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January 31, 2012

Use of Songs, Videos in 2012 Presidential Campaign Prompting Legal Challenges

On Monday, Evan Brown noted on his Internet Cases blog that the 2012 presidential election is providing some unexpected material for Internet and intellectual property law enthusiasts to talk about. First, Brown said, the Ron Paul campaign sued certain John Doe defendants in federal court trying to determine who posted an offensive video on YouTube attacking Jon Huntsman. Next, NBC recently objected to Mitt Romney's use of a "Nightly News" video clip from 1997 that showed Tom Brokaw discussing findings of ethics violations by Newt Gingrich.

Today brings yet another campaign development that may interest IP lawyers: a new lawsuit filed against Newt Gingrich's campaign for using the song "Eye of the Tiger" as his entrance music, without authorization, at his campaign rallies. Here are where these three campaign-related disputes stand at the moment:

  • Ron Paul case: A Twitter user who purported to be a Ron Paul supporter ("NHLiberty4Paul") posted the offensive video about Huntsman. Internet Cases reports that the Paul campaign sought “expedited discovery” to allow the service of subpoenas on YouTube and Twitter, but the motion was denied. The court ruled that the Paul campaign failed to show the required “good cause” for expedited discovery.
  • Romney/NBC: Last week, NBC asked the Romney campaign to pull the ad, saying it is a copyright infringement. Romney's campaign responded this week that it believes its use constitutes "fair use" under the law. Internet Cases agrees
  • Gingrich/Eye of the Tiger: Hollywood, Esq. reports the co-author of the famous "Rocky III" song has alleged in a lawsuit that Gingrich's use of the song is a violation of the song's copyright. The co-author is seeking an injunction to end such use. Hollywood, Esq. adds that "fair use" may again be a key issue, but that the "legality of playing music on the stump is one that hasn't yet been tested in the courts." In addition, it is possible that Gingrich's campaign may have a defense if it purchased a "blanket license" from a performance rights organizations such as ASCAP.

January 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My school newspaper ran an article about teens keeping quiet about having sexually transmitted diseases and, for no reason, used my photo with an X superimposed over my mouth as an illustration. What the heck!?! Now everyone is calling me "STD Boy," but I don't even have an STD! Can I sue?

Answer: Of course. You might try suing for "injury to your reputation" resulting in "shame, humiliation, mental anguish, and hurt feelings." (Miami NewTimesRonald Reagan High Student Sues After School Newspaper Used His Photo To Illustrate STD Story)

2) Question: I like to keep my money in my underwear or, occasionally, in my bra. It is still legal tender, right?

Answer: Technically, yes, but please be advised that some merchants no longer accept money out of undergarments. (Consumerist, This Seems Like A Perfectly Reasonable Policy To Us)

3) Question: Need a quick yes or no answer here, please don't judge me: If corporations are "people," then can buildings be people? Can I marry a building?  

Answer: Despite the video evidence below I'm still going with "NO." (Tosh.0 Blog, Seattle Woman Marries a Building)

January 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2012

'The List,' by Unwashed Advocate: Lessons Learned and Shared

Last week, I was pleased to stumble upon the Unwashed Advocate, an interesting law blog that I had somehow never come across before. The blog is written by Eric Mayer, a criminal defense lawyer who describes himself on Twitter as "an Unwashed Advocate, Living in Bat Country" (i.e., Kansas).

One of the most interesting items I read on UA is something called 'The List,' a running list of lessons learned in Mayer's first year of solo practice which he believes should apply to anyone "practicing law–whether solo, small, or big." The List is now up to 20 separate entries, and I encourage you to read them all. Here are five of my favorites:

  • You’re just as smart as self-titled gurus, business practice experts, SEO gurus, solo practice experts, and law office startup coaches, unless you hire them. Mayer also warns that if any such guru or coach has "been licensed to practice law for less than 5 years, they have no business giving advice. They know precisely squat." And if "they’ve never established their own long-term successful practice, they don’t know anything more than you."
  • Blogging is great if you like to write. Blogging to market yourself is stupid and disingenuous. Your mileage may vary, of course, but Mayer says that to date he has gotten a total of zero clients from his blog (or as Monty Python might put it, "nearly one"). "If you don't love to write," he says, "don't waste your time."
  • Find a mentor. Be honest with them. Prepare for them to beat you about the head and neck. Learn to enjoy such treatment. Mayer emphasizes that a good mentor will have over 10 years of legal experience. "5-9 years are merely experienced peers. Less than 5 years means that they are still searching for the courthouse bathroom, just like you," he writes.
  • Treat everyone at the courthouse like they are a judge. "They deserve respect," he says, "and they tire of dealing with every self-important esquire in the county."
  • Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, 4Square, etc., are not good marketing tools. Mayer says these tools are most effective not for legal marketing but for being "stalked by ex boyfriends/girlfriends." I assume he throws Twitter in with these, as well, in the "etc."

Finally, The List incorporates another great list compiled by Mark Bennett on how to best deal with crazy people, which seems to provide excellent advice for lawyers in both their professional and personal lives. To read the complete version of UA's The List, please visit this link

January 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 27, 2012

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 was arrested last week for trespassing and sent to jail. I am scheduled to be released today on my own recognizance but I cannot find my wallet! Can I simply refuse to leave jail until I find it?

Answer: Yes. But you will be arrested again for disorderly conduct. (The Associated Press, AZ inmate arrested for refusing to leave lockup)

2) Question: If I agree to perform a sex act on a man in exchange for a $2 bill, three $1 bills and an assortment of change, does that constitute prostitution? 

Answer: Yes, even receiving that $6 will makes you a pro. (Shelby Star, Police: $6 sex act leads to prostitution charge)

3) Question: I found a million-dollar winning lottery ticket in the "discarded tickets" bin at a convenience store. I want to cash it, but the store manager now says she is entitled to all discarded tickets placed in the bin, and the person who says she accidentally discarded the ticket says it belongs to her! Who gets the million dollars? 

Answer: The lottery commission will likely pay you the money. But expect litigation from the other two wannabe winners. (ABC News, Three Women Vying for Ownership of $1 Million Lottery Ticket)

January 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 26, 2012

'Thou Shalt Not ...' Visit Any Nightclub in This Town Until You Dress Your Age

Welcome back to the latest in LBW's "Thou Shalt Not ..." series. As you may recall, this series seeks to properly memorialize the growing number of instances I see where a corporation rolls out its "death penalty" punishment on a customer: "You can never come here [buy here] [eat here] again!!" 

The latest installment in this series:

Thou shalt not visit any of the nightclubs in your hometown until you stop dressing so sexy/trampy.

Meet Lisa Woodman, a 28-year-old mother of four who rocks a "size six figure and 36DD chest." Woodman is now reportedly furious because she has been banned from all three hotspots in her home town of Worcester, West Midlands, because of her preferred wardrobe of "low-cut tops, short skirts and knee-length boots."

According to the Daily Mail, the doormen at all of her city's nightclubs -- which are owned by the same company -- have informed Woodman that she is "banned for life" from the clubs unless she tones down her appearance. Woodman says she is just flaunting her figure after breaking up with the father of her kids last year and getting a boob job in April, but the clubs say she is too old to "wear that get-up." Woodman says she saw "teenagers and girls in their 20s wearing much more revealing outfits but they went straight in.

Nexum Leisure, which runs the clubs, told the Daily Mail that Woodman flunked its dress code of "smart casual." Judge for yourself in the photo below of a sad Woodward and more photos like it here.


January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm unemployed. I was called for jury duty but, although jury selection was still going on, I never returned to the courthouse after lunch. The judge got really angry with me and ordered me to spend two days carrying a sign back and forth in front of the courthouse that reads "I failed to appear for jury duty." Can he do this? 

Answer: Indeed he can. (ABA JournalJudge Orders Jury Duty Slacker to Carry Sign in Front of Courthouse)

2) Question: The stupid dog in the apartment next door to mine in Fort Worth, Texas, has been barking non-stop for a full eight minutes! I cannot function in these conditions! What can I do? 

Answer: In two more minutes the dog will have met Fort Worth's "10 minute barking" threshold, and you can then call the police and have them issue a citation to its owner. (The Consumerist, City May Issue Fines If Your Dog Barks For Longer Than 10 Minutes)

3) Question: The cruise ship that I was on was shipwrecked off the coast of Italy. The shipwreck was incredibly traumatic and, in fact, there were several fatalities. Will the surviving passengers receive any kind of compensation for this?

Answer: How does a refund and a 30 percent discount on a future cruise sound? (New York PostDeadly shipwreck line offers victims 30% off their NEXT voyage)

January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2012

Trust Me, I'm an Expert: Smothering by Labrador Retriever

As I have begun to chronicle in my ongoing "Trust Me, I'm an Expert" series of posts, courts have not hesitated to deem people experts in fields such as "smell" and "lap dancing." On the other hand, courts have refused to accept proposed experts in the field of "shit"  and "pimping." Now, I've learned that in a criminal trial where the defendant is alleged to have strangled his wife, but contends that it wasn't he who caused her death but a canine, the court may allow the prosecution to present expert testimony on the possibility of smothering-by-dog.

Specifically, a 50-year-old man is on trial in Germany for manslaughter after his wife was found strangled to death in their bathroom. According to The Local, the defendant says he and his wife drank heavily the night of her death, and that at one point she fell over in the bathroom and he could not lift her. The defendant claims that he provided his wife with a pillow and a blanket, went to bed, and later awoke to find her dead -- smothered by their 75-pound Labrador Retriever, he speculates. 

The man's lawyer argued that, since it is known that dogs sometimes accidentally smother their own puppies by rolling on top of them, this could be the cause of the woman's death. That prompted the prosecution to provide testimony from Hans-Hermann Sangen, an expert from the "Labrador club in Velbert," who said this theory was not plausible. The court allowed Sangen to testify that, while newborn babies might be accidentally smothered by a Labrador Retriever if they snuggled up to them, adults could not be smothered by Labs. 

This seems to me like the type of testimony that might be better coming from a medical doctor, not someone from the local Labrador club, but that is probably why I am only a fake judge and not a real judge.

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2012

Paterno's Death Causes Key Grand Jury Testimony to Be Inadmissible Under Sixth Amendment

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away on Sunday, a victim of lung cancer. Paterno's legacy in the wake of the recent child sexual abuse allegations against one of his long-time assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, is still being written, but Paterno's death may have an immediate impact in one area, The New York Times reports: the ongoing prosecution against former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former university senior vice president Gary Schultz.

Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report to the authorities what they knew about a specific incident of alleged molestation that occurred in the shower of Penn State’s athletic facility in 2002, and also with allegedly lying to the grand jury. To summarize, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant in 2002, reported to Paterno that he had witnessed a sexual assault involving Sandusky and a boy in the showers. Subsequently, McQueary testified to the grand jury, he also told Curley and Schultz about the sexual nature of what he had witnessed.

In his grand jury testimony -- his only sworn testimony in the case -- Paterno corroborated McQueary, testifying under oath that McQueary told Paterno that he saw Sandusky engaged in fondling or "doing something of a sexual nature" to a boy. Curley and Schultz, however, deny that McQueary told them that the shower incident was sexual in nature, which makes Paterno's testimony potentially important. After all, one former prosecutor told The Times, “[w]hy would he have told it to Paterno and not told them? McQueary becomes more credible when you hear Paterno tell his version of it...."

With Paterno's death, however, his grand jury testimony is no longer admissible. As The Times explains, Paterno was not subject to cross-examination in the grand jury proceeding, and using that testimony would therefore violate the Sixth Amendment, which ensures a criminal defendant's right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him."

Thus, unless prosecutors can introduce some other corroborating evidence, it now looks as though the key question of what McQueary told Curley and Schultz about the shower incident will come down to McQueary's word against theirs.

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: We are having a problem with vandalism at our local park. Do you have any ideas on how we can better deter these criminals? 

Answer: Security bees. (BBC NewsBees 'could deter vandals' at Greenfield heritage park)

2) Question: I'm a mother and a lawyer, and I'd like to find a position in the law that will allow mw to easily work from home. Thoughts?

Answer: Have you considered senior trial attorney? (The CareeristWhy Leave the Kitchen?)

3) Question: We have been planning our next bank robbery for months, accounting for every possible situation. I defy you to come up with one thing that we have not already planned for!

Answer: Personalized vanity license plates with your last name on them on the getaway car? (U-T San DiegoVanity plate leads to bank robbery suspect)

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 23, 2012

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 on the school board. We asked the future students of a new school that is under construction to choose a mascot, and they picked "Cougars." Can we ban this choice as being "disrespectful to women?"

Answer: It is your school district, so it is your call. But you know that cougars are also cats, right? (CBS Las Vegas, Utah School Board Says Cougar Mascot Too Offensive To Women)

2) Question: The guy in the cell next to me says he is doing prison time because he spray-painted the wings of hawks to trick bird-watchers into believing they had discovered a new species of bird. That cannot be true, right?

Answer: Actually, that happens sometimes. That is the crime of "ill-treating an animal." (Herald Sun, Farmer's spray paint prank raised bird watchers' hopes of a new species)

3) Question: I am a ship captain. I know ship captains are not suppose to abandon ship, but as my ship was sinking I accidentally tripped into a lifeboat. I mean, I'm already in the lifeboat!! What am I supposed to get out or something?

Answer: "Get back aboard, damn it!" (The New York TimesItaly Finds a Heroic Foil for Its Scorned Captain)

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 20, 2012

Judge Posner and the Use of Photographs in Judicial Opinions

Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner is one of the most respected judges in the United States, and is a well-known pioneer in the area of "law and economics." Reuters reports today that Posner has become a pioneer in another, much quirkier area: the use of photographs copied from the Internet to spice up his judicial opinions. 

The use of photos to illustrate points probably does not seem all that novel to most people, but it is still rare enough in the legal world that it causes double-takes. When Mark Cuban's lawyer recently used a photograph of Cuban and the Mavericks celebrating their championship as part of a summary judgment motion (in a case questioning Cuban and the Maverick's management of the team), the tactic was hailed as innovative and "brilliant." As the Reuters article points out, Posner's use of photos goes back to at least 2007, but he has used them more frequently in the past few months.

In his opinion in Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co. in November 2011, Posner included photos of both an ostrich and a man in a suit with their heads buried in the sand to reinforce his point that "[t]he ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate." In an opinion issued last week in Grayson v. Schuler, Posner again included photography -- this time a photo of reggae singer Bob Marley, intended to illustrate what "dreadlocks" are.

According to the Reuters article, Posner found the Bob Marley photo online, copied it, and then pasted it into the opinion. Asked whether such use violated any copyright laws, Posner said he believed that what he had done fell under the doctrine of "fair use." "It's not as if we're selling our opinions in competition with a photographer. Using the photo in a judicial opinion couldn't conceivably be hurting the copyright holder," he said.

Fair use or not, David Corio, the photographer who took the Marley picture, said he was surprised to see it used in the judicial opinion without any credit or attribution, and believed that "a judge of all people would be decent enough to ask permission before using an image."

January 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 19, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 11

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9 and Volume 10 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:

  • Accidentally play a pre-recorded message over the plane's intercom system that the plane will need to make an emergency landing on water. Airline crew should not erroneously play a pre-recorded emergency announcement about an imminent emergency water landingCONSEQUENCE: Crew will need to inform 330 panicked passengers of the mistake and apologize for causing them "undue concern."
  • Refuse to sit down in your seat until flight staff bring you champagne and food. Couples traveling together may not jointly refuse to sit down while repeatedly demanding champagne and food. CONSEQUENCE: Couple will be forced to exit plane and airline will alert FBI. 
  • Attempt to board a rival company's plane and review documents. Airline personnel may not try to board a rival airline's plane to "have a look at it" out of "curiosity" and then pick up documents concerning the rival's flight crew. CONSEQUENCE: Curious employee will be fired. 

January 19, 2012 | 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: I happened to be walking by the courthouse in London, Ontario this morning when a police officer approached me and said I was required to enter the courthouse and serve as on a jury, as the court was short one juror. Hey, I'm busy today! Do I have to do this?

Answer: Yes, Superior Court judges in Ontario have the power under the Criminal Code to have police and sheriff’s officers go out into the streets to find jurors as necessary. (The StarJurors rounded up off streets of London)

2) Question: I want to show my kids Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech but I cannot find it online anywhere. Where do I go to find it? 

Answer: Due to copyright issues, the only way to legally watch it now is to go to the King family's website and purchase it for $10. (The Atlantic Wire, The Great Martin Luther King Copyright Conundrum)

3) Question: I was at church near a fellow parishioner who was receiving the "spirit." The ushers at the church failed to prevent the person receiving the "spirit" from falling, and she did so, knocking several other worshippers into me. Now I am injured. Can I sue? 

Answer: The ushers failed to prevent that? That is outrageous, egregious, preposterous! (OnPoint News, Bystander Claims "Swoon and Fall" Injuries at Church)

January 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2012

The Official TV Show of the Happysphere: 'You Can Do Anything!'

Last year, Mark Bennett offered a brief reminder that his Defending People blog was "Not The Happysphere":

If you are a blogging lawyer, and you want to be read by other bloggers, know that being read by other bloggers includes being taken to task publicly when you write something dumb or silly or ill-considered or even just vapid.

Others reinforced that point. Scott Greenfield wrote on Simple Justice that new bloggers looking to him to provide them with undeserved attention and recognition have 

come to the wrong place. I'm not your Daddy. I'm not here to support your marketing effort or overlook some insipid position, offered for self-aggrandizement at the expense of accuracy. ... You come begging for attention, and then explode when it doesn't coordinate with your self-promotional efforts?  Who the hell promised you that the blawgosphere was here to help you get business? ... You want the respect of your peers? Earn it, just like everyone else. 

Brian Tannebaum subsequently observed on My Law License that the Happysphere is populated not only by bloggers, but by other "social media rock stars" who

have no jobs, no income, huge debt, and nothing more than a web presence and a following on twitter. You would never know that, because that's all hidden, no one asks hard questions (especially when faced with the promise of wealth and fame by someone who has neither), and it's a negative discussion which is prohibited by the happysphere on the internet who only respond to congratulations, thank yous and "you're so awesome" type compliments.

All of this raises the question: If members of the Happysphere are being called out -- or at least tuned out -- by the blawgosphere, where can they turn for the recognition and positive feedback that fuels their personal stars? Fortunately, that question was answered last week when Saturday Night Live unveiled its new TV show, "You Can Do Anything!" It is not expressly directed at law bloggers, but check it out below and see if you can watch it without immediately thinking about the Happysphere (via PrawfsBlawg).

January 18, 2012 | 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 a lawyer and I have been asked to represent a man who has stabbed not one but two prior lawyers in their necks with pencils. Do you think I should take the case, provided I can ensure that there are no pencils in the area when we are together? 

Answer: Please don't overlook the sharpness and stabbing capabilities of other writing utensils, such as pens. (HeraldNet, Suspect allegedly stabs his third defense attorney) (via Lowering the Bar)

2) Question: I recently learned that my husband has been having regular sessions with a sex robot. Can I use this against him in our pending divorce?

Answer: I direct you to Sonya Ziaja's recent paper entitled, "Homewrecker 2.0: An Exploration of Liability for Heart Balm Torts Involving A.I. Humanoid Consorts." (Jonathan Turley, Robot Love?)

3) Question: I am in law enforcement and I was entrusted with a secret dossier detailing site-by-site security plans for the 2012 London Olympics. However, I think I left the dossier on the train this morning. Now what do I do?

Answer: If you are lucky, maybe one of your fellow commuters turned it in. Check with the police. (FOX Sports, Report: Security secrets left on train)

January 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 17, 2012

Interior Secretary Gives National Park Service 30 Days to Correct Quote on MLK Memorial

I don't know if this is the kind of thing that gets any play outside of the Washington, D.C., area, where I live, but here in the nation's capital there has been much discussion about the new Martin Luther King Memorial and the controversial quote that was carved into it.

The original plans for the memorial called for a specific quote from King to be engraved upon it. The quote came from a speech called "The Drum Major Instinct," in which King stated:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." 

The Washington Post reports, however, that after the "full, in-context quote" was approved, "the lead architect and the sculptor thought the stone would look better with fewer words. They did the editing themselves, without considering the violence it would do to the quote's meaning." The result of this editing can be seen on the memorial as it was presented to the public:

KING Memorial

(image: Washington Post)

While the edited version of the quote was surely more succinct, it did not go over well with many interested parties and members of the public. The main criticism was that the removal of the "if" and the "you" from the original quote changes the meaning significantly. Vocal critics included Martin Luther King III, the poet Maya Angelou (who worked with King and believes the edited quote makes King seem like "an arrogant twit;" language experts, and, of course Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes, Political Humor & Satire Blog, Video Archive

Perhaps the most important critic of the engraved quote is U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose heads the department that is ultimately responsible for U.S. national memorials. Last week, Salazar told The Washington Post that he, too, does not think the quote on the memorial is an accurate portrayal of what King was, and he directed the National Park Service "to consult with the King Memorial Foundation, family members and other interested parties and come up with a more accurate alternative" within 30 days. Salazar explained that the King memorial is a "forever presence" on the Mall and "we have to make sure that we get it right.”

January 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

Powder1) Question: I am the mugshot photographer at a jail. This entire head of a guy who the police just arrested is covered in some kind of white powder. Are we supposed to clean him up first or something? This was not covered in the training.

Answer: Naahhh. Just take the picture. (Miami New TimesMugshots Friday: Why is This Man Covered In Powder?)

2) Question: I work at a government agency. Ever since the agency fixed the drinking fountains they took away our free bottled water. Unacceptable! Can the employees sue to get the bottled water back?

Answer: Yes, but the D.C. Circuit says you will probably lose. (The Volokh Conspiracy, No Bottled Water on Uncle Sam’s Dime)

3) Question: My son is a good boy who is on the honor roll at school. He is also a Baltimore Ravens fan -- why won't the school let him wear his "Ball So Hard" sweatshirt? 

Answer: It's OK now. "Ball So Hard" gear has been cleared by the school board. (BelAir Patch, Student Reprimanded for 'Ball So Hard University' Sweatshirt)


January 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Antique 'White Only' Sign Posted at Duplex Swimming Pool Leads to Civil Rights Charges

In May 2011, a Cincinnati landlord named Jamie Hein (who is white) posted an antique "Public Swimming Pool, White Only" sign at the pool at her duplex.

Actually, the pool was not a "Public Swimming Pool" -- Hein says the pool is on her private property, and people must ask permission to use it. According to The Associated Press, witnesses testified to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that Hein said she posted the sign because a black girl who was visiting her parents at the duplex used chemicals in her hair that would make the pool "cloudy." 

The girl's outraged parents filed a race discrimination charge with the commission and moved out of the duplex. According to ABC News, Hein stated at the time that the sign had nothing to do with the girl who wished to use the pool, and had been posted well in advance of that. She said that she collects antiques and, after receiving the sign as a gift, placed it on the pool as a decoration. On the other hand, Hein also reportedly told the commission that she was "trying to protect my assets," and told ABC News that "if I have to stick up for my white rights, I have to stick up for my white rights. It goes both ways."

On Sept. 29, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found that Hein violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign, which has since been stolen. The commission ruled that Hein's conduct "restricts the social interaction between Caucasians and African-Americans and reinforces discriminatory actions aimed at oppressing people of color."

On Thursday, the commission voted 4-0 against reconsidering its September finding. The AP reports that going forward, the parties may be able to resolve the case through a settlement. If not, the commission would refer the matter to the Ohio Attorney General's office, which would commence an administrative proceeding that could result in penalties including a cease-and-desist order and punitive damages.

January 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 12, 2012

'Silent Witness' Organization Solves Crimes by Providing Witnesses With Anonymity, Cash Rewards

Hundreds of Circle K stores in Arizona have begun posting store surveillance photos and videos from robberies and thefts at Circle K to the chain's Crime Busters page on Facebook. Circle K partners with an organization called Silent Witness to provide people who can identify the perpetrators in the surveillance tapes with an anonymous and sometimes financially rewarding way to work with authorities.

Specifically, Circle K says on its Crime Busters site, it uses the surveillance photos to help identify repeat offenders to police, and it reimburses crime-stopper programs such as Silent Witness that reward individuals who identify suspect and lead to a felony arrest and indictment.

Silent Witness is an organization with the mission of partnering with citizens, media and law enforcement to prevent crime in Arizona. It posts photos and other details about unsolved crimes on its website, and provides various methods for citizens to anonymously submit tips. In addition to anonymity, Silent Witness says that tipsters are "eligible to receive a cash reward if the information leads to an arrest or grand jury indictment of a felony offender."

On the Silent Witness website, there are links to items such as the "Crime of the Week," about which Silent Witness is seeking tips -- and offering cash rewards of up to $1,000 in each case for information leading to an arrest or indictment. There are also categories of crimes for potential tipsters to look through, such as Homicides, Robberies, and Other Crimes. The reward money comes from private donations and grants from citizens and businesses such as Circle K.

January 12, 2012 | 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 an Illinois furbearer license to sell animal pelts. Does Illinois law allow me to grab some freebie pelts from roadkill? 

Answer: As of Jan. 1, a new Illinois statute allows furbearers like yourself to salvage pelts or even food from roadkill. (The Associated Press, Illinois law lets motorists salvage fur, food from roadkill)

2) Question: The guy in the jail cell next to me down here in Orlando, Fla., says he is doing time for writing on a sidewalk with chalk. He is pulling my leg, right? 

Answer: Maybe not! (Orlando SentinelJail for using chalk on sidewalk? City needs to erase this error) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I was working at the Circle K when three robbers showed up, looked at me and yelled "shoot him, shoot him!" I somehow managed to throw one of the robbers to the ground and grab the gun, foiling the robbery! What do you think I might get for this act of heroism?

Answer: Probably fired. Circle K policy states that clerks are not to provoke, chase or engage a robber. (FOX10TV, Sales Clerk fights back, gets fired)

January 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2012

A Question to Those of You Still Using Google+: Why?

Six months ago, I wrote here about my initial, somewhat bewildering foray into the world of Google+.

I noted a couple of drawbacks that I had immediately observed, including the fact that nobody I knew in the "real world" was even on Google+, leaving me with "a grand total of zero people in my 'Family' circle and an additional zero people in my 'Friends'" circle." Six months later, those totals remain firmly stuck on zero, although I cannot say that I have been actively trying to grow them.

To the contrary, I pretty much gave up on using Google+ a short time after I wrote that post in June 2011 (my last Google+ post is dated Aug. 17, 2011), and as far as I can tell, most of the few people in the legal world with whom I ever communicated on Google+ also moved on. I am not opposed to Google+, I just never grasped how it could be useful or even interesting to me beyond what I was already doing with Twitter and Facebook.

My question for any and all of you in the legal community who are still using Google+ is: why? What are you getting from Google+ that keeps you coming back? Is it redundant if you are using other social media such as Twitter, for example, or does it have value of its own? 

January 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (8)

January 10, 2012

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 have a great idea to improve GPS directions by allowing motorists and pedestrians to avoid high-crime areas. Can I get a patent on that? 

Answer: Sorry, but Microsoft has already secured a patent on the "Avoid Ghetto" GPS feature. (CBS Seattle, Microsoft Patents 'Avoid Ghetto' Feature For GPS Devices)

2) Question: I am driving to court to face drug trafficking charges and I am starting to regret my jacket selection -- it is an illustrated, how-to manual of how to cook crack cocaine (photo here). Would it be better to be late to court so I can drive back home to get a new jacket or should I just hope the judge has a sense of humor?

Answer: Neither. I think you need to go jacketless today. (Local 10, Man facing drug charges wears crack jacket to court)

3) Question: I am from New Zealand but I committed an armed robbery in Australia. The immigration board has determined I am a low-moderate risk of reoffending. Will I be deported?

Answer: How large of a person are you? If you are 6'9" tall with "shoulders like buttresses and legs like pylons," and your "hands, as fists, resemble demolition balls," the Immigration Minister may deem your "exceptionally large" stature as being too great of a risk factor. (Sydney Morning Herald'Gentle giant' and armed robber: why minister is deporting opera-loving 2.1m tall 'Tiny')

January 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 09, 2012

Legal Flawg Watch

Last year, Antonin Pribetic, the same lawyer who helped develop the idea of a "re-tweet taxonomy," coined a new term for use in the legal blog world: "flawg." 

On his Trial Warrior Blog, Pribetic defines flawgs and flawgers as follows:

"Flawg": noun. A legal blog without any substantive legal content that is created, monetized and promoted exclusively for profit. A Flawg will often contain posts about the latest legal tech gadgets, or the how to gain new clients through the awesome power of the internet, in the absence of anything remotely legal to discuss;

"Flawger": noun: someone who flawgs. Usually, a non-lawyer/social media law marketer, (but also a disbarred/suspended/unemployed/underemployed/retired/or failed lawyer who quit) who writes blawg posts about how to write blawg posts, SEO, ROI, iPads, cloud computing, top ten lists, and enjoys attending law marketing conferences and twittering about using #hashtags.

As an example of a flawg post, Pribetic highlights one post from a self-described Law Marketing Blog that invites lawyers to purchase Martindale-Hubbell merchandise in order to "Show Off Your AV Rating." Like this:

AV windbreaker(1)

[Note: I don't want to get off on a rant about this ridiculous windbreaker, but please know that if I see any of you wearing one of these, I will take your picture and send it immediately to [email protected]]

Scott Greenfield also discussed flawgs recently on his Simple Justice blog in a post entitled, The Year of the Flawg. Greenfield warns lawyers who are anxiously sitting by silent telephones to avoid falling for the flawg pitches of "the smiling marketers, the SEO salesmen, the schemers who claim they have big money cases just waiting for you to sign onto their network. ..." Some of these lawyers/Internet "n00bs," he fears, will be "targeted by the snakeoil salesmen," and "easily taken in by the former lawyers and their cohorts whose own financial security is dependent on the foolishness and ignorance of the desperate."

And for those who are thinking about starting a flawg of their own, Greenfield has another message: Please don't. "Don't let 2012 be the Year of the Flawg," he says. "It won't save your practice or feed your children. It will bring our profession into further disrepute."

January 9, 2012 | 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: My wife and I live in New Zealand, and we are expecting our first child shortly! Can we name the baby "Anal"?

Answer: The New Zealand Internal Affairs Department says no. It is also a "no" for the names Mafia No Fear, V8 and the symbol *. But the names Violence, Chardonnay and Number 16 Bus Shelter are all available to you. (NewsCore, What's in a name? New Zealand babies know)

2) Question: I and many other members of the "Michael Jackson Community" remain distraught over the King of Pop's death. Can we sue Michael's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, for our emotional damages?

Answer: About 100 of your fellow community members are trying to do just that now in France. Keep an eye on that case. (AFP, French Fans Sue Michael Jackson's Doctor Over Emotional Damage)

3) Question: I view information as holy, and copying and file sharing as sacred acts akin to prayer. Are there any countries in this world that will accept my beliefs as an official religion? 

Answer: Sweden. (The Hollywood ReporterSweden Recognizes File-Sharing as a Religion)

January 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2012

Woman Defiles Unprotected $30 Million Painting in Latest Museum Attack

Take this for what it's worth, since I admittedly do not know anything about the art world. Regardless, I still contend that at some point in the not-so-distant future, we will look back and say, "Remember when art galleries used to have $30 million masterpieces sitting unprotected in hallways where patrons could accidentally stumble into them, slam them against the wall, or even pull down their pants and literally wipe their bare buttocks on them?"

I have held this belief ever since I read about the clumsy lady who lost her balance while walking in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tumbled into Picasso's “The Actor” painting and caused a six-inch tear resulting in $65 million in damage. Really? That's all it takes to destroy a priceless Picasso -- one false step by any of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Met? Everyone is cool with that?

Then I started reading about the non-accidental attacks on art, like the recidivist art-attacker in the D.C. area who first tried to tear an $80 million Gauguin painting off the wall of the National Gallery of Art, then followed that up four months later by returning to the National Gallery and body-slamming a Matisse oil painting against a wall three times.

And now we have the alleged exploits of one Carmen Tisch, a Colorado woman who decided to start punching and scratching a $30 million oil-on-canvas painting by artist Clyfford Still called "1957-J no.2" at the Clyfford Still museum in Denver, Reuters reports. For good measure, she also then "pulled her pants down to slide her buttocks against it," causing $10,000 worth of damage. Oh, and she also then "urinated after she rubbed up against the canvas, but whether urine got on the painting was still under investigation. ..."

I asked this back in January 2010 when Clumsy Lady wrecked the Picasso, and I'll ask it again two years later: Why is this lack of security or at least basic protection for priceless art so common? No other priceless items seem to be treated this way. I cannot walk in to the National Archives and jab my umbrella through the Declaration of Independence. I cannot head over to the Smithsonian, grab the Hope Diamond and throw it down the escalator. Why do art galleries work this way?

January 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 05, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 10

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8 and Volume 9 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:

  • Resort to vigilante justice when a sick passenger coughs repeatedly during a flight. Passengers may not harass a sick and coughing passenger throughout a flight and then, while deplaning, body-slam the sick passenger against a wallCONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery. 
  • Have an infant sit in the lap of a 3-year-old passenger.  Parents with four children (a 3-year-old child as well as three other babies under the age of 2) cannot purchase three tickets and plan to have the 3-year old hold one of the babies during the flight. CONSEQUENCE: Family will be kicked off flight, may receive a refund on tickets.
  • Attempt to carry on board a suitcase containing 247 live animals including poisonous snakes. Passengers may not carry on a bag containing more than 200 reptiles and mollusks, including nine species of poisonous snakes such as South American pitvipers. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be charged with attempted smuggling and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

January 5, 2012 | 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: A three-judge appeals panel recently considered a challenge to Maryland's congressional redistricting plan. One appellate judge said the map was "reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state." Another called it "a Rorschach-like eyesore." This redistricting plan is doomed, right?

Answer: No, it is fine. (WMAL, MD Leads The Nation In Gerrymandering)

2) Question: My two roommates and I are preparing to go to law school. I am hopeful I will do well. One of my roomates is optimistic he will do well, and my other roommate just got the highest possible score on the LSAT exam. Who do you think will do better in law school. 

Answer: You will. Keep hope alive. (ABA Journal, Hopeful Law Students Got Better Grades, Study Finds)

3) Question: I was just given a ticket for DWI in New Jersey after failing to walk a straight line, but it was the fault of these stupid high heels I was wearing!! Can I get this overturned?

Answer: Sorry, but drunken drivers can be convicted based on visual evidence in New Jersey. If there is a next time, maybe you should ask to take the high heels off? (New Jersey Law Journal, Woman Convicted of DWI Without Alcotest Loses 'High Heels' Defense)


January 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2012

Utah Bar Tries to Put End to Lawyers Freeloading on Law Students' Free Access to Lexis/Westlaw

For decades, law students have received free access to Lexis and Westlaw as a perk of being a student. Lexis and Westlaw offer this free access to further students' education and, I have always assumed, to get each new generation of lawyers hooked on their services. Of course, both services understandably limit students' free use to "educational" or "academic" purposes, and specifically prohibit students from using the free service in connection with employment outside of law school.

Via the Legal Skills Prof Blog I see that in the state of Utah, however, "numerous students have reported that practicing attorneys have conditioned initial or continuing employment as a law clerk upon the students" agreeing to use their free Lexis or Westlaw access to perform the firm's work. As a result, the Utah State Bar Ethics Advisory Committee issued an opinion in November 2011 specifically stating that "a lawyer who encourages or participates in a law student’s violation of the student’s contractual obligation to the electronic research service violates the Rules of Professional Conduct."

The Committee's opinion states that 

When a lawyer hires a law clerk, the lawyer is hiring the clerk for the clerk's services and not for access to the electronic database. The lawyer has no expectation that the law clerk will breach the contractual obligations for the benefit of the lawyer. Indeed, the lawyer’s obligation is to make certain that the law clerk not violate any of the contractual duties and responsibilities.

The opinion concludes that requiring a student to misuse Lexis or Westlaw as described above -- or knowing of such a violation and failing to take reasonable remedial actions -- is a violation of Rule 5.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, pursuant to which a lawyer with supervisory authority over a non-lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer. In addition, it may constitute a "theft of services" under Utah law, "a criminal act, which, depending upon the amount of services wrongfully appropriated, could range anywhere from a Class B Misdemeanor to a Second Degree Felony."

I'm not aware of any similar opinions in other states, but it seems highly unlikely that this is a problem that is limited to the state of Utah. Lawyers who have been freeloading off of students' free Lexis and Westlaw access need to stop that practice or face potentially serious consequences.

January 4, 2012 | 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: Why is there a police officer at my door asking to speak to my five-year-old daughter?!

Answer: Probably because she has overdue library books. (Consumerist, Library Sends Police After 5-Year-Old Girl To Tell Her To Pay Up Or Return Two Overdue Books)

2) Question: I am 99 years old. My wife and I have been married for 77 years -- just five years shy of the American record of 82 years. But I just learned that she had an affair with another man in 1934 -- is that grounds for a divorce? 

Answer: Indeed it is. (Mail Online, 'He just saw red': 99-year-old man divorces wife after discovering she had an affair SIXTY years ago)

3) Question: Why can't I get any information on my religion of Wicca on any of the computers at the Salem, Mo., public library?

Answer: Sorry, but information about the Wicca religion is filtered out at the Salem library because it is deemed to be "occult" and "criminal skills." (Law and Disorder, Library computers can block porn—but Wicca? ACLU says no)

January 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 03, 2012

PepsiCo's Defense in 'Mouse in Mountain Dew' Lawsuit May Cause It Even Greater Problems

Every so often you hear about a bizarre products liability case where a customer complains about a nasty foreign object that supposedly turns up in their bowl of chili, Big Mac, etc. Some of these turn out to be frauds (such as a recent "finger-in-the-chili" allegation), and the rest of them presumably get settled and quietly fade from view.

A case filed in 2010 alleging the presence of a mouse in a can of Mountain Dew has taken a different course, however, as PepsiCo has defended the case in an unusual way. PepsiCo's lawyers in the case hired a veterinary pathologist to examine the mouse, and the pathologist submitted testimony in a motion for summary judgment that the mouse could not have been sealed in the can as alleged. If the mouse had been sealed in the can of Mountain Dew, the pathologist stated, its body would have disintegrated due to the acid in the soda and transformed into a "'jelly-like' substance."

So PepsiCo is telling me my can of soda is so acidic that it will turn a mouse into jelly? Thanks for that mental image! I'm not sure which message I hate more: that there is a one in a billion chance that there will be a mouse in my Mountain Dew, or that there is a 100 percent chance that I am drinking something that is so acidic that it will turn a mouse's body into jelly. As the Atlantic Wire summed it up, "this seems like a winning-the-battle-while-surrendering-the-war kind of strategy that hinges on the argument that Pepsi's product is essentially a can of bright green/yellow battery acid."

A trial had been scheduled in the case for Nov. 28, but that trial date was vacated by the court on Nov. 10. On Dec. 14, the Madison County Record reports, the court ruled that PepsiCo now has until Jan. 11, 2012 to answer or file a responsive pleading to the plaintiff's second amended complaint.

January 3, 2012 | 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'm a bikini barista at an espresso stand. When I started working here, they made me sign a non-compete agreement. I signed it but now I want to be a bikini barista at a different place down the street. Is this non-compete binding?

Answer: Keep an eye on the Foxy Ladies v. Knotty Bodies lawsuit playing out in state court in Washington. That case may answer your question. 

2) Question: What is the fine for doing 108 mph in a 65 mph zone? And does it matter if I am the lieutenant governor of the state? 

Answer: Looks like $430, whether or not you are lieutenant governor. (Boston HeraldLt. Gov. Murray fined $555, cited for traveling 108 mph)

3) Question: I saw your post that a woman who was the star in a topless Las Vegas show was able to insure her breasts for $1,000,000. I am a food critic -- can I insure my taste buds?

Answer: No problem. (CNBC, Celebrity Insured Body Parts)

January 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2012

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 have executed a brilliant plan to steal a car and everything is going perfectly, except I cannot get the car to start. What is going on here? 

Answer: Your target car may have butt identification installed. This is a new technology that "carefully scans a driver’s backside to verify their identity before the car will start. Think of it as a fingerprint for your rear end." If there is not a match, the car won't start. (The Daily, The Can Scan) (via Consumerist)

2) Question: Happy New Year, Legal Blog Watch! Can you recommend a good place in Salt Lake City, Utah, for my law firm to toast the new year with a Happy Hour outing?

Answer: Sorry, but Happy Hour is now illegal in Utah. (Jonathan Turley, The Day Happy Died: New Year To Bring End To Happy Hours In Utah)

3) Question: I am purchasing a vacuum cleaner and a microwave oven from Walmart. The cost is $476 and I'm paying with a million-dollar bill. What should I expect to get back?

Answer: You should expect to receive criminal charges for attempting to obtain property by false pretense and uttering a forged instrument. (The Associated Press, Man arrested after trying to pay with a million-dollar bill)

January 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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