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December 23, 2011

Video: Bruce Carton's '10 Most-Watched' Legal Blogs in 2011

This is Legal Blog Watch. We watch legal blogs -- lots of them. But not all legal blogs are created (and maintained) equal, and some always grow to be favorites of mine during the year.

This is the final post on LBW for 2011 so, as I did last year, I thought I'd look back and make a list of my 10 "go-to" blogs of the year. All 10 are featured in the video below, and linked to at the bottom of the post.

Happy Holidays!

Bruce Carton

  1. Abnormal Use
  2. Above the Law
  3. Consumerist
  4. Jonathan Turley
  5. Legal Profession Blog
  6. Legal Juice
  7. Lowering the Bar
  8. Simple Justice
  10. Work Matters


December 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

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 postman and I always wear a Santa suit as I deliver the mail during the holidays. But I just got a call from my supervisor saying I am not permitted to do so this year. What gives? 

Answer: It is technically a non-postal regulation uniform, and sometimes other mail carriers will get jealous of a Santa suit-wearing colleague and rat him out. Santa haters gonna hate. (Consumerist, Postal Carrier Told He Can No Longer Wear Santa Suit On The Job)

2) Question: I saw your post about the guy who tried to help a baby deer but ended up getting himself charged criminally with the “unauthorized taking” of the deer. Here is another deer-related question. Can I drive a deer that has been hit by a car to the hospital, and does it matter if I am intoxicated at the time?

Answer: I don't know what hospital policy is for treating wounded deer, but police are on record as saying that while they sympathize with trying to save a deer during the holiday season, “driving while intoxicated will not be tolerated.” (Democrat and Chronicle, Police stop Greece man allegedly taking injured deer to Unity Hospital)

3) Question: Can you help me locate one of these "Bruschi" bear dolls? If you do I'll pay you $400.

Answer: Nice try, but if I find one I'm going directly to Marc Randazza for the full $500 reward. (The Legal Satyricon, $500 reward)


December 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 22, 2011

6th Circuit Holds Fan's 'Mid-Game' Assault Case Against Kobe Bryant May Continue

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant was again a player in a courtroom drama today, but not because of his recent divorce or the 2003 accusation of rape that was lodged against him and later dropped. Today, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that because a material question of fact remained on a fan's claim that Kobe committed the torts of assault and battery against him during (yes, during) a Lakers-Grizzlies basketball game, the district court's entry of summary judgment for Bryant on that claim was improper.

On Nov. 14, 2005, Bill Geeslin was sitting in the front row of the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., to watch the home team, the Memphis Grizzlies, play the Lakers. During the game, a Lakers player directed a pass toward Bryant but the ball headed out of bounds. Geeslin alleges that while attempting to control the ball, Bryant was pushed by a Grizzlies player and "careened out of bounds, into or onto the plaintiff. Geeslin spilled his beer, and was pushed backwards in the folding chair."

Geeslin does not complain about this initial contact. His complaint is about what happened next. Geeslin alleges that

Bryant, in getting himself up and back into the game, pushed his forearm into Geeslin’s chest in an unnecessary and forceful manner, causing him injury. Geeslin also alleges that Bryant "glared" at him as he moved away and did not apologize.

Two days later, Geeslin sought medical attention for pain in his chest, and was diagnosed with a bruised lung cavity. He received treatment and physical symptoms dissipated after two weeks. Geeslin filed suit against Bryant shortly after the game. He passed away in June 2008, and an Amended Complaint was filed stating that the incident between Geeslin and Bryant "contributed as a proximate cause to [Geeslin's] death. ..."

In 2006, Bryant was asked about the incident and the lawsuit, and said "I really don't know too much about it. ... Players are always going to try to save a loose ball and win the game. That's something a player has to do. I don't actually remember the play. That's what makes it so interesting."

The district court granted summary judgment in Bryant's favor on the assault and battery claims. Today, however, the 6th Circuit reversed the lower court. The 6th Circuit held that 

Although the district court found that Geeslin had "assumed the risk or consented to the entire contact between he and the Defendant," by virtue of taking the courtside seat, we find that analysis applies only to the initial contact between Geeslin and Bryant and not the secondary, offensive contact described by Geeslin. In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Geeslin, as we must, we find that a material question of fact remains on his assault and battery claims. For this reason, the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Bryant on these claims was improper.

I tried to find a video clip of the incident but came up empty. Please send me a link if you can find the video and I'll post it here. 

December 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 have been serving on a jury in a criminal trial all week, but the trial is about to conflict with my tickets to see the musical "Chicago" tomorrow. Unacceptable! What would happen if I just called in sick for tomorrow?

Answer: For one thing, all of the other 11 jurors will be sent home if you are a no-show. And if the court learns that you skipped court to watch the musical, you may receive a 14-day jail sentence for contempt of court. (The TelegraphStudent jailed for skipping jury service to see West End show Chicago)

2) Question: I am in elementary school and it is lunchtime. If I take strategic bites out of my slice of pizza so that it resembles a gun and then wave this pizza-gun around at my tablemates, will I get in trouble?

Answer: Of course. (WKRN, Boy disciplined after waving gun-shaped pizza slice)

3) Question: I'm a judge in the Peach County (Ga.) Magistrate Court. So far this week I've heard four separate cases alleging theft of pecans. What is with all of these pecan cases!?

Answer: When the price of pecans gets high like it is now, more thieves start to visit unpatrolled Georgia nut orchards. (The New York TimesPecan Thieves in Georgia Enjoying a Windfall, at $1.50 a Pound)

December 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 21, 2011

Sex for World Series Tickets Not Prostitution Under Pennsylvania Law, State Appeals Court Says

On Tuesday, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that an offer to perform sexual acts in exchange for World Series tickets is not "prostitution" under state law.

Back in October 2009, a woman named Susan Finkelstein allegedly offered sex for World Series tickets via an ad on Craigslist entitled, “DESPERATE BLONDE NEEDS WS TIX (Philadelphia)”. The ad reads:

“Diehard Phillies fan -- gorgeous tall buxom blonde -- in desperate need of two World Series tickets. Price negotiable -- I'm the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!”

The Bensalem, Pa., police contacted Finkelstein after viewing the Craigslist ad and charged that she then "solicited an undercover police officer to perform various sex acts in exchange for a World Series tickets." In March 2010, a jury found Finkelstein not guilty of prostitution, but guilty of attempted prostitution, and Finkelstein appealed her conviction to the state Superior Court.

The Associated Press reports that on Tuesday, the appeals court held that because Finkelstein "was cleared of the more serious prostitution count, she could not be convicted of attempt because the proof required to sustain both charges was the same."

Perhaps more notably, the court added that Finkelstein could not be convicted of attempted prostitution because she was not engaged in "sexual activity as a business" and the crime of prostitution was not intended to "criminalize private illicit sexual relations." The district attorney's office disagreed with the court's reasoning, stating that "our view is that if you're selling sex for something of value, and certainly a World Series ticket is something of value, that is a business transaction."

So where does that leave us in Pennsylvania? Where does "sexual activity as a business" begin and end? For example, could a person "pay" his or her rent each month by providing sexual favors instead of money without running afoul of the state's prostitution laws?

December 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

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 guy, and on numerous occasions I have "argued with a woman," with various outcomes: my clothes thrown out the window, the silent treatment, some crying, past arguments brought up again out of nowhere and thrown in my face, and so on. How should these experiences factor into my selection of an attorney?

Answer: I'm not exactly sure how it relates, but this looks like a useful reference:

(Tosh.0 Blog, Female Attorneys Will Win Your Case Or Annoy You Trying)

2) Question: I took out my trash today around 3:30 p.m., and promptly received a $100 fine from the New York City Sanitation Department for something called  "Failure to Store Receptacle." What is that?!

Answer: 3:30 p.m.? Sorry, scofflaw, but that is a full 30 minutes before the state will permit you to take out your trash. Wait until 4:00 p.m. like the rest of your law-abiding neighbors next time! (My FOX NY, Trash Can Tickets In Queens)

3) Question: I'm on a first date with a new guy. About a half hour ago he left the theater in the middle of the movie because he said he needed to grab something he'd left in my car, but he never returned. Do you think something happened to him?

Answer: Possibly. But check for your car first -- sometimes guys will steal their date's cars while they are on a date at the movies. (The Associated Press, Police: Fla. man stole date's car while at movie)

December 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2011

A Big Thumbs Up for Nathaniel Burney's 'The Criminal Lawyer's Guide to Criminal Law'

When a renowned curmudgeon writes that something posted online "may well prove to be the most exceptional thing ever created in the blawgosphere, and the one thing that will outlast all of us," it is Legal Blog Watch policy to invest a mouse click to see what's going on.

That was the review Scott Greenfield gave earlier this week to Nathaniel Burney's new ongoing project called "The Criminal Lawyer's Guide to Criminal Law." Having now read all five parts of the series that Burney has posted so far, I'd like to join Greenfield and the many others who have praised Burney for his elegant and extremely creative guide to some fundamental criminal law concepts. 

The Guide explains in simple terms the rationale behind core concepts such as Punishment, Rehabilitation, Deterrence and Retribution. The explanations seem to be thoughtful and accurate, but what is most striking about the Guide is the beauty and impact of the illustrations and the text. The text is presented in an elegant style that, if it isn't already sold as its own font (the "Burney Font"?), ought to be. And each part of the series is accompanied by numerous illustrations that are expertly drawn and quite effective in helping to make the author's point. Here is a sample:


Bottom line: I hope Nathaniel Burney is a fantastic lawyer because otherwise he may have missed his calling as an author and illustrator. Bravo!

December 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2011

No Calls, No Texts, No Tweets, No Nothing While Driving? Florida Says 'No Way!'

The National Transportation Safety Board announced last week that it is calling for all 50 states to ban all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers. But Florida State Sen. Jack Latvala says if you want to take his cellphone from his car you'll need to "pry it from his cold dead hands." 

Latvala, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, told the St. Petersburg Times (while driving and talking on his cellphone, of course) that there is "absolutely no chance" Florida would ever ban the use of cellphones while driving. Indeed, Florida is currently just one of 15 states that has declined to even ban texting while driving. The Times reports that multiple bills intended to ban or limit texting while driving have been shot down by Florida lawmakers.

Other Florida lawmakers like State Rep. Jeff Brandes also oppose any ban on cellphones while driving, questioning how it could be enforced and suggesting that a ban would be reflective of a "nanny state." Latvala agrees with the "nanny state" charge, calling the NTSB proposal "another attempt by the Obama administration to control our lives."

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner says he would go along with a texting ban but draws the line at an all-out cellphone ban. Joyner says the NTSB may have used "scientific reasons" to arrive at this proposed ban, but the idea simply "will not play in Florida. People will not give up their phone while driving."

Your move, NTSB! Maybe you can push for a 49-state ban now?

December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

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 ordered the "Pasta Plate from Hell" dish at the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass., which includes Naga pepper -- one of the hottest peppers in the world. It was so hot that I passed out and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Can I sue? 

Answer: No. As you may recall, customers who order the Pasta Plate from Hell are required to first sign a waiver acknowledging the danger and agreeing not to sue. (CBS, Customers at Cambridge, Mass. eatery waive right to sue, if food's too hot to handle)

2) Question: I read your post on the legal hazards of "planking," which suggested that perhaps plankers should move on to "Tebowing."  Is Tebowing believed to be risk-free at this time?

Answer: No. It can get you suspended from school. (The Associated Press, NY students suspended for organizing "Tebowing")

3) Question: I'm driving about three miles per hour in the school parking lot here in Prosper, Texas, and now a police officer is approaching me. What could I have possibly done wrong now?!

Answer: Probably nothing. During the holidays, police in Prosper are waving down drivers in places like school parking lots so that they can give out $10 gift cards to good drivers. (AOL Autos, No, That Cop Does Not Want To Give You A Ticket--Just A Holiday Gift)

December 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2011

Police DUI Checkpoints: To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

As you may know, I am a diligent follower of legal developments in the world of police speed traps. Today brings a development in a sister topic: DUI checkpoints, and the appropriateness of using Twitter to alert the world to watch out for such checkpoints. 

In Edmonton, Canada, CBC News reports, police are requesting that people refrain from tweeting the locations of checkpoints set up to catch drunk drivers. CBC News says that in several recent instances, Twitter users in Edmonton have alerted their followers as to the specific locations of checkpoints, resulting in a "heated online debate between those who think the information should be shared and those who deem it stupid and unethical."

Edmonton police believe that it is a mistake to enable drunk drivers to avoid checkpoints, as doing so may put other motorists in danger. Calgary police have made a similar appeal to Twitter users, stating that "we don't see any value in warning people in advance of how to avoid that detection. We want them caught and we want them off the streets."

The Saskatoon, Canada police, however, take the opposite approach. They have stated that they have no problem with checkpoint alert Tweets, and even plan on alerting citizens themselves using Twitter when checkpoints are planned. On Thursday, for example, the Saskatoon police tweeted:

Operation Overdrive checkstops are scheduled for tonight. If you drink, don't drive. Plan ahead, make arrangements, and stick with them.

Saskatoon police say their hope is that people who learn that police checkpoints are in place will think twice about drunk driving.

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday'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 recently posted a sign that lists how much money the restaurant will deduct from my paycheck for various potential transgressions such as: "Friends/family visiting while employee is working ($5)"; or "Salads not being made properly ($5)." Can they do this? 

Answer: No. It looks like you may be dealing with a rogue manager. (The Consumerist, Update: Jet's Pizza Says That List Of Payroll Deduction Penalties Is Not Company Policy)

2) Question: I accidentally went through airport security with a bag of marijuana in my backpack. The TSA searched my backpack but returned it to me with the marijuana still in it along with a note that said, "C'mon Son." Can you translate -- does this mean I am in trouble?

Answer: Translation: You are not in trouble, but please hide your weed better next time. (The Not-So Private Parts, Another TSA Officer Leaves Personalized Note In Passenger's Bag (After Finding Marijuana))

3) Question: A baby fawn refused to leave the site of where his mother deer was killed by a car. I was afraid that the fawn would be killed by coyotes or hunters and no rescue shelters would take her, so I took the fawn to my farm to live. I'm not trying to brag, but do you think I might be honored by the city for this kind act?

Answer: It is more likely you will be charged with “unauthorized taking” of the deer and face up to eight months in prison. (ABA Journal, Rescuing Deer Puts Wisconsin Man at Risk of Jail Time)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2011

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 9

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7, and Volume 8 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane, that we'd have exhausted the list of things you can't do on a plane. Nope! The list grows daily.

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

  • Continue to play "Words with Friends" on your smartphone after the pilot orders passengers to turn off all electronic devices. Passengers may not ignore the captain's order to turn off electronic devices for takeoff. This is true even if the passenger is engaged in a game of "Words with Friends" and even if the passenger is a TV and movie starCONSEQUENCE: Plane will return to gate, passenger will be kicked off flight. 
  • Board flight wasted with a friend, argue loudly with friend, fight the flight attendants and then chew through plastic handcuff restraints. Passengers who are so belligerent and rowdy that they must be subdued using plastic restraints as handcuffs and adhesive tape may not simply chew through the plastic and begin carrying on again. CONSEQUENCE: Such passengers will apprehended by a collection of cabin staff and passengers, entire plane will be placed in lockdown and pilot will divert plane to next available landing spot. Passengers may be charged with crime of "mischief" and ordered to pay restitution.
  • Attempt to carry on board a purse with a small western gun design on the front. Passengers with a flair for Western fashion may not carry on purses with a small handgun design on the front, even if the design is just a few inches long. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will not be allowed to pass through security with such a purse. 

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 was eating lunch at an outdoor cafe when a bird pooped in my food. Now I'm in an argument with the restaurant over who must pay for the replacement order. I say that if you run an outdoor cafe you assume the risk of birds pooping in your customers' food. The restaurant says that if you eat outside you assume the risk of a bird pooping in your food. Who is right?

Answer: Congratulations, you have stumped the entire blogosphere, which has no answer for you. (Consumerist, Who Should Pay If A Bird Poops In Your Food?)

2) Question: I bought a subway pass that allows unlimited access to the New York subway system. Can I sell other people "swipes" off of my card to let them access the subway as well, without getting myself charged with theft? I think I'm on to something here!

Answer: The New York Court of Appeals says it is not theft because you own the access that you are selling. But FYI, the Manhattan district attorney's office says it will try to prosecute swipe-sellers using "other laws." (The Volokh Conspiracy, Selling Swipes from Unlimited Subway Card Isn't Larceny, Court Rules)

3) Question: My buddy and I just stole a bunch of DVDs and computer games from a Target store. While we were driving away from the Target, my buddy accidentally "pocket-dialed" the 9-1-1 emergency line, and the 9-1-1 operator overheard us bragging about the heist, chatting about where we would get the best prices for the stolen merchandise, and even describing the vehicle we were in. We were immediately caught. Can that 9-1-1 call be used against us?

Answer: I'm afraid so. (Wisconsin State Journal'Pocket dialed' 911 call leads to easy arrest of two thieves)


December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2011

No Calls, No Texts, No Tweets, No Nothing: NTSB Calls for Ban on PEDs While Driving

About two years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a website called "," the "Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving." The purpose of the site is to help educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving. The site closely tracks state laws governing distracted driving, listing, for example, the nine states (plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands) that prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving, and the 35 states that ban text messaging for all drivers.

The site notes that currently there is not a single state that bans all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers, but that may soon change dramatically if a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board is followed. On Tuesday, the members of the NTSB voted unanimously in support of "the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle." 

Specifically, the NTSB's recommendation "calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers." NTSB's chairman stated that "more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents. It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families. The Associated Press reports that although the NTSB doesn't have the power to impose such a ban, "its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers."

What do you think? Is this all-out ban too much? Would an exception for hands-free calls be appropriate, or at least a more acceptable starting point given that not a single jurisdiction appears to have such a ban at this time?

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am getting my affairs in order before I go off to prison for a few years for insider trading. Any suggestions for what I should put on my "out-of-office" email auto-response under the circumstances?

Answer: How about something like "'(The owner of) this email address is currently at a re-education camp for the indeterminate future and (the email address) will not be checked. Please try back once (his) lesson has been learned." (Here is the City, One Of The Best Out-Of-Office Auto Responses Ever)

2) Question: I live in Munich. Almost every day I see one of my neighbors walk his dog, pick up his dog's poop and then place the dog poop in the mailbox. Unacceptable!! What should I do?

Answer: Call the post office immediately. You might be able to recover a 4000 euro reward and keep your mail clean. (TIME, The Mystery of the Smelly Letters: Who's Dumping Dog Poop into Munich's Mail?) (via Consumerist)

3) Question: I'd like to bequeath my entire estate of 10 million pounds to my cat when I die, making him the richest pet in the world. Am I allowed to do that?

Answer: Yes, you can do that. But FYI, 10 million pounds is only good enough to make your cat the third-richest pet in the world, behind a German shepherd named Gunter (90 million pounds) and a chimpanzee named Kalu (40 million pounds). (Mail Online, Cat inherits £10m empire after owner dies aged 94 ... and becomes third richest pet in the world)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2011

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 just flipping through the newspaper and stumbled upon my own obituary! And yet, I am still alive. It turns out my good-for-nothing son submitted my obituary so he could get some paid "bereavement" time off of work. Is this legal?

Answer: No, your son can be charged with disorderly conduct for this charade. (The Associated Press, Man prints fake obit of mom to get time off)

2) Question: I'd like to get the vanity license plate X32 IARO. Is this going to be a problem? 

Answer: Do you really think the Department of Motor Vehicles does not have a mirror on hand to double-check your request? Request denied. (Legal Juice, Really, You Won't Allow This License Plate?)

License plate oral sex

3) Question: I'm a dad. I was playing in the father-son softball game at my son's Cub Scout camp and, after the competitive juice got flowing a bit, I accidentally ran over the adult catcher as I tried to score from second base on a single. Hey, he was blocking the plate! Can I be held liable in South Carolina for the catcher's injuries?

Answer: No. In South Carolina, at least, "recklessness by co-participants in a contact sport must be assumed as part of the game. Accordingly, a player assumes the risk of ordinary recklessness committed within the course of the game." (Legal Profession Blog, No Liability For Home Plate Collision)


December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sandusky Hearing Shows That in Legal World, Sometimes the 'Big Game' Never Gets Played

Today in Bellefonte, Pa., the media hoping to cover the Jerry Sandusky preliminary hearing got a taste of one of the more frustrating aspects of the legal world: the non-event, i.e., the highly anticipated important event that doesn't actually happen.

As a practicing lawyer, I remember numerous occasions where I would do something along the lines of:

  • Prepare for days or longer for "important hearing";
  • Fly from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco on day before "important hearing," check into hotel room;
  • Wake up early, further prepare, meet client and arrive at courthouse for "important hearing";
  • Attend and participate in "important hearing," which unexpectedly turns out to be limited to trivial issues and lasts 10 minutes, postponed to a later date or simply canceled altogether.
  • Fly from San Francisco back to Washington, D.C., shaking head and wondering, "what just happened?!"

On Monday, media from around the country and perhaps the world descended on the tiny town of Bellefonte, Pa., in anticipation of the preliminary hearing in Sandusky's child molestation case. Many of his accusers were slated to confront Sandusky in this hearing with testimony about the abuse to which he allegedly subjected them. As Deadspin wrote Monday, the downtown area of the small town had begun to "resemble the lit-up scurrying of a movie set," and the town had parceled out areas where the dozens of TV crews could film their on-location reporters. Police began to barricade certain roads. "It was as if we'd arrived in town the day before a big game," Deadspin wrote.

This morning, the town awoke to what locals said would be the highest-profile event in town history. The WSJ Law Blog was on the scene to live-blog the proceedings, and said that reporters arrived early to pack into the first seven rows of benches. The members of the public who filled the back rows were selected from more than 1,000 people who applied to attend the hearing. Famous courtroom sketch artist Elizabeth Williams was on hand to draw sketches of the event.

Then, the following occurred:

8:29 a.m.: Hearing called to order.

8:30 a.m.: Sandusky waives his right to the hearing. Hearing over.

The Deadspin analogy to today's hearing feeling like a "big game" probably felt accurate last night. But as lawyers know, there is one big difference between law and sports events such as the Super Bowl: they always play the Super Bowl!

December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 12, 2011

Old Law Books Are Not Garbage, They're Flooring

Booklamp2As I previously discussed here ("Old Law Books Are Not Garbage, They're Art"), the relevance and need for actual hard-copy law books diminishes each year. For a while, the WisBlawg of the University of Wisconsin School of Law has maintained a running list of clever artistic uses for old law books such as turning them into "BookBags," bookcases and bookshelves, and even lamps.

But the law book creations above were just a mere warm-up, it turns out. The Library Science blog (via @jasnwlsn) has some amazing photos of what you can do with some creativity and several thousand unwanted law books: Redo an entire floor! Check out these photos below, and click on them to see larger versions on the Library Science website. Law book flooring seems like the perfect touch for, say, the office of a recovering ex-lawyer. High heels not recommended.

Book floor




December 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

December 09, 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 work at a nuclear facility for an Energy Department project and would like to "blow the whistle" on some unsafe practices. However, I hear that if you blow the whistle, the contractor I work for will banish me to an office in the basement with no windows. Is this true, or is it just an urban legend from the movie "The Office"?

Answer: Sorry, but it is true. (The Federal DiaryAfter complaint, he landed in basement)

2) Question: I work at Walmart. I see a woman actually trying to make meth in the back of the store near the restrooms with ingredients she grabbed in the store! She has lithium and drain cleaner laid out and she is mixing stuff up. This was not covered by the training. What should I do?

Answer: Call the police and be careful, as some of those ingredients will burn you. (Tulsa WorldWoman arrested after reportedly trying to make meth inside Walmart)

3) Question: My mom's boyfriend found a naked photo of me on my cell phone. To "teach me a lesson," he used my phone to send a text, including the naked photo, out to all of the people in my phone's contacts!! This cannot be legal, can it?

Answer: It is not legal, and he could be arrested for sexual exploitation of a minor. (, Man arrested for texting naked photo of girlfriend's daughter)


December 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2011

Planking Law: Not on a Cop Car, Not on an ATM Machine

By now you probably have heard of "planking," a fad fueled by photos on the Internet. Planking participants try to find the most unusual and original location in which to plank. It looks like this:

But some plankers are learning that the police are not down with them planking wherever they please. On Tuesday, the Herald Times reports, planker Alexander Hart was found guilty of disorderly conduct by a Manitowoc, Wisconsin judge. Judge Steven Olson fined Hart $303 for planking on a police squad car and posting photos of his plank-job on social network sites. Prosecutors also introduced evidence of Hart planking on top of merchandise displays at local retail stores and on an ATM machine at a local bank.

Prosecutor Kathleen McDaniel argued that planking on the squad car was "disruptive to the peace and good order of the community at large." She added that it was "not in 'good order' for members of the public to be climbing on merchandise displays," and that publishing such photos "does tend to cause or provoke a disturbance."

According to Wikipedia, this is not the first "planking on a squad car" arrest (another occurred in May 2011, when a man from Queensland, Australia was charged with planking on a police vehicle). Other reported planking mishaps include seven doctors and nurses at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, England who were suspended for planking while on duty, and an Australian who fell to his death while planking on a seventh-floor balcony.

With police taking the fun out of planking, maybe it is time for everyone to move on to Tebowing?

December 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 posed for some topless photos while wearing underwear bottoms. But when the photos were published, the magazine airbrushed my bottom half to make it appear that I was completely nude. Now the government of my country (which does NOT like nudity) has vowed to cancel my citizenship, ban me from entering in the country or maybe take me to court, and my father has disowned me. Can I sue?

Answer: Yes, it appears that there is precedent for such a lawsuit. (New York Magazine, FHM India Cover Girl Sued the Magazine for Allegedly Photoshopping Her to Appear Nude)

2) Question: Why does my 1st grader insist that the words to the song "Deck the Halls" are "don we now our bright apparel." Bright apparel? What happened to "gay apparel?"

Answer: Sometimes elementary school music teachers are not comfortable with the traditional "gay apparel" lyrics and change the word to bright. (Huffington Post, Michigan's Cherry Knoll Elementary School Under Fire For Removing 'Gay' From 'Deck The Halls')

3) Question: Can I get around a hearsay objection to an email if the email contains an "emoticon"?

Answer: Novel question -- the key issue seems to be whether the emoticon provides the recipient with a precise state of mind of the sender. (NC Law Blog, Can Emoticons Beat the Hearsay Rule?) (via Abnormal Use)


December 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2011

Pay Your $75 Fee or the South Fulton Fire Dept. Will Watch Your Home Burn to the Ground, Part II

In South Fulton, Tenn., city residents receive service from the South Fulton Fire Department. People who live outside the city limits, however, must pay an annual $75 county fire service fee if they want the SFFD to respond to a call about a fire at their home. 

As I discussed here last year, the South Fulton Fire Department has made it abundantly clear that if you don't pay your annual $75 county fire service fee, they will stand by and watch your house burn to the ground, period, end of discussion. They did just that in October 2010, for instance, when non-$75-fee payer Gene Cranick's house caught on fire -- the SFFD refused to lift a finger until the fire spread to a fee-paying neighbor's field. Indeed, even when the SFFD was at the scene to extinguish the field, they still refused to put the fire out at Cranick's home.

The SFFD received a lot of criticism after it let Cranick's house burn down, but the city feels it has little choice but to take this hard-line approach. The South Fulton mayor said this week that if they make an exception for one house, then no one will pay the "pay-for-spray" fee. "There's no way to go to every fire and keep up the manpower, the equipment, and just the funding for the fire department," he said to WPSD News. "After the last situation, I would hope that everybody would be well aware of the rural fire fees."

Vicky Bell is the most recent homeowner to suffer the consequences of not paying the $75 "pay-for-spray" fee. She and her boyfriend live in a rural area outside of South Fulton that is subject to the fee. She admits that she was aware of the fee and the policy "but did not subscribe because she and her boyfriend did not think they would ever be victims of a fire," The Associated Press reports. On Monday of this week, however, Bell's home caught fire (possibly due to a space heater) and she called 9-1-1 hoping the SFFD would help. She says the SFFD did come out, but it simply watched as her house burnt. The sight of the SFFD and its trucks standing by as her house burnt down "was almost as disturbing as the fire itself," she said.

Below is local new station WSPD's report on the SFFD's decision not to help extinguish the fire at Bell's home.


December 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (27)

Wednesday'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 naked, 300-pound bodybuilder on my front porch, and he looks like he's in a bit of a 'roid rage. Should I tell him to get off of my porch?

Answer: Unless you have four police officers, two stun guns and four sets of handcuffs available to you, you might want to call for backup before you confront him. (The Associated Press, Naked bodybuilder attack leaves couple badly hurt)

2) Question: It took years, but I'm proud to say I won my case today representing a prisoner who claimed he had his religious rights violated. Yes, the jury awarded him just $1, but a win is a win, right? How much can I recover in attorney fees? 

Answer: The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1997 limits attorney fees to 150 percent of a jury award, so by my calculations your fee award should be $1.50. (The Associated Press, Attorney Harrison Williams objects to appeals court's $1.50 ruling)

3) Question: I noticed a horrible rotten stench in the used car I purchased shortly after I purchased it. I later learned that a dead body had apparently been stowed inside the car at some point prior to my purchase. Can I get a refund?

Answer: Maybe, but it may take litigation to get a refund. (Consumerist, Woman Sues Car Dealership Over Dead Body Smell)

December 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2011

Short Fuse at Anger Management Class Leads to Stabbing, Part II

In Short Fuse at Anger Management Class Leads to Stabbing Part I, I told you the story of one Faribah Maradiaga, who arrived late to her anger management class while a "Dr. Phil" DVD on managing anger was being shown, and promptly began complaining about the video and disrupting the class. When another attendee told Maradiaga that "the video was good and to give it a chance," Maradiaga stood up, started talking "trash" to the soon-to-be victim, pulled out a paring knife with a 3-inch blade and stabbed the woman several times in the arm and shoulder (see photo below) She also threatened to kill the victim's family.


A year later, it turns out the victim of this criminal bit of irony is not quite ready to move on. KING 5 News in Seattle reports (via a tip from Seattleite @VBalasubramani) that Luna Oraivej, the woman who was stabbed in the arm, has filed a lawsuit against Court Services Institute, the private, for-profit company that ran the ill-fated anger management class, as well as the course instructor. The KING 5 report offers a host of additional tidbits about the whole mess that bear repeating here:

  • The offense that ultimately required Oraivej to take the anger management course to avoid criminal charges was a domestic argument in which she broke a DVD player in her own home. Police arrested her for this and sent her off to the city jail. "I was being honest with police," Oraivej said. "I said 'Yes, I stepped on it,' but nobody touched each other, there was no physical violence." She added that when the officer "told me I had to go to jail for that, it really took me by surprise."

    Well, I guess so!! In Seattle they throw you in jail for breaking a DVD player during an argument in your own house?
  • After Oraivej was stabbed with the paring knife and dialed 911 on her cell phone "with blood streaming down my arm, dripping on the floor" the instructor told her she was required to stay and finish the class. "I just have a few more things to cover with you and then you can go," he said. After class ended, Oraivej drove herself to the emergency room to get her shoulder stitched up.
  • County prosecutors charged Maradiaga with assault on Oraivej but she never showed up for court, and there is now a felony warrant out for her arrest.
  • Oraivej says the class taught her one thing: "Up until this point, I really didn't know what the word 'ironic' meant. Now I know."

As for the lawsuit, Oraivej's lawyer argues that "there's really no excuse for someone being stabbed in an anger management class. It clearly didn't come out of nowhere." A representative from Court Services Institute told KING 5 News that the stabbing was the first in ten years of running the program, and was an "isolated case." Oraivej's lawsuit demands a refund for the $180 course, as well as monetary damages for her injuries and emotional distress. 

I don't know whether Oraivej should or will prevail in her lawsuit against Court Services Institute, but I feel strongly that if you are stabbed at your anger management class that you deserve a refund!

December 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 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 am trying to talk to my lawyer at The Law Booth kiosk in the Boynton Beach Mall, but this 10-year-old waiting for his mom outside of the American Eagle Outfitters store keeps poking his head in the "doorway" to the kiosk. Is this going to waive my attorney-client privilege? 

Answer: Great question. The blogosphere will probably need for "mall attorney" jurisprudence to develop further before it can provide an answer, sorry. (Palm Beach PostYes, they're real lawyers: Booth at Boynton mall peddles foreclosure advice) (via South Florida Lawyers)

2) Question: I was driving drunk and a policeman pulled me over. He said he was going to cut me a break, and that I should just get out of my pickup truck, leave the keys in the tailpipe and come back to get my truck the next day. I gratefully did all that, but now that I've come back to get the truck it is gone! What is going on here?

Answer: Sometimes police will have you leave your truck behind so that they can then take it and smash it into their estranged wife's car. (The Star-LedgerNewark police officer steals car from drunk driver, smashes into wife's car, authorities say)

3) Question: I'd like to be a lawyer but I really don't have the time or energy to go to law school. Can't I just go be an apprentice lawyer somewhere instead of going law school? 

Answer: Sure, if you are in California, Vermont, Virginia or Washington. (PrawfsBlawg, Home Schooling Esq.)

December 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 02, 2011

'Sexpionage' a Growing Danger for Business Travelers in China

You are a corporate executive, and you are on business travel in China. And even though you may not be the most handsome guy, the Chinese women are loving you! Suddenly one or more of them are proposing a beautiful-girl party in your hotel room, and who are you to argue? As Ashton Kutcher says wishfully in the clip from "What Happens in Vegas," below, this kind of awesome thing happens sometimes ... right?

But as Rob Corddry's character replies in the clip above, "No, it doesn't happen!!!" It's a trap!

According to Brian McAdam, a former Canadian diplomat who now specializes in Chinese organized crime, spies in places like China and Russia are now engaged in a "co-mingling of the oldest profession, and the second oldest profession: prostitution and espionage." Or, as McAdam puts it, "sexpionage."

The Vancouver Sun reports that according to McAdam, business people and government officials who frequently travel abroad are prime targets for sexpionage. Spies from the Chinese government will hire a prostitute to "lure unwary Westerners in 'honey pot traps,'" he says, and the escapades in the hotel are then secretly captured on tape. McAdam says that "virtually all" hotels in China are rigged with hidden microphones and video cameras, USA Today reports. The tape is then used to blackmail the victim for information. "If you're not tall, dark and handsome, and some beautiful woman starts flirting with you, maybe there's something going on," he says.

McAdam says he himself has been targeted several times, including once in Hong Kong when he was having drinks with some Hong Kong colleagues. He says that three beautiful Chinese women suddenly showed up and began flirting with him, and that his host then "invited him to take the women -- all three -- back to a karaoke room which had privacy -- and a bed." McAdam says he quickly recognized what was going on, and "stood up, thanked his colleagues for 'an interesting evening' and high-tailed it out of there."

December 2, 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'm a lawyer. I'm thinking about buying space on a billboard and putting my photo on it along with the slogan, "Call Me. I'm a Lawyer. I'm on a Billboard." Brilliant, right? 

Answer: Yes, but that slogan is already taken. (Tosh.0, He's On A Billboard)


2) Question: The rear door to a bank courier van driving in front of us on the highway just blew open, and $100,000 in cash is now scattered on the road. Many motorists have now stopped and are quickly scooping up the cash -- is this a finders, keepers situation? 

Answer: No, police say that just because the money flew out of the van does not mean it is free cash to whomever finds it. They say taking it is theft. (The Associated Press, Bank van accidentally dumps cash on Pa. highway)

3) Question: I'm interested in a career as an armored car driver. Is it OK if I just knock on the window of one of the Brinks truck drivers to ask for some career advice? 

Answer: It would be more advisable for you to telephone the office or send a letter. Young men who knock on the windows of Brinks trucks looking for career advice sometimes find themselves in police custody, mistakenly accused of attempted armed robbery. (Charleston GazetteTeen startled Brinks driver, police say)

December 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2011

The 'ILSCCP Blog': You Can't Judge a Blog By Its Cover

DaveArgentarYesterday I stumbled upon the ILSCCP Blog (via @BitterLawyer), the work of David Argentar (pictured) of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. Usually there is absolutely nothing that could get me to visit something called "ILSCCP" or some random state's Commission on Professionalism, but Bitter Lawyer described the site as "a professionalism website that is actually interesting to read" so I skeptically decided to see if that was true. It was.

Despite how effortless a trained professional like myself makes it appear, "legal humor" is not always easy -- often it ends very badly. Argentar, a former commercial litigator and "Jeopardy!" champion, however, is quite good at it, and he uses humor to make his posts on professionalism issues interesting and fun to read.

Today's post on the ILSCCP Blog probably wrote itself, as Argentar had the good fortune to have one of the most bizarre "professionalism" cases ever come to closure this week in his state of Illinois. That would be Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Matter No. 6274702, in which an attorney basically tried to use the “Adult Gigs” section of Craigslist to hire a secretary/legal assistant/prostitute to work in his office and provide regular "sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate." Wow.

The attorney advised one "candidate" that 

as part of the interview process you’ll be required to perform for us sexually (i didn’t do this before with the other girls i hired, now i think i have to because they couldn’t handle it). Because that aspect is an integral part of the job, I think it's necessary to see if you can do that, because it'll predict future behavior of you being able to handle it when you have the job.

Again, wow.

As Argentar summed it up,

Often, issues of ethics and professionalism raise complicated questions, involve shades of grey, and require serious thought and contemplation to resolve. Sometimes, however, all it takes to figure out whether a given action or decision is the right one is to ask: "Is this stupid?" If the aforementioned attorney had just asked himself that simple question, he might still be practicing law and still require secretarial assistance. Instead, he is likely putting up a Craigslist post looking for someone who wants to sublet some office space.

The ILSCCP Blog has been up and running since September 2011, and there are many interesting posts on it. I recommend that you check it out, and hope that you will also visit this post on the blog ("Name This Blog, Win Some `Bucks!") and help Argentar come up with a better name than ILSCCP Blog. This really should not be too difficult since, as Argentar notes, the current name is the "equivalent of naming your baby 'Female' for lack of a better idea."

My suggestion for the new name: Civil Shepherd

December 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: This guy in my office likes to stop by my cube after he takes a smoke break, and he still has the odor of smoke on him. Can I get sick from this?

Answer: Doctors now say that this kind of "third-hand smoke" can be a hazard, as well. (Legal As She Is Spoke, And Now There’s Third-Hand Smoke)

2) Question: My daughter was competing for a spot at a New Zealand boarding school with another girl. The other girl's mom called the school pretending to be a "sexual health worker," and falsely stated that my daughter needed treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and was in a lesbian relationship. Is this legal?

Answer: No, in New Zealand that is the crime of "using a telephone for fictitious purposes." (The Southland TimesMum sentenced for lesbian sex lies)

3) Question: People hunt deer all the time, so I assume it is OK for me to run a deer over with a snowmobile, right? Assume that it is hunting season for purposes of this question.

Answer: Wrong. That is felony animal mistreatment, which can get you sent to jail for many years. (The Associated Press, Wisconsin man gets 11 years for killing deer with snowmobile)


December 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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