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April 29, 2011

Don't Let This Be You: The Cost of Carelessly Written Pleadings and Court Papers

Via Legal Juice I learned of this excellent Order issued by a federal court regarding a plaintiff's Petition for Attorneys' Fees. The Order is from 2004, but I still want to highlight it here because (a) I'm pretty sure the Internet didn't exist in 2004 (did it?) so I doubt many of you have seen it before, and (b) one part of it (the last bullet below) actually made me laugh out loud while sitting alone in my office, which is not easy to do.

To clarify up front, the lawyer seeking the fees and getting the brunt of the judge's criticism won the case at issue, and is said to have performed quite well in the courtroom, too. It was his 209 hours of written work product that came under the microscope, however. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiffs lawyer, who I will refer to only as "Mr. P" since the statute of limitation for sloppiness has probably expired, was not entitled to his requested fee of $300/hour "in light of the quality of his written work," and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart agreed.

Judge Hart explained that Mr. P's written work was careless "to the point of disrespectful," and that the problems with his pleadings went beyond typos to include missing paragraphs and pages, and nearly unintelligible pleadings and other arguments. As for the typographical errors, Judge Hart said the court "would be remiss if we did not point out some of our favorites," including:

  • Mr. P referring to the court throughout the litigation as "THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTER [sic] DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA."
  • In a response to an attack on his typographical errors (!), Mr. P wrote:
    "As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones."

    The judge added here that "If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant. However, based on the history of the case and Mr. P's filings, we know otherwise."
  • Finally, in a letter to the judge, Mr. P identifies the judge as “Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart.” In his Order, the judge writes that "I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in the Lord of the Rings, but alas, I am but a judge."

The ultimate price that Mr. P paid for his careless written work ended up being a reduction from his requested $300/hour down to $150/hour for the 209 hours of written work he performed -- a $31,450 hit.

April 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: What the heck? My baby is 9 months old and he can't read a doggone thing. Wasn't the "Your Baby Can Read" program supposed to solve this problem?

Answer: Some of your fellow non-believers have filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the television and radio advertisements for "YBCR" claims are false and misleading, so maybe you should check that out. (Abnormal Use, Recent Complaints Allege that "Your Baby Can Read" Products Do Not, in Fact, Teach Your Baby to Read

2) Question: I'm no detective, but I'm pretty sure I see a guy trying to steal 26 gallons of milk in the Wal-Mart.  Is it relevant that he is wearing a cow suit while trying to pull off this heist?

Answer: I think not. There appears to be no exception for cows when it comes to stealing milk. (Consumerist, Man In Cow Suit Steals 26 Gallons Of Milk From Walmart)

3) Question: The court wants me to be on the jury in a high-profile criminal case, but I have Oprah tickets during the trial! No judge would make me miss that, right?

Answer: Correct. After all, it is the last season of Oprah -- the court can work around the taping of the show. (CBS, Potential Blagojevich juror uses Oprah tickets as excuse)

April 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 28, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Get this: I have a badge for my job as a state mortgage examiner and if I flash it real fast at restaurants they give me the police discount!! Awesome, right?

Answer: Not awesome, and if you get caught, you can be cited for “impersonating an officer” and possibly lose your job. (ABQ Journal, State Worker Busted for 'Police Discount’)

2) Question: I'm editor of my law school's Law Review. It is so hard rejecting professors' submissions. I feel so guilty! What is the best way to break the news to them?

Answer: You are in luck, as the PrawfsBlawg recently issued a specific, point-by-point method by which professors would prefer to have their proposed articles rejected. (PrawfsBlawg, Dear Law Review Editors: How to Reject Me)

3) Question: I want to buy a switchblade but I hear they are illegal in my home state of Maine. Is that correct?

Answer: Yes, but let me ask you: How many arms do you have? Earlier this month, Maine lawmakers  approved legalizing switchblades for people with one arm, to eliminate the need for one-armed people to open folding knives with their teeth in emergencies. (Reuters, Maine legalizing switchblades for one-armed people) (via Turley)

April 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2011

'Smell Expert' Helps Get Marijuana-Grow Defendants Off the Hook

It makes sense when you think about it, but I never before stopped to ponder the fact that among the many types of expert witnesses out there in the world are "smell experts."

For example, let's say you are an Alaskan trooper with more than 20 years of experience. You have investigated and seized between 100 to 150 marijuana-grow operations since 1998 that you have located "by smell." On the day in question, you are driving in a residential area, 450 feet away from the "outbuilding" of a house, downwind, and you smell marijuana. Long story short, you obtain a search warrant, search the property and find 500 marijuana plants, more than 200 of which are budding. Jackpot!

Enter David Doty.

Doty is the director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and he was retained by the defendants as a smell expert. According to the Anchorage Daily News, (via Bad Lawyer) Doty testified that, in his opinion (to a "reasonable degree of olfactory certainty," perhaps, if I'm remembering the legal jargon correctly), there "was a 'zero' probability that [the trooper] smelled marijuana as he claimed." 

Doty said that based on the facts -- such as the outbuilding's location at least 450 feet from the road; the building's lack of windows and the provision of two garage doors, which were insulated and sealed; and the outbuilding's use of a large charcoal air filter designed to capture odor -- it was doubtful that anyone could have smelled marijuana in that situation.

The judge agreed with Doty and therefore threw out the seized evidence -- including the 500 marijuana plants. I assume the defendants quite happily paid their smell expert's fee, reported to be $20,000.

April 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 26, 2011

Lawyer Pulls No Punches in Scathing Response to Judge's 'Half-Baked' Order to Show Cause

Via the South Florida Lawyers blog I came upon an extraordinarily misguided bold Response to a bankruptcy judge's Order to Show Cause filed by a Florida lawyer named Kevin C. Gleason. I don't completely understand the underlying ruling, but I don't think I really need to in order to get the point that Gleason really disagrees with the judge's "conduct" and conclusions.

As SFL notes, Gleason's response "would have made a really great first draft" -- i.e., one that allows you to vent your anger before it is immediately shredded and deposited in the circular file. But Gleason decided to go with it as his Response to the Order to Show Cause. It appears that there was a subsequent hearing on the matter (on April 20) which must have been quite tense, but I have not seen any coverage of it.

In any event, here are quotes from some of Gleason's Greatest Hits in his response, including the entire opening paragraph which sets the tone:

-- Opening paragraph: In your fourth published example of “Ready-Fire-Aim” against this attorney, it is obvious that you have not reviewed the record in this case which does not support the purported findings of fact.  It is further quite obvious that you do not believe that the same respect mandated to be shown to you should also be shown to me.  Your conclusion that Mr. Denison’s attempt to exempt his commissions as the head of a household is not supported by law is belied by the language of the actual statute.  Your conduct in this case was been without citation to any authority for the propositions that: your jurisdiction is never ending and without geographic bounds; your unconditional releases are meaningless; and pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court are mere suggestions.

-- Footnote 1, page 1: Also see Adv Pro 09-01974-JKO where a mis-calendared hearing on a matter where an agreed judgment was submitted in favor of my client was treated as though a surgeon removed the wrong leg.

-- Page 1: In the Order to Show Cause [ECF 588] (hereinafter OSC) at pages 1 and 3, you “found” that “Denison had already admitted he owed those commissions to the Plan Administrator under the Debtor’s confirmed Chapter 11 Plan.”  Wrong.  Denison admitted that he was overpaid through a mathematical error not of his making.

-- Page 2: In the OSC, at page 3, you found that “During the January 4, 2011, hearing on the sanctions motion, Gleason made no attempt to assert that the Claim was proper (he actually conceded to the fact that it was improper by an agreed order to strike the Claim on December 6, 2010)...”  Now I have ordered the transcript to demonstrate that you have “misremembered” the hearing....

-- Page 3: In the OSC, at page 7, you have, once again, proven that the superficially sound logic of the OSC is specious by stating...., “Gleason’s frivolous Claim was stricken by agreed order on December 6, 2010...”   ... [T]he claim was not frivolous.  What is frivolous is your grabbing of funds without any statutory grounds for so doing, and calling a garnishment by another name. 

-- Page 3:  The fiction continues on page 8 of the OSC, where you write, again, “Gleason has already stricken the offending Claim by agreed order."

-- Concluding sentence, page 4: It is sad when a man of your intellectual ability cannot get it right when your own record does not support your half-baked findings.

There's much more. You can read Gleason's full Response here.

April 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (11)

AT&T and T-Mobile Completely Unimpressed With Each Other, but Would Still Love to Go Forward With $39 Billion Acquisition

When I was a practicing lawyer, I always found one part of the class action settlement process to be kind of amusing. That was the part where, after the parties agreed to, say, a $25 million settlement and submitted it for court approval, the plaintiffs' law firm (which to date had shown nothing but 100 percent confidence in its case) must now turn around and argue against its own case to show the judge that it had not settled the case for too little. As in, "$25 million is fair because the court has already dismissed most of our claims, and we may have a statute of limitations problem, and even if we litigate for years we might well get nothing, and it will cost us a fortune to continue, and the defendants might go bankrupt" and so on.

The M&A equivalent of this intricate dance appears to be going on in AT&T's effort to acquire T-Mobile. As the Law & Disorder blog observes, AT&T filed a massive document with the Federal Communications Commission last week, arguing that AT&T should be allowed to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion because, well, T-Mobile is a pretty unimportant company with uncompelling products and service.

L&D highlights the following snippets from AT&T's description of T-Mobile:

  • "T-Mobile is not an important factor in AT&T’s competitive decision-making."
  • "As a standalone company, however, T-Mobile USA would continue to face substantial commercial and spectrum-related challenges. It confronts increased competition from industry mavericks such as MetroPCS, Leap, and others; its percentage of US subscribers has been falling for nearly two years; and it has no clear path to LTE."
  • "T-Mobile USA, in contrast to others, does not have a differentiated network position. T-Mobile USA has admitted that it suffered from its late transition to a 3G network, and unlike Sprint, which first promoted a 4G network, T-Mobile USA’s HSPA+ launch appears to have been lost among other carriers’ 4G messaging."
  • "AT&T does not believe that T-Mobile USA has a particularly compelling portfolio of smartphone offerings as compared to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint."
  • "To the extent that T-Mobile USA’s prices are lower than those received by AT&T and Verizon Wireless for otherwise comparable subscribers, T-Mobile USA’s lower prices have not stimulated growth in its share of retail subscribers. This indicates that other aspects of T-Mobile USA’s service are in some way lacking."

You may have also noticed lately that T-Mobile does not think all that much of AT&T. Prior to the announcement of AT&T's bid for T-Mobile, T-Mobile launched a series of ads (that are still running quite often) lampooning AT&T's service and offerings. Here is one of T-Mobile's many ads from the ongoing campaign that makes fun of AT&T:


April 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 25, 2011

One Lawyer's '30-Year Retrospective' on Changes in the Practice of Law

Via the Legal Writing Prof Blog I came upon an interesting column in the March 2011 Los Angeles Lawyer entitled, "The Lawyer’s Toolkit: A 30-Year Retrospective." In the column, J. Scott Bovitz, Loyola Law School class of 1980, reflects on how the practice of law has changed over 30 years. He concludes that the job description of transactional or litigation attorneys really has not changed much, but the tools and procedures lawyers use have changed dramatically.

Here are some of Bovitz's observations of what has changed in his three decades of practice:

1980: Lawyers started their days with "stale black coffee and a donut."
2011: Lawyers start their day with an “extra hot, skinny, no whip, Americano” and an organic muffin. [And, I might add, their "office" might actually be the coffee shop serving their breakfast.]

1980: The average ratio was one law firm partner and one associate to one secretary.
2011: The average ratio is about five lawyers to one professional assistant.

1980: Document preparation began on a yellow pad, followed by dictation to a secretary, who wrote in shorthand and then attempted to transfer these words to a typewriter without error correction.
2011: Document preparation is done by lawyers typing their own drafts directly into word processing programs, or in the case of "true lawyer-geeks," by "dictat[ing] directly into the computer while the software types along."

1980: Court filings were blue-backed and carried by messengers.
2011: Most federal pleadings are filed online. 

1980: Top lawyers charged $60 an hour.
2011: Top lawyers charge $1,000 an hour, or more.

For all of Bovitz's observations on the changes he has witnessed since 1980, read the full article here.

April 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 23, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I have saved my whole life and now have $90,000 I would like to donate to the legal community. Any ideas?

Answer: If you can scrape together another $10,000, perhaps you would be interested in funding a single law review article? (The National Law Journal, Legal scholarship carries a high price tag)

2) Question: Darn it, I know I parked right across from No. 10 Downing Street before I ran into my friend's birthday party. Where is my car???

Answer: Sometimes when London anti-terrorism police see people park near No. 10 and then run, they blow up the car just to be safe. (The Telegraph, Police blow up sports car)

3) Question: I'm in the chair at the tattoo parlor. I'm thinking of either going with "Mom" or a detailed rendering of the scene of a murder I was involved in. Any guidance here?

Answer: Go with "Mom"-- murder crime scene tattoos can backfire. (Gawker, Don’t Get a Crime Scene Tattooed on Your Chest)

April 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2011

Are Red Superhero Capes Part of the Solution for Florida's Unemployed?

Capes As in many states, times are tough in Florida. Indeed, Cynthia Lorenzo, director of the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, says that more than one million Floridians are currently out of work.

No worries, however, because Workforce Central Florida has a new plan to use public money to help remedy this problem: Furnish the unemployed with capes.

As summarized by the Orlando Sentinel (via Turley), a $73,000 public relations campaign by Workforce Central Florida, called the "'Cape-A-Bility Challenge,' features a cartoon character named 'Dr. Evil Unemployment' and includes handing out about 6,000 red superhero capes to jobless Central Floridians."

Problem solved? Not necessarily, as many unemployed people are not clear on how spending $14,200 on capes and $2,300 on foam cutouts of "Dr. Evil Unemployment" helps them, per se. Lorenzo echoes those concerns, saying that in the current economic situation "spending any amount of money on collateral materials such as the red capes included in your campaign appears to be insensitive and wasteful." She has now asked Workforce Central Florida's inspector general to look into money spent on the "Cape-A-Bility Challenge."

However, Workforce Central Florida Executive Director Gary J. Earl defends the campaign against all of you cape-haters out there. He says it was part of a community outreach effort and that "not everyone will agree on creative strategy." Earl stated that the "plight of the unemployed is why we exist, and to help them, we have to engage them, introduce them to our services and connect them with job opportunities."

April 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 20, 2011

Victoria Pynchon's 'Four Magic Words for Women Lawyers'

On her She Negotiates blog, Victoria Pynchon has taken a well-deserved break from her duties of awarding the "Golden Asshole Award" (which, I repeat, is supposed to a good thing to receive) to dispense some advice for women lawyers. She writes that the Four Magic Words for Women Lawyers -- indeed, the "only four words that matter in law firm practice today" -- are the following:


Pynchon writes that during her 25 years practicing law, while making "damn good money," she developed not a single scrap of business. Not one client of her own. Her strategy had been to do her job so well that she'd become indispensable, but she eventually learned that no lawyers are indispensable unless they have a portable book of business.

Pynchon writes that, after leaving the practice of law for her own mediation practice, she had to learn to build business for herself

one contact, one step, one networking event, one Bar Association Committee, one friend in a corporate law department at a time. You do favors for them. You like that. You’re naturally generous. You love being of service. You don’t have to learn how to play golf and take the Chairman of the Board to Pebble Beach. You can make phone calls, see how things are going, connect one friend to another, circulate someone’s resume when they’re out of work and you’re not.

Pynchon recommends networking groups such as NAWMBA for women, and says she was also able to create her own Professional Women’s Network. The key, she says, is to remember that your networking group "doesn’t have to be grand. It only has to exist." 

Pynchon concludes that women who successfully create their own portable book of business "don't need diversity and inclusivity programs. You don't need class action lawsuits or laws ensuring women get their fair share. You will be free!"

April 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question:  Wow, what a night. The ladies were lovin' me last night at the club! Wait -- why do I have a $43,000 bar tab?

Answer: Did those ladies have accents? If so, you may have encountered some of the "B-girls." The FBI says sexy Eastern European women are picking up guys at hotels and taking them to private clubs with champagne bottle service. The guys think they are paying a couple hundred dollars, but their credit card actually gets swiped for thousands - -$43,000 in one case. The ladies allegedly get a 20 percent share. (Consumerist, FBI Busts "B-Girls" For Luring Miami Tourists To Rack Up Huge Bar Bills)

2) Question: I'm an octogenarian and I just injured my hand and wrist clapping my hands. This stupid device "The Clapper" is supposed to turn my lights on and off but I couldn't get it to work and hurt myself attempting one last "extra hard" clap. Do I have a cause of action?

Answer: Probably not, according to Hubbs v. Joseph Enterprises. (Lowering the Bar, Clap On, Clap Off, Case Dismissed)

3) Question: I'm thinking about hiring this guy I saw on Craigslist to write my term paper for me. He says he is an attorney for the state Supreme Court who has authored more than 200 judicial opinions and memoranda. Plus, he promises a "quality grade" for just $300. Seems like a good value -- should I go for it?

Answer: It appears that this term paper vendor may already be out of business, and out of a job. (The Faculty Lounge, Term Paper Ghostwriter Has Law License Suspended)

April 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2011

Judge Carton Rules: DieHard Car Batteries vs. DieHard Sex Spray

Welcome back to Judge Carton Rules, where a fake judge issues rulings to spare the parties to cases in which the outcomes are obvious the time and expense of further litigation. There is just one case on today's docket. We now join the proceedings live as Judge Carton issues his ruling:

Judge Carton: For the record, here are the facts as set forth in Chicago Breaking Business (via Consumerist): Sears has a well-known brand of car batteries called "DieHard," and it owns the trademark rights to that phrase. RockHard Laboratories is now marketing a topical "desensitizing spray" that supposedly prevents premature ejaculation in men -- also called DieHard. RockHard’s ads for its version of DieHard include a partially naked woman lying on top of the word DieHard.

Diehard Sears demands that RockHard cease its use of the DieHard name, "and pay damages and the cost of an ad campaign to correct any damage to the DieHard brand reputation." RockHard says it “takes intellectual property concerns very seriously, and we are reviewing the complaints made by Sears."

After reviewing these claims for five seconds, it is the judgment of this fake court that RockHard's use of the DieHard name for a sexual enhancement spray, while creative and somewhat amusing, is embarrassing to Sears and will probably subject it to unwanted "DieHard" jokes from late-night comedians. Accordingly, the court finds in favor of Sears on its request that RockHard stop using the name. The request for damages and an ad campaign is denied, however, as any ad campaign attempting to further "clarify" this matter would simply add to the late-night comedy fodder.

April 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

April 18, 2011

Punk Band Wins Legal Skirmish, Lambastes Plaintiff and Opposing Counsel in Animated Video

In the year 2011, one of the new things lawyers apparently need to worry about is that the opposing party will create an animated video celebrating a legal victory and mercilessly mocking the losing lawyers. Fulbright & Jaworski finds itself as the "mockee" in such a video (below) following a judge's ruling against its client (the publication Variety) in a motion to transfer the case from Delaware to California.

As discussed on the Hollywood, Esq. blog, Variety sued a punk band called The Vandals because the band allegedly used a font on its album cover that was similar to the trademarked Variety logo. To make a long story about a magazine suing a band over a font short, the band's bassist also happens to be a lawyer and he defended the band in court -- and actually won on the band's motion to transfer the case to California.

Now the bassist, Joe Escalante, is trumpeting his initial victory on the band's website, calling Variety's lawyers "corrupt" and stating that

The Plaintiffs should all be ashamed and it is the Vandals opinion that they are liable for malpractice damages by ruining their client’s reputation in a frivolous attempt to act like Godzilla when it comes to hoarding their precious font and inhibiting protected free speech.

As an additional kick in the head, The Vandals published one of those do-it-yourself Xtranormal videos that depicts an imaginary conversation between Variety's former editor Peter Bart  and his Fulbright & Jaworski lawyer. Check out the video below.


April 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 15, 2011

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question:  Why did Facebook delete my account after I made Gustave Courbet's 1886 oil painting "The Origin of the World" my profile picture? Can I sue them for this?

Answer: Facebook is pretty firm on the idea that a painting of a woman's vagina may not be used for a profile picture. As to your lawsuit, there are a handful of other Courbet fans kicked off Facebook who will be following closely. (Gawker, The Famous Vagina Painting That Facebook Doesn’t Want You to See [note: probably not suitable for work viewing either])

2) Question: OK, so I posted some copyright-protected stuff to YouTube, like a zillion other people. What are they going to do, put me in YouTube jail? Ha!

Answer: There is no YouTube jail but get ready to spend some time in YouTube copyright school, you scofflaw! (ars technica, YouTube sending repeat infringers to copyright school

3) Question: I'm sitting down to write my brief to be filed in the state Supreme Court, and I'm thinking about going a different direction with it. That is, I plan to compare my client to the four guys on roofies in the movie "The Hangover" who steal Mike Tyson's tiger. It's gold! Gold, I tell you! Should I go for it?

Answer: That tactic was already tried in State v. Belanus, with a very bad result. Don't go there. (Lowering the Bar, A New Contender for Worst Legal Brief)

April 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 14, 2011

Heresy!!! Lawyer Questions the Value of an iPad in Legal Practice

Over at his Spam Notes blog, Venkat Balasubramani has a question for all of you over-enthusiastic "iPad Lawyers" out there: What are you smoking?

In a lengthy, wet-blanket post guaranteed to draw the ire of any lawyers who camped out in the rain to get the iPad and iPad2, Balasubramani writes that his own efforts at being an iPad Lawyer have led him to the "jarring realization" that the iPad simply cannot function as a workhorse for business purposes. Why? Let him count the ways:

1. Too clunky: Balasubramani tried to crank out a simple blog post on the iPad and found it to be "easily one of the clunkiest experiences of my entire life." He says that producing any sort of written material on the iPad is a chore because one must hen-peck through the iPad's keyboard.

2. Reviewing redline documents: Redlines? What redlines? The redlines did not show up on Balasubramani's document -- maybe there's an "app for that," he speculates.

3. Easier to use a laptop: After reading various iPad Lawyers' stories of loading up numerous "apps" in order to perform basic business functions on their iPad, Balasubramani wonders ... why?? What's the benefit, he asks, of "using the iPad and jumping through all these hoops to complete tasks which would be otherwise simple on the laptop? Does the one extra minute it takes you to boot up your laptop totally undermine your work experience?" Balasubramani concludes that as far as he can tell, iPad Lawyers are trying a bit too hard to convince the unconverted that productivity will flow from their iPad.

Balasubramani asks some other questions that will probably get him banned from all Apple stores, such as whether the modern lawyer really needs to work "on the go" as much as iPad Lawyers suggest. Read the full post here.

April 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 13, 2011

The Law Firm and Corporate 'Anthem' Collection: Build It for the Children

Above the Law wrote today about law firm Nixon Peabody, and mischievously included a link to a firm anthem (for lack of a better word) that the law firm clearly put some effort into creating in 2007 before apparently realizing that it was going to haunt them forever. You can read the ATL account of how Nixon Peabody unsuccessfully tried to get this over-the-top R&B genie back in the bottle here.

Nowadays, of course, law firms and companies have their own "Social Media Specialists" and are more Internet savvy and wise to the risks of having a wedding band record an original song (with accompanying video) extolling their virtues. That has not always been the case, though, and I feel that someone should memorialize this bygone era when law firms and auditors were making cringe-worthy music and videos with some regularity. Indeed, I propose that this post become a repository for all known law firm and corporate anthems, for the benefit of future generations. Here are three to get us started:

1. Nixon Peabody: Discussed above, "Everyone's a Winner at Nixon Peabody" is a true classic of the genre.

2. Ernst & Young: I can't tell you how much fun I had sending the YouTube link of E&Y's "Oh Happy Day" to my befuddled friends who worked there. Good times. Here's the amazing video:

3. Bank of America: A version of U2's "One," only with the words changed to discuss BofA's acquisition of MBNA. Yes, you read that correctly. Here it is:

What other law firm or corporate anthems should be enshrined in this collection? Please help build the list -- for your children's children!

April 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 12, 2011

Chicago School Bans Students Packing Lunch to 'Protect' Against Unhealthful Food Choices

I would have bet anything that the story below would come out of San Francisco, but I would have been incorrect. Via The Faculty Lounge I see that at least one public school in Chicago has decided that parents are so lousy at packing nutritious lunches for their kids that it has made eating the food served in the school cafeteria mandatory. That is to say, even if you want to bring a brown-bag lunch, you are not allowed to do so.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Elsa Carmona, principal of Little Village Academy, says the policy is intended to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices. Carmona created the policy six years ago after watching students drink soda and eat chips for lunch. Lunch policies in Chicago public schools are reportedly left to the judgment of each school principal.

Although it has been in place for years, the requirement that students eat cafeteria food does not seem to be working all that well. The Tribune reports that many of the students do not like the school meals and that on the day it observed lunch, dozens of students bought the cafeteria meal but threw most of it in the garbage cans uneaten. Other schools in Chicago allow students to bring packed lunches but will actually "confiscate any snacks loaded with sugar or salt."

Some of the Little Village students insist they would bring healthful food if given the chance, and rattled off foods they would pack, such as vegetables, sandwiches, juice and different types of fruit. The school's unusual effort to protect them from their own "unhealthful food choices" makes that a bit of a pipe dream, however.

April 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 11, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question:  I'm in a Spanish prison. I already escaped once a month ago by having my wife fax a bogus piece of paper to the jail "ordering my release." Now I'm back in jail -- do you think a second faxed "order" by my wife will do the job again?

Answer: Of course! Stick with it. (AP, Spanish police arrest the fax escape man)

2) Question: Times are tough. Any ideas on how I can pay the mortgage this month?

Answer: Have you considered turning your entire home into a billboard for ad firm Adzookie? If you'll do that, they will cover your mortgage for you. You might want to check with your homeowners' association, though. (Consumerists, Would You Turn Your House Into A Billboard If The Advertiser Paid Your Mortgage?)

3) Question: My partner in crime and I are going old-school for the burglary we have planned -- no masks, just face paint. Awesome! Does it matter what kind of paint or ink we use?

Answer: If you think it through, you will see that this decision is actually quite important. Stay away from permanent markers -- they will blow your cover later. (Daily Times Herald, Black-faced suspects quickly apprehended) (via Legal Juice)

April 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 08, 2011

One More Consequence of Being a 'Nonessential' Government Employee: Surrender Your BlackBerry in a Shutdown

The Washington Post reports that an unexpected casualty of any government shutdown may be the BlackBerrys and other PDAs of "nonessential" government workers.

Under the Anti-Deficiency Act, it is illegal for nonessential federal employees to voluntarily work during a shutdown. According to the Post, "in the modern era, that means they can’t use e-mail or voice mail." Plans to make sure the government complies with this act are still up in the air, but a senior administration official told the Post that "one plan under consideration would require nonessential executive-branch workers to surrender their government-issued BlackBerrys and other electronic devices on the way out the door."

In what would be the first shutdown in the PDA era, the rules for PDAs are likely to be "haphazard." For example, some members of Congress have reportedly told their staffs that they may “read but not write” on their PDAs.

One group that should be well-prepared for the sudden loss of their PDAs is the SEC Union (National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 293). As I wrote here last year, when SEC leadership issued hundreds of BlackBerrys last year to employees so they could have "all the tools they need whenever they're called upon to pursue wrongdoing," Chapter 293 quickly negotiated a deal with the SEC confirming that participating employees could turn off and store their BlackBerrys when they were not on duty, with no effect on their performance appraisals.

April 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Urine Sample Collector Will Be 'Directly Observing the Urine Coming Straight Out of Your Body,' Thank You Very Much

There are some times that a man simply does not want to have a stranger “directly observe the urine coming straight out of his body.” Am I right, men? Is it really necessary to require a guy to provide a urine sample in a fashion that allows the "collector" of this test to have constant "visibility of the participant's genitalia?”

[Sidenote: It now occurs to me that the following conversation has probably taken place at some point in history:

Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I'm a collector.
Q: What do you collect?
A: Urine samples.]

Moving on. Via How Appealing I see that on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that if a urine sample collection company wants to have a rule that its collectors shall directly observe the urine coming straight out of a man's body, with visibility of that man's genitalia, well, that is just fine with the 6th Circuit.

Was this "direct observation" an overly intrusive, unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment? No sir, the 6th Circuit held, because the appellant had agreed to undergo drug testing and

[t]he government had a strong-indeed, a compelling-interest in insuring the accuracy of the drug testing by preventing Norris from giving a false specimen.... The record shows that it is easy and widespread for people providing urine for drug testing to substitute false or inaccurate specimens and that only the direct observation method of obtaining such samples is fully effective “to prevent cheating on drug tests,” in the language of the district court. Neither the Kentucky authorities nor Premier acted improperly in requiring that method.

April 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

April 07, 2011

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'm not going to lie, I reallllly like to gamble. Too much, probably. But hey, sometimes it is all worth it, like right now when I just won a $2,001 jackpot! W00t!! Just curious, but does it matter that, prior to hitting the jackpot, I had previously banned myself from the state's casinos under a Gaming Control Board self-help program?

Answer: Oh yes, it matters. Not only do you not get to keep the money, you will also likely face a criminal trespass charge. (Legal Juice, So I Can't Keep The $2,001 Jackpot I Won?)

2) Question: I'm drunk and the cops are following my car. Is it true that if I run into the forest and strip off my clothes that I will then "conceal my scent" so the K-9 dogs will not be able to find me?

Answer: That is not true. Sorry. (Jalopnik, This woman stripped to "conceal her scent" from K-9s after a DUI)

3) Question: Hey, I got that Ecko "rhino" tattoo so I can get the lifetime 20 percent discount but just realized that the offer was made on April Fool's Day. Am I stuck with this rhino and no discount?

Answer: No, you are in luck! That offer was no joke. (Consumerist, Ecko Is Totally, 100% Serious About The Discounts-For-Tattoos Deal)


April 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 06, 2011

LBW Practice Tip of the Day: Don't Copy Your 'Statement of Law' From Wikipedia

Via the Legal Writing Prof Blog, I stumbled upon a decision in U.S. v. Karen Sypher (Sypher ... Sypher ... where have I heard that name before? Oh yes, this lovely lady).

Beyond the attempted extortion of University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino, which led to a seven-year sentence for Sypher, the case provides the LBW practice tip of the day: When briefing a legal issue in federal court, do not simply copy your statement of the law from a page on Wikipedia.

So says U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III, who dropped an interesting footnote on this topic in his Feb. 9, 2011, opinion denying Sypher's motion for extension of time, motion for new trial, motion for Rule 11 sanctions and other evidentiary motions. In his footnote 4, Simpson compared Sypher's motion with the Wikipedia entry for Strickland v. Washington, and "remind[ed] counsel that such cutting and pasting, without attribution," is (a) plagiarism and (b) professional misconduct under the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct. 

Judge Simpson added that he also wished to remind counsel that "Wikipedia is not an acceptable source of legal authority in the United States District Courts."

April 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

April 05, 2011

How Law Firms Can Avoid the '3 Types of Self-Destructive Tweets'

Jay Baer's Convince & Convert blog had an interesting post last week on "The 3 Types of Self-Destructive Corporate Tweets." The post was focused on corporate tweets gone bad, but it applies just as easily to law firms that are becoming active on Twitter. Law firms that are now tweeting news and other information about themselves should look closely at the common miscues discussed below, and take heed.

Type 1: "Wrong Pipe"

Baer notes that this mistake occurs when the person responsible for tweeting for a company accidentally tweets from the company's account rather than from his or her individual Twitter account. Six weeks ago, he notes, an American Red Cross employee used the "wrong pipe" and ended up making this statement for the organization about "getting slizzerd."

twit happens Train Wreck! The 3 Types of Self Destructive Corporate Tweets

A similar error occurred last month, when an employee of Chrysler's social media agency "wrong piped" the following message on Chrysler's Twitter account:


Type 2: "Tone Deaf"

Baer explains that "tone deaf" tweets go beyond a careless error to questions of appropriateness. He offers the painful, high-profile example from shoe CEO Kenneth Cole:

Kenneth Cole s Egypt Tweet  Train Wreck! The 3 Types of Self Destructive Corporate Tweets
To learn about the third, equally painful type of self-destructive tweet ("Too Much Information"), and for advice on how to avoid these problems, read Baer's full post here.

April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

400-Pound Would-Be Shoplifter Unable to Flee on Motorized Scooter

Think back to when you were a wide-eyed child. You had big dreams. The world was your oyster! You never, never, thought for a second that someday the local paper in your town would have a headline referring to you that read,

"400-pound woman caught shoplifting when motorized cart gets stuck at Rochester Hills Meijer ... police use Taser to subdue her"

And yet this became a grim reality last month for one Pontiac, Mich., woman, who I will simply refer to here as "JP" since things are going poorly enough for her as it is. According to the Macomb Daily, JB tried to roll out of a Meijer retail store with more than $600 worth of allegedly stolen electronics. The flaw in this supposed master plan turned out to be that her purported getaway vehicle, the motorized cart she was riding in the store, became stuck in the exit door. This left JP unexpectedly stuck in the door with the door alarm blaring. D'oh!!!

The 400-pound JP opted not to flee on foot when the cart became stuck, and, as such, had to contend with the store's loss prevention officers, who asked to see her receipt. Things got progressively worse from there, as JP reportedly shoved and punched one loss prevention officer, cursed out a sheriff's deputy and "took a fighting stance” (still in the cart??), and  ultimately ended up getting herself Tasered, arrested and taken off to jail.

April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 01, 2011

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

Rhino 1) Question:  Ecko promised that any customers who got a permanent tattoo of its logo inked on their bodies would get a 20 percent discount for life. So, now I have the Ecko rhino tattooed on my forearm! I get 20 percent off the sale price, right?

Answer: You wish! The Ecko tattoo offer "may not be combined with any other offers." (ShopEcko, Get a Tattoo and Get 20% Off For Life)

2) Question: I work full time and go to school full time, and I'm a single parent. I didn't have time to write my college term paper so I "outsourced" that task to a term paper-writing company that promised to deliver me a paper in four days. Four days later ... no paper has arrived! Can I file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau?

Answer: You can, and probably will, but are you sure you have completely thought through this "cheaters reporting cheaters" strategy? (Free Republic, Term paper company irks profs, students) (via Turley)

3) Question: Yes, I did call the judge a four-letter word starting with "c" and rhyming with "hunt," but what about the First Amendment?  I mean, this was "not a statement of fact, but rather an idea or an opinion that is incapable of being proved false ... nothing more than emotive language designed to convey disgust, disdain, and loathing -- the essence of subjective opinion."  Right?

Answer: Wrong!  (Legal Profession Blog, Gender-Based Epithet Draws Censure)

April 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

LBW Law Job of the Week: Porn Star Condom Checker

Let's kick off a new series here at LBW called "LBW Law Job of the Week," where I will share information about law jobs you may not even have known existed.

Today's job: The State "Safety Official" Who Checks to See if Porn Stars are Wearing Condoms.

The AP reports that the state of California has fined Larry Flynt's Hustler Video "for not using condoms on set to protect sex performers from exposure to disease." How, you might ask, does The Golden State know if prophylactic measures are being taken on the set of porn shoots? Good question, and that is where those individuals who hold today's Law Job of the Week come in to play.

It turns out that California OSHA officers are responsible for making sure porn video makers such as Hustler use "personal protective equipment" (i.e., condoms) to protect their employees. As a California safety engineer told The AP, however, one of the unique challenges for OSHA officers on the porn beat is that the "job sites can be difficult to find."

In the Hustler case, safety officers were able to find the job site and swoop in back in September to issue citations after receiving a complaint from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes safe sex in pornography. OSHA fined Hustler $14,175 for three violations, including failure to provide condoms or other protective equipment, The AP reports. The safety engineer explained that "if an employee is having unprotected sexual contact with another person then there needs to be either engineering control, like simulation, or people need to use a condom or other barrier."

April 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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