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July/August 2012 / The New York County Lawyer 13

18th Annual New York City Public High School Essay Contest Winning Essay By Neil Alacha

Each year NYCLA’s LawRelated Education Committee holds its New York City Public High School Essay Contest. Over 150 students submitted essays on this year’s topic: You caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit ball. The Commissioner of Major League Baseball has written you a letter advising you to return the ball. What arguments in support do you have to keep the ball? What arguments does the Commissioner have to get the ball returned to Major League Baseball? What would you do? Why? Neil Alacha of Brooklyn Technical High School, whose essay appears below, was the first-place prize winner. Turn to page 9 to see a photo of Mr. Alacha alongside Law-Related Education Committee Chair, Hon. Richard Lee Price, and NYCLA’s President, taken at the Essay Contest award ceremony on May 9.

“Finders keepers; losers weepers.” Although many childhood aphorisms have little value other than as tools for demonstrating the simple thought process of a child, this one is an apt description of social and legal baseball norms. Ever since baseball has been an organized sport with its own professional association—the Major League—fans and spectators have swooned over the prospect of catching a “stray ball.” Indeed, spectators often bring baseball gloves to wear during games, for the express purpose of being ready when such an opportunity presents itself. Those fortunate enough to catch a “stray ball” respond in varying ways: some keep the hard-earned prize as a memento, others obtain a sizable sum of money by selling it, and, occasionally, the altruistic few will donate it. These varying responses have something in common: they all imply the existence of property rights. Relevant court cases substantiate this. In Popov v. Hayashi, heard by the California Supreme Court in 2002, the Court was asked to rule on the rightful possession of a stray baseball in a dispute between two spectators whose efforts to catch the ball were intercepted by a mobbing crowd. According to the holding and

rule, “Before it (the ball) was hit it belonged to Major League Baseball. At the time it was hit it became intentionally abandoned property. The first person who came in possession of the ball became its new owner” ( This Court opinion is clear as day. A stray baseball received by a spectator conveys property rights to the receiver. The norms of baseball and the Popov decision are instructive in the scenario at hand. If I were lucky enough to catch Derek Jeter’s 3,000th ball hit, I would be justified in keeping it. (I would probably sell it, however, as I am not a sports person. Or, if I were dating a girl who was into sports, I would gift it to her.) There is absolutely no legal precedent that establishes any right on the part of Major League Baseball (MLB) to demand the ball back from me. Since we are on the topic of property, it is worthwhile to explore our situation from an economic perspective. Baseball, like any other activity, carries with it an opportunity cost, or tradeoff. Because we live in a world with scarce resources and to boot, unlimited wants, every decision that we make or action we take is a sacrifice; in pursuing one thing, we give up the pursuit of something else. Part of the MLB’s

Public Policy Update Immigration & Nationality Law Committee Comments on Department of Homeland Security Proposal Individuals who enter the United States without being inspected and admitted or paroled by an immigration official generally are not able to attain status as a lawful permanent resident while in the U.S. through the process known as adjustment of status. With limited exceptions, such individuals are required to leave the U.S. and attempt to obtain their green cards through consular processing. A proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation would allow individuals to apply for the waiver before departing the U.S. but must show that denial of his/her re-entry into the U.S. would cause “extreme hardship” to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. NYCLA’s Immigration & Nationality Law Committee developed Comments and Recommendations on this proposed rulemaking by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (UCIS), which were recently adopted

by the NYCLA Executive Committee. The Report states that although NYCLA applauds the important step UCIS is proposing in this regulation, the Association believes the proposed regulations are too narrow in focus and too restrictive and urges the DHS to broaden it. NYCLA Comments on Proposed Bill Currently, practicing or appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted or registered is considered a misdemeanor. Proposed bill, S1998A-2011 would change the penalty to a felony. NYCLA recently sent a letter to Assembly Member Helene E. Weinstein supporting the change to make the penalty equal to that in other professions, but expressed concerns over the current lack of definition of what it means to practice law in New York. Women’s Rights Committee Supports Pregnant Women Bill NYCLA’s Women’s Rights Committee sent a letter to State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Eileen M. Gunther supporting the

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“Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women Bill.” NYCLA Submits Comments on the Unified Court System’s Proposed Amendments of Request for Judicial Intervention Forms NYCLA wrote to New York State’s Office of Court Administration in response to the Administrative Board of the Courts’ request for comments on proposed amendments to the Request for Judicial Intervention form. NYCLA Supports New York State Bar Association Proposed Changes to the Statement of Client Responsibilities NYCLA’s President, Stewart D. Aaron, sent a letter to the New York State Bar Association’s President, Vincent E. Doyle III stating that NYCLA is pleased to support the proposed changes to the Statement of Client Responsibilities, and that the Association agrees with the Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct that the changes update, correct, and clarify the existing statement.

opportunity cost of orchestrating a baseball game is the money spent on baseballs. The MLB knows and understands this. An effort by the MLB Commissioner to procure the ball back without my consent is an effort to defy the most fundamental principle of economics. This is akin to an effort to defy gravity—it just doesn’t fly. The only appeal that the MLB can legitimately make in order to receive the ball back is an emotional one. The president of the MLB could try to reason with me, contending that the sentimental value of the ball from Jeter’s 3,000th hit is priceless to the organization and that I would be “doing the right thing” by returning it. And who knows, depending on my mood, I just might decide to be a Good Samaritan and return the ball. But the point is that this would be my decision. In catching the ball, I was the receiver of “intentionally abandoned property”; at that point, it became my property. As much as our society would be better off with more Good Samaritans, this is irrelevant when speaking of legal obligations. There is no law binding me—or anyone else—to act selflessly. As long as I am not infringing on the rights of others or in possession of a controlled substance, I am free to do as I please.

Ethics Hotline

The Committee on Professional Ethics accepts both written and telephone inquiries on ethics matters and provides advisory opinions. For additional information, call the members listed below. July 1-15 Anne Loranger 212-656-5263 July 15-31 Joseph Vogel 212-997-7634 August 1-15 David Wirtz 212-583-2699 August 16-31 Bruce Green 212-636-6851

Please Note: Assignments are subject to change.

Questions to the Hotline are limited to an inquiring attorney’s prospective conduct. The Hotline does not answer questions regarding past conduct, the conduct of other attorneys, questions that are being litigated or before a disciplinary committee or ethics committee, or questions of law. This notation shall not be construed to contain all Hotline guidelines. For a full discussion of Ethics Hotline guidelines, please see “Guidelines on NYCLA’s Ethics Hotline,” September 2006, New York County Lawyer, Vol. 2, No. 7. To view the article, visit NYCLA’s website at, click on Ethics (on the left-hand side of the page) and then on Ethics Hotline.

July August 2012 New York County Lawyer  
July August 2012 New York County Lawyer  

Work-life balance has been a topic of much interest over the last several years, and we have devoted this issue of the New York County Lawye...