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May 31, 2012

'Divorce Hotel' Update: U.S. Locations, Book, TV Show All in the Works

Back in October 2011, I wrote here about a new concept called Divorce Hotel, an Amsterdam-based company where "couples check in on Friday, and on Sunday, their marriage is over." In short, at Divorce Hotel

you and your hopefully soon-to-be-ex spouse pay about $3,500 to check into a five-star resort on a Friday. The two of you will spend the weekend meeting with Divorce Hotel's on-site team of attorneys, counselors and mediators, who are there to help you execute a "clean, cost-effective divorce." 

In the months since that post, Divorce Hotel has reached agreements with six high-end hotels in the Netherlands, and is now preparing to take its concept to the United States. The New York Times reports that Divorce Hotel is now negotiating with hotels in several U.S. cities, including New York and Los Angeles -- as well as with television production companies that are interested in creating a Divorce Hotel reality show.

American divorce lawyers told the Times that most breakups are too complicated and acrimonious to fit the Divorce Hotel model, where the couple works things out in a hotel room over the weekend. Divorce lawyer Robert S. Cohen said that the model might work, however, if the couple involved remained friends and had a straightforward financial situation. 

Indeed, Jim Halfens, who started Divorce Hotel after seeing a friend go through a painful divorce, acknowledges that the model will not work for everyone and that

only one of every three couples that apply for his program is accepted. His team tries to ensure that both parties want to divorce and are willing to work with a mediator. If the couple is bickering or barely speaking to each other, or if greed or vengeance seems to be a motivation, the couple is rejected.

If your marriage is still solid or if it is too much of a lost cause for you to be a good Divorce Hotel candidate, you can still check out Halfens' book about Divorce Hotel (coming next year) or wait for the TV show that is planned for this fall. The Times reports that production companies are eager to produce a television show around the concept. "These are real people getting real divorces -- or at least attempting to get real divorces -- and it has all of the human drama of this significant process all condensed down into a very short period of time," said Mickey Stern, co-chief executive of Base Productions. "Divorce Hotel is as real as it gets. If there's a conflict, it's real because the stakes are real."

May 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

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 bought some frozen trout at the grocery store, defrosted them and then pretended I caught them in the local lake to impress my kids. But then some meddling neighbor who saw me with the trout reported me to police for poaching from the lake, and I face a trial. Now what??

Answer: Your defense seems far-fetched, so hopefully you can find your receipt for the trout from the grocery store! (UPI, Accused poacher says he bought the trout)

2) Question: I am running for Congress but nobody is paying any attention to my campaign. Can I change my legal name to "" and have that be the name that appears on the ballot? 

Answer: No problem. (Legal Juice, Congressional Candidate Changes Name To Website)

3) Question: My home cleaning business is slow. Can I start letting myself into random strangers' houses, cleaning their bathrooms, etc., and leaving them a bill? 

Answer: That is called trespassing. And I wouldn't count on anyone paying those bills, either. (WKYC/NBC, 'Cleaning Fairy' gets busted)

May 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2012

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 bought some of those "toning shoes" that claim to provide a workout just by walking around in them but my butt is as big as ever. Plus, I wound up just toppling over in the shoes and hurting my ankle. Can I sue someone?

Answer: Yes, at least 90 personal injury lawsuits are already pending in federal and state court against Skechers USA Inc. (The National Law JournalSuits pile up over toning shoes)

2) Question: I just had an awesome meal at Denny's but now realize I only have $1 with me. Can I pay this tab off with the $1 and a bag of marijuana? 

Answer: No, Spicoli. And don't start walking around the restaurant trying to sell the pot to other diners, either. (MSN Now, Stoner tries to pay for meal at Denny's with a bag of weed)

3) Question: The assistant principal at my son's elementary school confiscated my son's iPod. I am thinking about responding to this injustice by creating a fake profile of the assistant principal on a pornographic website, complete with explicit photos. I feel better already. Is there any downside to this plan? 

Answer: Oh, yes -- you could be convicted of felonies, including taking the identity of another and computer fraud, and face some jail time. (The RepublicParent gets back at school official with porn site)

May 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My wife has brought 550 cats into our home. I can no longer sleep in my bed because the cats refuse to lie on the floor, and the stupid cats block my access to the bathroom, do not allow me to prepare meals in the kitchen, and steal my food from the dinner table. Is this grounds for a divorce?

Answer: Yep. (Times of IsraelCouple splits over 550 house cats)

2) Question: My boss found out that my wife and I are swingers and now he insists that I invite him to our swinger parties, has made sexual advances toward my wife, and asks me to arrange sexual encounters for him through swinger websites. Is this sexual harassment?

Answer: Interesting question, as the defense will likely argue that (a) you cannot show you were discriminated against because you are a male, and (b) an employee cannot claim harassment when his boss hits on his wife. Keep an eye on the case of Roessler v. Royal Spa Corp., which is addressing similar issues. (OnPointNews, Swinger's Suit Against Ex-Boss Tests Harassment Law)

3) Question: I'm a woman and I was in an 18-month-long online relationship with a man. In fact, "he" turned out to be a woman all along. I wasted about $10,000 because of this charade. Can I sue for fraudulent misrepresentation? 

Answer: It may differ in your state but the Supreme Court of Illinois recently held that the Illinois law against fraudulent misrepresentation does not apply to personal relationships. (Chicago Sun-TimesOnline hoax leads to one conclusion: People are weird)

May 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Warning to All of the 'ABA Certified Paralegals'

You went to paralegal school. Your school was one of about 280 paralegal schools in the U.S. (out of approximately 1,500) that has been approved by the American Bar Association. You graduated. Your school gave you a certificate when you graduated. You now head boldly into the world as an "ABA Certified Paralegal" seeking a job.

Not so fast, says Chere Estrin.

According to Estrin, the co-founder and chairperson of the Organization of Legal Professionals, fledgling paralegals are embarrassing themselves and, in some cases, disqualifying themselves from consideration for jobs because they fail to understand that the ABA does not offer certification for paralegals.  In short, receiving a certificate for something does not necessarily mean that you are certified for something. 

Let's break this down. Certification, as the ABA itself notes, is "a process by which a non-governmental agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association. It usually involves passing an examination drawn up by the sponsoring organization and meeting specified educational and/or experiential requirements. The American Bar Association does not certify Paralegals. ..."  

A certificate on the other hand is, well, a piece of paper that someone hands you when you complete paralegal school -- or finish the "fun run" charity mile, come in third in the 4th grade Spelling Bee, or blow the biggest bubble at the state fair. Possessing such a certificate does not by itself make you a certified paralegal, runner, speller or bubble-blower.

Estrin cites an example that she recently witnessed of a 

paralegal who was passed up for a very good job because she wrote "ABA Certified Paralegal" on her resume. The firm decided that if this paralegal did not know the difference between "certified" and "certificated", she wasn't smart enough to join the firm. Ouch! It was a shame because the message to the paralegal was not only did she not know the difference, she hadn't take the time to find out. Make that 0 points in her job hunting file. Resumes are often reviewed by hiring paralegals who do know the difference and it's offensive to some when they see otherwise good paralegals make this common mistake. 

Estrin says that paralegals who want to demonstrate they attended one of the schools approved by the ABA can accurately do so by stating something like the following on their resumes:

Acme & Acme Paralegal School
An ABA approved paralegal program or
Approved by the American Bar Association

May 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 25, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 19

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17 and Volume 18 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:

  • Attempt to bring four yak skulls from Tibet back to the U.S. Passengers may not try to sneak yak skulls into the U.S. in a duffle bag, particularly when the yak skulls still have dried flesh attached. CONSEQUENCE: The yak skulls will be seized and destroyed under high-pressure steam. 
  • Fly while wearing a T-shirt that reads, "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd f*ck a senator!" Passengers may not wear a T-shirt with the above "offensive" language on it. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be told mid-flight that she will need to buy a new shirt if she wants to board her connecting flight, and pilot will alert gate crew on connecting flight to be on watch for the offensive shirt. 
  • Attempt to board a plane while carrying a gun (pilot edition). Airline pilots may not attempt to board their plane with a gun in their bag unless they are members of a federal Flight Deck Officer Program. CONSEQUENCEPilot will be arrested and charged with possessing a concealed firearm.

May 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a land developer. Do I need to tell the buyers of homes in a subdivision that I'm selling that it sits right next to a former World War II bombing range that is laden with unexploded bombs, ammunition, ordnance and related chemicals?

: Heck no. (Courthouse News Service, Court Lets Developers Slide Over Explosive Deal)

2) Question: I was trying to start my own methamphetamine lab but I got the recipe wrong and didn't have the key ingredient I needed to make meth. The cops discovered my ill-fated effort -- will I get in trouble for this? 

Answer: No, because your mistake with the recipe made it impossible for you to make meth. (The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSuspected meth lab missing key ingredients)

3) Question: The cops have set up a radar trap in my neighborhood. Can I flash my lights at approaching motorists to warn them? 

Answer: Yes, those light flashes are First Amendment-protected speech! (The Legal Satyricon, Flashing your headlights to warn other motorists of a speed trap = free speech)

May 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 24, 2012

How to Prevent Your iPhone From Dying a Watery Death

I have four boys, two under the age of 8. Through the years, our family has accumulated many iPods, iTouches and iPhones, and sometimes the older iTouches become the property of the younger boys. This never lasts for very long, however, as the younger boys consistently find a way to destroy the iTouches by introducing them to the mortal enemy of the iTouch: water.

My 7-year-old killed his iTouch by dropping it in the toilet. My 5-year-old ended the life of his hand-me-down iTouch when he decided to "clean" it by scrubbing it with a soaking wet towel.

Having witnessed the sad demise of these iTouches, I am acutely aware of the risk of taking my own iPhone to the beach or to the pool this summer, as I do not want to accidentally douse it and kill it off. According to a post today on iPhone J.D., some new products have come out that can protect your iPhone from water, even if it is submerged for hours. Jeff Richardson, the author of iPhone J.D., writes that he tried out two such products at a wireless convention this month and both worked very well.

The first product Richardson tried out was the driSuit ($60), which is designed for the iPhone 4 and 4s. Quite simply, he says, "you place your iPhone inside the case, close two locks to seal it, and then the iPhone is waterproof." Here is a video of the driSuit in action, from the company's website:

Richardson also tried out the DryCASE ($39.99), which is actually a bag that can hold a variety of devices, including the iPhone and the iPad. According to Richardson,

To use the DryCASE you place your iPhone or other item inside of it, plug in the included headphone jack, seal the top, and then use the included one-way pump to remove the air.  This creates a vacuum. You can then plug a pair of headphones into the port on the outside of the bag (or use waterproof headphones sold by the company). You can use the iPhone touchscreen or camera through the bag, and the company has tested it to depths of 100 feet. 

The iPhone on display in a DryCASE at the wireless convention Richardson attended had been submerged in an aquarium for 2 hours and 41 minutes when he checked it out (approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes longer than my son's iTouch was submerged in the toilet), and was still working perfectly.

So as you lawyers head to the beach and pool this summer, consider whether you should invest in one of these cases to protect your iPhone from drowning while you are there.

May 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

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 got drunk and was pulled over for diving my car 143 mph in a 55 mph zone. Will this cost me my job as a police officer?

: Nope. (The Denver PostDenver appeals reinstatement of drunk, off-duty cop on 143-mph joy ride)

2) Question: I have a "shy bladder" and cannot urinate in the presence of other people. This is a big problem on drug-test day, when the test is conducted in a public restroom and I cannot perform. My employer is threatening to fire me. Can they do that? 

Answer: No, "shy bladder syndrome" is now protected as a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act." (The Daily CallerAmericans with Disabilities Act covers 'bashful bladder syndrome,' could cost employers billions)

3) Question: I just had a baby at a Greek hospital. I don't have all the money to pay the hospital bill right now. Can I set up some kind of payment plan?

Answer: If you want with your new baby to go home with you when you leave the hospital, you're going to need to pay that bill in full first. (BBC, Greek hospitals tighten payment rules)

May 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2012

N.J. Case Considers Whether Sender of a Text Is Liable for Injuries Caused by Distracted Driver

I've been following the government's ongoing battle against "distracted driving" for a while here at LBW, including the growing number of states that have imposed an outright ban on text messaging for all drivers. Indeed, 38 states, the District of Columbia and Guam all now have such a ban against text messaging by drivers. No state, however, has gone so far as to enact laws that would reach the sender of texts to a driver. 

The theory that the sender of texts to a driver may be liable for a crash that the driver then gets in is set to be tested this week in a state court in New Jersey. On Sept. 21st, 2009, David and Linda Kubert were riding their motorcycle when a Chevy truck crossed the center line and hit them head-on. According to CBS News, the Kuberts actually saw the driver "in the truck steering with his elbows, with his head down. And I could tell he was text messaging." Both David and Linda Kubert lost a leg in the accident. The driver of the car, an 18-year-old male, pleaded guilty to charges including using a handheld device while driving.

In the New Jersey lawsuit, the Kuberts are now suing the driver who hit them as well as his girlfriend, who had been sending him text messages while he was driving. The Kuberts' lawyer argues that the girlfriend was "electronically present" in the crash and "may have known" he was driving. Linda Kubert says that she believes that if the girlfriend "knew he was driving and answering her back with texts, that she's partially responsible too."

Lawyers representing the girlfriend reportedly argued in their briefs that the lawsuit against her is a "leap of logic" that must be dismissed. On Friday of this week, a New Jersey judge will determine if the case against the girlfriend can go forward. 

I must agree with the girlfriend's lawyers here -- a case against the sender is too much of a "leap of logic." The sender of the text should be entitled to send a text and assume that the recipient will not reply until they can do so safely -- after they park their car, finish the open heart surgery they are performing on a patient, or whatever.

May 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 22, 2012

In Texas, Court Reporters Lose a Key Battle in Fight Against 'Non-Stenographic' Recordings

I have been following some interesting tracking developments in Texas affecting court reporters for about a year now. As I noted in June 2011, an article in the Austin Statesman took a look at the subject and wondered if the job of court reporter was starting to resemble a "system of medieval scribes" that might not be long for this world. Earlier in 2011, the Texas Conference of State Court Administrators had issued a report on the state's "inefficient" and "baffling" reliance on human court reporters to create transcripts.

In August 2011, a Texas organization called the Court Reporters Certification Board wrote a letter asking the state attorney general to opine on whether an oral deposition meant for use in litigation in the courts of Texas can be recorded solely by non-stenographic means (e.g., by video camera or an audio recording), or whether doing so would violate Texas Government Code §52.021(f), which requires that an oral deposition be recorded by a certified shorthand reporter.

The Tex Parte blog now reports that the AG has issued a response to the CRCB's question -- and it is not what the court reporters wanted to hear. In the May 14 opinion, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott concludes that "a party to litigation, the attorney of the party, or a full-time employee of a party or a party's attorney may record a deposition solely by non-stenographic means," such as audio or video recordings.

Abbott explained that while Subsection 52.021(f) does generally requires that "all depositions conducted in this state must be recorded by a certified shorthand reporter," an exception to this rule is carved out in section 52.033 for (1) a party to the litigation involved; (2) the attorney of the party; and (3) a full-time employee of a party or a party's attorney. Such individuals may therefore "record a deposition solely by non-stenographic means without violating Government Code section 52.021(f)," he stated.

May 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My mother was watching my kids for the day. They went to McDonald's and for unknown reasons my mom agreed to let my 10-year-old daughter park her car. Of course, my daughter then proceeded to run into three other cars in the process. Will my daughter get in any trouble for this?

: No, but grandma will likely be cited for allowing an unlicensed person to operate her motor vehicle. (, South Boston grandmother let 10-year-old drive her car, police say)

2) Question: I am awaiting trial on federal charges. The judge ruled that I can be released on bail but only if I read at least one hour every day, and write reports on certain books for at least 30 minutes every day. Can he do this? I hate to read!!

Answer: It would not be the first time a judge has issued a "read or jail" ultimatum. Of course you can always choose jail if the reading and writing is too hard for you. (New York Daily NewsWrite a book report, avoid jail: Judge orders man freed if he commits to literature) (via PrawfsBlawg)

3) Question: My husband is having trouble breathing but when I dial 911 all I hear is the sound of someone snoring. What is going on here? 

Answer: Sometimes 911 operators get tired, too. (, Md. dispatcher snores through emergency call)

May 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2012

Things That Exist, Vol. 1: Free Lawyer Ads on Craigslist

I feel like I'm on my computer constantly, poring through hundreds of feeds and stories daily, spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of legal blogs and information you deserve. But I definitely miss a lot of things that everyone else seems to know about -- the type of things where I can only scratch my head and say, "Really?!? They have that? Never heard of it." 

Today's thing I never knew existed: Lawyer ads on Craigslist

While reading the Simple Justice blog today (it must have been an old post as I know I wrote a fond "Farewell to 'Simple Justice' and Scott Greenfield" post back in February 2012 when Simple Justice shut down), I saw two references to young lawyers who tried placing free ads on Craigslist but ultimately rejected this business development tactic as undignified. "I don't care if it resulted in a client or two," said Jordan Rushie on his Philly Law Blog. "It's where people go to find hookers and meet people with weird fetishes. Do you really want to advertise professional services there?"

Matt Brown adds on his Tempe Criminal Defense blog that he, too, has rejected using Craiglist ads

mostly because I'd rather not be the kind of lawyer who posts between an old guy seeking a topless female roommate and a stewardess hoping to fornicate with a golden shepherd in front of her husband, but it's also because I know the odds of a good outcome are terrible and I stand to lose a lot more than five dollars.

There is probably some other lawyer out there who will soon post that he is now retired and sitting on the beach lighting cigars with $100 bills because of his wildly successful free Craigslist ads, but I haven't seen that yet. 

I headed over to the Craigslist "Legal Services" page for my area to see this for myself, and found that as of 3 p.m. today, there were 97 separate ads for every kind of low-end legal service you can think of. And those are just the ads for today! These include ads such as:

  • Is your home in foreclosure? We can help! $200 off your first visit
  • Unlimited Legal Advice Starting at $17/month
  • $299 UNCONTESTED DIVORCE, Reasonable Fees For Other Matters

And 94 others a lot like those. So for those of you like me who never knew about free lawyer ads on Craigslist ... now you know.

May 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

May 18, 2012

Please Stop Trying to 'Friend' and 'Connect' With Fla. State Court Judges

Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opined back in 2009 that it was not permissible for a judge to approve a lawyer who may appear before the judge as a "friend" on a social networking site such as Facebook. Nearly three years later, another judge asked the committee a related question: What about LinkedIn?

The specific question before the committee -- and its unequivocal answer in an opinion (via Legal Profession Blog) this week -- was as follows:

Whether a judge may add lawyers who may appear before the judge as "connections" on the professional networking site, Linked In, or permit such lawyers to add the judge as their "connection" on that site?


The Inquiring Judge argued that there should be a distinction between Facebook, "where family and other personal relationships are fostered," and LinkedIn, which the judge said was "for the purpose of conducting professional networking." The Inquiring Judge submitted that unlike Facebook, "a judge's connection on LinkedIn with lawyers who may appear before the judge does not reasonably convey the impression to the public that a personal relationship of any kind necessarily exists between them." 

The committee disagreed, stating that Florida Judicial Canon 2B prohibits a judge from conveying or permitting others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. The committee stated that, as it had found with Facebook in 2009, LinkedIn's processes for selecting "connections," and the fact that a judge's list of connections are visible to others who the judge has approved, convey that impression and therefore violate Canon 2B. 

The committee also observed that in California, a judge may accept a lawyer as a Facebook friend or LinkedIn connection if that lawyer "may" appear before the judge, but not if the lawyer actually has a case pending before the judge. The committee deemed that approach to be too difficult to administer, as it "contemplates a judge constantly approving, deleting, and reapproving lawyers as 'friends' or 'connections' as their cases are assigned to, and thereafter concluded or removed from, a judge."

May 18, 2012 | 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: So what, we get drunk ... and have sex in the back of Dubai taxis. We're livin' young, and wild and free! What are they going to do, throw me in jail? 

Answer: Yes. (Daily MailBritish woman faces jail for 'sex in backseat of Dubai taxi after all-day drinking binge')

2) Question: I am a candidate for a judgeship. Can I still wear my awesome donkey lapel pin? 

Answer: If a reasonable person objectively viewing the jewelry or apparel would conclude that you are commenting on your affiliation with a political party, then no. (Legal Profession Blog, Elephants, Donkeys And Judges)

3) Question: We want to sell a beverage called "Pomegranate Blueberry," but it contains only 0.3 percent pomegranate juice and 0.2 percent blueberry juice. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: No problem. (The National Law JournalNinth Circuit mostly sides with Coke in pomegranate juice wars)

May 18, 2012 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 17, 2012

False Friend? High School Principal Resigns After Facebook Spying Allegation

An interesting social media incident played out recently at a high school in Missouri that ended with principal Louise Losos resigning and hundreds of students at Clayton High School wondering: Who is Suzy Harriston?

Someone claiming to be "Suzy Harriston" from Clayton friended more than 300 people on Facebook, many of them from Clayton High School, without anyone really bothering to ask who Suzy was. On April 5, 2012, Chase Haslett, the former Clayton High School quarterback who had graduated in 2011, posted the following accusation on Facebook:

"Whoever is friends with Suzy Harriston on Facebook needs to drop them. It is the Clayton Principal."

According to St. Louis Today, the Suzy Harriston profile on Facebook quickly disappeared following Haslett's claim. A day later, so did Losos, as she was immediately placed on a "leave of absence." A few weeks later, Losos resigned, reportedly as part of a deal that paid her $140,000. The deal included Losos' agreement to take no legal action against the school district, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports. The Clayton School District stated only that her departure related to a "fundamental dispute concerning the appropriate use of social media."

Why did Losos allegedly friend hundreds of Clayton High School students under an alias? Parents of some of the "friended" students believe that Losos was using the access provided as a fake Facebook friend to secretly monitor students' communications and activity. One parent told the local paper that if that was, in fact, the case then Losos' conduct was a breach of trust.

Bottom line: High school principals "fake-friend" their students on Facebook at their peril.

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Here are the important pieces of what I am calling "Operation Rob a Local Internet Cafe." Please let me know if I have forgotten anything: Visit an Internet cafe and hang around inconspicuously using its computers, checking Facebook, etc.; after browsing the Web for a bit, go to the cashier to pay for my usage time and assault the man at the register; demand all the money in the register; get the money and escape on a stolen motorcycle. Foolproof, right?

Answer: You forgot to add "Log out of my Facebook account," which is key. (Digital TrendsTwo men rob Internet cafe, forget to log out of Facebook prior to robbery)

2) Question: I am a police officer. We caught a man trying to steal a $20,000 diamond, and he tried to hide the evidence by swallowing it! That was several days ago, and while he has had several bowel movements in that time, the diamond has not yet seen the light of day if you know what I'm saying (don't ask how I know this). We can only hold the alleged thief in custody for so long -- what should we do?

Answer: You can ask the court to extend the amount of time you can keep him in custody (with no toilet) given the hoped-for arrival of the diamond in the near future. In the meantime, you can charge him with "theft and breach of court conditions" and then up that to "possession of stolen property" once nature runs its course. (Montreal GazetteDiamond thief still sitting on the evidence)

3) Question: I work for the county mowing lawns. Today I found a loaded, snubnosed revolver in the grass we were mowing so I put it in our work van and then took it to the local police department. Was that the right thing to do?

Answer: It sure seems like it, but in some counties like Wayne County, Mich., that will get you fired for "possessing a weapon on work property." (myFOXDetroit, Wayne County Worker Fired after Finding Gun on the Job)

May 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2012

Gay Judge Candidate Rejected by Va. House Due to 'Advocacy' for Gay Rights

I am a native Marylander but I have lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., for almost two decades. I like it here quite a bit, but Virginia is quirky in that it is sharply divided in pretty much every way between the D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia and everywhere else. As I observed here,

Once you travel 100 miles south of D.C. and hit Richmond, you enter old-school Virginia -- the Virginia that makes you realize that you are in a state that was a full-blown part of the Confederate States of America.

Day-to-day, the cultural differences between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state are not really visible as those worlds don't collide much. But there are periodic flare-ups that serve as reminders of the state's deep conservative streak, such as Tuesday when the Virginia House of Delegates rejected Tracy Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay, for a judgeship in Richmond. The Washington Post reports that Thorne-Begland is a Richmond prosecutor who previously challenged the military’s "don't ask, don't tell" policy, has advocated for gay marriage and is raising twins with his partner.

Thorne-Begland's opponents argued that they voted against him not because he was gay, but rather because his advocacy "amounted to military insubordination and a challenge to the state constitution, which bans gay marriage and civil unions," the Post reports. Virginia Del. Robert G. Marshall objected to the fact that Thorne-Begland "holds himself out as being married," and called his life "a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution.”

Marshall also seemed to compare Thorne-Begland to someone practicing polygamy:

"Let’s pretend they were Clarence Darrow, the best lawyer in the 20th century. If he were married to three women and applied to be a judge in Virginia, we'd say, 'No, hell no and never.' ... We do not recognize these other relationships at all, and they are outside our normative judgment criteria.”

These explanations did not persuade Thorne-Begland's supporters, or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is a Republican. “The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Del. Charniele Herring, a Democrat who supported him. "We are on the wrong side of history on this one," added State Sen. Donald McEachin, a Democrat, who also supported Thorne-Begland.

Gov. McDonnell issued a statement saying that

judicial vacancies must be considered based solely on their merit, record, aptitude and skill. No other factors should ever be considered and the Governor has long made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in state government.

McDonnell's critics quickly shot back that McDonnell's own record undercut his words. The New York Times reports that when McDonnell himself was a Virginia state legislator, he headed the committee that "held hours of hearings and ultimately torpedoed the candidacy of a lesbian judge, Verbena Askew, whose sexual orientation was a central part of the debate."

May 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 at the local park and some dude started complaining that I was making too much noise and keeping his friend from sleeping. Then he picked up a pooper scooper and began swinging it at me, so I picked up my own pooper scooper to defend myself and engaged in a pooper scooper duel for about 30 minutes. Are you kidding me?? This has to be some kind of crime, right? Pooper scoopers can hurt!

Answer: It must be some crime, you are right, but the blawgosphere seems to have no record of any prior "assault and battery by pooper scooper." (Seattle PIEn garde: 2 battle with pooper scoopers in Seattle park

2) Question: I saw in your recent post that the woman who gave in to her boyfriend's request to put his penis in a hot hair iron was not guilty of assault because he asked for it. Similarly, my friend is begging me to shoot him in his own leg because he wants to know "how it feels." Can I shoot him without getting in trouble with the law?

Answer: No, it looks like that would be "reckless endangerment" on your part. Hold your fire! (The Associated Press, Cops: NY man shoots friend in leg at his request)

3) Question: I bought an old fixer-upper house and made some repairs to it, including a new roof and electrical and plumbing work. Then I figured out that the house the realtor sold me was actually the one next to the house I'd erroneously done the work on. D'oh!! Can I recover my expenses from the realtor?

Answer: It looks like you will have an uphill battle, sorry. (The Consumerist, Woman Buys, Rehabs Wrong House; Can't Get Anyone To Care About It)

May 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 18

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16 and Volume 17 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:

  • Attempt to smuggle 49 live reptiles in your luggage on an international flight. Passengers may not pack 31 spiny-tailed lizards and 18 geckos into their suitcase. This is true even if the passenger claims the reptiles are his "personal food supply" and offers to bite off the head of one to prove it. CONSEQUENCE: The passenger will face a fine of several thousand euros for transporting protected animals. The reptiles will be taken to a local veterinarian to be cared for.
  • Attempt to sneak 115 "oven-ready iguanas" into the United States from Mexico. Passengers may not attempt to bring a cooler into the U.S. filled with 159 pounds of the beheaded, skinned, and deboned bodies of 115 green iguanas. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger must serve 24 months in prison.
  • Attempt to board a plane while carrying an 18-month old child who is on the "no-fly" list. Passengers may not board a flight with a child who is flagged as being on the "no-fly" list. CONSEQUENCEEntire family will be removed from flight and ordered to speak with TSA, which will blame the whole thing on the airline.

May 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2012

Life is an Open-Book Test ... Unless You are a Juror

I've heard it said that "Life is an open-book test," and I believe that this has become even more true as the Internet, Google, smartphones and other fundamental features of the digital age have become ubiquitous. In the year 2012, when you want to understand something, or define something, or test something, or check someone's background, you typically have instant access to the tools you'd need to do so. If you are truly interested, you will take the 10 seconds needed to get an answer or to learn how you can get an answer... unless you are serving on a jury.

If you are serving on a jury, however, the normal rules of life in the 21st century no longer apply, and you must get each and every scrap of information needed to do your job directly from the proceedings in the courtroom so that your ultimate verdict is determined solely by the evidence. Need to look up what a key word means? Too bad -- -put that cell phone down!!

The Palm Beach Post has an interesting article on the rise of "juror mischief," i.e., jurors who revert to the "open book" mentality that governs most of their lives and conduct a bit of their own, basic research to help with their deliberations. Examples include:

  • Juror Dennis DeMartin, who wrote in a book about how he drank three vodkas one night during the trial to help him determine whether the defendant was unfit to drive when he crashed his car and killed someone. A Palm Beach judge ruled last week that this drinking experiment did not affect the jury's decision.
  • Three Ohio jurors who took showers and timed how long it took their bodies to air-dry. A key issue in the case was whether a victim's body would have been wet if her husband had called 911 immediately. After learning of the jurors' experiment, the trial judge threw out the verdict.
  • A juror in a murder trial who Googled the defendant's name and reported to the other jurors that the defendant was a "bad guy" who had run away to Nicaragua after the murder. When another juror told the judge about this, the court was forced to start jury selection over from the beginning.
  • A juror who used her smartphone to look up the definition of the word "bolster," which she shared with other jurors. The court later ruled that the definition wasn't key to the case, and let the conviction in the case stand.
  • In a case in which the jury had to determine if a defendant acted "prudently" when he fatally shot a neighbor, the jury foreman used his phone to look up that word and shared the definition with other jurors. An appeals court ruled that the word was important and reversed the defendant's manslaughter conviction.

Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor who also blogs about juries, told the Post that, for young people in particular, "digital activity" such as looking up words or finding information on Wikipedia is as normal as breathing. It is therefore more critical than ever, he says, for judges to fully explain why jurors may not conduct their own research and why they must instead rely solely upon the testimony and evidence presented in the case. "Get them to buy in," he says. "Tell them why it's not right."

In Palm Beach, courts now warn jurors against using social media or doing any of their own Internet research before or after they are selected, before they begin deliberations, and each time the jury takes a break. Last week, Palm Beach County also introduced a video intended to deliver that same message to all potential jurors.

May 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday'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 just minding my own business, walking down the street and doing some texting in my home town of Fort Lee, N.J. Why are the police eyeing me so much?

: Because you are committing the offense of TWW. The scourge that is "Texting While Walking" will now carry with it an $85 fine in the town of Fort Lee. (CBS News, Texting while walking banned in N.J. town)

2) Question: I'm enjoying a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up. They are made with real fruit -- Did you know that? It says so right on the label. How many grams of strawberries are in a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up, anyway? 

Answer: There are a total of 0.0 grams of strawberries in a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up. But there are some "pears from concentrate" in there, if that makes you feel any better. (Consumerist, General Mills Must Defend Claim That Fruit Roll-Ups Are "Made With Real Fruit")

3) Question: I live in Manhattan and have a child ready to start kindergarten. I just received a letter telling me the public elementary school that my child should be attending is full and we've been placed on a wait list, and that we should consider a new $16,000-a-year private school right down the block instead. Wow! The state is going to pay for my child to attend a fancy private school?

Answer: No way! That was just a friendly suggestion. (New York Post, Crowded Manhattan public kindergarten tells parents whose kids are wait-listed to try private school)

May 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 11, 2012

In Which I Win Rudy Giuliani's Yankees Tickets

Bracewell & Giuliani's Basis Points blog is holding a haiku contest, with the winning entry receiving Rudy Giuliani’s "primo" Yankees seats (second row directly behind home plate) plus a gourmet meal in the Legends Club for the Yankees' May 23 game against the Kansas City Royals. Before you start breaking out your award-winning lines of haiku from high school, you should know that the haiku that will win these tickets must be Yogi Berra-related:

But here’s the curveball. We don’t want just any haiku. We want one that is clever, well-written and relates to Yogi Berra in some fashion, such as his career, a quote attributed to him, or a made-up quote for him (written, of course, in five-seven-five syllable haiku structure).

Here is my entry. I look forward to seeing you all at the Legends Club in New York on May 23!

Why I Love Being a Baseball Manager
I cannot tell you
What you don't already know
You don't know nothing

May 11, 2012 | 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: Some loser cut my bike lock with bolt cutters and stole my bike. I was looking on Craigslist for a new one when I saw my stolen bike being offered for sale! Can I just meet up with the thief, pretend to take my stolen bike for a test ride, and never come back? 

: It belongs to you, so yes, although the police advise citizens against trying to recover stolen property on their own. (NBC Washington, Vigilante Bicyclist Gets His Stolen Bike Back) (via The Consumerist)

2) Question: I saw your post explaining that there are limits on what you can name your baby (e.g., "Toilet Queen" is not permitted), but how about on name changes for adults? Can I change my name to Tyrannosaurus Rex? 

Answer: No problem. (FOX News, Nebraska man changes name to Tyrannosaurus Rex)

3) Question: I feel like the judge's law clerk -- not the judge -- is doing all the work and making all of the decisions in the federal race discrimination case I brought. Can I file a "Motion for Disclosure of Chamber of Papers" demanding access to communications between the judge and his law clerk?

Answer: Nope. (Lawyerist, Silly Litigant, Bench Memos Are For Judges!)

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 10, 2012

Monson Trial Ends in Conviction and With No Additional Lawyers Stabbed With Pencils

The trial of Joshua Monson ended Wednesday when he was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. Also of significance -- particularly to the lawyer representing him in the trial -- Monson was stymied from stabbing a fourth lawyer with a pencil. On three separate prior occasions in court, Monson had stabbed his (soon-to-be former) lawyer with a pencil. Detecting a trend, the court in Monson's murder trial imposed stringent security measures for the trial, which thankfully proved to be effective.

As discussed here, the court overseeing Monson's trial required this "Hannibal Lecter of stabbing lawyers with pencils" to be seated at a separate table from his attorney, strapped to a chair with one hand additionally restrained, and wearing "an electric stun cuff that corrections officers can activate if he gets out of line." The Herald reports that the courtroom furniture was also rearranged in such a way as to keep the restraints out of the sight of jurors. 

The Herald also notes what must have been a harrowing moment just before the jury's verdict was read, when Monson reached out to shake his attorney's hand and thank him. This final exchange proved to be stab-free, as a corrections officer "kept a firm grip on Monson's forearm."

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Our high school wants to display the Ten Commandments but the local American Civil Liberties Union is now making a huge stink about it. What can we do?

: Have you considered just displaying six of the Ten Commandments?  (The Blaze, Judge suggests 10 Commandments be reduced to 6)

2) Question: Unbeknownst to me, my evil wife, with whom I am in a domestic dispute, concealed the hardware of a .40 caliber gun, a magazine loaded with two rounds of ammunition and a firing pin within a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. The Mickey Mouse was in my carry-on baggage as I tried to board a flight and the TSA found it, along with the gun and everything else. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: No, and in fact you won't even miss your flight. Just tell the TSA that you didn't know about the gun and that it is your wife's fault. They'll be cool with that and send you on your way. (CBS News, Family dispute behind big airport security scare?)

3) Question: Some guy just pulled a gun on me and demanded that I do the Michael Jackson "moonwalk" dance. I did not want to do the moonwalk but complied (on account of the gun and all). That has to be some crime, right? 

Answer: Yes, that sounds like assault. (The Associated Press, Idaho man accused of using gun to force 'moonwalk')

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2012

Southwest Passenger's Lawsuit Demands Clear Definition of Who Is a 'Customer of Size'

Southwest Airlines has a "Customers of Size Policy" that states: 

Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) should proactively book the needed number of seats prior to travel. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats and measures 17 inches in width. The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification to Southwest of a special seating need. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel, provided the flight does not oversell (which means having more confirmed Customers than seats on the aircraft).

Southwest adds in its Q&A about the Customers of Size policy that the armrest is the "definitive gauge" for a Customer of Size. "Customers who are unable to lower both armrests and/or who encroach upon any portion of the adjacent seat should proactively book the number of seats needed prior to travel," it states.

For travelers like Kenlie Tiggeman who are close to the line of being a Customer of Size, however, Southwest's policy is inadequate because it is adjudicated by a representative at the gate who simply eyeballs travelers and rejects some of them for being "too fat to fly." This first happened to Tiggeman in 2011, at a time when she had lost over 100 pounds (down from 400 pounds) and says she did fit into the airplane seat. Nonetheless, the representative at the gate flagged her as someone whose size required the purchase of two seats.

Tiggeman blogged about the incident, and Southwest eventually apologized. Tiggeman flew on Southwest a couple of times after that without any issues, but a few months later she was again told at the gate “Well, look at you.  Obviously you need two seats.” Tiggeman says she then produced the letter of apology from Southwest’s HQ regarding the last incident, and "their tune changed."

This second incident, however, outraged and embarrassed Tiggeman, who believed that it was wrong that Southwest seemed to arbitrarily apply the COS policy to her based on the whim of the gate representative:

The problem I have with Southwest is not that they may want me to purchase two seats.  It’s that sometimes they want that, and other times they don't. I don’t know about you, but I fly a lot. And paying double because a gate agent may or may not have something against overweight people is not realistic ... nor should it be necessary.  

Tiggeman announced on her blog last week that she has now filed a lawsuit against Southwest seeking an injunction against the implementation of the Customer of Size policy because it provides no clear definition of the rules and allows the gate agent to discriminate against overweight people. As Tiggeman puts it on her blog, "[c]learly, Southwest wants us to be a certain size, but no one (including Southwest) seems to know what that size is. ... as paying consumers we do have the right to fly if we’re willing to follow the rules.  And in order to do that, we need to know the rules."

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

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 am the tourism director for a county in Florida. It struck me one day that it would be pretty awesome if our county owned a yacht, so without consulting anyone else I used $710,000 in county funds to buy us a yacht. Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon --

Answer: Enough, Mr. Costanza! (, Official: Buying county a yacht was wrong)

2) Question: I got drunk and asked my girlfriend to use her hot hair iron to straighten my penis. After I badgered her enough she actually did it, which I now deeply regret. Did she commit an assault on me?

Answer: You asked her to do it, so there is no assault here. (The LocalSqueezing penis with hot iron 'not assault': court)

3) Question: Quick question before I head out on a hunting trip in Texas: Can I kill a Bigfoot if I find one? 

Answer: Yes, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says go ahead and bag one if you can. (Lowering the Bar, Note: In Texas, Bigfoot Is Fair Game)

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2012

Early Settlers in the Blawgosphere Begin to Turn 10 Years Old

Last month, The Volokh Conspiracy, which launched on April 10, 2002, celebrated its 10th birthday. On Sunday, May 6, Howard Bashman's How Appealing blog similarly turned 10 years old. Neither of these blogs can claim to be the oldest legal blog out there, as that distinction appears to be held by Walter Olson's Overlawyered blog, which launched on July 1, 1999 and will become the first blog teenager this summer. Other than outliers such as Overlawyered, however, the first wave of legal blogs really started to appear on the scene in late 2001 and 2002, and the recent birthdays marking a decade of blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy and How Appealing are just the beginning of many 10th birthdays that will be coming in 2012.

Back in 2007, Bob Ambrogi attempted to determine, in a post here at LBW, "Who Was the First Legal Blogger?" Ambrogi crowned Overlawyered with that title, and documented the birthdays of many of the other earliest legal blogs. Checking the archives of the longest-running legal bloggers that he knew of, Amrogi identified the following blog birthdates, from youngest to oldest -- notably, every one of the blogs below is still active:

Other notable legal blogs with birthdays coming up this year include Votelaw (July 4, 2002); Ambrogi's own LawSites blog (Nov. 19, 2002); and My Shingle (Dec. 2002).

UPDATE: Broc Romanek's excellent blog on corporate and securities law -- -- also turned 10 years old last week.

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2012

Tucker Max Explains 'Why You Shouldn't Go to Law School'

I have spent a decent amount of time through the years reading the various exploits of Tucker Max on his website. Don't head over to if you are easily offended -- indeed, the entire site is prefaced with the following introduction/warning:

I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way. I share my adventures with the world. They are known as ... THE TUCKER MAX STORIES.

After quickly attracting an audience to his unique brand of "fratire" years ago, Tucker Max branched out into writing books (three New York Times best sellers to date) and co-wrote and produced a movie based on his life. Prior to Max's various successes in the media world, he attended and graduated from Duke Law School in 2001, but apparently did not practice law or work in a law firm other than a summer associate position at Fenwick & West. Perhaps predictably, the stint at Fenwick & West ended after a drunken night that, long story short, resulted in the firm's hiring partner offering Max a choice of either "withdrawing" from the program and receiving about $20,000 in compensation; or getting fired and receiving nothing. Max took the $20,000 and withdrew from the summer program.

Over a decade later, Max has now started a blog called It's Up to You (via Constitutional Daily) with Nils Parker, the co-writer of his movie, that will offer "real, no bullshit advice on topics of interest to young adults." It is unclear how often the blog will venture into issues touching on the law or the legal profession as it develops, but its first post ("Why You Shouldn’t Go To Law School") is a warning shot to anyone thinking about going to law school, as both Max and Parker did:

At some point in their life, everyone thinks they should go to law school. You may in fact think you want to go to law school now. You’re wrong. I don’t know you, I have no idea what the facts of your life are, but that doesn’t matter, you aren’t the exception:

For the overwhelming majority of people  (>99.9%), law school is the wrong choice.

In the post, Max and Parker lay out the "6 Wrong Reasons To Go To Law School," and explain in no uncertain terms why they believe reasons are quite misguided. These include:

1. "I like arguing and everyone says I’m good at it."

The authors deem this reason "the worst by a large margin. Know who else likes arguing? Sports talk radio hosts, cable news talking heads and teenaged girls -- i.e., idiots. If you like to argue just for the sake of being contentious, you shouldn’t pick a job based on this unresolved emotional issue of yours, you should get counseling for it." They explain that the practice of law includes very little "arguing" in thje conventional sense and "if arguing is really why you want to go to law school, save your money and start a blog about American politics where you can shout into the echo chamber of imbeciles all you want without bothering anyone smart who has shit to do."

Amen. I can only assume that the people spouting this as a reason to head to law school got it from the same bunch of non-lawyer parents I know who all tell me their kid will surely be a great lawyer because he won't stop arguing with them.

6. "I want to make a lot of money."

Using some of the recent data on law school debt, Max and Parker explain that not only are you highly unlikely to get one of the rare entry-level Big Law jobs paying the big bucks, but even if you do, you will work so many hours that you may end up making about $50/hour while simultaneously hating your life.

In between numbers 1 and 6 above, Max and Parker take on commonly stated reasons for going to law school such as "I want to change the world," "I don’t know what else to do," and several other reasons. Check out their full argument on "Why You Shouldn’t Go To Law School" here.

May 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: We just ate dinner at a restaurant and the service was poor. Despite that, the restaurant is insisting that we pay a gratuity of 17 percent that was automatically added to our bill per the restaurant's policy. We paid the bill and refused to pay the gratuity, but now they have locked the doors to the restaurant, won't let us leave, and have called the police. Who is going to be in trouble when the cops get here -- the restaurant or us?

Answer: Tough question. You are not abiding by the restaurant's policy but it also sounds like you are being held against your will. Are you sure you don't want to just pay the gratuity and fight about it later? (Consumerist, Diners Say They Were Locked Inside Restaurant For Refusing To Pay Automatic Gratuity)

2) Question: I found a discarded lottery ticket in a garbage can here in Arkansas, and it turned out to be a million-dollar prize winner! "Finders keepers" applies here, right?

Answer: No, finders keepers doesn't fly in Arkansas, sorry. (The Associated Press, Woman Who Lost Ark. Lotto Ticket Entitled to $1M)

3) Question: Quick question: Can my girlfriend and I have sex in a cable car?

Answer: If you were born in the 1990s, you may not have sex in certain cable cars. (Orange News, Cable car sex ban introduced)

May 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 04, 2012

Farewell to TabletLegal, the 'iPad + Lawyers' Blog

I welcomed TabletLegal ("iPad + Lawyers") into the blawgosphere here back in early 2010, so I probably ought to bid it farewell as it shuts down a little over two years later.

On Jan. 27, 2010, Apple announced that the first iPad would be available in March 2010. Three days later, Portland, Ore., business attorney Josh Barrett launched TabletLegal, a blog that would allow him to "discuss lawyers using the iPad, applications for the iPad and other developments specific to the iPad in the legal profession." Since that original post, Barrett has cranked out over 150 additional posts about the use of the iPad by lawyers over the past two-plus years. Several of Barrett's posts on TabletLegal (here and here, for example) have been profiled here at LBW. 

This week, Barrett wrote that a combination of new demands on his time (such as opening his own firm), and a growing disconnect between what his readers wanted to read and what he wanted to write, had led him to conclude that it was time to shut down TabletLegal. "TabletLegal has become that extra app on my home screen, the distracting choice, gumming up my ability to get the stuff I want to do, done. I need to delete some apps and TabletLegal is the one to go," he explained.

For those who seek information on lawyers use of the iPad going forward, Barrett recommends iPhone J.D. by Jeff Richardson; WalkinGOffice by Rob Dean; and iPad4Lawyers by Tom Mighell. Farewell, TabletLegal, and thanks for over two years of interesting posts.

May 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2012

Pit Bull Lovers Condemn Md. Court Holding as 'Racism for Canines'

As discussed here, last month the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that pit bulls as a breed are "inherently dangerous," thus eliminating the need for a plaintiff injured by a pit bull to show that the owner had actual knowledge that the specific pit bull involved was dangerous. The holding was a dramatic departure from the longstanding "one free bite" rule in Maryland and most states that provides that if your dog bites and injures another person and has never done anything like that before, you are not liable for those injuries because the law assumes that you had no knowledge that your dog was dangerous. 

The Maryland court's ruling has sparked a major backlash among dog rescue groups and, of course, pit bull owners, but also support from certain parents, groups and dog bite victims. CBS News reports that the Maryland SPCA disagrees with the ruling, and fears that it will lead to more pit bulls having to be "put down" instead of being adopted. The SPCA says it is nurture, not nature that gives the breed a bad reputation. "Every animal is an individual, so to say that all pit bulls are inherently dangerous is absolutely untrue," said the SPCA's Cheryl Bernard Smith. The SPCA is reportedly trying to solicit support from Maryland lawmakers to legislate around the holding.

In response to my LBW post on the subject here in April, dozens of pit bull owners, workers in veterinarian offices and other supporters have left comments on that post condemning the court's holding. Most of the comments emphasize the belief that it is not the dog or the breed that determines aggressiveness, but how the dog was raised. One commenter noted that "many pitbulls and 'pitbull looking' dogs will now DIE in shelters with no chance of getting a home" because of the decision. Another lamented that he himself won't be able to find "a place to live and will be forced to leave Md so that I can keep me 14 year old pit bull. Thanks Md, my Dog has never hurt anything but he is now an easy Target for me to be sued since people now days are always looking for a reason to sue somebody." And several others accused Maryland of engaging in a "form of racism, for canines."

May 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Everyone always says "man bites dog" when they want to refer to something unusual. What about "woman bites dog?" Wouldn't that be even more unusual?  How about some respect for the ladies?

Answer: Here you go. Woman bites dog ... and gets herself charged with animal cruelty and underage drinking. (Trib LocalPolice: Woman bites dog)

2) Question: I've been going to tanning salons my whole life and I look awesome. Crispy dark-orange, but awesome. Can I bring my six-year-old daughter along with me so that she can enjoy some fake-tanning, too? 

Answer: No, that will get you charged with second-degree child endangerment. (CBS News, NJ mom arrested over 6-year-old's alleged tanning visit)

3) Question: My wife and I are renting a house and after living here just a week or so we're confident it is haunted. Our clothes get mysteriously ejected from their closets, and we hear strange noises like footsteps and the sound of something being dragged through the basement. Can we move out before our lease term is up and sue to recover our security deposit?

Answer: You can try, but the landlord may countersue you for stigmatizing the property with your spooky claims and diminishing his ability to rent or sell the house in the future. (Asbury Park PressEmbrace spirit of ghost story)

May 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2012

Google's 'Anti-Semitic' Auto-Complete Feature Spawns Lawsuit in France

Via Hollywood, Esq. I see that the specific information in the image pasted below -- the familiar computer-generated "auto-complete" function on Google -- has now spawned a lawsuit. 

Hollywood, Esq. reports that SOS Racisme, a French organization that fights discrimination, has filed a lawsuit against Google in France because, in anticipating a user's search, Google's search engine's auto-complete box suggests that people such as News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and actor Jon Hamm are Jewish. Lawyers for SOS Racisme argue that "by connecting persons with an often persecuted religious minority, the web giant is overseeing 'the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history.'" SOS Racisme further complains that Google is presenting its users on a daily basis with "unsolicited and systematic associations" between people such as Murdoch and their Jewishness.

How and why does Google's auto-complete end up connecting the terms "Rupert Murdoch" and
"Jewish?" According to Google, "[a]s you type, Google's algorithm predicts and displays search queries based on other users' search activities and the contents of web pages indexed by Google." These predicted queries are "algorithmically determined based on a number of purely algorithmic factors (including popularity of search terms) without human intervention. The auto-complete data is updated frequently to offer fresh and rising search queries."

With or without "human intervention," SOS Racisme nonetheless alleges in its lawsuit that the presence of the word "Jew" in Google's auto-complete lists violates a French constitutional law against compiling files on people that refer to their ethnicity, PC Mag notes.

May 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 01, 2012

Lawyer-Musicians Square Off in ABA's 'Battle of the Lawyer Bands'

Back in December 2010 I learned about the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, a philharmonic orchestra made up solely of lawyers. My immediate question was ... why? Wouldn't limiting the pool of orchestra members to one relatively small profession lead to a weaker orchestra, I asked in this post.

That led to a number of comments to the post in which members of the LALP and others explained that although the concept does not really make sense if one's sole purpose is love of music, LALP goes well beyond that because it allows its members to "use the orchestra as a forum to socialize with persons with a common background." LALP is kind of like a lawyer softball team in that regard, one commenter explained. Another LALP participant noted that the legal theme also helps them get gigs. LALP is frequently invited to bar functions, whereas most community orchestras don't usually get invited to play anywhere.

Today I learned (via the ABA Journal) one more reason to have an all-lawyer band: It allows you to participate in things like the ABA's Battle of the Lawyer Bands Contest to be held at the 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago. On the ABA website now, you can listen to videos of the five finalists and vote for your favorite. The three top vote-getters will then be invited to play at the President's Reception at the Art Institute of Chicago on Saturday, August 4, and also receive a cash prize of up to $5000 for the winning band.

You can check out the lawyer bands, all of which sound pretty good in the videos, and cast your vote here. I am personally giving extra credit to the band "Treble Damage" for having the most law-related name of all the bands.

May 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My employee donated a kidney to help save my life. But now I think I need to let her go, even though I'm pretty sure she thinks she has a job here for life given the whole "I gave you my kidney" thing. Can I still fire her?

Answer: Yes, although you may be doomed to a lifetime of truly horrible karma and she may try to get the kidney back. (New York PostDonor wants organ back from ex-boss)

2) Question: I'm a police officer. I just pulled over a man for going 111 mph in a 45 mph zone. His explanation was that he was in a hurry to "try to go have sex with a girl he liked." I can kind of relate -- should I let him off? 

Answer: No, you need to go by the book on this one. If we start letting everyone off who is speeding to go have sex, then our society and our motor safety will crumble before our eyes. Stay strong. (, I did 111 mph 'to go have sex,' man tells cops)

3) Question: I'm a police officer. I was arresting a man for a minor disorderly conduct charge when, while in handcuffs, he suddenly headbutted the side of my squad car hard enough to knock himself unconscious and put a large dent in the side of my vehicle! Where do I even start here?

Answer: First, you can up the charges to second-degree criminal mischief, which can be a felony, for damaging your car. Second, maybe call a paramedic? (The Daily IowanMan charged with criminal mischief after headbutting a patrol car)

May 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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