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February 29, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 13

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11 and Volume 12 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane, that we'd have exhausted the list of things you can't do on a plane. Nope! The list grows daily.

Here are three more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Pilots should not wish happy birthday to a "Mom on board." Because "Mom on board" sounds too much like "bomb on board," pilots should refrain from using that phrase during the flight so as to avoid creating panic among passengers. CONSEQUENCE: Pilot should promptly clarify with the passengers that he was wishing a mother on board a happy birthday, not announcing a bomb.
  • Attempt to send 79 live turtles to Shanghai as air cargo. Citizens may not ship 79 live Japanese pond turtles to another country by air, even if they are individually wrapped in nylon stockings to provide warmth and ventilation and then placed inside a cardboard box. CONSEQUENCEReturn to sender.
  • Whisper in natural whisper voices. Flight crew on Virgin Atlantic may not simply whisper as they see fit. They must learn the proper tone, volume (20 to 30 decibels) and sentiment to use with sleeping passengers. CONSEQUENCE: Mandatory training by Virgin Atlantic’s Whispering Coach. 

February 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 28, 2012

Judge Carton Rules: Supposed 'Auction' of Florida Marlins for $10 Million

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 (via South Florida Lawyers) on today's docket. We'll hear now from counsel for the the plaintiff:

Plaintiffs Counsel: My client attended an awards banquet at which there was a charity auction. At one point in the auction the president of the Florida Marlins major league baseball team joked that the next item for bid was the Florida Marlins and he'd sell them for $10 million. My client promptly bid $10 million and nobody else said anything. Now, however, the Marlins won't sell the team (purchased in 2002 for $143 million and recently valued at $360 million) to my client for $10 million. That is outrageous, egregious, preposterous!

Defense Counsel: My client did not ---

Judge Carton: Thank you, counsel, I am ready to rule. I rule that the president of the Marlins, who does not own the team anyway, was obviously joking when he offer to sell the team at a charity auction for a fraction of its market value. I rule that your client has no sense of humor. I rule that people who jokingly say, "I'm going to kill him" when they are irritated with someone are not guilty of any crime. Costs and attorney fees for the 120 seconds that this hearing has taken up are hereby awarded to the defendant's charity.

February 28, 2012 | 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: I had a great gig as an actress in a hit TV show. Then I criticized the creator of the show for being abusive toward me during rehearsals and the next thing I know my character is killed off in a horrible electrical mishap in a car accident! Is this wrongful termination?

Answer: It could be. Keep an eye on the Nicollette Sheridan vs. ABC lawsuit to see how that case plays out. (Hollywood, Esq.Nicollette Sheridan Vs. ABC: 'Desperate Housewives' Wrongful Termination Trial Begins)

2) Question: I'm not going to lie, I like to drink alcohol. Are there any jobs out there in which being a drinker is a requirement? 

Answer: Yes, would you like to be on the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission? (Jonathan Turley, Utah Legislator Proposes Drinkers-Only State Positions)

3) Question: I met a guy who swears he is a state court judge who hears only "pet law" cases. This cannot be true, right?

Answer: Were you in San Antonio, Texas? Because there is, in fact, an actual Pet Court in that city that handles recurring problems such as dog bites, stray pets and residents who fail to register and vaccinate their animals. (WSJ Law Blog, A Breed Apart: San Antonio's Pet Court)

February 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 27, 2012

Treasure Hunting Company Learns 'Finders, Keepers' Not Always Binding

Odyssey Marine Exploration is an unusual type of public company. Its business is going out into the open seas and trying to find shipwrecked treasure, which it then tries to keep under some legal version of the "finders, keepers" doctrine.

In May 2007, Odyssey uncovered one of the most lucrative shipwrecks in history -- nearly $500 million worth of silver coins and artifacts discovered on a sunken 19th century ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Alas, the treasure has turned out to be fool's gold for Odyssey, but a massive windfall for the government of Spain. On Feb. 24, after several years of litigation, the 17 tons of silver coins recovered from the ship were flown from the U.S. to Spain. The Associated Press reports that two Spanish military planes took off on Friday with "594,000 silver coins and other artifacts aboard, packed into the same white plastic buckets in which they were brought to the U.S. by Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration in May 2007."

As discussed in this 2009 Am Law Daily article, the government of Spain immediately contested Odyssey's right to the treasure, claiming that Odyssey had discovered a 19th-century Spanish frigate called the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in the U.S., Spain alleged that Odyssey violated Spanish heritage laws when it took the coins. The AP reports that the Peruvian government also made a "long-shot" ownership claim to the loot because "the gold and silver was mined, refined and minted in that country, which at the time was part of the Spanish empire." Peru filed an emergency appeal seeking to block the treasure from being sent back to Spain but that appeal now appears to be moot given that the treasure has already landed in Spain

The AP reports that Odyssey fought Spain in the courts trying to keep the treasure but lost at every turn. Odyssey blames politics for the outcome, as the U.S. government publicly backed Spain in the dispute. Odyssey has already spent $2.6 million salvaging, transporting and storing the treasure, which it is not expected to recoup. Melinda J. MacConnel, vice president and general counsel for Odyssey, says that Spain is being "very short-sighted" here because "in the future no one will be incentivized to report underwater finds. Anything found with a potential Spanish interest will be hidden or even worse, melted down or sold on eBay."

February 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 24, 2012

Report Indicates Law Firms Are Starting to See Returns on Social Media Investment

In recent years there has been no shortage of blog posts, articles, Twitter tweets and now probably "Pinterest pins" (is that a real phrase?) telling lawyers that blogging is not going to get them clients or otherwise be their ticket to fame and fortune. Do it because you like to write, many lawyers and bloggers have warned, not because you think clients will beat a path to your door as a result.

An upcoming report from ALM Intelligence, however, will present some data to the contrary. On Real Lawyers Have Blogs, LexBlog CEO Kevin O'Keefe writes that he has reviewed an advance copy of an ALM report called "FANS, FOLLOWERS AND CONNECTIONS: Social Media ROI for Law Firms" that documents the "definite" returns that law firms are seeing from their investment in blogs and other social media. The report states that law firms that have "taken the plunge" to develop a blog or a presence on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook

are starting to see definite returns on their investment, in terms of greater visibility as well as attracting some new clients and matters. And their success has been causing many of the more skeptical firms to begin venturing into the world of social media.

According to O'Keefe, the report discusses law firms' rapidly growing use of social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and finds that 70 percent of the law firms responding to the survey now maintain one or more blogs (including thirteen of the top 20 law firms in the U.S.) Twenty percent of respondents said that their firms already have a full-time social media specialist on staff.

Perhaps most notably, 40 percent of respondents said that their blogging and social networking initiatives had actually helped them obtain new business, and nearly 50 percent reported that "blogging and social networking initiatives had helped produce leads for new matters or clients." In addition, more than 40 percent of respondents said that social media had "helped to increase the number of calls their firms receive from reporters in traditional and new media" and the number of speaking invitations their lawyers receive.

February 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Is there any service that will help me find a third-year law student to do work for me while the student is semi-naked or nude? 

Answer: Of course. (Times LIVEWorking Naked Takes Off)

2) Question: I'm actually not the "new manager" of this Denny's restaurant, but I just told the staff I was, and walked into the kitchen and started to whip myself up some food. Can I get into any trouble for this? In some ways they ought to be paying me, right, since I'm doing all the work? 

Answer: Wrong. You need to walk right back out of that kitchen ASAP before you get yourself charged with disorderly conduct. (The Consumerist, Trying To Cook Your Own Meal At Denny's Will Probably Get You Arrested)

3) Question: I was angry at my ex-wife over some divorce and child visitation issues and I blasted her on my Facebook page. Now the judge says that I need to apologize to my ex-wife on my Facebook page or go to jail! Can he do this??

Answer: He can do it, but you may have a strong First Amendment objection if you want to fight it. On the other hand, a different judge made a guy get his wife flowers, take her to Red Lobster and then go bowling with her, so who knows. (The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ex-husband gets choice of jail or a Facebook apology)

February 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2012

Old Law Books Are Not Garbage, They're Columns and Towers

One thing I've learned writing Legal Blog Watch is that there are a million old law books in the world that nobody wants. Sure, you could toss these law books in the garbage, and I'm sure that happens every day. But, as I've begun to chronicle here, some people are turning old law books into art, or flooring, or even structural columns and towers.

At the Ex Libris Bookstore at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, the building's structural pillars are made out of dozens of sets of unwanted law reporters.

(image source)

Meanwhile, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the "Tower of Law" has reportedly become one of the most popular exhibits. The Tower of Law is a series of tall, spiraling stacks of old West reporters that has captured the attention of many visitors.


(image source)

Here is what happened when Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert came upon the Tower of Law (at the 4:30 mark in the video).

February 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My kids talked me into going to this stupid pumpkin patch and I just blew $75 on funnel cakes and hay rides. Oh well. On the way to the car I grabbed a little pumpkin off the ground. Do I need to pay for this? 

Answer: Too late now. Expect handcuffs and a jury trial in your immediate future for stealing a gourd. (The Consumerist, Woman Facing Jury Trial Over $2 Pumpkin She Accidentally Stole, Offered To Pay For)

2) Question: I have a great idea for my new vanity license plates. I will get tags reading, "NO TAGS." Get it?? Awesome, right? Will the Department of Motor Vehicles let me get these tags?

Answer: The DMV probably won't stop you but just realize that whenever police need to ticket a car with no tags they write "NO TAGS" in place of the license plate number. This could get extremely expensive for you. (The Sideshow, DC man's 'NO TAGS' vanity plate earns him $20,000 in tickets)

3) Question: I'm the bailiff at the state court. A guy who was just convicted of armed trespass and reckless display of a weapon just grabbed a large aspirin bottle he had, drank something out of it and collapsed on the floor! He says it contained poison. This was not covered by the bailiff training -- what am I supposed to do here? 

Answer: Call an ambulance for sure, but you might want to investigate this a bit while you are waiting for it to arrive. Sometimes defendants will drink fake poison and pretend to collapse in open court. (ABA Journal, Man Drinks Fake Poison After Being Convicted for Threatening to Shoot Himself in Court)

February 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2012

4th Circuit Unloads on Government's Use of Disrespectful and Uncivil Language in Appellate Brief

As I discussed here earlier this month, certain federal judges have zero patience for counsel who want to trot out exaggerated rhetoric about how bad their opponent's case is, how "stunningly incompetent" the other side's counsel may be, and so on. A 4th Circuit opinion from last week shows that this is also true when it is counsel for the government doing the talking.

In U.S. v. Venable (via Raymond Ward), James Venable was indicted on the charge of possessing a firearm while being a felon. Venable, an African American, moved to dismiss the indictment against him on the grounds that the U.S. Attorney's Office allegedly selected him for prosecution under a federal-state law enforcement initiative known as Project Exile, because of his race. When the lower court refused to grant Venable discovery on his selective prosecution claim, Venable appealed.

The whole matter seems to have pushed some buttons at the U.S. Attorney's Office, which filed a brief with the 4th Circuit that irritated the court quite a bit. The court added a footnote in its opinion stating that it felt "compelled to note that advocates, including government lawyers, do themselves a disservice when their briefs contain disrespectful or uncivil language directed against the district court, the reviewing court, opposing counsel, parties, or witnesses." The court wrote that the government's brief was 

replete with such language: it disdains the district court's "abrupt handling" of Appellant's first case; sarcastically refers to Appellant's previous counsel's "new-found appreciation for defendant's mental abilities;" criticizes the district court's "oblique language" on an issue unrelated to this appeal; states that the district court opinion in Jones "revealed a crabby and complaining reaction to Project Exile;" insinuates that the district court's concerns "require[ ] a belief in the absurd that is similar in kind to embracing paranormal conspiracy theories;" and accuses Appellant of being a "charlatan" and "exploit[ing] his identity as an African-American." The government is reminded that such disrespectful and uncivil language will not be tolerated by this court. (citations to Appellee's brief omitted)

So, to keep my running list current, courts are not at all interested in hearing your clever rhetoric; your emotional exaggerations of how good, bad or ugly the other side's case is; or your disrespectful or uncivil language directed toward the court, opposing counsel, parties, witnesses or anyone else. Save it for someone who cares!

February 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 21, 2012

Selecting the '10 Greatest Legal Movie Lines'

Last week, Bloomberg Law put together an interesting series of video clips in an effort to collect the "10 funniest, most moving, or most inspiring legal movie lines." The full video ("The 10 Greatest Legal Movie Lines") is below, and it is a lot of fun to watch.

The Bloomberg Law editors hit on several of the lines that I would have chosen, too, as well as some that I'd long forgotten about like the "Here's a dime..." line from "The Paper Chase."  Of course, some of the lines selected ("You can't handle the truth!") would probably appear on almost anyone's list of The 10 Greatest Legal Movie Lines.

Several of my favorite legal movie lines did not make it onto the Bloomberg Law list. These include:

And Justice for All-- "You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!"


The Fugitive -- "I didn't kill my wife!" ... "I don't care!"

The Social Network
-- The entire monologue below from Mark Zuckerberg's character from the 0:19 mark until he concludes with "Have I adequately answered your condescending question?"


Watch the Bloomberg Law video here:

February 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

February 17, 2012

If We Ban Baggy Pants, the Criminals Trying to Make a Quick Getaway Win

If there is one thing that legal blog watching has taught me, it is that a suspect's baggy pants are a policeman's best friend. Indeed, back in 2010 when I used to cover the baggy pants beat for Legal Blog Watch, I observed no fewer than three cases in a 12-month span where criminal plots were completely and utterly foiled by the perpetrators' baggy pants. See suspect trying to flee scene using fire escape whose "low-slung pants fell to his ankles, tripping him and sending him falling three stories to his death;" bank robber whose attempted sprint to the bank door was impeded by his sagging pants, causing the dye pack to explode into a cloud of red smoke; see also the burglar caught in the act who attempted to elude his pursuers but was captured because “[h]is pants were clear down around his knees so he couldn't run real well.” 

Given the clear edge that baggy pants provide to police, you would think that police and lawmakers would be the strongest supporters of baggy pants. You would think, for example, that towns would organize "Baggy Pants Month," "Baby Baggy Pants" contests, and other events and festivities geared toward promoting baggy pants. And yet that just doesn't seem to be the case. If anything, local authorities continue to be irrationally hostile toward baggy pants. Just yesterday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill by a 59-0 vote that would ban saggy pants throughout the state. As far as I'm concerned, that's 59 Alabamans who are soft on crime.

February 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 16, 2012

Latest Debate Over DUI Checkpoints Is Whether They Should Be Banned Altogether

DUI checkpoints continue to generate a lot of debate and discussion.

The latest skirmish involving DUI checkpoints comes from at least two states that are now reconsidering the legality and effectiveness of DUI checkpoints in the first place. In Utah, a bill will soon be considered by the state House of Representatives that would completely ban police from setting up DUI checkpoints, FOX 13 reports. Utah state Rep. David Butterfield, a sponsor of the bill, believes that DUI checkpoints violate citizens' rights against unreasonable searches. "The Utah Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have both held that they are constitutional under very narrow guidelines, but that's problematic," he said.

Similarly, WestIslip Patch reports, New Hampshire lawmakers are also considering a proposal to prohibit state police from setting up DUI checkpoints, again citing possible violations of citizen's civil rights. According to the Patch, New Hampshire lawmakers are concerned with citizens' "due process rights when they are arrested for other violations or their vehicles are searched."

Supporters of DUI checkpoints such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving argue that the tactic does improve public safety. They add that checkpoints do not violate civil rights because citizens are only detained briefly and strict guidelines govern what police may and may not do in connection with the checkpoints.

The current debate follows the discussion in many jurisdictions last year as to whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for people to spread the word that checkpoints are in place at a particular time and place. In May 2011, I wrote here about how several senators were pressing Apple, Google and Research In Motion to stop selling or otherwise making available smartphone apps that help drunk drivers avoid DUI checkpoints, asserting that such apps were "harmful to public safety."

In December 2011 I noted that police in Edmonton and Calgary, Canada, had begun asking the public to refrain from tweeting the locations of DUI checkpoints set up to catch drunk drivers, because they said doing so may put other motorists in danger. This position was not shared by police in Saskatoon, Canada, however, who took the opposite approach and even started alerting citizens themselves using Twitter as to when checkpoints were planned. The Saskatoon police believe that if people know police checkpoints are in place, they will think twice about drunk driving.

February 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My stupid uncle is posting awkward photos of me on Facebook from when I was kid, like shots of me posing in front of a Christmas tree. Can I get a restraining order to stop this evil man?

Answer: Nope. (Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Posting Family Photos to Facebook With Snarky Comments Isn't Harassment of Family Member -- Olson v. LaBrie)

2) Question: I have been disbarred, and the disbarment was imposed under my married name. I can just keep practicing under my maiden name, right?

Answer: You may not. (Legal Profession Blog, Two Names, Two Disbarments)

3) Question: I came home from work to find a saucer-sized, orange sticker on my door saying that New Orleans police had "served a narcotic-related warrant or checked this residence" as a result of a Crimestoppers tip. What is this supposed to be, a "Scarlet Letter" or something? Do I need to keep this on my door?

Answer: No, you can take it down if you want. And just be happy it wasn't the huge green poster-size stickers that the Nashville police are putting on homes after searches. (The Times-PicayuneACLU objects to NOPD plans to identify properties investigated after drug tips)

February 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 15, 2012

LBW's Kindergarten Student of the Year: Emma Burton

Meet Emma Burton of Olathe, Kan., my new favorite kindergarten student. Emma "fought the law" of her kindergarten class in order to stay true to her school -- Kansas State. As recounted on the Bug Bytes blog written by her mom, Julie, Emma's class recently participated in Kansas Week, where they learned about the state animal, tree, bird, and so on. Although Kansas has several state schools, including the University of Kansas and Kansas State, Emma's teacher decided for whatever reason that the class must use crayons to color in a picture of the University of Kansas' Jayhawk mascot. Five-year-old Emma, a die-hard Kansas State fan, however, was not having any of that.

Emma's mom says that when she went to school to pick Emma up, kids ran up to her and told her Emma was crying. She found Emma being escorted by the teacher, who was also holding piece of paper with an uncolored-in Jayhawk. The teacher told Emma's mom, Julie, that:

Emma would not color this Jayhawk today with the rest of her class. She told me she would not color it. She told me she does not like KU and her family likes K-State. She asked me for a K-State picture instead but I told her this was her only option. She took the paper, crumpled it up and threw in the trash can. I asked her to get it out of the trash can and she told me no then refused to speak to me the rest of the day. I told her I would have to have a chat with you about this and she will need to color this tomorrow during recess.

The teacher told Emma that coloring in the Jayhawk did not mean she had to like KU and that she could throw it in the trash when she got home. Emma told the teacher "she wouldn't bring a Jayhawk in her house."

At home, Julie told Emma that she and her husband were proud that Emma fought for her school and did not back down, but that Emma didn't have to make a scene about in school. Would she please just color the Jayhawk for her teacher?


Julie warned Emma she might get sent to the principal's office.

I don't care. I'm not coloring it.

Using Kissinger-like diplomacy, Julie finally persuaded Emma to color in the Jayhawk provided Emma could also color in a K-State Powercat and wear a K-State shirt to school the next day. The Powercat she colored, along with an apology note for not coloring the Jayhawk, is below:

Emma did color in the Jayhawk, as well. Then she took it home and threw it in the garbage can. Emma refused her teacher's request to color in some additional Jayhawks that day from a coloring book with the rest of the class, as she said she "would not color two Jayhawks."

A few weeks after the Jayhawk-coloring incident, Julie updated her blog to say that Emma had received an email from Kirk Schulz, the President of K-State saying "I hope that Emma will join us in Manhattan in a few years -- she will find many like-minded people at K-State!" She also received a nice letter and a gift Powercat from Dr. Pat Bosco, K-State's VP for Student Life and Dean of Students.

Finally, the K-State Athletic Director asked Emma and her family to be their guests at the recent K-State vs. Kansas basketball game and honored Emma as the "Fan of the Night."

On behalf of LBW, I would simply like to say: Emma, you are awesome!

February 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I was in my school's restroom doodling on some toilet paper. I wrote on the TP about how I had passed gas in the library ("passed a bomb!"). Why do I have to go to jail now?

Answer: Campus police don't play around with "bomb threats" of any kind. (WDAM, Was it bathroom slang or a bomb threat at JCJC?) (via Legal Juice)

2) Question: I work at a bingo parlor. A man called out "bingo!" tonight and I paid him $400. But now I realize he did not actually have "B-11" and he should not have won. Unacceptable! What should I do?

Answer: Calling out false "bingo!" cannot be tolerated in a civilized society. Call the police as they may be able to make him return the money or face theft charges. (WGAL, Man Who Faked 'Bingo' Returns Jackpot)

3) Question: Am I going crazy or did Catwoman just pepper spray Jack Sparrow in front of the Kodak Theater?

Answer: No, that happens sometimes there. Welcome to L.A.! (Los Angeles Times'Catwoman' claims other characters harassed her before brawl)

February 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2012

Farewell to 'Simple Justice' and Scott Greenfield, the Blogosphere's Truth Serum

On Monday morning, Scott Greenfield added a post to his Simple Justice blog ("5 Years") marking that prolific blog's five-year anniversary. He wrote of how he started the blog back in 2007 as "a way to keep busy" and somehow ended up writing a staggering 4,744 posts over the next five years.

In the "5 Years" post, Scott looked back on the years he's been writing Simple Justice, the things that prompted him to write, the significant changes in the blogosphere, friends and enemies made, and more. Then he humbly made a reference to his work at Simple Justice now being "part of the old, forgotten blawgosphere" (obviously not true), thanked everyone for reading and keeping him honest, linked to some video that I didn't watch about a dolphin "thanking everyone for all the fish," and wrapped up post number 4,744. I didn't think twice about it.

This morning, Greenfield's buddy Brian Tannebaum (who along with Greenfield and Mark Bennett make up the "Three Angry Lawyers" in this video) wrote a post entitled, "See Ya Greenfield" in which he bid Greenfield farewell. Tannebaum linked to the "5 Years" post and explained that Greenfield "is done blogging at Simple Justice. You can all stop your guessing and 'aw shucks, really?' He's done, It's over. Greenfield has a wicked sense of humor and wit but he would never waste his time faking his exit from the blogosphere. You're not worth it."

Wait, what!? I went back to the "5 Years" post, read it again, and still didn't conclude that Scott was shutting down Simple Justice. But some of the commenters obviously had reached that conclusion and were offering Greenfield their thanks for five great years, including one who said that "this morning's Douglas Adams reference was an unexpected surprise." Douglas Adams? After a short journey through Wikipedia, I finally found the following that shed light on the "5 Years" post:

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish is the fourth book of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy written by Douglas Adams. Its title is the message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass, as described in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." The phrase has since been adopted by some science fiction fans as a humorous way to say "goodbye" and a song of the same name was featured in the 2005 film adaptation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

Ahhh, got it.

So no more Scott Greenfield in the blogosphere? That, my friends, is a major loss. He thanked his readers in "5 Years" for "keeping him honest" but really it should be the other way around. To me, more than anyone else, Greenfield was the best at holding his fellow lawyers and bloggers -- as well as himself -- accountable for their actions and inactions. He wrote what he believed, straight up, no chaser. I admire him greatly for that. If you agreed with him, terrific. If you did not, no problem there either -- just don't come looking to him for a hug or an apology, or for him to let you off the hook for being wrong or acting wrong.

As a blogger, Scott was not a "pleaser," an approach to life that many bloggers including myself fall into as it can be the easy way to go. Rather, Scott was the blogosphere's truth serum.

Thank you, Scott, for a fabulous five years writing Simple Justice. I know you will continue to make your presence felt in the blogosphere.

February 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 13, 2012

Video: O'Keefe and Greenfield on the Use and Value of Social Media by Lawyers

Last week, Bloomberg Law produced an interesting video debating the issue of whether lawyer social media is nothing more than marketing hype. Usually when I write about something that did not occur in the last 60 minutes, Scott Greenfield immediately lambastes me for being late to the party, as if he were one of the guys in the AT&T commercial ("so 46 seconds ago, Carton.") But in this case, I think I am on solid ground given that (a) the video only came out a week ago; (b) it only has a few hundred views to date; and (c) most importantly, Greenfield himself is in the video, so how can he complain? Ha!

In one of his first forays into video since departing the ABA Journal for Bloomberg Law, Ed Adams serves as moderator in an interesting discussion between LexBlog CEO Kevin O'Keefe and Greenfield, a New York criminal defense attorney. In the nine minute video below, O'Keefe and Greenfield discuss topics including the Happysphere, the need to venture beyond the "safe and boring" when writing a blog, the fact that "on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog," using social media to find a mentor, and the importance of listening and engaging for lawyers who write a blog.

Check out the full video below -- good stuff.

February 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 neighbor has asked us to sign a release of liability before my son arrives at their house for a playdate. Is this how playdates work nowadays?

Answer: Not where I live, but who knows? Maybe you should counter-offer by asking for your neighbors to place some funds in escrow in case your son suffers any injury while in their care or loses any of his possessions? (Jonathan Turley, Mr. [Legal] Manners Responds To Parents Of Legal Bubble Boy)

2) Question: I'm a fugitive on the run in Italy. How am I supposed to update my Facebook page under these conditions?

Answer: That is a challenge, but bear in mind that each update provides fresh clues for the police on your whereabouts. (NewsCore, Fugitive Caught Posing With Obama Waxwork)

3) Question: Some motorist who was upset with my driving just pulled up alongside me and showered my car with pennies! Some of the pennies went through my open window and sun roof and even knocked my glasses off. Unacceptable! Can he do this? 

Answer: No, those pennies are "dangerous weapons" under the circumstances. He could facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. (CBS News/The Associated Press, Pennies raise the ante in road rage incident)

February 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: We are in Los Angeles for the day and we're at the beach tossing the football. Why is this police officer looking at us so menacingly? 

Answer: Sorry but it is now prohibited for "any person to cast, toss, throw, kick or roll" any object other than a beach ball or volleyball "upon or over any beach." Don't go digging any holes deeper than 18 inches, either. (CBS Los AngelesLA County OKs Hefty Fine For Throwing Football, Frisbee On Beaches)

UPDATE: The all-out ban has been lifted, so feel free to toss that football around -- just as long as you get the lifeguard's permission. (CBS Los AngelesLA County Updates Ordinance On Ball, Frisbee Throwing At Beaches)

2) Question: I "adopted" my 42-year-old girlfriend as my child because it may help shelter money from creditors. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but are we committing incest now?

Answer: Depending on what state you live in, you may well be. (Slate, A Florida Millionaire Adopted His 42-Year-Old Girlfriend. Isn’t that Incest?)

3) Question: My dad adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his child because it may help shelter money from creditors. I do not want this new "sister"! Can I sue to block this adoption? 

Answer: Yes, you can ask the court to disallow the adoption as a fraud on the court that shirks public policy on adoptions. (FOX NewsTeenage kids fight dad's adoption of adult girlfriend)

February 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pre-Crime Unit Coming to East Orange, N.J.

Remember the PreCrime Unit in the movie "Minority Report"? Set in 2054, the film's PreCrime Unit relied upon the future visions of three "precogs," mutated humans with precognitive abilities, to stop murders. Now, 42 years early, a real pre-crime unit may soon be rolled out in East Orange, N.J.

The Associated Press reports (via Infowars) that East Orange plans to begin using a combination of surveillance cameras and powerful red-beamed spotlights to highlight suspects before any crime is committed. The equipment will be mounted throughout the city on streetlights, allowing police to monitor hundreds of video feeds. If police observe suspicious behavior -- such as a mugging that is about to take place -- they will direct the red spotlight at the suspects to send a message to criminals that "we're observing you, the police are recording you, and the police are responding."  William Robinson, Police Chief for East Orange, calls it a "light-based intervention system." 

East Orange is funding its pre-crime efforts with federal grant money that has also permitted it to add other crime-fighting technology such as squad cars that automatically scan the license plates of all passing cars and cross-check the plates against databases of people on terrorist monitor lists, or with unpaid parking tickets or outstanding warrants. Infowars reports that East Orange police are then permitted to "pull over vehicles that match watch lists, even if the driver has committed no violations to draw attention from the patrol vehicle."

Bottom line: If you find yourself in East Orange, N.J., suddenly bathed in red light, be good!

February 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 09, 2012

Adverse Possession: You're Doing It Wrong

Lawyers reading this probably recall the topic of "adverse possession" from their law school course on Real Property. In short, in most states, if you openly and exclusively occupy someone else's property, keeping out others, and using it as if it were your own, you can actually acquire title to that property after a fixed statutory period of time passes. The statutory period required for adverse possession is usually quite long -- a decade or two needs to pass before adverse possession occurs. See my 20-year-old memory of adverse possession law; see also this cite on Wikipedia.

I'm no expert on adverse possession by any stretch, but it usually occurs when someone builds a barn or something like that a few feet over the property line, and then uses that barn for 20 years. After those 20 years, the land on which the barn is built may belong to the person who built the barn rather than the original owner under adverse possession.

There is more to it, but the description above is a quick summary of what adverse possession is. Now, let me tell you what adverse possession isn't: it isn't when someone else's house goes into foreclosure and is sitting vacant, and you somehow get into the house, put your couch in the living room and declare it to be yours under adverse possession.

And yet this foreclosure scenario keeps coming up lately.  In Flower Mound, Texas, last year, neighbors on Waterford Drive were perplexed when Kenneth Robinson started living in a $300,000 home on the street that had been left vacant after a foreclosure. Robinson said he was not a squatter because he was using "adverse possession" after somehow finding a key and entering the home legally. He claimed that "an online form he printed out and filed at the Denton County courthouse for $16 gave him rights to the house." News of his $16 house also prompted many other people in Texas to claim rights to homes based on "adverse possession," some of whom were promptly charged with burglary. Alas, Bank of America finally foreclosed on the home last month and a judge ordered Robinson to move out by Feb. 13.

Similarly, in Denver, CBS4 News recently identified (via Consumerist) about a dozen cases where wannabe "adverse possessors" moved into vacant houses under foreclosure. At least one of these people thought she had bought the house from someone when she gave the "seller" a used pickup truck in exchange for a house and a "document of adverse possession" that declared her to be the owner of the house. After she was contacted by CBS4, the woman consulted an attorney who told her the document of adverse possession was "a piece of trash. This isn't real. It's not real.” 

Bottom line: people need to stop trying to get a free house via "adverse possession." It is not going to happen.

February 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 08, 2012

When Opposing Counsel Uses Your Facebook Friendship Against You

On the Abnormal Use blog Tuesday, editor Jim Dedman suggested that lawyers may need to start asking themselves the following question: "Will My Advocate Opponent Impeach Me With My Own Legal Social Media?" "Might some of our opinions or blog posts come back to haunt us?" he asked "Might an Internet savvy advocate quote our own posts against us in some future case?"

The article cited in the post was focused on the risk of an adversary scouring and scrutinizing a law blogger's posts "to see if her opponent has ever taken a position opposite to the one advanced against her in the case at hand." Today on Abnormal Use, a guest blogger named Stuart Mauney offered a real-world example of how one opposing counsel tried to use his Facebook "friendship" with Mauney to undercut Mauney and Mauney's client.

Mauney writes that he uses Facebook and has around 400 friends, rarely turning down any friend requests he might receive. Recently, he was engaged in a mediation with a plaintiffs attorney who sent Mauney a request to be his friend on Facebook about a month before the mediation session. Mauney accepted the request.

During the mediation, Mauney writes,

the Plaintiff's lawyer opened by saying that he did not think we were taking his client's case "seriously." In apparent support for that position, he actually projected onto the screen one of my very recent Facebook posts about my plans to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. (Yes, I recently turned 50.) The Plaintiff's lawyer said, "Maybe he was ready for this mediation last Wednesday before he started celebrating his weekend birthday, but ... " His sentence trailed off as if to suggest his doubt. He also commented that I had not been to any of the depositions in the case, as if sending my experienced senior associate to the depositions was in poor from. The associate was handling it under my close supervision. ...

Perhaps not unsurprisingly after this silly Facebook ambush, the mediation ended unsuccessfully. Mauney also "defriended" the plaintiffs lawyer.

What do you think? Is this a good example of the "perils of social media"? Or is this simply some bizarre, one-off behavior by plaintiffs counsel?

February 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: The judge hearing the domestic violence case against me just ordered me to get my wife some flowers, get dressed up, pick up my wife, take her to Red Lobster and then go bowling with her! Can he do this?!

Answer: I'm afraid so. Try the Four Course Seafood Feast. (Sun SentinelFlowers, dinner, bowling -- and counseling -- ordered by Broward judge in domestic case)

2) Question: The psychiatrist testifying at this competency hearing is wearing a two-foot tall cone-shaped hat that is imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. He also has an 18-inch white beard and insists on punctuating crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. I asked him why he is wearing/doing this and he swears it is required under New Mexico law. What is he talking about?

Answer: The psychiatrist is mistaken. The bill requiring the hat, beard, wand, etc. passed the New Mexico Senate but did not pass the House. (io9, In 1995, New Mexico voted on a bill requiring psychologists to dress as wizards)

3) Question: My wife just confessed that she was arrested last week for "Super Drunk driving" in Michigan. That does not sound good -- what is it?

Answer: It is not good. In Michigan, "Super Drunk driving" means you are driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.17 or more. Convicted Super Drunk drivers face stiffer penalties, including a one-year breath alcohol ignition interlock requirement, higher fines and costs, and possibly more jail time. (, Ferndale police arrest 2 for 'super drunk' driving; blood alcohol levels between .33 & .35)


February 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2012

C'mon Man! PETA Argues SeaWorld Whales Are Slaves in Violation of 13th Amendment

The ethical treatment of animals sounds like a reasonable thing that people should support. And it even seems logical that there would be an entire organization of reasonable people who are dedicated to promoting the ethical treatment of animals. You could even call it People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Or something like that.

Of course, there is an organization called PETA with that name and mission, but why does it seem like so many things that PETA does are completely over the top? For example, as I wrote back in September 2011, PETA is now finalizing a soft-core porn website on the new ".xxx" top level domain. PETA says that its site will not be hard-core porn, but will be "erotica," i.e., nudity and "sexually suggestive content." Why does an animal rights group need to have a soft-core, triple-X porn presence on the Internet? Supposedly because it will be "triple extra effective in helping us bring our important issues of animal rights and eating a vegan diet to a greater number of people." Umm, OK, then.

More recently, PETA has moved on to suing SeaWorld because, it claims, the killer whales that perform at SeaWorld are being held as slaves in violation of the 13th Amendment's ban on slavery. Read that back again. Whales ... SeaWorld ... slavery? As they say on NFL Monday Night Countdown, "C'mon Man!"

PETA’s lawyer said a hearing held in the case this week was a “historic day” as it was the "the first time a court considered the question of whether animals can be enslaved," U-T San Diego reports (via How Appealing). SeaWorld's lawyers say the case crosses the boundaries of "legitimate constitutional debate” and is "utterly lacking in legal merit" because the 13th Amendment specifically refers to "persons," not animals.

I guess if its primary goal is get attention, PETA is doing the right things by promoting porn and the cause of ending "whale slavery." Otherwise, I must admit that I just don't get it.

February 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: That does it. I am broke, disillusioned and have pretty much had it with this country! How do I renounce my U.S. citizenship? 

Answer: If you are broke then you're going to need to save up your money before renouncing your U.S. citizenship. That costs $450. (New York Daily NewsState Department boosts passport fees, sets cost of citizenship)

2) Question: Why am I being arrested for DUI after supposedly failing a sobriety test for not being able to walk a straight line? What part of "my boobs are too big for me to balance properly" don't you understand?!

Answer: Big breasts are no defense to DUI charges, sorry. (FOX News, Florida woman blames her 'big breasts' for failing sobriety test)

3) Question: Police at the NFL game I'm attending are about to toss me out of the stadium for using profanity in an argument with another fan. Don't I have a First Amendment right to drop the F-bomb at the game?

Answer: It looks like you may well have such a right. (Deadspin, A Man Is Suing To Assert His Legal Right To Scream "Fuck You" At Chargers Games)


February 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 12

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10 and Volume 11 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane, that we'd have exhausted the list of things you can't do on a plane. Nope! The list grows daily.

Here are three more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Stuff a dirty diaper down the airplane's toilet. Passengers may not throw dirty diapers away in the airplane's toilet, as it may result in a suspicious smell requiring the termination of the flight. CONSEQUENCE: Aircraft will be diverted and make a precautionary landing, passengers will be removed from the plane by a forklift and switched to a new aircraft.
  • Smoke pot in the airplane's bathroom. Passengers are prohibited from smoking weed mid-flight in the airplane bathroom. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be arrested upon landing and charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
  • Begin to smoke a cigarette while onboard the plane and then become combative when told to put it out. Passengers may not become combative and disrupt the flight when asked to refrain from smoking onboard a plane. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be charged with "interfering with a flight crew" and possibly required to be examined by a psychiatrist.

February 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2012

Federal Judges Want You to Spare Them the Clever Rhetoric and Get to the Point

I spend a lot of time in the world of securities litigation and SEC enforcement. One of the best bloggers in that corner of the blawgosphere is Kevin LaCroix, the author since 2006 of an excellent blog called The D&O Diary. Today, Kevin wrote about developments in a case brought by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. against two former IndyMac executives that all lawyers should take note of, even those who have zero interest in the underlying case.

In the course of defending themselves against the FDIC, the IndyMac executives aggressively attacked the FDIC for its failure to preserve certain documents. In court papers seeking sanctions, counsel for the defendants accused the agency of a "stunning display of incompetence" for failing to preserve documents. "The breadth and depth of the government's document-retention failures are staggering, and violations of this magnitude rarely occur," they argued. "It is a stunning display of incompetence from an agency that is supposed to be the expert at seizing and managing banks."

On Jan. 30, Central District of California Judge Dale Fischer held a hearing on the defendants' motion seeking sanctions, dismissal of certain counts of the lawsuit and an adverse instruction to the jury based on the government's failure to preserve evidence. As reflected in this transcript of the hearing, Fischer was not all pleased with the exaggerated rhetoric employed by counsel for the IndyMac executives. The judge stated:

... I also want to tell you, I don't know why lawyers do this, and there's a lot of them in the room so take heed, all of you, language like failures are staggering, violations of this magnitude rarely occur, stunning display of incompetence, bitter irony, breathtaking dereliction of duty are not only unpersuasive, they're somewhat annoying. I don't have time for rhetoric. I'm really, really busy.

After an aside in which she wondered why anyone would even want her job of federal judge, the court further scolded defense counsel on their approach to the matter, adding

I don't know whether you stay up nights trying to think of clever phrases, but trust me, no judge that I've ever spoken to has ever said, Boy, can that guy turn a phrase. They only say, Boy, why didn't he get to the point. So, please, in future pleadings, remember that.

Returning her attention again to the specific rhetoric in defendants' brief, the judge offered a reminder to counsel that "I've been around awhile both in practice and on the bench, so I suspect I've seen a few more cases than you, and really, it's not all that staggering and it's not all that great a magnitude, so when your experience and mine differ, it just takes all of the punch out of those comments."

Bottom line: After scolding counsel for a bit in the hearing, Fischer denied the defendants' motion. And as Kevin LaCroix (now an executive with OakBridge Insurance Services) observed after reading the transcript's account of the tone and temper of the parties' pleadings in the case, his "own decision years ago to walk away from the active practice of law seemed more and more like a really smart move."

February 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Where can I go in New York to meet top business executives and political figures? I'm trying to think outside of the box a bit here.

Answer: Try the Midstate Correctional Facility. It is reportedly "amazing" for that type of networking. (New York Daily NewsRapper Ja Rule, serving two years for gun possession, finds new posse behind bars)

2) Question: I'm one of the best high school linebackers in the country. I was deciding between scholarships offers from Clemson to Auburn, and ultimately chose Auburn because when I visited Clemson they had no Chick-fil-A on campus. But after I signed my National Letter of Intent saying I would attend Auburn, I learned that there was, in fact, a Chick-fil-A on the Clemson campus. D'oh!! Is my Letter of Intent binding?

Answer: According to the NCAA, your NLI is, in fact, binding and if you breach it and attend a different school you will lose one season of competition in your sport. On the bright side, you have a Chick-fil-A in your future no matter what you do! (Dr. Saturday, Cassanova McKinzy spurned Clemson because he missed the Chick-fil-A)

3) Question: I'm a documentary filmmaker and I'm attending a congressional hearing looking into EPA's investigation of potential water contamination from natural gas drilling. Can I film it? 

Answer: Only if you don't mind getting arrested for "unlawful entry." (Politico, Josh Fox arrested at hearing)

February 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 02, 2012

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 would like to make a donation to my law school and possibly have something named after me. My donation will be generous, but not enough to get my name on a whole wing of a building or anything like that. How about a Men's Room? 

Answer: That is a novel idea, but just know that if you went to Harvard Law School, the Men's Room naming rights are already taken. (Above the Law, True Story: Harvard Law Sells Naming Rights to Its New Bathrooms, and a Berkeley Law Professor Couldn't Be Happier)

2) Question: I just got my welfare check. Time to hit the strip club -- who is with me?!

Answer: Not so fast. (CBS News, House bans welfare recipients' money from strip clubs, liquor stores)

3) Question: Here is the plan. I will take about five tons of ice from a glacier in my hometown in the Patagonia region of Chile (nobody is using it, trust me). Then we'll ship it by a refrigerated truck to Santiago and make designer ice cubes out of it for cocktails. Brilliant! Approve?

Answer: No. Sorry, but you cannot just help yourself to tons of ice from local glaciers in Chile. That will get you charged with theft and possibly with "violation of national monuments." (The GuardianGlacier thief arrested in Chile) (via Consumerist)


February 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2012

Burrito Restaurant Shares Surveillance Video on Social Media to Catch Thieves

The idea of catching criminals via social media seems to be catching on. Earlier this month, I wrote here about new crime-stopper programs such as Silent Witness. These programs post surveillance videos, photos and other information about crimes online, and provide people who can help identify the perpetrators with an anonymous and financially rewarding way (up to $1,000 rewards) to work with authorities. 

This week, I saw (via Consumerist) that companies like Boloco, a Boston burrito restaurant, are using their own social media followers and community to try to solve crimes such as the theft of a safe from one of their stores. On Jan. 28, 2012, Boloco posted the following to its Facebook page:

‎$1000 cash reward for information that leads to apprehension of these 3 individuals who broke in and robbed our Boloco Berklee location last night less than 30 minutes after our team locked the doors. We added music to the video (because that's what we do), but it was haunting even without it. 

We debated about whether to share this or not - traditionally this isn't something that is "shared"... but it's 2012 ... and we think everyone needs to see what is happening out there, and work together to reduce and one day eliminate evil people like these three. 

The post was accompanied by the following video:

Just one day later, Boloco updated its Facebook page to say that it had already received a "juicy" tip that might result in a $1000 cash winner provided it led to an arrest. In Boloco's case, at least, sharing surveillance video and asking for help from its friends and followers looks to have been a great success.

February 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday'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 at the public library in Seattle with my grade school-age daughter. There's a guy in the middle of the library looking at hard-core pornography on one of the library's computers! Can he do that?! This is very uncomfortable! 

Answer: The Seattle public library "facilitates access to constitutionally protected information," and will not compromise freedom of speech or censor information. The porn stays. (Consumerist, Should Libraries Let People Look At Porn In The Open?)

2) Question: I applied early admission to college. I went online yesterday and was thrilled to learn that I had been admitted! The admission letter instructed me to withdraw my applications to other schools, which I did right away. But when I went online later to check out the letter again there was a notice that the acceptance letter had been a mistake and I was actually rejected.  Now what??

Answer: Oooofffff. That hurts, sorry. The same thing happened at Vassar recently, so keep an eye on how things shake out there. (NBC New York, Dozens of Vassar College Applicants Mistakenly Get Admissions Letters)

3) Question: I'm about to walk my two dogs in a national park. Yes, I know I am supposed to have the dogs on a leash but these are tiny lapdogs that won't bother anyone. What will happen if a ranger catches me with the dogs off-leash? 

Answer: Ask yourself if walking the dogs off the leash is worth getting shot with a Taser. (Jonathan Turley, Teaching Citizens to Heel: Park Ranger Reportedly Tasers Man Walking Small Dogs Off Leash)

February 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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