or "other suitable outer garment" extending from the neck or top of the shoulders to 10 inches above the knee.


Shell-Shocked — A Jefferson Township family whose house was struck by an errant piece of shrapnel from nearby Picatinny Arsenal may soon learn whether they will be able to pursue claims against the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Jose Linares heard arguments last Wednesday on the government’s motion to dismiss in Angle v. U.S.

U.S. Army workers, belonging to the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, were testing various ways of diffusing unexploded ordnance on April 11, 2008, when the fragment blew through the roof of Frederick and Cheryl Angle’s house at about 2 p.m., landing on the bed of one of their children, Cassandra, and mortally wounding the family cat.

The family is seeking $4 million in damages for negligence and emotional distress and has rejected the government’s settlement offer of $7,386.

"They’ve been emotionally shattered by a fragment of a shell fired into their home by their own government," says their lawyer, Newton solo Daniel Perez. Artillery is launched every day at the arsenal "and is a reminder of the day a fragment came into their home." Cassandra still has not slept in her own bedroom, he says.

The government says in its summary judgment motion that it is immune because of the discretionary function exception to the federal Tort Claims Act.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Gibbons wrote in a brief that "the development and testing of conventional weaponry is critical for fulfilling the Army’s mission, and the decision to conduct testing is well within the discretion of the military."

— By Charles Toutant, David Gialanella, Mary Pat Gallagher and Michael Booth