2011-02-16, Les Smith and Matt Holt, Let's Talk About the Legal System

At ten past high noon, President Richelle Ponder called the meeting to order. Barbara Rose Farber gave the opening invocation and President Ponder led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Song leader Bob McPherson led us in two verses of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and our pianist, Anita Blackburn, did a great job pounding out the chorus. After the meet and greet, President Richelle announced that Gary Lenzo was the “mystery greeter. ”

looking for the mystery greeterJim Parks reported on the 4-Way Test progress. There are 45 students competing for the prizes this year and the winners will read their essays to the club on March 16. Charles Yaryan handed out brochures about 2011 Camp RYLA. The girl’s camp will begin on July 17 and the boy’s camp on July 23. The three Las Cruces Rotary Clubs hope to supply 12 students this year.

mystery greeter Gary Lenzo

Barbara Rose Farber reported on The Taste of Las Cruces. This year the committee plans to sell “sponsor tables” for $400 (10 seats). The “Taste” will be held on June 9 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, so there will be no worries about the weather. So far six restaurants have signed up to participate. The profits will go to Jardin de los Ninos and Casa de Peregrinos.

The Program

Program Chair Blaine Goss then introduced the club’s legal eagles, Matt Holt and Les Smith, who refused to discuss the subject Blaine had selected. Instead they discussed frivolous lawsuits and jury duty. Les discussed the famous Albuquerque McDonald’s “Hot Coffee in the Lap” case. He noted that politicians and pundits often called the case “frivolous” but it fact it was not. The woman suffered over $15,000 in medical expenses treating her 3rd degree burns and McDonald’s chose to make the coffee 20 degrees hotter than other fast food chains so people would not come back for refills as quickly. He also noted that the woman had initially offered to settle for just $15,000 but McDonald’s ignored her request. When she hired a lawyer who sued for $20,000, they offered her $800. This arrogance caused the jury trial which ultimately resulted in a damage award in the millions. Les also noted that when the jury heard that there had been 700 previous “hot coffee” suits against McDonald’s and that 3 people had actually died, they became much more sympathetic to the woman’s case.

Matt HoltMatt stated that most lawyers tend to shy away from filing frivolous suits because the American Bar Association has severe penalties for lawyers who do. He noted that most frivolous suits are filed by individuals and reported that Truth or Consequences seems to be the center for such suits. He cited the TorC case of the woman in a bar who had to take care of her bodily function, but the stall in the women’s bathroom was occupied. Rather than wait, she climbed up on the sink to “do her thing,” but the sink collapsed and she was hurt. She promptly sued the bar owner, but fortunately, the suit was tossed out of court.

Les SmithIn terms of jury duty, Les stated the he believes it is a public service that citizens should be happy to do. He noted that most people are quite happy to serve and knew of only one instance where a person was so unwilling to serve that the judge threw him in jail. He only lasted five hours before sending a note to the judge that he had had a change of heart and would serve.

When asked in the Q&A session what was the best and worst parts of the job, Matt said the best part was trying to help people who need it. Les said the worst part was dealing with child abuse cases.

Thanks to the speakers for enduring a number of good and not-so-good lawyer jokes.

After the Program

After the speakers, Kent Evans won the drawing (sorry ticket holder 615, your ticket was drawn first but you weren’t there to claim the prize so Kent got it) and the can collected $18.00.


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Guests of Rotarians

Guest    Host
June Briggs Dinus Briggs
Betsy Holt Matt Holt

Visiting Rotarians

Rotarian Home Club

Student Guests

Student School
Amber Lalla Mayfield
James Blanchard Oñate
Riley Rice Mesilla Valley Christian


Rotarian Date Club

Submitted by Ron SalakRon Salak