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July 29, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 4

You might think that after Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane, that we'd be all out of things you can't do on a plane. Nope! The list grows daily.

Here are three more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Take a photograph of unhelpful airline ticket agents' nametags. You may not take a photo of the nametag of airline employees who you believe are not helpful or rude. CONSEQUENCE: You may be threatened with being arrested and put on the "no-fly list."

  • Wear short denim shorts that make it unclear whether you are wearing panties. This is particularly true if you accompany such shorts with a baggy t-shirt. CONSEQUENCE: You may be kicked off the plane for dress code violations.
  • Have three dozen drinks during the flight, and then strike and break the glasses of the police officer who attempts to escort you off of the plane. You may not have roughly 36 drinks and become disorderly mid-flight, and then strike the police officer when he attempts to obtain your identification. CONSEQUENCE: Possible misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and assault and battery on a police officer. (You also might want to refrain from telling the police sergeant booking you: "You think I’m cute and I think you're cute, just drive me home.")

July 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: OK, here is my plan for getting out of prison.The prison phone system charges inmates' accounts for calls and refunds the money if the call doesn't go through. But there is a glitch and the system reimburses inmates twice for incomplete calls. So I will make calls and then hang up until I accumulate the $1,250 I need to post bond and get out of jail. Yes?

Answer: That may work in the short term, but expect your stay on the outside to be quite brief. (The Associated Press, Man uses jailhouse phone glitch to get released)

2) Question: This is a free country! If I want to hang big red fake testicles from the trailer hitch of my truck, then I can hang big red fake testicles from the trailer hitch of my truck. Right? 

Answer: That depends on whether your community considers big red fake testicles to be obscene or not. (The Post and Courier, Obscenity case will be heard by jury)

3) Question: I escaped from prison 32 years ago. You don't think those bozos are still loooking for me, do you?

Answer: They are. (The Associated Press, Murderer caught after 32 years on the lam)

July 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 28, 2011

A Wealth of Ammunition for Haters of the Term 'And/Or'

You're a lawyer. You are forced to read briefs, motions, emails, letters and more from fellow lawyers and others every day. Many of these people like to use the term "and/or." And you do not like it.

You keep telling your associates and anyone else who will listen that the use of "and/or" is unnecessary and damaging to the sentence in which it is written, but you get nothing but blank stares back. "Says who?" your colleagues seem to be saying. Now, courtesy of Ted Tjaden on the Slaw blog, you have your answer: dozens of leading authorities and court opinions.

Tjaden has compiled what he believes to be a fairly complete list of authorities that support the position that "and/or" should never be used in legal writing. That's never, as in not ever. As Tjaden notes, "and/or" should be stricken from your active vocabulary because "(i) its use can result in uncertainty, (ii) it is not a real word." Tjaden has assembled a lengthy list of authorities supporting this view, including:

Chicago Manual of Style:

  • and/or. Avoid this Janus-faced term. It can often be replaced by and or or with no loss in meaning....

Elements of Style:

  • and/or. A device, or shortcut, that damages a sentence and often leads to confusion or ambiguity.

The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style:

  • The slash ... is best known as the star character in two grammatical abominations: and/or and he/she. It is especially unfit for legal writing because it is inherently ambiguous.

The Elements of Legal Style:

  • and/or.  “much condemned conjunctive-disjunctive crutch of sloppy thinkers”

And so on (including some shots fired at "and/or" in French).

Tjaden also provides a lengthy list of law review articles on the topic, and then moves on to a list of court opinions dating back to 1909 that support killing off the term "and/or." See, e.g., Cochrane v Florida East Coast Ry Co, 145 So 217 at 218-19 (Fla 1932) ("and/or" is an "inexcusable barbarism" which has "no more place in legal terminology than the vernacular of Uncle Remus has in Holy Writ"); Bell v Wayne United Gas Co, 181 SE 609 at 618 (W Va 1935) ("and/or" is a "baffling" and "disingenuous modernistic hybrid, inept and irritating"); Employers Mut Liability Co v Tollefsen, 263 NW 376 at 377 (Wis 1935) ("and/or" is a "befuddling, nameless ... Janus-faced verbal monstrosity ... the child of a brain of some one too lazy or too dull to express his precise meaning, or too dull to know what he did mean, now commonly used by lawyers in drafting legal documents. ...").

Tjaden provides plenty more ammunition for "and/or" haters in the article. Load up here with the full article.

July 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (10)

July 27, 2011

Don't Get 'Jacked: Firm Up Your Domain Name Security Today

In the digital age, a company's domain name is a key part of its identity. Can you imagine Amazon not at, for example? Or Legal Blog Watch somewhere other than I don't think so!

A Los Angeles-based start-up company called Lissn learned last week that inadequate security for domain names can lead to a very frustrating situation. Lissn writes on its blog today that on Friday, hackers were able to use a "compromised email address" to hijack and steal its domain name:

After gaining access, they were able to transfer the domain to their own overseas registrar....  The hackers redirected Lissn to a server in the Netherlands, kept our homepage, and replaced the login button with a message that read “Lissn is currently down for maintenance, sorry for any inconvenience...."

The hijacked page still misleadingly bears the Lissn logo and states, "Lissn is currently down for maintenance, sorry for any inconvenience."

LIssn writes that it has contacted authorities about this digital heist and is trying to recover, but it compares the situation to the theft of a horse in the Old West, in that it is a crime that often goes unpunished. LIssn says it is difficult and time consuming to find domain thieves, and notes that the first-ever conviction for stealing a domain name occurred just six months ago.

As a result of the breach and theft of the domain name, Lissn has now switched over to (like "listen in" -- get it?), and wants to share the lessons it learned the hard way with others. Here are Lissn's suggestions for companies that want to prevent this type of hijacking from happening to them:

  • Change the passwords associated with your domain registration frequently, especially the password for your email address, and never use that same password for anything else.
  • Don't use gmail or another free email provider for your domain administrator contact. If you are using gmail, turn on alerts for unusual activity. 
  • Use a domain registrar with good security processes in place.

So don't get domain-jacked. Firm up your firm's security with your registrar ASAP.

July 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a park ranger. There is a nearly 70-year-old man who likes to hike in our park, but we keep having to rescue him. Two weeks ago he injured his leg and we had to send horses out to bring him back to safety. Today he fell off of a peak and injured his arm, and we had to send 10 rangers out for 23 hours to rescue him. Can we at least start charging him for this?

Answer: Typically no, but you can in "egregious" cases. And this gentleman should definitely pay the $3 to get a Colorado Outdoor Search and Rescue card that will reimburse search and rescue teams for costs incurred in any future search and rescue operations. (Denver News, Rangers Rescue Same Hiker Twice In One Month) (via Consumerist)

2) Question: I posed for a cosmetics ad, but the campaign never ran in the U.K. What is going on? 

Answer: The U.K. won't tolerate any excessive airbrushing in cosmetics ads that present "unrealistic images of women." They'll just ban it altogether. Try not to look so good next time. (Ad Age, U.K. Bans L'Oreal Ads Of Overly Airbrushed Julia Roberts)

3) Question: Is eating a hot dog the same as smoking cigarettes? Because that is how I am reading this sign.

Answer: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that, like cigarettes, hot dogs should come with a warning label. The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council says that is absurd. I say you should probably consult with Medical Blog Watch. (CBS, Billboard warns NASCAR fans about hot dogs, stirs controversy)

July 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 26, 2011

'Birther' Lawyer Rebuked by Federal Judge Over Filing Errors

Zoe Tillman, writing for The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, reports that a Washington, D.C., federal judge on Monday scolded "birther" lawyer Orly Taitz for "wasting the Court's time" by failing to redact Social Security number information in court papers -- a violation of federal rules.

"Plaintiff is either toying with the Court or displaying her own stupidity. She made the correct redactions when she re-filed her Complaint and Amended Complaint," U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in his order. "There is no logical explanation she can provide as to why she is now wasting the Court's time, as well as the staff's time, with these improper redactions."

Taitz has filed numerous lawsuits seeking to show that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen and is therefore ineligible for office. In the case before Lamberth, Taitz filed a FOIA suit against the Social Security Administration, alleging that the president is linked to 39 Social Security numbers.

Tillman reports that, in an email this morning, Taitz said she planned to refile her opposition to the summary judgment motion today.

Read Tillman's full BLT post.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

July 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

New LinkedIn Job Application Feature Generates Buzz

Networking site LinkedIn is getting lots of attention on Twitter and elsewhere on the Web right now, thanks to the roll-out of a new job application feature called "Apply with LinkedIn."

Twitter users write of the new feature, "could this be the end of the resume?" and "how to apply for your next job in less than a minute." (Some call it a "game changer" or "huge" -- although others hedge that by saying "potentially huge" -- and at least one tweet resorts to saying it could be a "paradigm shifter," a phrase that I keep hoping will die out sooner rather than later).

Writing on Mashable, Ben Parr compares the "Apply with LinkedIn" button to Twitter's tweet button and Facebook's Like button, since companies can embed the LinkedIn button on their websites. The "Apply with LinkedIn" button "essentially lets you submit your LinkedIn profile as your resume," writes Parr. "Once you submit your job application, you are given the opportunity to message your contacts at the company and ask for a referral."

And on the receiving end, companies have the advantage of getting applications in an easily searchable, uniform format. Reuters reports that more than 1,000 companies are taking part in the plug-in's launch by including the "Apply with LinkedIn" button on their job pages.

What do you think? Will you be using "Apply with LinkedIn" to find a job or hire someone? Or is it just one more bit of technology you'd rather not have to deal with?

More information on "Apply with LinkedIn":

YouTube video of "Apply with LinkedIn"

LinkedIn Tip: How to Use the New Job Application Feature (from PC World)

LinkedIn 'Apply' Button: 1-Click Job Application (from Information Week)

LinkedIn rolls out Web button for job applications (from Los Angeles Times)

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

July 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

50 Legal Innovators Named

Legal research service Fastcase has announced its "Fastcase 50," a list of the "most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology," winnowed down by the Fastcase selection committee from nominees identified by readers.

A number of names on the list will be very familiar to regular readers and ALM followers. Among them: Monica Bay, editor-in-chief of Law Technology News, and former Legal Blog Watch co-bloggers Robert Ambrogi and Carolyn Elefant.

Congratulations to all!

Check out the full list with the 50 profiles.

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

July 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2011

Farewell to the 'Bad Lawyer' Blog

The anonymous author of Bad Lawyer launched that blog in August of 2009, just about the same time that I started writing here at Legal Blog Watch. I quickly added Bad Lawyer to my list of blogs that I followed because: (a) BL had a great eye for finding many of the twisted developments that occur everyday in the legal world; and (b) BL offered his own honest opinions on these various developments.

In a post last week, however, BL wrote that he is shutting down the blog. BL first started writing the blog, he says, as a way to cope with certain disciplinary proceedings he was subject to, including a prosecution on charges of attempted tax evasion. He started writing because he was suffering from depression and panic attacks and was unable to sleep, and the blog posts were a form of "self-pitying" and "rationalization:"

You should never doubt that the stories I posted about "bad" lawyers, judges, doctors, drivers, parents, idiots, and morons--these stories, were always about ME. Likewise, I posted the occasional story about admirable persons in and out of the law, these were stories also about me, as well. Or rather, I should say the stories were about--who I aspire to be by the grace of God. 

Now, however, BL explains that he has other projects he wants to pursue and, having completed his prison sentence, a life to live with his family.  He is therefore "letting go of the 'past' absolutely."

Bad Lawyer has been a consistent source of interesting and outrageous legal news for LBW and for the blogosphere over the past two years. Thank you, BL, for your work on the Bad Lawyer blog over these years and best of luck to you as you move on.

July 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I've had one too many rum and cokes on the Lido Deck of this cruise ship, and I now have a very strong urge to break into the ship's control room and deploy the ship's anchor. Hilarious, right?! Go for it?

Answer: You may think it is a joke now, but you can face up to 20 years in prison for dropping that anchor. Go sleep it off. (WSJ Law Blog, Anchor's Away! An Act of 'Felony Stupidity'?)

2) Question: Over and over I have tried to tell the auto dealership that the van they sold me is a lemon, but nobody will listen to me. What if I just drive to the dealership and start crashing the van into a half-dozen or so of the other cars on the lot? Would that get my point across?

Answer: Yes, but you will likely face charges for "criminal mischief." Maybe try a strongly worded letter instead? (CBS/The Associated Press, Car buyer irate over "lemon" smashes dealership)

3) Question: Dilemma: We are at home high on meth but there is an intruder in our house! Should we call 911?

Answer: Is there anyone not high on meth there who can confirm that there is a real intruder in your home? Because you may just be hallucinating and calling the police on yourself. (CBS/The Associated Press, "They were so high they called 911 on themselves")

July 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 22, 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: I brought some illegal pills into my school, but I'm not really worried about being caught because I can always just jam the pills into my bra to hide them. Ha, what now, suckers?? Now who is the smart one?

Answer: Not you, because you are apparently overlooking the school investigative technique called the "bra-lift." That could do you in. (Bad Lawyer, "Bra-Lift" Searches of Female Students, Unconstitutionally Intrusive)

2) Question: Sure, my son and I have been feuding for a while, but why does he keep telephoning me all of a sudden to find out if I am home? And what is all of that noise in the background?

Answer: RUN!! Sometimes sons who are feuding with their moms will call mom from the cockpit of a plane as they are preparing a kamikaze plane strike on their mom's house. (, Man tries to kill mom with kamikaze flight into house)

3) Question: I'm being told that unless I pay $349, pornographers will be allowed to register my brand's domain name on the new ".xxx" top-level domain service. Is this a protection racket? 

Answer: A protection racket? How about we just call it "Sunrise B." (Slaw, XXX Protection Racket?)

July 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 21, 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 am on food stamps. Does that mean that I cannot ask for my submarine sandwich to be toasted at the Country Fair?

Answer: Unfortunately, that's how it works at the Country Fair. No bacon for you, either. (Imgur, As if being poor wasn't bad enough...)


2) Question: I was smoking meth with a blowtorch near a container of gunpowder. A fire started and --

Answer: No need to go any further. I saw this exact scenario unfold in several Road Runner cartoons, and I know how badly it ends even without the meth being involved. Here are some legal resources for you from the lawsuit Wile E. Coyote vs. Acme Company. (San Francisco Chronicle, Jail for smoking meth with blowtorch near gunpowder)

3) Question: I think I've got a great plan. I download movies off of the Internet for free and burn them to DVDs. Then I open a store in a shopping plaza and "give the DVDs away for free," but I charge five dollars for the DVD case. Win-win, right?! W00t!!

Answer: Sorry, but structuring the sale in that way won't keep you out of trouble for unauthorized copying of DVDs or CDs. In some states that could result in five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if you are convicted. (Orlando Sentinel, 1,120 illegal DVDs seized in raid in east Orange)

July 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2011

Baseball Pitcher Law: When Can Injured Pitchers Recover Damages?

I don't know if baseball pitchers get hurt more than the players at other positions, or if they are perhaps more litigious, but it seems like most of the baseball lawsuits I see are filed by injured pitchers. From what I've seen there is little consistency in the outcome of these pitcher lawsuits, despite a strong "assumption of the risk" defense that you would think would be available to most defendants.

Last year I wrote here about the 17-year-old pitcher in Prince George's County, Md., who fractured his right arm while throwing a pitch in a baseball game. Somehow he obtained a $52,703 jury verdict against the tournament organizer for building a mound that was "too big and too deep." The case settled while the defendants' JNOV motion was pending before the court.

There was also the Montana case last year in which a state judge refused to throw out a jury verdict against Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the maker of Louisville Slugger baseball bats. The jury found that H&B was liable in the amount of $850,000 for the death of a baseball player who was hit by a line drive during a game. The jury found that H&B failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat, and that this failure caused the accident. The court ruled that "in this case the jury may properly have inferred from the evidence that a warning would have been heeded and the failure to warn caused the injury." I still do not understand how a warning label on a bat would change the behavior of a pitcher, but that's why I am only a fake judge.

Most recently, a New York appellate court ruled this week that a college baseball pitcher who was struck in the face by a batted ball during batting practice could not sue his school because he assumed the risk of injury. According to a report in the New York Law Journal, the pitcher argued that a protective L-screen should have been used and that the lighting at the indoor facility was inadequate, but the court deemed these complaints "irrelevant." The court cited the "fully comprehended and perfectly obvious nature of the inherent risk" of pitching in a collegiate game or practice. Two justices dissented in the case, however, leading the plaintiffs lawyer to say that he would urge his client to appeal.

July 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: What can I get more prison time for: serving a customer at the grocery store where I work a "yogurt sample" that is tainted with my own semen, or lying to the feds about it when they investigate?

Answer: Lying to the feds may get you more prison time (max of five years) than serving your highly adulterated yogurt sample (max of three years). Plan accordingly. (The Smoking Gun, Man Indicted For Putting Semen In Yogurt Sample)

2) Question: I've been carefully reviewing Things You Can't Do on a Plane Volumes 1, 2 and 3) for guidance in my own situation, but no luck. What about using an expired boarding pass to sneak onto flights? Can you do that on a plane?

Answer: Of course not. That can get you charged with being a "stowaway" and attempting to enter a secure area of an airport by fraud or false pretense, and up to 15 years in prison. (The Associated Press, Man pleads not guilty to stowaway charges)

3) Question: I work for a mortgage lender. Every time we go out to try to execute a foreclosure we encounter an angry mob of hundreds of protesters at the property in question that force us to postpone the foreclosure. What is going on here?

Answer: Foreclosure protesters are starting to use the Internet to gather large crowds to interfere with threatened evictions or foreclosures. (The New York Times, Foreclosure Protesters in Spain’s Cities Now Go Door to Door)

July 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 19, 2011

Bewildered Lawyers Stumble on to Google+

Attention, lawyers: There is a new social networking site called Google+.

I am now on it, although like most of the other "early adopter" lawyers who have signed up for it I have no idea what to do with it. So far I have successfully posted the "These go to eleven" video clip from "Spinal Tap" and a photo of a Taco Bell sign that a departing employee hijacked and wrote, "I QUIT - ADAM - F*CK YOU" on. Despite these successes, I still feel I could be doing more with Google+.

But what?? For starters, nobody I know in the "real world" is even on Google+, so I have a grand total of zero people in my "Family" circle and an additional zero people in my "Friends" circle. I have added a couple dozen people to my "Acquaintances" circle, but these are the same lawyer-types who I "know" through Twitter (@brucecarton). So what am I supposed to share with them that I was not already sharing with them on Twitter? Is this new sharing supposed to be in lieu of the prior Twitter sharing or in addition to it? Somebody please 'splain this to me.

I have looked to other lawyers' Google+ feeds for guidance, but that has not really helped. On her Google+ feed, Amy Derby writes, "Ok. I'm here. Now what?" Scott Greenfield says that, like me, he is diligently placing people in his new Google+ circles. He adds, however, that "once they are all inside, I will hit delete. They will never know." Hmmmmm. Of course he said that on Twitter, not Google+. So far his only post on Google+ reads, "This box popped up and I don't know what I'm supposed to put in it." Ditto.

Those who have started posted diligently on Google+ seem to be operating under the assumption that the site is a place to talk about, well, Google+. It is like a reverse Fight Club, where "the first rule of Google+ is that we only talk about Google+." These discussions usually seem to revolve around why Google+ is the best social networking site and how, after two weeks, it has rendered things like Facebook and Twitter obsolete or at least dreadfully boring. See, e.g., "Google+ is Awesome. Facebook Maimed, Twitter Mortally Wounded?"

So anyway, I'm on Google+, awaiting a revelation as to what to do with it. If you have the answer to this (or even if you don't), feel free to circle me (is that the term??) and we can do whatever it is we're supposed to do on Google+ together.


July 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Why do these police officers keep writing me traffic tickets? Don't they know that I have good explanations and that, as a judge, I can just order that these tickets against me are dismissed?

Answer: True, but remember that the rules of judicial conduct in almost any jurisdiction will require you to disqualify yourself in proceedings in which you are a party. (Lancaster Online, Judge nixed her own tickets)

2) Question: I'm reaaalllly drunk and I've been put into the back of the "drunk van" by authorities. I could be wrong (did I mention I was really drunk?) but it seems like the van is being driven recklessly against traffic and that we just crashed into a bus. Can someone explain the "drunk van" concept again to me?

Answer: The idea is to pick up inebriated people and shuttle them to sleeping centers. But sometimes a drunk person who sees the van parked with the keys in the ignition will jump in and take the van for an ill-fated, against-traffic drive with the inebriated passengers in the back along for the ride. (The Associated Press, Alaska inebriate service van taken on drunken joyride)

3) Question: I've found a nice house in a great neighborhood in Texas that I'd like to live in. The house was a foreclosure and is now vacant. Can I just walk in, put up "No Trespassing" signs and take it for my own for free?

Answer: If you can manage to stay in the house for three years, you may be able to secure title to the house under Texas' law of adverse possession. (, Stranger moves into foreclosed home, citing little-knownTexas law)

July 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 18, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 3

Now that I am on the lookout, it is becoming clear to me that there are an infinite number of things you cannot do on a plane (in case you missed them, here are Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane).

Here are three more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Inhale from an electronic cigarette and then throw bags of snacks at flight attendants. You may not inhale from an electronic cigarette during the flight, nor may you throw bags of peanuts and pretzels at the flight attendants who enforce the ban on inhaling from an electronic cigarette. CONSEQUENCE: You may be "greeted" by FBI agents when your plane lands and arrested and charged with "interference with a flight crew."

  • Bring a stun gun on board the plane with you. This prohibition applies even if you leave the stun gun behind in the seatback pocket when you deplane. CONSEQUENCE: The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration will very much want to speak with you.

  • Allow a scorpion to sting one of your passengers mid-flight. This prohibition applies to all airlines, even those that fly to low-scorpion-risk areas such as Alaska Airlines. CONSEQUENCE:  4,000 frequent-flier miles and two round-trip tickets offered to the scorpion attack victim.

July 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a police officer. We responded to a report of a robber who broke into a woman's hair salon, but was caught in the act by the woman. The woman who owned the hair salon was a black belt and she quickly floored the robber with a kick, dragged him to a back room, stripped him naked and and tied him up with a hair dryer cable. She then allegedly force-fed him Viagra and used him as a sex slave for the next three days. This was not covered in the training. Who should we be arresting here?

Answer: Both the robber and the hair salon owner. (Daily Mail, Robber who broke into hair salon is beaten by its black-belt owner and kept as a sex slave for three days ... fed only Viagra)

2) Question: I'm a judge. One of the parties now before me is alleged to have thrown rocks and spit at his ex-girlfriend. This is odd to me because usually when I read a declaration that says, 'He spit on me, he threw rocks at me,' it is almost always a Middle Eastern client. Of course, if the declaration says, 'He drags me around the house by the hair,' it's almost always a Hispanic client. I'm quite puzzled.

Answer: Are you saying this out loud, your honor? Because if so, you might soon be hearing from the Commission on Judicial Performance. (The Recorder, Orange County Judge Admonished for Insensitive Comments)

3) Question: My friends and I were playing a great game where we try to punch each other in the groin. I just got punched square in the testicles by one of my friends. May I have $670,000 from his insurance company?

Answer: You may not. (The Recorder, Appeal Court: Punching Friend in the Groin No 'Accident')

July 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 15, 2011

Trust Me, I'm an Expert: Shit Experts

Last month, after learning of the existence of testifying experts in fields such as "smell" and "lap dancing," I introduced a new series of posts called "Trust Me, I'm an Expert." Today I give you the latest addition to this lineup: the shit expert.

[Wait, did he go there, you are asking? Did Carton write the word shit without an asterisk where the "i" would be ("sh*t")? Oh yes I did, because that is exactly what the august and distinguished Court of Appeals of Iowa did 21 times in its opinion concerning shit experts released on Wednesday. So please direct all complaints to: Court of Appeals of Iowa, Iowa Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319. Or you could just try to deal with it.]

In short, in State of Iowa v. Landis, an inmate at the Iowa State Penitentiary named Steven Landis squirted a prison security guard in the face and chest "with a stream of brown liquid that smelled like human feces." Landis then started yelling, “I got you with shit.”

Landis was later charged with and convicted of assaulting Helmick with feces in violation of Iowa Code section 708.3B (2009) (inmate assault -- bodily fluids or secretions). He appealled the conviction on the grounds that "the State failed to prove the substance he sprayed on Helmick was feces." Specifically, Landis argued that the "lay opinions" offered at his trial "regarding the brown substance were insufficient to sustain a conviction and expert testimony was required."

So was a shit expert required here? The lower court said no, finding that "every human being has personal experience and observations of fecal material and I think that, as a result, every human being who is of competent mind can offer a lay opinion as to whether a substance is feces or not. ..." On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Iowa agreed:

Paraphrase of an old adage seems apropos under the circumstances: If it looks like feces, if it smells like feces, if it has the color and texture of feces, then it must be feces. No witness with a degree in scatology was required, nor was scientific testing required to establish the fact the substance was feces. Thus, Landis's conviction for assault on a correctional officer with a bodily fluid was supported by sufficient evidence.

So scratch "testifying shit expert" off of your list of potential jobs. In Iowa, at least, that job simply does not exist.

July 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: We have been preparing for years to prosecute a huge criminal trial against a celebrity athlete. The trial starts this week and the judge recently issued an order regarding what evidence is admissible. Is this order something we need to actually comply with or is it merely advisory?

Answer: You must comply with it or face a mistrial. That's why it is called an "order." (Bloomberg, Clemens Mistrial Declared on Barred Evidence)

2) Question: I saw your post on Wednesday that the governor's chef and housekeeper have been deemed "essential" employees in the Minnesota budget debate. I can live with that, but what is this I hear that my beer supply may be affected? That I cannot live with.

Answer: Well, then, call your state representative because to sell beer in Minnesota, a company must renew its registration every three years. MillerCoors' registration came up for renewal in mid-June, but wasn't finalized before the state government shut down on July 1. So soon you won't have any Miller or Coors products, and the same will be true for Anheuser-Busch products if the shutdown extends into October. (Consumerist, Minnesota Govt. Shutdown Also Resulting In Beer Shortages)

3) Question: We run a daycare in Colorado. We presently have four classrooms for school age kids, and a total of six sets of blocks (8 in a set).  Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: For now, no. But if the recently proposed Colorado Department of Human Services Proposed Child Care Center Rules are passed, then you're going to be in violation of the block-sets-per-classroom ratio, not to mention the number-of-blocks-per-set rule. Plan accordingly. (Popehat, The Colorado Department of Human Services Knows, In Terrifying Detail, What Is Best For Your Children)

July 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 14, 2011

5th Circuit Unloads on 'Disgruntled Cheerleader Mom'

How about this for the opening line in a federal circuit court opinion?

Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court. We find no error and affirm.

On Wednesday, the 5th Circuit unloaded some serious frustration upon Liz Laningham, the "disgruntled cheerleader mom" who saw fit to waste the court's time with a claim that the court seemed to view as more appropriate for a cheerleading squad parents' meeting. In short, Laningham's daughter, Samantha Sanches, was involved in a series of disagreements with classmates, including whether the tryouts were fair, whether someone called her a "ho" at school, something about a "hickey," whether the freshman squad captain should be removed from her position because she kissed Sanches' then-boyfriend, and a whole bunch of other cheerleader drama that was ultimately memorialized in a six-page letter from a lawyer to the school superintendent.

I'm sure a more interesting account of 99 percent of what went down at Creekview High School can be seen in movies such as "Mean Girls", so I will dispense with any further recitation of the facts. But just know that 5th Circuit Judges Jerry E. Smith, Harold R. DeMoss Jr. and Priscilla Owen were not at all pleased with the plaintiff for darkening their judicial doorstep with this appeal, and were particularly peeved with the "unprofessional," "unjustified" and typo-ridden way that Sanches and her attorneys took issue with the magistrate's opinion.

The court wrote that this "attack" on the magistrate was "so poorly written that it is difficult to decipher what the attorneys mean, but any plausible reading is troubling" and added that the "miscues are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them." The court also quoted a passage from Sanches' brief that it labeled "an unjustified and most unprofessional and disrespectful attack on the judicial process in general and the magistrate judge assignment here in particular," adding that under any possible reading the brief was "reprehensible."

After fully venting (read the whole thing here) (via The Volokh Conspiracy), the 5th Circuit held that summary judgment on all of Sanches' claims was affirmed.

July 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I live in Idaho. It is noon but there is suddenly a dark, buzzing cloud around my house. And now a whole lot of bears have started to roam around my neighborhood. Is this the End of Days?

Answer: Idaho? Then no, it is not the End of Days but rather a truck accident that caused the truck's cargo of 400 bee hives, 14 million bees and a whole lot of honey to be released in your neighborhood. The bees are the buzzing cloud and, as you may know, the bears like the honey. You might want to stay inside today. (Daily Mail, Sticky situation: Truck spills 14 MILLION bees and their honey in crash)

2) Question: I live next to a state park. I have put up two "No Trespassing" signs at the bottom of my  driveway, a "Private Drive" sign 50 feet farther up the drive, another "No Trespassing" sign closer to my home, an 8-foot-long orange traffic barricade with signs reading "Private Driveway/Private Residence" and "No Park Access," and another sign at the bottom of the driveway that reads "NOT Park Entrance ... Private Driveway ... Google Maps is wrong!" But I still get dozens of people driving into my driveway looking for the park. What more can I do?

Answer: Nothing. If Google Maps says that your driveway is the entrance to the state park, then your driveway is the entrance to the state park. Just accept it. (Consumerist, Google Maps Says My Driveway Is The Entrance To State Park)

3) Question: I'm representing a defendant in state court. I don't like the sign hanging above the judge's bench that reads, "We who labor here seek only the truth." You can't handle the truth! Can I get that sign taken down? 

Answer: The sign stays. (ABA Journal, Judge Denies Defense Lawyer’s Motion to Take Down Courtroom ‘Truth’ Sign) P.S.: Make sure the judges don't try to pull this "truthiness" trick on you, either:

Image of You're not just telling us what we want to hear?

July 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 13, 2011

The Use of the 'Perp Walk' in Criminal Cases: Offense and Defense

In The National Law Journal this week, Mike Scarcella writes about the use of the "perp walk" in criminal proceedings, and whether it is reasonable for authorities to use this tactic on defendants who have yet to be convicted. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, a perp walk is a media spectacle that typically involves police putting a high-profile defendant in handcuffs (and sometimes an orange jumpsuit, to boot) and parading him or her into a courthouse for their initial court appearance.

It looks like this, in the case of accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford:


Or more recently, like this in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn:


As the Strauss-Kahn case may demonstrate, however, not all perp-walked defendants will turn out to be convicted. By the time they are found not guilty, however, the image of their perp walk will be imprinted on the public consciousness -- a bell that cannot be unrung. Perhaps surprisingly, this possibility is given greater consideration in places like France than in the U.S. Indeed, the NLJ article reports that it is illegal in France to publish photos of defendants in handcuffs unless the person is convicted.

In the U.S., defendants have attempted to challenge the practice of perp walks without success. In 2003, the 2nd Circuit upheld the practice, ruling that perp walks "may deter others from attempting similar crimes." Critics point out, however, that the public shaming that comes with the perp walk is inconsistent with the presumption of innocence that is a core principle of U.S. criminal law.

What, then, are defendants facing a perp walk to do? Some have tried to defeat the perp walk by shielding their faces like the guy in the image at the top of this post. But as I pointed out years ago, this type of face-shield has its drawbacks, including the "real risk of walking straight into a pole or stepping in a hole or something." I also suggested that some entrepreneur might want to roll out a line of Perp Masks (examples below) that would do the job of the manilla folder above while still permitting the defendant to see and breathe.  But five years later no one has run with my idea, leaving U.S. "perps" in their current predicament.

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July 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Our state government is in a budget dispute and all non-essential state employees will not be getting paid. I'm the governor's housekeeper -- am I "essential?"

Answer: Of course! And tell the governor's chef not to worry, either. (The Associated Press, Row over who's still paid in Minnesota shutdown)

2) Question: I saw your post about the intoxicated woman who had a sober friend drive her and still was charged with the crime of "public intoxication" when the car was pulled over for a burnt-out light on the license plate. I'm a bit tipsy right now myself -- I be charged with anything if I have my 14-year-old (unlicensed) son drive me to a liquor store?

Answer: You would think so, but in some places this merely results in a citation for allowing your underage son to drive without a license. (Bad Lawyer, We're Drunk, But We Aren't Driving, Officer, um Doesn't Work)

3) Question: I'm a waiter an unemployed actor. Are there any opportunities in the legal sector that I should be pursuing?

Answer: Check out Actors-at-Law. They hire professional actors to serve as deposition readers at trial in "roles" such as doctors, surgeons, engineers, police officers and nurses. (PrawfsBlawg, Something new under the sun: Actors for hire to read depositions)

July 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 12, 2011

Professor Turley Heads to Utah to Fight Anti-Polygamy Statute

BrownsTLC Jonathan Turley, the author of one of my favorite blogs and a professor at George Washington University, announced today that he is traveling to Utah to file a lawsuit challenging a state statute criminalizing bigamy and cohabitation. Turley is representing the Brown family, which is presently attracting a good bit of attention as the focal point of a television show about a polygamous family called Sister Wives.

In a statement about the imminent filing (Turley plans to file the complaint on Wednesday), Turley said that the case is about protecting citizens' "right to be left alone" and to live according to their own values. He said he views the case as:

the strongest factual and legal basis for a challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in the federal courts. We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs.

Like many of you, Kody Brown has a civil marriage with one wife. Perhaps unlike many of you, however, Brown also has three “sister wives” with whom he is not formally married, not to mention 16 children and stepchildren.

Professor Marci Hamilton told NPR that there have been more than 100 challenges to polygamy laws and all have failed. The Browns' lawsuit, however, will rely on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas. The New York Times reports that based on the Lawrence case, which held that state sodomy laws were unconstitutional intrusions on adults' "intimate conduct," Turley and the Browns will seek protection for the "intimate conduct" of polygamists. Turley says that “there are many religious practices in monogamous families that many believe as obnoxious and patriarchal. ... The criminal code is not a license for social engineering.”

July 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Gramma Anna wants to take my 5-year-old son (her grandson) out to brunch today. But the restaurant won't let them in because it refuses to serve children under the age of 6. Is this legal?

Answer: Senior citizens cannot be discriminated against but 5-year-olds can. So either Gramma Anna goes alone or they'll need to choose a different restaurant. (, Noise Prompts Monroeville Restaurant To Ban Young Kids) (via Consumerist)

2) Question: I had an iPad with me when I went through airport security. Now it has vanished! What the heck is going on?

Answer: Do you see any rectangular, iPad-size bulges in the pants of the TSA officer on duty? Sometimes they'll just take your iPad, stuff it down their pants and try to sell it online before their shift is over. (New Times, TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say)

3) Question: My elementary school-age student is a great typist, but he can't even write his own name with a pen. What are they teaching the kids these days?

Answer: I guess you are in Indiana? Because one thing they are definitely not teaching the kids in Indiana schools any more is how to write longhand. (The Wall Street Journal, The Handwriting Is on the Wall)

July 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2011

Are Court Reporters 'Medieval Scribes' Headed for Extinction?

The Austin Statesman reported earlier this month on the state of court reporting in Texas, and it raises a question in my mind: is the position of court reporter long for this world? Would it be "unthinkable," for example, for the profession to disappear altogether by the year 2020?

For many, many years there was a clear need for a person to attend a trial in the role of scribe. This person was charged with recording exactly what was stated at trial to ensure that a transcript could be generated in the rare event of an appeal. But in the year 2011, must this role still be filled by a human? Couldn't some combination of 21st century audio and video equipment adequately and accurately capture what is said in court, for far less money and without many of the calamitous outcomes described in the Statesman article?

The Statesman observes that when a court reporter leaves the trial with her notes or stenographic records, those notes may be the only record of what occurred. If the court reporter then fails to produce a transcript for whatever reason, an appeal of the original trial may be impossible. In one case the reporter's notes were destroyed in a tornado. In other cases there have been unreasonable delays waiting for the reporter's work, or the transcript delivered has been riddled with errors.

In a case highlighted in the article, a court reporter's computer crashed, destroying her notes and leading to her being fined and having her license suspended. The court reporter had also worked in a separate proceeding where prosecutors wanted to file an appeal, but the court reporter could not create the needed transcript due to the suspension. For some reason, the Statesman reports, the reporter also refused to turn over her notes. When the parties predictably could not agree on the words that had been spoken at trial, the court finally just gave up and "determined that the entire reporter's record of the bench trial was lost or destroyed." The effect of this was to render the original trial result moot, as if it had never happened, and the parties had to start all over again.

Some states like Utah have already switched over to a completely electronic recording system. A spokeswoman for the Utah state courts said there have been no problems created by the switch and the average time it takes to generate a transcript has plummeted from 138 days to about two weeks. Now the Texas Conference of State Court Administrators has issued a report of its own questioning the state's reliance on human court reporters to create transcripts, calling the current system inefficient, costly and, in some ways, "completely baffling." According to the Statesman, the report "wonder[s] why, in a digital age of inexpensive and increasingly sophisticated electronic recording equipment, the business of producing crucial court transcripts more resembled a system of medieval scribes."

July 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My "friend" just gave me a Sharper Image gift card as a birthday present. Sharper Image?! Didn't that place go bankrupt years ago? What am I supposed to do with this card?

Answer: Yes, Sharper Image stopped accepting gift cards right before it declared bankruptcy in 2008, but thanks to a class action you can use your newly acquired card to file a claim to get a few dollars back. Congratulations, you are now a class action plaintiff! (Consumerist, Still Have A Sharper Image Gift Card? It Might Actually Be Worth Something)

2) Question: Not that I can even throw or catch a football, but can you direct me to any research on the issue of whether playing collegiate/pro football or going to law school would take a more substantial long-term toll on me?

Answer: Of course. (Policymic, How Law School Resembles The NFL Draft) (via Above the Law)

3) Question: I'm a police officer. I just pulled a woman over for talking on her cell phone while driving, but she won't give me her license because she claims to be from another world. She told me flat-out: "Your laws and penalties don't apply to me. I'm not accepting them, I'm sorry, I must go, thank you." This was not covered by the training. How should I proceed?

Answer: There are certain self-styled witches who believe they are not subject to earthly laws, but this is for the judge to decide, not you. (Law and Magic Blog, Pagan Priestess Says Local Laws Don't Apply; Judge Disagrees)

July 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2011

Trend Watch: Future Pro Athletes Signing Faux Contracts With Family Members

Like the rest of the world, I was touched to read about the contract that T.J. Fredette asked his little brother Jimmer to sign in 2007, near the end of Fredette's junior year of high school. For those of you who have been in trial for the last two years or so, Jimmer Fredette is a basketball phenom who was just selected 10th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and who will soon be playing for the Sacramento Kings.

The contract states that "I James T. Fredette agree on this day, Jan 27, 2007 to do the work and make the necessary sacrifices to be able to reach my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA."


The Jimmer-T.J. contract is pinned on the wall above Jimmer's childhood bed. Jimmer says the contract "engrained my NBA goal in my mind," and reminded him daily to do get in the shooting, exercise and drills he needed.

I had moved on from the cute Jimmer story when I saw today that as Derek Jeter closes in on his 3,000th hit as a Major League Baseball player, one of his sponsors, Brand Jordan, has introduced its new "DJ3K Collection" that features a pair of special trainer shoes and cleats. According to the Big League Stew blog, both pairs of shoes are lined inside with a reproduction of a "contract" that Jeter's father, Dr. Charles Jeter, handwrote and asked Jeter to sign on his first day of high school. The agreement "laid out a personal code of conduct, 18 points that cover everything from grade expectations ('3.8 or above, 4.0 -- extra reward') to his dating life ('Respect girls/like you want to be respected')." At the bottom, Jeter simply writes, "I agree."

Here is the Jeter contract as shown on the liners of the shoes (see the whole thing here):


So that makes two superstars with faux contracts with family members that I know of now, and I have a feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you will excuse me, I have to go draw up something for my four boys to sign.

July 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a county supervisor in Southern California. We're tired of the high taxes, inadequate schools and border issues we're now facing. Can my county and the others in Southern California secede from the state and form our own state of South California?

Answer: You can try but it looks like this will not be easy. And make sure you line up a water supply before you pull the trigger on this. (The Volokh Conspiracy, California Dreamin' of Secession)

2) Question: Is this happening? Are my three friends and I actually being carjacked by an octogenarian woman with a large handgun?

Answer: Sometimes grannies will pull out a handgun and order a car full of young men to get out of their car because the granny wrongly thinks it his her own car that the men are seated in. Sorry, sonny! (Legal Antics, A Senior Moment)

3) Question: Why is it so hot in my house? Yes, it is summer here in Chicago but this is ridiculous!

Answer: Are you in the Chatham neighborhood of Chicago? If so, go take a look at where your central air conditioning unit sits on your lot-- or used to sit. There have been a rash of incidents lately where thieves have gone into people's back yards or crawled onto rooftops to steal entire central AC units. You might consider putting a cage with three locks around your new unit when you replace the missing one -- that's what other people are doing. (CBS, Thieves In Chatham Targeting Air Conditioners)

July 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2011

'Thinking the Unthinkable' About the Legal Profession

On his [non]billable hour blog, Matt Homann points to an interesting idea by futurist Herman Khan that Khan calls "thinking the unthinkable." The purpose of such thinking is to "loosen up the imagination in trying to forecast the future."

Homann writes that the current legal world includes services and concepts that were nonexistent a decade ago, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Avvo and LegalZoom. So what, then, is "unthinkable" for the year 2020? Homann suggests a few legal profession unthinkables, including:

  • The court system, as a venue for dispute resolution of any kind, will cease to exist. Every dispute will either be settled in mediation or through submission to a computerized, artificial intelligence system, and parties will be bound by its decision.
  • Law schools will merge with business schools to actually teach students both to "think like a lawyer" and to run a profitable business.

Here are a few of my own unthinkables for the year 2020:

  • The billable hour will cease to exist as a form of billing for law firms.
  • Law review publications will cease to exist.
  • 50 percent of U.S. law schools will close their doors due to overcapacity.
  • Jurors will be permitted to serve remotely, i.e., via computer/video connection rather than in person.

What are your unthinkable scenarios for the legal profession?

July 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am incarcerated in a prison, but what gives the state the right to call me an "inmate?" The word "inmate" wrongly implies that I am "locked up for the purpose of mating with other men," and that's absolutely not the case! Can I sue the state over this?

Answer: You can, but please consider that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word you dislike "derives from 'inn-mate,' or 'one who occupies a dwelling [e.g. an inn] along with others,' not 'one who goes to an inn in order to mate.'" (Lowering the Bar, Lawsuit Demands End to Use of Term "Inmate")

2) Question: I have carefully read Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane. That is useful information, but what about taking a photo of the nametag of a rude flight attendant. Can you do that on a plane?

Answer: No way. That would make you a security risk. (Pixiq, Woman Escorted Off US Airways Flight For Snapping Photo) (via Consumerist)

3) Question: I'm homeless, but I have a cell phone that needs to be charged. Can I charge my cell phone up using an outdoor electrical outlet belonging to a local business?

Answer: It may just be a couple of pennies worth of electricity but using someone else's outdoor outlet in places like Bangor, Maine can get you charged with the crime of "theft of services." (KFBK News, Man Charged For Plugging Cell Phones Into Outdoor Outlets) (via Jonathan Turley)

July 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 06, 2011

Entenmann's Discovers a Fourth Type of 'Self-Destructive Corporate Tweet'

Back in April, I discussed a post on the Convince & Convert blog on "The 3 Types of Self-Destructive Corporate Tweets." Jay Baer broke the types of self-destructive tweets into three categories:

Type 1: "Wrong Pipe" -- 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. The U.S. Secret Service recently learned about "wrong pipe" tweets the hard way.

Type 2: "Tone Deaf" -- tweets that go beyond a careless error to questions of appropriateness, as in the example below from shoe CEO Kenneth Cole:

Kenneth Cole s Egypt Tweet  Train Wreck! The 3 Types of Self Destructive Corporate Tweets
Type 3: "Too Much Information" -- where people "misplace the filter between mind and keyboard," such as when a former Ketchum executive tweeted the following on the way to visit his client, FedEx:

keyinfluencertweet 300x38 Train Wreck! The 3 Types of Self Destructive Corporate Tweets

A tweet Tuesday by baked goods company Entenmann's has me thinking that we may need to add a fourth type of self-destructive tweet to the list. Entenmann's tweet, discussed below, initially looks like a "tone deaf" tweet, but it is different in that it lacks the requisite mens rea. Let's call it ...

Type 4: Tweet First, Ask Questions Later -- when people try to promote their product by blindly jumping on board a trending Twitter hashtag. As Entenmann's learned, doing so may result, unwittingly, in a Kenneth Cole Type 2 embarrassment if you later learn that the trending hashtag (e.g., "#notguilty) relates to the controversial acquittal of a woman on child murder charges. Here is Entenmann's Type 4 tweet following the Casey Anthony "not guilty" verdict, and its subsequent apology (via Consumerist):


Entenmann's social media agency, Likeable -- which posted the tweet on Entenmann's behalf -- issued its own statement apologizing for the tweet:

The Entenmann’s brand relies on us for our expertise in social media and unfortunately we let them down. We apologized on behalf of the Entenmann’s brand right away, however, as the leader of Entenmann’s social media agency, I would like to personally say I’m sorry if the tweet offended anyone. The truth is, our team was leveraging the trending topics and moving so fast they neglected to see what the hashtag was related to. It was obviously insensitive, and on behalf of the entire Likeable team and our client, Entenmann’s, I’m sorry.

July 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My company is filled with huge Yankees fans. We're not sponsors of Derek Jeter, but we'd like to post an ad congratulating him for his upcoming milestone 3,000th hit. Is there anything we should know before we post our ad?

Answer: Yes, make sure you do not include Jeter's name, his likeness, the number 3,000 or even the word "captain" in any paid ads. If you do, Jeter's people will "do whatever is necessary" to stop you. (New York Post, Jeter's handlers play hardball on 3,000 hits)

2) Question: Unbeknownst to me, my mom cleaned my toilet with MY TOOTHBRUSH and then put my toothbrush back in the holder. I have the police on Line 2. What crime has been committed against me? Attempted murder?

Answer: That is the crime of "harassment" in some jurisdictions. (UPI, Mom accused of toilet toothbrush tamper) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I'm a prison guard. A woman who is leaving a conjugal visit with one of our inmates seems quite nervous and is lugging a bulky suitcase. What should I do?

Answer: Check that suitcase. Sometimes prison visitors will try to stuff an inmate into a suitcase and wheel him out with the guards noticing. Heads up! (The Associated Press, Suitcase Prison Escape: Maria Del Mar Arjona Tries To Sneak Juan Ramirez Tijerina Out Of Mexican Jail)


July 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 05, 2011

The Bitch is Back: Michigan Reverses Course, Allows Sale of 'Raging Bitch' Beer

In March 2011 I wrote here about Frederick, Md.-based Flying Dog Brewery, whose license application to sell its best-selling beer in Michigan was rejected by the state's Liquor Control Commission. The application was rejected because the beer is called "Raging Bitch," and includes a label with some other choice words (see below).

Flying Dog fought back with a federal lawsuit claiming the ban violated its rights under the First Amendment to free expression, and, on Tuesday, June 28, the commission reversed its decision banning Raging Bitch. In short ... The Bitch is Back!

On its website, Flying Dog states that the reversal came three weeks after the first hearing in the case, when the brewer sought a preliminary injunction against the ban. According to The Associated Press, a spokesperson for the commission said the agency reversed itself to "follow ... a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found states cannot engage in 'content-based discrimination.'"

Flying Dog stated that despite the commission's reversal and approval of the sale of Raging Bitch in Michigan, "we have no interest in dropping the First Amendment lawsuit." The company still seeks to challenge the Commission's authority "to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional" and to recover damages from the initial loss of sales. "The litigation won't end until the Commissioners accept responsibility for the damage they’ve caused by violating the First Amendment," an attorney for Flying Dog stated.


July 5, 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 believe I can save tens of dollars if I take all of the coupons from all of the newspapers in the vending machine when I buy a single paper. Is this going to be a problem? It's not like I'm taking the actual newspapers.

Answer: Yes, it will be a problem and you could be charged with the crime of "fraudulent destruction or removal or concealment of writing." (Consumerist, Extreme Couponer Arrested For Stealing Coupon Inserts)

2) Question: I was just pulled over by police and given a speeding ticket for going 182 mph on my motorcycle. Can you tell me (a) what is the fine for 182 mph and (b) is 182 mph a new record?

Answer: It looks like the fine for going 182 mph is $375 and a court order to buy high-risk insurance. As for the record, we don't have good data on that here but I do know it exceeds the 102 mph by the woman who was late to her salon appointment and the 128 mph (on a 45 mph street) recorded by NASCAR Driver Kyle Busch. (Legal Juice, You Call That Speeding? More Like Time Traveling)

3) Question: I have carefully read Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane. Thank you for that information. One thing I did not see covered -- what about getting out of your seat and urinating in the aisle of the plane mid-flight? Can you do that on a plane?

Answer: Volumes 1 and 2 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane are not an exhaustive list of prohibitions. Of course you may not urinate in the aisle of a plane. People, please! (The New Zealand Herald, Drunk flyer urinates in plane aisle)

July 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 01, 2011

House of Representatives Finally Permits Members to Use Skype, ooVoo

The House of Representatives announced this week that its members will finally be able to use the same video teleconferencing technology that most of the world, including my fifth grader, has been using for some time now: Skype and ooVoo. The Hill reports that in a "Dear Colleague" letter on Tuesday, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) announced the roll-out of these technologies and stated that "[d]uring a time when Congress must do more with less, utilizing low-cost, real-time communication tools is an effective way to inform and solicit feedback from your constituents."

In fairness to the House, it is not just now discovering things like Skype, and its members have reportedly been asking to use such technologies for more than a year. Until now, however, there were concerns that such communications could not be kept confidential. There was also a concern that the webcams used in video communications might somehow be turned on remotely by outsiders. These security concerns have now been resolved to to the point where the House has allowed lawmakers to use Skype and ooVoo on the House's Public Wi-Fi network.

Ars Techinca reports that on Skype's own blog, the company notes in a post entitled, "Skype is in 'Da House" that

Now, Members of Congress can reduce travel time and related costs while increasing and improving communications, transparency, and government accountability through the experience of Skype video calling. Skype enables lawmakers to hold meetings with their constituents who are unable to travel to the Congressional office, participate in virtual town hall meetings when the Member is not in her District, and build relationships and collaborate more effectively with other Members on important legislative efforts.

The Senate has not similarly embraced Skype thus far because it does not have a public Wi-Fi network. A Senate spokesperson said it does allow "desktop video-teleconferencing for offices both internally and externally through its own secure system, not through Skype." Senators like Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), however, say they manage to use Skype anyway ("in my music," he said) and encourage staff to do so, as well.

July 1, 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: Pursuant to a cease-and-desist order we are trying to obtain in federal court, the defendant will not be able to sell certain items for two (2) months. Prior to the time we filed our motion, the defendant was infringing on our trademarks due to his unlawful sales. How can we --

Answer: STOP!! Are you trying to write like a tool? Because in two sentences you have already violated Rules 1 through 5 in the "20 Ways to Write Like a Tool" handbook. (Above the Law, 20 Ways to Write Like a Tool)

2) Question: Every doggone day I apply the "Nivea My Silhouette! with Bio-Slim Complex" cream to my stomach and thighs. But unlike the woman in the commercial, my old skinny jeans are definitely NOT fitting me any better. Am I applying the cream incorrectly? 

Answer: Sorry, but this week the maker of that cream entered into a settlement with the FTC and is now "barred from claiming that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size." (The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, FTC Wins Fat Settlement Over Skinny Lotion Ads)

3) Question: I just moved to the Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in China. Why do dozens of pregnant women keep stealing all of my stuff?

Answer: Don't worry, that gang of 46 pregnant women has finally been arrested and prosecuted for their many thefts (averaging 400 per month). The gang members repeatedly got pregnant because until now police would not usually arrest pregnant women. (Legal Juice, The Most Unusual Criminal Gang Ever?)

July 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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