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January 31, 2013

Please Rob Me: Newspaper 'Vacation Hold' Edition

A couple of years ago, I discussed the website "Please Rob Me" here. Please Rob Me was launched with the mission of demonstrating that users of geolocation services such as Foursquare who saw fit to broadcast their location ("I'm at the Grand Canyon!") were, simultaneously, announcing to the world that they were not at home. In its heyday, the Please Rob Me website provided a real-time feed of people checking in with geolocation services, half-jokingly presenting this list of people who were not at home as "opportunities" for robbers. 


After raising some awareness of the issue, the Please Rob Me site stopped providing the feed noted above. As I noted in follow-up posts, however, there are numerous old-school ways that people say "Please Rob Me" to the world. These include listing a funeral or wedding in the newspaper, as astute robbers also read newspapers and have been known to strike houses while the residents are at the funeral home or the wedding reception. These also can include signing up for a cruise. In 2010, a cruise line employee was arrested for burglarizing the homes of 24 vacationers after using the company's reservation system to learn who was on board the cruise -- and therefore not at home.

Today I saw another example of using information about people's location against them, when four men were arrested for using the Los Angeles Times "vacation hold" list to target and burglarize subscribers who would not be at home. CBS News reports that one of the men arrested worked as a contracted office machine repairman for the paper's distributors, and was able to steal the vacation hold list from distributor warehouses. He then allegedly gave the names and addresses of the vacationing homeowners to three suspected thieves, who are all now in custody. The scheme allowed the burglars to allegedly hit at least 25 homes over a three year period in California. 

January 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 30, 2013

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 police officer. I just pulled over a driver who ran a red light and found that he (a) smelled of alcohol, and (b) was driving while wearing ice skates. He did not fail the breathalyzer test, however. What is the proper charge here? 

Answer: In Minnesota, where driving while wearing skates is probably not completely unheard of, it looks like the charge would be for "breach of an undertaking." (SaultStar.comCharged driver wears skates)

2. Question: I purchased Lance Armstrong's book, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, a while back. It was billed as "non-fiction," but we now know from the Oprah interview that Armstrong was using performance enhancing drugs and the story was actually fiction. Can I get my money back?

Answer: As a purchaser of the book, you may be able to join the class action charging Armstrong with consumer fraud and recover for your "loss." (Tex Parte BlogArmstrong and publishers sued in class-action lawsuit based on consumer fraud)

3. Question: My 5-year-old son built some Legos into the shape of a toy gun at school. It actually looks more like a diving board than a gun, but whatever. Is that going to be a problem? 

Answer: Yes, expect a letter threatening your son with suspension from school shortly. (CBS BostonHyannis 5-Year-Old Threatened With Suspension For Making Gun Out Of Legos)

January 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2013

In 'Zumba Prostitution' Case, Court Finds No Right to Privacy in Brothels

The "Zumba prostitution" scandal has rocked the small town of Kennebunk, Maine.  In case you haven't been following it, prosecutors allege that a Zumba instructor named Alexis Wright was using her Zumba dance studio as a front for prostitution. Jury selection in the trial of Wright's alleged co-conspirator, Mark Strong Sr., began last week. Strong faced 59 misdemeanor counts, including conspiring with Wright, and Wright faced 106 counts, including prostitution and invasion of privacy for acts.  

Forty-six of the counts against both Strong and Wright relate to allegations that the two made secret video recordings of her encounters with "customers," without the customers' knowledge. On Friday, the prosecution's case received a major hit when the court dismissed all of those 46 counts against Strong.

The judge handling the case, Nancy Mills, agreed with Strong's argument that patrons of places such as "bordellos, whorehouses and the like" have no reasonable expectation of privacy. "Those places are to commit crime," Strong's attorney argued. "There is no expectation to privacy. If there is, it's illusory." In her ruling, Mills stated that Wright's customers "may have had a subjective expectation of privacy, but I can't find an objective expectation of privacy that society would be willing to accept."

Late Friday night, prosecutors appealed Mills' ruling, which has derailed a huge portion of the case against Strong and presumably Wright. Although a prompt appellate ruling is expected, today Mills delayed Strong's trial until Maine's Supreme Court rules on her decision to dismiss the 46 counts.

January 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2013

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 do not have a gun license but I was carrying a .38 caliber handgun in my pocket when it accidentally fired and shot off my penis. I am afraid to go to the hospital as I'm concerned I may end up being charged criminally. On the other hand, I did SHOOT OFF MY PENIS. Can I really be charged with a crime here given the "punishment" I've already endured?

Answer: Yes, if you do not have a license you could well be charged with illegal possession of a firearm, notwithstanding the fact that your penis was shot off. (Opposing ViewsSecurity Guard Shoots Penis Off, Charged With Crime)

2. Question: I live in a very rural area. Is it possible for me to obtain a special permit will allow me to legally drive while under the influence of alcohol? 

Answer: Yes, in places such as rural Ireland, permits are available to individuals who wish to drive home on remote countryside roads after consuming two to three alcoholic beverages to "prevent loneliness and reduce the risk of suicides." (ABC NewsIrish County Lets Some Drive Drunker?)

3. Question: Yes, I did try to choke the man that I was sleeping with. But what part of "he attempted to pull more blanket on top of himself" do you not understand? Surely my actions were justified under the law, right!?

Answer: Negative. (UPI, Police: Woman choked blanket hog)

January 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2013

'Segwaying While Intoxicated' Not a Crime, Says Minn. Court of Appeals

You drive your Segway scooter to the local bar. You drink. You get drunk. It gets to be last call, and perhaps the bar owner plays the song "Closing Time" ("You don't have to go home but you can't stay here") as he pushes you out the door. Can you drive your Segway home despite being drunk beyond the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle? In Minnesota, at least, the answer is ... heck, yes!

That issue was decided this week by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the state's case against Mark Greenman, who was rolling home on his Segway following a pool tournament at the Inn Kahoots bar last February. The Star Tribune reports that after Greenman veered into the road, police pulled him over (is that even the right phrase for a Segway stop?) and charged him with DWI after he blew a 0.19 on his breath test. Greenman said he was "incredulous" about being charged because this was not his first brush with Segway DWIs -- he'd already "beaten an identical charge two years earlier," the Star Tribune reports.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the latest DWI charge against Greenman could not stand because Segways are not "motor vehicles" under state drunken-driving laws. This holding comes too late, however, for others in Minnesota who have pleaded guilty in the past for drunk driving on things such as a "motorized recliner chair," a Zamboni and riding lawn mowers.

Sgt. Jason Nelson, Medina's acting police chief, told the Star Tribune that the holding does not have the city in fear of "an influx of drunken Segway riders" given that "they're not that easy to drive sober."

January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 24, 2013

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 live in the U.K. There is a guy at my door who says he is from the government and is here to "inspect the efficiency rating of my refrigerator." This has to be a scam, right?

Answer: No, that is one of the government's powers under recent energy legislation. (The Telegraph, Powers to enter home to check on pot plants and fridges still in place despite pledge to cut snooping)

2. Question: Sure, I put semen in a breath mint drop bottle and distributed it to my fellow students as a prank, but can I really be charged with adulterating a food item? Breath mints are "food"?

Answer: Yep! (MLiveSaginaw student who put semen in breath mint drops pleads guilty, likely will have record sealed)

3. Question: I posted on Facebook that "I wish I could get fired some days, it would be easier to be at home than to have to go through this." My employer saw this and fired me the next day. Can they do this?

Answer: The National Labor Relations Board says that they can. (, Tempted to vent about work online? You could get fired)

January 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 23, 2013

Wanted: Expert on Sandwich-Related Damages for 'Subway 11-Inch Litigation'

Less than one week ago I wrote here

I'm predicting it right here and now: "In re: Subway 11-Inch Litigation"

In a world where lawyers file class actions against basketball teams for resting their star players for the night that "class members" attend a game, how can there not be a class action on behalf of every Subway Footlong sub sandwich purchaser who got shortchanged by an inch?


Lo and behold, a putative class action was filed Tuesday in Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., on behalf of all of those pour souls who purchased these footlong sandwiches that did not quite measure up.

The Associated Press reports (via the ABA Journal) that the lawsuit was filed by an attorney named Stephen DeNittis, who says he plans to file a similar suit in Pennsylvania state court, as well. DeNittis "said he's had sandwiches from 17 shops measured -- and every one came up short. 'The case is about holding companies to deliver what they've promised,' he said." The lawsuit is reportedly seeking compensatory damages for the class and a change in Subway's practices.

So how does one calculate damages for a footlong sub that turns out to be 11 inches? I don't think it can be as simple as saying I paid five dollars and only received 11/12ths of what I paid for, since we are really only talking about the sub roll being too short. I suppose the damages are whatever the retail price of the sub roll is, multiplied by 1/12th? Maybe 50 cents times 1/12th, or about 4 cents per sub?

I'm sure that there is an expert on sandwich-related damages out there somewhere who can confirm this, right?

January 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 22, 2013

License Plate Litigation: The Fight for 'GAYPWR' in Georgia

I like to track license plate squabbles here at LBW. For example, as you may recall, the license plate "X32 IARO" is not permitted in Sweden (look at it in the mirror to see why). And "GIV ME A" is banned in Illinois, at least on Hummer vehicles. On the other hand, as Eric Lipman pointed out here, Vermont residents are free to get religious vanity license plates for their cars now that the Second Circuit has found the state's prohibition on such plates to be unconstitutional.

I learned today that new license plate litigation has broken out in Georgia, where James Cyrus Gilbert's application for license plates reading 4GAYLIB, GAYPWR and GAYGUY were all denied. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that these requested vanity plates are among 10,214 vanity plates banned by the state. The lawsuit, which was filed against the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services, "seeks to compel the state to approve the requested vanity plate and a court order declaring unconstitutional the state regulation that governs vanity plates."

Gilbert's lawyers argue that the regulation has been applied arbitrarily and without regard to any state interest. They also argue that it is applied with "viewpoint discrimination," i.e., denying plates that support gay rights while allowing conservative or religious plates such as "JESUS4U." In addition, the AJ-C reports, the license plate regulation prohibits profanity or language the community considers obscene, or language that ridicules a person, group, or religious belief or being, race or ethnicity. As such, the state would have to argue that "GAYPWR" is somehow "obscene" -- which at least one Georgia lawyer quoted in the article doubted the state would be willing to do in the year 2013.

January 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 18, 2013

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1. Question: Is there any way for a man to be arrested for sexual assault if he has consensual sex with a woman?

Answer: Yes -- if he pokes holes in his girlfriend's condoms to try to get her pregnant. (CTV News, Convicted condom-piercer taking appeal to Supreme Court of Canada)

2. Question: We run a shopping center. Can we set up our own parking meters along the private streets on our property and issue parking tickets to people who don't feed our meters?  

Answer: Probably not, as private entities such as shopping centers arguably have no legal authority to enforce parking meters. (The Consumerist, Mall Puts Up Its Own Parking Meters Of 'Questionable Legality', Issues Tickets)

3. Question: I am about to graduate from high school. I'd like to become a lawyer but there's no way I'm spending the next seven years going to school. Is there any way to get my law degree quicker than that?

Answer: Yes, the University of Kansas will let you knock out both your bachelor's and law school degree in just six years. (ABA JournalBoth bachelor's and JD degree can be earned in only 6 years under new program)

January 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 17, 2013

How Many Inches Is Your Subway Footlong Sub?

I'm predicting it right here and now: "In re: Subway 11-Inch Litigation"

In a world where lawyers file class actions against basketball teams for resting their star players for the night that "class members" attend a game, how can there not be a class action on behalf of every Subway Footlong sub sandwich purchaser who got shortchanged by an inch?

Today reports that a Facebook post that included a picture of a Subway "Footlong" sub next to a tape measure, and clearly measuring just 11 inches, has gone viral. Here is the photo:


After the post received over 130,000 likes and nearly 6,000 comments, Subway was forced to issue a statement:

Our bread is freshly baked daily in each of the over 38,000 Subway restaurants worldwide. We are committed to providing a consistent product delivering the same amount of bread to the customer with every order. The length however may vary slightly when not baked to our exact specifications. We are reinforcing our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our offerings are always consistent no matter which Subway restaurant you visit.

The post also led other Subway customers to break out their own measuring tapes, prompting a barrage of additional Facebook posts showing photos of other "11-inch Footlongs." Subway began leaving similar apology comments on each of these posts and noting on each that "looking at your photo, this bread is not baked to our standards."

Today adds that according to some Facebook commenters who claimed to work at Subway, the 11-inch subs probably had not been "properly tugged and proofed" before they were baked. If so, then the subs would have contained the proper amount of bread, but would have been a "bit squished." Proper amount of bread or not, 11 inches is not a foot, and my prediction above stands!

January 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

January 16, 2013

Lack of Talent on Basketball Court Leads to Class Action Lawsuit

At the end of November, as his team prepared to play its fourth game in five days against the Miami Heat in Miami, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest four of his team's best players -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. In fact, Popovich put the four players on a plane home to San Antonio rather than having them travel with the team so that they could get a bit of extra rest. This left the Spurs, who were already playing without other key players Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson due to injuries, with a makeshift lineup of just of nine, primarily bench players.

Despite the fact that the short-handed Spurs put up a tough fight and barely lost to the Heat by the score of 105-100, many fans who had purchased tickets to the game in question were disappointed that the Spurs chose to rest their players en masse for the game. Among the disappointed was a lawyer named Larry McGuinness, who reportedly paid a premium price on the resale market to obtain tickets to the game not knowing that Coach Pop planned to rest the starters.

ESPN reports that McGuinness is now striking back, and has filed a class action lawsuit in Miami-Dade County on behalf of all of the fans who, in his words, paid a premium for "porterhouse and they bring out cube steak." McGuinness argues that the Spurs' actions violated Florida's fair trade practices law. According to McGuinness, the Spurs "intentionally and surreptitiously" rested all of their best players without the knowledge of the league, the team and the fans attending the November 29 game, causing the fans to suffer "economic damages." The NBA has already fined the Spurs $250,000 over the matter. 

January 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 15, 2013

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 live in the U.K. Can I be arrested if I tell a police officer his horse is gay? 

Answer: Not as of this week! (The Telegraph'Insulting' words crime which made it illegal to call a police horse 'gay' is to be changed)

2. Question: I have been following the various updates to the "Legal Blog Watch Checklist for Bank Robbers," including the segments on the importance of an effective disguise. If I forget to bring a mask to a robbery, will a bucket over my head suffice?

Answer: It will not. (Fox 8, Slidell burglar improvises after he forgets mask)

3. Question: Can I be arrested for giving random people wedgies as they exit a movie theater?

Answer: Yes, that constitutes battery. (The Smoking Gun, Video Prankster Arrested After Wedgie Attacks)

January 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 14, 2013

Microsoft Word, the Clear Choice for Verbose Lawyers Facing a Word Limit

As discussed here, jurisdictions such as Texas have become fed up with "chicanery" by lawyers who circumvent page limit rules by decreasing font sizes and white space in their briefs. In response, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the state's 14 intermediate appellate courts eliminated page limits in favor of the chicanery-proof standard of a word count limit. A post on the Supreme Court of Texas Blog Sunday (via How Appealing), however, reveals that even an apparently objective standard such as word count has some play in it.

The new Texas word count rule states that while lawyers must include a certificate of compliance with each filing stating its word count, lawyers may rely upon "the word count of the computer program used to prepare the document." Surprisingly, it turns out that differences in the counting methodologies used by the leading word processing programs lead to differences in word count that may be important for lawyers whose briefs are approaching the word count limits.

According to the SCTB, word processors vary in how they count many of the items that end up in legal briefs. For example, they produce different calculations when reviewing the following types of items:

  • a phrasal adjective such as "summary-judgment motion"
  • a legal citation such as "S.W.3d"

  • a page cite such as "123-25"

  • a cite to the record such as "4.RR.124-25," or to a statute such as "ยง123.23(A)(1)(i)(a)"

Indeed, in an experiment SCTB conducted by pasting a page and a half from a recent appellate brief into four different word processors, SCTB found a sizable range in the reported word counts:

  • Microsoft Word: 363 words
  • LibreOffice: 364 words
  • Wordperfect: 380 words
  • Pages: 405 words

Read the whole post here to learn why the numbers vary but, as SCTB concludes, the bottom line is this: "The clear choice for verbose people is Microsoft Word."

January 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2013

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 a supervisor in a government agency. One of my employees suffers from REALLY bad flatulence. Can I issue him an official reprimand for creating an "intolerable" and "hostile" environment for coworkers, and for "conduct unbecoming a federal officer"?: I have a detailed log of the dates and times when he released the "awful and unpleasant odor."

Answer: No. (The Smoking Gun, Feds Withdraw Reprimand Dealt To Gassy Worker)

2. Question: I'm running late and stuck in traffic. I'm driving alone but I have some corporate papers sitting in my passenger seat. Can I use the carpool lane since a corporation is, in the eyes of the law, a "person"?

Answer: A corporation is not a person in the eyes of "carpool law," so no. (Lowering the Bar, UPDATE: No, You Can't Carpool With a Corporation)

3. Question: I am a lawyer and I need a "Bride Kidnapping Expert" for our trial. I'm out of luck, aren't I?

Answer: No, you're all set! (The Sun, From MILF commander to porn historian - meet the men and women with the world's weirdest job titles)

January 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013

Recently Admitted Lawyer Seeking Experience? Bring Your Checkbook

Back in my day, after you passed the bar and became a fledgling lawyer, you typically went to work at a law firm. You would get dressed up in a suit, commute to work, pretend like you knew how to perform basic lawyer tasks (until such time as you actually did know how to perform them), and collect a paycheck for your efforts. The last part was key -- you were spending your day working for The Man so you expected to get paid for your time.

I learned via Law and More today, however, that at least one law firm in Stratford, Conn., views that old "law firm pays lawyer" model as obsolete. Indeed, if you want to train under this firm's lawyers, you better bring your checkbook. An ad posted Wednesday on Craigslist (Lawyer-in-training *Get legal experience here* (Stratford/Waterbury)) states:


General practice attorney with more than twenty years of experience is willing to train a small number of recently admitted attorneys, or those awaiting bar results. For a monthly fee, you will be able to shadow the experienced attorney, and learn by watching the day to day practice of law. Observe the following types of proceedings, as they occur; Civil Short Calender motion arguments, foreclosure mediation's, pre-trial conferences, Workers Compensation and Social Security hearings, real estate closings, discovery proceedings and compliance, research and general office operations. ... (Emphasis added).

I still think that there is a 5 percent or so chance that the ad is just poorly worded, and that the "monthly fee" will be paid to the lawyer, but if not we are looking at a whole new "training" revenue stream for lawyers! It is like "Take Your Child to Work Day," but if your child paid you. Actually, it is more like "Take Someone Else's Child to Work Day," and the child's parents pay you since the child/lawyer is unemployed.

January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (17)

January 09, 2013

Complying With 'Email Address Ordering Hierarchy' in Law Firms

At the Lawyerist blog, Sybil Dunlop ponders an issue that, coincidentally, I was also thinking about earlier this week: Does the order in which you list recipients' email addresses in the "To" line of an email matter at all?

I was thinking about this vital question recently as I created a new email by hitting "Reply All" to an unrelated email and adding some others to the "To" line. This had the effect of placing the email addresses in a fairly random order, with a key client tacked on to the end of the email addresses and some junior lawyers before more senior lawyers. For no good reason other than it seemed to be a more prominent location, I decided to move the client to the front of the "To" line. I Ieft the rest of the email addresses where they were.

Dunlop reports, however, that "email address ordering hierarchy" is an actual thing in some law firms, and that governing protocol is to list email addresses in experience-descending order. The "To" line under such a protocol should therefore read: "TO: Senior partner, junior partner, senior associate, midlevel associate, junior associate, first year, paralegal."

According to Dunlop, "email address ordering hierarchy" is not to be messed around with in such law firms, as partners will not hesitate to admonish associates for daring to deviate from the rule -- even in the blind carbon copy ("BCC") line. If you are feeling particularly mischievous, you could also choose to emulate one of Dunlop's friends who "delight[ed] in emailing an opposing counsel and listing every junior associate before listing the annoying partner." Sacrilege! 

January 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (9)

January 08, 2013

Unwashed Advocate Blog Presents 'Client Intake 101'

Via Simple Justice I came upon a great post from Eric Mayer on his Unwashed Advocate blog. Mayer proposes a 22-class law school course that will teach students about the practice of law -- "not just the practice of law, but the most vexing, infuriating, bad-time-consuming part of practicing law. That is potential client evaluation and intake," he says.

My favorite part of the course is lessons 8 through 13, which are designed to help fledgling lawyers tell the difference between the six different types of clients that may someday walk through the door. These include:

8. Potential Clients 1: Those who know they need a lawyer, know the value of a lawyer, and were referred to you. (Happy, feel-good class day)

9. Potential Clients 2: Those who found you because of your website. (Also known as Jekyll and Hyde day)

10. Potential Clients 3: Those who found you through Avvo. (Purchase a gas mask day)

11. Potential Clients 4: Those who found you because god led them to you. (Purchase a gun day (or Hire a Bodyguard day, if you're particularly offended by firearms references))

12. Potential Clients 5: Those who immediately say that their case will make you rich and famous. (Run the other way day)

13. Potential Clients 6: Those whose cases will really make you famous, but not necessarily rich. (Run the other way fast while wearing a gas mask day)

Mayer's proposed course hits on several other important principles, including standing firm on fees ("you are not a flea market"); managing the fact that "wives hate lawyers;" and assessing the "neediness" factor of a potential client (which I believe would be quite useful for avoiding an attorney-client relationship with any Stage 5 clingers).

Read Mayer's whole syllabus here.

January 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 07, 2013

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 28

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20Volume 21Volume 22Volume 23Volume 24Volume 25Volume 26 and Volume 27 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:

  • Smuggle a tiger's penis into the Australian airport. Passengers may not smuggle a tiger's penis into Australia. The same is true of whole skinned frogs, a bear's gall bladder, and a witch doctor's bag with dead rodents attached. CONSEQUENCE: Tiger's penis will be seized by Australian authorities.
  • Get drunk and go on a "rampage" on an international flight. Passengers are prohibited from becoming intoxicated and hitting, screaming at and spitting on other passengers. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be "constrained to his seat with duct tape" by his angry fellow passengers. 
  • Get drunk, board your plane and prepare for takeoff (for pilots). Pilots may not board their own flight smelling of alcohol and then fail a Breathalyzer testCONSEQUENCE: Pilot will be arrested and suspended from the airline pending an investigation.

January 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2013

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 a Pennsylvania real estate agent. I'm trying to sell a house but people keep getting freaked out when I tell them about the murder-suicide that occurred in the house. Can I just keep this little tidbit of information to myself going forward?

Answer: Yes, Pennsylvania's superior court recently ruled that a murder-suicide occurring in a home is not a material defect requisite of disclosure in that home's sale. (Constitutional Daily, Dial C for Caveat Emptor; The Legal Intelligencer, No Duty to Disclose Murder-Suicide at House For Sale)

2. Question: I'm a sandwich artist at Subway. If I stand up for sandwich integrity and try to start a fistfight with someone for asking me to put ketchup on a Philly cheesesteak, can I be fired? 

Answer: Yes. (, Subway sandwich artist refuses to put ketchup on cheesesteak, tries to start fight, gets fired

3. Question: I am a member of the U.S. Congress and, frankly, my colleagues and I are incapable of solving the looming debt ceiling problem. Can we just end this whole debacle by minting a coin made out of platinum, giving it a $1 trillion face value, and depositing it in the U.S. Treasury?

Answer: Of course. (The Huffington PostCan We Avert The Coming Debt Ceiling Crisis With A Magic Coin?)

January 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 03, 2013

U.K. Proposal: Obese People Must Exercise or Lose Their Benefits

The absurdity of many aspects of the U.S. legal system that I track here at Legal Blog Watch has led me to take some small comfort in watching even more absurd developments in the U.K. As an admittedly distant observer, it seems to me that the U.K. slides a little deeper each year into the dreaded "nanny state."

As discussed here, Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron even made the "nanny state" an issue in the most recent general election, stating that the government had allowed a "blanket of bureaucracy, suspicion and fear" to descend on the country. He promised that if he was elected, he'd order a review into how the nanny culture could be curbed.

Cameron did prevail in the 2010 election, but it appears that at least some of his Tory Party colleagues did not get the memo about curbing the nanny state. The latest, according to the Financial Times, is a proposal soon to be put forward by a Tory-run local authority that will cut benefits to obese people who refuse to take part in exercise classes.

According to the FT, the Westminster city council will publish a report today including this proposal as part of its effort to deal with the strain that rising levels of obesity place on the health budget. The plan will involve doctors prescribing physical activities at their facilities (swimming pools, yoga, gyms, etc.) that can be tracked and confirmed through the patient's use of smart cards. 

Critics such as Professor John Wass of the Royal College of Physicians say that people will only lose weight if they want to lose weight, and that "forcing the public to exercise" may be misguided. Others had more specific questions: "Even if you check in to the pool how will they know if you just sit and have a latte in the cafe instead?" asked one executive.

January 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 a police officer. I was sent to "gather evidence" about a dog that was supposedly barking excessively despite a noise abatement order. No joke, my job was to go count the number of barks, which for the record was 863 barks in 23 minutes. Now that I have gathered this evidence, can the owner of the dog be fined?

Answer: Yes, that is clearly too many barks. (This is SomersetMan fined for allowing dogs to bark 863 times in 23 minutes) (via Lowering the Bar)

2. Question: The police set up a barricade around a fatal accident but I drove right through the police tape into the crime scene and nearly knocked over an officer. The police are trying to charge me with drunk driving but I explained to them that I cannot be arrested because I already had a court appearance the next morning for driving under the influence. The police seem unconvinced by my argument -- who is correct?

Answer: Not you. (Daily Mail, Woman arrested for drunk-driving after she crashes through police barricade says she can't be jailed as she is due in court the next day - for drunk driving)

3. Question: I donated sperm to a lesbian couple in Kansas that wanted to have a baby. These parents filed for state assistance this year, and now the state is demanding that I pay child support! Can it do this?

Answer: The issue is now being litigated but the state of Kansas believes that sperm donors who do not make their "contribution" through a licensed physician can be required to pay child support. (CBS News, Kansas trying to make sperm donor pay child support)

January 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 02, 2013

WSJ Law Blog Introduces Jacob Gershman as New Lead Writer

The Wall Street Journal introduced the "Law Blog" in January 2006, and it has remained a terrific source of information ever since. Although they are now ubiquitous, blogs connected to mainstream publications were still fairly novel when the Law Blog was launched. The Law Blog's continued success and popularity undoubtedly helped pave the way for the dozens of interesting blogs now maintained by the WSJ.  

JacobGershmanToday, the Law Blog introduced a new lead writer, Jacob Gershman (pictured left), and announced that Joe Palazzolo will now pursue a new role covering national legal affairs for the WSJ. Palazzolo had been the lead writer of the Law Blog since October 2011.

To recap, the Law Blog lineage looks like this:

  • 2006 to 2009: The Law Blog was written by Peter Lattman and edited by the WSJ's Ashby Jones. The WSJ did not have a law bureau at the time, so the Law Blog served as the newspaper's primary source of legal coverage for several years.

  • 2009: Lattman left the Law Blog to cover hedge funds for the WSJ (and later moved on to The New York Times' DealBook blog), and Jones became the lead writer.

  • October 2011: After writing 4,400 posts for the Law Blog, Jones moved on to cover national legal affairs for the WSJ, and Palazzolo took over as lead writer.

  • January 2013: Palazzolo will now cover national legal affairs for the WSJ, and Gershman becomes lead writer of the Law Blog.

Thanks to Joe Palazzolo for his great work on the Law Blog, and welcome to Jacob Gershman as he takes the reins of this important publication in the blogosphere.

January 2, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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