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June 30, 2011

Odd Couple: Westboro Baptist Church and ... the FBI?

National Public Radio reported Wednesday on a truly bizarre partnership of sorts between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. For those of you who remain blissfully ignorant about the WBC, it is a Kansas church that "has sparked outrage around the country for its pickets, which feature profane and derogatory language warning people about the danger of Hell." The church reportedly preaches that God hates gay people, as well as Jews and Catholics, and is famous for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers. It won a free-speech battle over those funeral protests at the U.S. Supreme Court in March.

You might think, then, that the WBC is not the most likely of candidates to be assisting the FBI with its counterterrorism training program. And yet not long ago, the FBI invited WBC leaders to its Quantico Marine base in Virginia to speak with FBI agents as part of that training program. As the NPR article discusses, there is a good bit of confusion as to what the purpose was for WBC's attendance, and still more confusion as to how an invitation was extended to them in the first place.

A church leader named Timothy Phelps told NPR that he believed WBC was invited to the FBI program to teach agents "how to stay measured when they are speaking with a witness or a suspect with whom they have a strong, visceral disagreement." The FBI, however, now says that the meet-up with the WBC was for a different purpose -- "so police officers and agents could see extremists up close and understand what makes them tick." While the FBI says the WBC understood this, Phelps says he "had no idea he was part of a domestic terrorism curriculum."

Meanwhile, NPR reports, nobody in the "top brass" at the FBI even knew WBC was assisting the FBI until more than 200 officers and agents had attended one of the four sessions and memos finally started to circulate asking why WBC had been invited. The assistant director of the FBI's Training Division has since terminated the FBI-WBC relationship with a one-line memo simply stating that the FBI is not to invite Westboro to any further training sessions.

June 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 a prosecutor in a marijuana-related case. We sent the marijuana out to a drug lab by FedEx and by the time it arrived at the lab the shipping box had been opened, all of the the marijuana removed and the box resealed. Now what!?

Answer: It sounds like someone may be smoking your evidence somewhere and that your case is now "completely unprovable." (Associated Press, Marijuana In Long Island Drug Case Disappears During Transport)

2) Question: Can you ask Judge Carton if it is legit for a restaurant to charge extra for drinks with no ice?

Answer: Judge Carton says it is not legit and that you should see his related and well-reasoned opinion in the "all-you-can-eat sushi case," where the restaurant wanted to charge the customer more if the customer insisted on eating only the fish and no rice. (Consumerist, Should Restaurants Charge Extra For Not Putting Ice In Your Soda?)

3) Question: A large group of disabled customers wants to eat in our restaurant tonight and bring six guide dogs along with them. Other customers may have allergies and I'm not sure how six dogs would behave next to a buffet. What should we do here?

Answer: Unless you can show that the dogs’ behavior poses "a direct threat” or would cause an “undue burden,” it appears to be a violation of law to not admit these service animals. (CBS, Disabled People With Service Dogs Turned Away From Dedham Restaurant)

June 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 29, 2011

Responsible Motorist Declines to Drive Drunk, Gets Charged With a Crime Anyway

Stop me when you think you've identified the crime committed by the woman in the facts below:

1. Woman drives to her sister's house.

2. Woman consumes two "tall" beers.

3. Woman's sober friend asks woman to drive him to another person's house.

4. Woman says she is too drunk to drive, but sober friend can drive them both there.

5. Woman and sober friend get in car and head off to other person's house, with woman in passenger seat.

Anybody yell out "Stop" yet? No, not yet? OK, let's add:

6. Police pull over the car driven by sober friend because the license plate light is not working, and see that the woman (who is in the passenger seat) is intoxicated.

How about now? Anyone yelling out "Stop?" Because it is at this point that the Indiana police claim that the woman, Brenda Moore, committed the crime of "public intoxication." Indiana code provides that

It is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person's use of alcohol or a controlled substance.

The trial court and, as of Tuesday the Indiana Supreme Court, held that under Indiana law, "a vehicle stopped along a highway is in a public place for purposes of the public intoxication statute." Thus, when the police stopped the car in which Moore was a passenger, she became in violation of the statute.

Moore argued that her conviction violated the spirit of the public intoxication statute, and the policy behind it, because she caused no harm or annoyance and "adhered to the popular public service motto 'Don't drink and drive.'"  She argued that public policy should "encourage persons who find themselves intoxicated to ride in a vehicle to a private place without fear of being prosecuted for a crime." She further argued that she was essentially being convicted for exercising her freedom to consume alcohol.

But the Indiana Supreme Court rejected these arguments, stating that it was up to the Legislature to determine public policy and that she was convicted not for consuming alcohol but for her "conduct after consumption" (riding as a passenger in a car stopped for a license plate infraction??)

Justice Robert Rucker, my new favorite member of the Indiana Supreme Court, dissented. Rucker wrote that as the purpose of the public intoxication statute is to protect the public from the annoyance caused by intoxicated people, "it is difficult to perceive how this purpose is advanced by declaring that the inside of a closed vehicle traveling along a highway is a public place." He added that "Moore should not suffer a criminal penalty for taking the responsible action of allowing a sober friend to drive her car while she was too intoxicated to do so. I would reverse Moore’s conviction."

June 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (22)

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions: Bodily Fluids and Solids Edition

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

1) Question: The busybody who manages my apartment complex is now demanding a DNA sample from my dog! What now??

Answer: Sometimes managers of apartment complexes demand dog DNA samples so they can have a laboratory compare the DNA to that found in piles of dog crap that tenants fail to pick up. Once they use canine genetics to track down the scofflaws, the manager will probably impose a fine. (WMUR 9, Apartments To Use DNA To Ensure Dog Poop Cleaned) (via Consumerist)

2) Question: I'm a breastfeeding mother. The cops are all up in my face about a domestic dispute. I'm thinking about backing them off of me by hitting them with a few sprays of breast milk, directly from the source if you know what I mean! Good idea?

Answer: Bad idea! That may get you charged with resisting arrest or disorderly conduct. (AOL Weird News, Ohio Deputies: Woman Sprayed Us With Breast Milk)

3) Question: Some dude went "Number 2" in our doorway. Yes, you read that correctly. We have a photo of him. Can we put up fliers with his photo asking people to help stop him from, um, going Number 2 in our doorway again?

Answer: That is a question of first impression here at LBW. We'll need to take this one under advisement. (Tosh.0 Blog, Some Habits Are Hard to Break)

June 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 28, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 2

I just posted "Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Volume 1" less than two weeks ago, but already it is time for Volume 2. Here are more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Pretend to be a soldier to get an upgrade to first class seating. You may not dress up like a soldier with camo fatigues, a military-style buzz cut and fake dog tags in order to get bumped to first classCONSEQUENCE: You may be arrested and charged with the crime of "second-degree impersonation."

  • Send a text message to all passengers seated in the premium economy section reading, "Get up, you c***ts." This prohibition applies to flight attendants, who may not send a message reading "Get up, you c***ts" (rhymes with "hunts") to the TV screens of all passengers in premium economy. CONSEQUENCE: Possible termination of employment for flight attendants and refunds/compensation for recipients of message.

  • Bash your flight crew over an open mic for being "gays and grannies." This prohibition applies to pilots, who may not complain on an open mic broadcasting over the air traffic control radio frequency that their 12 person flight crew is made up of 11 homosexuals and and a "granny." CONSEQUENCE: The pilot may be suspended without pay.

June 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 just returned home from vacation to find that my house has been padlocked and everything I own in the world has been cleaned out of the house. What the %#@$!!??

Answer: Sometimes the clean-out crews hired by banks mistake your house for the foreclosure next door and trash everything you own. It happens. Don't count on getting anything back, either. (Consumerist, Retiree Loses Everything After Bank Mistakes His House For Foreclosure)

2) Question: I'm on trial for theft. What should I wear to court?

Answer: Something other than the jacket you are alleged to have stolen. (The Sun, Thief wears coat he stole in court)

3) Question: I'm about to pass through airport security. I know I need to remove my coat and shoes. Do I need to remove anything else?

Answer: Your adult diaper. (Huffington Post, TSA Pats Down Elderly Woman, Removes Adult Diaper)

June 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 27, 2011

Trust Me, I'm an Expert: Lap Dance Experts

Today I learned that there are people in this world who are testifying experts in the field of "lap dancing." That, combined with my discovery in April that there are testifying "smell experts," has prompted me to launch what could become an ongoing series of posts here at LBW called "Trust Me, I'm an Expert."

A Reuters article from earlier this month (via Lowering the Bar) that discussed the testimony of a lap dance expert may have many men with pockets full of one-dollar bills thinking that they missed their calling. In 677 New Loudon Corp. v. State of New York Tax Appeals Tribunal, a gentleman's club near Albany, N.Y., called Nite Moves claimed that it did not need to charge a sales tax on private lap dances because such dances are "dramatic or musical art performances" not subject to such tax.

In support of its argument, Nite Moves relied on the expert testimony of cultural anthropologist who

based upon her personal observations gleaned from a visit to petitioner's club, as well as her review of the dances depicted on the Nite Moves DVD entered into evidence at the administrative hearing and her interviews with certain of the club's dancers, the expert opined that "the presentations at Nite Moves are unequivocally live dramatic choreographic performances." 

The court, however, was not swayed by the expert, finding that the expert by her own admission "did not view any of the private dances performed at petitioner's club." Nite Moves vowed to appeal, saying that "we brought in the foremost expert in the field. She is the one in this country who has made a complete and detailed study of the art of exotic dance and if they are not going to believe her I don't know who you believe."

June 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 a hunter seeking a challenge. This guy on the Internet says that for $10,000, I can hunt him for 24 hours. He claims to be "faster than a wild turkey, smart as any GODDAMN wild boar and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the monetary health of my family." Can I do this?

Answer: Whoa. No!! (HUNT ME 4 SPORT)

2) Question: I'm writing a restaurant review. One of the dishes I sampled was a bit too salty. What is the best way to express this without offending the owner?

Answer: Wait, did you only try one dish? If so, then labeling the food "too salty" could land you in jail for 30 days. (Jonathan Turley, Blogger Jailed For Calling Food At Taiwan Restaurant "Too Salty")

3) Question: We have a sting operation set up to catch a guy who we believe is "sexting" an underage girl. Why is the suspect arriving to meet the girl in a horse-drawn buggy?!

Answer: Sometimes Amish men get caught up in these sting operations, too. It happens. (CBS/WKRC, Amish sexting case catches Ind. man soliciting underage girl, cops say)

June 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 24, 2011

Handicapping the Sweet 16 Field for ATL's 'Fictional Lawyer Madness'

I have been keeping a close eye on Above the Law's Fictional Lawyer Madness contest, in which its readers vote on their favorite fictional TV and movie lawyers over the past 30 years. Now that the field has been trimmed to 16, let me weigh in here with my predictions and some odds-making. Here are the remaining contenders, ranked from least likely to win to the favorite:

16. Gerald Broflovski, "South Park" (100:1) -- low name recognition, bit player.

15. Alan Shore, "Boston Legal" (100:1) -- who?

14. Barry Zuckerkorn/Bob Loblaw, "Arrested Development" (100:1) -- no chance.

13. Jake Brigance, "A Time to Kill" (100:1) -- which Grisham lawyer character is this again? No way.

12. Patty Hewes, "Damages" (90:1 ) -- no class action lawyer is going to win this contest.

11. Harvey Dent, "The Dark Knight" (90:1) -- good movie, unremarkable lawyer.

11. Bobby Donnell, "The Practice" (75:1) -- chicks dig Dylan McDermott, but not enough to win.

10. Denny Crane, "Boston Legal" (45:1) -- Now we're getting somewhere. Hard to bet against Captain Kirk but this is a different character. Dark horse.

9. Harvey Birdman, "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law" (35:1) -- uh oh, a #2 seed that I have never heard of. If this guy wins then I am officially old.

8. Ben Matlock, "Matlock" (30:1) -- Good name recognition from the AARP crowd, but that won't be enough.

7. Daniel Kaffe, "A Few Good Men" (25:1) -- the guy who "CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH" according to Jack Nicholson. Good character, but his chance are falling along with Tom Cruise's popularity (see, e.g., "Knight and Day").

6. Elle Woods, "Legally Blonde" (15:1) -- lovable character who may appeal to female voters. Somewhat forgettable.

5. Jack McCoy, "Law and Order" (10:1) -- has been in your face for a decade but does not have the mojo of some of the bigger names below.

4. Arnie Becker, "L.A. Law" (7:1) -- would have been the clear favorite in 1993, but many voters may not know Arnie well enough. Success may depend on the extent to which "L.A. Law" re-runs are still out there.

3. Lionel Hutz, "The Simpsons" (4:1) -- could ride "The Simpsons"' tidal wave of popularity to the championship; lacks the depth of character of some others, possibly due to being a cartoon figure.

2. Vinnie Gambini, "My Cousin Vinnie" (3:1) -- an all-time classic lawyer character. Massive name recognition, many recognizable quotes ("two yoots").

1. Jackie Chiles, "Seinfeld" (2:1) -- legendary trial lawyer from "Seinfeld" who often represented Kramer. His wisdom about whether to put the balm on one's lips in a hot coffee case ("You put the balm on? Who told you to put the balm on? I didn't tell you to put the balm on. Why'd you put the balm on?") and his steadfast belief that his opponent's position is "outrageous, egregious, and preposterous" are well-known to all 21st century lawyers. I see a Chiles-Gambini final, with Chiles going all the way.

June 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

'Dragon Dictation' Makes Dictating Documents, Emails or Social Media Posts a Breeze

On the iPhone J.D. blog, Jeff Richardson has a helpful post for lawyers looking to buy a new iPad. He directs readers to a post by Rob Dean on his WalkingOffice blog that similarly walks lawyers through some of the latest apps available for the iPad and how to use these apps in a law practice.

I have an iPhone, not an iPad, but checked out the various apps suggested by Dean to see if any of them were of particular interest. I can quickly tell that one of these apps called Dragon Dictation will be quite useful to me. After downloading this free app to your iPhone and opening it up, it takes you to a screen where you can dictate a message that it immediately converts to text. Your mileage may vary, but Dragon Dictation converted the short paragraph I dictated off the top of my head into text flawlessly.

The most useful part to me is that once the dictated message is converted to text, Dragon Dictation then allows you to instantly send that message out through your iPhone via text message, email, Facebook or Twitter. It also allows you to copy the text so that you can then paste it elsewhere. So the next time you have a message that you're trying to get out quickly to a colleague or to the world, simply dictate it, convert it with Dragon Dictation, and hit send. Very cool!

June 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 23, 2011

Guess What Ingredient 'Snapple Apple' Does Not Contain?

It has the awesome, rhyming name "Snapple Apple." It has a prominent photo of a juicy, red, sliced-up apple. How can it contain absolutely no apple juice?


If you look at the ingredients of Snapple Apple, you see that it consists of the following: "filtered water, sugar, pear juice, concentrate, citric acid, natural flavors, vegetable and fruit extracts (for color)." No apples. Consumerist's managing editor Ben Popken wanted to know why his bottle of Snapple Apple contained some pear juice, but no apple juice, and sent an email off to Snapple.

The response Popken received from Snapple's Consumer Relations department didn't really address the seeming illogic at work here, and basically just said the company complied with "all applicable labeling regulations promulgated" by the FDA. Snapple then seemed to try to turn the tables on Popken, telling him to contact his health care provider if he had concerns about his "intake" of the product.

Popken reports that the key to Snapple being able to sell a Snapple Apple that contains no apple juice lies in the phrase "juice drink" -- and specifically the word "drink:"

Here's what's really going on: While something called "juice" and having pictures of fruit on it is required to have its flavor mainly come from the pictured fruit, if you call it "juice drink" you don't need to have the flavor be derived from the items on the picture.

Juice drinks can contain as little as 5 percent juice, although the Snapple Apple label says it uses 10 percent juice (pear juice, of course) in this particular "juice drink."

June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (12)

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: A man who was apprehended by four nearby Marines (and who stabbed one of the Marines) while he was trying to steal a laptop was just brought to our hospital with two broken arms, a broken ankle, several missing teeth, possible broken ribs, multiple contusions, assorted lacerations, a broken nose and a broken jaw. What could cause such injuries?

Answer: Falling off of the curb after stabbing the Marine. (Legal Antics, Wow. That must've been some curb)

2) Question: I saw your post last week on Things You Can't Do on a Plane. What about being a quadripelegic -- can you do that on a plane?

Answer: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. (Reuters, Frontier apologizes to quadriplegic passenger) (via Consumerist)

3) Question: Why is my town spending $36,000 to dump all 8 million gallons of water from our reservoir?

Answer: Sometimes when a drunk guy urinates in a town's reservoir, the town will drain the whole reservoir rather than "deal with the 100 people who would be unhappy that [it is] serving them pee in their water." It happens. (Associated Press, Man urinates in water, city flushes 8M gallons) (via Jonathan Turley)

June 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2011

Hostage-Taker Updates Facebook Status, Adds Friends During Standoff

It strikes me that the 21st century equivalent of "did I just say that out loud" is "did I just post that to Facebook?" And this seems to be particularly true lately for people engaged in violent felonies.

As Paula Martersteck noted here last month, alleged bank robbers are already tripping themselves up and being arrested after posting things such as "I'm rich, b*tch" and "WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS" on Facebook. But that is just "after-the-fact" stuff. What about the people in the news this month who actually incorporated Facebook into their alleged crimes?

Take 20-year-old mother London Eley, for example. Philadelphia police allege that Eley went on to Facebook and offered $1,000 to anyone who would be willing to kill her ex-boyfriend, the Daily Mail reports. "I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father," she allegedly wrote. The word 'stack' is reportedly slang for $1,000. Police say a man responded to the posting and arranged to meet Eley, but this master scheme was undone when the ex-boyfriend/potential victim's aunt saw the messages on Facebook and alerted authorities.

That was quickly followed by reports Tuesday of a bizarre incident in which an "armed man held a woman hostage at a motel in a tense 16-hour, overnight standoff with SWAT teams, all while finding time to keep his family and friends updated on Facebook." The Associated Press reports that during the hostage standoff(!!), Jason Valdez made six posts to Facebook and added a dozen new friends. Giving new meaning to the phrase "status update," Valdez's first post during the crisis was:

"I'm currently in a standoff ... kinda ugly, but ready for whatever. I love u guyz and if I don't make it out of here alive that I'm in a better place and u were all great friends."

In another twist, some of Valdez's Facebook friends allegedly aided him during the standoff. One friend alerted Valdez that a SWAT officer was hiding in the bushes, prompting Valdez to reply, "Thank you homie. Good looking out." Other friends pleaded for Valdez to "do the right thing." Police stated that they are reviewing whether any of Valdez's friends should be arrested for obstructing justice.

June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 a defendant in a serious criminal trial, and I'm pretty sure one of the jurors deciding my fate has a crush on the prosecutor! She just wrote a note calling him a "cutie!" This has to be a mistrial, right?

Answer: Nope! (Times Union, Court rules juror's crush on lawyer is fine) (via Bad Lawyer)

2) Question: I work as a bank teller. A bank robber just came in and demanded that I give him one dollar and said that he would be waiting for the police in a chair near the entrance. This was not covered in the training -- what am I supposed to do here?

Answer: Sometimes people rob banks for one dollar so that they can be arrested and receive prison medical treatment. It happens. (Consumerist, Man Holds Up Bank For $1 And Free Prison Medical Care)

3) Question: If another shopper at Trader Joe's and I get into a fight because we reach for the last box of frozen vegan Pad Thai at the same time, and I slap the other shopper in her face, can I be convicted of assault? 

Answer: Only if you intended to cause injury. By the way, this does not just happen at Trader Joe's. It is also "getting real" in the Whole Foods parking lot. See video below. (New York Post, A win for pad Thai pummeler)

June 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 21, 2011

Will Domain Name Changes Produce New Names Like ".Law" and ".Skadden"?

On Monday, the powers-that-be at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (the group that is tasked with keeping the Internet "secure, stable and interoperable" and that develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers) voted in favor of a significant change in the Internet's Domain Name System. The approved plan will exponentially increase the 22 existing Internet top level domains (i.e. .com, .org, .net and 19 others) by allowing generic Top Level Domains that may be almost any word in any language. Thus, new TLDs such as ".apple" or ".ipad" may now be imminent.

ICANN issued a statement claiming that its plan will "open[] the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination," and hopefully allow "the domain name system to better serve all of mankind." Its chairman added that the new plan will provide "a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration."

Before you start channeling your "creativity and inspiration" into stealing my ".bruce" domain name, however, you should know that the price of admission is quite steep. The application fee is $185,000 and applicants must comply with a 360-page book of guidelines. ICANN will begin accepting applications for the new domains on Jan. 12, 2012, and will take applications until April 12, 2012.

The Associated Press reports that analysts expect 500 to 1,000 new domain names will be created in this initial round of applications, including names such as ".google" but also more generic names such as ".bank" or ".hotel". In some cases, groups are forming to establish names such as ".sport" for sporting sites.

A question for LBW readers: What law-related domain names, if any, do you expect will result from this development? I bet we will see a new ".law" domain name, but what else would be worth the investment? Will we see names like ".skadden"? How about ".esq"?

June 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

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: Why is this rent-a-cop at the Minnesota Twins stadium trying to tell me I can't kiss my same-sex girlfriend while I'm here watching a baseball game?

Answer: Ten Commandments violation. (Bad Lawyer, Ten Commandments Prohibits Lezzy Kissing at Minnesota Twins Stadium)

2) Question: I just received a $100,000 deposit in my bank account that was mistakenly sent to me by the IRS. They don't even owe me any money! W00t!! What should I spend it on? My student loans, maybe?

Answer: Maybe not, as doing so could get you charged with a felony count of grand theft by misappropriation of lost property. (Consumerist, IRS Gives $110,000 To Wrong Guy, Now He's In Jail)

3) Question: We have a helper in our home to assist with my ailing wife. Among other things, the helper alerts my wife when someone is at the door, as my wife has a hearing problem. But today, the state Game Commission raided our home and seized our helper. Can it do that?

Answer: Is your helper a monkey? If so, you should know that state Game Commissions rarely grant permits for monkeys because they can carry diseases potentially fatal to humans. (Associated Press, Terminal cancer patient wants seized monkey back)

June 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 20, 2011

Real Judge Agrees with Judge Carton in 'Google Map Slave' Case

Just over a year ago, Judge Carton considered the case of Lauren Rosenberg, who sued Google after she was hit by a car while following walking directions provided by Google Maps on her cell phone. In an ongoing series of posts here at LBW called Judge Carton Rules, a fake judge issues rulings to spare the parties to cases in which the outcome is obvious the time and expense of further litigation.

In her lawsuit, Rosenberg alleged that her Google Maps BlackBerry application told her to walk along a dangerous highway with no sidewalks to get from one Park City, Utah, address to another, that she slavishly followed this instruction, and, shocker, she was hit by a car while doing so. In his my wisdom, Judge Carton ruled that Google's "future motion to dismiss is hereby GRANTED and the plaintiff is forbidden from using any type of smartphone with Internet access for a period of 60 months. In addition, the plaintiff is hereby ORDERED to watch the video below within the next 30 days, and certify to this court that she has done so."

Perhaps because Judge Carton's rulings are not technically binding, Salt Lake County District Court Judge Deno G. Himonas felt the need to rule on the case late last month, as well (via Lowering the Bar and OnPointNews). In a May 27, 2011 opinion, Himonas similarly granted Google's motion to dismiss. Himonas found, among other things, that Google owed no tort duty to Rosenberg. The court further found that Google was a "publisher" in this situation, and that courts were reluctant to impose liabilty on publishers for providing faulty information.

Himonas notably spared Rosenberg the 60-month smartphone ban and the mandatory video review ordered by Judge Carton, however.

June 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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: These software "end user license agreements" are just so godawful boring. Why can't some company spice these up a bit by having an Academy Award-winning thespian do a dramatic reading of their EULA? 

Answer: Done. (CNET, Richard Dreyfuss reads the iTunes EULA) (via Lowering the Bar)

2) Question: My license plate is just a tad crooked. Is this a problem?

Answer: Your call, but sometimes when a motorist is pulled over for a crooked license plate, police will end up using a Taser on them 6 to 10 times. (ABC4 News, Bountiful City settles taser lawsuit) (via Bad Lawyer)

3) Question: I saw your post last week on Things You Can't Do on a Plane. What about wearing saggy pants that expose your boxer shorts a bit -- can you do that on a plane?

Answer: Absolutely not! (Associated Press, Saggy pants leads to college football player's arrest)

June 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 17, 2011

Family's Purchase of 'Snake House' Leads to Foreclosure, Bankruptcy and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

And now for a story that nearly caused my snake-hating wife to have a breakdown.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week on the plight of the Sessions family, who in 2009 purchased a five-bedroom house in the Idaho countryside for about $180,000. They were required to sign a document at closing acknowledging that the house had a snake infestation, but were "assured by their real estate agent that the snakes were just a story invented by the previous owners to leave their mortgage behind."

Wrong! It turns out that the house is, as advertised, infested with hundreds of garter snakes. How bad could it be, you ask? Here are some of the slithery details from the AP article:

  • The ground surrounding the home was so thick with snakes it "appeared to move at times."
  • Many snakes lived beneath the home's siding, and at night the family could hear the snakes slithering inside the walls.
  • The house's well water had a foul musk smell caused by the chemical that snakes release as a warning to predators.
  • To protect his pregnant wife and two small boys, Mr. Sessions conducted a "morning sweep" each day inside the house to make sure none of the snakes had made it inside.
  • At the height of the infestation, Sessions killed 42 snakes in one day. That was the day he decided that the snakes had won, and the family fled the home.

The house was foreclosed on, the Sessions have now filed for bankruptcy, and Mr. Sessions has been diagnosed with "snake-related post-traumatic stress disorder."

Several months ago, the house briefly went back on the market. The house, now owned by JP Morgan Chase, was put back on the market briefly until it was featured on the Discovery Channel's "Animal Planet" as part of its "Infested" series. The house is now off the market, and Chase has reportedly contracted to have the snakes "trapped and released elsewhere" (not in my backyard, please).

Here is a video from KPVI News that shows the situation at the house when it occupied by a prior owner.

June 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Greenpeace Breaks Up Ken and Barbie, Rappels Down Side of Mattel HQ to Save Indonesian Rainforests

I have no idea if they are correct or not, but I am definitely impressed with the creativity, animation, directing skills and rappelling ability of the people from Greenpeace who are protesting toy maker Mattel Inc.'s use of wood products obtained from Asia Pulp & Paper, a Singapore company. Greenpeace says that AP&P clear-cuts Indonesian rainforests and destroys endangered tiger habitats.

Greenpeace launched its campaign against Mattel last week with this video featuring Ken, from Ken and Barbie. Check it out:

But that was hardly the end of Greenpeace's efforts. Last week, things got even crazier at Mattel headquarters, when Greenpeace activists somehow managed to rappel down the side of Mattel's own headquarters building to hang a massive banner announcing that Ken was breaking up with Barbie due to her deforestation habits. An actress playing Deforestation Barbie then rolled up in a pink "Dream Dozer," and was promptly arrested. Watch last week's craziness at Mattel headquarters here:

Consumerist reports that Mattel's initial response was to attack Greenpeace's actions as "inflammatory," disable comments on Barbie's Facebook wall, and attempt to shut down on trademark grounds Greenpeace's Facebook ad campaign about the breakup. But the next day, the Los Angeles Times reports, Mattel announced that "we have directed our packaging suppliers to stop sourcing pulp from Sinar Mas/APP as we investigate the deforestation allegations. Additionally, we have asked our packaging suppliers to clarify how they are addressing the broader issue in their own supply chains."

Even this statement did not satisfy Greenpeace, however. Its "senior forest campaigner" stated that while it was good that Mattel had "realized it has a major deforestation problem," it still lacked a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue. He said Mattel should remove APP from its supply chain and announce a deadline for cutting off the supplier. APP stated that it was "confident Mattel's investigation will show that our packaging materials are more than 95% recycled paper sourced from around the world."

June 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 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 can't decide between ordering the Death by Chocolate cake and the flaming Bananas Foster. Any suggestions?

Answer: Despite the name, Death by Chocolate is actually much safer than the Bananas Foster. Bananas Foster could light every member of your family on fire. (St. Petersburg Times, Woman severely burned by bananas Foster at Palm Harbor restaurant)

2) Question: I want the thermostat set at 70 degrees but my husband insists on having it at 68. An argument resulted and I called him some mean names. Should I apologize? I feel terrible.

Answer: Probably, but don't feel too bad. Two sisters who were sharing a home in Plainfield, Ill., got into a full, knockdown catfight over a one degree difference in what the temperature should be. Now one of the sisters is being charged with misdemeanor battery and has also filed a civil lawsuit seeking to force a sale of the home. (Associated Press, Plainfield woman in hot water over thermostat spat) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I just grabbed a letter addressed to my husband from the mailbox that was smeared with peanut butter and which states on the envelope that it contains peanut butter. It is from his ex-wife and I am allergic to peanut butter. Can this be an "assault" on me?

Answer: Perhaps, if there was an intent to harm you with the peanut butter. (Battle Creek Enquirer, Woman tells police peanut butter was attempted assault)

June 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 1

I seem to see a fresh "Trouble on a Plane" story every day, so I think it is time to launch a new LBW series on "Things You Can't Do on a Plane" for the benefit of all of you air travelers. Here is Volume 1:

  • Strip naked. You may not strip naked on a plane, become disruptive and then lock yourself in a toilet. That is prohibited. CONSEQUENCE: The pilot may turn the plane and its 110 passengers back to the airport, even if it just took off.

  • Say the "F-word." No matter how frustrated you may be about your plane's delay in taking off due to a problem with the overhead compartments, you may not drop an "F-bomb" as an "intensifier" when you are complaining to yourself (e.g., "What the f--- is taking so long!"). CONSEQUENCE: If your F-bomb is overheard by a flight attendant, the airline may summon police aboard to escort you off of the flight.

  • Engage in a fistfight when the person in the seat in front of you reclines his seat. Passengers may not assault the person in front of them for reclining his or her seat. This is strictly prohibited. CONSEQUENCE: The pilot may return the plane to the airport, escorted by a pair of F-16 fighter jets.

June 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 14, 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 a defendant in a criminal trial. During a break, a police officer in the courtroom just shared his tin of Altoids with many members of the jury! Can I get a mistrial?

Answer: Nope. (The Patriot-News, Defense attorney representing Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson's brother asks for mistrial over Altoids peppermints) (via Bad Lawyer)

2) Question: The guy who repaired my computer told me to place it near my shower because the "steamy environment" will "clean its internal sensor." Good idea?

Answer: I don't know about the "internal sensor," but at least one repairman has been arrested for allegedly installing a spyware program on computers that took hundreds of naked photographs of females who took his advice of placing their computers near the shower. (Consumerist, Computer Tech Allegedly Snaps Nude Pics Of Victims With Their Own Machines)

3) Question: I read your post about avoiding over-used stock images on my website such as a gavel, scales of justice, courthouse steps, columns, a skyscraper, a distinguished-looking person staring at a document, law books and people shaking hands. That seems like good advice. How about a photo of me wearing a cloak and holding a torch, surrounded by a lion, a tiger and perhaps one more big cat (I'm thinking a leopard)?

Answer: That's been done already. Keep brainstorming. (Above the Law, Lions and Tigers and Lawyers, Oh My…)

June 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 13, 2011

'Everything's Free' Garage Sale? Make Sure You Mean It (and That You Are Home)

The May 26, 2011 Craigslist ad was pretty straightforward:

We're giving it away, so come take it away!
Saturday, May 28th, 10am-2pm, No Early Birds, Please!
501 Evergreen Ave, Boulder

An earlier ad had scheduled the start time at 8 a.m., but the "No Early Birds" ad above was intended to correct that ... unsuccessfully, it turned out. Here is the ad that ran three days later:

Regarding the "Free Sale" on Saturday, May 28th at 501 Evergreen Ave:
Due to miscommunication and confusion over start time, many items were taken that were not meant to be free.
PLEASE return the following items as soon as possible if you have them:

Lawnmower and garden hose (these belong to the landlord)
Comforter set,
Mens clothes from upstairs,
ANYTHING from upstairs.

Please be honest and return these things,
Thank you.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports that a perfect storm consisting of the exaggerated claim that "EVERYTHING" was free, the change in the start time, an open back door and some "particularly bold" garage sale goers led to the unexpected losses described above. A police report states that when the woman who placed the ad returned to her home at approximately 8:45 a.m. on the day of the giveaway, people had alredy entered her home and helped themselves to the lawnmower, clothing and much more.

One early bird who came to the unoccupied home thought that things didn't feel right, and placed a call to one of the owners' mother. This person tried to keep people from taking things until the owners arrived, with limited success.

The roommate of the woman who placed the ad had many of her items taken, and says things are now "a little awkward" between her and her roommate. She has recovered some of her husband's clothes but is still hoping to get back her camping backpacks, an expensive toolbox full of high-quality tools and some of her furniture.

June 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

June 10, 2011

In Washington, Even Medical Marijuana Users May Be Fired for Failing a Drug Test

Since 1998, the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act has provided an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution of physicians for prescribing medical marijuana and of qualified patients for their medical use of marijuana. A woman under the pseudonym of Jane Roe who suffered from debilitating migraine headaches received authorization from a Washington doctor to use medical marijuana, and upon receiving this authorization Roe began using medical marijuana in compliance with MUMA.

In 2006, a company called TeleTech offered Roe a job as a customer service representative, contingent on, among other things, her passing a drug test. Roe informed TeleTech of her use of medical marijuana and offered to provide the company with a copy of her authorization. TeleTech declined. Roe took the drug test and started training at TeleTech while the results were pending ... and I think you can see where this is going.

Not surprisingly, Roe failed the drug test. Perhaps more surprisingly, TeleTech promptly terminated her fledgling employment, telling her that the company's drug policy did not make an exception for medical
marijuana. Roe then filed Roe v. TeleTech, arguing that (a) MUMA provides a private cause of action against an employer who discharges an employee for authorized medical marijuana use, and (b) under the "public policy" of MUMA, employees may not be discharged for authorized medical marijuana use.

Roe lost at the trial level and in her initial appeal, and on Thursday the Supreme Court of Washington affirmed the courts below. The court held that MUMA "does not regulate the conduct of a private employer or protect an employee from being discharged because of authorized medical marijuana use." It further held that MUMA "does not proclaim a sufficient public policy to give rise to a tort action for wrongful termination for authorized use of medical marijuana."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Tom Chambers wrote that

Allowing someone to be fired from their job for using the treatment allowed by law when sanctioned by a doctor jeopardizes the clear policy of the act. It will discourage other people in her position from availing themselves of a treatment the voters decided should be available.


June 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

June 09, 2011

Website Asks 'What's Your Price' to Go Out on a Date With Someone?

What's your price? (via The Faculty Lounge) believes everyone has one (a price, that is), and has built a dating website around the concept. In short, WYP breaks people into two groups: "Generous Members" and "Attractive Members." Generous Members are people who are "willing to pay to date beautiful, gorgeous or sexy people." Attractive Members are the "beautiful" ones who will "get paid while you spend time meeting fun and generous people."

While this may sound like a prostitution or escort website with different nomenclature, WYP's founder Brandon Wade says that this is not the case. As noted by The Faculty Lounge, Wade told the NY Daily News that the money changing hands is only "for the opportunity of a first date -- it's a chance to allow somebody to like you more than just from an online profile or picture." Wade adds on his blog that

When capitalism is mixed in with dating, all of a sudden people start concluding "it must be prostitution." But does paying money for a cup of coffee every morning mean Starbucks is engaging in prostitution? Does paying for gas every time you fill up at the gas station mean that Mobil or BP is pimping? Does donating money to the Church every Sunday morning equate religion to prostitution? Obviously NOT, and obviously buying a First Date isn't either ...

The Faculty Lounge ponders the question of whether there is a difference between a paid date and prostitution and concludes

No, in that both scenarios involve one person's "selling" his or her time/body to another for a price. Yes, if there is no sex act involved. 

On its website, WYP states that the concept of buying a first date is already familiar to most of us due to things like charity events where guys and girls volunteer themselves to be bid out as dates. WYP simply adds an "economic model of pricing and paying for a first date" that previously did not exist in the real world (US Patent Pending: Application No. 61407831). Following the model of "Ladies' Night" at bars, Attractive Members use the website 100 percent free.

Check out this WYP video for more details on this new dating model.

June 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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: Some people want to ask me personal and intrusive questions in front of approximately twenty-five observers and then vote repeatedly on whether I'm gay or non-gay until a "verdict" is reached. Can they do this?

Answer: Depends on the context. For example, a maximum of two heterosexual players are permitted on a Gay Softball World Series team, so if opposing teams believe you are heterosexual number three, you may need to put up with such an inquiry. (The Volokh Conspiracy, Gay Athletic Group Has First Amendment Right to Limit the Number of Straight Players on a Team)

2) Question: A judge says I cannot purchase any food or drink from a restaurant, any cigarettes, any electronic device, any movie tickets, magazines, hiking equipment and a bunch of other things! Can he do this?

Answer: Yes, if you fail to pay your child support. (New York Law Journal, Judge Drafts List of Banned Purchases for Father After His 'Egregious' Child Support Violations)

3) Question: I really want this job, but is it really necessary for me to endure my interviewer sticking needles under my fingernails?

Answer: No. (Consumerist, Having Needles Stuck Under Your Fingernails Should Not Be Part Of The Job Interview Process)

June 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 08, 2011

Use of Irrelevant Evidence of 'Goth' Lifestyle Leads to Reversal of Murder Conviction

Via Siouxsie Law I came across an interesting recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Georgia that reversed a murder conviction because the trial court allowed the prosecution to introduce "irrelevant and highly prejudicial character evidence" about a teenage defendant's "goth" lifestyle.

The court stated that during the trial of Courtney Boring, a teenage girl who was convicted of murdering her mother, the state introduced evidence seized from the girl's bedroom, including:

photographs of appellant with dyed black hair and dark make-up; a document bearing the words of a "curse" to be recited "while burning the letter over a black candle"; and seven different inscriptions, one typewritten and the rest handwritten on the bedroom walls, of song lyrics and quotations attributed to various singers and other artists, bearing themes of anguish, enslavement, atheism, and violence.

The court observed that although prosecutors did not produce additional evidence or testimony regarding the "import of these items, the State explicitly sought in both opening and closing to link these items with the so-called 'gothic lifestyle' and to characterize them as evidence of 'satanic influences.'" The prosecutor stated in closing argument that while the various goth items did not "prove" that the girl killed her mother, "[i]t's not the point. The point is ... that these are pieces of a puzzle, and you have to consider all of the evidence together."

The court disagreed, holding that

In sum, "one is left with the feeling that the [evidence in question] was employed simply because the jury would find these beliefs morally reprehensible." Dawson v. Delaware, 503 U.S. 159, 167 (112 SC 1093, 117 LE2d 309) (1992). ... In admitting this evidence, which bore no specific connection with the crime and operated merely to impugn appellant's character by suggesting she held satanic beliefs, the trial court abused its discretion. Both because the nature of this evidence was highly inflammatory, and because the evidence of appellant's guilt was entirely circumstantial and not overwhelming, "'we cannot say that it is highly probable that the error did not contribute to the jury's verdict....'

June 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (12)

June 07, 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 live near a deer crossing and they keep getting hit. It is too dangerous for the deer to cross where the deer crossing sign is now. Should I advise the county to move the sign somewhere else?

Answer: On behalf all of the deer who were hit after relying upon that ill-placed sign, I thank you. (Tosh.0 Blog, Dangerous Deer Crossing)

2) Question: I am a seismologist and I failed to predict a massive, fatal earthquake. In my defense, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: In some countries, failing to predict an earthquake can get you charged with manslaughter. (FOX News, Italian Seismologists Charged With Manslaughter for Not Predicting 2009 Quake)

3) Question: I gave my 8-year-old son a cheap laser pointer and he likes to point it at planes as they fly overhead. Should I take away his allowance?

Answer: Yes, until you have accumulated $11,000, which is the maximum amount of the Federal Aviation Administration's new fine for people who shine a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. (Law and Disorder, Shine a laser at a plane, face an $11,000 fine)

June 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 06, 2011

Silk Road: Your Destination for Buying Illegal Drugs Online With Untraceable Currency

I'll be the first to admit that I don't get out enough and my life seems to revolve around taking my children to and from different baseball fields. But are you telling me that you knew that there was a website that enables you to buy illegal drugs online (heroin, LSD, cocaine, etc.) pretty much the same way you'd buy a book or a DVD player? And that you can do so using a supposedly untraceable type of currency called Bitcoins? I don't think so!

Adrian Chen of Gawker writes here about a website called Silk Road that "makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics -- and seemingly as safe. It's Amazon -- if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals." It even has eBay-type "feedback" on sellers so you can buy your Afghani hash with greater peace of mind about your supplier.

Chen includes details on a buyer named Mark's experience purchasing 10 tabs of LSD, which were delivered in an ordinary envelope to his door by the U.S. Postal Service. Mark

found a seller with lots of good feedback ... added the acid to his digital shopping cart and hit "check out." He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins -- untraceable digital currency -- worth around $150. Four days later, the drugs (sent from Canada) arrived at his house.

Silk Road uses Bitcoins as its only form of currency. Chen notes that Bitcoins are a form of peer-to-peer currency that are "the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash." Bitcoins are said to be untraceable, and can only be obtained from services like Mt. Gox Bitcoin Exchange. Mt. Gox offers the following video explanation of Bitcoins:

Another key element of Silk Road is anonymity. The site is reportedly only accessible through an anonymizing network called TOR. Chen writes that this could possibly cut both ways, and asks "How long until a DEA agent sets up a fake Silk Road account and starts sending SWAT teams instead of LSD to the addresses she gets?"

Silk Road users who may have gotten comfortable ordering their "sour 13" weed online do not seem happy about the Gawker article. One commenter seemed to speak for many when he asked, "did you HAVE to write this article? I know it's not all that secret that you can buy illicit drugs through TOR but the longer it flies under the radar the less groups like the DEA care about it. Ratting out my dealers, not cool man." Another said that the solution to Chen's notion that DEA agents might send SWAT teams to customers' addresses is to "have some volunteers invest a small amount of money ordering something illicit in the name of various political candidates, DEA officials and random innocent citizens."

June 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

June 03, 2011

Pimp Law, Part II: Even if the Woman is Already 'in the Game,' It's Still Pimpin'

Back in March 2011, I wrote here that the California Supreme Court was poised to hear an important issue related to California pimp law: are you offering illegal pimp services if the woman is already 'in the game' (i.e., already a prostitute)?

To recap from my prior post, in 2007, a man named

Jomo Zambia was in his car at a "notorious intersection" in the San Fernando Valley known for its prostitutes. He allegedly asked a woman he believed to be a prostitute to enter his car, explained he was a pimp, and offered his pimp services, "which included providing housing and clothing, if she turned over all of her money to him."

The prostitute was actually an LAPD Officer working undercover, and Zambia was arrested and later convicted of the crime of pandering, as one who "induces, persuades or encourages another person to become a prostitute." California's highest court will now examine whether a defendant like Zambia can be convicted of encouraging another person to become a prostitute when that person already appears to be working as a prostitute. Or, in AP writer Paul Elias' words, the court will define "what makes a pimp in California."

Three months later, the California Supreme Court has issued its opinion in this matter, and I'm afraid the pimp community will not be pleased. The court held in People v. Zambia that the state's pandering law does, in fact, apply to a pimp who recruits a current prostitute to work for him. The court reasoned that

... To encourage an established prostitute to change her business relationship necessarily implies that a defendant intends a victim "to become a prostitute" in the future regardless of her current status. We also think it safe to say that someone who encourages another to become a prostitute is seldom giving disinterested advice about a possible career path. The phrase "encourages another person to become a prostitute" can readily be understood to encompass the goal that the target "become a prostitute" in the future for the benefit of the encourager or some other pimp.

Two judges dissented from this interpretation of California pimp law, however. The crux of their dissent is stated by Judge Joyce Kennard, who wrote that she "cannot fathom how one can 'become' what one already is."

June 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

How to Make Sure That 'Redacted' Document You Uploaded to PACER Is Really Redacted

On the Freedom to Tinker blog, Timothy Lee writes that he has been conducting detailed research on documents uploaded to PACER where the "parties tried to redact sensitive information but the redactions failed for technical reasons."

Lee explains that the problem is rooted in the fact that the "PDF" format of saving a document uses "vector graphics" that represent an image as a series of drawing commands such as lines, rectangles and lines of text. While vector graphics have various advantages, Lee says they have at least one significant disadvantage: they may contain more information than is visible to the naked eye because they can have multiple "layers." As such, while a PDF document may appear to have a black rectangle blocking out text, the text still exists under the box and can often be read by performing a simple cut and paste.

Using a collection of 1.8 million PACER documents, Lee identified approximately 2000 documents with redaction rectangles. Of these redacted documents, Lee found 194 documents with "failed redactions," mainly from commerical litigation in which the parties attempted to redact text concerning trade secrets, medical information, addresses, dates of birth, witness names, jurors, and more. Based on this study, Lee concludes that in PACER's overall library of about 500 million documents,"it's safe to say there are thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of documents in PACER whose authors made unsuccessful attempts to conceal information."

Lee adds that to avoid this problem, litigants should, where possible, follow the model set forth by the National Security Agency for secure redaction:

The approach they recommend—completely deleting sensitive information in the original word processing document, replacing it with innocuous filler (such as strings of XXes) as needed, and then converting it to a PDF document, is the safest approach. The NSA primer also explains how to check for other potentially sensitive information that might be hidden in a document's metadata.

In addition, Lee recommends that litigants should check the final redacted document that is to be submitted to PACER by cutting and pasting that document into another document. If the redaction succeeded, no text should be transferred, he says.

June 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 02, 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: We are going to do some mouse racing at our bar! People can bet a buck or two on which mouse will finish the course first. Any health code considerations we should keep in mind?

Answer: Probably. But you should also know that some jurisdictions will consider your mouse races to be illegal gambling. (, Iowa bar owners ticketed over illegal mouse racing) (via Lowering the Bar)

2) Question: I finally have 100,000 frequent flier miles -- enough for two round-trip tickets between New York and London! Are there any other fees I should be aware of before I cash these in?

Answer: Yes, you'll need an additional $530 per ticket to cover taxes, fees and the airline's $350 per ticket fuel surcharge. (New York Times, Fees Erase the 'Free' From Frequent Flier Awards)

3) Question: I was trying on diamond rings today when the ring became stuck on my hand. Now I've been in the emergency room for hours while the medical staff tries to get this ring off my finger! Now what?

Answer: Have you considered suing the jewelry store? (New York Post, Lawsuit has painful ring to it) (via Consumerist)

June 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 01, 2011

'Arlington Ladies' Honor Fallen Veterans by Attending Every Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, located in Arlington, Virginia, is the burial grounds for more than 300,000 people. Veterans from all the United States' wars -- from the American Revolution through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- are buried there.

There is an average of 28 funerals each day at Arlington National Cemetery, and Joayn Bahr, part of a group called the Arlington Ladies, says there are many instances where the deceased's family members are unable to come due to health considerations or the distance they must travel. That is where the Arlington Ladies enter the picture.

"We never want anyone who has given their life or their service to this country to be forgotten," Bahr told CBS News. To honor each current or former U.S. service member laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and ensure that no veteran is laid to rest without a civilian witness, at least one of the 65 Arlington Ladies attends every single burial at the cemetery. 

CBS News reports that all of the 65 Arlington Ladies have either served in the military or are related to someone who has, and that the group has been honoring fallen veterans since 1948. Following each funeral, Bahr, who is an Army representative from the Arlington Ladies, gives a note to the family from the Army chief of staff and his wife, as well as her own personal letter expressing "thanks, comfort, and understanding."

Thank you, Arlington Ladies!

June 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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