The Court of Appeals

The United States’ court system is large and complex. One of the arms of this labyrinthine organization is the court of appeals, also known as the circuit courts. These courts play a very important role in the overall structure of our court system. In today’s blog, we will learn more about the function of the United States court of appeals.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal occurs when one party in a court proceeding disagrees with the verdict which has been handed down. An appeal is filled with a higher court asking them to review the decision. The defendant may try to change the verdict using a post-trial motion but this is rarely successful, thus an appeal is often the only option. The conviction or the court’s sentencing may be appealed.

The Court of Appeals

The court of appeals are considered by most to be the second most powerful courts in the Unites States, following only after the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only hears approximately 1 percent of the cases filled with it, so the court of appeals actually has an arguably large impact on the fabric of everyday life in America. The court of appeals has the ability to set legal precedents by overturning rulings. This is not a power available to the lower federal courts.

Court Organization

The court of appeals is separated into eleven distinct circuits which rule over a specific area of the United States. In addition to the eleven circuits is the federal circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit. This Ninth Circuit is considered by many to be the most powerful of all the court of appeals as 20 percent of the United States population falls under its jurisdiction.

Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice: Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas was once dubbed, “The Justice Nobody Knows” by CBS news. Hastings & Hastings’ Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice series doesn’t overlook anyone. Although he may not stand in the spotlight as much as his fellow justices, Clarence Thomas is none the less an important part of the Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia. During his childhood a tragic house fire left he and his family homeless. Eventually, he ended up living with his grandparents in Savana, Georgia. This was the first time Clarence Thomas enjoyed reliable indoor plumbing and regular meals. Living with his grandfather was a formative experience. Justice Thomas once called him, “the greatest man I have ever know.” With his grandparents he learned the value of hard work and self-reliance. He worked from sunup to sundown on their farm.

In Savana, he was the only black student at his high school. He briefly attended seminary before leaving in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. He next enrolled at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts. There he majored in English. Next was Yale Law School and a career in the legal profession.

Justice Thomas worked for a few years as Assistant Attorney General in Missouri under State Attorney General John Danforth before leaving to work at the Monsanto Chemical Company.

In 1981 he entered the world of politics and joined the Reagan administration. He served as an assistant secretary in the Department of Education.

He began working on the federal level when President George H. W. Bush nominated him to take a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Thomas initially resisted becoming a judge.

In 1991, Justice Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush following the retirement of Thurgood Marshall.

Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice: Antonin Scalia

It has been a while since we checked in with the Supreme Court. Welcome back to our Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice series! Today, we will be checking in with Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the current longest-serving justice on the Supreme court. Without further ado, let’s learn about his distinguished life.

Justice Scalia was born on March 11, 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey to a family of Italian immigrants. Just a generation removed for Sicily, Scalia was an energetic and enthusiastic young boy. He seemed delighted by the possibilities and opportunities available to him. At the age of six, the family moved to Queens, New York where. For school he attended Jesuit Xavier High School in Manhattan on scholarship.

For undergrad he attended prestigious Georgetown University where he graduated as valedictorian holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. The next step was Harvard Law School from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1960

Justice Scalia’s law career began in Cleveland Ohio. He was on the fast track to becoming partner when he realized that his ambitions may lay in a different direction. His heart told him he wanted to teach. In 1967 he became a professor of Law at the University of Virginia.

The field of politics was next. In 1971 he was appointed by then President Richard Nixon as the general counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy.

Things truly took for Scalia in 1982 when he became part of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Here his reputation spread. He was known as witty, hardworking and critical of the Supreme Court.

In 1986 Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Regan. The nomination was met with no opposition has he became the first Italian-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Learning about Attorney’s Fees

One thing we are very passionate about here at Hastings & Hastings, is ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to protect their rights following an accident. Cost should not be a factor in keeping people from attaining legal representation. Many people do not know that most personal injury cases are done with a contingency fee. In our blog today we are going to spend some time looking at hour attorney’s fees work and what you can expect when you retain a personal injury attorney.

What is a Contingency Fee

A contingency fee allows you to hire an attorney without having to worry about large, upfront costs. If you are engaged in a contingency fee agreement with an attorney, their pay will be taken from your cases’ settlement. A typical contingency fee may range from 33 to 40 percent. This means that the more valuable your settlement is, the more the attorney may be paid. Here at Hastings & Hastings our discount accident fee saves our clients money with every single settlement.

Additional Costs

Sometimes there may be additional costs. Often these are taken out of the settlement as well, although some personal injury attorneys may charge the clients as the costs come up. Additional costs could include: filing fees, postage, police reports, medical reports, pay for expert witnesses, and travel. These can be difficult to anticipate and vary from cases to cases. If your cases does not settle and goes to court, more expenses will likely come up. Hastings & Hastings collects the same discount fee regardless of if the case goes to court or not.

The End Result

So, given all this information, you may be confused as to what you actually get at the end of a personal injury preceding. Once a settlement is reached, the contingency fee will be deducted from it, followed by any costs that were accumulated during the cases. They remainder is yours to take home. Congratulations!

3 Tips for Getting the Best Deal on Car Insurance

There are several unavoidable expenses in life. You need a place to live, you need food to eat, you probably need a car to drive and insurance so that you will be allowed to drive. This doesn’t leave much money left over for fun stuff. By minimize your necessary expenses you maximize the amount of money you have available for discretionary expenses. Follow Hastings & Hastings 3 tips for getting the best deal on car insurance.

1.Shop Around

Never take the first deal, even if it seems perfect. You don’t know what else is out there.Use your network to hunt out the best insurance companies in town. Ask your local body shop, check in with a friendly personal injury attorney, inquire at a doctor’s office or call a chiropractor. These are people who work closely with insurance companies on daily basis. If they have a good relationship with someone they trust, you could hit the jackpot!

  1. Know Insurance Language

Sure, insurance language is based on English but is seems pretty strange and unfamiliar until you spend some time learning about it. They more you know, the better equipped you will be to find the best deal. Know the differences between a premium and a deductible. Know how comprehensive coverage differs from collision coverage. Be able to talk with your potential insurance agent as an equal.

  1. Choose the Right Coverage

Don’t opt into coverage options that you do not need. If your family already has two cars, you might not need a rental car in the event of an accident. Take the rental car option off of your policy. You just saved $150 a year. Note, opting for the bare minimum coverage could leave you vulnerable in the event of an accident.

A Few of 2016’s Safest Cars

When shopping for a new car, there are a few things most people focus on: affordability, fuel efficiency, and safety. For us here at Hastings & Hastings, safety really is our number one concern. Every year new safety features appear in cars. Vehicles are constantly safer and safer to driver. Today we will look at a few of the top safety picks for 2016 as determined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2015 Ford Flex

The 2015 Ford Flex was one of the top rated safety picks for this year because it combined good crash test ratings with an acceptable small front overlap. It was also lauded for its responsive, tight handling and smooth performance. In addition, the Ford Flex comes with the Ford Sync system which has emergency crash notification features.

2016 Audi Q3

As with most vehicles which can be considered some of the safest cars of 2016, the Audi Q3 scored very well on all five standard crash tests. This high tech car also features electronic stability control and a rollover sensor. It drives with 200 hp, combining speed and safety.

2016 Volkswagen Golf

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf was awarded a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has many of the standard safety features that are present in the Audi Q3 in addition to forward collision warning and low-speed autobrakes which perform very well in stop and go traffic. The Gold also ranks competitively in affordability and fuel efficiency.


It is important to note that even while driving a vehicle with excellent safety ratings, driving is still dangerous. We always recommend reducing your risk by following traffic laws and practicing defensive driving. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Hastings & Hastings at (480)706-1100.

Hastings & Hastings’ Favorite Legal Movies (Part Two)

Welcome to part two of Hastings & Hastings list of our favorite legal movies. In our last post we highlighted two classic legal movies: To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men. Today’s post will have more of a modern flair! Remember, legal movies rarely accurately depict how the law is interpreted and applied in real life. While they are fun, informative and engaging, you should never derive legal advice from movies.

  1. The Paper Chase

Considered by many to be the authoritative movie about law school, this 1973 classic follows a first-year Harvard law student named James T. Hart. James learns that law school is a world unlike any other. Here, reputations can rise and fall in the span of a single class period. He works tirelessly to earn the approval of one Harvard’s most stern professors, one Charles K. Kingfield. Things become complicated when his personal life starts interfering with his life as a student.

  1. Erin Brockovich

In Erin Brockovich we learn that things aren’t always as they appear. Erin Brockovich is a paralegal and a single mother. She senses that something suspicious is afoot in regards to a local real estate case. She begins a dogged and relentless investigation. Her investigation leads to one of the largest class action suits ever filled as she discovers illegal toxic waste dumping.

  1. Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is a smash hit comedy about Elle Woods, a former sorority girl turned brilliance law school student. Elle, a prime and pretty fashion obsessed girl attempted to win back her boyfriend by attending law school. She takes the LSAT and achieves one of the highest scores possible. This starts her on the path towards a surprising legal career. Her intelligence, determination, optimism, and unique perspective help her defy expectations wherever she goes.

Hastings & Hastings’ Favorite Legal Movies (Part One)

It is safe to say, most of us here at Hastings & Hastings love legal movies. What isn’t to like? They are interesting, complex, dramatic, fun, and entertaining! There is a wide range of different types of legal movies all well, from comedies, to dramas, to hard hitting documentaries. In our next two blogs, we will look at some of our favorite legal movies.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird

For many lawyers, this legendary movie based on novel by Harper Lee, is the one that got them interested in the legal profession. Gregory Peck’s portrayal of the noble and quietly courageous Atticus Finch was inspiring to almost everyone who saw it. Atticus fought for justice even when the odds seemed stacked against him. He remained faithful to his beliefs and acted as an amazing role model to his children. Although the movie came out in 1962, because it touches on timeless themes and human drama, it still resonates with audiences today.

  1. 12 Angry Men

Based off of a stage play written by Reginald Rose, few movies even today are as taut, dramatic, and atmospheric as 12 Angry Men. Nearly every minute of the movie takes place in one single scene – a jury room. The film focuses on the deliberations of a jury in a death penalty cases. Upon initial voting, every member of the juror believes the accused man is guilty, save one individual. Tensions rise as the eponymous 12 angry men bicker back and forth. Every man carries with him his own history, opinions and prejudices. Almost 60 years have passed since 12 Angry Men hit the big screen, yet still today it may be the greatest movie ever about the psychology and proceedings of a jury.

Avoiding Common Traffic Citations

Most of us have probably been written a traffic ticket at some point during our lives. It is not a great experience. It costs money and could impact your driving record and your insurance premiums. Even the most cautious drivers get in trouble from time to time. So, what can you do to avoid tickets in the future? In our blog today, Hastings & Hastings provides a list of the most common traffic citations. Avoid these to reduce your odds of getting pulled over.

Speeding Citations

Speeding citations are by far the most common type of ticket given out by law enforcement officers each year. Everyone speeds, even if it is just a few mph over the legal limit. Lose focus for a fraction of a second and you can end up traveling 5 mph too fast. The fact of the matter is, speed almost never save you an appreciable amount of time. It is also dangerous and illegal. Keep these things in mind next time you find yourself going a little too fast. Is speeding worth it? No. Never.

Stop, Don’t Go!

Law enforcement officials could almost give out citations at will if they just hung out around stop signs and red lights. When approaching a stop sign, you most come to a complete stop. No slowing down gradually and just rolling through. No almost stopping. Hit the brakes until you reach 0 miles-per-hour, count for a full second, and then go. This is a foolproof method for avoiding a ticket for running a stop sign or a red light.

Parking Tickets

Although not a moving violation, parking tickets can still be expensive. Accumulating a lot of them can really add up. Just keep an eye out when you are parking on the street. Some no-parking signs can be confusing. Make sure you read them carefully. When in doubt, find another spot.

Avoiding Accidents While Running

If you are anything like millions of other Americans, you probably made a New Year’s resolution to lose a few Lbs -nothing crazy, just 10-20 pounds. Well, now that you have made the resolution, it is time to get started. The solution to weight loss is simple, calories in < calories out. An effective way to balance this formula in your favor is running! However, running isn’t without its risks. In today’s blog, we will discuss ways to avoid accidents while running.

Visibility is Key

If you live in a big city like Phoenix, you may find yourself running on streets more often than not. Of course, this is dangerous. Cars are bigger than you and they are moving fast. Getting hit by one isn’t going to end well. Make sure you are visible while running. Hitting the road during the day is the easiest way to do this. However, some people work during the daylight hours or find crippling heat distasteful. These individuals may go running at night. If you are a night running, Hastings & Hastings advises that you wear bright clothing and reflective tape.

Know Your Surroundings

Cars are not the only hazard out there. You could trip and fall or you could run your way right into other dangerous situations. You should always be familiar with your surroundings. Those individuals heading out to pound the pavement should plan out a route beforehand. Running with a partner is always a good idea, but if you prefer solo excursions make sure you tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone for. It is wise to carry a cell phone and a piece of identification on you. We wish good luck and great health to all the runners out there this year. Don’t forget the water!