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January 29, 2010

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: It's bad enough I'm headed into court now for my arraignment, but now I hear the prosecutor making fun of my name as "unfortunate," too? Do I need to stand for this?

Answer: Take the "sticks and stones" approach and don't worry about it. If it makes you feel any better, the same thing happened to the defendant today in USA v. Brotha Workitout. (The Daily Record, Brotha Workitout)

2) Question: I rented out my "Twister" game on Rentalic for $3.00/week. It came back with a big hole in one of the yellow circles. Unacceptable! What is my recourse?

Answer: Hopefully you demanded the security deposit on your Twister game. (Consumerist, Rent Out Your Household Items for Fun And Profit)

Oompa 3) Question: I've been cooped up all winter and I'm pale as a ghost. I need to get my tan on. I'm headed to the local tanning bed as soon as possible and I'm staying there until I look like an Oompa Loompa. Any advice?

Answer: Do it soon, before the "Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act" limits the amount of time the government will let you bake. (NBC New York, Pols Take Tanning to Task)

January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

I'm Sorry I Tripped and Ripped Your $130 Million Picasso, Part 2

Actor Can we talk again about the the lady who lost her balance while walking in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tumbled into Picasso's “The Actor” painting and caused a six-inch tear resulting in $65 million in damage? I'm having a little trouble getting past this.

Please tell me how this can happen. Not the "lady falling down" part, as that happens every day. I'm referring to the "I will place my $130 million item in a location where an everyday occurrence might cause $65 million in damage" part. Is this unique to the art world, which is apparently willing to cross its fingers every day and hope that nobody accidentally spills a drink, jabs an umbrella or has their three-year old throw a Power Ranger at century-old masterpieces? It's one thing when you're a careless billionaire who accidentally elbows his own Picasso, but shouldn't a world-class museum have better protections in place?

Can anyone provide examples of other priceless or insanely expensive items that are left exposed in this way?

January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Unreliable Workers of the World Unite!

When I wrote here two weeks ago about reports of the snowballing "nanny state" in the U.K., at least one commenter (with a ".uk" Web address) called the reports "tosh" and "half true." Such reports, he said, were "merely anecdotal accounts" that said "nothing substantial about the nanny state."

Perhaps. But here's some more half-true tosh for you, guvna.

Jcplus Via Overlawyered comes this story in the Telegraph about Nicole Mamo, who simply wanted to post an advertisement for a £5.80-an-hour domestic cleaner on her local Jobcentre Plus Web site. She wrote in the ad that any applicants for the job ''must be very reliable and hard-working." When Ms. Mamo called the Jobcentre Plus the following day she was told that her ad could not be displayed because "the word 'reliable' meant they could be sued for discriminating against unreliable workers." That could lead to litigation against Jobcentre Plus, she was told.

It appears that sanity somehow prevailed here, however, as the ad did eventually get posted. A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment on the phone call made to Ms. Mamo but confirmed that “reliability is important to employers, as it is for Jobcentre Plus -- and we welcome ads seeking reliable applicants.”

January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 28, 2010

My Swan Song at Legal Blog Watch

Imagine how I -- a lawyer who loves few things more than to write -- felt when I got this call one day four years ago. "We'd like you to be a featured contributor to our blog," said the caller, an editor at Law.com. "The blog is hosted on one of the most visited legal sites on the Web. We have a readership that spans the globe. You can write about whatever you want and we will highlight your posts prominently."

She probably had me there. Then she added, "And of course we'll pay you to do this."

This has been the greatest gig I've ever had as a writer. For four years, every other weekday (more or less), I have posted here. Our assignment, broadly speaking, was to cover the legal blogosphere. Other than that, we had free rein. Although our posts are edited, we are never censored. My first post was on March 20, 2006. When my long-time partner in blogging here, Carolyn Elefant, left in September, she estimated that her posts added up to a total of some 1,680. Given that I kept at it a few more months than she, I'll estimate my total as north of 1,700.

Goodbye But over the four years I've been doing this, the blogosphere that we set out to cover has exploded like a supernova. When I started, the number of blogs to track was manageable. Now, it could easily be a full-time effort to keep up. My RSS reader shows some 500 feeds I try to follow.

Beyond the sheer number of blogs is the ever-higher bar they set. So many legal blogs produce so much high quality content that it is difficult to know where to begin and where to end in reading them. As the overall content of blogs has improved, so has the competitiveness among bloggers to be first out of the gate on a story -- us included. With all this, legal blogging could be a full-time occupation -- and in fact it now is for some.

For the legal profession, these are all good things. Blogging has come into its own and lawyers are the beneficiaries. But for this particular legal professional, the race to keep up with blogging began to compete too aggressively with my other work. Our assignment to cover legal blogs got only harder every day. Even though I was being paid to blog, it was only intended to be part-time and I wasn't about to abandon my day job or the clients who see fit to hire me. Something had to give.

So it is with mixed emotion and heavy heart that I leave this gig behind. But before I go, I want to say a special word of thanks to John Bringardner, the Law.com editor who oversees this blog. I could not ask for a better editor. John reviews every post with an eagle eye, feeds me great tips, accommodates my sometimes-crazy schedule, helps promote notable posts, and never lacks for positive and constructive feedback.

I've already thanked Carolyn Elefant, my blogging partner for most of these four years. I also want to acknowledge Law.com Executive Editor David Snow, who gave me the freedom and encouragement to blog on whatever I wanted; Law.com Vice President Jill Windwer, whose vision and hard work have made Law.com a leading destination for legal professionals on the Web; Jennifer Collins, the former Law.com editor who first invited me here; and ALM CEO Bill Pollak, one of the few corporate leaders in publishing or in any industry who truly gets social media.

I leave with enormous gratitude and respect for the legions of legal bloggers out there who gave me something to write about all these years. I regularly followed hundreds of blogs, but I would particularly acknowledge a handful for their consistently top-notch reporting (and for feeding me countless ideas). Not a morning goes by that I don't start by checking Above the Law,  the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the ABA Journal Daily News, The Am Law Daily, The BLT and SCOTUSblog, all of which excel at reporting and breaking key legal news. Others I follow religiously include Overlawyered, where Walter Olson keeps a critical eye focused on the legal profession; Legal Profession Blog, which is unparalleled in covering legal ethics; Real Lawyers Have Blogs, where Kevin O'Keefe and his crew stay one step ahead of the social media curve; Law Librarian Blog, where Joe Hodnicki never misses a beat in tracking legal research and information; and beSpacific, where Sabrina Pacifici has consistently functioned as a virtual one-woman legal news bureau since 2002.  

Of course, my greatest thanks goes to the people who read this blog over the years and to those who took the time to share their comments or shoot me an e-mail. Bruce Carton has done a fantastic job of stepping into Carolyn's shoes as a co-blogger here. No doubt, someone will take my spot and show me how it should have been done. But now, at least, I can reveal the one dirty little secret I've harbored since the day I got that first call offering to pay me to blog: This gig was so great, I should have paid them!

January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (30)

The Perfect Storm of Legal Research

If there is to be a perfect storm in the tumultuous sea of legal research offerings, it is likely to hit sometime Monday at LegalTech New York. That is when Westlaw will formally unveil its most sweeping overhaul since its move to the Web and LexisNexis will announce what it says will be a major new product for legal professionals, even as it prepares to announce an overhaul of its own research service at a date yet to be specified.

These moves by the two giants of legal research have drawn the attention of The New York Times and in-depth coverage by the ABA Journal. Earlier this week, West brought a bevy of influential legal-technology bloggers and journalists to its home base in Minnesota to preview its new-and-improved research service, which it calls WestlawNext. Although I was not able to attend the preview, West gave me an online demonstration and a password to try it out. I've posted my first look at WestlawNext at my LawSites blog.

These developments come amid an unusual confluence of events already stirring the legal atmosphere, with Google making its first foray into legal research, Bloomberg Law positioning itself as a serious contender to take on West and Lexis, and Fastcase preparing to deliver free legal research to the iPhone (and the iPad?).

Helping to seed this brewing perfect storm is a growing movement to create a public repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. At the vanguard of this movement is free-access advocate Carl Malamud's Law.gov, which is convening a series of workshops and symposiums at law schools throughout the country, assisted by some of the nation's top legal academics. The first program was held earlier this month at Stanford, another took place last week at Princeton, one will be held Feb. 25 at Columbia, and still others are in the works.

Talk to the people involved in this free-access movement and you quickly realize that some of them have set their sights on far more than just primary legal materials. In their vision, they see a not-too distant future in which the Web offers a full selection of primary and secondary legal research materials every bit as robust and comprehensive as the commercial services offer today, only for free.

No doubt, the most-visible theme of LegalTech this year will again be e-discovery, as it has been for several years now. But there is sure to be a strong undercurrent of buzz about the tumult in legal research and plenty of forecasting about the storm clouds clearly visible on the horizon. Even if the forecast is stormy for providers of legal research, this much is clear: There has never been a better time to be a legal-research consumer.

January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Blasts K&L Gates Team's Huge Fee and 'Unnecessary Lawyering'

Is it excessive for lawyers to collect more than $800,000 in fees and costs from an estate valued at $1.2 million? Noting that would add up to 67 percent of the estate's total value, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made no bones about its opinion on the fee request, saying that it represented "unnecessary lawyering."

That does not mean that the lawyers from K&L Gates in Boston who made the request will go penniless. In an opinion issued yesterday, In the Matter of the Estate of Bartley J. King, the SJC sent the case back to the trial judge to decide a "fair and reasonable" fee award. But the court did not let go of the matter without first letting the litigants know its distaste for the fees requested.

In the present case, a total of eighteen attorneys and paralegals were representing Folan, a remarkable number especially when one takes into account the motion judge's view that the theories advanced by the contestants were not "overly complex." Even a cursory review of the billing records suggests that among all these attorneys there was duplication of effort, and a fair amount of billing for the time of two or more attorneys who were attending the same hearing. ... Moreover, at least some of the pretrial litigation activity, especially a number of Folan's pretrial motions ... and her motions for reconsideration, reasonably could be seen as unnecessary overlawyering in a case such as this, where the decedent's entire estate was worth $1.2 million.

At issue in the case was a challenge to the validity of the will of Bartley J. King, with some of his children and grandchildren raising questions of capacity and undue influence in the making of the will. After a nine-day trial, the challenge failed. Thereafter, Stephen G. Howard, the K&L Gates partner who represented the prevailing beneficiary, King's daughter Lois Folan, filed his request for $710,321.50 in attorneys' fees (50 cents?) and $95,868.47 in costs. The lower court judge awarded $510,000 in fees and $64,000 in costs, roughly half the value of the estate.

While a trial judge has wide discretion to determine the appropriate amount of a fee award, the SJC said, it was sending this case back because the judge appeared not to have evaluated the lawyers' billing records. "It is essential ... for a judge to evaluate the pertinent factors in the context of examining the attorney's description of the services actually provided, the hours spent, and the hourly rate charged," the SJC said.

January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 27, 2010

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: I'm going to buy some groceries today using my employee discount at Whole Foods. By the way, my blood pressure is 110/70, my total cholesterol is 144 and my body mass index is 31.

Answer: That BMI is a deal-breaker, so you are stuck with a 20 percent discount. But if you can drop a few pounds and get that BMI down to 23, you're entitled to a 30 percent discount. (Jezebel, Weigh Less, Pay Less: Whole Foods Offers Discount Based On BMI) (via Consumerist)

Powerpuff 2) Question: Hypothetically speaking, of course, could my friend be arrested for possession of pornographic cartoon images of Marge Simpson and the Powerpuff Girls?

Answer: Is your "friend" in Australia? Then yes. (Brisbane Times, The Simpsons porn lands man on sex offender list)

3) Question: My buddies and I spend most of our free time playing Dungeons & Dragons. Don't judge. But can you please clarify whether this means we are technically gang members? That would be cool.

Answer: According to Waupun prison in Wisconsin and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, you are a straight up G. (City Pages, D&D banned at Wis. prison because it promotes gang activity)

January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

I'm Sorry I Tripped and Ripped Your $130 Million Picasso

Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it.

-- "American Beauty" (1999)

You know, I sometimes feel the same way about legal blog watching. Sometimes there's so much crazy-stupid-funny news in the legal world, I feel like I can't take it. In a good way, though.

Actor Take this weekend's story in The New York Times about the lady who lost her balance while attempting to walk in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She tumbled into “The Actor,” a rare Rose Period Picasso, tearing the canvas about six inches along its lower right-hand corner.

Now what? The museum issued a statement that they think they can repair the painting in a way that is "unobtrusive” but others in the art world are not convinced. Appraiser Gerard van Weyenbergh told the New York Post that the damage will mean "a 50 percent loss of the value -- at least. When an artwork comes up in auction, that's the first thing people want to know -- were there any repaints or restorations."

The painting is was worth $130 million, so is this poor, clumsy woman now on the hook for $65 million in damages? That is not entirely clear, but at least some reports state that the "You Break It, You Bought It" rule will thankfully not be applied in this case.

January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

New 'Little i' Icon Coming This Summer to Online Ads

Iicon

You've probably never seen the icon pictured in this post before, but Web surfers should expect to see a lot of it in the near future.

The New York Times reported here yesterday that the advertising industry has agreed on a new standard icon (left) to accompany online ads that are delivered based on demographics and behavioral data. The icon, which should start popping up regularly by this summer, is being introduced to ward off potential action by regulators.

Both Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have reportedly voiced concerns that the privacy policies of companies are not clear or accessible enough to protect visitors, and questioned whether online data is being used appropriately. Indeed, the move to create the icon came after the FTC warned that it would move in unless the industry devised stricter self-regulatory principles.

The Times reports that most major companies running online ads are expected to begin adding the icon to their ads this summer along with phrases like “Why did I get this ad?” Consumers who click on the icon will then be taken to a page "explaining how the advertiser uses their Web surfing history and demographic profile to send them certain ads."

There is no legal requirement that advertisers adopt the icon, but experts predict that many large companies will quickly begin running it.

January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Is the Worst Possible Name for a Legal Blog?

Question-marks230 Earlier this week, The Volokh Conspiracy observed here that it is quite "common for legal blogs to use some legal phrase as their title, such as Concurring Opinions, Res Ipsa Loquitur," and posed an amusing question to its readers:

What are the worst possible names for legal blogs -- or at least the funniest or most awkward -- based solely on widely used legal phrases?

The VC asked readers to assume the blog name has to be the domain name, and to offer the really bad blog title in the comments, i.e., "www.dissentingfromdenialofrehearingenbanc.com."

The comments have been pouring in on that post over the past two days -- 101 and counting so far. Please offer your own ideas in the comments below. Here are my personal suggestions, to get the ball rolling here:

  • www.itdependsonwhatthemeaningofthewordisis.com
  • www.herecomesthejudge.com
  • www.thebitchsetmeup.com
  • www.iwashikingtheappalachiantrail.com
  • www.widestance.com

January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 26, 2010

Lonely Lawyer's Book Documents Her Isolation

If you are overwhelmed by loneliness, it may not seem like the best move to quit your job, become a writer and move to a remote home in Newfoundland. But that is exactly what former lawyer Emily White did. Long having wanted to be a writer, and suffering chronic loneliness, White left her job as an environmental lawyer in Canada and wrote a book, aptly titled, "Lonely: A Memoir."

Emily-white-vert-col "When I became incredibly lonely in my early thirties, I found myself at the library, searching for a book that set out loneliness in personal, immediate terms," White explains on the book's Web site. "I wanted to see someone else describing themselves as lonely, just so that I wouldn’t feel so alone and peculiar in struggling with the state. When I couldn’t find the book I was looking for, I decided to write it myself."

This week, Publishers Weekly described the book as "an astonishingly forthright work by a Canadian lawyer [that] traces her painful personal journey through chronic loneliness in light of social taboos and changing cultural and medical notions." Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a sophisticated inquiry" and says, "White makes the case that loneliness deserves attention and respect as a legitimate condition."

In a FAQ on her site, White answers the question, "Did it make you feel lonelier, writing about loneliness every day?" She had anticipated that it would, she answers. "The odd thing was that it didn't. ... It sounds odd to say this, but the book became something of a friend to me."

The book will be released on March 9, where it will be available on Amazon.com, among other places. Until then, you can read about loneliness at White's blog and read an excerpt from the book on her site.

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

FINRA Tells Brokers: Supervise Social Media Use

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority -- known by most as FINRA -- issued an advisory yesterday telling securities firms and brokers that they are required to supervise and retain records of their employees' blogging and social media use.

The advisory, Regulatory Notice 10-06, came out of a task force FINRA created in September to consider how investment firms could use social media in their businesses while also ensuring protection of investors. "The goal of this Notice," FINRA said, "is to ensure that -- as the use of social media sites increases over time -- investors are protected from false or misleading claims and representations, and firms are able to effectively and appropriately supervise their associated persons' participation in these sites."

Among the requirements spelled out in the notice (which is in the form of questions and answers) are these:

  • Firms must retain records of their employees' business-related communications through social media sites.
  • Firms must exercise caution to avoid making an investment recommendation made through social media that is not suitable for every investor who may read it.
  • Firms should consider prohibiting all social media activity that recommends a specific investment product.
  • A registered representative's "static" postings to a blog must be pre-approved by a supervisor.
  • Real-time, interactive messages on blogs and social media sites need not be preapproved, but must be supervised.
  • All static content on a social media site, such as a user's profile, but be approved by a supervisor before it is posted.
  • With regard to supervision of "interactive" communications, firms need not read every message, but "may employ risk-based principles" to decide the appropriate extent of review.

Coincidentally, Doug Cornelius had a post last week on precisely this issue at his blog Compliance Building, where he reported on a recent webinar addressing the challenges for broker-dealers and investment advisers in using social media. "You have to fit these tools into the established regulatory frameworks," he wrote. That is essentially what FINRA attempts to do in yesterday's notice.

Meanwhile, FINRA is conducting its own webinar covering this on Feb. 3, Compliance Considerations for Social Networking Sites.

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Robust Legal Research on Your iPhone

"May you live in interesting times," says an ancient Chinese curse. In the world of legal research, these are interesting times indeed. Westlaw and LexisNexis are both preparing to launch major reconfigurations of their research platforms. Bloomberg Law is jockeying to take them on. Efforts to put all legal research materials in the public domain continue to gain momentum. And even 800-pound gorilla Google is getting into the game.

Screenshot 2 While those various efforts involve bigger, better and more research on the Web, one legal research service, Fastcase, is about to launch a robust legal research tool you can carry wherever you go. Fastcase has developed an app that allows full case law and statutory research on an iPhone. Even better, not only is the app free, but so is the research.

The app is not yet available in Apple's App Store, but Fastcase granted me an exclusive first look at a pre-release version of the app. I have a full review and a half-dozen screen captures at my LawSites blog.

The short version of my review is this: I was impressed. The app is easy to use and produces lightning-fast results. Use it to search cases from all federal courts and the courts of all 50 states. Search using natural language or Boolean queries or by citation. Documents are displayed in a crisp, readable, size-adjustable font. You can save documents and revisit recent searches.

You will not find every feature on the app that you would expect in a browser-based research tool. For example, you cannot print documents or e-mail them directly from the app. (You can, however, copy a document and paste it into an e-mail.) Still, for legal research on the go, at any time, and for zero cost, this is a must-have for any lawyer with an iPhone.

The app is awaiting final approval from Apple before it appears in the App Store. Fastcase could not say when that approval might come. For now, watch for it in the App Store or keep your eyes on my LawSites blog, where I'll be sure to provide an update once it officially launches.

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Moonlighting Law Clerk Loses Day Job

In a post here in November, Appeals Court Lawyer 'Traffics' in Term Papers, we told you about Damian R. Bonazzoli, a senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Appeals Court who advertised himself on Craigslist as available to write term papers for a fee, even though it is against Massachusetts law to sell a term paper. Now, the moonlighting law clerk has lost his day job.

Bonazzoli's extracurricular activities came to light in an article on term paper trafficking written by Colman M. Herman and published in the fall issue of CommonWealth magazine. Posing as a college student, Herman wrote to Craigslist advertisers seeking to buy a paper on physician-assisted suicide. Bonazzoli was one who responded, asking $300 and including his resume, which showed him to work for the Appeals Court. In a subsequent e-mail exchange with Herman, Bonazzoli said he was aware of no law that would make it illegal to sell a term paper.

Last week, The Docket, the blog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, reported that Bonazzoli no longer works at the court. No one is saying whether he left on his own or was terminated. Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for the court system, issued a statement saying, "As of December 29, 2009, Mr. Bonazzoli no longer works at the court." The statement added that Appeals Court administrator Alexander M. McNeil confirmed "that an investigation into the matter was completed."

MLW reporter Julia Reischel reached Bonazzoli at his home. He declined to answer her questions, but read a prepared statement: "I am not in the business of selling term papers. I have never authored a term paper for anyone. I have never received any money from anyone for any academic service."

At CommonWealth magazine's blog, CW Unbound, Herman, the reporter who first broke the story, writes that the Appeals Court had placed Bonazzoli on paid administrative leave while it investigated the report of term paper trafficking.

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 25, 2010

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: I've been summoned for jury duty in Chicago next Monday, but I'm really busy preparing for my first State of the Union speech to Congress, not to mention a meet-and-greet with the Los Angeles Lakers at the White House. Can I get out of jury duty somehow?

Answer: No problem. (Chicago Breaking News, Obama to skip jury duty in Bridgeview)

2) Question: All I said was, "mmmm-mmmm-mmmm." Seriously, that's all. Can that get me a conviction for "indecent language" and a court martial?

Answer: Mmmm hmmm. Yep. (Suits & Sentences, Marine court martialed for saying "mmmm-mmmm-mmmm")

3) Question: Four of my friends and I each painted a letter on our shirts for the senior class picture, to spell out "C-L-A-S-S." Well, "C" and 'L" bailed on us, and now the three of us remaining have been suspended from school, fined $135 and stripped of our offices in school after we stood together in the class picture. Is this fair? Yours truly, "One of the S's."

Answer: Next time make sure one of the remaining S stays on the far left when this happens. Nobody gets suspended for "S-A-S." (KHOU.com, Senior class photo spells trouble) (via Legal Juice)

January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Authenticate Web Pages and Screenshots as Evidence

Last week in ALM's Internet Law & Strategy newsletter, via Law.com, M. Anderson Berry and David Kiernan provided an excellent analysis of an issue that is of rapidly-growing importance: How can lawyers authenticate Web pages as evidence in court?

The authors pose an interesting and very realistic hypothetical under which a plaintiff sues your client, claiming that his injuries have made him unable to work, travel or bowl. On the eve of trial, "you discover pictures and other details on a social networking website about plaintiff's recent trip to the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, including a picture of plaintiff proudly holding a fluorescent orange bowling ball and a four-foot tall gilded trophy dated four days earlier." As you approach the witness with the smoking-gun printouts of the Web pages, you are met with an objection from opposing counsel: "Lack of foundation."

Printscreen Now what? Berry and Kiernan explain that the common tactic of taking a screenshot of a key Web page is like taking a photograph of the image as it appears on the monitor. If proper steps are not taken to admit the evidence, however, the value of this information may be lost, as courts are highly suspicious of evidence taken from the Internet. One federal judge even labeled it "voodoo information," and warned that the Internet is "one large catalyst for rumor, innuendo, and misinformation." St. Clair v. Johnny's Oyster & Shrimp, Inc., 76 F. Supp. 2d 773, 774-75 (S.D. Tex. 1999).

The article states that the majority of courts now appear to require the proponent to authenticate a Web site under Rule 901(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which permits authentication by "[t]estimony that a matter is what it is claimed to be." This testimony typically must answer the following questions:

  • What was actually on the Web site?
  • Does the exhibit or testimony accurately reflect it?
  • If so, is it attributable to the owner of the site?

The scope of the testimony required varies among federal courts, the article notes. For much more on this subject, including information on how to use screenshots from the amazing Internet Archive, a.k.a. the "Wayback Machine," check out Berry and Kiernan's article here.

January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jureeka! New Tools Turn Legal Citations on Web Pages Into Links to Source Docs

The WisBlawg had a very helpful post last week on two new free tools that allow lawyers to have legal citations on Web pages automatically converted to hyperlinks to the actual opinions, statutes, law review articles and so on. The tools are called Citer, which is new from the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, and Jureeka, created by New Jersey lawyer Michael Poulshock.

There are some basic differences between the two tools. Although they both recognize legal citations and provide links to free, full-text version of the cited sources (from sources such as Cornell Law School, Justia and the U.S. Congress), Citer requires the user to select the area of text that contains the cite you want to look up and then click a button to be transferred to the source. Jureeka, however, automatically turns the citation into a live link that the user can then simply click on to go to the content.

In terms of coverage, Citer currently covers the following sources: U.S. Code, U.S. Supreme Court and Circuit court opinions, CFR and Federal Register, statutes at large, and federal public laws. WisBlawg reports that Citer is working to expand this to state courts and some law reviews. Jureeka's coverage is even broader, covering selected federal, state and international sources, as well as some law reviews. A list of all of the sources that Jureeka covers is available here.

Note that Citer is available for use on multiple Web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera, while Jureeka is only available for Firefox and Chrome.

I downloaded the Jureeka add-on to Firefox here, and it worked easily and well. To see Jureeka in action, check out the screen shot below which shows an ordinary text citation (47 U.S.C. § 151) converted to a hyperlink.

Jureeka

January 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2010

Today's Special: A Smorgasbord of Citizens United Coverage

Has coverage of yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (PDF) got your feed burner feeling a bit ... well, overfed? Can't quite find the time to read Justice Kennedy's 57-page majority opinion, Justice Stevens' 90-page dissent, or the assorted concurring and dissenting ruminations of Justices Roberts, Scalia and Thomas -- but still need to be well-armed for your weekend cocktail chatter? Fear not: On the menu today at Legal Blog Watch is a more manageable serving of notable Citizens United news. Think of it as a buffet, from which you can sample at your leisure. Please, just remember to use the tongs.

As noted in this piece in The Washington Post (which provides an overview of the Court's ruling), yesterday's decision "prompted sharp partisan reaction[s]," including a response from President Obama (who released a statement lambasting the Court's action). While all parties seem to agree that the decision "shakes the foundation of corporate limitations on federal and state elections that stretch back a century," the consensus ends there. The WSJ Law Blog took a moment to wonder how much Citizens United "is really going to change state and federal elections," but, elsewhere in the blawgosphere, reactions were less measured.

Some "critics and dissenters immediately predicted it would alter elections in 2010 and beyond by unleashing a new flood of corporate and union money into a system already awash with special-interest funds" wrote Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal. Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times declared that, "[a]t first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this change in how political campaigns are conducted in America," and Richard Hasen, writing in Slate, called yesterday "a bad day for American democracy."

Other commenters urged us all to take a deep breath. "Relax," Roger Pilon counseled, in a post on the Cato Institute's blog entitled "Democracy Will Survive Citizens United." "The First Amendment is not a 'loophole.' It's the very foundation of our democracy, and we are stronger today for this decision." At Forbes.com, Daniel Fisher summarized the decision by noting simply that, "Money talks. And that's okay."

In the mood for a thoughtful look at the larger issues? Lyle Denniston's analysis at SCOTUSblog addresses some of the questions left unanswered by Citizens United, and Robert Barnes, of The Washington Post, dissects the dynamics of the divided Court that was very much on display at the announcement of yesterday's decision. And at her Crossroads blog, Jan Crawford wonders whether Justice Stevens' halting presentation, from the bench, of his dissenting opinion is yet another clue that he plans to retire from the Court. Finally, if you like your commentary with a side of profanity, check out Jason Linkins' take on the matter in The Huffington Post.

Bon appetit, Courtwatchers.

Legal Blog Watch guest blogger Liz Kurtz is a former federal law clerk and litigator specializing in white collar criminal defense.

January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

'Whites-Only' Basketball League Seeking to Avoid Antitrust Issues?

"Just because something may not be illegal does not make it a good idea." It's the kind of aphorism that should be printed in bold letters on the back of the lawyer's handbook, and Miami lawyer and sports agent Jason Wolf brings us the latest reason why this week with the news of  a "Whites-only" basketball league that hopes to begin play this summer.

According to this article in The Augusta Chronicle, the All-American Basketball Alliance will allow only players born in the United States to two Caucasian parents to take the court. The commissioner of the proposed league, Don "Moose" Lewis, denied that racism was the motivating factor behind the restrictions on player nationality and ethnicity, claiming instead that a subset of basketball fans are interested in seeing "fundamental basketball," rather than the "'street-ball' played by 'people of color.'" Nevertheless, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver made clear that his general policy of welcoming minor league athletic teams to the city would not extend to an AABA franchise, saying that the league rules were inconsistent with the "spirit of inclusiveness" he seeks to foster.

While Wolf rightly notes that the AABA's announcement "raises interesting theoretical legal questions about private entities setting up entry barriers," I couldn't help but notice that the league has apparently declared itself a "single entity" which will own all 12 proposed teams. Presumably, Commissioner Moose has already deconstructed the oral argument transcript of last week's Supreme Court battle between the NFL and spurned team apparel manufacturer American Needle, in which that league's single-entity status, and attendant antitrust immunity, was seriously questioned by the justices. No word yet on whether the AABA has decided which lucky company will be licensed to produce "Kentucky Klavern" caps or "Georgia Grand Dragons" jerseys.

NB: Some bloggers have speculated that the announcement might be a hoax -- perhaps a fair assumption considering it was reported by, among other outlets, the Weekly World News. But the experts at NBC Sports have apparently confirmed that this guy is serious. The WNBA is looking better every day.

Legal Blog Watch guest blogger Eric Lipman, a volunteer attorney with the nonprofit organization Citizen Works, was formerly an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and a federal district court clerk.

January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

January 21, 2010

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: I just wrote some brilliant stuff on Twitter. Seriously, it's gold. Can I copyright that tweet?

Answer: Maybe. (Internet Law & Strategy, Tweet Tweet: Can I Copyright That?)

Speakers 2) Question: My friend, who has no street-cred whatsoever, is now saying that he got cited by the cops for "rocking out" too loudly on his stereo ... to John Denver. Is this even possible?

Answer: You'd be surprised. (Lowering the Bar, Man Cited for "Rocking Out" to John Denver Tunes)

3) Question: My sister hasn't been to the gym in weeks. Her excuse is that it is "illegal" where she lives. She's just being lazy, right?

Answer: Is she in Saudi Arabia? If so, then she may be telling it to you straight. (AFP: 'Illegal' Saudi women's gym shut)

January 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bitter Lawyer Talks to the Creator of ABC's 'The Deep End'

Deepend

"The Deep End," ABC's new legal drama about first-year lawyers at a BigLaw firm, makes its debut tonight. The show has received some early swipes from critics, who have complained that it is "not realistic," that the "cast is too pretty" and that the show is "too out of touch with the current state of BigLaw."

Undeterred, and recognizing that "the purpose of the show is to entertain and not bore audiences to death with deep, prolific story lines about average-looking people doing doc review," the Bitter Lawyer blog sought out the show's writer/producer, David Hemingson, to learn more about his own former legal career and how the show came to be. Here are some of the highlights of the interview, which is available here:

Hemingson practiced law as an entertainment associate at Loeb & Loeb in Century City for several years ("three years, three months and two days -- but who’s counting?"). He recalls that his “I’ve got to get the f**k out of here” moment was when he learned that his best friend -- a lawyer with whom Hemingson regularly commiserated about law practice and discussed their mutual hopes to leave the law -- had fallen during a rock-climbing trip in Joshua Tree and died instantly. He realized at that moment, he says, that all of the talking he and his friend had done about moving on "meant nothing. Life doesn’t wait for you to sack up. Right then and there, I decided I was done."

Hemingson quit his law practice and began writing furiously. Within about a year, he says, he landed a job on Nickelodeon writing for a show called "The Adventures of Pete and Pete." That led to a gig at Disney writing animation, and helped him get an agent. He later went on to write for shows like "Family Guy," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Just Shoot Me."

Hemingson says his years practicing law were essential to his creation of "The Deep End" because they helped him frame the attitudes and the attributes of the characters, and inspired numerous plot-lines and anecdotes. As for some of the criticisms of the show, e.g., that all of the characters are "too good looking," Hemingson says that when he created them, his focus was on their personalities. The fact that they "are all good looking ... that’s TV. Look at Greys. The doctors are all smoking hot. How many smoking hot doctors do you know?"

January 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Company Requires 'Tweet' as Part of Law Firms' RFP Response

In a post yesterday, Larry Bodine's LawMarketing Blog gave us an update on an interesting RFP issued last year by a company called FMC Technologies. The beauty contest is now down to the final cut. Not only did FMC post the RFP on Legal OnRamp, an online social network for in-house lawyers, it also required interested law firms to "state in a Tweet on Twitter (140 character limit) why FMC should hire the law firm." Keep in mind that this all occurred in May 2009, when Twitter was even more of a mystery to law firms than it is today.

Fifty law firms downloaded the two-page RFP, but as Corporate Counsel reporter Amy Miller wrote last June, BigLaw was generally reluctant to participate. Bodine reports that the following eight firms tweeted and made the final cut:

FMC's general counsel, Jeffrey Carr, is on the board of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and has strong views on the existing model for legal service delivery. He views it as unsustainable and states that it is "antiquated, inefficient and ineffective and it fails to deliver value to the client by avoiding -- indeed by punishing -- those that leverage prior work product, streamline processes and focus on profitability by cost reduction as opposed to top line revenue growth.” Carr says he employed this type of digital/social RFP because he was seeking tech-savvy firms that offered alternative fees and online billing.

January 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 20, 2010

An Interview With the ABA President-Elect

Stephenzack

In August, Stephen N. Zack will become the first Hispanic-American president in the 132-year history of the American Bar Association. The 61-year-old partner with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami is the son of a Cuban mother and American father. His family moved to Cuba shortly after he was born and he remained there until age 14.

In his law practice, Zack is perhaps best known for representing Vice President Al Gore in the presidential-election trial of Bush v. Gore. His other notable clients include Philip Morris, the National Geographic Society, and former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. He was also the first Hispanic-American president of the Florida Bar.

On the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer this week, J. Craig Williams and I interview Zack about his agenda for his term as president. He talks about his plan to focus on civics education and to establish what he is calling the American Bar Academy. His plan is to set aside a three-day weekend during which ABA members would go into high schools across the country and present a civics curriculum to a selected group of high school juniors.

He also discusses his plan to create an ABA commission on Hispanic legal rights. He was surprised to find, as he prepared to become president, that there has been no such comprehensive study. When I ask him how the legal challenges faced by Hispanics differ from those faced by other minorities, he says that they do not overall, but that many of the issues come together in a unique way for Hispanics. He points to the Census as an example where Hispanics face language barriers, immigration fears and issues of self-identification.

A third major focus of his presidency will be escalating law school costs, he says. The debt law school graduates face inhibits them from pursuing careers in public service and legal services, he says. At the time of our interview, Zack was in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to extend the repayment period for law school loans and to provide loan forgiveness for law grads who work in public service.

A thread binding all of his platforms, Zack says, is to continue to work toward greater diversity and opportunity within the legal profession. "Unless our profession mirrors society -- and it must mirror society -- then we will not have the respect necessary for the profession to protect liberty and to do what our job is," he says.

You can listen to or download the entire interview from the Legal Talk Network.

January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Conn. Dismisses Ethics Case Against Total Attorneys

We have written frequently here about the series of ethics complaints filed in some 47 states by by Connecticut lawyer Zenas Zelotes against Chicago-based Total Attorneys and its lawyer-founder Kevin Chern. (See, for example, here, here and here.) Although no state has found ethical wrongdoing by Total Attorneys or by any of the lawyers who participate in it, all eyes were on Zelotes' home state of Connecticut, where the chief disciplinary counsel found cause to file charges against five attorneys. The charges alleged that they were obtaining referrals through and sharing fees with Total Attorneys in violation of legal ethics rules.

Now comes news that the Connecticut charges have been dismissed. On Friday, I received an e-mail from Total Attorneys saying that a three-person panel of the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee dismissed the complaints. According to the e-mail, the panel dismissed the charges at the close of the disciplinary counsel's evidence, before the attorneys were even required to put on their defense. This would suggest that the panel saw no even arguable ethics violation in the case presented by the disciplinary counsel.

More details were provided yesterday by reporter Doug Malan at The Connecticut Law Tribune. The hearing committee issued a summary ruling that offered no insight into its reasoning, Malan said, and will issue a decision within two weeks explaining its ruling. Complaints filed by Zelotes against another seven Connecticut lawyers are likely also to be dismissed, Malan writes.

Meanwhile, Zelotes is not backing away from his assertions that attorneys who participate in Total Attorneys violate ethics rules. He told the Chicago Tribune that he will participate in a hearing this week on his complaints in North Dakota. "This is not the end of the debate in Connecticut and elsewhere," he said.

January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lawsuit Seeks Share of $65M Facebook Settlement

In 2004, three former Harvard students sued their former classmate, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that he had copied their ideas. The three -- Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss -- were owners of the social networking site HarvardConnection, which they later renamed ConnectU. In 2008, the parties reached a settlement. Although the amount of the settlement was supposed to be secret, it slipped out when ConnectU's former law firm put out a marketing brochure trumpeting, "Won $65 million settlement against Facebook."

Now, a Boston software developer wants a slice of that $65 million. Wayne Chang and his company, The i2hub Organization, have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston against ConnectU; its founders; its law firm, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; and Scott R. Mosko, a partner in Finnegan's Palo Alto office.

As reported in The National Law Journal, Chang alleges that he entered into a memorandum of understanding with ConnectU giving him a 15 percent share of the company in exchange for integrating i2hub's peer-to-peer file-sharing software and ConnectU's Web site. He also claims that he and the two Winklevoss brothers formed a partnership to co-own and operate ConnectU.

That partnership, Chang alleges, entitles him to half of ConnectU's $65 million settlement with Facebook. Alternatively, he argues that his MOU entitles him to 15 percent.

Lee Gesmer of Mass Law Blog has posted a copy of Chang's complaint. He calls the continuing legal saga of Facebook and ConnectU "truly astounding" and likens the many lawsuits that have branched out from it to the kudzu vine.

Chang is represented in this latest lawsuit by Alan D. Rose and Alan D. Rose Jr. of the Boston law firm Rose, Chinitz & Rose.

January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 19, 2010

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: I'm eager to get busy making this sex tape but need some quick advice from counsel. What forms do we need to fill out? We're ready to roll!

Answer: You might want to start with Consent Form 2257. (Esquire: The Dirty Truth About Celebrity Sex Tapes)

2) Question: I threw a beer bottle through the glass door of a Burger King. In my defense, they wouldn't let me bring it in and I was perturbed. What charges might I face?

Answer: Could be "firing a weapon into a dwelling" if you are in Okaloosa County, Fla. (NWF Daily News: Man not allowed to bring beer inside Burger King, throws at glass door) (via Consumerist)

FBIaltered-355x199 3) Question: I am looking at an age-progressed "Wanted" picture of Osama bin Laden and I swear it is a dead ringer for my local politician. Stupid question, but does the FBI sometimes just take pictures off the Internet and doctor them up to look like wanted terrorists?

Answer: It happens. (Main Justice, FBI Used Image of Spanish Politician in Age-Progressed Bin Laden Photo)

January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Doggs Allowed: Snoop Hangs Out at Fenwick & West

To all of you lawyers who think you work in hip or particularly with-it offices, I have just one question for you: Was Snoop Dogg at your office on Friday chillin' with your lawyers? Didn't think so!

But Snoop was at Fenwick & West on Friday for an event for the firm's client Ustream, The Recorder's Legal Pad reports in this post. He even took a video of his own (below), which seems to mainly show a bunch of amused and star-struck Fenwickians videotaping Snoop while he in turn videotapes them and says,"Y'all are on the Wake and Bake show! Tell your mom you're a star now, you made it!"

The Legal Pad has all kinds of fun with the Snoop Dogg appearance, noting that Snoop "traveled from the LBC to Fenwick's Mountain View crib;" working in a “bow wow wow yippe yo yipeee yay" reference; asking if Snoop was "rollin’ down El Camino Real smoking endo, sippin' on gin and juice;" and even reporting that the favorite song of Ted Wang, Ustream's main lawyer at Fenwick, is "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang."

I wonder if Snoop would ever travel from the LBC to visit us at the LBW? C'mon Snoop!

January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Georgetown 3L Becoming the Ultimate Supreme Court Watcher

I was intrigued to read yesterday about a new project launched by Mike Sacks, a third-year law student at Georgetown who describes himself as "interested in legal journalism and the intersection of law and politics." This semester, Sacks intends to be the first person in the general admission line for every Supreme Court argument, i.e., the “First One @ One First Street." Once he starts the line and stakes out his piece of pavement, Sacks will be waiting for others to arrive so that he can ask a simple but intriguing question: "Why are you here?"

Sacks says that while the issues, tactics and parties involved in every Supreme Court case are well-reported, "no Supreme Court reporters ever ask the Courtroom’s spectators why they have congregated inside the Temple of our Civil Religion." He explains in the initial post on his "First One @ One First" blog that:

[T]he vox populi should matter for those interested in the Court. What does the person in line at 5am hope to see in this case? Why is the family that shows up at 9am hoping to get in? How many of those waiting for the doors to open are lawyers invested in the litigation or legal issues at play or professionals or citizens who will be impacted by how the Court may rule? How many people exiting the Court even understood what they just saw and heard? 

More recent posts show that Sacks has been able to get the coveted "#1" ticket on several occasions. But not always:

Sacks2

Here is Sacks' post from yesterday summarizing his experience to date on how visitors can make sure they get a seat at Supreme Court arguments. (Hint: come really, really early.)

January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 15, 2010

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

Legallyblonde 1) Question: I'm in London and I'd like to take in a law-related musical. Any suggestions?

Answer: Your top two law musicals in London this week are probably "Enron (the Play)" and "Legally Blonde: The Musical." Tough call, but maybe go with "Legally Blonde" here: The Telegraph's critic said "I tried, I really tried to hate this show, but resistance is futile." (AP: 'Blonde' bombshell: London critics praise musical)

2) Question: I'm on the jury in a murder trial. Today, the prosecution's star witness couldn't stop vomiting while under cross-examination. Now what?

Answer: You get to go home early. (CNews, "Witness vomits, jurors go home") (via Bad Lawyer)

3) Question: Some European prince (yes, a real royal) just slapped me twice upside the head because of the noise from a disco in the hotel I own. His wife, the princess, is now saying it was just a "symbolic reproach." Is this a real defense?

Answer: Keep an eye on the trial of Prince Ernst August of Hannover. It may shed light on this important issue. (AP: Princess Caroline: husband's slaps 'symbolic')

January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

U.K. Spiraling Into 'Nanny State' -- Is U.S. Next?

Marypoppins What in the name of Mary Poppins is going on in the U.K., which according to its own local press appears to be spiraling into an unrecognizable "nanny state?"

I don't know that I, as an American, can get completely high and mighty about this topic (considering that I recently received a can of peanuts from Williamsburg, Va. with the warning "CONTAINS PEANUTS" on the label), but things really seem to be getting particularly crazy in the U.K.

This post on the UsefulArts.us blog lists some of the bizarre measures that have been reported from the U.K. Recently, the British food chain Asda began printing the warning “contains milk” on its jugs of milk. In London, a restaurant called High Timbers now requires its diners to sign a release before "festive meals" that include plum pudding: ancient custom (and the plum pudding recipe) require the pudding to be "prepared with the odd silver coin or lucky charm thrown into the mix." As a result, to avoid chipped tooth lawsuits, "each portion arrives with both a jug of brandy sauce and a legal disclaimer."

London-based author Michael Simkins writes in The National that "what began as a noble initiative to protect the general public from unnecessary harm has now mutated into something that threatens to turn us all into hapless toddlers." He writes that, judging by the crush of health and safety legislation now being proposed, it appears that "the principal role of government is to remove all hazards from daily existence -- even if you die from boredom as a result." Fittingly, he says, even at Whitehall, the seat of government, someone has placed an official sign in front of the horses who stand guard that “these horses may kick or bite.”

Simkins writes that the "nanny state" issue has grown so big that it has become a hot topic in the coming general election. In a speech last week, Conservative party leader David Cameron stated that the government had allowed a “blanket of bureaucracy, suspicion and fear” to descend on the country. He promised that if he was elected, he’d order a review into how the nanny culture could be curbed.

Is this the direction the U.S. is headed as well, or are we already there?

January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

U.N. Finds Lawyer Arranged His Own Death, Faked Assassination by President

"If you are hearing or seeing this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Álvaro Colom."

So begins an eerie YouTube video (above) featuring prominent Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, who was, in fact, shot and killed in May of last year while riding his bicycle near his home in Guatemala City, The Washington Post reports (via the FP Legal Post). Earlier this week, however, U.N. investigators reported that Rosenberg himself had hired the hit men who killed him. The U.N.'s finding has helped to avert a brewing political crisis, one that Rosenberg apparently intended to cause: After the videotape was released, "the country descended into turmoil as conspiracy theories swirled and a constitutional crisis loomed," the Post reports.

U.N. investigator Carlos Castresana told reporters on Tuesday that Rosenberg, a Harvard-educated lawyer, believed the Guatemalan government was behind the deaths of his girlfriend and her father, who was his client. Castresana said that before his death, Rosenberg bought two cellphones -- one to speak with his killers and the other to make threatening calls to his own personal phone. Shortly after the funeral last May, lawyer Robert Amsterdam reported the video message on his blog. He was surprised by the accusations against Colom, whom Amsterdam had met several years before. "I personally find this accusation entirely inconsistent with his character," Amsterdam said at the time. Turns out his instincts were right.

January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

More on How Lawyers Can Help in Haiti

Yesterday, Legal Blog Watch's Bob Ambrogi discussed here some of the legal community's relief and fundraising efforts for Haiti. On a related point, the Tex Parte Blog had a post yesterday afternoon interviewing author Ben Fountain, a former associate with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Dallas, who discussed other ways that lawyers may be able to help the situation.

Fountain Fountain (pictured here) first visited Haiti in 1991 and has since traveled to the island nation approximately 30 times. His fascination with the country developed in tandem with his career shift from lawyer to author, as described in this Malcom Gladwell piece in The New Yorker, and he has maintained friendships over the years that keep him in regular contact with Haitians. He tells Tex Parte he cannot reach anyone in Haiti now by telephone, e-mail or text. Fountain expects that Haiti's recovery will be "long, difficult, expensive and complex," and may not even occur in this generation. 

Asked what lawyers can do to help the people of Haiti right now, Fountain offers a few suggestions:

1. Give money to charities such as Catholic Relief Services, which has a special page set up for Haiti; Save the Children; and the St. Joseph's Home for Boys. All three of these groups do great work, he says.

2. For those willing to go beyond a financial donation, Fountain suggests contacting the St. Joseph's Home about volunteer opportunities. He adds that "lots of churches send aid missions to Haiti on a regular basis, so check that out. There is plenty of work even for unskilled (i.e., manually challenged lawyers) workers in Haiti."

3. More broadly, Fountain says that the Haitian judiciary system is in the process of reform and renewal, and the United Nations is involved in that effort. He believes that the U.N. would be pleased to talk to any lawyer who was willing to help for an extended length of time.

January 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 14, 2010

It's Judge v. Judge in Case of Bankrupt Law Grad

In an unusual example of judicial defiance, an on-his-way-out bankruptcy judge is siding with an out-of-work and deep-in-debt law grad and issuing a rebuke to the federal district judge who overruled him.

"An irascible Massachusetts bankruptcy judge known for 'whacking lenders' has turned his acid pen upon the chief of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts who overruled his decision to release a penniless bar-failer from her law school debts," reports Julia Reischel has the story at The Docket, the blog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly newspaper.

The case involves Denise M. Bronsdon, now 65, who graduated in 2005 in the top half of her class at the unaccredited Southern New England School of Law but then failed the Massachusetts bar exam three times. She is now unemployed and lives on Social Security in a room at her father's house.

In a decision last January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joel B. Rosenthal ruled that it would be an undue hardship to force Bronsdon to repay the $82,000 she owes in law school loans and he ordered the debt discharged. On appeal by the creditor, U.S. District Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said that Rosenthal should not have reached that conclusion without considering the fact that Bronsdon was eligible for a debtor-repayment plan. "[The] legal conclusions underlying the Bankruptcy Court's decision are incorrect," Wolf wrote.

Now, Rosenthal has issued a new opinion in response to Wolf's ruling, again discharging the law-school loans. As Reischel notes in her post, Rosenthal's tone in the opinion is "clearly annoyed" and includes "a condescending '[sic]' at the end of a long quote from Wolf's opinion." He went on to say that "shackling" Bronsdon to the repayment plan "would be such a pointless exercise" given that her "chances of ever repaying any portion of the loan are virtually non-existent."

Reischel speculates that Rosenthal was emboldened to rebuke his higher-up by the fact that he is poised to step down just as soon as his successor completes the required background check. "It's unclear how many more decisions, testy or not, Rosenthal will get to write," Reischel notes.

January 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

How the Legal Community Is Helping in Haiti

In the wake of the horrific earthquake that struck Haiti, I wondered whether anyone in the legal community was organizing any relief or fundraising efforts of their own. Last night, I put out a call on Twitter for leads on Haiti relief efforts being organized by law firms or legal groups. I've also searched blogs and the Web. So far, I have not found much, but I am sure there is far more going on and I encourage readers to post any leads they have in the comments below.

One notable measure is the decision by Paul Hastings to donate a generous $100,000 to earthquake relief. As reported by Above the Law, the firm circulated a memo yesterday saying it had made the donation to the earthquake response efforts of Doctors Without Borders. "We chose this organization because its global scope and effectiveness will deliver to the victims in Haiti the immediate assistance they need by providing health care where the local medical infrastructure has been devastated," the memo said. The firm encouraged its staff to make donations of their own.

Through Twitter, I was pointed to Utah lawyer and Twitter user Bret Hanna (@brethanna), of the firm Jones Waldo. His partner at the firm, George W. Pratt, is on the board of directors of the organization Healing Hands for Haiti. It is not a law-related organization, but the message I received on Twitter said, "They could use some support."

That is all I found specific to the legal community. Please add others below. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to give generously to any of the many relief funds set up to help the Haitian earthquake victims. You can find plenty of information about them from any number of sources online. Here is a list of national, local and mobile funds from The Boston Globe.

January 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Am Law 100 Firm Launches Own iPhone App

Arnoldporter

The Am Law 100 law firm Arnold & Porter has launched its own iPhone application. The free app enables users to read the firm's Consumer Advertising Law Blog on their iPhones.

An e-mail I received from the firm said, "As far as we know, Arnold & Porter is one of the only Am Law 100 firms to offer a mobile or iPhone application." I would take that one step further. From what I could find, it is the first and only Am Law 100 firm with its own iPhone app.

In fact, I could find only two other law firms of any size with their own apps. One is the New York immigration firm Spar & Bernstein, which introduced an app in December that provides a feed of the firm's news, Twitter posts, podcasts and videos. The other is the Arizona law firm Harper Law, which has an app named Harper Law that provides a feed of articles with titles such as "Looking for a Phoenix Lawyer?" and "How Much is My Case Worth?"

(No doubt, I'll soon hear from all the other firms with iPhone apps that I overlooked Bring 'em on! Let us know about others in the comments below.)

The Arnold & Porter app is similar to an RSS reader except that it delivers only the one blog's posts. The app allows the user to sort the posts by categories and mark posts as favorites. Posts can easily be shared by e-mail or on Facebook and Twitter. The touch of a button opens the actual blog page in the iPhone's browser.

Given that other RSS readers are available for the iPhone that will read any number of blogs, one would have to be a true fan of this blog to want this app. That said, it is a clever idea, well-designed and well-executed.

January 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 13, 2010

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

1) Question: I'm pretty sure my apartment is one storm away from plummeting into the sea. The weatherman says there's a big one coming this week. Can I get out of my lease?

Cliffapt

Answer:
No way! (The Consumerist, Should You Be Let Out Of Your Lease If Your Apartment May Plummet Into The Sea?)

2) Question: I read your "Legal Blog Watch 5-Point Checklist for Bank Robbers" carefully last month. May I suggest a sixth important point I learned the hard way? Do not use a clear plastic bag as your disguise.

Answer: Excellent point. We will add it to the next edition of the Checklist. (Legal Juice, Tell Me You Didn't Put A Clear Plastic Bag Over Your Head And Rob That Joint)

3) Question: I saw your recent post noting that sometimes realtors "trash out" the wrong home when they complete the foreclosure process. Do they sometimes also turn off the wrong house's electricity and leave 75 pounds of salmon and halibut rotting for a week? We have a bit of a situation here.

Answer: It happens. Open a window. (The Business Insider, Bank Of America Seizes Wrong House, Shuts Off Electricity, And Lets 75 Pounds Of Fish Rot)

January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trendspotting: Associating Random Things to Lawyering

Tibetan herder On the SpamNotes blog, Venkat Balasubramani makes an excellent observation about an "unfortunate" legal blogging trend. In his post this week entitled, "What Tibetan Goatherders Can Teach us About Lawyering," Balasubramani notes that bloggers increasingly "associate two totally random things that have no connection at all, and ask what one can teach the other (or what one can learn from the other)."

LBW readers have probably seen recent examples of this trend in your own legal blog watching, and Balasubramani provides links to a handful that he has encountered, as well:

Balasubramani says that while this tactic may appeal to some, it doesn't work for him at all, and reminds him of a line in one of Justice Scalia's opinions:

Applying the 'relate to' provision according to its terms was a project doomed to failure, since, as many a curbstone philosopher has observed, everything is related to everything else.

I'm with Balasubramani on this one. Now that he has connected the dots on this silly blogging trend, perhaps bloggers will let it rest in peace.

January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

'Distraction.gov' Wants You to Hang Up and Focus on Your Driving

A couple weeks ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a new Web site called "Distraction.gov," the "Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving." The purpose of the site is to help educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving, which NHTSA defines as "any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle."

The site contains statistics, research and detailed information on state laws governing distracted driving, particularly as it relates to the use of mobile phones. To date, eight states or territories (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, Virgin Islands) have enacted a ban on hand-held devices, and 21 have banned texting while driving. The site also links to a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of all cell phone driving laws presented by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The first video put out by Distraction.gov is available below:

January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Unwritten Rules of Law Firms: Let's Write Them Here

RulesOver at Slaw.ca, blogger Dan Michaluk has embarked upon a very important project: memorializing the unwritten rules of law firms. Perhaps inspired by the carefully documented Rules of Wedding Crashing, (e.g., "Rule #2 - Never use your real name;" "Rule #76 - No excuses. Play like a champion"), Michaluk offers up a handful of his "Firm Rules (Dos, Don’ts and Truths of Law Firm Life)" in this post:

Rule #408 -- Don’t lay claim to your personal coffee mug by mass e-mail.

Rule #78 -- It is impossible to send an e-mail longer than two paragraphs without a typo.

Rule #765 -- A managing partner should never walk the halls in stocking feet.

Rule #189 -- Docketing “twittering” to client development is sure to invite ridicule.

Rule #685 -- Don’t hang a picture of yourself wearing a bathing suit in your office.

Rule #441 -- If you’re under 50 and using a fountain pen you’re trying too hard.

Rule #210 -- Make funny faces and adoring comments when a new baby visits no matter what you’re thinking.

Rule #923 -- Telling colleagues their voice message is out of date is not an act to win friends.

Michaluk's numbering system suggests that there may be 900-plus such rules, but he only provides the eight above. So perhaps Legal Blog Watch readers can help fill in the rest of the Rules in the comments? I'll get the ball started with a few Rules off the top of my head:

Rule #29 -- Do not send out any e-mail to "All Users" unless the building is on fire.

Rule #111 -- For every 100 lawyers in a law firm there will be at least one lawyer who will instruct his or her secretary to print out all of their incoming e-mails for them to review.

Rule #242 -- Put the bow ties away until you reach the age of 50 (or unless you grew up on Nantucket).

So what are the remaining 900 or so currently unwritten Rules? Please help by adding yours in the comments.

January 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (28)

January 12, 2010

Jurors' Internet Research Could Zap Taser Verdict

Lawyers in Louisville, Ky., are asking a federal judge to set aside a jury verdict exonerating a police officer in a Taser-related death because they say the jury foreman researched the case on the Internet and used what he found to sway other jurors.

In a Dec. 4 verdict, the jury cleared one officer and was unable to reach a verdict on another, The Courier-Journal reports. Attorneys representing the estate of the victim, Larry Noles, say a juror contacted them and alleged that at least two other jurors, including the foreman, consulted the Web site of Taser International.

The juror who called the attorneys later made the same allegations under oath in federal court, saying that both jurors discussed the fact that Taser's Web site claims that Tasers are non-lethal and cannot cause fatal injuries.

The county attorney's office is due to respond Thursday to the request to set aside the verdict. The jury returned its verdict after a three-day trial and two days of deliberations.

"The case is one of a rising number nationally in which jurors have used iPhones, BlackBerrys and home computers to gather and send information about cases, undermining judges and jury trials," writes Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson.

January 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Attention YouTubers: Texas Bar Wants You

Think you have some talent as a filmmaker? If so, the eyes of the State Bar of Texas are upon you. It is sponsoring a YouTube contest offering cash prizes and scholarships for the best 30-second video showing why either lawyers or the courts are important to our society.

Two years ago, the Texas bar became the first-ever bar association to hold a YouTube contest. In that first go-around, the bar awarded a $2,500 cash prize and two $2,500 scholarships for short videos depicting the theme, "Lone Star Stories: Texans on Justice."

In what is perhaps a sign of the economic times, the cash prize this year is just $500, but two will be awarded, along with a $500 scholarship to the winning under-18 videographer. The one prerequisite to enter is that you have to be a Texas resident or a lawyer licensed to practice there. (Here are the official rules.)

Submissions will be posted to the bar's YouTube group starting Jan. 15 and the deadline for entries is April 1. One winner will be chosen from the under-18 age group and another from entrants 18 and over. A third Peoples Choice winner will also be named. Winners will also get a trip to Austin, where they will be recognized as part of a Law Day celebration on April 30.

January 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law Library of Congress: Now on YouTube

Lloc

There are few more venerable institutions within the legal profession than the Law Library of Congress. Established in 1832 as a branch of the Library of Congress, its mission is to provide research and legal information to the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, executive agencies and the public. It is the world's largest law library, with a collection of more than 2.65 million volumes.

But just because it is venerable, that doesn't mean it can't also be au courant. In an age of social media, the LLOC is anything but stuck in the past. This week, it launched a series of videos on YouTube and iTunes about "The Law and the Library." The videos capture a series of debates and discussions on a variety of contemporary legal issues. Most feature current or former members of Congress.

In one video, for example, Legislating in Heels, former Maryland U.S. Rep. Connie Morella recounts her career from state legislator to U.S. representative to an ambassadorship. In another, Looking Beyond Gitmo, a panel of legal experts debates the legal treatment of terrorism suspects. In a third, Is There Truth in Interpretation, legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin, delivers a lecture on jurisprudence.

Posting videos to YouTube and iTunes is hardly the LLOC's first foray into social media. It already has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed (@LawLibCongress), and many of the videos now on YouTube were previously available as part of a series of LLOC webcasts. On its Facebook page, you can keep track of library news and events and find basic information about the library.

January 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mass. Disbars Former House Speaker

Thomas M. Finneran, the former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was disbarred yesterday for lying under oath in a federal voting rights lawsuit. In ordering the disbarment, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected Finneran's contention that he should be given lighter discipline because his false testimony was unrelated to his practice of law.

We have generally concluded that crimes ... involving interference with the administration of justice generally do not qualify for a lesser sanction on the ground that the lawyer was not representing a client or directly engaged in the practice of law at the relevant time. ... Because the respondent was testifying under oath in a judicial proceeding in his official capacity as a member of the House, his conviction of obstruction of justice places his case squarely within this group of cases.

In 2007, Finneran pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice related to his testimony in the voting rights case. In sentencing him to 18 months of unsupervised probation, the judge said the seriousness of the offense was mitigated by Finneran's lack of evil motive, absence of racial animus, long career in public service, community service and exemplary private life.

After the bar brought disciplinary charges against Finneran, a three-member hearing panel concluded that these same mitigating factors weighed against disbarment. The panel instead recommended a two-year suspension. Both Finneran and the bar counsel appealed to the full Board of Bar Overseers, which rejected the panel's conclusion and recommended disbarment.

The SJC made clear that even though Finneran's false testimony was unrelated to his law practice and even in light of his otherwise distinguished career, it would not tolerate lawyers lying under oath. "The respondent's misconduct implicates both the integrity of the judicial system and the honesty of a member of the bar. ... [T]he public perception of the bar would be gravely damaged if this court were to impose a sanction less than the generally applicable one of disbarment."

Disbarment will have no immediate impact on Finneran's current career. He now works as a morning drive-time talk-radio host, an occupation for which no law license is required, only a lawyer's gift of gab.

January 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2010

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blawgosphere.

Chickfila 1) Question: I just got pulled over by the police at a roadblock check. The officer eventually waved me through after grilling me with a few questions, and then handed me a ... Chick-Fil-A coupon. Uhhhmm, what? A little help here?

Answer:
That happens down in South Carolina. Congrats on wearing your seatbelt, enjoy your sandwich. (The Consumerist: South Carolina Cops Rewarding Seatbelted Drivers With Chick-Fil-A Coupons)

2) Question: My dance partner "accidentally" ripped my shirt off while we were performing at the 2004 Super Bowl, resulting in an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. This was six years ago! Can we just move on, people?

Answer:
Don't count on it. (The Legal Intelligencer, Infamous 'Wardrobe Malfunction' Case Heading Back to 3rd Circuit)

3) Question: I'm a rapper. Is there any demand for my services in the legal marketing area?

Answer: Heck, yeah! (see below) (Legal Antics, You Gotta Admit, It's Catchy)

January 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Santa Fe Man Alleges Neighbor's Wi-Fi and Cellphone Threaten His Life

Faraday cage Via this post on the FutureLawyer blog, I came across this story of a Santa Fe man who allegedly suffers from "electromagnetic sensitivity" and is now suing his next door neighbor for refusing to turn off her cell phone and her home Wi-Fi. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Arthur Firstenberg alleges that he has actually been rendered homeless by his neighbor's rejection of his requests.

Firstenberg alleges that Raphaela Monribot, who lives just 25 feet away from him, refused to turn off the offending phone and Wi-Fi, which Firstenberg says has forced him out of his house. He is now staying with friends or in his car, he claims. Firstenberg also alleges that he "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections," which trigger his "life-threatening" EMS symptoms, including heart arrhythmia.

FutureLawyer weighs in that "there is no evidence that WiFi and Cell Phone signals are dangerous; especially to a neighbor next door." He also notes that one of the commenters on a related post on TechDirt may have the perfect solution: "Just cover your interior walls and windows with steel mesh, and create a Faraday cage" (pictured above).

January 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Court Lets $850,000 Verdict Against Baseball Bat Maker Stand

Aluminum On Friday, a Montana state judge refused to throw out a recent jury verdict that found the maker of Louisville Slugger baseball bats was liable in the amount of $850,000 for the 2003 death of a baseball player during a game in Helena. In October, the jury found that Hillerich & Bradsby Co. failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat, and that this failure caused the accident that killed 18-year-old pitcher Brandon Patch. Curiously, however, the jury also found that the bat was not defective in any way.

Ruling against the bat company on its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the Associated Press reports (via Bad Lawyer) that the court found that "in this case the jury may properly have inferred from the evidence that a warning would have been heeded and the failure to warn caused the injury." The bat company had argued that the law required the plaintiffs to produce evidence that had a warning been given, it would have caused Patch to take precautions to avoid injury. They argued that Patch's family had failed to prove this, but the court disagreed.

While pitching in an American Legion game, Patch was struck in the head by a line drive and, tragically, died hours later. An attorney for the plaintiffs said that Patch had just 378 milliseconds to respond to the line drive. Attorneys for Hillerich & Bradsby Co. argued that most bats on the market at the time would have struck the ball even harder. An executive for the company added that

The verdict that our company ‘failed to adequately warn of the dangers of the bat’ has left us puzzled. It seems contradictory for the jury to say the bat is not defective but our company failed to warn that it could be dangerous. It appears to be an indictment of the entire sport of baseball.

As someone who coaches two sons in Little League now and spends more time on baseball fields than I care to admit, this type of accident is very scary. The fact is that, even at the youth level, balls fly off of aluminum bats at very high rates of speed and occasionally do go right back at the pitcher. In my view, however, that is part of the game, and is a risk that is well known to anyone who has ever played or pitched. I agree with the bat company that a warning on a bat would have been meaningless, and find it hard to believe that this verdict will survive on appeal. If it does then, as the defendant stated, it is something of an indictment of the sport of baseball.

January 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Google Dictionary Creeping Into Legal Space

Blacks The Legal Writing Blog and the Law Librarian Blog point out in these posts that the new Google Dictionary, which was quietly rolled out in December 2009, presents a formidable competitor not only for other Web dictionaries such as Answers.com, but also potentially to niche lexicons like Black's Law Dictionary.

Up until December, Answers.com was Google's default dictionary. Now, of course, the search giant is sending users to its own guide, and the Law Librarian blog says that it marks the beginning of a new way that Google will invade the legal world, as Google Dictionary already contains results for numerous legal terms. The Law Librarian states that:

It's not exactly going to challenge Black's for authority or definitions, but it seems to have some value. Search for res ipsa loquitur and there will be a set of results that define and link to further information. Random comparisons with Black's entries show nothing for fettering of property, and feorme, but definitions for terms such as feoffment, food safety and inspection service, and Hatch Act certainly appear.

I tried it out myself on a host of legal terms that came quickly to mind, and was able to get results for almost all of them ("motion for summary judgment"; "interpleader"; "chattel)." Many of the results did not provide a straight definition, however, instead offering links to relevant entries on other sites such as Wikipedia.org.

It seems to me that although Google Dictionary is not a Black's Law Dictionary killer today, Google could undoubtedly partner with a legal definitions provider and flick a switch tomorrow if it wanted to provide a free, comprehensive and easy-to-use law dictionary. So Black's, head's up!

January 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2010

And Now, the First Facebook Folly of 2010

Earlier today, I recapped some of the fabulous Facebook follies of 2009, examples of how Facebook can be risky for lawyers, judges, law students and just about anyone else. Now comes our first folly of the new year. A Georgia judge is stepping down following publication of Facebook messages he exchanged with a woman who was a defendant in a matter pending before his court.

The judge, Ernest H. Woods III, chief of the Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court, resigned effective Jan. 15 after 17 years on the bench. "I call it a retirement," he told the Fulton County Daily Report. "I just got tired of living under a microscope. I'm wanting to move forward."

The Daily Report obtained the messages from documents provided in response to a public-records request by another newspaper, the Clayton Tribune. The district attorney had compiled the documents in connection with an inquiry into complaints that the judge was unfairly holding a drug-court defendant in jail. The defendant's family presented printed copies of 33 pages of messages between the judge and 35-year-old Tara Elizabeth Black, who had been involved with the drug-court defendant and who was herself a defendant in a theft case.

Judge Woods initiated the contact with Black, sending her a message saying he noticed she worked for a hair salon and was looking for someone new to cut his hair. That led to a string of messages and eventually to a meeting, after which Black asked Woods to loan her money to pay rent, and another meeting at her apartment.

In several messages, she asked the judge to help her friend get out of jail, saying she felt badly that his probation was revoked because of a photo she posted on Facebook of him holding a beer. She offered the judge a year of free massages from a friend in return for his help, adding "LOL" and "I'm not really trying to bribe you."

She also asked for help in her own case -- and he did. Woods advised her on strategy and how to plea and said he was discussing the matter with the DA on her behalf. He later signed an order allowing her to be released on her own recognizance and told her he had negotiated a "deferred prosecution" with the DA so she could have time to pay her debt.

Their first meeting took place at a Wal-Mart, after which she requested the $700 loan for rent. He offered $450, to which she answered, "OMG! Yes." They then met at her new apartment, after which he wrote her suggesting she invite him back again.

Woods told the Daily Report that the Facebook messages were "obviously fake," then amended his comment to say "some were real and some were fake." Whether you believe him or not, this certainly qualifies as a fabulous example of the follies of Facebook -- and, as I've urged before -- of the need for lawyers and judges to exercise common sense in social networking.

January 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saving Lawyers from Themselves -- and From the ABA

Here in Massachusetts where I practice, debate continues over a plan by the University of Massachusetts to open the state's first public law school. A key concern raised by the plan's opponents is that a new law school would only add more lawyers to an already-flooded market. That view is shared by lawyers in other states, who contend there are too many new law schools springing up and producing too many new lawyers.

The situation has grown so dire that it calls for federal intervention, one such critic, Washington lawyer and writer Mark Greenbaum, writes today in the Los Angeles Times. He blames the glut of law schools -- and thereby of lawyers -- on the American Bar Association, which is charged with law school accreditation. The ABA, he contends, "continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates."

Greenbaum's proposed remedy is to bring in the feds to oversee a coup d'état:

The U.S. Department of Education should strip the ABA of its accreditor status and give the authority to an organization that is free of conflicts of interest, such as the Assn. of American Law Schools or a new group. Although the AALS is made up of law schools, it is an independent, nonprofit, academic -- not professional -- group, which could be expected to maintain the viability and status of the profession, properly regulate law schools, curtail the opening of new programs and perhaps even shut down unneeded schools. The AALS has cast a very skeptical eye on for-profit schools, compared with the ABA's weak hands-off accreditation policies.

Such a move would be unprecedented, he concedes, but is necessary. "The legal profession," he argues, "must be saved from itself."

January 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Law Students Thai One On

Some law students barely leave the library, let alone the country. But a group of students at the University of Buffalo Law School left that frigid city yesterday for the steamier climes of Thailand, where they will study the Southeast Asian nation's unique legal culture.

UBthailand1 Twelve students are traveling with professor David M. Engel and his wife, Jaruwan Engel, according to UB Reporter, a publication for the university's faculty and staff. Early in his career, Engel was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand and he has since become an expert on its legal culture. His wife is a professional translator and author. The two recently co-authored a book about Thai legal culture, Tort, Custom, and Karma, due out next month from Stanford University Press.

The trip takes the students to Chiang Mai, a region in the foothills of the Himalayas some 400 miles north of Bangkok. There, they will engage in structured conversations with village chiefs, Buddhist monks, Thai law professors, students, attorneys and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The trip is arranged in cooperation with Chiang Mai University Law School.

After the same trip in 2008 (pictured), two of the students wrote about their meeting with the abbot of a Buddhist temple. "We actually participated in a dialogue, asking the abbot questions about his life experiences, his role in village society, and his thoughts on justice, law and karma," they recalled. "That alone made it different from other temples and other trips where so often people just pass through, just observing."

"I was so touched by the reactions of the students," Engel later said of the 2008 trip. "They came back saying their view of everything had changed. When it is another culture, you can see more clearly how the law is linked to its cultural surroundings. And my hope is that they will now see it in their own cultural situation."

January 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

 
 
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