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August 31, 2012

Your Baby Can Read? FTC Says Ads for Kids' Videos Were Deceptive

Back in 2009, I noted here that, despite parents' hopes and dreams, the "Baby Einstein" videos we were feeding our children weren't actually making them into Einsteins or geniuses. In 2009, having already dropped the word "educational" from its marketing of the videos, the Walt Disney Company (threatened with class action lawsuits by the parents of non-geniuses) went a step further and agreed to issue refunds to anyone who had bought the videos going back to 2004.

Many of you undoubtedly laughed off this educational setback. "That's so yesterday. Who needs Baby Einstein," you said, "when these new "Your Baby Can Read!" videos are going to teach my nine-month-old how to read the newspaper??" Well, it now turns out that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there is no competent evidence that your infant was learning to read after all. (Note: does this remind anyone other than me of the "cats don't talk" litigation from earlier this week?)

On August 28, the FTC announced a settlement of false advertising charges it filed against the marketers of YBCR. The FTC charged that the ads' claims "that the program could teach infants and toddlers to read and that scientific studies proved the claims" were deceptive. In one ad in particular, a two-year-old girl was shown purportedly reading a page from the children's book "Charlotte's Web," and her mother states that she also read her first "Harry Potter" book when she was three.

The FTC charged that 

the defendants failed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence that babies can learn to read using the Your Baby Can Read! program, or that children at age three or four can learn to read books such as Charlotte's Web or Harry Potter.

Under a settlement reached with two of the three defendants, the company is prohibited from further use of the term "Your Baby Can Read," and is subject to a $185 million judgment -- equal to the company’s gross sales since January 2008. The FTC stated that upon the company's payment of $500,000, however, "the remainder of the judgment will be suspended due to the company’s failing financial condition. Your Baby Can has represented that it is going out of business."

What's the next video to topple? My kids are all in elementary school or older now, so I don't keep up with these educational-type videos for toddlers anymore. Are there any other videos or toys being promoted now that will supposedly turn your child into a genius?

August 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 30, 2012

Possible Détente in Squabble Between Yale Law School and Legal Writing Instructors?

Might the two-week-long stare-down of sorts between an associate dean of admissions at Yale Law School and legal writing instructors worldwide be entering a period of détente? The Legal Writing Prof Blog notes that associate dean Asha Rangappa at YLS has now removed a 2011 blog post from Yale's 203 Admissions Blog in which she advised prospective transfer students not to use a recommendation from a legal writing instructor. Rather, she said, Yale preferred to receive recommendations from "core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts. ..."

As word of this blog post spread throughout the legal research and writing community, many LRW feathers became ruffled. The Legal Writing Prof Blog noted on August 15, 2012, that the legal writing professors' listserv was quickly "abuzz," as LRW instructors found the post

objectionable on many levels. One called it the "smoking gun" that documents an attitude we all knew was out there. Another said it shows how unknowledgeable some in legal academia are about what we actually do. Keeping up with subject material and thinking through difficult concepts are key abilities students need to succeed in our courses!

Within a few days, legal writing professors Amy Vorenberg, Kris Tiscione and Lisa McElroy shot a letter -- co-signed by nearly 450 supporters -- to the dean of Yale Law School and the Yale admissions committee. The letter expressed concern that the blog post in question sent "a message that legal research and writing ("LRW") courses are not rigorous, underestimates the ability of LRW faculty to comment on students' cognitive skills, harms students by discounting the valuable and thoughtful insight we have to offer about students seeking to transfer to Yale, and devalues LRW professors as a whole."

The letter further explained that "accurate, in‐depth legal analysis and reasoning are at the core of an LRW course" and argued that LRW was, in fact, a core subject area in modern legal education. Finally, the letter urged YLS to reconsider its practice of discounting recommendations from LRW faculty, and requested that YLS amend the blog post accordingly.

In a post Wednesday, the Legal Writing Prof Blog reported that Dean Rangappa has quickly responded to the letter from the unhappy LRW community. In the letter, Rangappa stated that she "did not intend for my post to cast doubt on the important role and valuable contributions of legal writing professors in legal education." She explained, however, that the purpose of her blog post had been to "give practical advice to potential applicants" on "the kind of application that is typically successful in gaining admission to Yale Law School."

Rangappa noted that the concerns raised by in the letter from the LRW community highlighted

significant issues that are quite beyond the scope of my post. In trying to address these issues, I have been unable to find a way to accurately revise or supplement my original blog post without making it too complex to be of any practical use for a potential applicant.  In the interest of staying true to both the practical purpose of my advice and the unique nature of our admissions process - which I believe is fair and respectful to applicants and all those who speak on their behalf - I have chosen, after much deliberation, simply to remove the post from the blog. 

So the offending post has come down, but it certainly does not appear from the dean's letter that YLS is reconsidering its practice of "discounting recommendations from LRW faculty."

August 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (39)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Yes, I hit my good-for-nothing brother in the face with a styrofoam plate. So what? Why are the police at my door?

Answer: To arrest you for assault with a styrofoam plate. (NWF Daily News, Man accused of attacking brother with Styrofoam plate)

2) Question: I'm a public school teacher. When a deaf student in my class "signs" his name with his hands, it looks a bit like he is making a finger gun. Finger guns are prohibited in our school. He is going to need to change his name, right? 

Answer: Of course. (Jonathan Turley, Nebraska School Officials Allegedly Ask Parents Of Deaf Toddler To Change His Signed Name Because It Looks Like A Finger Gun)

3) Question: Here in the U.K., our streets are monitored by thousands of closed-circuit surveillance cameras. I am one of the CCTV operators in the monitoring center, and I just saw some footage of a couple having sex right outside of their house! Is it a problem if I download the footage to my mobile phone and share it with some of my mates?

Answer: Yes, you could be charged with violating the Data Protection Act (and fired). (WiredU.K. Govt. Employee Arrested for Downloading Surveillance Footage of Couple Having Sex)

August 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 29, 2012

'Cats Do Not Talk': Kitty Litter Ad Litigation Expands Into Class Actions

Back in 2010, as I discussed in this post, Clorox ran television ads asserting that cats preferred the odor of Clorox's Fresh Step kitty litter over a competing product, Arm & Hammer's Super Scoop. The ads have since been pulled and no longer appear to be available online, but they featured video of real cats taking a whiff of Super Scoop kitty litter and appearing to reject it in favor of litter boxes containing Fresh Step. Cats are "smart enough to choose the litter with less odors," the ad's narrator explained.

The ads prompted Arm & Hammer to file a federal lawsuit against Clorox alleging that they were false according to "independently conducted research." As you may recall, Arm & Hammer's complaint noted (quite accurately, in my limited experience with cats) that "cats do not talk." It further argued that "it is not possible scientifically to determine whether cats view one substance to be more or less malodorous than another substance."

I joked at the time that the lawsuit seemed like the type of thing that would "lead one or more of the lawyers involved in the case to consider a career change," but, to the contrary, lawyers still appear to be lining up to get in on this sweet kitty litter action in the form of class action lawsuits. Indeed, Reuters reports that last week, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that separate consumer litigation can go forward on certain claims alleging that the Clorox advertising was false and misleading. 

In the decision last week, the judge threw out plaintiffs' claims based on Clorox's statements that cats "like" Fresh Step, or "are smart enough" to prefer it, as mere "puffery" [via The Am Law Litigation Daily, paid-access]. But the court allowed other claims to proceed that were "predicated on Clorox's representations that Fresh Step is better at eliminating odor than other baking soda-based cat litters."

August 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 28, 2012

Complete This Phrase: 'The Law Doesn't Suck; It's Just ...'

It is late August. Everyone you know -- and everyone you know's neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, Facebook friends and Twitter followers -- are all on vacation somewhere. With so very little going on in the legal world, let me direct you to the Simple Justice "Great Book Giveaway Contest." The winner of the contest gets a legal writing book (Steven Stark's Writing to Win, which Scott Greenfield is essentially re-gifting), along with a check in the amount of $3.45.

Unless you are fired up to score the book and the $3.45, the contest is really just your chance to be creative for 45 seconds today as you attempt to complete this phrase:

The law doesn't suck; it's just ...

I have already submitted my two entries in the comments section of the Simple Justice post (here and here), so head over there to see them and dozens of others, and to leave your own. Greenfield has already stated that if the "responses are just awful, I'm sending the book to Brian Tannebaum, even though there are no pages to color." That means that even if your entry turns out to be terrible, you can say that you were just trying to help Tannebaum.

August 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: When I left for work today, my 3 million bees were safely in their hives in my driveway. I come home from work -- no bees! Who steals bees? What kind of neighborhood is this?

Answer: Sometimes the state Health Department will have the local beekeepers association confiscate millions of bees kept in a homeowner's driveway if the neighbors complain about the constant buzz and the bees are not registered with the Health Department. (CBS, Millions of bees confiscated from NY man's driveway)

2) Question: Serious question: Are there Sasquatches in Montana? I'm pretty sure I just hit one with my car.

Answer: I cannot say whether there are Sasquatches in Montana. But, sadly, sometimes people dress up as Sasquatch at night to try to create reports of a Sasquatch on the loose and get hit by cars. (Jonathan Turley, Running Over Big Foot: Montana Man Hit and Killed Along Highway Trying To Convince Drivers That He Is The Sasquatch)

3) Question: My boyfriend and I have been known to make quite a bit of noise while having sex (for four to seven hours at a time, five nights a week), and now the police are at my door to talk about it. Ha! I mean, really -- what are they going to do, arrest us? Take us out of our own house and tell us we cannot have sex? Charge us with violating the Environmental Protection Act of 1993 due to noise pollution?

Answer: Yes, yes and yes. (, SA couple face $4000 fine for loud sex)

August 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 27, 2012

Togolese Women Urged to Stage 'Sex Strike' to Pressure President to Resign

I noted late last week that beer geeks who desperately want to know President Obama's "White House Honey Ale" homebrew recipe are using any means necessary to get at it -- including a FOIA request and even a petition with the White House that has received 9,649 signatures to date. But I was reminded today while reading this story about a civil rights group in Togo that citizens trying to put pressure on their government have at least one more sharp arrow in their quiver: a sex strike. 

The Associated Press reports that as part of a campaign in Togo to have the country's president resign,

the female wing of a civil rights group is urging women in Togo to stage a week-long sex strike. ... 

Women are being asked to start withholding sex from their husbands or partners as of Monday, said Isabelle Ameganvi, leader of the women's wing of the group Let's Save Togo. She said the strike will put pressure on Togo's men to take action against President Faure Gnassingbe.

Some Togolese women interviewed in the article thought the sex strike was a good idea and would be effective. Others were not at all sure that their husbands would "accept" the strike. "I do agree that we women have to observe this sex strike but I know my husband will not let me complete it. He may agree at first, but as far as I know him, he will change overnight," Judith Agbetoglo said. "So I don't believe I can do the one-week sex strike. Otherwise, I will have serious issues with him. He likes that too much."

Ekoue Blame, a Togolese journalist, said it was easy for Ameganvi to propose the one-week sex strike "because she is not married herself. She does not live with a man at home. Does she think women who live with their husband will be able to observe that?"

I am not aware of any politically motivated sex strikes in the U.S. Have there ever been any? And for the record, I am not advocating for a sex strike here in the U.S. in order to get the White House Honey Ale recipe (although I bet it would work).

August 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 24, 2012

Beer Geeks Using Any Means Necessary to Obtain White House Honey Ale Recipe

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama mentioned that he is a fan of microbrew beers, and that he had purchased a beer-making kit for the White House. The Washington Post reported that the president's kitchen staff has home-brewed three varieties of beer so far: White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter, all of which include honey from the first lady's "kitchen garden."

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by a reporter if the White House would release the "secret beer recipe," and he responded that he was "not aware of any plans at this time to divulge the secret recipe." This governmental stonewalling is not going over well with microbrew beer geeks aficionados, however, and they are now using any and all means at their disposal to try to get at this state secret.

On August 18, a petition was filed with the White House's "We the People" website demanding that the Obama administration "Release the recipe for the Honey Ale home brewed at the White House." The petition states that:

Following in the footsteps of great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, Barack Obama has reportedly been enjoying the rewards of home brewed beer. Recent reports from news outlets like the Washington Post (August 15th, 2012) have stated that Obama has been drinking a White House home brew Honey Ale while on the campaign trail.

In keeping with the brewing traditions of the founding fathers, homebrewers across America call on the Obama Administration to release the recipe for the White House home brew so that it may be enjoyed by all.

To be reviewed by the White House, the petition must receive 25,000 online signatures. As of 12 p.m. today, it still had only had 4,879 signatures, so the petition route to obtaining the beer recipe may not work.

However, another beer-lover has now filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the government seeking disclosure of the recipe. On Wednesday, a FOIA request was filed seeking "all information including created recipes or instructions relating to the brewing of White House Honey Ale or other beer made by White House staff." Alas, this tactic may also fail, as White House documents are reportedly not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. D'oh!!

Late Thursday night, however, Carney indicated that the White House had reversed its position on releasing the recipe. "If it reaches the threshold, we'll release it," Carney tweeted, referring to the 25,000 signatures required for the online petition.

So beer-lovers who want the secret White House Honey Ale recipe need to go sign the petition ASAP, or forever hold their peace.

August 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My license to practice law in California is currently suspended. The state bar is saying that I have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law because, among other things, I referred to myself as "Esquire" in a court document. But couldn't "Esquire" just be a reference to "a subscriber to the magazine Esquire"?

Answer: The California bar says no to that argument, sorry. (Legal Profession Blog, The Meaning Of "Esquire")

2) Question: I am a policeman. We pulled a very drunk man over to give him a breathalyzer test, and he blew almost three times the legal breath-alcohol limit. While we were filling out the paperwork to charge him, we heard the sound of running water -- which turned out to be the motorist urinating directly onto our box of breath screening tubes. We had to destroy 301 contaminated tubes! This was not covered by my training -- is there some additional charge we can add against this guy to address this situation?

Answer: Yes, the urinating motorist can be charged with "wilful damage" on top of the drunk driving counts, plus he can be ordered to pay for the tubes. (The New Zealand HeraldDrunk driver pees on breath test equipment)

3) Question: The police have caught me red-handed for stealing some items from a hotel room. I am thinking of using the "it was my twin sister" defense, however, like in the movies. Do you think this will work?

Answer: That defense seems doubtful at best -- and remember, it can only work if you actually have a twin sister in the first place. (WTAE, Police: Woman claims twin stole Big Beaver hotel items)

August 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 23, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 23

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20Volume 21 and Volume 22 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:

  • Lock yourself in the cockpit (for passengers). Passengers may not mourn their recent breakup with a significant other by entering the cockpit of a plane during a pre-flight cleaning and locking themselves insideCONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be removed from cockpit and taken into police custody. 
  • Wear a T-shirt mocking the TSA. Passengers may not wear a shirt onboard a plane that mocks the TSA's logo, "with the eagle holding untied shoes and pouring out a bottle of liquid," and states "Bombs ZOMG/ZOMG terrists." CONSEQUENCEPassenger will be kicked off the plane, even after undergoing another security check and changing his shirt.
  • Sit next to an unaccompanied minor (for men). Male passengers may not sit next to unaccompanied minors during a flight. CONSEQUENCE: Male passenger will be asked to swap seats with a female passenger.

August 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2012

Oklahoma City Dress Code Will Not Tolerate Kindergartner's U. of Michigan T-Shirt

Why? Why do schools have to mess with the sports team allegiances of 5-year-olds? First it was the kindergarten teacher of young Emma Barton of Olathe, Kan., who demanded that Emma color in a picture of the University of Kansas' Jayhawk mascot. As you may recall, Emma, a die-hard Kansas State fan, took the Jayhawk and threw it in the trash, sparking threats of a visit to the principal's office and other kindergarten turmoil that promptly went viral on the front-page of Yahoo! and elsewhere.

Last week, 5-year-old Cooper Barton of Oklahoma City proudly went to school wearing a University of Michigan T-shirt. Cooper and his parents are all die-hard University of Michigan fans. Oklahoma News9 reports that the principal at Cooper's school told Cooper to turn his T-shirt inside-out, because the city's dress code specifically states that children may only wear apparel supporting Oklahoma colleges, such as Oklahoma University or Oklahoma State University. "Clothes from all other schools are against current policy," News9 reports.

The policy, approved in 2005, also prohibits kids from wearing any professional team apparel.* While this probably was not much of an issue in 2005, today it bars kids from wearing apparel supporting the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. [*Note: By my calculations, such a dress code in my family's school district would wipe out 99 percent of my 5-year-old's school clothes.]

Cooper's mother, Shannon, said Cooper ended up having to hide behind a tree to turn his shirt inside-out, and that he was embarrassed by the incident. "They should really worry about academics. It wasn't offensive. He's five," she said.

A spokesperson for the school district acknowledged that the policy might be "outdated." The Oklahoma City School Superintendent stated Monday that the T-shirt incident with Cooper Barton "presented an opportunity to review the current OKCPS District Dress Code Policy that has been in place since 2005." The policy was "approved in 2005 after concerns that nationwide gangs used popular sports clothing to represent individual gangs."

August 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 buddy just bet me $1,000 that a random stranger of my choosing would be unable to name a single sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice. Should I take that bet?

Answer: It sounds like you are being hustled, as a recent survey shows that only one out of three Americans can name a sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. (ABA Journal, Two-Thirds of Americans Can't Name a Single US Supreme Court Justice, Survey Shows)

2) Question: I work for the city of Detroit and we are trying to trim our budget down a bit. I see we have a "horseshoer" on our payroll, despite the fact that we have no horses. Can we eliminate this position?

Answer: Sorry, but it is "not possible" to eliminate positions under union rules. (Jonathan Turley, Detroit Continues To Maintain Horseshoer Despite The Absence of Horses)

3) Question: I work at a convenience store and I just watched a woman try to shoplift an entire case of beer under her dress (video). Top that! 

Answer: Impressive video, indeed, but I see your case of beer and raise you a 42-inch TV. (Daily MailThief arrested for shoplifting after hiding 42in TV under her skirt)

August 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 21, 2012

Unshuffled Cards at Casino Lead to Huge Winnings -- and a Flurry of Lawsuits

The Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City, N.J., buys -- or at least used to buy -- playing cards for its gaming tables from a Kansas City card manufacturer. One of the key requirements of the cards purchased by the Golden Nugget is that they must be pre-shuffled, as the casino puts them in play immediately. 

Earlier this month, however, it began to dawn on a group of gamblers who were playing the game of mini-baccarat at the Golden Nugget that the cards were being dealt in the same exact sequence deck after deck. These gamblers quickly jumped on that discovery by placing huge bets on each new hand. The Associated Press reports (via Deadspin) that "forty-one consecutive winning hands later, the 14 players had racked up more than $1.5 million in winnings -- surrounded by casino security convinced they had cheated but unable to prove how."

A flurry of lawsuits has now resulted, with the Golden Nugget predictably suing the card manufacturer for failing to shuffle the cards, but also the gamblers who took advantage of the error. The AP reports that the casino's lawsuit asserts that state gambling regulations requiring all casino games to offer fair odds to both sides, but that this was not the case due to the unshuffled cards. A lawyer for the gamblers argues that the gamblers did nothing wrong, and that "[t]here is absolutely no law in New Jersey that would permit the Golden Nugget to declare the game illegal because it failed to provide shuffled cards."

Nine of the 14 gamblers were reportedly able to cash out over $550,000 worth of chips, but the others still have nearly $1 million in chips that the Golden Nugget will not permit them to cash out.

August 21, 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: I am a teenager in Doylestown, Pa., and I was brought up on charges by local police after I used chalk to draw a picture of some sea turtles on a street downtown. Meanwhile, of course, my drawing has long since washed away and isn't even visible any more. Do I really need to defend myself on these stupid charges?

Answer: No, the Doylestown police have now decided that chalk drawing is not a crime because it is not "indelible and financially costly to remove." (The Associated Press, Teens no longer face charges for chalk drawing)

2) Question: The police have caught me red-handed smoking a marijuana joint on the street here in Juneau, Alaska. I see two choices here: 'fess up and take the consequences, or try to eat the evidence by swallowing the joint. Advice? 

Answer: As Juneau police recently said in a similar case, having the marijuana is a class "B" misdemeanor, "which is like one step above running a red light." But destroying it is the felony of "tampering with physical evidence." So don't eat it. (Juneau EmpireMan eats joint, swallows harsher charge)

3) Question: I have been invited to a "Sharpie Party"! Sounds fun, should I go, and maybe bring the kids along?

Answer: No, "Sharpie parties" are a new kind of crime where "revelers armed with 'Sharpie' magic markers" are "lured by social media invitations to wreak havoc on foreclosed homes" with those Sharpies. (Reuters, 'Sharpie Parties' Fuel Rampage on Foreclosed US Homes)

August 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Being an Adjunct Law Professor

In the August issue of the ABA Journal, Deborah Cohen has an interesting article on some of the pros and cons of being an adjunct professor at a law school. As someone who has served as an adjunct professor of Legal Writing not once but twice (both times at George Mason University School of Law, separated by about a decade in between), I believe Cohen's article is pretty accurate.

As the article suggests, there is at least a whiff of "prestige" associated with being offered a position as an adjunct law professor that makes it seems like a great idea at the time. Cool, I'll be "Professor Carton!" I'll get paid to share my wisdom with law students! The class is only two hours per week, that can't be too much work, right?

All of this is true, but there is more to the equation that makes the decision on being an adjunct professor a bit more tricky. First, the compensation. As Cohen notes, the pay is pretty minimal -- about $1,000 per credit hour, she reports. Basically you can expect to receive just a few thousand dollars per semester for your efforts as an adjunct.

Second, part-time teaching as an adjunct professor is far more time-consuming than it may first appear. This is particularly true where, as in my case, you are teaching a subject for the first time. Beyond the couple of hours a week spent in class, I recall the following as being among the significant time commitments of being an adjunct professor:

  • Reading the assigned course materials;
  • Reading the teacher's aid/manual;
  • Preparing an outline of your classroom lecture/discussion;
  • Driving to the law school, parking, walking to class;
  • After-class discussions with students;
  • Driving back to your office;
  • Email correspondence with students (this has probably expanded to Facebook, Twitter, text messages, Google+ chats and who knows what else in the year 2012);
  • Blind-grading student assignments and exams, and trying to conform to your school's grading guidance;
  • Figuring out that although you have 15 people in your class, you only have 14 assignments turned in, and what you are supposed to do about that; and
  • Tracking and reporting grades to the school by student number.

For me, at least, all of these things took far more time than I anticipated, particularly the grading and the class preparation.

According to the ABA Journal article, adjunct work is rarely a path to a full-time faculty post. Indeed, one of the people commenting on the article who claims to be "a faculty member at a major Boston area University" says that "in the history of my University, no adjunct has ever moved to a tenure track position." The commenter adds that "I tell most of my friends that they will do better, and have better career prospects, getting a job at a place like Home Depot and doing all they can to learn the back end of that business."

On the other hand, being an adjunct professor does let you get a taste of what it is like to stand up in front of a room of students and try to teach them something. Although the time demands were ultimately too much for me to continue with it, I really did enjoy the couple of hours I spent each week in the classroom with the students.

August 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 17, 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 am being prosecuted for stealing two paintings, and prosecutors have surveillance video of me doing so. But I have no memory of stealing the paintings. Can the court just dismiss the charges?

Answer: No problem. (WSJ Law Blog, The Lawyer Who Forgot He Was a Thief)

2) Question: I was at a Dallas Cowboys game in 100 degree heat. I sat on a black marble bench that was baking in the sun. The bench was "extremely hot and unreasonably dangerous" and get this -- there was no warning sign alerting me that the bench could be hot! I sat down on the bench and just kept sitting on it until I had burned my butt. Can I sue the Cowboys?

Answer: Of course. (ESPN, Burned fan sues Cowboys)

3) Question: I am a witch. Why can I no longer find good spells and potions on eBay? 

Answer: Sorry, but eBay is now banning the sale of curses, spells, hexes, potions and other "metaphysical" items. (ShortList, eBay Banning the Sale of Spells

August 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 16, 2012

California Turns Its Residents Against Each Other Through 'CHEATERS' Program

It wasn't that long ago that I noted here that Austin, Texas, was rolling out a program called "Parking Mobility" that I thought "seem[ed] like a surefire way for some do-gooder citizen to get his or her butt kicked." Parking Mobility essentially deputizes Austinites into being vigilante meter maids who can turn each other in using an iPhone app.

Now, California is getting in on the fun of turning its residents against one another through its "CHEATERS" program. In California, CBS 5 reports (via Consumerist), new residents have 20 days to register their car after moving into the state. Many drivers fail to do so, however, due to the state's high registration fees. 

CHEATERS, an acronym for "Californians Help Eliminate All The Evasive Registration Scofflaws," is a state initiative that provides a website through which Californians can enter key information about their neighbors and others who are still driving around with their out-of-state tags well after the 20-day grace period has passed. Do-gooders (or troublemakers) can simply go to the website, enter the scofflaw's tag number and state, the vehicle's make and model, and a bit of other information, and then just sit back and wait for the California police to roll in to their neighbor's driveway to hand them a $400 ticket for their transgression.

CBS 5 reports that in 2011, the CHEATERS program resulted in three-quarters of a million dollars in registration fees.

August 16, 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: I am on a health kick. As far as I can tell from the packaging, Hershey's Syrup+Calcium and Hershey's Syrup Sugar Free with Vitamin & Mineral Fortification are just what I need! Right?

Answer: You can check Toppings Blog Watch for a more in-depth analysis, but be aware that the FDA has warned Hershey's that it may not use the terms "plus" and "fortification" on its labels because the products' nutritional contents do not meet the necessary guidelines to make such claims. (Sun SentinelFDA warns Hershey over chocolate syrup labeling)

2) Question: I am a San Francisco police officer and I like to photograph nude female models in my spare time. Is this going to be a problem? 

Answer: Yes. (San Francisco ChronicleSF cop fights suspension over nude photos) (via How Appealing)

3) Question: I am in search of some instruction on how to engage in pimping. Are there any written rules or guidelines? 

Answer: Yes, Pimping Rules are now available online. (The Smoking GunPolice Seize Pimping Rules During Raid)

August 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2012

Things That Exist, Vol. 6: Mobile DNA Testing Trucks

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: DNA Testing Trucks


(image source)

That's right -- an actual "Who's Your Daddy"-mobile exists (via Appellate Squawk) that will come to your house, take your DNA, test it, and then email you the results of who is your daddy, child, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, whatever! You can get a "Legal DNA Paternity" test that will supposedly hold up in court, or you can go for the less expensive "Peace of Mind" home kit that is said to be the same test as the "legal" version but not usable in court.

The DNA truck is a service offered by Health Street, which claims to have over 1,000 locations throughout the U.S. for drug testing, DNA testing and other services. Health Street seems to be getting a good bit of mileage out of its Who's Your Daddy truck, featuring it on its Facebook page and also tweeting about it regularly on its Twitter feed.

As Health Street shared here on its Facebook page, "Who needs Maury???" 

August 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I refused to provide my good-for-nothing, 22-year-old son with a shot of vodka. He responded by going out to my back porch, retrieving some dog feces, rubbing it in my face and pushing me. Please tell me that he can be sent to jail for life for this crime against his mama.

Answer: No, not for life, but he can be charged with felony domestic battery and might also be labeled as the "worst son in the world" by the media, if that helps at all. (The Smoking Gun, Florida Police Arrest Worst Son In The World)

2) Question: I am a prostitute in Australia, where my job is legal. But the local motels here will not rent me a room to do my business. Is this discrimination?

Answer: Yes. In Australia, a court recently ruled that a motel violated anti-discrimination laws when it refused to rent a room to a prostitute. (WSJ Law Blog, Australian Court Rules for Prostitute Who Was Turned Away By Motel)

3) Question: Quick question. I'm in Germany -- can I tattoo the Rolling Stones' famous "tongue" logo onto my pony?

Answer: No. In Germany, tattooing animals for fashion purposes has been found to violate animal cruelty laws. (The LocalDo not tattoo your pony, court tells German man)

August 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2012

As Usual, Justice Scalia Provokes Most Courtroom Laughter in Supreme Court's Latest Term

While you were busy trying to learn how to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on your ukulele, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler was trying to learn how to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his ukulele and updating his seminal Supreme Court oral argument humor study

As Wexler notes in this post Monday on PrawfsBlawg, he conducted his research in his typical "half-assed fashion" (which included the ukulele distraction) by reviewing the Supreme Court's oral argument transcripts and "count[ing] the number of times each justice said something funny enough to make the court reporter enter the phrase "[laughter]" in the transcript." 

For the 2012 term, Wexler breaks down the laugh-provoking comments as follows:

  • Justice Antonin Scalia: 83 laughs. According to Wexler, Scalia was particularly on his game during the health care oral arguments, when he racked up a Seinfeldian 14 laughs.
  • Justice Stephen Breyer: 56 laughs
  • Chief Justice John Roberts: 30 laughs
  • Justice Elena Kagan: 15 laughs
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy: 14 laughs
  • Justice Samuel Alito: 7 laughs
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 6 laughs
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 2 laughs
  • Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 laughs

Wexler also offers a list of some of funnyman Scalia's greatest hits, including "it must be unconstitutional if it's scary" (U.S. v. Jones) and "that is absolutely weird" (Elgin v. Department of the Treasury). Wexler's research shows that Scalia also led the court in laughs in the 2005 term and in the 2007 term.

August 14, 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 criminal trial ended in chaos after I beat up my lawyer, fought the sheriff's officers and attempted to escape from the courtroom. Can I get a mistrial out of this?

Answer: No, a criminal defendant "cannot engage in courtroom misconduct and then expect to be rewarded with a mistrial or new trial for his or her egregious behavior ..." (Legal Profession Blog, No New Trial When Defendant Assaults His Attorney)

2) Question: I sell "meth," but sales have been down lately. Do you think putting up some fliers might boost sales?

Answer: Yes, fliers might help, but remember that police officers know how to read, too. (WDBJ7, Man posts flier advertising meth for sale -- guess who called?)

3) Question: I called 911 and asked the dispatcher if she could give me a ride to the store to get some beer. She said she could not do it herself but that she can send a ride over here to pick me up. Seems legit, right?

Answer: She may well send someone over to pick you up, but you should not expect that ride to end at the liquor store. (Amarillo Globe-NewsHello, 911? Can you drive me to the store for some beer?)

August 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2012

'Kyleigh's Law' Requiring Decals to Identify Teen Drivers Upheld by N.J. Supreme Court

In New Jersey, a law requiring teenage drivers to display a red decal on their vehicle's license plates withstood a challenge in the state Supreme Court last week, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. The plaintiffs behind the unsuccessful challenge to this statute known as "Kyleigh’s Law," however, are now vowing to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the law places teenagers at risk and improperly discloses their personal information.

Kyleigh's Law is named after Kyleigh D'Alessio, a New Jersey teenager who was killed in a car crash. The Asbury Park Press reports that the law's proponents view the decals as a way to prevent future crashes involving teen drivers because they "help police easily identify a GDL [Graduated Driver's License] driver who must adhere to curfews and restrictions about how many other teenagers can be in the vehicle as passengers." 

Critics of the law argued to the Supreme Court of New Jersey that it violated the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act because it released personal information about the driver, and also constituted an unreasonable search and seizure. The state Supreme Court rejected both of these arguments, finding that the information at issue was not "highly restrictive personal information" as defined in the FDPPA, and that "young drivers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their age group. ... Because the decal is affixed to the exterior of the car, in plain view, an officer's review of the decal does not constitute a search."

The APP reports that another concern about the law is that teen drivers may be "harassed by predators" who notice the decal. According to New Jersey police, however, this fear is unsubstantiated, as such harassment is "not happening." Still, the APP reports, some parents have refused to place the stickers on cars driven by their teenage daughters for that reason.

August 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 10, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 22

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20 and Volume 21 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:

  • Point out damage to the wing flap of a Boeing 737 that is in active service with a handwritten note that says "We know about this." Aircraft maintenance workers should not highlight a wing flap on a passenger jet that is missing a piece by using a marker to scribble "We know about this" next to the damage. CONSEQUENCE: Airline will apologize for alarming its passengers, remove the writing and schedule the wing flap for a total repair.
  • Inaugurate a new flight offered between two cities by having bikini-clad beauty queens perform in the aisle. Airlines may not celebrate a newly offered route by hiring a group of "bikini-clad beauty queens" to strut through the plane dancing to a song with the lyric "I'm crazy for banana." CONSEQUENCEAirline will be fined for staging the show without receiving official approval.
  • Cut in line during an open boarding process to get a better seat. Teenage passengers may not try to skip the line to obtain a better seat. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be required to read a personal apology to the entire plane over the plane's intercom system saying that "[m]y fellow travelers: Today, I come to you with great remorse. During the boarding process, I took advantage of this airline's kindness. While some of my teammates were called to the front of the line, I was not. And yet, I cut in line and took a seat that rightfully belonged to one of you good people. This is not how my coaches, teammates or parents expect me to behave, and for all of this I apologize. I hope you will all find it in your hearts to forgive me, for I am just a young man that thinks I am smarter than I am. Enjoy your flight, and remember to fly Southwest, because they let my coach do this to me."

August 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 09, 2012

Too Lazy to Read the Terms of Service? Try 'ToS;DR'

Let's face it -- 99.44 percent of us do not read the Terms of Service we "agree to" on software, websites, whatever. I mean, who has time to sift through pages of legalese just to play a game of Angry Birds, register for your fantasy football draft or read a news article?

Via Consumerist, however, I see that one website is trying to address this widespread "too long, didn't read" problem by basically creating a CliffsNotes version for each ToS out there. On its homepage, this website called, appropriately, "Terms of Service; Didn't Read" states that

The statement "I have read and agree with the Terms of Service" is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that. As a crowd initiative, ToS;DR rates the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of websites and services from a user rights perspective, with labels ranging from a very good class A to a very bad class E.

The Twitter photo service Twitpic, for example, is given a grade of "Class E," meaning that its "terms of service raise very serious concerns." SoundCloud, on the other hand, receives a grade of "Class B" (defined as "The terms of services are fair towards the user but they could be improved.") Grades for Twitter, Facebook, Google and other major services are still in the works.

ToS;DR asks anyone who encounters anything that's particularly good or bad about a website from a consumer rights point of view to start a thread on this open Google Group, where others can add their own thoughts, as well. Of course, since most of the people who will visit ToS;DR are presumably too lazy to read a ToS in the first place, this Google Group may turn out to be a very lonely destination.

August 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 08, 2012

Indiana Becomes Latest State to Experiment With Video Court Transcripts

Things continue to spiral in the wrong direction for those in the court-reporting profession. As I have discussed here, states such as Texas have now determined -- over the objection of organizations like the Texas Court Reporters Certification Board -- that oral depositions 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). Most recently, The Indiana Lawyer reports, several courts in Indiana launched an "unprecedented experiment" on August 1, 2012, in which they are recording proceedings with digital video. The video will serve as the official trial court record unless the judge specifically orders a paper transcript in a case.

Indiana is attempting to follow in the footsteps of the state of Kentucky, where courts statewide have remarkably "relied almost exclusively on video transcripts for nearly 30 years," The Indiana Lawyer reports. Kurt Maddox of Jefferson Audio Video Systems in Louisville, Ky., which helped introduce cameras in Kentucky in the early 1980s and recently installed cameras in the Indiana courts conducting the experiment, is his company's "chief evangelist" for the use of video recording. Maddox acknowledges that it takes significant effort to overcome the status quo of paper transcripts, but says that the success in Kentucky "sits out there challenging the traditional wisdom every day." He asserts that video transcripts are more accurate than those created by even the most professional court reporters, and that the use of video saves taxpayers approximately $24 million per year.

Still, court reporters continue to fight against the creeping use of video. Proponents of transcripts created the old fashioned way -- by court reporters -- argue that while video is the low-cost option, read-backs in the courtroom can be more difficult with digital recordings. In addition, they say, court reporters can produce a transcript minutes after the proceedings conclude. Some judges disagree, however. Kentucky Justice Michael McDonald, who helped guide Kentucky toward the use of digital recording, says that "[t]he court reporter's transcript is the rankest of hearsay; you're just trusting she hears it correctly."

August 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 07, 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: I hear there are over 600 tax-foreclosed homes in my county. Will the county just let me purchase all of them at once?

Answer: No problem, as long as you have $4.8 million. (, Millionaire buys every tax-foreclosed home in Macomb County)

2) Question: I am the governor of a state. I am trying to offer an inmate clemency and a stay of execution but he says he doesn't want it! Can he turn my offer down?

Answer: Yes, he can. (ABA Journal, Judge Says Inmate Who Wants To Be Executed Can Override Governor’s Death Penalty Veto)

3) Question: I just joined the city council in Seattle. My new colleagues tell me that my first project is to head a Sandbox Task Force to study the differences between children's wooden sandboxes and wooden planter boxes. Am I being hazed or something?

Answer: No, this is a real issue in Seattle, where sandboxes that are too close to the street are prohibited and can result in a $500-per-day penalty, but wooden planter boxes that look just the same are allowed. (The Seattle TimesCity warns North Seattle family of $500-a-day fine over sandbox near street)

August 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2012

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 am a juror in an attempted murder trial. Can I get the judge to postpone opening statements in the case for five hours so I can attend an audition for a part in a Law & Order episode?

Answer: No problem. (ABA Journal, Judge Postpones Attempted Murder Trial So Juror Can Attend 'Law & Order' Tryout)

2) Question: I won a gold medal in the Olympics, and was given a prize of $25,000 cash from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Do I need to pay tax on the cash I received?

Answer: Yes, unless the new bill proposed by Senator Marco Rubio passes. (ForbesGoing For Tax-Exempt Gold: Bill Introduced to Eliminate Tax on Olympic Medals)

3) Question: I am a woman driving my car with no shirt on because I am on the way to "surprise" my boyfriend with my toplessness. But now the police are trying to pull me over for speeding. This is way too embarrassing -- should I just floor it and try to flee the cops here?

Answer: No, there is no "toplessness" exception to your duty to pull over for police. If you flee you will likely be charged with fleeing and eluding law enforcement (while topless). (The Gainesville SunWoman in chase fled because she was topless, deputies say)

August 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 03, 2012

Things That Exist, Vol. 5: 'Substitute Criminals'

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: Substitute Criminals

On Slate (via WSJ Law Blog), Geoffrey Sant explains how the "substitute criminal" (aka "replacement convict") concept is already at work in China. Let's say you are a wealthy person in China who has "done the crime." Wouldn't you rather hire a body double or stand-in to "do the time" for you? According to Slate, substitute criminals can be hired to go to jail for you in China for as little as $31/day. Bargain!!!

Slate states that

In 2009, a hospital president who caused a deadly traffic accident hired an employee’s father to “confess” and serve as his stand-in. A company chairman is currently charged with allegedly arranging criminal substitutes for the executives of two other companies. In another case, after hitting and killing a motorcyclist, a man driving without a license hired a substitute for roughly $8,000. The owner of a demolition company that illegally demolished a home earlier this year hired a destitute man, who made his living scavenging in the rubble of razed homes, and promised him $31 for each day the “body double” spent in jail. In China, the practice is so common that there is even a term for it: ding zuiDing means “substitute,” and zui means “crime”; in other words, “substitute criminal.”

A Chinese police officer added that "[i]f somebody is powerful, there’s a good chance they can make this happen. Spend some money and remain free.” Check out the full Slate article here.

August 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 02, 2012

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I think these skinny jeans are damaging my testicles. Am I contributorily negligent for wearing these jeans at all? 

Answer: Yes, probably so. But I guess that's the price of beauty, right? (Abnormal Use, On skinny jeans and the law, say it isn't so!)

2) Question: What would happen if I tried to climb over a barbed wire fence to break in to a county jail, and then demanded to be arrested when I was apprehended? 

Answer: You would get your wish. (, Ohio woman attempts to break into jail; demands to be arrested)

3) Question: I won a bronze medal in the Olympics, but promptly broke it when I took it into the shower (don't ask). Can I get a new one?

Answer: No problem. (CBS, Brazilian to get new medal after shower incident)

August 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 01, 2012

We Will Overcome: Eliminating the Word 'Shall' From Legal Drafting

In the August 2012 ABA Journal (via the Legal Writing Prof Blog), Bryan Garner argues that the time has come to say farewell to the word "shall" in legal drafting, and replace it with a "clearer word more characteristic of American English: must, will, is, may or the phrase is entitled to."

Garner, who is among other things the editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary, argues that "shall" has several inherent weaknesses that undercut its usefulness. First, he says, the word is no longer even in use in the American vocabulary, with two very limited exceptions: the expressions "We shall overcome" and "Shall we ... ?" As lawyers know well, however, "shall" is still very commonly used in contracts, statutes, and other rules and regulations to convey that something is mandatory. 

The main problem with lawyers' use of "shall" comes when the word is used as a prohibition, such as "no person shall ... ." As Garner explains,

If shall means "has a duty to" or "is required to," we have a problem. We’re negating a command to do something: You’re not required to do it (but, by implication, you may if you like).

That's plainly not the meaning. What is meant is to prohibit altogether -- to disallow. Hence it should be "No person may ... ." That is, no person is allowed to do this.

Garner says this routine (mis)use of "shall" to prohibit something has forced courts to often interpret "shall" to mean "may," making it an unintentionally "chameleon-hued word."

Garner says that current practice in drafting Federal Rules is to eliminate "shall" altogether in favor of the word "must," and that "shall" has now almost completely purged from all four major sets of Federal Rules. In typical bilateral agreements, he says, the word "will" is preferable. ("The parties agree as follows ... Jones will do this. Smith will do that.").

August 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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