Category Archives: Views On The World

Honolulu 911 App

Honolulu 911 App

Honolulu 911 calls go like this: Your heart is racing. You either witness, or suffer, an illegal activity. You’re nervous, everything is coming at you. You manage to get to the phone, often your cell phone, hit the numbers and as the quickly pick up you blurt out your narration of the facts and they say “so do you want the paramedics or the police department?”

The first response doesn’t even pretend to care about what’s going on.

Then they connect you, and then they start asking you questions. 5 seconds, ten seconds. Enough for a crime to be committed, for people to escape. More importantly, enough time for the attacked to swat the cellphone out of your hand. By talking you draw attention from the criminal to yourself as the most dangerous person in the room. You’re the one bringing the police. The most dangerous outcome for society is when it is more rewarding for us to protect ourselves than each other. That’s the endpoint on the road to anarchy.

And that’s not where it stops. THEN they start asking you questions: “Where are you? What does he look like? Tell me more? What did you say? Could you spell that?” I’ve listened to literally hundreds of 911 calls. It is like they are trained to keep you on the phone FOREVER. When the best thing by far is to say “Okay, run.” They want to ask questions until they are blue in the face.

You know, when you’re hiding in the closet and trying to be quiet, the state doesn’t even accept text messages. DUI attorneys accept text messages. I’m hoping the Government becomes at least as advanced as them.

Honolulu 911 Solutions

By now hopefully we realize the way we operate is not to only point out a problem, but to offer a solution. So here’s the solution, the Honolulu 911 APP! Clearly, in our society of cellphones and smartphones. Of Galaxies and iPhones and HTC and SONY there is no reason we should still be using 911 technology from Alexander Graham Bell.  Now what follows is designed for Honolulu 911, but really it could work for any wired metropolitan city.

Start with the big three:

Who, where, when

  1. The message can automatically send the phone number, and name associated with the phone to whoever receives the text messages.
  2. Yelp knows where you are. AroundMe knows where you are. GoogleMaps knows where. Clearly this app could send your location.
  3. And the exact time you sent it would log in the record.

and the big three are taken care of!

Precise information for Honolulu 911

Clearly there’s more precise Information that needs to be told to the officers.  Two things happen. ONE, we decide what that is in advance and we can put that ON THE PAGE, that minimizes time to process the information. Already after the case we ask witnesses to fill out statements and ask particular questions

911 Speed

If we really sit down and think about it, for many, the speed of typing on the phone has long surpassed the the speed of talking, answering questions, and processing information. Watch any kid send on a phone three sentences of info (or three paragraphs) and at the same time say the same three things and ask the next person to process it and filter it into the right categories. The typing will win every time. And these are our next generation of witnesses!

Outlay of the 911 App


911 App Honolulu

First, look at the top three buttons:  Police, Fire and Ambulance. These are the big three and they’re clickable. what that means is, you can request one, two, or all three.  No information is sent until the SEND button is pressed in the lower Right corner. These buttons are clearly not binding on the dispatcher who would respond to the message, but merely advisory. This is included since the very first question you are asked when you call 911 is “Police or Ambulance”. A large part of the purpose of the app is to get around the lag time it takes to process that first question and direct you the right way. Especially

when for very serious crimes the answer is YES.

Then we move to the second row of Honolulu 911 App buttons

The second row is our optional buttons. These are designed to help whoever the dispatcher is give more information to whoever the first responder is going to be. While not mandatory, these are the helpful questions that would keep you on the phone for a thousand years The second row first includes a spinner that lays out a number of different potential reasons to call for an emergency responder.

These are just advisory, and broad messages, clearly the police would need to decide on the final list. I would point out, maybe 10 should be the maximum. We don’t want people getting lost in lines of words they need to bifurcate.

App Slider 911 Honolulu

Photo and Sound Clip are a little more time consuming, which is why they are optional.  Clearly Photo is important. Since much of the thought behind this app is to reduce words and processing time, and one picture is worth a thousand words, the picture option needs to be present. Imagine the benefits to having a picture of a. the scene, b. the offender, c. the victim, d. ANYTHING. Currently the design is one picture per message. If you need multiple pictures, use multiple messages.

Sound Clip is if you don’t want to type or are poor at typing or if the actually sound of what’s happening is most important.  Imagine if, during listening to your neighbor’s husband threaten her, you were able to record the threat and then did not have to actually appear in court to testify. Imagine if, during the heat of passion, you could witness by just recording the occurrence and sending it in.

I would suggest 1. the recording be processed the same way Google Voice processes their messages in a sense to get a typed version instantly. But also 2. It is preserved digitally as a sound file, in order to be used affirmatively in a prosecution. A voice recording is even better than a picture when it comes to independent  verifiable evidence. It is very hard to say that a recorded threat never happened. It is very hard to say a police officer told you to record a certain statement (where it is very common to say that on a written statement. “I am willing to prosecute” anyone?)

Finally the third row: A text box and a SEND button. The text box is the same as any other app you can write in. You have the keyboard, on the iPhone 5 or equipped phones you can type via voice. And the SEND, here shown with a little envelope signal. In the time it makes to hit three clicks, someone has your location, information, and identifying factors they need to initiate a life-saving procedure. And that’s what every step of this conversion needs to be about. What can we do to save more lives.

Evidentiary rules

When I first proposed this solution the pushback I immediately got from people in the know is “How does this get around the Rules of Evidence? This is all excludable evidence.” Which is a valid worry, but let’s answer it.

  1. It’s not. It’s clearly all “present sense impression” and admissible the same way any Honolulu 911 call would be. In fact, it is more admissible, since a 911 call includes a government employee asking questions. The App in this case would by an uninvited communication, and obviously an excited utterance.
  2. Who cares! 911 is about saving lives, not catching criminals. That’s what it has to be about. It has to. Let’s not forget that.


Honolulu 911 App: In Closing

Now I don’t have the computer background to actually program this APP, but I have the legal experience to say what is necessary and what is extraneous. I suppose the next step is asking the Police department, or the city, or the State to get on board with some financing.  Or maybe just a computer programmer somewhere who wants to go a good deed and make things smooth for the next generation. Or if doing good things is not persuasive, maybe someone who just wants their code to take over the world. You want to talk about disruptive, explosive growth? Think about it, this is an App that should really come standard with every phone.This app is coming soon, who’s going to make it. Or make it well?


Solving Prostitution Part II

Solving Prostitution Part II


This all started because I read a petition that used sensationalism over substance to achieve a visceral reaction to gain a signature for a petition. A member of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery told me that he agrees with me that the law DOES undisputedly contain a a way to detain juveniles without criminalizing them.

But that part of the petition remains unchanged. Which means they still choose pretty fiction over uncomfortable fact.

Earlier this week I sat down with the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. After explaining everything to them, After their representative saying they AGREE with me on my point about the law, they amended a PART of their petition (to something that is still wrong). But the first sentence of their petition is still WHOLLY A LIE. It’s absolutely not true. I showed EXACTLY where in the law they can “detain juveniles without criminalizing them”, and they prefer to keep it as the lead in their petition. Probably because it is effective. It is only effective to people who don’t know what the law reads.

Basically there have three responses once they are made aware:

  1. “Marcus, we won’t change it because you read the law wrong. HERE IS WHY you read the law wrong, HERE IS WHERE the law says something different than what you say.”
  2. “Marcus, you read the law right, so we will change the petition to be intellectually honest.”
  3. “Marcus, its a great pitch, why should we change it?

Guess which they’re going with so far? Change it to be honest with the people you’re attempting to convince. They’ll quote you, they’ll then get corrected. Then they’ll blame you for leading them on..

(and the one edit they did make is wrong, here is the correct chart of the park closure vs. prostitution punishments:)


Intellectually disingenuous.

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Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery – Landsberg Law Office

Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery - Landsberg Law Office

I read something on a friend’s webpage today, a friend who I trust and respect to use the brain and best judgment. And when I read it, it literally blew my mind.

I. Here is where I lose friends.

What I’m talking about is a petition by the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, read it first here: Read that first for the context. I don’t think I’ve thought this hard about potential new laws since the Food Truck mess. I would point out, after my post on Bill 59 (still one of the most popular posts on my minor webpage) Tulsi Gabbard took the bill back into committee and made pretty much 100% of the changes I advocated. This is tough love. I post this to help you.

After reading that petition and reviewing the PASS – PACIFIC ALLIANCE TO STOP SLAVERY webpage, I immediately reached out through the network of professionals I deal with everyday in the Juvenile justice system. The network includes Prosecutors and Defense attorneys; their experiences and their contacts, including actual cases and Probation Officers. The juvenile justice system in Hawaii is confidential, meaning I can’t betray names or individual cases, but I can talk about specifics using generalities to explain particular points. I’ve also written about the juvenile justice system here before. I have also been published in the Star-Advertiser with my views on the Juvenile justice system.

II. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Petition:

The very first sentence of that above webpage reads: “Currently, Hawaii has no protocol to legally detain juveniles rescued from prostitution without criminalizing them.” The first sentence is the first misstatement of the law.
Hawaii Revised Statute 571-31 “Taking Children into custody; release; Notice;” reads
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Hawaii Juvenile Law — The CASA program

Hawaii Juvenile Law -- The CASA program

Since I’ve gone into private practice I’ve been lucky enough to participate in all different types of judicial/non-judicial hearings. I’ve done negotiations, the national TTAB, Federal Court, and military court. One of my first cases as a private attorney involved a family involved in a matter where the State got involved and took away the parents’ right to make decisions as it involved their own kids.  There has never been a question that these parents absolutely loved the kids. Drugs are not even suggested to be in the picture.

It was during these hearings I got to know the CASA program. And then I read this letter in today’s paper.

The CASA program

I was offended.

No matter what my differences of opinion may be with Judge Viola, or Deputy Attorney General Erin Iwamoto-Torres, or Social Worker Mary Saga-Petaia, no one can say they don’t care for the kids in the judicial system. It takes only minutes of looking at Judge Viola think about his decisions to know he cares, deeply and and from his soul, about these kids.

Rarely am I driven to write a letter to the paper, in this case I did, leaving out the names.

My response

Ken Bailey’s letter of 6/3/2012 betrays quickly exactly what is wrong with the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program when he says “their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence — the one adult who cares for them”.  Never mind judges that dedicate their life to this. Mr. Bailey lists and discounts the social workers for CPS, the doctors at Kapiolani, or the lawyers of the Attorney General’s office. The messiah complex of CASA is disgusting.  I’d like to assure him that each and every person involved in the court system cares very deeply about these children, not only him.

Remember always the people who often care the most about these children, their families.

Quite often families have babies too young, or without the necessary tools, and don’t know how to care for their children. Yes, sometimes, not always, drugs become a big issue.  But as the law agrees, our duty is to give families the tools to repatriate these children as soon as they are able to care for them. The State of Hawaii should not be in the business of divesting families of their children. For the amount of children that go through the system, we are doing pretty well.  Do we so soon forget that children die in Foster Care too?  A wise lady once said “it takes a village to raise a child”. CASA would do well to appreciate the other members of the village, of which they are but one.

And finally, to use the death of a child as a means to attract volunteers or traffic to your website, you should be ashamed. 

Marcus L. Landsberg IV
Landsberg Law Office
Executive Centre
1088 Bishop Street, Penthouse

Honolulu HI, 96813

I did what’s called “burying the lead”. I wrote at the end what I really wanted to yell from the mountaintops. A baby’s body isn’t cold, and you’re asking for donations?” This is how CASA chooses to Cherish the Children. And let’s be clear, this is advertisement for a website that clearly asks for donations.

Judges are not regularly lauded.  Basically when things go wrong, they’re on the front page, and when everything goes right people ask “Why do they get paid so much?” It’s realistic to think if Judge Viola, for example, does this until he retires, he’s probably going to lose ten years off of his life from the accumulated effects of the stress of these kids. We sweat and worry and scrimp and have heartache over an only child. I can only imagine how many children he holds in his care.  And if he returns the kids too early, they’re worse off.  And if he returns the kids too late (or never) it really destroys the fabric of society.

But at least as a judge, when he walks in the room, people’s backs straighten and want to shake his hand. The social workers, for a third of the money and none of the respect are the front lines in the war for child welfare. And lets be very clear here: The war for child welfare has little to do with who these kids are now, and everything to do with who they will become in the future. Will they be properly adjusted, or will they be in Halawa? Like I told my friend the other day, being from a broken home is not an excuse anymore, it’s called “Growing up in the 80′s.”

So in closing let me summarize my open letter to CASA like this. You’re not the only ones who care for these kids. We all care for these kids. The difference is we all recognize that we’re all a part of the village that is raising this child. If a single mother walked into J. Viola’s courtroom and said about her kids that she was “the one adult who cared for them”, what would he respond?

“Everybody in this room cares about your child. We’re all working very hard to do what’s best for your child. That includes working hard to get you, the parent, in a situation where we can put the child back with you. Work with us so we can all work together.”

CASA, work with us so we can all work together. If you’re working alone, you’re working against everyone else.  

For the good of the children.

Ace Attorney — Phoenix Wright

Ace Attorney -- Phoenix Wright

About two months ago I had the pleasure of seeing my new favorite movie, “Phoenix Wright — Ace Attorney”.  I saw it at the Hawaii International Film Festival and I loved it.  Capital L O V E, LOVED it.  I recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone who is in the legal field, in the trial field, likes good movies, or has a pulse.  It’s a Japanese movie, so I while I read the subtitles I was listening to the Japanese as well.

If you read this blog, I’m giving away the end of the movie.

I’m going to discuss the movie without worrying about spoiling it, so if you need to be in suspense, go watch the movie, and come back and read this after.  But I think it says some important things about the legal system that I want to discuss.  Also, I saw it about two months ago now, so I’m going to get parts of it wrong in my explanation. Don’t worry, my memory will only make the story better.

Below is the trailer for the movie, after which the discussion will start:


So the basic premise is this: there are so many crimes in Japan, that they need a new trial system.  Japan institutes a system where each trial has three days before a judge, at which point there is a winner.  It also seems to have “sudden death”, if the Prosecutor produces enough evidence the Defense doesn’t have a response for, the judge will decide against the Defendant.

The most fascinating part is how the Japanese satire of a court system, is the Hawaii judicial system.

But before I get to that, the moral of the movie, and one I agree with and harp on, appears in the first few minutes of the movie.  I’m going to paraphrase it here because I don’t remember it word for word, but the old prosecutor tells the young hungry prosecutor, both of whom are undefeated, “You can’t do whatever you want, you have to do it the right way.”

And the Young Prosecutor’s response (which you kind of hear in the trailer above) “Nothing’s illegal about what I do.” But is there a gray area? Is there things that are  ”not illegal” but at the same time not cool? Is there a zone between illegal and allowed? I suggest yes. Which is why lawyers have tons of rules, entire organizations even, dedicated to ethics.  Even Guidelines of Professional Courtesy and Civility that we are required to follow.

You don’t make guidelines on civility unless people need guidelines to be civil.  Said another way, if every lawyer was ethical, we wouldn’t need ethical rules; classes on ethics; mandatory ethics training…

It’s amazing the way the investigation and the trial case in this movie parallels a young attorney’s trial work. He investigates on his own with his girlfriend. He has to look at the evidence himself, visiting the scene, retracing the steps. He prepares the questions and the evidence for the trial in depth. Then it all goes out the window the second trial starts and he has to think on his feet!

And this is a satire of a failed judicial system!

So the big hook at the end is that the Old Prosecutor who warned the younger Prosecutor to “do things the right way” had been lying and cheating for years. So while he paid “lip service” to doing things the right way, meanwhile he was manipulating the evidence to make sure he would win. His version of the right way was to be humble while cheating, as opposed to the Younger Prosecutor’s legal, but loathsome, lack of civility.

The interesting part of this is that while the Old Prosecutor advises correctly, he acts poorly. This is always an interesting line in fiction and a pathway to tragedy in reality.  This “do as I say, not as I do”; Jimmy Falwell, Ted Haggard or Eddie Long. Why is it always the people who warn most strongly against X are found with X ? And does that mean you can’t talk a stance against anything, since we will suspect your darkest secret is the same?

This is reflected in the Young Prosecutor.  He is absolutely convinced everyone arrested is guilty.  Right up until he is arrested.

I’ve often commented that it’s impossible to overestimate the influence of Japanese ethos on the way business is done in Hawaii. It blows my mind how useful my short time in Japan has been for me since I move here.  Just today I had a conversation with another attorney who talked about “Plantation Values”, which I couldn’t understand, until he started describing the way Japanese people handle certain obstacles in their lives.

The success of this movie is that old yarn about the path being more important than the destination.

That, and the fact that this movie that this sarcastic fantasy that includes ghosts, psychics, lake monsters, amnesia, rock-star ninjas, and policeman mascots is so darn realistic when it comes to  the inner workings of the investigation and prosecution of a trial… in Hawaii!

Read more trial stories here:Click me!

And don’t forget, tomorrow is the big open house!

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A conversation I had. Another conversation I had.

men, talking, prosecutors, dirty, supervisor, no funBefore trial the Prosecutor’s supervisor walked into the room. Everyone knows the prosecuting deputy was new.  I knew her to be a good attorney, but by simply being in the room the supervisor was going to make the new prosecutor more nervous, I asked the supervisor “What, you come to see me in trial?”

“I came to make sure you don’t try to pull anything.”

I thought we were still joking, “Why, you couldn’t when we went to trial.” Smile, smirk.

“You just got lucky.” Was her honest reply.

It’s never the facts of the case. It’s never the quality of the argument or the work. It’s just “luck”.  And they’re the ones with the jailhouse keys.  They’re the ones charged to protect you when you’re in danger.

She stayed for about half of her young prosecutor’s case in chief, and then left. Never saying a word, never making a suggestion. Never being helpful at all. Shook the prosecutor up so much, one witness took the time of a 6 person trial.

A dentist once explained to me how to do a root canal. How they take the top of the tooth, go in, get all the “gunk” out, fill it back up with “filler” and then put a cap on top so it looks good as new.  I went home and performed my own root canal.  It didn’t go so well.

I give a lot of free advice on the phone. A lot. That’s just the way I am. Generally people are thankful and want to hire me. I say a lot of “What I’ll try and do is this…. What we’ll work on together is that….”

Well, one particular seemed relatively easy, and it was referred from a friend, so I gave the girl a discounted rate. But she wanted to sleep on it. Turns out, overnight she called the attorney on the other side and tried to work out an agreement based on what she gleaned from our conversation. When I called her up and asked if I needed to be in court with her, she said she wanted to do it herself “I’m just that kind of girl.”

I’ll never forget that.

Anytime a person calls me and starts with “Don’t worry, I know I’ll win” I get nervous.

This is because the case becomes a “no-win” for me.  If they won, they were going to win anyway.  If they lose, it is my fault.  And often it portrays an attitude that just doesn’t play in front of a judge or jury.

As you predicted,  her case didn’t go so well.

I went to the dentist and asked him to fix my root canal.  I told him, “I already did half the work, you don’t even have to do as much, I already took the tooth off and got rid of most of the inside”.  He didn’t give me half-price, he charged me eight times as much.

She called me back after the hearing and asked if she could hire me. I quoted her eight times the price.  There was a fundamental misunderstanding of how the system works.

You may feel like you’re getting a root canal, it may even be sore for a week or more.  But we’re trying to stop infection here.  You’re allowed to do it yourself, but sometimes, when stakes is high, you might want someone in your corner.  Someone who’s been there before.

What kind of girl are you?

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Judaism and Defense Lawyers

Judaism and Defense Lawyers

Today I had two people ask me, at completely unrelated times “How do you defend people when you know they are guilty?”  And people don’t realize how 1. Clearly insulting that is, and 2. they have no concept how the system works.  OR I should say, how the system is supposed to work. And they always have one other thing in common:

They’re not Jews.

Bagel timeI’m not saying you have to be a Jew to be a defense attorney, don’t misunderstand.  What I’m saying is that Jews never question the necessity of constant and regular vigilance and questioning of their government.

The Genesis of Justice : 10 Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the 10 Commandments and Modern Morality and Law

Bibilical bibliography: Alan M. Dershowitz The Genesis of Justice

One of the most interesting things I learned from this book is the Jewish interpretation of the command “To do and to believe”.  Traditional sources imply that the doing is more important than the believing.  Compare this to the Lutheran “Justification by Faith Alone”.  Jewish custom stresses the performance of the commandments, over the belief in what they signify.  The Lutheran concept stresses the belief in the holy, but discards the necessity to follow the rules.  (Of course, this is a simplistic view of a massive dichotomy, but it’s interesting.)  Put in legal terms, being Jewish demands you follow the letter of the law even if you disagree with it, being Lutheran means you believe the public policy behind the law is more important than the particular elements you are charged to uphold.

It starts to make sense why you have so many Jews who can recite the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah, but self-identify as atheist.

I’ve written previously about the Jewish view of the Torah, (or the Old Testament) being seen as a Covenant, or a contract with God.  Jews see God wrote it, so when they find a loophole within the Covenant, and God means all things, then God put that loophole in the Covenant.  God meant for you to exploit the loopholes in the Torah, because he purposely put those loopholes in there!  How does that relate to Jews as lawyers?  You have a people who have been trained for Six Thousand years to look for loopholes!

Now who do you want as an attorney?

But none of this has to do with why Jews instinctively understand the need for Criminal Defense attorneys.  Attorneys whose sole purpose is to make sure the police, the judge, and the prosecutor are taking no shortcuts.  The reason why is this:

  • Russian Pograms
  • Christian Crusades
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • And before all of this, The Egyptian killing of the newborn sons. (Exodus 1:22)
And of course, the Holocaust.  All of which were run by governments.  By people wearing that period of time’s military, or police uniform.  The need for healthy suspicion of your government is so ingrained in people raised Jewish, even if not religious, that it is just naturally understood.

Yes. Jews put God on Trial. Watch the movie to see the verdict, and maybe more importantly, the sentence.

So when people ask me, “Marcus, how do you defend someone you know is guilty,” I give a variety of answers:

“Because even if I do my job perfectly, all the government has to do is do their job competently and they will win. I will lose.”

“I want to give the Prosecutor practice, so when she has the big case with the really bad guy, she doesn’t screw up when it’s really important.”

“Because I had a particular client tell me, y’know Marcus, you’re the only person in my life who ever took my side.”

I hate to say “Because when I finally get the innocent client, I don’t want that to be my first case I try for real” because that implies most of my clients are not innocent.  And when we go to trial they often are wholly innocent.

“He’s not guilty unless I lose.” Is probably my favorite when I’m in a good mood.

But underlying the principle is this:  All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.   Because in all of the examples I gave, the Jews being killed were surrounded by good men doing nothing.

And no matter the rap, I strongly feel Defense Attorneys are often good men doing something to stop the tyranny of evil.  I have no problem if the State wins, fairly and honestly.

But my role is to make sure they do it,  fairly and honestly.  And the more I do it, the more I realize what a necessary, fundamental role that is.

Hawaii Criminal Defense: The Legal Blog

Issues in Hawaii Law.

Below is a collection of Articles I've written about Hawaii law.  Most are about criminal defense, Honolulu trial work, or future legal trends. Courtroom experience is probably the most common.  Others are comments on local or national law.  Hopefully there is something for you to find and enjoy.  If nothing else, you'll see the way I feel about certain issues, and the thought processes I put into legal problems we solve.

And some stories are just too funny NOT to tell.......

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