Celebrate! Celebrate!

CrimeRib_CV.inddThe focus on the “fiction” part of “Law & Fiction” continues this week, as I celebrate the launch of Crime Rib, second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, on Tuesday, July 1.

Two favors to ask: Early reviews are a big help to authors, so if you’re so inclined, please share your comments about Crime Rib on Amazon, B&N.com, Goodreads, or with your friends. And if you see Crime Rib in the wild — on a bookstore shelf, in a library, in a reader’s hands — please send me a picture or post it on my Facebook page.

Two giveaways! My publisher, Berkley Prime Crime (part of Penguin Books), is joining the fun by giving away 25 copies of Crime Rib on Goodreads. The contest is open through July 15. You need an account to enter, but it’s easy and fun.  And the giveaway at the Debutante Ball  continues through July 5. Extra points if you tell me a chicken joke I haven’t heard.

Come celebrate with me! Join me in Missoula on Wednesday, July 2, for a book talk, reading, and signing at Fact & Fiction Books, 220 N. Higgins, at 7 p.m.

Join me on line: Monday, June 30, I’ll be naming names at Shelley’s Book Case  — giving you the inside scoop on how I name my characters.

On Tuesday, July 1, I’ll be at Fresh Fiction, answering that old question: “Where do you get your ideas?” Some writers roll their eyes at the question, but I love it — and I’ll tell you why!

On Wednesday, July 2, I’ll be in two places at once. Join me at Books N Kisses for “Another Weekend, Another Festival — and Another Body.” I’m also joining my good friend Janet Fisher, author of the new history, A Place of Her Own, for a reflection on the magical critique group she and I were were part of here in Montana.

2014 launch - the foodAnd next Saturday, July 5, join me at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews‘ “Cozy Cooking” feature, where I’ll share Erin’s recipe for Two Bean & Pesto Salad — yummy summer fun. Chef Dan Solberg served it at my launch party Friday night — his version is almost as good as Erin’s!

Speaking of the launch party, it was great fun! Thanks to so many local friends for joining Don, my mother, brother, and me — and to Derek Vandeberg for hosting us as part of the opening reception for the 2d Annual Bigfork in Paint & Print show. If you’re in the Flathead, do drop by and see the lovely pieces created to illustrate this wonderful place. A few photos below.

My thanks, 


2014 launch - don2014 launch - Liz and parrot2014 Launch -- girls at leslie's book signing


Limits on cell phone searches

The U.S. Supreme Court has now held that law enforcement officers must get a search warrant for most cell phone searches.

“Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Riley v. California, one of two cases on the issue decided on June 25.

The federal government and the state of California argued that cell phone searches should be allowed under the same rationale that allows police to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence. But the court agreed with the defendants, saying that the comparison was not accurate. A cell phone is simply too powerful, and may hold far too much private information, to allow a warrantless search in most situations.

The court did acknowledge that there may be legitimate concerns about the destruction of evidence; when those concerns arise, steps can be taken to prevent a person from remotely erasing a phone’s contents or activating encryption.

There is a long-standing exception to the warrant requirement when officers reasonably fear for their safety or the lives of others — such as a bomb threat or a kidnapping case. The court also left that possibility open.

In the San Diego case, police looked through David Riley’s smartphone after his arrest and found video and photos indicating gang membership, which they used to convict him of attempted murder and other charges. California courts had upheld the convictions and use of the evidence; the California Supreme Court must now take another look at Riley’s case.

In the Boston case, Brima Wurie was arrested on suspicion of selling crack cocaine. Police checked the call log on his flip phone and used it to figure out where he lived. They got a warrant to search his home, where they found crack, marijuana, a gun and ammunition. He was convicted and sentenced to more than 20 years. The federal appeals court ruled that police must have a warrant before searching arrestees’ cellphones, reversing most of the convictions, but upholding his conviction for selling cocaine near a school, a charge unrelated to the tainted evidence. The administration appealed the court ruling because it wants to preserve the warrantless searches following arrest. More, including the opinion, from the SCOTUS blog. 

Consider how you can use this to help your characters, or create more obstacles.   

Googling potential jurors

I’ve done it for years. When my law firm takes on a new case, I Google opposing parties and scour their websites. I Google our client. I look at what they post — publicly — on Facebook. I check for news accounts of the incident involved. I’ve discovered surprising things that weren’t in the files. No smoking guns, but useful information that helps me understand who and what we’re dealing with. I read the comments on news accounts to get a sense of the public perception, true or false. And if a case goes to trial, we do the same for potential jurors, to get a sense of who they are — and keep an eye out for any violations of the judge’s admonitions against talking about the case publicly during trial. Trials are expensive, emotional, and time-consuming — and a juror’s misconduct can torch years of effort.

Never, ever, though, would I go beyond the public wall to “friend” or “follow” a witness or potential juror. Like many other lawyers, I think it’s part of my obligation to my client to look at the information a person shares publicly, but to pry into private communications or to “friend” a witness on FB — even if they know, or should know, who we are — would clearly be an ethical violation.

The American Bar Association has now given a green light to the practice of looking at public information, such as corporate or individual websites, or public Facebook profiles. Whether lawyers can hire firms to do the research, essentially profiling a juror from their social media posts, is still an open question. Individual states and courts may, of course, approve or sanction the practice, but the ABA opinion is good guidance.

How will your characters use this tool — or break the rules?

Ten Great Novels on Legal Issues

(Originally published in The Writer, September 2013)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)
None of us will ever be Atticus Finch, but we’re better for trying.

snow fallingSnow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson (1995)
Trial and prejudice, with brilliant courtroom dialogue.

The Firm, John Grisham (1991)
A newbie with a dog named Hearsay outwits his wily bosses.

Rumpole of the Bailey series, John Mortimer (1978-2009)
Taught me everything I know about the British legal system.

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
The epitome of the legal thriller.

AnatomyAnatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver (1958)
A classic by a Michigan judge, basis of the fine and fiery movie.

Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman (2003)
A castoff Barbie, a missing baby, and two young girls—a heart-breaking look at juvenile justice.

If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him, Sharyn McCrumb (1995)
Domestic violence is nothing new.

The Trial, Franz Kafka (1925)
Still gives me the chills.

indian lawyer


The Indian Lawyer, James Welch (1990)
A tale of anger and revenge, beautifully told.

As always, feel free to share this post with your friends!

Let the party begin!

It’s that time of year again: Book Launch! For the next two or three weeks, my fiction side will take over — but don’t worry. My Tuesday legal posts and Saturday writing quotes will continue.

And if you’re in western Montana, do join Mr. Right and me for the Launch Party, Friday, June 27, from 5 to 8, at the fabulous Frame of Reference Gallery in Bigfork. More than a dozen artists have created wonderful new pieces for the 2d Bigfork in Paint & Print exhibit, and they’ll be on hand during the opening reception, where I’ll be signing books and the Prosecco will be flowing!

CrimeRib_CV.inddHere’s where you can find me on line this week:

Sunday, June 22: Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, with an excerpt from Crime Rib, and a recipe for Cabernet-chocolate sauce — EZ-PZ, as Erin would say, and perfect over ice cream. Or pound cake or cheese cake or angel food cake, or fruit.

Monday, June 23: Lisa K’s Book Reviews, an interview with a chance to win a copy of either Death al Dente OR Crime Rib.

Friday, June 27: Killer Characters: Where the Characters Do the Talking. An excerpt from Crime Rib, and a give-away. In fact, Killer Characters is sponsoring  the Cozy Days of Summer Contest! Every day in June and July, leave a comment for a chance to win a book from that day’s author!

Saturday, June 28: The Debutante Ball, a fun interview.

Sunday, June 29, a two-fer: On Jungle Red Writers, I’ll be talking about the Food Lovers’ Bookshelf—some of my favorite recent reads in “kitchen lit.” And on Shelley’s Book Case, I’m naming names, talking about how I name my characters.

And if you’re a member of Goodreads, my publisher Berkley Prime Crime is providing TWENTY-FIVE copies of Crime Rib for a giveaway, open until July 15. 

Finally, two fun print appearances to share this week: A delightful interview with Vince Devlin of  the Missoulian, and my regular column in 406 Woman magazine (scroll to p. 40), featuring an excerpt, a yummy summer steak recipe that plays a key role in Crime Rib, and the story of how Mr. Right and I created it!

Thanks for joining me on this journey!


Don’t ignore that jury summons!

A judge in western Montana got a little annoyed last week when twelve of 48 potential jurors summoned for a trial failed to show up or contact the court to explain why they should be excused. Another dozen did contact the court, leaving only 24 potential jurors. As the Missoulian reports, Judge Jim Manley then ordered the twelve to contact the court, provide their explanations, and write letters of apology. Five complied immediately; seven presented their excuses in person—he accepted three, but held the other four in contempt, with their $100 fines waived if they write an apology.

The judge’s comments—he’s a personal friend whose work as a lawyer I admired long before he took the bench last year—focus on the importance of jury trials, how revolutionary our system was when established over 200 years ago, and how it depends on each of us to function in a way that serves and protects each of us. Worth reading—for your fiction and your role as a citizen.

Take a bite of CRIME RIB

CrimeRib_CV.inddRemember when you were a kid and a big event like your birthday or Christmas or the last day of school seemed so far away? You waited and waited and waited — and then it was here and you could hardly believe it.

I’m in the waiting phase. CRIME RIB, the second book in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, will be out July 1. My author copies have arrived. The first review is in, from RT Book Reviews:

“Budewitz’s latest is deliciously appealing. A strong sense of community among the villagers creates a feel-good setting. … Erin is a spunky and tenacious heroine and a fighter who won’t let anyone bring down her business or her beloved village. Cozy mystery lovers and foodies alike will enjoy this story of good neighbors, luscious food and a bad egg (or two) who is capable of murder.”

IMGP2323You can read an excerpt and find links to online sources and western Montana bookstores  on my website. Both the paperback and the e-book can be pre-ordered now; you’ll be charged when the book ships or downloads to your e-reader. Both pre-orders and early reviews give authors a big boost. Leave a review on any online site and I’ll be grateful.

And yes, there are recipes — for a yummy steak dish, Erin’s favorite grilled chicken, a terrific summer salad, and more, including my very own S’more Sandwich Cookies!

If you’re in western Montana, join me for a killer launch party Friday, June 27, from 5-8 at Frame of Reference Gallery in Bigfork. Though it’s early, books will be available! (Thanks, Penguin!) And we’ll be celebrating in Missoula on Wednesday, July 2, from 7-9, at Fact & Fiction Books.  See you there!