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June 29, 2012

Oh, How I Hope and Pray That They Will, but Today I Am Still ...

If you can't complete the sentence in the headline above, then either you are under the age of 30, you grew up without a television or you are from a distant foreign land.  

Any way, I'm pretty sure that somewhere in the Legal Blog Watch constitution it states that in the event that a federal appeals court cites to "Schoolhouse Rock" as part of an opinion, such court shall be recognized in a post. Accordingly, I salute you, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and your tremendous citation in an opinion this week to the cartoons I watched growing up:

We have serious doubts as to whether, for standing purposes, it is ever "likely" that Congress will enact legislation at all. After all, a proposed bill must make it through committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and garner a majority of votes in both chambers -- overcoming, perhaps, a filibuster in the Senate. If passed, the bill must then be signed into law by the President, or go back to Congress so that it may attempt to override his veto. As a generation of schoolchildren knows, "by that time, it's very unlikely that [a bill will] become a law. It's not easy to become a law." Schoolhouse Rock, I'm Just a Bill, at 2:41, available at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7266360872513258185#  (last visited June 1, 2012).

Thank you Judges Sentelle, Rogers and Tatel for the old school reference!

June 29, 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: Am I wasted, or did this urinal cake in the men's room just talk to me?

Answer: Possibly both. (Detroit Free PressMichigan adds talking urinal cakes to DUI fight)

2) Question: I battered my sister. In my defense, however, she criticized how much maple syrup I placed on my pancakes. That's a legit defense, right?

Answer: Not in this country. (The Star PressPolice: Arrest follows dispute over pancakes)

3) Question: Umm, how am I supposed to use this public bathroom in Clear Lake Park, Fla.? The doors seem to be sealed shut!

Answer: Not sealed, welded. That is how the city keeps the homeless away. (Daily Mail, City takes extreme measures against the homeless... by welding restroom doors shut)

June 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 28, 2012

Second Circuit Holds Jury May Bring Indictment Home to Read

On Wednesday, the Second Circuit issued an opinion on an interesting question of trial practice and procedure: Is it permissible for the jury in a criminal case to take the indictment home to read on their own time?

In U.S. v. Esso (via WSJ Law Blog and the New York Law Journal), a case alleging a mortgage fraud scheme, jury deliberations began on Aug. 25, 2010, at about 3:20 p.m. At 4:25 p.m., the jury informed the court that it planned to leave at 4:30 p.m., and asked whether they could take the indictment home to "carefully read." The defendant's attorney opposed this request, arguing that reading the indictment at home is "akin to deliberating" and "akin to asking to take exhibits home," and also that the indictment "serves as the government summation." The government did not object to allowing the jury to take the indictment home provided that the jury was instructed not to discuss the indictment with family members or to deliberate outside the jury room.

The district court decided that the jury could take the indictment home, telling them it was "the same thing as reading it here in the jury room tomorrow morning at ten, it just saves some time." The court instructed the jurors not to show the indictment to anyone and not to do any research on their own. The next day, the jury returned and began deliberations, and convicted the defendant on both of the charges.

On appeal, Esso argued that he was denied a fair trial when the district court allowed the jury to take home the copy of the indictment -- an issue that the Second Circuit said appeared to be one of first impression in any federal or state court. The Second Circuit held that although it had its doubts about the wisdom of the practice,

we conclude that, so long as jury deliberations have begun and appropriate cautionary instructions are provided, permitting the jury to take the indictment home overnight does not deprive a defendant of a fair trial.

The Second Circuit acknowledged that sending trial materials home with jurors could increase the chance of exposing the jury to outside influences, and could overemphasize the significance of the indictment, which it called a "one-sided presentation of the prosecution's view of the case." It also stated that it "hasten[ed] to add that the better practice weighs against the experiment undertaken here." Nonetheless, the court said its holding was

mindful of the great discretion accorded to trial judges to manage their own courtrooms, and of the desirability of allowing a measure of careful experimentation with trial management procedures that may at first appear undesirable simply because they are untraditional. Practices that were once controversial -- such as permitting jurors to take notes -- are now commonplace.

June 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 buddies and I were driving in a car and we stupidly threw a milkshake at a woman on the street. She became angry and threw her alligator purse at our car, which somehow went right through our open car window. We then learned that the purse contained $2,000 in cash. Can we get in trouble for the milkshake? How about if we keep the purse and the cash? 

Answer: According to police, you could face charges of battery for striking the woman with the milkshake, and possession of stolen property or misappropriation of property for the purse. (Palo Alto Online, Woman hit with milkshake loses $2,000)

2) Question: A man was walking past my apartment door and let loose an unforgivable fart. Can I threaten him with my revolver?

Answer: No sir, that could get you charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm and making terroristic threats. (NJ.com, Police: Teaneck man pulled gun on neighbor for farting)

3) Question: The line for metal detector number one at the airport goes on forever, but people are just sailing through metal detector number two. How is this possible? 

Answer: Sometimes the TSA employees at the airport forget to plug in one of the metal detectors at security. (Newsmax, Unplugged JFK Metal Detector Leads to Evacuation and Delays)

June 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2012

Law Firms Must Watch Out for 'Doppelganger Domain Names'

I always thought that the reason for snatching up any domain names that might be confused with the one your company is using was to avoid "cybersquatting," or perhaps to avoid losing website visitors or even customers to a competitor trying to piggyback on your name. And while those are valid reasons, another potentially more damaging reason has now emerged: "doppelganger" domain names that are set up in order to steal emails that are supposed to be going to employees at your law firm or company.

Threat Level reported this week on a law firm -- Gioconda Law Group -- that was the alleged victim of such tactics. In a recently filed lawsuit, Gioconda Law Group alleges that a defendant named Arthur Kenzie registered a "doppelganger domain," GiocondoLaw.com (note the slight difference in spelling), "that is designed to catch email that is intended for the law firm’s domain ... if senders mistype the address." The law firm's complaint asserts claims of cybersquatting, trademark infringement and unlawful interception of a law firm's private electronic communications, and seeks $1 million in damages.

According to an article from September 2011 on the topic, someone who wants to intercept emails can register a doppelganger domain and configure an email server to be a catch-all to receive correspondence addressed to anyone at that domain. Then, when a client accidentally sends an email to jsmith@skaden.com instead of jsmith@skadden.com, for example, it will be received not by the law firm but by the person who owns the doppelganger domain "skaden.com." In a study on the subject released in September 2011, researchers testing this vulnerability set up 30 doppelganger accounts for various large companies and managed to attract 120,000 errant emails in a six-month period.

This is not the first domain-related allegation against Kenzie, the defendant in the Gioconda Law Group case. InfoWorld reports that in July 2011, Kenzie purchased the domain names LockheedMarton.com and LockheedMartun.com

to intercept emails intended for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Kenzie claimed he had been performing research about Lockheed's email vulnerabilities. The ruling panel, however, determined that Kenzie's actions were motivated by a bad-faith attempt to extort money, and ordered him to hand over the domains to Lockheed Martin. 

"It is obvious that it was [Kenzie] that created the alleged vulnerability of [Lockheed Martin's] trademark, and his purpose was to offer services to the [the company], looking for a financial gain," the ruling panel stated.

In short, if your law firm's domain name is susceptible to misspellings, add intercepted emails to the list of things you should be protecting against.

June 27, 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: My wife and I got divorced and split up our assets. But she never told me that she had a secret room filled with 1,200 pairs of designer shoes worth about $1 million. Can I sue her to get this asset added to the settlement?

Answer: Divorce lawyers say that while clothing typically is not considered an asset, 1,200 pairs of expensive shoes may be an exception. And watch out that she does not just dump several hundred pairs of already worn shoes on your doorstep. (ABC News, Husband Suing Ex-Wife Over 1,200-Pair Shoe Collection)

2) Question: I left my 11-week-old twins alone inside my SUV for 40 minutes, but in my defense I had to go to Nordstrom. Can I get into trouble for this? 

Answer: Oh yes -- you can be prosecuted and on top of that you may be banned from Nordstrom. (The Consumerist, Mom Ordered To Stay Away From Nordstrom For Leaving Kids In The Car To Shop)

3) Question: My 13-year-old daughter got in trouble and actually had to go to court because she and a friend cut off the hair of a 3-year-old girl with scissors. The judge said in court that he will reduce my daughter's sentence if I will chop off my daughter's own ponytail in court. Can he do this?  

Answer: Many states give judges discretion in determining sanctions for youth that will change their behavior in a positive way. This sounds like the ponytail version of an "eye for an eye." (The Associated Press, Mother cuts daughter's hair in court, judge reduces sentence)

June 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2012

The Growing 'Barratry Law Niche' in Texas and Other States

First, there was barratry -- the practice of "creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter." People didn't like barratry, so many states made it a misdemeanor crime punishable by fine or imprisonment and, when the perpetrator is an attorney, possible disbarment. Most recently, in states like Texas, statutes allow for civil actions against lawyers who illegally solicit clients.

On his blog today, Chuck Newton writes about the state of barratry in Texas. He notes, for example, an episode in which his daughter's boyfriend was in an auto accident that left him with a concussion, a hurt leg and a totaled car:

This accident happened at night. The next morning, while he was still out of it, a person from a local personal injury law firm called him offering their services to him, claiming the law firm would do so for a lower percentage of any recovery than other law firms might. The lady felt comfortable in calling him not because of any prior relationship with the firm, as she did not mention the name of the firm or the lawyer in the phone call, but because he had a Hispanic last name. She thought that speaking with him in Spanish could establish a familial connection such that she could come over and obtain an employment contract.

Newton says that there is now even a "barratry law" niche developing in Texas due to a 2011 Texas statute passed that "adds a cause of action for a client who has been unlawfully solicited to void the contract and recover any actual damages and any fees and expenses paid." Under this statute, barratry victims can recover (1) a penalty in the amount of $10,000; (2) actual damages caused by the prohibited conduct; and (3) reasonable and necessary attorney fees.

According to Newton,

At least one lawyer, Bill Edwards, in Texas is now trying to build a niche practice based upon this law. And, lawsuits are already being filed. Thomas J. HenryDennis Bujnoch entering the field. Carabin & Shaw in San Antonio have produced a TV spot about the practice.

Although the laws of each state differ, these types of lawsuit are showing up in other states, such as AlabamaMichigan, and Florida to name a few.

The Carabin & Shaw TV spot mentioned above is also posted on YouTube, and can be viewed below:

June 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2012

EU Court Says Employees' 'Enshrined' Right of Paid Vacation Not Lost by Sickness

In Europe, four to six weeks of paid vacation time for employees is an entitlement that employees and the courts hold sacred and is, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union, a "particularly important principle of EU social law."

Last week, the Court of Justice further protected this entitlement when it held that "a worker who becomes unfit for work during his paid annual leave is entitled at a later point in time to a period of leave of the same duration as that of his sick leave." In other words, if you are on vacation and you get sick, you can use sick days during the vacation and use those vacation days later.

The case in question -- Asociacion Nacional de Grandes Empresas de Distribucion (ANGED) v Federacion de Asociaciones Sindicales (FASGA) and Others -- arose out of Spain, when ANGED (translated: the National Association of Large Distribution Businesses) argued that workers who were affected by temporary incapacity for work during a period of leave were not entitled to take leave at a later date.

Spain's Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) asked the Court of Justice whether the EU's Working Time Directive precluded certain Spanish legislation under which a worker who becomes unfit for work during a period of paid annual leave is not entitled subsequently to that annual leave. The Court of Justice held that the entitlement to paid annual leave is "enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights" and cannot be interpreted restrictively. The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave "is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure," The Court of Justice stated. "The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work."

The Court of Justice's ruling applies to the 27 countries in the European Union.

June 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 restaurant just received a call from the police telling us that our account with the power company was past due and the power would be shut down in 20 minutes unless we went to CVS and purchased $1,450 in Green Dot prepaid debit cards. The police then told us to scratch off the back of the cards and give them the numbers so they could access the money. Of course we promptly complied. Police do this, right?

Answer: Uh, no. (Daily BulletinClaremont restaurant gets scammed)

2) Question: My good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend grabbed my purse out of my apartment. He later returned it to me at work and when I opened it I found that he had defecated inside my purse. Yes, I'm talking human feces in my purse! Please tell me he can be charged with some heinous crime for doing this.

Answer: He can be charged with disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property and theft for defiling your purse in that way. (DL-Online, Police accuse man of defecating in ex-girlfriend's purse)

3) Question: I am from Iran, and I'm trying to buy an iPad at an Apple store here in the U.S. Does anyone at these Apple stores speak Farsi? 

Answer: You might want to keep the Farsi and the "from Iran" comments to yourself. Otherwise, no iPad for you. (WSBTV.com, Customer: Apple Store denied me iPad for speaking Farsi)

June 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 22, 2012

'Thou Shalt Not ...' Join our Health Club, Skinny

Welcome back to the latest in LBW's "Thou Shalt Not ..." series. As you may recall, this series seeks to properly memorialize the growing number of instances I see where a corporation rolls out its "death penalty" punishment on a customer: "You can never come here [buy here] [eat here] again!!" 

The latest installment in this series:

Thou shalt not join our health club/yoga studio because you are too damn skinny.

You work out. You're in good shape. Now a new gym is opening down the street from your house, and you think you'll join it. Not so fast, skinny!

The New York Daily News reports that several gyms and yoga studios now have policies that limit their clientele to "plus-size" people. In other words, skinny people need not apply. Body Exchange in Vancouver is one such gym with a "strict policy" that only allows plus-size women to join. CEO Louise Green says the gym views itself as a "safe haven" for overweight people, offering them "camaraderie."

Downsize Fitness, a chain of gyms, is also targeted and designed for people who have at least 50 pounds to lose. Although the gym doesn't formally ban anyone from joining, it does make its "50-plus" preference quite clear, along with the message that most people who join are doing so for that reason. Buddha Body Yoga is also specifically geared toward larger-size people, although it, too, has stopped short of putting a concrete "ban" in place.

I can understand the concept of banning/discouraging skinny people, but let me ask this: Given that the point of these gyms is presumably to go from being a plus-size person to a fit/skinny person, what happens if a plus-size client actually achieves skinniness? Are they promptly kicked out for being too skinny?

June 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 21, 2012

Can You Be Convicted of Carrying a Concealed Weapon in Your Own Home?

Let's put aside the practical question of whether it is safe or wise to keep a steak knife in your pocket, and move on to the legal issue presented in State v. Griffin (Del. June 18, 2012).

In the Griffin case (via The Volokh Conspiracy), William Griffin was in his basement packing and unpacking some boxes, and was using a steak knife to open the boxes. The police came to Griffin's door in response to a report of a domestic dispute and, to make a long story short, he put the steak knife in his pocket and met up with the police. 

Griffin was arrested for the domestic dispute and, while he was in custody, police discovered the steak knife in his pocket. The police stated that Griffin initially told them the knife was left in the basement, but Griffin said he told police the knife was in his pants. Griffin was charged with, among other things, the felony of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. 

The Delaware Supreme Court reviewed the question of whether a person can be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon in his own home. The court held that the Delaware Constitution provides the right to keep and bear arms, which includes the right to carry a concealed weapon in the home for a lawful purpose: 

Griffin says he told the police that the knife was in his pant leg. The police say he told them the knife was in the basement. If the jury believes Griffin, he cannot be convicted for CCDW. He was entitled to be carrying the concealed knife in his home, and he revealed the knife’s concealed location when asked by the police. Griffin was unable to remove the knife from his pant leg because he was handcuffed, and he did not voluntarily leave his home while carrying the weapon. If, instead, the jury believes the police, then Grifñn was subject to prosecution for CCDW. Although he may not have had an unlawful purpose for continuing to conceal the Weapon, he no longer had a constitutionally protected right to do so.

The court remanded the case, finding that factual findings were needed on whether Griffin was given the opportunity to disclose that he was carrying the knife, and, if so, whether he did so truthfully. 

June 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 get the vanity license plate "TOILET" on my Maryland plates. Don't judge. Is that going to be a problem? 

Answer: Sorry, but "TOILET" is on the list of banned plates in Maryland. However, if you feel strongly about it, you can demand a hearing on the issue. (Reuters, States carefully monitor motorists' license 2 B creative on personalized plates)

2) Question: My girlfriend asked me to get some PAM (the cooking spray, it turned out) to use as a sexual lubricant. In a miscommunication that I now deeply regret, I thought she was asking me about an old girlfriend of mine named Pam, and I quickly confessed to recently having sex with my old girlfriend Pam on a boat. This prompted my girlfriend to fly into a violent rage, and she punched me repeatedly and then threw an olive oil bottle, a keg cup and a flashlight at my head. Yes, I messed up badly here but she should face some charges, right?

Answer: For sure. Domestic battery. (The Huffington Post, Barbara Hall Had Cooking Spray Sex, Threw Bottle At Boyfriend, Florida Cops Say)

3) Question: I am trying to get a job at the TSA but I cannot pass the proficiency test. How much would I have to pay the training instructor to give me a passing grade?

Answer: Looks like $200. (The Consumerist, 7 TSA Agents Fired For Paying Bribes To Pass Proficiency Tests)

June 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 20, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 20

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18 and Volume 19 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:

  • Wear a shirt revealing your cleavage (for women). Female passengers may not wear a cleavage-baring shirt, even if the flight is departing from a town in the desert on a hot day. CONSEQUENCE: Gate worker will demand that passenger button up her shirt if she wants to board the flight.
  • Punch a fellow passenger, yell profanities at other passengers and air crew, and punch the seats in front of you in a violent manner (for grandmothers). Punching passengers and seats is prohibited, as is cursing out the air crew mid-flight. This prohibition applies equally to drunken grandmothers, as well. CONSEQUENCEPilot will turn flight around and land plane, and passenger will be restrained and removed from plane upon landing. 
  • Refuse to sit upright and wear seatbelt as instructed during takeoff (for toddlers). Three-year-old passengers may not disregard the captain's instructions to sit upright and keep their seatbelt on. CONSEQUENCE: Pilot will return the plane to the gate, and toddler and his entire family will be removed from plane.

June 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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 a politician. I went deep into the woods at night to have sex with someone, and later learned that my tryst was captured on film by a wildlife camera that featured infrared technology allowing it to shoot in the dark. Can I receive some compensation for this?

Answer: Yes, how does £16,000 sound? (The TelegraphWildlife camera catches Austrian politician having sex in forest)

2) Question: I'm from Austria and I got married yesterday. After the ceremony but before the reception, my piece-of-@&!# new husband went into the kitchen and had sex with a waitress, where he was discovered by my surprised father! Can I get a divorce right now?

Answer: Sorry, you need to wait six months like everyone else in Austria. But you will probably receive alimony! (Daily Mail, Drunk groom had sex with waitress at wedding reception... and was caught by his new father-in-law)

3) Question: I am applying for a job, and I think I have a good shot at it. But what do they mean with the interview question, "When were you saved?" 

Answer: Some companies are allegedly only looking to hire people who are "born again." This is the subject of a Title VII case right now. (ABC News, Not Christian Enough? Job Seeker Sues Company for Asking When He Was 'Saved')

June 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 19, 2012

'YOLO': Error Allows Retiree to Withdraw $1.5 Million From ATM, Which He Gambles Away

When you are a retired autoworker with just a few hundred dollars in your bank account, and you discover that a bank error has suddenly allowed you to make unlimited withdrawals, in any amount, from any ATM machine, you have some choices to make.

Your options in this situation would seem to include:

(1) not withdrawing money you know you don't have and alerting the bank to the issue;

(2) enjoying this error to an extent that you can later recover from financially, e.g., withdrawing enough to go out to a fancy dinner or on a cruise or something; or ...

(3) going on an all-out, "YOLO," 15-day binge of ATM withdrawals (until the bank discovers the error) totaling $1.5 million, and losing every penny of that $1.5 million gambling in casinos.

According to Local 10, a retired General Motors worker named Ronald Page recently found himself in this very situation, and went with Door No. 3 above -- the $1.5 million gambling spree. With the money all gambled away and Bank of America demanding the return of its $1.5 million, Page is now in a bit of a bind, and faces sentencing by a federal judge on June 27. Local 10 reports that prosecutors are seeking a relatively lenient sentence of just 15 months in prison because they believe "Page had a lapse of judgment and the bank was at fault for allowing this to happen."

Page is still presumably on the hook for the $1.5 million, but I'm assuming he can pay some of that off with his share of the proceeds from the movie that is hopefully in the works right now about his ATM/casino adventures. Seriously, if It Could Happen to You can get made and star Nicholas Cage, then someone in Hollywood needs to be greenlighting Unlimited Cash or The Dream ATM or [provide your own proposed title in the comments] based on Page's story!

June 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

June 18, 2012

Abortion Bill Debate Leads Politicians to Present 'Vagina Monologues' on Steps of Mich. Capitol

When Michigan state Representative Lisa Brown was elected to the state Legislature, she surely never imagined that her service might ultimately lead to her participation in a performance of the play The Vagina Monologues, on the steps of the state Capitol. But just such a performance is planned for this evening

Last week, Brown spoke out against a bill that imposes what she considers to be "coercive abortion screening," as it requires doctors to affirmatively determine if a woman is being coerced into having an abortion. NPR reports that while denouncing the bill on the floor of the Michigan House, Brown stated, "[a]nd finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"

The next day, the House Republican leadership refused to permit Brown to speak on an unrelated bill concerning the retirement of school employees, stating that her "vagina" remark violated decorum and was "so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company." Brown responded on her website that "the word 'vagina' [ ] is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that another female Michigan legislator, Representative Barb Byrum, was also prohibited from speaking on the floor after she created a disturbance last week when she "wasn't allowed to introduce an amendment to the abortion regulations bill banning men from getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man's life."

And so tonight, get ready for a very special presentation of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building. According to this Facebook page about the event, Brown, Bynum and at least nine other Democratic female members of the Michigan legislature will join Vagina Monologues creator and playwright, Eve Ensler, to perform the play.

June 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 have been named Teacher of the Year in my school district! Do I get anything (cash, extra vacation, certificate suitable for framing, etc.) along with this honor? 

Answer: Laid off. (KXTV, School system lays off "Teacher of the Year")

2) Question: I run a trucking company. One of our drivers just texted us to say that he is being held hostage by two armed men who took his keys and told him to stay with the truck until they returned to steal it and his truckload of berries! Should we call the FBI or something?

Answer: Maybe, but keep in mind that sometimes truckers who are too drunk to drive will pretend they have been taken hostage, too. (The OregonianTrucker's story about being held hostage doesn't pan out)

3) Question: I am thinking about robbing a bank. On the other hand, I am thinking about getting a job at the local grocery store. Which path will be more lucrative?

Answer: The average bank robbery nets a paltry $4,330 (and carries some serious risks of being caught and thrown in jail, on top of that), so as a matter of economics I'd go with the grocery store job. (Jonathan Turley, It's Official: Crime (At Least Bank Robbery) Doesn’t Pay)

June 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 15, 2012

'Top-Level Domain Names That Should Exist, But Never Will'

As discussed here on Wednesday, this week the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers disclosed a list of all of the 1,930 applications received for new top-level domains. The list includes many law-related names, such as .attorney, .esq, .inc, and .law. If you have not been following this development, it means that someday your website address could be "www.carton.law" and your email could be "bruce@carton.law". And so on.

After looking through the thousands of applications, the Threat Level blog observed Thursday that the list is a bit lacking in "entertainment value -- perhaps because the $185,000 fee to apply for consideration, which you pay even if your application is rejected, is prohibitive of amusement." To remedy that situation, Threat Level compiled a list of "20 New Top-Level Domain Names That Should Exist, But Never Will." Some of my favorites from their list (including their explanation and the name of the person who thought of it) include:

  • .inbed – As the old fortune cookie joke goes, everything sounds better with .inbed in the end. cuddlybear.inbed, miketyson.inbed (Noah Shachtman)
  • .wtf? – skinnyjeansandbigphones.wtf? Need we say more? (Shoshana Berger)
  • .not – Simple but effective, for the contrarian in all of us. iloveyou.not, gododgers.not (Ken Denmead, Robert McMillan)
  • .dtf – For personal dating sites catering to those who aren’t choosy. If you don't know the acronym, you probably don't want to. (O'Toole)
  • .www – Not too many sites bother with the web prefix these days (especially since the web be dead), so this would take you back to the basics. Think www.geocities.www

The Threat Level list, of course, has me thinking of other missed opportunities. To their list I would add:

  • .bro – For all of the hipsters and teenagers. For example, Bryce Harper might want www.thatsaclownquestion.bro
  • .matrix - You can't get any more old-school then "dot matrix."
  • .rip – this is on the list already, but I just want to be sure it gets put to its most lucrative use. As Billy Blazejowski says in Night Shift, "People got to die, right? Why can't they just die for us?" Think about the evil possibilities here for people willing to troll the obituary pages. 

What else? Let me know what I'm missing in the comments.

June 15, 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: I work for my state's Adopt-a-Highway program. The KKK just applied to adopt and clean up part of a local highway. Do we need to allow this?

Answer: No, but other states that have rejected such adoptions have subsequently lost legal battles with the KKK over this issue. (The Associated Press, KKK may challenge Ga. highway adoption denial; Daily Report, Mo. lawyer: KKK has a strong case)

2) Question: I got into an argument with my boyfriend and he put wasabi sauce all over a pair of my jeans and threw them at me, getting it into my eyes. That has to be a crime, right? That sauce hurts!!

Answer: Oh yes, that is "assault and battery by dangerous weapon/sauce.” (The Smoking Gun, College Student Arrested For Wasabi Attack)

3) Question: My car broke down right across from House of Commons and Westminster Abbey. Should I head over to the Abbey to see if someone can help me? 

Answer: You probably should stay with the vehicle, because if the police find it unattended they will likely blow it up and write you a ticket, to boot. (London Evening StandardWelcome to London 2012: Tourist has illegally parked car BLOWN UP ... and then (naturally) he's given a ticket)

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2012

U.K. Undercover Police Get Green Light to Have Sex With Suspects While on the Job

Back in my fraternity days, we were quite confident that we were protected from any "narcs" coming into our parties to look for underage drinking because, according to decades of fraternity gospel, if you ask a person if they are a cop, they are required to answer truthfully. Unfortunately, as many prostitutes have no doubt learned the hard way ("are you a cop, honey?"), this gospel is not actually true

In January 2012, a massive credit card cloning scam/gang was busted, and it came out that the ringleader of the gang used his own twisted version of this cop-finding tactic to try to weed out any feds that might be trying to infiltrate his gang. The Athens Banner-Herald reported at the time that 

Anyone who wanted to join Yadav’s ring had to prove himself by having group sex with Yadav -- sometimes with other men, women or both -- all while Yadav videotaped the scene.

Though the sex satisfied Yadav’s own perversions, he used the unusual initiations to weed out people he thought might belong to law enforcement, according to Athens-Clarke police Detective Beverly Russell, who helped break the cloning ring.

“Basically, everyone that became involved (in the ring) met Vikas in S&M chat sites, and (the way) for them to get into the inner sanctum of the group was to have sex with him and others, and be videoed doing it,” Russell said.

“That was to protect himself, to keep cops from infiltrating his group,” she said.

In that case, the ringleader was making the fairly reasonable bet that no federal agent was going to engage in a videotaped ménage à trois in order to carry out his duties. Well, that may work in the U.S., but not in the U.K.!

On Wednesday, Home Office Minister and Sussex MP Nick Herbert gave undercover police officers in the U.K. the green light to "have sexual relationships with suspected criminals if it means they are more plausible," ITV News reports. This decision came after a case police were pursuing against certain environmental activists fell apart "after it emerged the group was infiltrated by an officer called Mark Kennedy, who had been in sexual relationships with two women in the campaign."

Presumably to the deep chagrin of the spouses of undercover officers throughout the U.K., Herbert decided that it was important that police be permitted to have sex with activists "because otherwise it could be used as a way of outing potential undercover officers."

June 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 13, 2012

'.Law,' '.Blog' and Related Top-Level Domain Names Coming Soon ... Plus '.Lat'?

The expansion of Internet domain names took a step forward today as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers disclosed a list of all of the 1,930 applications received for new top-level domains. Within a year, top-level domains will no longer be limited to the .com and .net addresses that are now commonplace, but may be almost any generic top-level domain that applicants want (.bruce, .house, .click, etc.), provided it is approved.

ARS Technica reports that the list of new desired TLDs was released at an event in London today, at which ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom stated that "the Internet is about to change forever." If just 75 percent of the applications are approved, Beckstrom said, as many as a thousand new gTLDs could be approved.

Some of the applications for gTLDs were clearly law-related or blog-related, including:

  • .attorney
  • .blog (requested by nine applicants)
  • .corp (requested by six applicants)
  • .gmbh (requested by four applicants)
  • .inc (requested by 11 applicants)
  • .law (requested by five applicants)
  • .lawyer (requested by two applicants)
  • .legal (requested by two applicants)
  • .llc (requested by nine applicants)
  • .llp (requested by four applicants)
  • .ltd (requested by seven applicants)

Many brand and corporate name requests appear in the applications (e.g., .chrysler, .cialis, .statefarm, .nfl) but I did not see any law firm requests for .skadden or the like in my quick search of the 1,930 gTLDs.

There were the obligatory applications for .sex and .porn, and of course a request for .sucks so that everyone in the world will need to protect their name from being ".suck-squatted." Finally, one person who may need to be particularly on alert today is Above the Law's David Lat, as .lat is curiously on the list of applications. Heads up, David!

June 13, 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: My wife and I have had a few drinks and she wants me to take one of those "ex-lovers" quizzes in Cosmopolitan magazine. Should I do it?

Answer: No way! You could get stabbed doing that. (Arizona Family, PD: Mesa woman stabs husband during argument over Cosmo quiz)

2) Question: I'm too darn lazy to mow my lawn. I don't care what the neighbors say -- it is my house! What are they going to do, take me to court? 

Answer: Probably not, but you could get a $1,000 fine from the city. (Consumerist, Residents Of NY Town Face $1,000 Fines If They Fail To Mow Lawns)

3) Question: I entered my son's room this morning and found roughly a half-million toothpicks. Is this a prank of some kind?

Answer: Possibly, but be aware that the theft of 400,000 toothpicks is now being investigated in Athens, Ga. Those toothpicks could be evidence. (Online Athens, Athens-Clarke police investigating toothpick heist)

June 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 12, 2012

In Indiana, 'Castle Doctrine' Now Includes Right to Shoot Law Enforcement

I've talked about the "castle doctrine" here before (aka the "Make My Day Law" or, more negatively, the "Shoot The Milkman Law"). Under this legal doctrine that is recognized in many states, if you are in your home and an intruder unlawfully tries to enter to attack you, you can use deadly force to defend yourself while in the sanctity of your "castle." As I discussed here, in some states the castle doctrine has been extended to cases where the threatened person was not in his home but in his car.

Most recently, the state of Indiana has taken the castle doctrine even one step further, becoming the first state to specifically permit its residents to use deadly force in response to the "unlawful intrusion by another individual or a public servant." The "public servant" part of the law is what has Indiana police upset. Bloomberg reports that Tim Downs, president of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, which opposed the legislation, believes the law is "a recipe for disaster." "It just puts a bounty on our heads," he said, and may lead intoxicated or emotional people to wrongly assume they have the right to attack officers. Other police fear that routine stops of vehicles may turn deadly for police because someone who is pulled over may decide to open fire on police and then claim that the officer was trying to illegally enter their property. 

The author of the law, Republican state Senator R. Michael Young, said that the statute is a response to a 2011 Indiana Supreme Court ruling last year that held "there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." Under this ruling, Young argues, a homeowner could hypothetically discover an officer raping his daughter or wife, and have no right to use force to stop the attack. The National Rifle Association was a key proponent of Young's statute.

June 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (26)

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 neighbor is having a party and the noise is just too darn loud! I'm about to head over to his door with my gun. This counts as "standing my ground," right? 

Answer: Seems like a stretch, but keep an eye on the case involving Raul Rodriguez in Houston. (The Associated Press, Houston trial focusing on stand your ground law)

2) Question: My landlord refuses to do the work necessary to bring our loft building up to code. So I have fought back by not paying the rent since 2003. Can the landlord evict me? 

Answer: Nope! (ABA Journal, Tenant Who Didn't Pay Rent Since 2003 Can't Be Evicted Because of Code Violations, NY Top Court Says)

3) Question: I am being detained by Walmart security for shoplifting until the police arrive. Do I have time to cook up some meth in a soda bottle?

Answer: You do have time, yes, but keep in mind that (a) you are being detained, and (b) the police are on the way. (New York Daily NewsWoman cooked meth at Walmart while being held for shoplifting, authorities say)

June 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 11, 2012

'Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other' Campaign Coming to California and Delaware

PhoneonehandLast week, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving," its latest salvo in an ongoing battle against "the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel." Among other things, the department authorized $2.4 million in federal support for California and Delaware in order to expand the department's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" pilot enforcement campaign.

"Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other." That's good stuff -- I like it!!

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained that the Blueprint:

  • Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical legislation.
  • Challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles; and
  • Partners with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving.

In California and Delaware, the "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" initiative will test the effect of increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaign on distracted driving, trying to duplicate the success of what the 'Click It or Ticket' campaign did to promote the use of seatbelts. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland says that 'Click It or Ticket’ successfully changed unsafe driving behavior, and the funds earmarked for California and Delaware will follow that formula to address the problem of distracted driving. Smaller-scale demonstration projects completed in 2011 in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., helped drop texting while driving by 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse.

June 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 08, 2012

Things That Exist, Vol. 3: The Capitol Flag Program

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: The Capitol Flag Program

I was minding my business reading the Jonathan Turley blog about the $1,200 per "resolution" our government is spending in order to have officially observed "Days" such as "National Pi Day" or "National Beverage Day." Then I noticed a comment by someone called "Frankly" that read:

Pffffffffffffffffffffffffttttt – whats $300k? I bet they spend more getting ice delivered to their offices every day (you do know that each congresscritter gets ice delivered to their offices every day, right?). Or how about the cost of having two GSA employees raise & lower flags every 30 seconds on the Capitol building so that they can provide "flags flown over the US Capitol" to the folks back home?

What?? There are two people working for the government at the Capitol whose job is to raise and lower flags every 30 seconds? For real?

I set out to see if I could verify this and found that, indeed, there actually is something called the Capitol Flag Program that exists for this purpose. According to its website, the Capitol Flag Program began in 1937 when a Member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Requests from members of the Senate and House for Capitol flags rapidly outgrew the supply of flags that were flown over the Capitol in the normal course of events, so an office called the Flag Office of the Architect of the Capitol was created to create some additional supply:

Flags are flown daily year-round, weather permitting, excluding Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. There are special flag poles where all flags are flown. After it is flown over the Capitol, each flag is issued a keepsake Certificate of Authenticity by the Architect of the Capitol. Currently, the Architect of the Capitol fulfills on average more than 100,000 flag requests from Members of Congress annually, with the number of requests and the popularity of the Capitol Flag Program growing steadily each year.

According to an article from back in 2002 in The Telegraph, the Capitol Flag Program has 20 employees whose job revolves around hoisting flags up and down on the roof of the Capitol. On the one-year anniversary of September 11, the team met on the Capitol roof at midnight "in a vain attempt to meet the demand for flags that flew on September 11" and raised and lowered 8,000 flags over the next 21 hours. The Flag Office of the Architect of the Capitol told The Telegraph that it was "out of the question" for a reporter to watch the flag-raising.

How does this Flag Office raise and lower so many flags each day (other than having strong arms, I suppose)? The tricks of the trade reportedly include "special short flagpoles," covered poles for rainy days, and the fact that each flag is hoisted for just a few seconds.

June 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 policeman. I arrested a woman today after she punched and pepper-sprayed employees at a grocery store who caught her shoplifting. She also spat on one of the workers and claimed she had HIV. When I was arresting her she asked me to write up my report in a way that would be "more interesting so that her arrest would make the police blotter" in our local newspaper. I'm not the greatest writer -- how do I do that?

Answer: Just stick to the facts in this case and you will surely make the police blotter! (Online Athens, Accused shoplifter wanted story in newspaper)

2) Question: I am selling my home, which is vacant as I have already moved out. My real estate agent is encouraging me to allow a "staging family" to move in while the house is for sale so that it feels "less empty." Good idea?

Answer: Perhaps, but keep in mind that sometimes "staging families" will bring their dog, park their truck on the yard, erect a 10-foot tall crucifix on the lawn, refuse to allow the owner to come onto the property, and refuse to be evicted until all appeals have been exhausted. So maybe just leave it empty? (Consumerist, Woman Hires Family To Liven Up For-Sale Home, Now She Can't Enter Her Own Property)

3) Question: I say that the strip club that refuses to allow me to bring my kitten in to the club with me is breaking the law. However, the police who responded to my 911 call about this say that I am breaking the law by calling 911 about the strip club not allowing me to bring in my kitten. Who is right?

Answer: The police are correct here. Your 911 call constitutes the crime of "Misuse of the 911 System." And if you don't wise up/sober up, you may also be charged with Disorderly Intoxication, Trespassing After Warning and Resisting Arrest without Violence, plus have your kitten taken away by Animal Control. (MySuncoast, Deputies: Man calls 911 after denied entry to strip club with kitten)

June 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 07, 2012

Must Lawyers Still Pay for Legal Research Services?

Is it possible for lawyers or law firms to now use the free Google Scholar service as their sole form of legal research?

Let me say up front that I have not done any legal research in years and I have no idea. But I continue to see posts from blogs such as Futurelawyer that explain how to use Google Scholar for purposes once reserved for Lexis/Westlaw such as "Finding Significant Opinions Citing Your Case With Google Scholar" or, more bluntly, asking straight up: "Why Are You Paying For Legal Research?"

In the recent "Why Are You Paying For Legal Research?" post, Futurelawyer wrote that Google Scholar is now a "complete legal research solution:" 

It contains the full text of just about every case ever decided, has a really good search engine, and has official pagination, internal linking to the full text of every cited case, a built in Shepard's like citator, which, with one click, will pull up every case that has cited the case you are viewing. $69 addon, CiteStack, creates pin cites, and memoranda on the fly, while you are doing Scholar research.

In a post today, Futurelawyer added that Google Scholar is now moving toward "making Shepard's citations irrelevant" because Google Scholar search results are now "listed by sorting the citing cases by prominence and amount of detail in the citing case. A great feature, and it will make legal research much faster and easier."

The Research Freedom blog reported in late April 2012 that in its own admittedly unscientific test comparing KeyCite and Shepard’s results with Google Scholar's "How Cited" Results for two state cases, the services were quite comparable. 

With respect to both cases, every citator result that affected the validity of the cases (negative citing references) appeared in all citators, including Google Scholar, towards the top of the results. All results that discussed the cited cases appeared in all citators, as well. In connection with these two particular cases, the ordering of results were substantially similar in all citators.

Research Freedom did note that, unlike West or Lexis, Google Scholar does not index most unreported or unpublished cases.

Others have written recently that Google Scholar is still not ready for prime time in some areas. On the Lawyerist blog last week, Josh Camson wrote that despite being a strong advocate of Google Scholar, his small firm has "seen the light" and is now spending some money (under $300 per month) to use Westlaw. 

How close are we to a time when lawyers will not need to pay for legal research? I assume we are not there yet, but please weigh in if you have any insights on this.

June 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 06, 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'm so proud of my daughter for graduating from high school. I cheered so loudly for her when they called her name and she walked across the stage! Why are the police coming down my aisle of the auditorium?

Answer: Sorry, but graduation ceremonies are "solemn occasions" and anyone caught cheering will be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. (Global PostShannon Cooper, proud mother, arrested for cheering too loudly at high school graduation)

2) Question: Why does my husband have "It's complicated" as his Facebook relationship status?

Answer: He probably has another wife. (WSOC TV, NC man accused of bigamy; Facebook status lists 'complicated')

3) Question: I'm new on the police force. We just responded to a call from a man complaining that a woman grabbed him by the scrotum and squeezed his testicle out of his scrotum. What is the proper charge here? "Assault" seems a bit inadequate.

Answer: I think "Malicious Castration" is the criminal charge you are looking for. (Shelby StarWoman charged with castration, urinates in police car)

June 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 05, 2012

ABC's 'The Bachelor' Spawning More Litigation Than Marriages

You already know about the class action race discrimination lawsuit filed in April 2012 against ABC's The Bachelor, which complains that neither The Bachelor nor The Bachelorette has ever "featured a single person of color." That case was in the news again this week as the defendants indicated in court papers that their upcoming motion to dismiss will be based on the premise that "television casting decisions are protected by the First Amendment." 

According to Hollywood, Esq., the plaintiffs' complaint in the case might also be amended to include claims of Title XII employment discrimination laws, "which would open up a legal discussion of the proper way to classify those who star on reality TV shows." The defendants deny that such individuals are employees.

Another case involving The Bachelor was in the news this week, as well. In December 2011, producers of the show sued Stephen Carbone, author of the realitysteve.com website that publishes "spoilers" about shows including The Bachelor. As noted by Hollywood, Esq., 

Carbone was accused of soliciting information from Bachelor participants, cast, crew and other employees of the series and inducing them to breach contracts promising not to divulge nonpublic information. The case raised some interesting issues about the legality of publishing newsworthy information about a secret reality competition. 

On Monday of this week, however, Carbone announced on Twitter that the lawsuit has been settled:

Carbone added that "RealitySteve.com isn't going anywhere, I don't owe the other side a penny, and they had no case."

June 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 04, 2012

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions: Arizona Edition

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

1) Question: I just read that a baby boy was found uninjured in a car seat in the middle of an intersection in Arizona after the mother accidentally left the child in the seat on the roof of her car and drove away. Is this for real or is this a scene from the movie "Raising Arizona"?

Answer: Both. (The Associated Press, Phoenix police say mom forgets baby on car roof); ("Raising Arizona," Convenience store scene)

2) Question
: I bought a house, and while I was remodeling the kitchen I found $500,000 in cash hidden in the walls. Can I keep it?

Answer: No. In Arizona, at least, that cash is deemed to be "mislaid," not abandoned, so it still belongs to the prior owner or his/her estate. (The Associated Press, Paradise Valley man's heirs get cash found hidden in walls) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I am a 73-year-old grandfather living in Scottsdale, Ariz. I want to buy my grandchildren, who live out of state, some books at Barnes & Noble, but when I went to the store's children's section they kicked me out. Why? 

Answer: Sorry, but men alone cannot be by themselves in the Scottsdale Barnes & Noble children's area because other bookstores have had problems with child molesters. (Consumerist, Grandfather Says Barnes & Noble Kicked Him Out For Shopping Alone In Children's Section)

June 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 01, 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: I was in line at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet when the guy in front of me completely cleaned out the remaining eight Alaskan King crab legs that were in the container. Outrageous! That naturally led to a fistfight and now I am on trial for assault. Nobody would convict me for this, would they? He took all the crab legs!!

Answer: I would not count on that defense working. Also, are you aware that all-you-can-eat restaurants usually refill the containers of crab legs after they become empty? (Lancaster Online, Man's appetite for crab legs sparks alleged assault at all-you-can-eat buffet)

2) Question
: I was pulled over by police for speeding. Actually, I was going 190 mph, to be exact. Is that a U.S. record? 

Answer: The blogosphere does not appear to track such records, but as of this week I see that you are at best the silver medal winner. (The Associated Press, Motorcyclist clocked going 193 mph on NY highway)

3) Question: I saw on the TV show "Cops" that you can defeat a store's security sensors by placing items you want to steal in a pocketbook lined with aluminum foil. Is this pretty much foolproof, as I have some grocery items I want to shoplift from the Kmart? 

Answer: I cannot vouch for the aluminum foil theory, but I do know that even if you beat the security sensors, you still need to beat the store's Loss Prevention Officer. (CBS Minnesota, Charges: Grandma Shoplifter Learned From TV Show 'Cops')

June 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Things That Exist, Vol. 2: 'Prostitution Free Zones' in Washington, D.C.

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: "Prostitution Free Zones" in Washington, D.C.

This week, Jim Romenesko posted an email exchange between Ed Tobias, a manager in the Global Security Department of The Associated Press, and a commander with the D.C. Police Department’s Third District. Tobias told his colleagues at the AP that he had "been in touch with the commander of the Metropolitan Police Department's Third District about the resurgence of the prostitution problem in front of our bureau" and that he'd asked the police to designate the 1100 block of 13th Street (where the AP is located) as a "prostitution free zone." The commander replied that "prostitution free zones are under legal review so currently so they are not being used, but we can definitely do some undercover work in the area."

While such zones may be under "legal review," they are currently authorized under Section 104 of the Omnibus Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 (DC Act 16-445).  Section 104

authorizes the Chief of Police to declare "Prostitution Free Zones" in the District of Columbia, in areas where the health or safety of residents is endangered by with prostitution or prostitution-related offenses. The law provides that, while a Prostitution Free Zone is in effect, it is unlawful for a group of two or more persons to congregate in a public space or property in that area for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or prostitution-related offenses.

Also referred to be some people as "No Ho" zones, Prostitution Free Zones may only be in effect for a maximum of 240 hours (10 days), and the area must be clearly identified. While the area is designated as a PFZ,

any group of two or more persons congregating on public space for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or prostitution-related offenses first will be warned by a police officer that they are in a Prostitution Free Zone and will be directed to disperse. Failure to obey the officer’s instruction could result in arrest, without a second warning. Offenders convicted under the law are subject to a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both.

Reports from 2009 show that D.C. did, in fact, establish some PFZ's during the inauguration of President Obama. Here is the photographic evidence:

PFZ
(via Flickr)

In January 2012, however, the D.C. Attorney General stated that she believes that PFZs are probably unconstitutional, which may require employees of The Associated Press to fend for themselves along the 1100 block of 13th Street.

June 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

 
 
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