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April 30, 2010

How Do Law Professors Grade Exams?

It's that time of year where all of my friends in academia -- legal or otherwise -- see that light at the end of the tunnel. Classes are over and the only thing keeping them from three months of sitting on their asses and watching Oprah dedicating all of their days and nights to groundbreaking research in their respective fields of expertise is a stack of final exams that students expect to be evaluated, so they can either brag to all their friends or start considering alternative careers.

Since law school exams are, by nature, somewhat subjective -- no scantron sheets here kids -- you might wonder how professors do their grading. Wonder no more:


That there might be some element of randomness to grading didn't surprise me. That a law professor would be a Dungeons & Dragons aficionado didn't surprise me. What did surprise me in the video? That a law school faculty member would deign to drink Natty Light. Keep it real, LSU Law.

(Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog)

April 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

New Jersey Drunk Drivers Can Sue Bars for Serving Them Too Much

We've all seen what can happen when you mix New Jersey and alcohol. So Garden State residents (and visitors) should always be on heightened alert against too much imbibing. This is especially so if they plan on getting behind the wheel.

But an appellate court has now ruled (.pdf) that drivers who are injured in an accident -- even if they are admittedly hammered -- can recover from a licensed establishment that serves them when discretion would dictate that they should be cut off.

This despite a law on the books that says a driver convicted of DWI "shall have no cause of action for his or her injuries."

This article in the New Jersey Law Journal explains the decision in some detail. Here's to hoping it doesn't make patrons decide drinking and driving is a better gamble. I mean, again, we are talking about people from New Jersey.

April 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Just 'Like' That, Legal Tweeters Can Grab Cash

MyLikes When Bruce brought our Legal Blog Watch readers the news that law school graduate Rex Gradeless was getting paid to tweet ads for sponsors, Kevin O'Keefe was quick to comment, and didn't mince words:

So you use software to get strippers, spamers, and God knows who else who doesn't know who the hell you are to follow you as a lawyer on Twitter so you can whore yourself for $174 a Tweet. Great use of a law degree. ;)

Yesterday, Kevin was, himself, apparently extended an offer to join the world's oldest profession. As he posted here, Kevin was invited by a company called MyLikes to become a "premium influencer" on Twitter. What, you might ask, does that mean? From the email Kevin received:

This is an invite-only program that allows power Twitter users such as yourself, to make money by creating Sponsored Likes/ads for advertisers you choose and post them to Twitter. You get to set a price per tweet and accept / reject advertiser offers and write your own Sponsored Likes/tweets.

As you might imagine, Kevin was not too keen on the idea, calling it "disgusting," and a "betrayal of trust." Others, like some dude named Alex Wilhelm at The Next Web, have "disliked" the idea with less sense of outrage. But songwriter/poet/musician Stephen Pickering thinks MyLikes might have found the sweet spot:

I disagree. I think they are getting close to the magic formula for average folks to leverage the time and effort they put into social media. Does Twitter or Facebook want or care if their users, who provide the content that gives their value, are able to monetize their honest efforts? Heck no. Mylikes is enabling a way to do so. Sure there will be dishonest people gaming the system, but the way Mylikes is set up, it discourages inauthenticity, because the more inauthentic you are, the less reputation you will have, and real people, who may be really interested in one of your likes, sponsored or otherwise, will cease to click, if not unfollow you. This is the model Facebook and Twitter should be persuing, a way to reward their users, who are in fact their content providers.

I am not a big tweeter, and imagine I will never get an invitation from MyLikes, but tend to come down on Kevin's side. To the extent you're using social networking/media in any business or professional capacity, wouldn't you want to maintain the same (presumably high) standards and not dilute the value of your reputation in order to make a few more dollars? And even if you're just some college kid who tweets about how hungover you are, don't you want your friends to trust you when you tell them where to get the best bloody mary ever?


April 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunshine Band Member Charged With 'Getting Down Tonight' With Underage Boys

Some people just shouldn't be allowed to put on their Boogie Shoes.

Rick Finch, former bassist of 70s mainstay KC & the Sunshine Band, is going to court today -- in Licking County, Ohio (you can't make this stuff up) -- to face charges of sexual contact with a handful of teenage boys. The primary charge is one of sexual imposition. I have to assume that's because Finch claimed not to know the boys were underage, which seems to be required for a charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor under Ohio law.

If you're a huge Finch fan, and want to contribute to his legal defense fund, you can do so through his Web site. He claims to need the help since the royalty checks from his Sunshine Band days stopped arriving sometime in 1983.

Though that site claims that Finch will "be vindicated from these unfounded allegations," the CNN article linked above quotes the Licking County Sheriff's Office as saying that Finch admitted having sex with several of the alleged victims.

April 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 29, 2010

'MacLitigator' Uses iPad Successfully in Jury Trial

Summerilphoto Who better to be the first reported lawyer to use an iPad to help win a jury trial than someone who calls himself MacLitigator? Via this post on iPhone J.D. I learned about the recent trial experience of Peter Summeril (pictured, sans iPad), a plaintiff's attorney in Utah who also writes the MacLitigator blog.

Writing in the rarely used "third-person blog nickname" voice, Summerill posted here over the weekend that "Maclitigator just completed a four day jury trial ... using the iPad as the primary means of getting information in front of the jury."

Two of the most effective uses to which MacLitigator put his iPad during trial were the presentation of documents and cross-examination of witnesses. MacLitigator says he loaded all documents to be admitted at trial on to the iPad as slides. His examination outlines cross-referenced the appropriate slide. Photos were then grouped as a single exhibit (e.g. Exhibit 5 was a series of 5 photos, or 5 slides in Keynote).  

He also loaded deposition transcripts, and reports that "because the iPad can switch so quickly between presentations, flipping from the Trial Slides to the deposition transcript slides during a cross examination is an effortless process."

In terms of hardware setup, Maclitigator reports that it "could not be simpler," requiring just a good high lumen projector (>2500 lumens); a long, high-quality VGA cable; a VGA video adapter cable for the iPad; and a silicon inCase for iPad simply because the iPad itself is a bit slippery, especially in "sweaty palms" at trial.

The final result of the trial? Victory for MacLitigator, his client and his iPad.

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: The ladies love me because I wrap a certain body part of mine with leaves from the "gatal-gatal" (itchy) tree, which causes it to swell up "like it has been stung by a bee." Is there any downside here for me?

Answer: You'll need to consult Urology Blog Watch for a complete answer to this (if I'm understanding you correctly), but be aware that if you are in Papua, Indonesia this will end your chances of being a police officer. (Reuters: Police barred from penis enlargement)

2) Question: I went to the movies for a couple hours. When I returned my house that I've lived in for 47 years was demolished into a big pile of sticks and rubble. Now what?

Answer: Not sure what happened here but sometimes bulldozer operators get confused and level a house across the street from the one they are supposed to demolish. You may be able to get a new house or $5,000 out of it. (Denton Record-Chronicle: Oops! Denton home totaled in mix-up)

3) Question: I went to buy a lottery ticket and the convenience store clerk said it was too late to play that night. I know there was still time left! Anyway, I signed my play slip with all my desired numbers on it and left it with the clerk -- you know, for proof, just in case I won. And my numbers came up! That store owes me the $11.5 million lottery jackpot, right?

Answer: I guess the court will have to decide that. I'm happy to send this along to Judge Carton if you want a ruling more quickly, however (hint: you probably don't want this). (Indystar.com: Lawsuit claims $11.5M Indiana lotto ticket that never was) (via Overlawyered)

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

60 Quick Bits of Wisdom From Brian Tannebaum

Blt july 2004 1crop Miami criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum (who was one of the Three Angry Lawyers who joined me back in February in this video) has a great post today on his My Law License blog reflecting on 15 years in the practice of law.

What has he learned over those 15 years? Brian offers up 60 pieces of hard-earned wisdom and advice in his post. Here are my 10 favorites:

[2] You can make money as a criminal defense lawyer. You can make money doing anything you love. What matters is that you do it well, and that your clients see your commitment to your chosen practice area. There are criminal defense lawyers, and lawyers who take criminal cases. The difference is immense.

[3] One word of mouth referral is worth a year in the yellow pages, in-your-face Facebook Ads, and mailers to homes of those arrested.

[16] If you burn a bridge, make sure you burn it to the point that it is unrecognizable, otherwise, expect it to come back to bite you. It will.

[17] Some people don't matter. Never treat them like they don't matter.

[27] If you have a bad feeling about taking a case, don't.

[31] If you want to be a lawyer that makes good money, gets good clients, and does great work, then dress like you are a lawyer that makes good money, gets good clients, and does great work.

[45] As Larry Pozner, Past President of NACDL said once -- you make your worst decisions when business is slow.

[46] When business is slow, get the hell out of the office.

[48] Never object to a continuance for a family issue, or a vacation. Never.

[55] Lawyers who brag they "don't go on vacations," are miserable human beings that I never want to deal with on any level.

Read all 60 of Brian Tannebaum's lessons learned here.

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

College Student Learns Consequences of Ignoring a Federal Judge, the Hard Way

You are a 19-year-old college freshman. You are instructed to appear in court to be on a panel of 60 potential jurors in a health care fraud case but, I mean, damn -- you don't have time for that nonsense!

So when the date rolls around for jury selection you fail to post. When the jury clerk calls you to find out where you are, you claim a flat tire. When they clerk offers to come pick you up, you reply that you want to go to class and you are not coming to court. And when clerks call you back again to say the judge himself now wants you to appear in court the next day, Tuesday, to explain yourself, you respond rudely and hang up on them. Stupid clerks -- quit calling me!

Hittner Well, welcome to the real world, Kelsey Gloston, and the consequences of infuriating a federal court judge. The Houston Chronicle reports that on the Tuesday the judge's clerk had demanded her presence (before being hung up on), Gloston unexpectedly found herself rounded up by federal marshals and "stood in ankle and wrist restraints in court Tuesday afternoon wearing flip flops, a tight white T-shirt, short-shorts and sporting green streaks in her hair." It turns out that U.S. District Judge David Hittner (pictured) was incensed when Gloston hung up on his jury clerks:

“You in effect went right at the jury folks and said you'd have nothing to do with it,” Hittner said sternly. “I'm going to hear exactly what your problem is with jury duty and what your problem is with how our country operates.

“Nobody hangs up on our people,” Hittner added.

The judge released Gloston, but ordered her to return to court the following day with a lawyer for a hearing on whether he should find her in contempt and possibly detain her.

Kelsey's father, Darrell Gloston, blamed the court for its overreaction and said he plans to sue.
"Don't treat her like she murdered 25 people along the freeway,” he said. “She's 19, she's ignorant, she's a kid. They don't take anything seriously.”

She will now, I'll bet.

April 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (10)

April 28, 2010

Texas Rep to Introduce Arizona-Style Immigration Legislation

Much has already been written about the controversial Arizona immigration law (PDF) that was signed by Governor Jan Brewer last Friday. The WSJ Law Blog reports this morning that constitutional challenges are already being prepared.

Now, word that a Texas lawmaker is planning to push a similar bill in that state's next legislative session. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball, Tex., introduced such a bill (PDF) during the last session, but it stalled in committee. She's not giving up, though.

'The first priority for any elected official is to make sure that the safety and security of Texans is well-established,' said Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. 'If our federal government did their job, then Arizona wouldn't have to take this action, and neither would Texas.'

Riddle claims her bill is different from the Arizona law, in that it requires confirmation of illegal status with federal authorities prior to arrest and explicitly requires "reasonable suspicion" of such status before an officer could even inquire.

Some believe that such a law couldn't possibly fly in Texas:

Jim Harrington, of the Texas Civil Rights Project, predicted 'zero' chance of a similar effort here, saying Texas has 'a different relationship with the Hispanic community.'

Such a push 'would cause an enormous political transformation of the state a lot quicker than it's happening at this point,' Harrington said. 'It would galvanize the Hispanic community astronomically.'

I'll simply say that, based on the photo above, it sure looks like Rep. Riddle is gearing up for a fight.

April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Another Reason to Be Nice to Your Secretary

Gross Monday, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard argument in an attorney discipline case. At issue is whether David Gross should be disbarred for keeping a $50,000 "bonus" given by one of his clients that was super-pleased with his work.

The state Disciplinary Review Board found that keeping the money, rather than turning it over to his then firm, Budd Larner, constituted "willful misappropriation" and recommended disbarment. The vote was 5-2, with the dissenters recommending a mere censure or temporary suspension.

The details of the incident, as reported in the New Jersey Law Journal, do make it sound rather shady:

Gross' problems arose when told his secretary, Claudette McCarthy, about the gift. She had worked for Gross for many years and he gave her glowing evaluations, the DRB said.

McCarthy testified that she typed an invoice setting up the Keene payment and a letter advised Keene to send the check to Gross in an envelope marked 'personal and confidential.' Letters not marked that way would be opened in the mailroom and the check would have automatically been set aside for deposit in the firm account, according to testimony.

Gross instructed McCarthy to remove the letter from her computer and told her not to tell anyone in the firm about it.

The secretary was OK with keeping the payment on the DL for four years. But she would only take so much crap from a guy who she had helped out to the tune of $50K:

She kept quiet about it until 2002, when she decided to get even because Gross had begun treating her badly, she testified. The mean treatment began in 1999 after she refused to take time from a busy schedule to do some work for Gross' wife, Heidi Gross, a lawyer in the firm. There were other incidents, one of which ended with Gross calling McCarthy a 'fucking idiot,' she told the Daily Business Review.

In 2002, not long after Gross wrote 'no' across her vacation request and threw it into a wastebasket, McCarthy told members of the firm about the 1998 check.

David, David -- you've got to remember on which side your bread is buttered if you want to be a successful thief attorney.

April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Slip and Fall Complaint Mad Libs

Though this post at the The Namby Pamby blog (via Overlawyered) is clearly tongue-in-cheek, those of us who've been around the block a few times have certainly seen our share of complaints that appear to have been drafted using this form. My favorite step:

Step Six: It’s time to talk about a breach of dooty. The more dooty breached, the better.

11. On or about January 15, 2010, the Defendant breached its dooties and was negligent in one or more of the following ways:
a. Carelessly and negligently allowed the Plaintiff to do a triple axle, double loop in aisle nine;
b. Carelessly and negligently allowed its insurance company to hire a hack claims adjustor;
c. Carelessly, negligently and inexplicably allowed the Plaintiff to have her ambulance chased by counsel;
d. Failed to buy enough roombas to clean its floors and walkways;
e. Failed to hire the Janitor from Scrubs; and
f. Defendant was otherwise careless, negligent and/or f*!#d some s^!t up.

Have some gems from pleadings you've had to deal with (or that you've filed) recently? Feel free to share in the comments.

April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feds to Argue Rwandan Witnesses Inherently Liars

Last year, 83-year-old Lazare Kobagaya was charged with immigration violations for allegedly failing to disclose in his immigration papers that he was a participant in the atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994. I think we can all understand why he chose to roll the dice on that one. Checking off the "Y" next to "mobilizing attackers to commit arson and murder" probably gets your application on the express bus to rejection land.

Today, in federal district court in Wichita, Judge Monti Belot is holding a hearing, at which a government expert will apparently try to convince the judge that two defense witnesses should be precluded from testifying at trial, as "Rwandan witnesses are inherently unreliable because they're controlled by the government of the African nation."

Though the AP's story is short on details, it sounds as though the preclusion argument is that all Rwandans lie, so we shouldn't let them testify. Last I checked, credibility was an issue for the jury. If the two proposed defense witnesses are being proffered as experts, and this is a Daubert challenge, I hope the government's argument is better than the blurb makes it sound. 

Timothy Longman, director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, has been identified as a government expert, though there's no way of knowing for sure that he's the expert who will supposedly testify that Rwandans can't be trusted. His former employer, Human Rights Watch, is reported to be fighting subpoenas issued to it in connection with the case. According to Kurt Kerns, Kobagaya's lawyer, this is because the requested documents might contain exculpatory information.

April 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2010

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I really want an iPad but I don't have that kind of money. Roughly how many years until I can pick myself up a counterfeit iPad from China?

Answer: Years? Ha!!! You can get one right now. (The Age, Counterfeit iPads hit the market)

2) Question: This hotel is exquisite and very customer-friendly. Do you think they'd mind if I made a small special request that we not be served by "people of color" or with "foreign accents?"

Answer: Surprisingly, they might just oblige you. (Consumerist, Lawsuit: Hotel Obliged Guest's Requests For Whites-Only Service)

Man-opening-door-for-woman 3) Question: I was walking into my office today minding my own business. Next thing I know I'm being attacked with a plate of pasta, punched, kicked, spit on and beaten with handbags by two women. What the ...?

Answer: Did you neglect to hold the door open for them? (Boston Herald, That’ll teach him to be rude) (via Legal Juice)

April 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bank Robber Invests in Success (Temporary Success, at Least)

Duct_tape_bandit In my Updated Legal Blog Watch Checklist for Bank Robbers, I emphasized that would-be robbers needed to "Invest in Success" when it came to their disguises. After all, I argued, "you are investing a lot of time and effort in this bank robbery. Spend the $5 at Target to get yourself a ski mask or something, and do this right." A clear plastic bag over your head does not cut it, I wrote, nor does wrapping your head in duct tape.

I'm pleased to see that at least someone out there is paying attention. Yesterday it was reported in Metro.co.uk (via Legal Juice) that police had put out an appeal for information on a prolific bank robber repeatedly described to be African American. The appeal came after a tip alerted police to the fact that the robber was actually white, but had been wearing a high-end, "Hollywood quality" silicon mask called "The Player." Lieutenant Michael Mathis admitted that "police were completely taken in by the mask and said he had never seen anything like it." The Player mask reportedly costs approximately $700.

Check it out below. Now that's what I call investing in success in your robberies, even if it is short-lived!

PlayerMask

April 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Craigslist Crimewave: Rapes, Fake 'Orgy Requested' Ads and Robberies in News

Craigslist Everywhere I look this morning I see reports of some crime being perpetrated or people being arrested for misconduct related to Craigslist. One very disturbing possible trend: fake posts inviting people to have sex with unsuspecting women. A recent example of this came earlier this month when police arrested a Connecticut man who, as part of a feud with a "soccer-mom" neighbor, targeted her with an explicit online posting (supposedly from her) that invited the Craigslist world to join her for an orgy. 

The Associated Press reports that on April 5, 2010, Philip James Conran placed a post on Craigslist entitled "Looking for lust" seeking group sex and inviting strangers to "please come play" with his neighbor. It listed her street address, as well, which police said resulted in a startling number of strangers knocking on the woman's door, calling the house, or driving by. One genius responded to the fake ad by going to the wrong house and groping a teenage girl, police said.

This case followed a similar matter In December, when police in Wyoming filed a case against a man who allegedly caused a rape by posting an ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman he briefly dated. The ad requested a "real aggressive man with no concern for women" willing to carry out a rape fantasy, and provided the woman's address.

I then came across this story from WHAM.com earlier this week of a man who was arrested for "jokingly" trying to sell his children on Craigslist. Joshua Stagnitto says he was just joking around when he offered to sell his 1- and 2-year-old boys on Craigslist on April 7 ($40 dollars for one, $200 for both, including diapers) but police were not amused and arrested him for "falsely reporting an incident."

Finally, I ran across this story on Consumerist.com about a new warning issued by Oakland, California, police this week concerning Craigslist. Police say that there has been a recent flurry of incidents "where victims purchased items off Craigslist only to be robbed at gunpoint when they show up to take receipt of their purchases." Nice.

Oakland police have now issued special tips for minimizing your odds of becoming a Craigslist victim, including "Do not agree to meet in a secluded or residential area" and "Do not travel to any location with a large amount of cash."

April 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Greatest Tasering Video of All Time? You Decide

I do not claim to be an expert or connoisseur of Taser videos, but the Crime and Federalism blog has declared the video below to be perhaps the "Greatest Tasering Video of All Time." And based on my careful review this morning, I can't quarrel whatsoever with that assessment. Enjoy!



April 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 26, 2010

Soccer Schedules Copyrightable Says British Court

The British High Court ruled Friday that "fixtures" (a fancy British word for schedules) showing when and where soccer matches are being played can properly be subject to copyright.

Meaning, of course, that if news outlets want to publish them, they'll have to pay up. According to the AP, one of the judges explained the ruling as follows:

"The process of preparing fixture lists involves very significant labor and skill in satisfying the multitude of often competing requirements of those involved," Judge Christopher Floyd said. "(It is) not mere sweat of the brow, by which I mean the application of rigid criteria to the processing of data.

"The quality of the solution depends in part on the skill of those involved."

Whatever you say, M'Lord. I just hope that the British press can afford the royalties demanded by the leagues. Soccer hooligans cause enough mischief when they know what time the game is. Barring the publication of the schedule, they'll have to be drunkenly wandering the streets and beating people wearing the wrong color 24/7, just in case.

April 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9)

'Please Rob Me' -- Credit Card Edition

My colleague Bruce has alerted readers to the perils of tweeting your whereabouts, as made plain by Please Rob Me (which now has its own "Mission Accomplished" banner prominently displayed on its site).

"Oversharing" is ubiquitous in the social networking/social media age. So I'm not sure why I was surprised to find out that there is a service available whereby users can broadcast the charges they're running up on their credit cards.

Welcome to Blippy. Where every time you use plastic at a Starbucks, or, for that matter, at The Pleasure Chest, all your friends get an update.

On Friday, it was discovered that a handful of Blippers had unwittingly notified the world of not only where they were spending their money, but of their credit card numbers:

Blippy

This on the very day that the company secured $11 million in additional funding. D'oh.

The company insists that, though this information was floating around on the web for several months, it only affected a handful of users. Plus, they've now committed to: "Hire a Chief Security Officer and associated staff that will focus solely on issues relating to information security." Brilliant idea.

It's not hard to see a class action coming down the pike here, depending on how things play out. This, though, is one where I won't be upset if the lawyers end up with millions and the class takes home nothing. I think a commenter at Venture Beat said it best: "If you used Blippy, if you think people care that you bought a sandwich or mini-size condoms or whatever, then you deserve this." Amen, brother. Amen.

April 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pot Dealer Gets Probation and a Firm Shove West

  "And you can use all those little plastic bags to pack your things!"

The way I envision it, that might have been the final line out of Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza's mouth, as she approved a plea deal whereby Brian Renaud would be sentenced to probation for his second marijuana-related felony in six years. As long as he agreed to leave the state of New York. Permanently. Renaud pleaded to a misdemeanor attempted possession charge, and agreed to be banished.

That seems pretty easy. The county doesn't have to spend money on a trial, the state won't have to find Renaud a room in its overcrowded prison system -- everybody wins, right?

No, not so easy. As Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice notes, making a deal like this, even with a nonviolent offender, is a little disrespectful to the citizens of the rest of the country (and their tax dollars). I had thought the era of dropping annoyances off at the edge of town ended when men were no longer required to wear hats every time they left the house.

And Renaud, of course, is no mere drifter. He is a homeowner, a resident of historic Lewiston, NY. The judge ordered him to put his house up for sale by June 30. Guess she doesn't even want him to be able to collect rental income in New York.

The legalizers have already come out in defense of Renaud (and, by extension, the judge) in the comments at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. They seem to approve of his decision to relocate to California, where legal pot without any pretense of medical need is set to be on the ballot this November.

Here's a tip, Brian: When you're out in Cali, don't claim to be Miley Cyrus's fiance, or you might have to move all over again.

April 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 23, 2010

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a lawyer in Chicago. Are there any conferences coming up that will educate me on the proper etiquette concerning how much to flaunt my "tramp stamp" tattoo?

Answer: You should check out the Chicago Bar Association's “What Not to Wear” session. Tramp stamps are covered in the curriculum. (Styleite, Fashion Jury Tells Lawyers “No Tramp Stamps”)

Prom 2) Question: I am so psyched for prom! Woot! Hey, wait -- why are there only seven other people here?

Answer: Sometimes when schools don't want lesbians to attend prom with their partners, they stage tiny fake proms for the lesbians while holding the real prom across town. (Salon, Fake prom staged to trick lesbian kids)

3) Question: I work in the California Highway Patrol building. Why are we being evacuated all of a sudden?

Answer: Sorry, but sometimes the officers have to clear the building and call the bomb squad when they arrest people who have a “a suspicious wire, with an on/off switch” in their front left pocket leading to their anal cavity. It happens. (Tahoe Daily Tribune, Sex toy spurs CHP office evacuation)

April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

From the Bad Ideas File: 'The Firm: Corporate Law in India'

For years, corporate lawyers have had to explain to their grandmothers and cousins that they "don't do the kind of law on L.A. Law." Shows like L.A. Law, The Practice, and so on, have always had the good sense to focus on litigators, and even then only on the 1% of litigation matters that would actually be of even remote interest to a normal person. Not anymore!

Out of India comes a bit of "Must (Not)-See TV" that sounds like it should be playing on a continuous loop on the house channel at Guantanamo Bay: "The Firm: Corporate Law in India." The American Lawyer reports that, for the first time, you can tune in and listen to corporate lawyers tell you about "the technical details of their work." A recent program, for instance, focused on "the examination of the public offering by India's biggest power company." 

So throw away your TiVo, take up some new hobbies, get a pet -- whatever it takes to make sure you're not the one who gets stuck watching a future Corporate Law in India episode about some heroic corporate associate who finds a key typo in a deal document.

Wait a minute, didn't Bitter Lawyer's "Living the Dream" series already cover this ground, anyway? See below.

April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Apple Gives Man 'Lifetime Ban' on Purchasing iPads

I'm starting to realize that I have a weakness for stories where a corporation rolls out its ultimate "death penalty" punishment on a customer: "You can never come here [buy here] [eat here] again!!"

First there was the "You have complained about our coffee once too often, you will never eat at Tim Horton's again" story in February. And now I'm amused to see the story of Los Angeles man who, just two weeks after the product was rolled out, has already managed to find himself the subject of a "lifetime ban" on buying iPads. 

A blogger who goes by the name of "Protocol Snow" says in this post (via Consumerist) that his local Apple store had a large supply of iPads, and he began purchasing and shipping iPads internationally for members of the "NeoGAF gaming forum." He says he charged very little over the list price, "just enough to cover all the tax, international express shipping, and Paypal fees with a little left over for unexpected costs." Protocol Snow also limited his purchases to no more than two per day because he had heard there was a limit per person.

This went on for less than a week, until a fateful visit to the Apple store on April 17 brought Protocol Snow's iPad purchases to an end (for the rest of his life). PS reports that while picking up an iPad at the store that day, he noticed some consternation and serious discussion amongst the employees. PS says that a very unexpected conversation (highlights below) ensued between him and two Apple employees ("Guy #1" and "Guy #2") at the store:

    Me (nonchalantly) — “Is there an issue?”

    Guy #2 — “There is a limit to the number of iPads that customers can buy.”

    Me (playing dumb) — “Oh, is that right? What’s the limit?”

    Guy #2 — “Only 2 per customer.”

    Guy #1 — “I’m sorry sir, but you have reached your lifetime limit of iPad purchases and will not be allowed to buy any more.”

    Me (anticipating that statement) — “Is the iPad limit per person? Per credit card? Per household?”

    Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

    Me — “What does that mean? Can I use a different credit card to buy it? I’m buying this for a friend.”

    Guy #1 — “You are not allowed to buy this iPad.”

    Me — “Uhh… is it ok if I have a family member or friend come to buy it for me? My reservation doesn’t expire until 6:00 PM.”

    Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

    Me (suddenly realizing what he’s saying) — “Wait, what? Lifetime? What does that mean?”

    Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit of iPads and will not be allowed to buy any more.”

    Me — “I’m banned from buying iPads? I know there’s a shortage right now, but I can’t buy any more once there’s plenty of stock?”

    Guy #1 — “All I can say is that you have reached your lifetime limit.”

    Me — “Ok buddy, I’m not going to make a scene so I’m leaving. How many iPads is the limit by the way?”

    Guy #1 — “That information is not available.”

    Me (looking at Guy #2, who has been silent this whole time) — “He tells me that the limit is two.”

    Guy #1 — “I wish I could say but I do not have that information.”

    Me — “I’ve already purchased more than 2 iPads. Why didn’t anybody else stop me in the past?”

    Guy #1 — “I wish I could say but I do not have that information.”

    Me — “Alright, I’ve had enough. Have a good day.”

April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Finally, Something Compelling Enough for Chinese Citizens to Scale 'Great Firewall'

Great_china_wall_view.jpg China is well-known for its "Great Firewall of China" that since 2003 has prevented its citizens from accessing what it deems to be undesirable sites on the Internet. The Chinese people have tolerated this Great Firewall for seven years now, but a new temptation on the Internet seems to have been the "last straw" driving tens of thousands of people to find a way to get around this blockade.

What has driven the Chinese people to finally circumvent the powers that be? AOL News reports that it is "not democracy, human rights or Taiwan independence websites," but rather the desire to access the Twitter site of Japanese porn star Aoi Sola. Aoi launched a Twitter site at the end of March 2010, but her fans could not follow her because Twitter is blocked in China.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Aoi's fans promptly found software that allows users in China to get around the Great Firewall.  David Wolf, a Beijing-based tech industry expert, told AOL News that Aoi's fans proved that "[i]n China you can get anything you want on the Internet, you just have to want to bad enough." Indeed, an email address has now been set up ("mytwitterclient@gmail.com") that provides detailed instructions on how to access Twitter to Chinese residents who need help getting around the Great Firewall. 

April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 22, 2010

Georgia Lawmakers Want to Protect You From 'They'

As a former resident of Georgia, I'm comforted to know that any taxes I paid into that state's government have long since been wasted.

But current residents are footing the bill for legislators to engage in serious hearings on a bill to amend the state's battery statute to explicitly criminalize the nonconsensual implantation of a microchip in a person's body. Lowering the Bar has the details.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler (who, I must say, looks like a prime target for some form of forced bodily intrusion), admitted that he was unaware of any instance where such an involuntary implantation had been accomplished, but, hey, the bill is "proactive."

Read the post in its entirety, but pay particular attention to the excerpts of the testimony given by "a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County." She, as a purported victim of implantation, really wants to save others from the indignity of the procedure, which she likens to having a "beeper" lodged in one's "rectum or genital area."

Yeah, that sounds bad.  Thanks, Georgia House. Crazy people statewide owe you a drink.

April 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Federal Courthouses to Be Made Pegleg Accessible

Julian Ku at Opinio Juris picked up on a Washington Post story quoting the ubiquitous unnamed "federal law enforcement official" as saying that more alleged pirates will be brought to the U.S. to stand trial, in light of Kenya's refusal to accept any more piracy suspects.

Though the article is not very clear on which of the 21 suspects currently in custody on warships will be transferred, Ku raises an interesting issue about jurisdiction. The piracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 1651, by its terms, does not seem to require that the alleged acts of pillaging be directed at an American vessel, just that the defendant "is afterwards brought into or found in the United States."

Will pirate trials become a niche industry in the U.S.? If so, my heart goes out to the court reporters. In my clerking days, I watched them struggle mightily with even lightly accented English. If they have to start transcribing phrases like "splicing the mainbrace," it could get real ugly.

April 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

That Emaily Hacky Trialy Stuff Gets Underway

The trial of David Kernell, the 22-year-old computer whiz who managed to hack into the Yahoo! email account of 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, began this week in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn.

Palin herself has been subpoenaed, but hasn't yet made an appearance. The trial kicked off with Kernell's college roommate testifying that Kernell really wasn't a big Palin fan

Yesterday, Bristol Palin, star of MTV's hit series "17 and Pregnant" Governor Palin's daughter, testified that she got lots of phone calls and text messages after the account was accessed, including one from "a bunch of boys . . . claiming they were at her front door and wanted in." Too late, dudes, Levi beat you to it. 

Bristol, after making an 8-year-old girl's day, also managed to throw in a plug for Fox News by testifying as to where she saw the screen shot from the hacked e-mail account that displayed her cell number. This kid's good. Of course, some nuts (wing or otherwise) are already accusing Bristol of perjury, based on her claims that she was scared, and was without cell phone service after her phone was seized by the FBI.

For somebody facing 50 years in federal prison, Kernell seems to have kept his sense of humor. From the AP story:

After court ended for the day, Kernell was asked by WMC-TV of Memphis what he thought of Bristol Palin.

He replied, "She's not my type."

April 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Insert 'Switch Hitter' Joke Here

While Major League Baseball worries about the scourge of performance enhancing drugs, there's one league where, if you want to play, you better not be too straight.

Three San Francisco men have filed a lawsuit (PDF) in federal court in Seattle, alleging that their team was disqualified from the 2008 North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance World Series because, as bisexuals, they were deemed "not gay" after their opponents lodged a protest that the team was violating the rule limiting each team to two "heterosexual" players.

The complaint is full of interesting tidbits, like the procedure whereby the league's "Protest Committee" called each of the plaintiffs (and three other players whose gayness was questioned) into a room and, in front of a crowd of 25, peppered them with questions about their sexual preferences before voting on whether the men were gay or not.

The plaintiffs allege not only discrimination based on sexual orientation, but also based on race. All three plaintiffs are minorities, and they allege that some of the other players who were initially challenged and gave identical answers to the league's queries were confirmed gay, and thus eligible.

So, for purposes of next year's NAGAAA tournament, Billy Bean -- yes, Mike Piazza -- no. I think the league loses in that deal.

April 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2010

A Hitler Update

Yes, he's still dead.

But, unfortunately, so may be "the meme that will never die." I, embarrassingly, first discovered the Hitler "Downfall" meme a couple of months back when a Seattle DUI Law Firm adapted it as a promotional video.

This week, in advance of what would have been Adolf's 121st birthday yesterday, a whole bunch of the "Downfall" videos began being taken down from YouTube, as a result of copyright claims by Constantin Films, the production company behind the real movie.

As I noted in my original post, the director of "Der Untergang" himself indicated that he was a fan of the parodies. And many bloggers have observed that the meme undoubtedly has spurred increased interest in seeing the movie. I, too, added the film to my Netflix queue after writing the post. Really:

Queue

So I don't get it either. Why now? Why ruin the good thing you've got going? I'm stumped. But some people have an idea who might be the motivating force behind the takedowns:

 

(H/T: Above the Law)

April 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Behind the Scenes at a Shortstop Factory

Via this post at the Immigration Prof Blog, I came across this interesting article on the website of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs about the alleged role of Major League Baseball in the exploitation of children in the Dominican Republic.

The issue has been raised many times before -- what, if any, responsibility does MLB itself, or the individual teams who run the baseball academies, have for the well-being of the vast majority of the kids who don't make it to the majors? The ones who quit school at ages as young as 12 or 13 and put all their eggs in the baseball basket as the only likely path out of poverty for them and their families.

One angle of which I hadn't been aware, though, was brought up in the comments by Eric Jackson, editor and publisher of The Panama News. Writes Jackson:

I got one mid-level Major League Baseball official, neither for attribution nor very categorically, to admit that there is some sort of arrangement between the NCAA and MLB about US university baseball programs not recruiting Latin American players.

Sherman Act problem? Well, there is, of course, baseball's antitrust exemption. And, if the activity that's being prevented is these players' recruitment to play college ball, is that "trade" or "interstate commerce" for purposes of the Act?

I had always assumed that young players who decide to forgo college and jump right to the pros were making a conscious decision -- if a foolish one -- to do so. If, in fact, there is some tacit agreement between the NCAA and MLB to prevent otherwise qualified players from attending U.S. universities, that's, and you'll pardon the pun, a whole different ballgame.

April 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mob Reaches 'New Low' With Charges of Peddling Underage Hookers

Yesterday, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced (with the aid of a user-friendly chart) that 14 members of the once mighty Gambino crime family had been charged with some crimes not traditionally in the mafia bailiwick. Specifically, recruiting prostitutes, some of whom were as young as 15, at strip clubs and delivering them to customers.

The rest of the litany of bad acts recited in the indictment are standard cosa nostra fare, according to CNN, ranging from "murder to OxyContin trafficking to defrauding high-end restaurants with inflated invoices for meat orders." No big whoop.

But the indictment was also notable for another reason. One of the defendants charged is a woman, Suzanne Porcelli, who was charged with four counts related to the sex trafficking operation. Ladies being deeply involved in mob business is unusual, according to Joe Coffey, formerly of the NYPD's organized crime unit:

"The mob as we know it historically holds very few things sacred, but they do hold women and children sacred," said Coffey.

"Women have been girlfriends and wives and mothers but never has there been any case where a female becomes an influential person in mob operations, because it's seen as men's work, something that women and children should be protected from and kept out of."

Hmm. That sure doesn't seem to be the case over in the old country.

As of press time, Fat Tony D'Amico was unavailable for comment.

April 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2010

Yeah, It's 4-20, We'll Bite

As you may, or may pretend not to, know, today, April 20, is National Weed Day. Or, if you will, Marijuana Freedom Day. Come on, even CNBC is in on it.

We won't attempt to catalog all the ways people might be celebrating. But if you live in New York, here are 50. And here's a story about some large scale shindigs scheduled for today.

In recognition of the day, Andrew Cohen at Politics Daily has a cogent, link-tastic column on why the time for legalizing it may truly be high nigh. Damn, it's so smoky in here I can hardly feel my keyboard.

Readers: Do you think it will happen in our lifetimes? Real, no joke, legalization? If it does, how long before Anheuser-Busch finds a way to combine pot with Bud Light?

April 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Lawsuit Challenges Required e-Filing via LexisNexis

Via FutureLawyer comes word of this class action (PDF), filed by a plaintiff in a lawsuit in Texas state court who doesn't think the judge in that suit should have been able to order her to file all documents using LexisNexis' File and Serve.

As reported yesterday in Texas Lawyer, the court clerk in Montgomery County has been bouncing any filings not made through the service, which tacks on fees, service charges and other costs every time a litigant wants to file something.

I'm new to Texas, so not yet too familiar with their filing systems. There is a "statewide" e-filing system called Texas Online, but Montgomery County does not participate (query how, then, it can be called "statewide").

The complaint challenges the e-filing requirement on several grounds, including as a RICO violation. At 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, the commenters seem to think that, while it might not amount to racketeering, a litigant has a legitimate complaint when forced to use a particular private vendor for such services, at extra cost. In a comment on the FutureLawyer post, Chuck Newton wonders why state courts don't just find a way to tap into the PACER/ECF system.

E-filing is undoubtedly more convenient for the courts and the litigants (assuming they or their lawyers have computers), as anyone who ever had to staple a pleading to a blue back can attest. And yay for environmental friendliness. But where it adds to the cost of pursuing or defending a lawsuit, should it be required?

April 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Obama Club Shanghai -- Does POTUS Have a Remedy?

Obama
Though his approval ratings might no longer be all that and a bag of chips, there's no denying that President Barack Obama's name still carries with it a certain cachet.

As such, attempts to cash in on it should come as no surprise. The phenomenon is now going global, with the "Obama Entertainment Club" set to open next week in Shanghai.

The club's "marketing lady" didn't seem to have a whole lot to offer in the way of details, but Vanity Fair notes that the U.S. Consulate was pretty sure the Prez isn't going to be there to cut the ribbon. I wouldn't imagine Obama had the foresight to trademark his name in China, though it sounds like the system there is just confusing enough when it comes to English language trademarks that, if he had, this Swedish band might have trouble staging a performance.

I couldn't find a whole lot about Chinese law on publicity rights. China law experts: Is there anything the President could do if he decided he didn't quite care for this use of his good name?

April 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Supreme Court Still Apparently Unfamiliar With Texting and Call Waiting

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard argument in City of Ontario v. Quon. The case is about whether a SWAT team sergeant in Ontario, Calif., had a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages sent via a department-issued pager, despite a department policy stating pretty clearly that messages could be audited at any time.

Not just any text messages, mind you, but some dirty, dirty text messages between said sergeant and 1) his wife, 2) his mistress and 3) a fellow officer. "To Protect and Sext" would look great on the side panels of a black and white.

The 9th Circuit held (PDF) that the cop did have such an expectation of privacy, and that the search of his messages conducted by the city (with the aid of the wireless company) after Sgt. Quon repeatedly went over his message allowance was unreasonable as a matter of law. But, then again, this is the 9th Circuit we're talking about. Marcia Coyle had some pregame predictions of the argument in Friday's National Law Journal.

According to Lyle Denniston's recap at SCOTUSBlog, the Justices seemed to be leaning pretty heavily toward reversing, and finding there was no reasonable expectation of privacy. But Adam Liptak, in The New York Times, revealed an interesting, and sort of scary exchange between the Justices and Sgt. Quon's counsel:

“What happens, just out of curiosity,” Chief Justice Roberts asked, “if he is on the pager and sending a message and they are trying to reach him for, you know, a SWAT team crisis? Does the one kind of trump the other, or do they get a busy signal?”

Dieter Dammeier, a lawyer for Sergeant Quon, said he was not sure.

Justice Kennedy suggested that the caller might get a recorded message.

“He’s talking to the girlfriend,” Justice Kennedy said, and the caller “gets a voice message that says: ‘Your call is very important to us. We will get back to you.’ ”

We'll give Kennedy a pass for not quite grasping text messages -- he's almost 74. But OMG, Roberts, C.J.? A busy signal? Isn't your 10-year-old daughter addicted to texting yet? Here we are, speculating about whether the next potential justice likes girls, and the current ones don't even know how to abbreviate "Just Freaking Google It?" YYSSW.

The WSJ Law Blog has a few more frightening excerpts from the argument here.

April 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2010

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My 12-year-old son and I want to go pound a couple beers together. Where can we go?

Answer: Anywhere in Wisconsin or Texas, but don't forget that you must buy the drinks, not him. And you might want to do it now if you are in Wisconsin, as the law may change soon. (Journal Sentinel, Assembly OKs Bill Limiting Age Minors Can Drink in Bars With Parents) (via Legal Juice)

Devil 2) Question: What is with all of this need to click "Yes" to the Terms of Service on this website if I want to buy something? Do I really need to read all of this gibberish?

Answer: No, but if you don't read it you risk unintentionally granting the company "a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul." (FOXNews, 7,500 Online Shoppers Unknowingly Sold Their Souls) (via Popehat)

3) Question: I just met this great girl and I thought we hit it off, but she says she can't go out with me to a bar -- any bar in the entire country -- until 2012 because of a court order. She's just blowing me off, right?

Answer: Not necessarily. Sometimes judges do ban excessive partiers from entering any pub, bar or club in an entire nation. (Metro.co.uk, Laura Hall Given Drinking Banning Order Across England and Wales)

April 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Rapper Jay-Z and Red Sox Star David Ortiz Square Off Over '40/40 Club' Name

4040club I have long thought that rapper Jay-Z's sports bar, the 40/40 Club, had an inspired name. After all, what more exclusive "club" is there than baseball's 40-40 club, which refers to the four players in all of baseball history (Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano) who have accumulated a total of 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a single season?

The New York Daily News reports that, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz agrees with me and Jay-Z about the name -- so much so, in fact, that he named his new club in the Dominican Republic "Forty-Forty." Jay-Z's lawyer says the name is no coincidence, as Ortiz has visited Jay-Z's club "at least twice, and certainly knew of it." The lawsuit includes photos of Ortiz partying at the 40/40 Club, and seeks $5 million for Ortiz "blatantly trad[ing] on the goodwill and fame" Jay-Z and his partners have built up.

For the record, Ortiz is no threat to ever enter the baseball version of the 40/40 club, as he has a grand total of 10 stolen bases in his 14 seasons in the major leagues.

April 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to Deal With a Plunge in Your Law School's 'U.S. News' Ranking

Rankings The new law school rankings from U.S. News & World Report are out, and The Conglomerate blog has some step-by-step instructions on the "strict protocol" that must be observed by law professors who are roped into discussing these rankings at springtime cocktail parties, happy hours and receptions:

Step 1: State: "Of course the rankings don't mean anything." (Pause and nod sagely).

Step 2(a): IF your school has fallen in the rankings: repeat above, elaborating generally on poor methodology, including well-known instances of schools gaming the system by employing recent graduates as hall monitors, including every copy of the local bar association's newsletter in their count of total number of volumes in the law library, etc. Repeat Step 1.

Step 2(b): IF your school has risen in the rankings: observe that a higher rank will mean better quality students, more publicity and increased opportunities for development. Smile at one another in congratulatory fashion. Repeat Step 1.

Sure, that's easy enough for law professors, but what about law school deans who are confronted by packs of panicked law students when their school plunges nearly 30 spots in the rankings? Missouri University Law School had the misfortune of falling from 65th in 2009 down to 93rd in 2010, which apparently caused MU law students considerable stress. The Missourian reports that the "28-spot drop was the largest of any school and gave MU its lowest ranking since the publication began ranking the nation’s top 100 law schools in the 2004 list."

With students complaining that "the perceived value of my law degree is dropping like a rock," Dean R. Lawrence Dessem called an emergency meeting to try to calm nerves. Embracing Step 2(a) above, Dessem emphasized that the rankings cannot measure things like quality of teaching and programs, and pointed to bar passage percentages as an example of "flawed data." Dessem said he views the rankings as a sales gimmick and that he "would question any purportedly scientific study where a school could go up or down 20 or 30 places in a year."

April 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 16, 2010

Rethinking Personal 'Branding' for Lawyers

Last week, Above the Law ran this post about a lawyer-turned-life coach who encourages young attorneys to develop a personal brand, including a catchy tag line, before the powers that be at a law firm choose one for them.

The reaction in the comments -- to the extent it evolved beyond calling poor Karen Shapiro a chipmunk -- was that the idea didn't hold water.

Today, at Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Kevin O'Keefe, who admits to having pushed the idea of personal branding in the past, writes that he's come to the realization that it may not be a good idea. After reading Doc Searls' take on branding, O'Keefe seems to have done a 180. He writes that the fundamental elements of the sort of "brand" he had been encouraging lawyers to develop were better categorized as "expressions of humanity and integrity." To wit:

  • Build a reputation by doing good work.
  • Put that work where others can judge its value.
  • Contribute to the success of others, and credit others generously for their contributions to your success.
  • Never promote for its own sake.

Touché. Where, though, Kevin, did you ever get the idea that lawyers were human beings and/or possessed of any detectable degree of integrity?

April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Man Charged With Assault by Vomit at Baseball Game

Puker This is the kind of story that normally wouldn't require much comment. A man was arrested at a baseball game for allegedly sticking his fingers down his throat to make himself vomit. On an off-duty police captain. And his 11-year-old daughter. The puke attack was apparent retaliation for the guy's friend having been ejected from the stadium for being a jackass. The guy was charged with harassment and assault.

I could just stop there. But this incident occurred at Citizens Bank Park; the gentleman in question -- and what a gentleman he appears to be -- was a Phillies fan. Now, if you're not a sports kind of person, you might not know about the well-deserved reputation that Philadelphia fans have for taking hostility and rudeness to a whole new level. It's at the point where they're upset that people are bringing up old incidents as examples of their bad behavior, and they're not getting enough credit for current stuff. Like the two guys who slapped a woman on the street for wearing a Tony Romo jersey. Seriously, check out some of these videos that come up when you search for "Phillies Fan Fight" on YouTube.

Fear not, proud Philadelphia sports enthusiasts, perhaps the rest of the world will now let go of the Santa Claus incident and instead use Matthew Clemmens as Exhibit A when talking about how classy you are.

April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Further Adventures in Lawyer Advertising: 'That Hellhole You Call a Marriage'

Happy Friday everyone. But maybe you're not having a happy Friday. Maybe you're having marital troubles. Specifically, maybe you and your spouse "hate each other like poison." If that's the case, and you live in Florida, you're in luck. This guy, Steve Miller, of DivorceDeli.com, has just what you need:

He makes a compelling point. Why on earth would you waste your money hiring a "piece of crap 3-piece suit downtown" when someone who so clearly has your best interests at heart is available ... to handle divorces -- "with or without children" -- exclusively online.

Now, Steve's law firm didn't always operate under the Divorce Deli trade name. Before that, it was DivorceEZ.com. Why would you give up marketing gold like that to project an image that might make someone think they get a free bag of chips with their annulment? Glad you asked:

"It's a catchy name that consumers will remember. But we agreed to change the trade name so consumers realize this doesn't make online divorce easy,” said Miller, a pioneer in online divorce services, who changed his original site -- DivorceEZ -- following a request by the Florida Bar.

Though I first found the commercial and the firm through a link on The Briefcase blog, it turns out Miller and Divorce Deli/EZ have actually gotten a fair amount of blog coverage, including from LBW alum Carolyn Elefant, back in the day before Miller "agreed" to change his firm's name.

I was kidding about the "free bag of chips," by the way, which is a good thing, because what you really get with any paid service is "free biscotti baked by Miller's wife Amy."

April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

White House Chides CBS News for Column Claiming Kagan Is a Lesbian

By now, you all know that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is said to be on the shortest of short lists to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, according to the Washington Post, the White House went after CBS news for publishing on its Web site a column by Ben Domenech, in which Domenech speculated that choosing Kagan to fill the seat would please some of President Obama's base, because it would mean the Court would have its "first openly gay justice."

The immediate reaction, according to the Post, and to Josh Gerstein at Politico, entailed former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn (who is consulting with the administration on its quest to fill the Stevens slot) accusing CBS of aiding and abetting "people posting lies," and spokesman Ben LaBolt saying the column "made false charges."

CBS initially declined to remove the column, but did eventually, after Domenech said he was simply reporting on a rumor. The post is still live on Domenech's site, and he has added a note offering an apology to Kagan if she was "offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post." He also speculates that the speed and force with which the administration responded seems to indicate that Kagan is the odds-on favorite.

Rumors and speculation about Kagan's sexuality are not new. As Gerstein notes, Fox News referred to Kagan as "gay," without further comment, in a story last year when she was nominated for the SG position. Just the other day, The Atlantic ran a piece about the "whisper campaign" regarding Kagan's sexual preference, and how both sides of the political spectrum could exploit it.

If Kagan is nominated, the issue will undoubtedly rear its head. Did the White House "protest too much?" There's a big difference between attacking a media outlet for publishing unsupported speculation and rumor about personal matters and calling it out for propagating "lies." If Kagan now does not get the nod, will it be attributed to a desire, on her part or that of the administration, to avoid further probing into her sexuality? Let the games begin. Or, rather, continue.

April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 15, 2010

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a bus driver, and there is a dying elderly man on my bus! Do I need to keep making all of the regular stops per my supervisor's orders?

Answer: Tough question. Sounds like a "drive your bus to the hospital and ask for forgiveness later" situation to me. [p.s. Is that you, Kramer??] (Metro International, Dying Man Gets no Help on SEPTA)

2) Question: My brother and I are furious at another man who has done us wrong. We are thinking about unleashing 500 short-tail pit viper snakes in front of his home. Yes?

Answer: No. (AP, Brothers 'Released Poisonous Snakes in Feud') (via Jonathan Turley)

Elmobackpack 3) Question: I'm in kindergarten, and I'm in the principal's office. Why is there some smelly stuff that looks like grass in a plastic bag in my Elmo backpack?

Answer: Young man, sometimes dads place smelly stuff that looks like grass (called "marijuana") in a plastic bag in kids' Elmo backpacks. And then the police come to your school. (Legal Juice, Not the Best Hiding Place for Your Weed)

April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly: Plaintiffs Lawyers Gotta Do Their Thing, Too

Very, very high on the list of people or groups that you do not want to scorn should probably be the nation's top plaintiffs lawyer group. You see, these people sue corporations for a living, day in and day out. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what they'd do to a lender they feel has personally done the group wrong.

AAJ_Logo_245wSo one wonders what Wachovia Bank was thinking in 2008 when it allegedly reneged on an $89 million loan for the American Association for Justice's new headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. The National Law Journal reports that when the mortgage market dried up in 2007, Wachovia invoked the "material adverse change" clause in the deal's contract and backed out of the loan.

Last week, U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth of the federal court in D.C. issued a ruling permitting the case to go forward, finding that there were valid questions as to whether Wachovia acted legally when it terminated the loan. In a case that presents key issues also now being resolved in dozens of subprime-type cases around the country, the court ruled that there were genuine issues of material fact as to "whether the changes in the securities markets Wachovia used to justify killing the deal qualified as unforeseeable," according to the NLJ.

April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hopes of Legal Employment Dashed, Kansas Law Student Declares for NBA Draft

Thousands of law students faced with the legal profession's anemic hiring situation now face difficult decisions:

  • Keep applying for legal jobs?
  • Go work for $22/hour (or less) as a contract lawyer?
  • Start a blawg and join the ranks of the Scambloggers who seek to save future prospective law students from their plight?
  • Sell their law degree on Craigslist?
  • Take the job at Starbucks?

Capt_nba_draft_k0g1_ye5w Tough and painful decisions, no doubt. A Kansaslaw student, however, has weighed his options and taken a different route. This week in the The Kansas Law Free Press, Ryan McAteer, "Former J.D. Candidate 2011, University of Kansas School of Law" announced that he has decided to declare his eligibility for the 2010 NBA Draft this June.

McAteer says that this year "has been particularly rough, especially considering my early exit from the Moot Court Competition and career-low statistics in both Secured Transactions and Business Associations II." However, he says, "with little or no hope for an externship and a 0% success rate with OCI, the NBA draft is my next best alternative."

Does McAteer have any basketball skills? Well, no, not at all. But he says he did regularly sit just "a few feet away from [Kansas hoop star] Cole Aldrich in the Burge and often held the door for Sherron Collins while exiting the bookstore."

Bottom line? McAteer says that he has concluded that there is "a higher likelihood of me playing in the NBA than finding gainful legal employment." Oooof.

April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Video Message to Stressed-Out Lawyers Living on The Pale Blue Dot

Via this post earlier this week on Futurelawyer comes a great video with a message that should resonate with lawyers and everyone else who needs to put their lives in perspective. The video -- a short film by Carl Sagan -- is called "The Pale Blue Dot," and it provides stunning footage of the earth shot from the Voyager spacecraft as it left our solar system. In short, as shown in the video, our entire planet is essentially a speck of dust floating in the universe.

Futurelawyer observes that "while this view of our tiny planet is sobering, it also reminds us that we are in this together. Why aren't we laughing together, instead of killing each other?" Well said. Stressed-out lawyers, take a look at The Pale Blue Dot video and reconsider whether that "Defendant's Fourth Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Answer Interrogatory Number Three" sitting on your desk is worth the personal fury and angst you are currently attaching to it.

April 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 14, 2010

Guns Confiscated After Hurricane Katrina Still MIA

Of Arms and the Law linked out this morning to this article from Human Events (apparently President Reagan's favorite newspaper) about a New Orleans bar owner who has been trying in vain for a year and a half to get back five guns that were taken from her by U.S. Marshals as she left New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The large scale emergency seizures of weapons resulted in a backlash of state and federal legislative activity seeking to prevent authorities from engaging in similar acts in the future. But for the bar owner, JoAnn Guidos, the issue isn't just hypothetical. Despite claiming to have filed forms and followed all the rules, Guidos says she can't get a straight answer about where her guns are.

Admittedly, her situation is complicated by the fact that one of her employees, who was in possession of one of her guns at the time of the seizure, was a convicted felon. She's about given up on getting her guns back, figuring that hiring a lawyer would cost her more than the value of the weapons. (Maybe she could appeal to this guy for a little pro bono help?) She is ready for next time though:

Guidos said she’s changed a few things since Katrina: “Number one -- I have more guns now. I have all my paperwork in order on my weapons. And I’ll stay inside my building and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to take my guns from me again. I’m not going to let it happen again.

Yup, "cold dead hands" is back in vogue in NOLA. Now how 'bout some beignets? 

April 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Deadly Tiger Attack Not Covered Under Homeowner's Policy

This has all the hallmarks of a "Burning Legal Question," but sorry Bruce, I couldn't wait.

The 10th Circuit released an opinion (PDF) Monday affirming a district court's ruling that a homeowner's insurance policy, issued by Safeco Insurance Company of America, did not cover damages assessed in a wrongful death case against the insureds as a result of their 700-lb. Siberian Tiger mauling a 17-year-old Kansas girl who was posing with said tiger as part of a photo shoot for her high school yearbook. 

Go ahead, go back and read it again. It still says the same thing. Hello, Montecore much?

There was no "large wild animal" exclusion in the policy, but rather a ho-hum carve-out for any liability arising out of "business pursuits." The courts did not buy the homeowners' argument that Animal Entertainment Productions, the venture the homeowners used to make some money by renting out their "tigers, bears, lions, cougars, monkeys, and alligators" for various purposes, had wound down and the home zoo was, at the time of the attack, "more akin to a hobby." Just because the business was not profitable didn't make it any less a business.

The moral of the story here: Make sure to purchase Tiger Insurance.

April 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anonymous Blog Comments and Comment Spam: Open Thread on Best Practices

The New York Times ran an interesting article Monday about how certain news Web sites and blogs have begun moving away from the once-standard practice of allowing anonymous posting of comments on articles. In the story, the Times mentions the recent hubbub surrounding Cleveland judge Shirley Strickland Saffold, whose e-mail address was used to register a commenter named "Lawmiss" on the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Web site. Lawmiss proceeded to make some inflammatory (and likely unethical, if, in fact, Lawmiss is found to be Judge Saffold herself) comments on articles about cases before her.

The Plain Dealer outed Saffold -- on the front page -- after the editors were spurred to look further into the identity of the commenter because the commenter had said some not-so-nice things about a reporter's relative. Now Saffold and her daughter, who has stepped up to the plate to claim responsibility for the comments, are suing the paper (PDF) for $50 million for, inter alia, violating the site's privacy policy. And the judge has also subpoenaed the paper's editor and the reporter who wrote the article to testify at a hearing about whether the judge now needs to recuse herself. Defense lawyers aren't waiting around for her to decide.

In the wake of the Saffold fiasco, the Plain Dealer has committed to go more anonymous with its commenting policy, doing away with the ability to trace comments back to an e-mail address. But according to the Times article, certain news sites are heading the opposite direction. Even if not banning anonymous comments outright, they are coming up with creative ways to downplay them.

The comments policies at legal blogs, of course, run the gamut. Above the Law recently announced a new system requiring unique commenter IDs, though there still sure seem to be a lot of comments posted by "Guest." The WSJ Law Blog lets you call yourself whatever you'd like, and doesn't require an associated e-mail address. We at LBW require you to provide an e-mail address, though we do not publish it with your comment (and also promise not to splash it across the front page of the Plain Dealer).

One issue that clearly colors how blogs wish to structure their comment policies is that of "comment spam." Scott Greenfield over at Simple Justice has been one of the leading crusaders of the blogosphere against comment spam, and has spent countless hours reviewing individual comments on his blog (and he gets quite a few) to frustrate the goals of the spammers. We get the occasional "advanced spam" comment (I had started to write "intelligent spam," but that is way too kind) as well (for example, here, on Monday's Blawg Review post) and, frankly, struggle with where to draw the "unpublish" line.

So, readers, all this background was just a long-winded way of opening up the debate: Is anonymous commenting vital to the Internet's functioning as it should? If you don't have the time or resources to review every comment before publishing it on your blog, is there a solution short of banning comments altogether?

April 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (36)

April 13, 2010

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a high school student at my first job fair. Quick question: Is it normal for police to use their stun gun on 30 students at the job fair if the kids volunteer to see "what it feels like?"

Answer: Not normal! (AP, Stunning: Cop Tasers 30 Students at Job Fair)

2) Question: I keep reading legal blogs, but still haven't found guidance on what I'm really concerned with: What do I do if I'm the the person who makes first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials?

Answer: Your wait is over. (The Volokh Conspiracy, Good Tips in Case You Find Yourself Being the Person Who Makes First Contact With Intelligent Extraterrestrials)

Hartford-crash 3) Question: I'm supposed to be navigating this nuclear submarine, but at the same time I really need to study for my exam and I also feel like cranking some tunes on my iPod. I can pull this off, right?

Answer: Maybe. But if you can't, you might crash into a ship and cause £60 million in damage. Maybe navigate now, study later? (The Sun, iPranged a Submarine)

April 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tennessee Court and Police Share Motorists' Bizarre Excuses for Speeding

Speeding What does it take to get yourself out of a speeding ticket in Murfreesboro, Tenn.? Unlike in San Antonio, where all it apparently takes is a credit card and access to the Web site texasticketfix.com (via Bob Ambrogi's LawSites), you're going to need a darn good excuse.

General Sessions Court Judge David Loughry told the Murfreesboro Post that the one reason he’ll accept in court is a "medical emergency when the driver or a close family member is critically ill," but that doesn't stop people from offering all kinds of bizarre excuses. From a recent article in the Post (via Legal Juice), here are some of the more bizarre excuses collected by Judge Loughry and local law enforcement officers, and their outcomes:

  • From a woman stopped for speeding: “My colon has fallen in my vaginal canal.” The officer wrote her a ticket anyway, assuming she could bring medical proof from her OB/GYN to court if she wanted to contest the ticket. The woman paid the ticket without a hearing.
  • From a man stopped for speeding: "I was going so fast is because I couldn’t see the speedometer. Sir, I had my head so far up my butt there’s no way I could possibly see how fast I was going.” The officer rewarded the "most original excuse I’ve heard in my 10 years as a traffic officer” with a warning and no ticket.
  • Discussion with a man stopped for driving more than 100 mph on the highway:

    Man: "I was trying to get my window to defog because I couldn’t see.
    "Officer: "You’re going 100 mph because you couldn’t see?”
    Man: “Right.”

    Result? Ticket.
  • Discussion with a man stopped for speeding:   
     
    Man:" My colonoscopy bag is leaking.”     
    Officer: “Prove it.”
    Man: [Proves it].
    Officer: "Have a nice night.

Read the full Top 10 here.

April 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

 
 
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