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August 31, 2011

Should Lawyers File a 'Notice of Unavailability' With Court Before Disappearing on Vacation?

I practiced law for about a decade in the Washington, D.C., area and don't remember ever seeing a "Notice of Unavailability" filed in any case. But, as South Florida Lawyers points out, lawyers do sometimes file such motions (at least in the Southern District of Florida) which alert the court, other lawyers and the parties in the case that the lawyer filing the motion will be "unavailable" for a particular period of time. As in this recent example cited by SFL, the Notice of Unavailability may go on to state, optimistically, that "[a]ll parties therefore shall refrain from filing any motions, notices of hearing, or refrain from setting hearings during this time period."

SFL notes that in an order issued last year, Magistrate Judge Stephen Brown wrote that while there was no rule actually prohibiting someone from filing a Notice of Unavailability, there was no local or federal rule supporting such a filing either. Thus, Brown stated, "while the Court is not precluding anyone from filing same, and as a matter of professionalism and courtesy they should be considered, the parties should understand that these filings have no legal significance."

So is it worthwhile to file a Notice of Unavailability before you get on board that cruise ship for your three-week trip? SFL seems convinced that it is not. Last August SFL wrote that it was a

dated practice of dubious utility. If you have a conflict with an actual (as opposed to a possible or hypothetical future) Court deadline, ask the Court to move it. If you don't want the opposing party to schedule something while you're on vacation, pick up the phone and ask them about it.

In SFL's post Tuesday about the subject, SFL reiterates that advice and again advises those who might be tempted to file a Notice of Unavailability not to do it. Others are less critical of the practice, however. One commenter on SFL's original post says that while a Notice of Unavailability lacks any legal significance, it can give you at least a thread of an argument ("I filed this Notice of Unavailability two months ago, judge") to move a status conference that is suddenly set for a date while you are at sea. Another adds that filing a Notice of Unavailability "hardly works against you. It may, to the contrary, help you out down the road."

Have any readers had success using a Notice of Unavailability?

August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (8)

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 got into an argument with my boyfriend and told him to go home.  When I woke up I found him in my room shaving off my hair with electric clippers. Unacceptable! This has to be some crime, right?

Answer: He could face charges of domestic battery for that unauthorized haircut. (Naples Daily NewsBuzzing mad: Immokalee man charged with shaving sleeping girlfriend's head)

2) Question: There is a beehive in a tree on my property in a suburban neighborhood, and a bee just stung one of my buddies. Unacceptable! Can I "retaliate" against that evil bee's hivemates by pouring gasoline on the tree and exploding it?

Answer: Firefighters say the correct way to address this situation is to call a beekeeper, not to blow up the tree with gasoline and fire. (The Bellingham HeraldLynden man causes explosion after igniting gasoline-soaked beehive)

3) Question: I am a screener for the TSA at the airport. Is that seven snakes in that guy's pocket or is he just really happy to see me?

Answer: It is seven snakes. And three tortoises. (CBS News, U.S. arrests man with snakes, tortoises in pants)

August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 30, 2011

Protecting the Ugly Under the Americans With Disabilities Act

Ugly Let's face it, you're ugly. U-G-L-Y, you ain't go no alibi.

No, not you, LBW readers! You are all obviously of above-average attractiveness. I'm talking about those other people over there, the ugly ones who earn less money, marry lower-earning spouses, get offered worse deals on mortgages, and basically get hosed throughout life to the tune of about $230,000 in lost lifetime earnings according to some studies.

In The New York Times last weekend, Daniel S. Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, argues that it may be time for federal law to protect the ugly in the same way that it protects racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals. Hamermesh writes that:

Ugliness could be protected generally in the United States by small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could be allowed to seek help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies in overcoming the effects of discrimination. We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly.

Hamermesh already knows what you are thinking -- isn't beauty is in the eye of the beholder? How can we identify the truly ugly? He responds that studies show that "when it comes to differentiating classes of attractiveness, we all view beauty similarly: someone whom you consider good-looking will be viewed similarly by most others; someone you consider ugly will be viewed as ugly by most others." Hamermesh says that to administer an ADA tweaked to protect the ugly, society would simply need to agree on who is "truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population." Doing so, he says, should not be much more difficult than deciding who currently qualifies for protection under the ADA for having a disability that limits the activities of their daily life.

Over at Point of Law, Ted Frank is not persuaded of the wisdom of this idea. At all. Frank calls the proposal "nonsense" and "public policy malpractice" that he might expect from a law professor or a sociologist, but not an economist:

No one ever seems to think about the workability of such litigation: does a "7" have a prima facie cause of action if he or she is passed over a promotion for a "9"? Is a pleasant appearance a legitimate job requirement for sales, or does an employer have to accept the problem of repulsing customers? Is slovenliness and being unkempt protected, or does the right only extend to aesthetic problems of the face and body?

Frank also wants to know if a defendant charged with ugliness discrimination can demand that the plaintiff get a pre-trial "makeover" and whether the plaintiff can come to trial deliberately looking extra-ugly via unflattering makeup and clothing.

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I was thrilled to read your Q&A about Rome police performing an undercover sting on the "Mean Gladiators" who get paid to be in tourists' photos outside the Colosseum in Rome, and who try to intimidate and even beat up others who want to be gladiators. I am trying to be a doughnut vendor on Paliouri beach in Greece but there are three Mean Doughnut Vendors there who are using violence to keep other doughnut vendors off of their turf. Any chance the Greek police will perform a similar undercover sting in the beach doughnut industry?

Answer: Help is on the way. (The Associated Press, Greek Police Smash Violent Doughnut Ring)

Campbelltomato-Small 2) Question: Quick question: If Campbell's Tomato Soup has 480 grams of sodium, how many grams of sodium does Campbell's Tomato Soup 25% Less Sodium contain?

Answer: This is Legal Blog Watch. We don't do math. But this trick question does not require math because if you look at the tiny fine print below the "25% less sodium" it reads "than regular condensed soup." So the answer is ... the same 480 grams. (Consumerist, Campbell's Settles Lawsuit Over "25% Less Sodium" Soup Label)

3) Question: I sometimes keep my money in my underwear -- don't judge. Can this convenience store really turn down my legal tender just because it has some admittedly nasty sweat on it?

Answer: Looks like yes. (Tosh.0 blog, ATTENTION)

NoLonger Accept

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2011

Lamebook Update: Parody Site Can Keep Name but Must Add Disclaimer

Back in November 2010, I wrote here about "Lamebook," a parody website that "highlights the funny, absurd, and often 'lame' content that gets posted on the Facebook website." As a review of the Lamebook site shows confirms, there is plenty of absurd and sometimes amusing Facebook material being captured there (and also at sites such as Failbook).

Facebook was not as amused as others by Lamebook, claiming in a strongly worded letter to Lamebook that "Lamebook’s use of the LAMEBOOK mark infringes Facebook's well-established trademark rights in the FACEBOOK mark. ..." Lamebook went on the offensive, filing a preemptive lawsuit in federal court in Austin, Texas that sought a declaratory judgment "of non-infringement and non-dilution [of Facebook's trademarks] and a declaration that the First Amendment protects the Lamebook mark." Four days later, of course, Facebook struck back by filing its own trademark infringement case, and the Facebook-Lamebook battle was on.

The Recorder now reports that a settlement has been reached in the case which allows Lamebook to keep its name. Under the settlement, Lamebook agreed to add a disclaimer to its website and further agreed not to seek trademark protection for its name. "The parties are now satisfied that users are not likely to be confused," the companies said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Final Score of Lamebook v. Facebook:

Lamebook Users: 1 (nobody was confused before, nobody is confused now; 1 point for not needing to find Lamebook at a different URL)
Facebook: 0 (this whole dispute was lame and not worth the effort)
Lamebook: 2 (1 point for keeping name, 1 point for keeping URL) 
Lawyers on both sides who got paid to litigate this "dispute": 10 ($$$)

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

1) Question: For years I was the general manager of a major league baseball team. My city even named a street after me. Now that I've been fired from the team, the state department of transportation wants to rename my street! Can they do that?

Answer: The state controls the roadways, so it looks like you're out of luck. (Chicago Sun-TimesWith Hendry out, Park Ridge wants 'Jim Hendry Way' gone too)

2) Question: I'm a doctor performing a circumcision on an adult patient. Can I instead perform an amputation of my unconscious patient's penis if I believe it is necessary?

Answer: At least one doctor has prevailed in a lawsuit on this very issue. (Insurance Journal, Kentucky Jury Sides with Doctor In Penis Amputation Malpractice Claim)

3) Question: I want to send a virtual "smile" to this guy I like on the "Christian Mingle" dating website. Why can't I get my smile to go through to him?

Answer: Are you a guy, too? Because you cannot send a "smile" to users of the same gender on Christian Mingle. (FAILBlog, Dating: Thou Shalt Not Smile)

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 26, 2011

How Tweets About Your Mundane Life Affect Trademark Law

Several NBA basketball players including Gilbert Arenas, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard are actively trying to stop various ladies in their lives from appearing on a reality television show on VH-1 called "Basketball Wives." For those of you who may not yet be regular viewers of the program, the show's website explains that:

being the wife or girlfriend of a pro basketball superstar may have its perks, but once you peel away the bling and first-class luxuries, the glitzy glamour train often jumps way off the rails. ... [T]hese women, who've spent years being married to larger-than-life personalities, are really just the same as everyone else. Viewers watched them cope with marriages on the rocks, divorces, single motherhood and rough patches in their relationships just like those experienced by women all over America. 

In Arenas' case, he sued Shed Media, the producers of the show, seeking an injunction to prevent the show from beginning to air on Aug. 29. Hollywood, Esq. reports that earlier this week, however, Arenas' request was denied, and the show will go on. Interestingly, Arenas' case seems to have been undercut by his active presence on Twitter.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found that the presence of Arenas' former fiancé Laura Govan on the show would inevitably establish a connection to Arenas' likeness and trademark, as the whole point of the show is examine the ladies' relationships with professional basketball players like Arenas. Hollywood Esq. writes that according to Gee, such a connection with Arenas' name and likeness nevertheless constitutes fair use because there is a matter of "public interest" involved -- as proven by Arenas' Twitter feed. Gee ruled that:

Arenas suggests that any discussion of his family life is not sufficiently related to his celebrity to render BWLA's use of his identity a matter of public concern. This contention is belied by the tens of thousands of Twitter users who follow Arenas as he tweets about a variety of mundane occurrences. (emphasis added)

It looks to me that if enough people follow you on Twitter, a federal judge may conclude that the details of your day-to-day life are a matter of "public interest" for purposes of trademark law. Am I reading this correctly? Can any trademark lawyers out there weigh in on this ruling?

August 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Yes, I am serving time for lying about having breast and ovarian cancer and tricking my friends into organizing a fundraiser for me. But does that mean that one of my so-called friends had the right to testify against me at my trial? When I get out of this prison I am going to call her and give her a piece of my mind!

Answer: Try to fight that urge, as it may land you right back in prison again on charges of harassment. (Delaware County Daily Times, Woman charged in cancer scam now faces harassment rap) (via Legal Juice)

2) Question: We are a diamond supplier. One of our customer stores left $10,000 worth of diamonds laying out in the store briefly, during which time they were eaten by the store owner's dog. The next day, the dog "returned" the diamonds to the customer, if you know what I'm saying. Now the customer has sent the diamonds back to us after cleaning them up. Can we just resell these cleaned-up diamonds as new, for engagement rings and such?

Answer: Congratulations! You have stumped the blogosphere, which has no answer for you. (WSMV-TV, Dog eats $10,000 worth of diamonds)

3) Question: I just got stung over 600 times by a massive swarm of angry bees. The bees were agitated by an exterminator's effort to get rid of a hive on the roof of an apartment building that I just happened to be walking by. Can I sue the exterminator?

Answer: If the exterminator did not first wrap or contain the hive, that could be viewed as negligence on his part with the foreseeable result of a swarming of the bees. (Jonathan Turley, Negligence or Act of God? 90-Year-Old California Man Stung Over 600 Times By Bees)

August 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 25, 2011

'Thou Shalt Not ...' Participate in Our Airline's Frequent-Flier Program

As I have explained before, I love the stories where a corporation rolls out its ultimate "death penalty" punishment on a customer: "You can never come here [buy here] [eat here] again!!" Indeed, I even launched the "Thou Shalt Not ..." series of posts here at LBW earlier this month (e.g., "Thou shalt not buy clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch")

The latest installment in this series:

Thou shalt not participate in our airline's frequent-flier program.

According to The Blotter, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg, a consultant, author and speaker on parenting issues, flew hundreds of times per year for work. This heavy traveling ultimately earned him membership in "Northwest Airlines WorldPerks Platinum Elite," which provided him with improved status for meals, upgrades and more comfortable seats. In 2008, however, Northwest abruptly told Ginsberg he was being booted from the frequent-flier plan altogether. His offense? He says he was told it was due to too much complaining.

Ginsberg admits he complained "a few times" about things like delayed luggage, but that the number of his complaints was low given the hundreds of flights he took each year. In an email to Ginsberg, Northwest simply stated that it has the right under the terms of the WorldPerks Program to determine "in its sole judgment" whether a passenger has abused the program and, if so, to cancel the member's account, disqualify them from participation in the program and forfeit all of the mileage accrued. And it did so.

Unlike other "Thou Shalt Not" situations I've seen, this one actually led to a lawsuit filed by the banished person. Ginsberg sued Northwest alleging a breach of contract under the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The federal district court dismissed the case as pre-empted under the Airline Deregulation Act, but on Aug. 5, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court. The 9th Circuit held that the Airline Deregulation Act does not pre-empt a contract claim based on the doctrine of good faith and fair dealing. This clears the way for Ginsberg's lawsuit, a class action brought on behalf of all of those who were similarly kicked out of the program, to go forward.

August 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: There is a rogue panda on a rampage in my town of Flagstaff, Ariz. What precautions are authorities taking and what precautions should I take?

Answer: Contrary to whatever you might have read on a street sign that was altered by hackers, Flagstaff police have confirmed that "citizens can rest assured there are no problems with rogue pandas in the city." (San Francisco ChronicleAriz. street sign prank warns of rogue panda)

RoguePanda(AP photo)

2) Question: What is the punishment for driving 128 mph in a 45 mph zone?

Answer: Loss of your license for 45 days. Possibly worse than that if you are not a famous NASCAR driver. (Deadspin, The Law Took Kyle Busch’s License Away For Doing 128 In A 45 Zone)

3) Question: My tractor-trailer seems to have been moved somewhat from where I left it and has some minor damage. Do you think someone could have taken it for a joyride?

Answer: Or worse. Sometimes people steal tractor-trailers, drive 30 minutes to a sex toy store, drive the stolen tractor-trailer so as to smash through the glass doors of the sex toy store, steal an $800 sex toy that simulates the "lower half of a female body" and then drive the tractor-trailer back to where they stole it from. (FOX8, Robber Uses Semi-Truck to Smash Adult Store and Steal Sex Toy)

August 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2011

How Lawyers Can Use LinkedIn More Effectively

I joined LinkedIn in February 2008. That means that I'm now approaching my four year anniversary of not knowing how I am supposed to use this service to make it productive in some way (with one exception, which I will discuss below). 

I have tried various things on LinkedIn through the years. For a short time I tried to actively grow my number of connections because, well, I don't actually know why. I thought that was what you were supposed to do, I guess. Now I have 636 connections (thank you very much), but I don't feel much more connected to the legal world from this effort. Sometimes I click to see who has been "viewing my profile," but that hasn't done much for me, either. 

In Texas Lawyer, Adrian Dayton offers "5 LinkedIn Tips That Lawyers May Not Know." None of these tips are game-changers but I found some of them to be helpful. First, Dayton notes that one of the limitations of LinkedIn is that you cannot send a message to a person on LinkedIn if you are not connected to them. You can circumvent this, however, by seeing which groups that person belongs to and then joining that group. As Dayton explains, members of the same group can send messages to each other even if they are not directly connected. Good to know.

Dayton also suggests that LinkedIn users who wish to grow their connections should remember to import their Outlook contacts periodically, as more than 1 million people join LinkedIn each week -- likely including some of your own contacts. For all of Dayton's tips, read the full article here.

On the topic of LinkedIn groups touched on by Dayton, let me throw out one more idea that has been the most useful thing I've done on LinkedIn to date: start your own group on LinkedIn.

When I launched my publication (Securities Docket, which covers SEC enforcement and securities litigation issues) back in 2008, I also created two new groups on LinkedIn. One of these was a general group called the Securities Litigation and Enforcement group, which is open to everyone, and the other was the SEC Enforcement Alumni group, limited to alumni of the SEC's enforcement divsion. These groups started with one member each (me) and now have over 1,300 and 300 members, respectively.

Starting your own group lets you target the specific type of people you would like to gather in one place, and, best of all, lets you be at the center of that group. As the creator of these groups, for example, I can send every member an email message about an upcoming event, moderate group discussions and select key news sources for the group to review. If there is a specific group of people that you would like to assemble and be involved with, creating a LinkedIn group can be an effective way to accomplish this.

August 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 23, 2011

Could a President Rick Perry Continue to Carry a Concealed Weapon in D.C.?

Texas governor Rick Perry is now a Republican presidential candidate, meaning that if things break right for him he could find himself living in Washington, D.C., next year. Perry now famously goes jogging in his hometown of Austin with "a concealed .380 Ruger loaded with deadly hollow-point bullets, fully equipped with a laser-sight for precise killing," Chris Moody of The Ticket writes. Sometimes, such as when Perry encounters a coyote on his jog, the .380 Ruger even gets put to use. 

Moody raises an interesting question: if Perry is elected president, is there any way that he could "continue to pack heat on his morning run?" Moody concludes that although D.C. law bans carrying firearms, a President Perry could get around this prohibition in several possible ways:

1. Sign an executive order making it legal for himself to carry a weapon;

2. Go to court to seek a ruling that carrying a gun was part of his official duties; or

3. Request to be deputized in the District, giving him the same right to carry a firearm as a member of D.C. law enforcement.

At The Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel also takes a shot (no gun-pun intended) at answering the question raised by Moody, and says that D.C. law is not a sweeping as Moody believes. The D.C. Code, Kopel says, prohibits carrying a firearm "without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law," and the D.C. government virtually never issues carry licenses to citizens. There is an exception to this prohibition, however, for "officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry a concealed pistol. ..." As such, Kopel concludes, 

... President Perry could simply authorize himself to carry a concealed pistol. For good measure, he could likewise authorize the entire White House staff, or indeed every single employee of the United States government, to also carry a concealed pistol in D.C.

The Moody article also argues that the Secret Service might have a big issue with President Perry carrying a weapon for his own protection, but Kopel notes that "the President is in charge of the Secret Service, and not vice versa. The Secret Service cannot 'force' him to do anything."

August 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am at a football field for my 7-year-old's first football game! After we won the game on a late touchdown, a dad from the other team ran on the field protesting the play and cursing. The officials asked him to leave but he started throwing chairs onto the field, then got into a fight with two police officers and bit them both. This was not addressed at the pre-season parents' meeting. Isn't this against the rules or something? 

Answer: Against the rules and against the law. That can get you charged with battery, battery by body waste, resisting law enforcement, criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. (FOX 59, Franklin Twp. man arrested, accused of biting two police officers)

2) Question: I am a security guard at a courthouse, and I've been given the job of holding an infant during a custody hearing concerning the infant. Now that the judge has ruled on custody, a bit of a brawl has broken out in the courtroom. Should I hand the child off to the woman next to me and help break up the brawl?

Answer: You need to be careful here, as sometimes when guards hand children off so that they can go break up courtroom brawls, the child will then get lost in the chaos. (The Associated Press, Infant goes missing after court brawl in Detroit)

3) Question: I'm a clerk at a Dallas convenience store. On one hand, I believe this man is trying to rob my store and is demanding money. On the other, he is wearing a pair of tighty-whitey underpants on his head (with the Y-flap in front) and what looks like a dress. Joke or robbery?

Answer: An underpants-on-the-head robber recently struck in your area. Err on the side of "robbery" here. (Newslite, Robber wears Y-front pants on his head

August 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2011

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 love this wedding dress! It will be perfect for me when my partner and I get married this year. Should I just cross out the "groom's name" line on the order form and write "partner," instead?

Answer: That would make sense, but keep in mind that some stores won't sell dresses to lesbians. (Consumerist, Bridal Store Refuses To Sell Wedding Gown To Lesbian)

2) Question: I am on welfare. Am I hearing things or did the attorney general from my state just compare me to a "hungry raccoon?"

Answer: Your hearing is working fine. (ABA Journal, Nebraska Attorney General Criticized for Comparing Welfare Recipients to Hungry Raccoons)

3) Question: I just got my learner's permit to drive. I obviously know that a green light means go, a red light means stop, and a yellow light means slow down. But what does an orange light mean?

Answer: Orange light means fire! (FAILBlog, Traffic Light FAIL)


August 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 19, 2011

'What Great Writers Can Teach Lawyers and Judges': Precision and Conciseness

Last month's edition of the Texas Bar Journal has an interesting article by Douglas E. Abrams, a law professor at the University of Missouri, entitled, "What Great Writers Can Teach Lawyers and Judges." The article, which is part one of two, presents wisdom from great nonlawyer writers about two key elements of writing that are equally important in the legal world: precision and conciseness.

1. Precision

Abrams notes that outside the legal world, readers are willing to "recast inartful words or sentences in our minds" to cure ambiguity because we know what the author intended. Legal writing, however, often faces a hostile reader who is motivated to "find the weaknesses in the prose, even perhaps to find ways of turning the words against their intended meaning.” For example, parties seeking to get around contractual obligations will seek loopholes that may exist in a particular a clause or word. On this point, Abrams notes the words of French writer Guy de Maupassant, who challenges writers as follows:

Whatever you want to say, there is only one word to express it, only one verb to give it movement, only one adjective to qualify it. You must search for that word, that verb, that adjective, and never be content with an approximation, never resort to tricks, even clever ones, and never have recourse to verbal sleight-of-hand to avoid a difficulty.

 2. Conciseness

Abrams presents a number of great quotes from legendary writers such as Shakespeare, Hemingway and even Dr. Seuss on the issue of conciseness. All of them agree that when it comes to writing, "less is more." Surely there are judges out there nodding in agreement with Abrams when he argues that conciseness is the key to holding a reader's attention to the finish line. Where a writer can convey a message efficiently in five pages, Abrams warns, the writer risks losing the audience by using ten. This is particularly true in modern society, where innumerable alternatives for the reader such as newspapers, magazines and blogs are just a mouse-click away.

How can less be more when writing? Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel explains that “even when you cut, you don't:"

Writing is not like painting where you add. ... Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove. ... Even those pages you remove somehow remain. There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred pages are there. Only you don't see them.

The entire article, which collects dozens of great quotes on the subject, can be read here.

August 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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 just wanted to tell you that your recent Burning Legal Answer stating that if you urinate in the aisle of an aircraft you will be charged with indecent exposure and kicked off the U.S. ski team is all wrong. Granted, I am a famous actor (and not a skier), but I just urinated in the aisle of a plane and nobody did a damn thing other than ask me to get off of the plane. So get your facts straight.

Answer: I stand corrected. Until further notice it is hereby OK for famous actors to urinate in the aisle of an aircraft. (People, Gérard Depardieu Relieves Himself in Plane Cabin: Report)

2) Question: I work the security desk at a public art gallery. My boss just gave me a photo of a person who he says "may not come in under any circumstances," as mandated by a court order. Huh? I thought "public" meant anyone could come in?

Answer: "Public" normally does mean anyone can come in, but sometimes when people are known to have physically attacked paintings in a gallery, they can be banned from returning. (The Smoking Gun, Crazed D.C. Art Critic Strikes Museum Again)

3) Question: I cannot understand the legal mumbo-jumbo in the Facebook Terms of Service at all. Can someone translate it into "Bro Speak" for me?

Answer: No problem. (SlacktoryThe Entire Facebook Terms of Service in Bro Speak) (contains some curse words)

August 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2011

Tobacco Companies Ask Court to Put a Halt to FDA's Graphic Warning Labels

Smoker Back in November 2010, I discussed here the nine new, and quite graphic, warning labels that the Food and Drug Administration planned to require on cigarette packs and advertisements. The graphic images include corpses with their chest sewed up, smokers with smoke coming out of a hole in their throat, disgusting-looking lungs that are yellow and diseased from smoking, a close-up of someone with mouth cancer, a suffering baby, and so on. If the purpose of the new warning labels is to convey the message that smoking is dangerous and gnarly, then mission accomplished.

The FDA previously explained that the new campaign is the result of "The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," which requires larger and more visible graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and ads. According to the FDA website, the new cigarette health warnings are the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years, and will go into effect beginning September 2012.

There is at least one group, however, that is not at all pleased about the new warnings. Can you guess who that might be? Correct!

This week, four of the five largest U.S. tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the federal government. The Associated Press reports that the plaintiffs include R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc., but not Altria Group Inc., which controls the largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA.

The lawsuit alleges that requiring the tobacco companies to add these warnings to their product will violate their free speech rights; cost millions of dollars to print; and require them to feature anti-smoking advocacy more prominently than their own brands. The AP reports that in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that:

Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products.

The tobacco companies are asking the court to prohibit the FDA from mandating the labels.

August 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 the county Board of Commissioners. We have an opportunity to lease about 200 parking spaces from a prominent local attorney for courthouse parking, at a price of $277,536 a year. Does this seem like a good move?

Answer: Perhaps, but decidely less so if the spaces are in a garage owned by your county and which your county has previously leased to that same local attorney for $107,500 a year. (South Florida Lawyers, Attention All Judges in Broward County Courthouse: Bill Scherer is Now Your Landlord!)

2) Question: I know people say I should encrypt my family's WiFi connection at our home, but what is the big deal? Who cares if some free WiFi goes out to my neighbors?

Answer: It can go beyond that. For example, sometimes people seeking child pornography will cruise neighborhoods looking for unprotected networks, then use your WiFi to download child porn and share it with online porn rings. So heads up! (Consumerist, Former Cop Accused Of Using WiFi From Neighbors, Businesses To Get Child Porn)

3) Question: I am an aspiring screenwriter. I just had an exciting meeting at a talent agency, but I'm embarassed to say I left my briefcase containing my laptop and my latest script inside the talent agency. Is there an inconspicuous way for me to recover this?

Answer: Uh oh. (Los Angeles TimesBeverly Hills police blow up screenwriter's laptop, script) (via Lowering the Bar)

August 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 17, 2011

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: The referee in my women's boxing match stopped the fight after I suffered a broken right hand. I could have kept going! A fight between male fighters wouldn't have been stopped. That is sex discrimination, right?

Answer: Not according to the California State Athletic Commission. (The Associated Press, Boxer: Sex discrimination behind halted fight)

2) Question: I just got fired from my construction project becasue I was wearing an Oklahoma Sooner tee shirt. What the heck? Can I sue the customer for this? 

Answer: If you are hired to do construction at Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy's home, you better come wearing your orange, not Sooner red. And as for any lawsuit against Gundy, I think it is quite safe to say you better "GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT!" (Tulsa World, Choctaw man sues OSU coach Mike Gundy and his wife)

3) Question: I'm trying to reserve a table at a new restaurant in Washington, D.C., called Rogue 24. What is this document the restaurant is demanding that I fill out? 

Answer: If you want to make a reservation at Rogue 24 you'll need to execute their two-page contract first. And leave your cell phone and camera behind. (Eater, Here Is The Contract You Need To Sign To Eat At Rogue 24)

August 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Abercrombie & Fitch Takes 'Thou Shalt Not Buy Our Clothes' to the Next Level

Abercrombie & Fitch's effort to get people to stop buying its clothes has branched out beyond its ban on Kim Navarra. Back in my day (Friday of last week), A&F used to just ban people like Navarra from buying its clothes if it believed their clothing orders had "characteristics" of someone who was re-selling its clothing. But now A&F is going a step further and is actually offering to make "substantial payments" to people if they will not wear its clothes.

In a press release that I have scrutinized like the Shroud of Turin to make sure it is not a fake, A&F stated late last week that it has "offered compensation to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino, a character in MTV's TV show "The Jersey Shore" to cease wearing A&F products." An A&F spokesperson added that

We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.  We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino and the producers of MTV'sThe Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand.  We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response.

"Urgently" awaiting a response? Seriously, is this The Onion? Am I being "Punk'd"? Is it April 1st? I really don't think so, as you can see the link to this press release ("Abercrombie & Fitch Proposes Win-Win Situation") from the main A&F Investor Relations page. Public companies do not usually issue spoof corporate press releases, but maybe there is a first time for everything.

August 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 16, 2011

The Evil Side of Social Media: Flash Mob Thefts

Sure, it's cute when you use social media and text messaging to reach out to all of your friends and your friends' friends and you all suddenly appear in one spot for a "flash mob" pillow fight, or "silent disco" or to perform the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance." Marginally cute, at least.

But what about when flash mobs turn evil? Imagine you are alone working the night shift at 7-Eleven when a well-coordinated flash mob of several dozen kids storms the entrance, tears through the aisles of your store and steals whatever it pleases from the shelves. That is what is going on increasingly in places like Philadelphia and, this past weekend, in Germantown, Md. (a Washington, D.C., suburb).

FOX 5 News reports that on Saturday at about 1:45 a.m., a crowd of about 30 young people stormed into a Germantown 7-Eleven, and "grabbed snacks and drinks and anything else they wanted and rushed out without paying." Like the tide rushing in and out, the whole crowd was gone in less than a minute.

Montgomery County police told FOX that the hit on the 7-Elevent was a planned event -- a "flash mob theft." Other flash mob thefts have occurred recently in the region, as well. Police are examining the 7-Eleven video surveillance tapes to identify suspects in the Germantown flash mob.

In Philadelphia, the flash mob theft problem has grown to the point that last week Mayor Michael Nutter announced a 9 p.m. curfew "for city children in certain neighborhoods in an effort to stop increasing occurrences of flash mob violence." The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the curfew applies to children under 18 years of age and only on Friday and Saturday nights, and will be lifted at the end of the summer when children return to school. Philadelphia flash mobs have engaged in shoplifting as in Germantown, but also in some random assaults on innocent victims.

Check out video of the Germantown flash mob below.


August 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am trying to pursue my chosen career of being a guy who dresses up like a gladiator and gets paid to be in tourists' photos outside the Colosseum in Rome. But every time I head over to the Colosseum, other gladiator-wannabes who want that turf all to themselves demand that I leave the area, try to intimidate me and even try to beat me up. What can I do?

Answer: The Rome police recently performed an undercover sting on the mean gladiators. Maybe give it another try now. (The Associated Press, Rome police go undercover in 'gladiator' ring sting)

2) Question: I am a baseball pitcher. An umpire just filed a report against me at the local police department alleging that I conspired with my catcher to hit him with one of my pitches. Is this a real crime? Do I need a lawyer?

Answer: This is a new one. Congratulations, you have stumped the entire blogosphere, which has no answer for you. Maybe you can wear a wire and implicate your catcher to get off light? (Deadspin, Youth-Baseball Umpire In Missouri Claims Pitcher, Catcher Conspired To Hit Him With A Pitch)

3) Question: I have not seen this topic addressed in the Things You Can't Do on a Plane series, so let me give it a shot here. I got drunk before boarding my plane and, long story short, ended up urinating on the leg of a young girl on the flight. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: Yes. You may be charged with indecent exposure. And kicked off of the U.S. ski team. (New York PostMan who peed on girl on JetBlue flight tossed off US ski team)

August 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 15, 2011

'The Economist' Examines Emerging Alternatives to Traditional Law Firms

In an article last week, The Economist takes a look at a few ways that technology is providing clients with alternatives to traditional law firms. These alternatives include things like LawPivot, which some have compared to "Quora for legal advice." [Note to self: Learn what Quora is so that I can possibly then understand what LawPivot is.] They also include "unconventional law firms" such as Axiom and Clearspire that are pursuing new business models.

I have mentioned Axiom before, noting its highly personal approach to the law firm website, which includes huge, day-in-the-life photos of Axiom lawyers doing things like gardening, having breakfast with their families or dancing. The Economist adds that Axiom, which is now 11 years old, has been able to grow its revenue steadily as companies seek ways to trim their legal spending: from $55 million in 2008, to $80 million in 2010, to an expected $120 million in 2011. Axiom differs from most firms in that it typically does not charge by the hour, but rather agrees to a flat fee for a project or for a set period of time that one of its teams will be engaged. It is also different from most law firms in that it employs only experienced lawyers, maintains little office space and charges significantly lower rates than most big law firms (about $200 an hour for highly experienced lawyers, according to a Daily Journal article written in early in 2010).

Another law firm discussed by The Economist is Clearspire. Clearspire is made up of approximately 20 lawyers who work from home but "collaborat[e] on a multi-million-dollar technology platform that mimics a virtual office." Clients can use the platform, as well, to do things like make changes to their own documents. With respect to billing, The Economist states that

From the start, Clearspire offers cost estimates for each phase of a legal job. Employees who underestimate how long it will take cannot simply jack up the bill—they must take the hit themselves. But if a lawyer finishes his work faster than promised, he gets a third of the savings. The client also gets a third, as does Clearspire. This gives everyone a stake in making the process more efficient and predictable.

Clearspire also has an unusual, dual corporate structure: it consists of a law firm with salaried lawyers, and also a separate entity that is responsible for business development.

August 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: Here's the plan. My co-worker at Taco Bell won't agree to go out with me ... yet! So I will roll up to her in the parking lot, handcuff her to me, and then I will have a captive audience while I try to win her over. Any downside?

Answer: Would you consider being charged with the felony of false imprisonment to be a downside? (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Taco Bell worker arrested for handcuffing himself to woman he wanted to date) (via Consumerist)

2) Question: Is it true that "Sesame Street"'s Bert and Ernie will soon be solidifying their relationship with a same-sex marriage? 

Answer: Doubtful. "Sesame Street" has now issued a statement that while Bert and Ernie are "best friends" and are "identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics... they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation." (CBS News, Bert and Ernie wedding on Sesame Street petition sparks controversy)

3) Question: I was recently sent off to prison for 150 years. How do I get my clothing and my other stuff back so that I can give it to my family? 

Answer: You can inquire with the U.S. Marshals Service but it may be too late. Sometimes the authorities will just auction off your pants and the buyer will then cut them up and offer them for sale as fancy iPad covers. (CBS News, Madoff's wardrobe remade into pricey iPad cases)

August 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 12, 2011

"Thou Shalt Not ..." Buy Any More Clothing From Abercrombie & Fitch

As you may know by now, I have a weakness for stories where a corporation rolls out its ultimate "death penalty" punishment on a customer: "You can never come here [buy here] [eat here] again!!" I always imagine a friend telling me out of the blue something like:

  • "Sorry, I can't join you for lunch at Tim Horton's restaurant. I am banned for life from eating there because I complained too many times about their coffee." ... or 
  • "Hey, could you do me a favor and buy this iPad for me? Apple says I've reached my "lifetime limit" and won't let me buy anything." ... or
  • "Bruce, would you mind if I had a package delivered to your house? UPS says it will never deliver a package to my house again."

Given my penchant for these types of stories, I am hereby launching a "Thou Shalt Not ..." series of posts here at LBW. Today's edition: Thou shalt not buy clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch.

ABC7 in San Francisco reports that Abercrombie & Fitch recently banned Kim Navarra from buying any more of its clothes. Navarra says she loves A&F clothing and that both she and her husband have closets full of it in her home. Navarra estimates that she spends at least $1,000 a year at A&F.

The last time that Navarra tried to buy clothes online with A&F, however, the company rejected and canceled her order, and then told her it would no longer accept orders from her. For some reason, A&F concluded that Navarra's clothing orders had "characteristics" of someone who was re-selling its clothing, leading A&F to drop the "thou shalt not buy any more of our clothes" hammer. Navarra and her husband vehemently denied this, but A&F would not lift the ban until ABC7 got involved on the Navarras' behalf. A&F then reconsidered, and agreed to let Navarra buy its clothes again.

August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am not Casey Anthony, but I do look like her. I am now regularly confronted by people angry about the recent verdict, yelling "baby killer" at me, beating up my brother, etc. It is particularly bad when I am running errands and I put my hair in a ponytail with a baseball ball cap and sunglasses. What can I do? 

Answer: You may wind up squinting a lot but the best I can suggest is that you to ditch the baseball cap and sunglasses for a while if they continue to lead to beatdowns. And maybe consult with Doppelgänger Blog Watch for more specialized advice. (CBS News, Casey Anthony look-alike L. Concetta Graves afraid to go outside)

2) Question: Quick question: What is the worst trouble I can get into for ringing someone's doorbell?

Answer: At least a charge of second-degree harassment. Maybe more. (ABA Journal, Dad of Imprisoned Teen Is Ticketed for Ringing Doorbell of Sentencing Judge’s Home)

3) Question: We are defense counsel in a personal injury case. During the plaintiff's opening statement, as counsel was describing the grisly surgical procedure plaintiff had to go through to try to avoid the amputation of his right leg, one of the jurors fainted and the judge had to call 911 and summon EMTs. This is a bad sign for our side, right?

Answer: Correct. (The Legal Intelligencer, Fainting Juror Prompts $10 Million Settlement)

August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 11, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 5

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3 and Volume 4 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:

  • Cry, softly, about your father's heart attack. You may not cry about your father's heart attack, particularly if you accompany such crying by asking the flight attendant for a glass of wine. CONSEQUENCE: Removal from the flight (of both you and your sister).

  • Have a bat on board. No, not a baseball bat -- we're talking about the winged type of bat here. If such a creature makes its way on board a flight and is flying around the cabin, do not count on getting to your destination as planned. CONSEQUENCE: Flight will be turned around and plane returned to airport for bat removal, even if bat has already been trapped in the lavatory.

  • Receive oral sex from a flight attendant in the cockpit. Pilots may not receive oral sex from flight attendants in the cockpit. CONSEQUENCE: "Full investigation" by the airline. 


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday'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 has asked me to stab her in the stomach so that she can have a good excuse to avoid going to her scheduled probation appointment tomorrow. She says she needs time to "sober up." I see a few problems with this plan, but I'd like a second opinion.

Answer: I agree with you. There are multiple flaws in this plan, including the fact that if you honor her wishes and proceed with the stabbing you may yourself be charged with second-degree assault and use of a weapon to commit a felony. (Beatrice Daily SunWoman who asked friends to stab her sent to diversion) (via Turley)

2) Question: I woke up this morning to find my apartment filled with hundreds of scorpions. Has someone put a ninja "hit" out on me or something?

Answer: Sometimes when landlords are having trouble getting their tenants to vacate the premises to make way for a construction project, they may pour a bucket of scorpions into the windows of the apartment complex. (Consumerist, Landlord Suspected Of Releasing Thousands Of Scorpions To Get Tenants Out)

3) Question: I'm an octogenarian. I believe Simon Cowell is trying to sabotage my audition on "X Factor" by making me film promotional videos and "dance wildly" in the 96-degree Miami heat for hours. This is clearly discriminatory, right? Can I get a court order for a second audition and $3 million?

Answer: Doubtful. But you can try. (Miami New TimesSimon Cowell Sued by Father and Son "X Factor" Contestants for "Physical and Mental Exertion")

August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2011

Redneck Olympics Vows to Keep 'Olympics' in Name Despite Threats by U.S.O.C.

Before we get all into the legal-ish stuff here, let me just tell you that there is such a thing out there --at least for now -- called the "Redneck Olympics." Indeed, this past weekend, while all you lawyers were busy asking the chap in the Rolls Royce next to you if he had any Grey Poupon, the rednecks of this country who had the capacity to get themselves to Hebron, Maine, were holding the first-ever Redneck Games.

The Redneck Games were held on a 210-acre working cattle farm. According to the event's website (and I am hereby creating and invoking a new grammatical device called the "collective 'sic'" for the paragraph below), the Redneck Games featured events such as

bobbing for pigs feet, toilet seat horse shoes, a old fasion pie eating contest , wife carring contest ,the mud flop contest  and many more (redneck contestants needed ) there will also be lawn mower races ,a wet t shirt contest (930pm saturday $400 in cash prizes must be 18)  mud runs (bring your truck run for free)6 Live bands (rock a little country and even some blue grass).  saturday at from 4 to7 there will the best dam all you can eat pig roast ( only $9 for adults and $4 for kids under 12 . kids under 5 eat for free ) There will be horse drawn wagon rides . At night we wil light our 20 foot bond fire and yes the marshmellows are free.

For the record, motorcycles were welcome at the Games but for some reason redneck dogs were not welcome.

Anyway, moving on. The organizer of the Redneck Games, Harold Brooks, says he is now facing a legal challenge from the United States Olympic Committee. According to the Sun Journal, the USOC has advised Brooks that the event must change its name and not use the word "Olympics" or the USOC will file a lawsuit.

Brooks responds that he is not basing the name on the USOC's Olympics, but rather on the original Olympics in Greece. As Jonathan Turley notes on his blog, the word "Olympic" and the original ancient sporting event in Greece preceded both the United States and copyright/trademark laws. In addition, Brooks adds that no one would ever confuse the two events and he isn't changing the name. “I'm going to refuse to not use that word,” he said.

Your move, USOC!

August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 furious at my estranged spouse and, frankly, I may just go burn his trailer home to the ground. Any guidelines I should follow here?

Answer: First, that is a really terrible idea. But if you cannot be dissuaded from this plan, at least make sure that you are not inside the trailer when you light the match. (The Birmingham News, Woman burned while torching estranged husband's property)

2) Question: I just learned that I have breast cancer. Medicaid provides coverage to breast cancer patients, right?

Answer: Yes. Unless you are a man. (Consumerist, Man With Breast Cancer Can't Get Medicaid Coverage Because He's A Man)

3) Question: We are trying to enjoy our vacation here in Kure Beach, N.C., but the neighbors insist on playing their piccolos at ear-splitting levels. What can we do?

Answer: No worries, your bliss is specifically protected from out-of-control piccolo playing by Section Sec. 11-31 of the Kure Beach nuisance laws. (Legal Juice, Turn Down Your Piccolo, Or Else)

August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 09, 2011

Is Trickery a Legitimate Way to Apprehend Alleged Deadbeat Dads?

Question for LBW readers: Is it OK or not OK for law enforcement to use trickery to track down fathers with outstanding warrants alleging unpaid child support? 

You hear about this type of "deadbeat dad sting" operation every few years, but the most recent one carried out in Alabama used some almost irresistible bait to lure fathers into the police's trap: the promise of two free tickets to the 2011 Alabama-Auburn football game.

According to Fox Sports South, the Lee County, Ala., sheriff's department launched Operation Iron Snare in an effort to address some very large child-support warrants that were outstanding. The sting involved phony "You Have Won!" letters mailed to local residents who had such outstanding warrants, which announced that the recipients had been selected to receive free tickets to the Alabama-Auburn "Iron Bowl" game. Fox Sports reports that "to the astonishment of just about everyone, a dozen suspects showed up to collect their prize."

When they arrived at the storefront they were told to visit to claim their tickets, the faux-winners were greeted with celebratory balloons and banners decorating the location and cheering spectators. Once they ventured inside, however, they were taken to an area in the back of the storefront where they were quickly handcuffed by police. Even then, however, some of the duped and arrested men were still asking if they would be receiving the tickets. 

In the days since video of the sting was made public, some commentators have criticized the operation as "sleazy" or even "cruel." Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports writes that,"Yes, they deserve what they're getting, but it just feels wrong." On the other hand, of course, the people being apprehended here have outstanding warrants and are wanted by authorities for alleged unpaid child support. Please check out the video below and offer your thoughts in the comments. Is this type of sting OK? Not OK? What do you think?

August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My employer's dress code for me is hard to remember. Is it "Mini-skirt Monday," "Tube-top Tuesday," "Wet T-shirt Wednesday," "Bikini Thursday" and "No Bra Friday?"

Answer: Almost. Thursday is the "No Bra" day, followed by "Bikini Friday." (The Salt Lake TribuneWoman claims employer subjected her to ‘Mini-skirt Monday')

2) Question: I'm a judge and a case I've been dreading just settled! I'm happier than a tick on a fat dog, and a one legged cat in a sand box. Seriously, the trial would have made the jury more confused than a hungry baby in a topless bar and made the parties and their attorneys madder than mosquitoes in a mannequin factory.

Answer: Judge Sheehan? Is that you? (Reuters, Judge's mixed metaphors tickle the press)

3) Question: I left my bag of meth back at the tanning salon. I hate when I do that! Luckily, the salon says they found it. Do you think it is a problem for me to drive back over and pick it up?

Answer: Yes -- watch out for police hiding in the tanning booth if you dare to return. (The Daily News Online, Police: Woman tries to reclaim meth left behind at tanning salon) (via Legal Juice)


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2011

In Search of the Legal Humblebrag

As you know, sometimes I feel compelled to go slightly outside of the legal world when writing this blog. That's okay, though, because under the Rules of LBW Procedure which govern this blog's jurisdiction, I have discretion to write about anything so long as:

1. It was discussed on a legal blog;

2. It is law-related; or

3. I assert special jurisdiction under the "Pick of the Litter" theory

Today I assert special jurisdiction under the Pick of the Litter theory to share with you the awesomeness that is the "Humblebrag." The Humblebrag is a word and concept created by Harris Wittels, a writer for television shows such as "Parks and Recreation" and "Eastbound and Down," who also writes for the website Grantland. Wittels explains the Humblebrag concept as follows:

A Humblebrag is basically a specific type of bragging which masks the brag in a faux-humble guise. The false humility allows the offender to boast their "achievements" without any sense of shame or guilt. Unfortunately/fortunately, Humblebragging is very commonly used in our society, and for some reason Twitter seems to be the perfect forum for people to do it. 

As further defined by the Urban Dictionary, the Humblebrag is a way of "subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or 'woe is me' gloss."

Twitter is, indeed, the perfect forum for the Humblebrag, and Wittels has created an @humblebrag Twitter account devoted solely to highlighting the worst offenders. Here are some representative Humblebrags compiled by Wittels:

  • @leeunkrich:"Spaz Alert: I tripped walking up stairs to stage to receive my Oscar Nominee certificate. #foreveranerd"
  • @OfficialMsTila:"I hate my lambo! Police is ALWAYS pulling me over just cuz its a lambo so they always think I'm speeding but I'm not!! Then they let me go!"
  • @HalRunkel:"Well, I'll definitely be the one with bags under my eyes on the Today Show flt to NYC is still delayed."
  • @TotesMcGotes"Yes!! Comped penthouse suite in Vegas on a Holiday Weekend. I would feel good about that but just means I gamble too damn much :( "

Once you grasp the Humblebrag concept, you realize that Humblebrags are everywhere. Wittels already has the general population covered, but I am going to start scouring the legal Twittersphere for Legal Humblebrags starting right now. My initial review of the people I follow on Twitter did not turn up any recent Legal Humblebrags, but I did find this one by a journalist. If you spot a Legal Humblebrag that you would like to flag for posterity, please shoot it to me at @brucecarton. Thanks!

August 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 flying in first class on Air France. Why are there only male flight attendants and crew on this flight?

Answer: Is Dominique Strauss-Kahn on your flight, perhaps? (New York PostAir France ordered male-only cabin crew for Strauss-Kahn)

2) Question: The police who have been hassling me just came into my donut shop. I'm thinking of giving them a "double shot" in their coffee, if you know what I'm saying. What can happen to me if they catch me?

Answer: Wait, do you mean a double shot of nasal mucus? If so, you may be looking at simple assault charges. (Consumerist, Dunkin' Donuts Worker Allegedly Adds Nasty Ingredient To Cops' Coffee)

3) Question: These hitchikers look shady, like escaped inmates or something. Am I being overly judgmental?

Answer: No, trust your judgment. (Tosh.0 blog, Don't Stop Sign)



August 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2011

Federal Judiciary Receiving Shot of Diversity Under Obama

Via National Public Radio, I came across this report that documents the extent to which President Barack Obama has attempted to diversify the federal courts with his judicial nominations, and the string of "firsts" that has also resulted. NPR notes that Obama has appointed the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court, the first openly gay man on a federal district court, and the first women nominees who are Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told NPR that diversity is a clear priority for Obama, who pledged during his campaign to have the federal judiciary of almost 900 judges -- mostly white men -- start to look more like the full mix of people in the United States. Ruemmler said that racial diversity, gender diversity and "experiential" diversity were all important factors in determining the best candidates.

To date, 97 Obama nominees have been confirmed as federal judges. According to Wikipedia, this includes the two new female Supreme Court Justices (Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), and 19 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, including seven women. Fifty-five additional nominations are now awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

NPR reports that about half of those confirmed are women and about a quarter are black. In addition, Obama has reportedly nominated four openly gay people and doubled the number of Asian-American judges.

August 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 bought a luxury apartment but, contrary to the ad that lured me to the apartment building, I haven't gotten lucky with the ladies. Can I get out of my lease?

Answer: Doubtful, Romeo. (New York Post, Ad campaign promises sex with a 'condo')

2) Question: Must I submit to a strip search because a stadium security guard mistakenly thinks I stuffed a chicken sandwich down my pants?

Answer: Looks that way, sorry. (Above the Law, A Strip Search Over a Chicken Sandwich at Georgia Tech?)

3) Question:  My license to practice law is currently suspended. Will using the term "esquire" in my email address prevent me from being reinstated? 

Answer: Nope! (Legal Profession Blog, Use of "Esquire" Does Not Preclude Reinstatement)

August 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 04, 2011

A Minnesota Lawyer's Experiment With 'Name Your Own Price' Fees

Back in November 2009, I wrote about Matt Homann's use of a novel "You Decide Invoice" in his legal consulting practice that he suggested lawyers might want to experiment with. Homann's invoice states:

The rules are simple: you pay us what you feel we were worth to you. You decide, no questions asked. The only rule? We want to know why you paid what you did, and how we could have done better.

Homann stated that he had always received at least as much as he expected to receive, and usually more than he would have charged if he had established the price up front.

In May, a Minnesota estate planning lawyer named Alex Bajwa decided to give this a try for a month with what he called "name-your-own-price attorney fees." Here is the video he made offering this to the world:

On the Lawyerist blog Wednesday, Bajwa provided an update on his month-long experience with this form of billing. In short, he says, his faith that people would pay a fair amount was in all cases confirmed.

Bajwa writes that he promised himself that even if a client decided to pay him nothing he would accept it, but happily he never had to deal with that. To the contrary, while most of his NYOP clients paid less than what he would have normally charged them, Bajwa says that he was satisfied with all of the payments his clients decided upon and was "pleasantly surprised" on more than one occasion. He says he also received invaluable feedback from his clients on why they decided to pay him the amount that they did. 

Bottom line: Bajwa's experiment worked well for him. He was paid for his work, he received a good bit of publicity, and he has already seen a nice increase in referrals from his NYOP clients.

August 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 03, 2011

'Social Media Credential Fraud' Goes Mainstream

For some time now, Bradley Shear has been railing on his Social Media Law blog about a scourge that he calls "social media credential fraud." Shear observes that some people who wish to hold themselves out as experts in their profession use deceptive social media tactics to create that impression, including sharp practices to artificially inflate their number of Twitter followers.

Back in April, Shear offered an example of one self-described "social media expert" who started following Shear on Twitter. As soon as Shear followed this person back, he un-followed Shear. Shear wrote that 

This "social media expert" is desperate to keep his followers above 41,000. I mean Muammar Gadhafi desperate. His whole persona is based on the impression that he is a social media expert and has a large organic Twitter following. If he did not practice Social Media Credential Fraud he would be following tens of thousands of more people than are following him back. Last year, he wrote a blog post that said something along the lines, "I un-followed almost 50,000" people. In this rationalizing post, he stated that he could no longer focus on new followers so it was time to do a mass un-follow.

Shear was not convinced, and charged that the real reason this "social media expert" unfollowed 50,000 people was "to hide the fact that he needs to first follow tens of thousands of people before some of those people he initially followed follow him back."

This week, the concept of social media credential fraud went mainstream after presidential candidate Newt Gingrich bragged that his 1.3 million Twitter followers represented six times as many followers as all the other candidates combined. Like the social media expert discussed by Shear, Gingrich sought to boost his professional credibility by pointing to his sheer number of Twitter followers.  

According to an article in Gawker, however, only about 10 percent of Gingrich's followers are "real, sentient people." The remaining million-plus people, the article says, are just a mirage:

About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves. ...

Indeed, one analysis of Gingrich's Twitter following pegged the true number at just over 106,000. Gingrich, of course, denies the claim, saying that it is "a false accusation which will hurt the feelings of 1.3 million people."

August 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 kind-hearted 11-year-old daughter saved a baby woodpecker from an attack by our family cat. Now, she is going to nurse it back to health so we can release it back into the wild. Do you think the wildlife authorities might want to give her an award or some kind of recognition for this?

Answer: Actually, they may want to give you a $535 fine and possible jail time for transporting a protected migratory bird. (Consumerist, Mom Fined $535 After Daughter Saves Woodpecker)

2) Question: The hotel that I'm staying in delivered a newspaper to my room that I did not request and charged me 75 cents. Can I file a federal class action against the hotel for this "offensive waste of precious resources and energy" that is causing "deforestation?"

Answer: Yep. (San Francisco Chronicle, Hilton guest makes federal case of 75-cent paper)

3) Question: Why does the lady at the donut shop's drive-through window always ask me to call her if I want to "have a good time?" 

Answer: Sometimes donut shop drive-through employees run prostitution businesses on the side where they provide sexual services to customers during their work breaks. (Daily Record, 'Extra sugar' investigation leads to prostitution arrest for Rockaway Dunkin Donuts worker)


August 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 02, 2011

Are 'Reverse Auctions' the Future of Allocating Legal Work?

The Wall Street Journal reports today on the growing practice among big companies of using "reverse auctions" to award legal work to law firms. According to the WSJ, companies such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC, eBay Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Sun Microsystems are already using reverse auctions. Ariba, a company that sells one of the main reverse-auction software tools, estimates that a whopping (and surprising) 40 percent of today's market for legal work "is contracted through electronic, online means, most of which involve a reverse auction."

The article states that law firms participating in reverse auctions congregate in an online chat room where they bid anonymously for legal work as a clock counts down the minutes left in the auction. Whichever firm bids the lowest wins. Glaxo say that it is pleased with the results and that the reverse-auction method is now being phased in "for all substantial legal needs." Glaxo has found that the process allows it to "more fairly evaluate firms' cost-effectiveness on a uniform basis."

Other firms such as Costco, Xerox Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc., however, have steered clear of reverse auctions. Cisco's general counsel told the WSJ that the company "look[s] for our outside counsel to be creative. I'm not so sure being on the spot in a chat room is the ideal format for creative thoughts."

Have any of you participated in a reverse auction for legal work, either on the company side or the law firm side? How was your experience?

August 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: OK, so my criminal defense attorney is literally asleep at the defense table during my trial. Asleep!! This has to be ineffective assistance of counsel, right? He's out cold!

Answer: It depends on how long he's been alseep. Was it a “substantial portion” of the trial? (The Volokh Conspiracy, How Long a Nap Is Ineffective Assistance of Counsel?)

2) Question: I'm an undercover police officer. A guy just opened my car door, sat down and told me to get out! I drew my gun on him and ordered him out of the car, but now he is saying that this is all part of filming and the script for the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." This was not covered by the training. What do I do?

Answer: Arrest him first for robbery of a motor vehicle, and ask movie-related questions second. (CBS/The Associated Press, Holy carjacking, Batman! "Dark Knight" ruse rots)

3) Question: My family was visiting Mendocino National Forest in Ukiah, Calif. last month. What was that weed that seemed to be growing everywhere in the park?

Answer: You can double-check with Botanical Blog Watch, but chances are that weed was marijuana. Authorities just found and uprooted 460,000 pot plants that were growing in the park. (The Associated Press, Huge pot farm bust in Calif. national forest)


August 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 01, 2011

30 Prominent Lawyers Each Recommend a Book Lawyers Should Read

Via the Legal Writing Prof Blog, I found a great piece in the August ABA Journal in which 30 prominent lawyers each offer one recommendation for a book that "they’d recommend to other lawyers—a book they might not have already read or may have overlooked or might not know." Top lawyers including Roy BlackFred H. Bartlit Jr., Robert B. BarnettKenneth Feinberg and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. participated in the article, explaining why the book they suggested was special to them in some way.

I have not read many of the 30 books, but I have read, loved and hereby "second" the recommendations by Dahlia Lithwick ("One L," by Scott Turow) and Abbe Lowell ("The Man to See," by Evan Thomas). Some of the other other books that look particularly interesting to me that I will be adding to my reading list include:

August 1, 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: My good-for-nothin' grandson stole my safe again, but this time he couldn't get it open and threw it in the river. This has to be some kind of crime, right?

Answer: Yes -- he could be charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and petit larceny. (North Country Now, Edwards man charged for allegedly stealing grandmother's safe, throwing it in the Oswegatchie River)

2) Question: Is the White House permitted to Rickroll people on its official Twitter feed?

Answer: Absolutely. (FAIL Blog, Failbook: And That’s How The White House (Rick)Rolls!)

3) Question: I'm the 84-year-old mayor of a small town. Why does the city commission want to meet with me about some kind of weed growing in my yard?

Answer: Sometimes political enemies will secretly plant marijuana in the yards of octogenarian mayors to try to get them in trouble. (The Associated Press, Fla. mayor, 84, says 'grass' in yard was not hers)

August 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

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