Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Don't be cheap.

This is probably the best advice (NonLegal™) that I can give: being cheap in your dealings with others will come back to haunt you.

The Boston Herald has a story that illustrates this point nicely. Cheryl Ann Jacques, an administrative law judge with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (note to self, Massachusetts has so many industrial accidents that the accidents have their own department), allegedly put a post on Craigslist to sell a Pack 'n Play Playard. Ms. Jacques allegedly sold the Pack 'n Play to Tracey Christopher for seventy-five dollars.

So far this seems perfectly fine. However, prior to making the purchase, Ms. Christopher asked Ms. Jacques if the playard came with a vibrating feature and if it was in working order. Ms. Jacques allegedly replied that everything worked fine. Unfortunately for everyone, when Ms. Christopher set up the playard at home, everything did not work fine.

Ms. Christopher called Ms. Jacques and complained. Ms. Jacques allegedly replied that sales on Craigslist are "as is." Ms. Christopher correctly replied that sales on Craigslist are "as represented." Ms. Jacques then allegedly said, "I'm not a store, I don't take returns." While she is not a store, Ms. Jacques is a former Massachusetts state senator and ought to know better than to give that response.

Unhappy with being out 75 bucks for the playard, Ms. Christopher contacted the authorities and today Ms. Jacques is due to appear in Newton District Court to be arraigned on a misdemeanor charge of larceny by false pretense.

Ms. Jacques is being represented by Leonard H. Kesten. While Mr. Keston confirmed that part about not being a story, he also told the Herald that this episode is "too ridiculous for words," and that Ms. Jacques is "happy to take it back and give [Ms. Christopher] her money." Mr. Kesten's first statement is true (although perhaps not in the way he intended). However, the second point is not. Or at least it has not always been true. After all, if Ms. Jacques were happy to give back the money, this matter would not have made Newton District Court, the Boston Herald, or our blog. However, Ms. Jacques allegedly decided to be cheap instead of being happy to refund the money. Since I assume that Ms. Jacques is paying Mr. Kesten, I was going to say that she is being "penny wise and pound foolish." However, that is not necessarily true as Mr. Kesten might be the person advised Ms. Jacques to get "happy" to give back the money. Instead, this just falls under the garden-variety advice of do not be cheap with others.

Let's leave the criminal law side of this in Mr. Kesten's hands. Does Ms. Jacques's alleged conduct violate any of the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct? The short answer is no. By statute, the code only applies to "judges of the trial court, the appeals court and the supreme judicial court." Administrative law judges are apparently not bound by the code. That is good because Cannon 2 of the code states that a "judge shall respect and comply with the law." If Mr. Kesten's defense efforts are unsuccessful, then Ms. Jacques may be found to have not complied with the law. Cannon 2 also states that the judge shall act "at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence" in the judiciary. If the alleged facts are true, one could argue that Ms. Jacques did not act in a manner that promoted public confidence in the judiciary. But give that Ms. Christopher did not know that Ms. Jacques was a judge, I assume that Ms. Christopher's confidence in the judiciary was undiminished by the sale. Of course, the public may feel differently know that the Herald published the story.

So what can we learn from this? One thing would be that it is probably less hassle to refund 75 dollars to an unhappy customer than it is pay a defense attorney to defend you in court and in the press. It is also cheaper. Perhaps the second point defeants my larger thesis. If it does, I am sure Mr. Torvik will point that out.

UPDATE:  Boston's WCVB reports that the prosecutor has dropped the charges against Ms. Jacques.  Fox News points out that in March Ms. Jacques was disciplined for using her position to get $1,000 in free dental work for her brother-in-law.

1 comment:

  1. Larceny by false pretenses? Really?! Slow day at the prosecutor's office, I guess.


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