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February 28, 2011

Judge Carton Rules: All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Bar Law

Welcome back to Judge Carton Rules, where a fake judge issues rulings to spare the parties to cases in which the outcomes are obvious the time and expense of further litigation. There is just one case on today's docket. We'll hear now from counsel for the the plaintiff:

Plaintiff's Counsel: The restaurant offered "all you can eat sushi for $28," and my client accepted. My client is diabetic, however, and cannot eat rice, so he just ate the seafood off the top and left the rice. But then the owner of the restaurant told my client that if he wanted the all-you-can-eat price, he'd have to eat the rice too and not just fill up on fish. He insisted that sushi includes rice, and that "sashimi" is just fish. But we say "NO! We will not eat your rice!" And my client wants at least $4,000 in damages for the "humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish" he suffered after being discriminated against "on the basis of his disability" (diabetes).

Judge Carton: Thank you, we will now hear from defense counsel.

Defense counsel: Your honor, the rice is clearly part of the all-you-can-eat sushi. My client would go broke if people ate as much fish as they wanted for $28.

Judge Carton: OK, I've heard enough. I rule that the restaurant cannot make a person eat rice if they do not want to eat it any more than an all-you-can-eat prime rib restaurant can make me eat a basket of bread before I start on the meat. I rule that the plaintiff gets a coupon for one all-you-can-eat meal of fish only at defendant's sushi bar for the originally offered price of $28. And I rule that defendant must change his sign to state the price of a fish-only all-you-can-eat meal. I award plaintiff zero dollars in damages.

February 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

February 27, 2011

'The Write Report' Helps Fictional Characters Realistically Navigate the Law

Via the PrawfsBlawg I came across an interesting blog called The Write Report. On The Write Report, Donna Ballman, author of The Writer's Guide to the Courtroom: Let's Quill All the Lawyers, analyzes law as it is portrayed on television and responds to writers' questions about how they can accurately have their fictional characters navigate the civil justice system.

For example, a person named J Katrin asked how a character with amnesia might realistically be able to obtain gainful employment in the real world:

If a character cannot remember who she is, and authorities are for whatever reason unable to discover her identity, what options are there for obtaining gainful employment, etc.? Without a birth certificate, you can't be issued an SSN, so what can you do if you don't have someone to take care of you and aren't considered dangerous enough to house in a prison or psych ward?

Ballman conducted some research and responded that J Katrin's plotline did have a potential solution:

In these days of Homeland Security, immigration concerns, and crackdowns on employers hiring undocumented workers, your character with amnesia will have a tough time. Their best bet will be to hire a lawyer to try to get a court order to issue a new Social Security card. Otherwise, they’ll have no driver’s license, passport, work permit, entitlement to government benefits – nothing.

The Write Report includes a number of other interesting posts for writers interested in touching on legal topics, including "Who Might Your Murderer Character Want to Kill Off (Besides Lawyers)? Six People Who May Just Need to be Murdered" (sorry, legal secretaries, but you are No. 1 on this Hit List).

February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 25, 2011

Lawyers Take Charge in Libya's Second-Largest City

The BBC reports that, even as demonstrations continue in Tripoli, the eastern city of Benghazi -- the birthplace of the unrest in Libya -- is now firmly in protesters' control and is being run by a committee made up partly of judges and lawyers.

"Led by a female lawyer who has barely slept all week, the committee has moved with remarkable speed," writes The Washington Post's Leila Fadel. "It has organized street cleaning, traffic control and a program to consolidate the city's weaponry. The group has also created a security force ... "

The New York Times' Kareem Fahim writes that "lawyers, prosecutors, judges and average citizens who oppose the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are adjusting to unfamiliar roles: they are keepers both of an evolving rebellion, as well as law and order in Libya's second largest city."

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet Friday to consider a draft British-French resolution calling for sanctions and an arms embargo against Libya, according to Agence-France Press. Western diplomats are hoping that the resolution will come up for a vote by next week, according to Reuters.

And in a somewhat bizarre twist, a source tells The Huffington Post that the Libyan government is trying to sway people by sending a text message to every phone in the country, informing recipients that all government workers will be getting a 150 percent pay raise. A little something to defray hospital and funeral costs, maybe?

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 23, 2011

Can Lawyers Sell Their Services on Groupon?

Groupon By now you've probably heard of or even used Groupon, a "daily deal"-type website that uses the power of collective buying over the Internet to provide purchasers with discounts. Launched just over two years ago, Groupon has exploded in popularity to the point that it recently received (and rejected!) a reported $6 billion buyout offer from Google.

On Friday, the Lawyerist blog pondered an interesting question: Can lawyers advertise and sell legal services on Groupon without violating ethics rules? One of the key rules involved in this discussion is  Rule 5.4(a) of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides that “a lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer.” As Lawyerist notes, Groupon splits the proceeds of the deal offered with the seller, a practice that would appear to run afoul of Rule 5.4(a).

However, the purpose of this rule is to "protect the lawyer's professional independence of judgment." Lawyerist argues that, as Groupon's share of the fee is strictly for its advertisement services, "no harm has come to the lawyer’s independence in practice." Based on this rule, North Carolina has already rejected the use of Groupon by lawyers. Missouri, on the other hand, has "clear[ed] the way for lawyers in the state to use the site as a way to obtain new clients," Lawyerist reports.

There are other issues associated with lawyers' use of Groupon for their services, including whether it is "professional" enough. As Thomas Druan of Druan IP Law told Lawyerist, "there might be a sense of being a 'McLawyer' if you advertise your legal services on Groupon." Seeing how we've already gotten to the point in the legal profession where we have law firms with drive-through windows, I doubt that this risk will deter all lawyers from trying out Groupon.

February 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Please Don't Tweet and Drive

Back on Aug. 16, 2010, I innocently stated:

Ever since I got Twitter installed on my BlackBerry, it has occurred to me that we cannot be far away from a time when we will regularly be reading articles with headlines such as "Six Car Pileup Results After Man Checks TwitterFon on Beltway" or "Local Woman Walks Into Manhole While Posting TwitPic."

And yet, to date, I have not seen any car crashes, boat wrecks, slip-and-falls or any of the other things I expected directly attributed to Twitter. Are they out there? Are there other types of cases out there where damages, injuries or even crimes are being connected back to people using Twitter?

I'm not trying to get all "Nostradamus" on you, but I think we can now all agree that Aug. 16 marked the end of a simpler age, when humans did not bring great harm to themselves and others because they were trying to provide updates about their "status" to other humans who probably didn't give a hoot anyway.

As I mentioned here, the very next day (Aug. 17, 2010), a well-known plastic surgeon named Frank Ryan was killed when he accidentally drove his car over a cliff while sending a Twitter message about his border collie, Jill.

This was followed by the woman who, while texting a friend, walked directly into the concrete surround of a fountain and fell headfirst, fully clothed, into the water.

And last week brought the sad news of a woman who has been sued in a wrongful-death lawsuit for allegedly fatally striking a pedestrian while updating her Facebook page on her cell phone.

There are, no doubt, many more stories like this. The last six months have surely proven that humans are not always capable of tweeting, Facebooking or texting while driving, and sometimes even while walking.

Please be careful and put down the Twitter while driving!

February 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 22, 2011

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 work as a security guard for the grocery store. This couple has been stealing massive quantities of merchandise from our various store locations in town for years. Now my boss wants me to place a tracking device on the couple's van the next time they come here so we can track their whereabouts! Can I do this? Did I mention that I work for a grocery store?!

Answer: It has been done before, although that does not necessarily mean it is legal. Maybe you could call in sick on "tracking device planting day?" (, Couple shoplifted $5 million from Portland Safeway stores, police say)

2) Question: My friend keeps saying he "foreclosed on Wells Fargo." Isn't the proper terminology that "Wells Fargo foreclosed on him?"

Answer: It depends. Sometimes if you get a $1,000 default judgment against Wells Fargo because it doesn't answer your questions in a lawsuit, and the bank neglects to pay the judgment, then you can get the sheriff to schedule a sale of the contents of a local Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office to satisfy the judgment. So maybe your friend is correct, after all. (Philadelphia Inquirer, Phila. homeowner wins judgment against Wells Fargo over mortgage fees) (via Consumerist)

3) Question: My friend just sent me a text message calling me a "nutter," i.e., a crazy person. That is the last straw, I am going to go to his house and beat him to a pulp!

Answer: Wait!!! Sometimes the text message's auto-correct function changes the word "mutter" (a mama's boy) to "nutter."  Can you seek a clarification pre-fight? (CNET, Auto-corrected text leads to killing)

February 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Arrow Principle: Trademark Protection for Fictitious Brands

Can I start a newspaper called The Daily Planet?

Can a new beer company start selling a beer called "Duff?" (click here -- and you should also probably start watching "The Simpsons" -- if you aren't familiar with Duff beer).

Can someone roll out a new eyewear device called the "Opti-Grab?"

These questions and more are addressed in a new law review article entitled "Real-Life Protection for Fictional Trademarks" (via Entertainment & Media Law Signal) by Benjamin Arrow, a student at Fordham University School of Law. In short, Arrow argues that following the logic of two court decisions -- one in the United States and one in Australia -- taking any of the actions above would constitute a trademark injury to the fictional brands.

Arrow looks at some of the difficulties of applying trademark law to fictional brands, such as the tricky issue of whether a fictional brand is really being used in commerce. Using the Duff beer example, he says that

While Duff Beer is itself a brand name (albeit a fictional one) Duff would have had to have used the mark in commerce to reserve rights in the mark. That being so, the court would have to find that Fox and [Simpsons creator Matt] Groening’s use of “Duff” within the fictional world of Springfield is sufficient to establish priority in the mark such that another’s use of that mark would constitute trademark infringement.

Ultimately, Arrow suggests a legal framework for such disputes that "borrows analytical principles from copyright to determine what a use in commerce sufficient to reserve priority in a mark might look like for a fictional trademark, and to determine if a fictional trademark has been infringed."

As Mr. Arrow is a 3L in law school and appears to be the first one to have thought this through, I hereby declare this new approach in fictional trademark cases to be known as The Arrow Principle.

February 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 21, 2011

Judges, Lawyers Join Protests in Libya

Members of Libya's legal community have joined the demonstrations in Tripoli. A witness told The Associated Press on Monday that security forces have surrounded a courthouse where about 200 lawyers and judges have been staging a sit-in to protest against repression.

CNN reports that Libya's justice minister has resigned in protest of the "bloody situation" and the excessive force being used against demonstrators, according to Libya's Quryna newspaper, which has been pro-government but has begun to cover the country's unrest in detail. Also Monday, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations called on Moammar Gadhafi to step down, and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the "crimes against humanity committed by Gadhafi against the Libyan people," according to The Associated Press.

Amid multiple reports that Libya has begun using military planes to attack demonstrators, Malta's government officials said Monday that two Libyan Air Force pilots have defected and flown to Malta after reportedly being ordered to bomb protesters.

Also Monday, a Libyan lawyer told Reuters that members of an elite army unit known as "The Thunderbolt" had "joined the people's revolt" and overtaken an opposing force belonging to the separate Republican, or Praetorian, Guard.

And according to the Financial Times and other news media, protesters in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, say they have taken control of that city now that an army unit there has helped them overcome pro-Gadhafi security forces. (The Financial Times and other media also caution that it is difficult or impossible to verify some reports out of Libya, given that foreign journalists are typically barred from entering the country, and Libyan authorities have interrupted phone and Internet access since the start of the unrest.)

The Wall Street Journal notes that the current protests in Libya began outside Benghazi's courthouse on Feb. 15, after security forces arrested a human-rights lawyer and two relatives of people who were among the estimated 1,200 prisoners killed in a 1996 uprising that has become known as the "Abu Salim massacre." A number of the detainees in Tripoli's Abu Salim Prison had been arrested during a squelched student uprising, and many of the prisoners at that facility came from Benghazi.

Activists say the slain prisoners' relatives were at the Benghazi courthouse last week to demand government compensation for the Abu Salim killings.

As of Monday, Human Rights Watch and others were estimating that more than 200 people have died in the Libyan unrest.

For more information on the situation in Libya and the Middle East, see:

-- live updates from The Guardian's news blog

-- live blogging from al-Jazeera English

-- an interactive map of tweets on Middle East protests, from The Guardian's network of journalists, bloggers and experts

-- a photostream from a Libyan blogger, posted by the Los Angeles Times

-- Human Rights Watch report on the killing of detainees at Libya's Abu Salim prison in 1996

-- county-by-country roundup of the unrest in the Mideast and North Africa, compiled by CNN

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 20, 2011

Could This Be the 'Rite' Way to Win a Case?

Did you catch last week's New York Times report on the variety of superstitions and rituals that some top lawyers follow in the belief that they could help secure a case win (or, put a different way, prevent a loss)?

Some attorneys stick to the same food for lunch every day throughout the entire length of a trial, while another puts off getting his hair cut until trial's end. A lawyer who tries to insert the name of his dog (Watson) into summations told the Times' Benjamin Weiser: "The trial gods are very powerful. You respect them. You make little offerings."

Weiser notes that the rituals often stem from something attorneys did during a prior case that ended successfully for them.

For some attorneys, a recurring superstition involves wearing a particular item of clothing during a trial (a "lucky suit" -- no pun intended).

The rituals go all the way up to Supreme Court cases. The National Law Journal's Tony Mauro noted a few years ago the example of an attorney who makes a point of wearing a tie given to him as a memento eight years previously by the widow of a partner who used to wear it when he argued. Said the attorney: "I always wear that tie when I have an argument at the Court, even though it is getting a bit frayed."

Any Legal Blog Watch readers have some favorite rituals that they adhere to during cases? Call it superstitious or anti-scientific, but if following a certain pattern helps make an attorney more confident or at ease during a case, one can see how the habit could fall under the heading of "can't hurt, might help."

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

'Ignite Law' Set for Return Appearance at ABA TechShow

[non]billable hour blogger Matthew Homann of LexThink has announced that Ignite Law 2 is coming to the next ABA TechShow, being held April 11-13 in Chicago.

An Ignite event is typically an evening of mini-lectures, with presenters each being allotted five minutes and 20 PowerPoint slides to share their passions. Presenters' slides automatically advance every 15 seconds, making for a fast-paced night of topics.

In a nod to familiar time and billing increments, Ignite stretches the time limits slightly for Ignite Law, allowing each presenter 18 seconds per slide, for a total of six minutes.

The first Ignite Law event [video] was held at last year's ABA Tech Show and featured such well-known members of the legal community as [click for additional video links] Ari KaplanCarolyn Elefant and Niki Black.

Ignite was started by Brady Forrest of O'Reilly Media and Bre Pettis of, with the first such event occurring in Seattle in 2006. The events have grown to the point that the recent Global Ignite Week featured more than 50 Ignite events on six continents.

I've personally been involved with Ignite Phoenix since 2009, when I had the honor of presenting on "Frosting the Law" [video].

Judging from last year's presentations, the Ignite Law sssions at this year's ABA TechShow are not to be missed!

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2011

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: How many Fannie Mae lawyers does it take to ask a question at a deposition?

Answer: More than 13. (South Florida Lawyers, Akerman Thanks Litigation Gods for Chinese Drywall!)

2) Question: I am a gay man. Given the current state of the law, how am I supposed to accurately indicate my relationship status on Facebook? "Married?" "It's complicated?"

Answer: New choices are on the way! (Huffington Post,  Facebook Adds 'Civil Union,' 'Domestic Partnership' To Relationship Status Options)

3) Question: I just went on my Gramma's cooking website to get her pea soup recipe. Why does Gramma's homepage now redirect me to a Department of Homeland Security page that says, "Website seized for trafficking in child pornography?"

Answer: Sometimes when the feds try to seize 10 domain names allegedly involved in distributing child pornography they accidentally take down 84,000 other innocent domains as you just saw. It happens. Sorry, Gramma! (Techland, "Operation Protect Our Children" Accidentally Shutters 84,000 Sites) (via Simple Justice)

February 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sticking It to the Law Students

Last week, Above the Law and The Stanford Daily announced that Stanford law students would face a 5.75 percent tuition hike for the 2011-2012 academic year, a significantly higher increase than the 3.5 percent increase that the rest of Stanford's student body is facing.

Stanford Law's dean, Larry Kramer, tried to cushion the blow by saying in a follow-up e-mail to students, "We kept our tuition raises lower than our peers for a number of years prior to the economic collapse in 2008." Uh, Dean -- which peers are you referring to?

Dean Kramer went on to write, "Even with this rise, tuition at SLS should still be the lowest or, at worst, roughly tied for the lowest among top law schools ..."

Why do administrators say things like this in an attempt to make students feel better about paying extra money? I don't care what other schools are charging. I care what my school is charging. It's like going to a Toyota dealership and being told I shouldn't balk at the price of the car I want because the Ford across the street -- the car that I don't want -- costs more than the car I do want.

Noting that most Stanford Law students didn't learn of their tuition increase until they read about it on Above the Law or in The Stanford Daily, ATL's Elie Mystal wrote, "In the future, Stanford should probably have some kind of official media plan for explaining why the law school has been singled out for a special screwing."

And I would add that they should share it with other law schools that are also screwing law students with unexpected tuition increases.

At my school, Arizona State University, law students pay both graduate school and law school tuition. I looked back at my financial records and saw that for my first semester of law school, graduate school tuition was $3,395 and law school tuition was $4,625 (total: $8,020). For my last semester of law school, I paid $4,254 for graduate school tuition and $6,375 for law school tuition (total: $10,629). That's about a 33 percent increase since I started, and Dean Paul Schiff Berman has already announced that the law school tuition is going up by $1,500 next year and has the audacity to claim that this isn't a large-scale increase. This is on top of the expected increase in graduate school tuition. Thank god I'm graduating. As for after graduation, well, as one Stanford law student reportedly told Above the Law, "If SLS acts like a for-profit corporation and thinks they should charge as much as the market can bear, they shouldn't ask for donations from us once we graduate."

Amen to that!

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

February 17, 2011

Legal Commentators Speak Out on Justice Thomas' Silence

In the wake of a New York Times article pointing out that five years have elapsed since the last time Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at a high court oral argument, legal observers have been weighing in on the significance of this lengthy silence.

Adam Chandler at SCOTUSblog presents a good roundup of links to commentaries on the latest controversies surrounding Justice Thomas.

Also, the Times is following up on its Feb. 12 article with the latest in its "Room for Debate" discussions, this one on whether a Supreme Court justice can effectively perform his duties without participating in oral argument.

Participants in the discussion include Volokh Conspiracy contributor Orin Kerr, Columbia law professor Jamal Greene and political scientist Timothy R. Johnson.

And for additional analysis of Justice Thomas and his silence at oral arguments, be sure to check out an excellent piece from last year by The National Law Journal's Tony Mauro: Does Thomas' silence thwart advocacy?

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Contemplating a Trial Decided by 'the Six People Ahead of You in Line at WalMart'

The South Florida Lawyers blog offered an interesting observation this week about jury trials. SFL notes that lawyers who bluster that they are eager to try their complex case before a jury are actually saying that "they will be asking the guy in a tank top at Target to decide a complex question of securities law involving several hundred million dollars." Or, as SFL sums it up in the title of the post, "Your $400 Million Case Will Be Decided By the Six People Ahead of You in Line at WalMart."

SFL's post followed an article in the Sun Sentinel reporting that judges in South Florida are not pleased with the clothing that defendants and others are wearing to court. Recently, a woman in Fort Lauderdale appeared in court wearing curlers, bedroom slippers and a shower cap. Some defendants who are dressed in violation of the Broward County courthouse's "No tank tops" policy reportedly have been sent across the street to Target to buy a shirt. Broward County Judge Sharon Zeller says that as a "matter of decorum," she will not hear a case if she can see a defendant's underwear due to overly baggy pants.

SFL writes that lawyers tend to believe that they have the ability to persuade the world -- their employees, staff or even juries -- to do what they want. As perhaps indicated by the attire of the people streaming through courthouses these days, SFL concludes, lawyers need to remember that in a jury trial they are "talking to six guys or gals in tank tops or bedroom slippers who don't give a hail who you are."

Read the full SFL post and check out the great photos of your potential jurors standing in line at Walmart here.


February 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Everytime I come to the Texas Capitol in Austin I'm forced to wait in this brutally long security line. Is there any way around this?

Answer: Of course. Concealed handgun license holders can zip on in to the building via the expedited "CHL access." (TPMMuckraker, Concealed-Carry License Gets You Fast-Track Access To Texas Capitol)

2) Question: The State Bar just imposed an order on me that I terminate my representation of all female clients and not interact with any woman as a client or prospective client. Can they do this? That's half the population!

Answer: Looks that way! (Legal Profession Blog, For Men Only)

3) Question: I'm a beauty queen for my city. I'm 5’8, weigh 129 pounds, and wear a size 2. Do city pageant officals have the right to order me to begin an exercise program and to “get off the tacos, get off the chips and the soda” in advance of the state pageant?

Answer: You'll need to check your contract with the pageant to see the extent to which they can limit your taco intake. (Turley, Taco Belle? San Antonio Beauty Queen Sues Over Effort To Strip Her of Crown)

February 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Conference Call Bingo' Turns Your Pain Into a Game

Via the Inter-Alia blog I came across a new way to deal with even the most painful of conference calls: Conference Call Bingo! There is probably nobody out there who has not had to deal with the pitfalls of the modern-day conference call: crying babies or dogs barking on the line of the person working from home; the dude calling in from his cell phone with bad reception; the lady dialing in from the airport with flight announcements on the P.A. system interrupting every 30 seconds; the loud talker; the soft talker; the foreign accent-talker you cannot understand; the two people who keep talking over each other; the business-speak cliches you must endure ("at the end of the day"); and so on.

With Conference Call Bingo, however, you can turn these landmines into a game, and perhaps preserve some of your sanity in the process. See if you can string together five-in-a-row to get Bingo on your next conference call, and even share your score on Facebook. Click on the image below to see the full-size Conference Call Bingo game.


February 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Legal Food Fight Over 'Footlong' Sandwiches Back on the Menu

Remember last year when Subway began sending cease-and-desist letters to other sandwich sellers, telling them to stop offering items with the description "footlong"?

Now, an Iowa business, Casey's General Stores, is dishing out some legal action of its own. As the Des Moines Register reports, Casey's on Friday filed a petition in U.S. District Court, asking for a jury trial and seeking a declaration that the term "footlong" is generic and does not violate any trademark owned by Subway.

Casey's also seeks unspecified damages for what it calls "frivolous" claims by Subway.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Coming Next: Homeowner-Supplied Hand Lotion for Burglars

Shades of the "nanny state!"

The Volokh Conspiracy notes that English police have ordered homeowners to remove wire mesh from their shed windows, because burglars could be injured by the DIY crime-busting handiwork.

According to a British newspaper, some residents of Surrey and Kent had installed the mesh after a crime spree but were subsequently told by local police that the wire was "dangerous" and could result in criminals claiming compensation if they "hurt themselves."

Writes Eugene Volokh, "It's not clear whether indeed the police ordered residents to remove the wire mesh -- in the sense of threatening them with arrest or prosecution if they failed to comply -- or just advised residents about the possible risk of tort liability. But in any case, something appalling is going on, either in English tort law, or in English police practices, or both."

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 11, 2011

Saving Souls One (1) Lawyer at a Time

Over at The Appellate Record blog, Kendall Gray is on a mission to save at least one soul from the "purgatory of legalism." He is doing so by pointing out the inane practice, which still continues in many law offices (you know who you are), of writing legal memos or letters as if you were writing a check. Like this:

Five (5) days ago, or maybe it was six (6), I got one (1) e-mail from a blog reader and appellate-lawyer-colleague.

Gray says this kind of writing makes his "head explode." Amen to that! He explains that writing to make something appear more "legal," like when people insist on additionally placing numbers within parentheses, falls within the "class of edits that make a brief objectively worse than it was before" and has the effect of:

1. (one) interfering with the narrative;
2. (two) obscuring the argument;
3. (three) annoying the reader; and
4. (four) generally just sounding dumb.

Gray adds that human beings don't need this kind of help in reading a document. Neither do lawyers, for that matter. If Legal Blog Watch can help Gray save even one (1) lawyer from perpetuating this practice, it will have been a good day!

February 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Hooray! The substitute teacher in my 7th grade math class just told us we get to watch a movie today! Wait, what did that cowboy in the movie mean when he told the other cowboy, "I wish I knew how to quit you." Hey! What are those cowboys doing together in that tent? Mommy!!! Can I recover for my “severe emotional distress” from seeing this movie?

Answer: Nope. (OnPoint News, Student Loses 'Brokeback Mountain' Sex Scene Case)

2) Question: Look, I'm the first to admit that I did not deliver all of the cows that I owed to my bride's father for the dowry. I'm sorry! But does that mean our marriage is invalid?

Answer: If you paid for some of the cows, it looks like your marriage will remain valid. (The Volokh Conspiracy, The Legal Implications of the “[Non-]Payment of the Remaining Cows Owed the Bride’s Father”)

3) Question: I work the metal detector at the jail. I have told these women lawyers in no uncertain terms to remove their underwire bras before going through the machine, and they are refusing to do so! Outrageous! Should I just tell them that the bras come off or they won't be getting in to see their clients today?

Answer: This may be a mix-up on your part. This happened in Prince George's County, Md. and it turned out there was no such "bras off" policy. The Department of Corrections said it was a "training issue.” (ABA Journal, Jail Officer Who Ordered Defense Lawyers to Remove Bras Had a ‘Training Issue’)

February 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

NYU Professor Gives New Meaning to Phrase 'Removing Posts'

Usually when I write about people "removing posts," I'm referring to people unpublishing blog posts they've thought better of for one reason or another. But that's not the case when referring to NYU professor Wafaa Bilal, who last year implanted in the back of his head a camera that takes photos every 60 seconds for an art project. After this action caused a bit of a dust-up over his students' privacy rights, Bilal agreed to wear a lens cap on the camera when he is on campus.

Bilal In Bilal's case, "removing posts" actually refers to the surgical removal last week of one of the three posts resting on a titanium base implanted on Bilal’s skull to hold the camera. It turns out that Bilal's skull does not completely agree with this art project and has rejected one of the posts. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, that post was removed, leaving two posts intact, but the loss of Post 3 has Bilal scrambling to find a new way to mount the camera to his skull. For now, he has reportedly resorted to tying the camera to the back of his neck.

Why not simply continue wearing the camera? Bilal told the Chronicle, "It’s a performance. With the performance comes endurance. But also it’s a commitment. And I didn’t feel that strapping something around my neck would be the same way I’m committed to the project as mounting it to the top of my head.”

February 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Caffeine Overconsumption Grounds for a Murder Defense?

According to the St. Petersburg Times, a psychiatrist who evaluated a murder suspect has concluded that a combination of lack of sleep and the consumption of an energy drink led Stephen Coffeen to kill his father in 2009.

During questioning by a prosecutor, the psychiatrist said that Coffeen had a sleep deprivation-induced psychosis, which was "accelerated by his use of Red Bull."

According to the same newspaper report, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has said it's leaning toward accepting an insanity defense, based on doctors' conclusions and other circumstances surrounding the killing.

However, it's unclear whether prosecutors have swallowed an actual Red Bull connection. Coffeen's brother says of any such argument: "It's crap. I don't think the man even drank Red Bull." 

Still, skepticism aside, this isn't the first time a possible caffeine/exhaustion defense has come up in one case or another. The Associated Press reported last year that a Washington motorist claiming caffeine intoxication was cleared in 2009 of charges of running down two people.

As for Coffeen, a hearing is set in his case for Feb. 17.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Lesson No. 1: If You Get Disbarred, Stop Practicing Law

Timothy Eddy was a practicing attorney in Illinois until he was disbarred in 2002 on charges of embezzling from a debt collection service.

However, according to prosecutors, for the next eight years Eddy continued practicing law under the name of another attorney -- someone Eddy had worked with at the collection service. 

Eddy was ultimately arrested on felony charges of practicing law under a false name, and subsequently pleaded guilty to impersonating an attorney in two counties. This week, as UPI reports, he received a three-year sentence in each case.

The moral of this story is: When you get disbarred, find a new profession! If you were smart enough to pass the bar, you're smart enough to start a new career.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2011

Air Let Out of Koons' Balloon Dog Lawsuit

Jeff Koons -- one of the pop world's most successful artists, known for such work as inflatable bunnies and ceramic replicas of singer Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles -- last week dropped his lawsuit against a Toronto company that makes bookends in the shape of balloon dogs and Park Life, a San Francisco business that sells the items.

Koons had initially smacked both businesses with a cease-and-desist order, claiming that the bookends infringed on his intellectual property -- namely, the 10-foot-tall "Balloon Dog" sculptures that he has constructed for leading museums and the 10-inch replicas that fetch up to $12,500 on eBay. (By comparison, the Toronto-made bookends retail for about $55 at Park Life.)

As it happens, Koons' lawsuit did not perform well in the court of public opinion. Bloggers and columnists poked fun at his claims, and entertainers with experience in balloon-bending quickly offered to appear as expert witnesses in court. "Clowns all over America don't understand why Koons believes he was the first artist to turn the balloon dog into art," Funny Bone (aka Mike Ianneo) told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Every clown knows, for the last 40 years, the balloon dog has been always considered art."

By contrast, the legal response by Park Life (represented pro bono by Fenwick & West partner Jedediah Wakefield) had some admirers practically sitting up and begging for more (Example: "6 Hilarious Zingers From the Balloon-Dog Freedom Suit Filed Against Jeff Koons," from

Under the terms of the settlement with Koons, Park Life can continue selling its bookends, business co-owner Jamie Alexander told The Bay Citizen. "The only thing that they wanted [us] to concede is that we couldn't advertise them as being related to Jeff Koons, which we never did."

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

DNA Evidence Revives 1983 Cold Case

Acting on DNA evidence, authorities in Illinois have brought charges in a Chicago murder case dating back more than 25 years.

Joseph Walker, 59, has been charged with the murder of 77-year-old bookstore owner Frieda Fenster. Her body was discovered in December 1983 in the store that her family had owned for more than a century.

Cook County prosecutors say they've matched Walker's DNA to evidence found at the crime scene, according to Chicago Breaking News.

Walker, who is serving a life sentence for a Utah sexual assault, has denied any connection to Fenster's death, saying he would never go into a bookstore. "Me and books never get along," he said.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 09, 2011

In Which I Trick the E*Trade Baby Into Saying the Forbidden Words About Lindsay Lohan

There were obviously a lot of awesome things about the Lindsay Lohan-E*Trade dispute, at least from a Legal Blog Watch perspective:

Now, some details from the confidential settlement have started to leak out and they, too, are pretty amusing. According to Radar, E*TRADE has now created a funny website where you can create your own talking E*Trade baby (you type in the message you want the video baby to say, hit the "Speak" button, and the E*Trade baby then says those words -- good times!), but at least two words in the English language are off limits:"Lindsay" and "Milkaholic."

Radar reports that the ban of these two words is the result of the settlement last year. I tried to make the baby say "Lindsay," of course, and here is what I got back:

Undeterred, I struck a blow for free speech by tricking the baby into saying the forbidden words using the following sentence: "Hi, this is Bruce and I'm here with that milk a haulic Lynn Z." Click here to view my handiwork.


February 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Legal Blog Watch Follow-up Post: Bad News Update

Often after I post about topics here at Legal Blog Watch, related events continue to unfold. Sometimes, like this week with "that Milkaholic Lindsay," these subsequent events are awesome or at least neutral. Other times, however, they bring bad news. Here are some of the bad news updates I've come across in the past day:

1. Remember the lady who tried a yogurt sample at the market, thought it tasted like semen, and submitted it for lab testing? Her tastebuds were correct. D'oh!!!

2. Remember Craig Rowin, the comedian who made the funny, presumably joking video asking for rich people to give him 1 million dollars, who then claimed to have received an actual offer of 1 million dollars from an investment banker? He was lying and it was all a hoax. Tool!

3. Remember when the Romanian legislature outraged the witch population by passing legislation defining witches as legal and taxable "professions?" Well, now they've gone and passed additional legislation that will impose fines or even prison sentences if witches, soothsayers and other fortune-tellers' predictions don't come true. Leave the Romanian witches alone!!

February 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New 'Expo' Provides Resources for the Newly and Soon-to-Be Divorced

Via the idealawg blog I learned about an interesting event coming up this May in Colorado called The Next Chapter Expo: Solutions for Divorce. As further discussed in the Denver Post, the Expo is essentially a big conference geared toward people who are newly (or about-to-be) divorced. For $10, people who find themselves in this boat can gather at the Expo and take advantage of a broad range of resources designed to help them in a difficult time. These include "financial planners, movers, storage facilities, shrinks, dating services, cosmetic surgeons, gyms -- everything a divorced person needs," the Post reports.

The TNCE website promises that attendees will have access to resources concerning

    *   Divorce Counseling
    *   Legal Guidance
    *   Grief Management
    *   Life Management Plan
    *   Financial Recovery Plan
    *   Support Groups

In an interview with Tom Kaufman, the person behind the Expo, Kaufman explained that he observed that nobody had really

put together a venue of businesses and professionals for this niche market. The Expo is a really tangible forum for businesses to reach out and touch this economic hub in a very real way. This will be the first live event where small businesses or solo practitioners with modest marketing budgets can deliver their services to this unique market sector; these businesses offering services to newly, or about-to-be, divorced really haven't had a real cohesive venue to showcase their services.

The May event will be the first such Expo to be held, and will be a one-day event held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum over in Lowry.In short, it seems like a great idea, although I confess that it is making me wonder whether any ne'er–do–wells will pay the $10 with a "Wedding Crashers" angle in mind, i.e., using the Expo as a pick-up joint.

February 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2011

How's That Ad Campaign Doing? -- Search Me!

Ever have one of those weeks when a lot of things you take for granted begin to change on you?

Take last week, for example. Under legislation that came up before San Francisco's Board of Supervisors (pdf), that city -- popularly derided for taking away innocent tykes' fast-food toys and prying plastic bags out of shoppers' cold not-yet-dead hands -- could become the first in the United States to ban the unsolicited distribution of the Yellow Pages.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Rachel Gordon reports that the proposal would bar phone companies and other distributors and publishers of Yellow Pages phone books from leaving the material on doorsteps and in building lobbies without first getting permission to do so. (White pages are exempted from the proposal.)

According to board president David Chiu, who's spearheading the measure, many of the estimated 1.5 million-plus Yellow Pages distributed in the city each year get tossed -- unopened -- in recycling bins (or worse, presumably).

"If we're serious about the environment, it's time we recognize that phone books are a 20th century tool that doesn't meet the business or environmental needs of the 21st century," Chiu says.

However, a trade group for the $13 billion-a-year industry says it would consider a legal challenge if the measure winds up being approved in its current form, which the industry views as an infringement on speech rights.

Meanwhile, Google last week accused Microsoft's Bing search engine of stealing and copying its search results (as Google claims to have discovered through a "sting" operation). Also last week, it was reported that the Internet is running out of IP addresses (not counting, of course, a new form of IP addresses, whose numbers are 340 undecillion long).

So, let's recap the potential scenarios here: The Yellow Pages are headed for the dustbin of history; Microsoft is accused of playing Jennifer Jason Leigh to Google's Bridget Fonda; and the Internet has discovered the end of the world as we know it. Sort of makes you want to invest some of your advertising budget in carrier pigeons.

When was the last time you paid for a Yellow Pages ad, by the way?

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reminder: When Committing a Crime, Don't Call 911 for Legal Advice

Robert Michelson learned the hard way that you shouldn't call 911 for free legal advice on growing marijuana.

After the 21 year-old Connecticut man asked a dispatcher how much trouble growing one plant could bring him, Farmington police quickly tracked the call to his home, where he was arrested for drug possession.

Said one officer, "It's a first."

The actual 911 call can be heard here.

Hat tip: Nutmeg Lawyer

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 07, 2011

Cairo Law Center Raided, Staff Detained

In Sunday interviews published in The Washington Post, some of the approximately 30 members of Cairo's Hisham Mubarak Law Center for Human Rights who were detained last week described their treatment by authorities, who held them at military intelligence headquarters for two nights and three days for interrogation. The center's lawyers have been providing legal assistance to anti-government demonstrators in Egypt.

Arrests like those made at the legal center indicate that the Egyptian regime's tradition of extrajudicial detentions is persisting, according to McClatchy Newspapers' Shashank Bengali. He writes that arbitrary arrests, which are permitted under the official state of emergency that's existed for decades, are among the longest-running complaints that Egyptians have against their government. But in a new twist, Bengali reports that Egyptian soldiers -- rather than police -- are now making some of the arrests.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that two police officers accused of the brutal killing of Khaled Said, the young man whose death sparked the current uprising, have escaped jail and are at large. Lawyers told the Journal that the escape occurred on Jan. 28, when police stations in Alexandria, Egypt, were attacked and set ablaze. The head of the two policemen's defense team said he believed the officers would turn themselves in.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 05, 2011

BigLaw May Roll Out 'Minimum Annual Legal Spend' Requirement for Clients

Legal Week reported Thursday that law firm DLA Piper, which will become the largest in the world following a merger with its Australian partner DLA Phillips Fox, has distributed to partners a 2011-2014 strategic plan that contains an interesting requirement for new clients:

New clients will have to commit to a minimum annual legal spend with the firm, understood to be around €25,000 (£21,000) in the first year of instruction for clients of DLA Piper International where there is no potential conflict and €100,000 (£86,000) for those where there could be a conflict.

The firm’s US arm is thought likely to implement a minimum billing threshold of $200,000 (£126,000) for all new clients.

The minimum spend requirement (or "cover" charge, as Law Shucks describes it) is designed to help reduce the number of situations where the firm is "prevented from taking on large instructions after previously accepting smaller mandates."

I have some questions for you BigLaw attorneys and observers:

  • Is this a novel requirement or is this something that is quietly in place at other firms?
  • If novel, will clients go for this?
  • What is the consequence if a client who commits to spend $200,000 with a law firm fails to do so? Termination? Or termination, but only if there is a more lucrative client waiting in the wings? Or no termination but the client must write a check for the difference (seems unlikely!)?

Please weigh in.

February 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions: Sex Edition

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

1) Question: I told my girlfriend I did not want to have kids right now. She vetoed this by performing oral sex on me, covertly saving the sperm, and then artificially inseminating herself. Do I owe child support?

Answer: Umm, whoa. Looks like yes.  (Turley, Illinois Court Rules Man Can Sue Over Deceptive Use of Sperm By Girlfriend To Impregnate Herself)

2) Question: I'm a woman. Some dude came up to me and offered me money for sex and then grabbed my butt. I'm not a prostitute and I told the guy to get lost, and he was later charged with "two counts of patronizing a prostitute and one count of forcible touching." What part of "I'm not a prostitute" is unclear here?

Answer: In New York, at least, the law uses the word "prostitute" for anyone who is solicited to engage in sexual conduct. Sorry, madam. (North Country Now, North Lawrence man allegedly offers two women money for sex) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I just tried a yogurt sample from this store and I must say it had an odd taste. Kind of like ... like... hmm... like a certain bodily fluid!! What should I do?

Answer: Spit that out! After the police determine what is in it, the sample-giver could well be charged with a battery if it turns out to be, uhhh, you know. (FOX Toledo, Woman claims yogurt sample tasted of semen)

February 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Can We Finally Attend a 'Super Bowl' Party Instead of a 'Big Game' Party?

Most football fans or even just regular shoppers have probably noticed around this time each year that Super Bowl-themed sales (for TVs, pizzas, chips, whatever) are quite common. But most of the time, ads for these sales cryptically refer to the event in question as the "Big Game" or something other than what everyone knows it is. 

Why? As discussed in this post by Ken Basin on LawLawLand, the phrase “Super Bowl” is trademarked by the NFL. The NFL allows its advertisers and partners to use the phrase in their marketing, but is "famously protective" when others try to use it, Basin writes. Basin argues that the NFL's legal position is flawed, however, and that your local church or bar should be allowed to host a "Super Bowl party" if it wants to under the “nominative fair use” doctrine.

In short, Basin writes, 

Courts recognize that it’s virtually impossible to refer to particular products or services without using protected trademarks — how can I review the new Apple iPad without using the words “Apple” or “iPad”? That’s why the law allows the public to freely use a protected trademark nominatively, i.e., to describe the product or service underlying the mark, often in the only way that makes any sense. We lawyers call this idea the "nominative fair use" doctrine.

He adds that a former Playboy Playmate was able to win a lawsuit brought against her by Playboy for referring to herself as a former Playboy Playmate of the Year because "she was a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, and the law didn’t require her to refer to herself as “the Erstwhile Most Prominent Model for a Certain Well-Known Men’s Publication Featuring Highly Airbrushed Disrobed Ladies.”

So enjoy the Big Game that will determine the championship of the NFL!

February 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2011

Super Bowl Spurs Sex Trade: Myth or Reality?

According to a rash of recent news reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers aren't the only ones going to Texas in pursuit of high-paying, potentially dangerous physical activity this Sunday.

Some reports, quoting local police, state law enforcement officials and local women's organizations and religious groups, predict that the Dallas-Fort Worth area will be awash in prostitutes and their would-be clients during the run-up to Super Bowl Sunday. Some advocacy groups express particular concern that many of the sex workers at such high-profile sporting events are underage and are brought in against their will. At a January meeting, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Super Bowl "one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States."

But not everybody is convinced. Pete Kotz, in a piece published in The Dallas Observer, notes that a local police sergeant's prediction of between 50,000 and 100,000 prostitutes possibly descending on the region for the Super Bowl would mean that "every man, woman and child holding a ticket would have their own personal hooker, from the vice presidential wing of FedEx to Little Timmy from Green Bay."

Kotz went on to check with authorities in Tampa, Fla., and Phoenix, to see if they noticed a surge in prostitution when the Super Bowl was held in their cities. The reply in both cases: No.

A Dallas-Fort Worth TV station reported similar remarks from police in Phoenix, Tampa and Miami. Phoenix police said they had received warnings to prepare for an increase in prostitution before the big game, but police subsequently found no evidence of a spike in illegal sexual activity.

In addition, Kotz checked out the arrest numbers for the 2006 World Cup, and reports finding a total of just five arrests for forced prostitution.

(Meanwhile, Village Voice Media Group -- the publisher of the Dallas Observer, Miami New Times and other news weeklies -- has recently come under fire, as a result of a CNN report tracking sex ads on websites like, which is owned by the Village Voice Media Group. During an investigation of allegations [video] that facilitates the pimping of underage girls, CNN says it "found cases of underage girls sex trafficked all over the country, from the suburbs of Washington to Las Vegas, where a 13-year-old girl was sold on backpage last fall, according to law enforcement authorities." CNN notes that's blog says the company is taking steps to clean up the site, partly by reviewing ads in an attempt to screen out minors.)

Dueling statistics and conflicting conclusions aside, some professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area apparently remain at the ready, just in case. Try Googling "Super Bowl prostitution," and you may spy high up in your search results a link for a particular law firm Web page that reads: "NFL Super Bowl Prostitution Defense Attorney."

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

February 03, 2011

When Schools' Zero-Tolerance Policies Make Zero Sense

Being a typical 14 year-old freshman, Andrew Mikel II got bored one December day and decided to use the plastic tube from a pen to blow small plastic pellets at his fellow students. 

As it happens, the federal Gun-Free Schools Act requires that students who bring weapons to school be expelled.  Accordingly, Virginia's Spotsylvania High School school, which deemed Mikel's pen to be a "projectile weapon," expelled him for possession and use of a weapon

Mikel was also charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault. Was it assault?  Technically, yes -- but is a pen-tube really a "projectile weapon" if a person's mouth is what's supplying the projectile force? And how many students will wind up with criminal records if we criminalize spitballs? What if Mikel had taken a mouthful of water from the drinking fountain and spit it at another student?  Would the result have been the same? 

There appears to be at least one person at Spotsylvania High School who sees the situation for what it really is. According to documents released in response to a FOIA request filed by Mikel's father, the school's hearing officer told school administrators that he was "not at all comfortable expelling or suspending this student for the remainder of the year."

Fortunately, Mikel will be cleared of the misdemeanor criminal charges if he participates in a year-long diversion program. For now, he is being home-schooled, and the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia civil liberties organization, is appealing his expulsion in court.

"What happened to Andrew Mikel is an example of how oppressive zero-tolerance policies have become," said John W. Whitehead, president of Rutherford Institute. "School officials have developed a very dangerous mind-set that allows virtually no freedom for students, while at the same time criminalizing childish behavior."

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Landlord Ordered to Pay $476K for Spying on Tenant

Just days before Miranda Goldston, 27, was scheduled to move out of a furnished room that she rented in Kenneth Ryals' townhome, she noticed a hole drilled into the room's DVD/VCR, which was pointed at Goldston's bed. 

Concerned that she was being spied on, Goldston called the police, who discovered that the device contained a wireless camera.

Although Ryals, an IRS agent, admitted to police that he had installed the surveillance equipment, misdemeanor charges against him were later dropped. At that point, Goldston sued Ryals for invasion of privacy, and a jury later ordered Ryals to pay $476,000 in damages.

A week after Goldston moved out, Ryals posted a new ad on for the same room -- something he was free to do, given that he had not been criminally convicted. However, while the law did not catch up with Ryals, the economy may have: The townhome has since gone into foreclosure.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2011

Judge Posner's Hatred of the Bluebook Goes to Eleven

Bluebook How much does Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hate the Bluebook, which I have previously attempted to describe here as "a dastardly creation that attempts to create a uniform and hyper-complex method by which lawyers are expected to cite to legal authority in briefs, articles and so on"?

Let me count the ways:

  • He hates it even more than I do, and that's saying something.
  • He hates it so much that he wrote an entire law review article about it in 1986 "naively entitled 'Goodbye to the Bluebook.'"
  • He hates it so much that he wrote another entire law review article about it in the January 2011 Yale Law Review entitled "The Bluebook Blues."
  • He hates it so much that when he writes his law review articles about hating the Bluebook, he asks the law review editors not to make his citations conform to the Bluebook (his request was granted).
  • He hates it so much that he compares its page growth through the years to a cancer, one that also metastasizes to other organs (e.g., other style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style).
  • He hates it so much that he further compares its "monstrous growth" to a hypertrophic, diseased organ that "grows to an abnormal size because of the uncontrolled growth of the cells that constitute it."
  • He hates it so much that he doesn't use the Bluebook in his judicial opinions.

You get it. His hatred of the Bluebook 'goes to eleven.'* For all 12 pages of why Judge Posner hates the Bluebook, including his own personal citation system that he asks his clerks to follow, read the full article here.

* Spinal Tap reference

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: What are some of the most effective techniques against suicide bombers?

Answer: Text messages. (Telegraph, Black Widow attempted New Year Moscow attack but blew herself up by mistake)

2) Question: I don't have enough money to pay a hitman to perform an actual homicide of my boyfriend. What options do I have?

Answer: You may be able to negotiate a mere crippling of your boyfriend for less money. (Turley, Florida Woman Allegedly Lacks Funds For Hit So Contracts For Boyfriend To Be Crippled)

3) Question: The judge just sentenced a defendant to a lengthy prison sentence in a child pornography case. He ruled that the guy will return to viewing child pornography because he was born with "an as-of-yet undiscovered gene” that he can't get rid of. Can the judge do that?

Answer: No. (The New York Times, Court Rejects Judge’s Assertion of a Child Pornography Gene

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mediocre Data Dooms Google Maps-Real Estate Search

I was intrigued by the Google Maps-Real Estate service to the point that I wrote a post about it here and e-mailed information about it to my wife, who is a Realtor. Google Maps-Real Estate shows homes for sale, foreclosures and much more by integrating real estate sale information with Google Maps. But not for long, Steve Matthews notes on the Slaw blog, as Google announced on Friday that it is discontinuing the Maps-Real Estate Search feature on Feb. 11, 2011, due to “low usage.”

Google added in its announcement that "we recognize that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible. We’ll continue to explore this area."

In his post, Matthews states that it was difficult for Google to compete because it had a mediocre data set that could not "filter mapped properties by price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms or square footage." Google had hoped to get the data from real estate agents, Matthews says, but the agents "never broke ranks" and therefore managed to maintain control over some of their most important data.

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Happy Lawyers -- They Do Exist

Lately, between the recession's impact on legal careers and studies saying that as many as 50 percent of lawyers would have chosen another field if they had their lives to live over, I have the urge to immediately caution anyone who's considering law school to think long and hard before acting on that impulse. Fortunately, there are still some lawyers out there who love their jobs and give hope to others about the possibility of having a fulfilling life in that profession.

As evidence, see the February edition of ABA Journal magazine, which offers an article dedicated to lawyers' thoughts on why they relish being lawyers. Here are some of the highlights:

"I get paid to read, write, think, talk and argue -- all things I would do anyway." -- Rick Ball

"What I love most about being a lawyer is that it never has to be boring." -- Howard Finklestein

"America is a society based on law and justice. I love the fact that I have a role in making this ideal a reality, however small." -- Richard Granat

"Why do I love being a lawyer? Because, once in a while, you get the opportunity to help someone who desperately needs your help. It feels good to be that person." -- D.A. "Duke" Drouillard

The entire list is humbling and worth reading. What I love most about this article is that none of the contributing lawyers said they loved being lawyers because it made them rich or feel important. Happy lawyers are in this profession because they like being of service to people who need someone to fight on their behalf.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Father Blames Glaxo Drug for Turning Him Into Gay Sex Addict

A married father of two is due to take GlaxoSmithKline to court this week, alleging that his use of Requip, a Glaxo drug for treating Parkinson's disease, turned him into a gay sex and gambling addict.

As reported by Agence France-Presse, Didier Jambart claims he used up his family's savings and resorted to stealing after becoming addicted to Internet gambling, and that he also became sexually compulsive, engaging in cross-dressing, exposing himself online and participating in risky sexual encounters that culminated in being raped.

Jambart stopped taking Requip in 2005. His lawyers maintain that a warning about effects like those their client allegedly suffered did not appear on a product package insert until 2006.

Patient information currently listed on Glaxo's website (pdf) says: "Some patients taking REQUIP get urges to behave in a way unusual for them. Examples of this are an unusual urge to gamble or increased sexual urges and behaviors. If you notice or your family notices that you are developing any unusual behaviors, talk to your healthcare provider."

Requip isn't the only Glaxo drug on lawyers' minds these days. The company reported last month that it expects to take a $3.4 billion legal charge for the fourth quarter of 2010; the figure stems largely from legal costs involving its Avandia diabetes drug, which plaintiffs allege causes heart problems.

In September, according to The Am Law Litigation Daily, the Food and Drug Administration restricted Avandia's use, and the European Medicines Agency banned the drug entirely.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Egyptian ISP Goes Dark, but Twitter Users Get New Resources

Security researcher Renesys said Monday that the Noor Group, believed to be the last Egyptian ISP in operation, has now gone offline, meeting the same fate as Egypt's larger providers (Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr), all of which went dark on Friday [Wired].

However, this new development may not thwart Egypt's activists. CNET's Tom Krazit reports that Google, in combination with Twitter and its SayNow engineers, has released a service for tweeting without an Internet connection. The Speak to Tweet service gives anyone with a voice connection the option of dialing three international numbers and sending their voice messages as tweets with the #egypt hash tag added.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter users have joined forces in an attempt to find people whom families and friends report are missing in Egypt. A Twitter user based in Lebanon and another in Canada began the effort after friends of Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, tweeted that he went missing during a trip to Cairo for a conference. A relative says that Ghonim hasn't been heard from since Friday evening.

In other news involving Egypt, Human Rights Watch released on Monday a 96-page report on mistreatment of detainees, entitled "Work On Him Until He Confesses: Impunity for Torture in Egypt." The report, compiled prior to the current wave of mass protests in that country, says Egypt's government is "failing miserably" to provide help to victims of Egypt's police and security forces. According to CNN, the Human Rights Watch report cites the Egyptian government's own figures, showing that the country's criminal courts convicted only six police officers of detainee abuse between 2006 and 2009.

But if you're in China, don't expect to read any of the above information. Global Voices Advocacy reports that the term "Egypt" has been blocked from search results generated by some of China's major social media websites, forcing bloggers in that country to find ways around the tech roadblocks. Writer Oiwan Lam theorizes that China is filtering and blocking Egypt information because the scenes of tanks moving into the city center and confrontations between soldiers and the public are all too reminiscent of demonstrations leading up to the massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

February 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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