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March 30, 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 am about to lead an expedition in the Buffalo National River Park in Arkansas in search of Bigfoot. Anyone with $500 can come along. Are there any rules or regulations I need to know about? 

Answer: If you will be searching for Bigfoot on federal land such as the Buffalo National River Park you will need a permit. The only twist is that the government may not issue the "finding Bigfoot expedition" permit that you require. (FOX News, Bigfoot sleuth stomped for leading tour on federal lands without permit)

2) Question: I am a prosecutor. Why are all of the defendants in my cases suddenly showing up in court wearing hipster-style glasses, kind of like Urkel from the old TV show "Family Matters"? 

Answer: All of the crafty defendants are going with hipster glasses in court these days to aid in their "nerd defense." Defense attorneys think the glasses make their clients appear less intimidating. (The Washington PostTrendy, non-prescription eyewear latest in criminal defendant strategic attire)

3) Question: I have been accused of "aggravated pimping." Oh yeah!! That's a good thing, right? 

Answer: No, sorry, but aggravated pimping is not good at all. It means you are alleged to be in the habitual operation of a prostitution racket. (The Volokh Conspiracy, "Aggravated Pimping")

March 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Spicing Up Eric Turkewitz's 'Waiver for a Trail Race'

I appreciate a good disclaimer. Not a "good disclaimer" in the sense that it fits in with all of the other, boring, ALL CAPS, exploding with legal jargon disclaimers, however. I really don't care about those. I like the disclaimers that waaaaay-too-bluntly tell you the risks of what you are about to do so that when you do it (you know you're going to do it anyway) and you get hurt/sued/swindled, you will be too embarrassed to go after the person or entity that issued the disclaimer.

I've already reproduced here one of the disclaimers in my Legal Disclaimer Hall of Fame, from the Nelson Rocks Preserve. The Nelson Rocks Preserve disclaimer, of course, contains awesomeness such as the following:

Rocks and other objects can fall from the cliffs. They can tumble down slopes. This can happen naturally, or be caused by people above you, such as climbers. Rocks of all sizes, including huge boulders, can shift, move or fall with no warning. Use of helmets is advised for anyone approaching the rock formations. They can be purchased or rented at Seneca Rocks. They won't save you if you get hit by something big or on another part of your body. A whole rock formation might collapse on you and squash you like a bug. Don't think it can't happen. ...

We do not provide supervision or instruction. We are not responsible for, and do not inspect or maintain, climbing anchors (including bolts, pitons, slings, trees, etc.) As far as we know, any of them can and will fail and send you plunging to your death. There are countless tons of loose rock ready to be dislodged and fall on you or someone else. There are any number of extremely and unusually dangerous conditions existing on and around the rocks, and elsewhere on the property. We may or may not know about any specific hazard, but even if we do, don't expect us to try to warn you. You're on your own. 

And so on. Sadly, the Nelson Rock Preserve disclaimer seems to have vanished from its website, leaving climbers and hikers naive to the fact that whole rock formations might collapse on them and squash them like a bug.

This week over at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, Eric Turkewitz has asked his readers to crowd-source a new disclaimer he is crafting for a trail race he is organizing. His goal is to make it as readable as possible, and he is off to a great start. Since he is asking for input, however, I have channeled the spirit of the Nelson Rock Preserve disclaimer to try to help him out. My suggestions are in red below.

I realize that this trail has plenty of rocks, roots, stumps and other tripping hazards. There are two stream crossings with stepping stones. The trail is narrow at times and could be crowded as faster runners overtake slower ones. A faster runner might therefore knock you to the side, causing you to slam headfirst into a tree or impale yourself on a jagged root. There might be poison ivy, ticks, bugs, bees and other woodsy things you find in the great outdoors. (Is this a great waiver, or what?)

Wind and rain may create mud holes, fell trees and limbs and create hazards that race officials don’t even know about. Even if we detect a specific hazard, don't expect us to try to warn you. You're on your own. Vandals may swipe trail markings. You could get off course and run straight into a rifle firing range for all we know. Race officials may deliberately create extra hazards. Just for fun.

I’ve also been informed that there are a number of wooden catwalks, whose condition varies with their age and the weather. Those boards can become damaged in storms, or simply be jarred loose by other runners. They are also very slippery when wet. Your Nike WaffleTrainer VII could slip and cause you to fall and break your coccyx bone. I agree to stay in the center of these walks and will not pass while on them. I understand that I will have more than ample opportunity to pass other runners in safer spots. In other words, I agree to cool my jets on the catwalks.

I also understand that there are only three water stops, so it’s important to carry a water bottle and any food that I want. I realize that I could run out of water, get dehydrated, and months later a pile of my bones might be found on the trail like in cartoons.

But even though I might get hurt or lost, I want to compete in this race. I therefore release and discharge all race officials, volunteers, sponsors and municipalities, and I also release the rocks, roots, bugs, tree limbs that might poke my eyes out, and other stuff, dead or alive, gnarly or not, that might cause me to get seriously hurt.  I know that trail running is a high-risk activity.

By signing this form I certify that I am physically fit, responsible for my own actions, and have sufficiently trained for an event of this nature. In other words, I won’t sue any of the people or groups responsible for this race if I get hurt. And if I am under 18, then my parent or guardian is signing this release.

I agree to all of this even though it is written in plain English instead of stupid legalese.


March 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 29, 2012

Brainstorming Warning Labels for Purchasers of a Legal Education, Part II

Earlier this week, I noted the Abnormal Use blog's post on potential warning labels for legal education. I offered up a couple warnings of my own (e.g., WARNING: Go to law school, and you may end up as a legal blogger) and asked if anyone had warnings to add to the growing list. A couple of people quickly added good warnings in the comments, including:

WARNING: Go to law school, and a disproportionate number of your friends may be baristas.


WARNING: Attending Law School Has Been Shown to be Hazardous to your Career, Marriageability, Financial Stability, and Mental Health.

The next day, Will Meyerhofer took the warning label concept to the next level in a post featured on Above the Law. Meyerhofer, a lawyer-turned-psychotherapist, wrote of the long line of lawyer patients he sees that come to him with a similar story:

The standard story is some variant of the following: You are either out of work or loathe your work. You have $180k in loans. You have either no income or an impermanent income paid to you in exchange for any joy life might offer. You see no hope. ...

Young lawyers look me in the eye and ask, how am I supposed to carry on with my life? What they mean is – how is one supposed to live a life worth living – a life that satisfies one as a human being – trapped in the hell of law and law school loans?

Meyerhofer proposes one course of action: the “It Gets Worse” Project. He says it can be like a reverse version of the "It Gets Better" Project, where people post videos to let LGBT kids know that life gets better after high school. Meyerhofer asks lawyers stuck in the no income-massive debt trap to post a video telling the truth about their predicament. His hope is that such videos will deter at least one bright-eyed law school wannabe from signing those law school loan documents, or even lead to "tuition strikes, mass drop-outs, maybe an 'Occupy Law School' movement." 

It does not appear that anyone has shared a video yet following Meyerhofer's post, but one group of law students with the same idea did something very similar last month. Here is the GWU Law Revue on why "It Gets Worse."

March 29, 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 am a police officer and I have a man in custody in my police car. He just blurted out that he "just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he's dead." I haven't read him his rights yet. Is the statement admissible in court? 

Answer: Before we proceed with a full constitutional analysis, we may need more details on the context. Take the possibly similar situation in this video, for example (at the 1:34 mark). (Deadspin, Arrested Drunk Man Sings "Bohemian Rhapsody" In Its Entirety In Back Of Police Car)

2) Question: I was hired for a job in Switzerland paying 2.4 million rand per year. But those dopes at my company accidentally left off the decimal in my employment contract, which reads that my compensation will be 24 million rand. Ha!! But now they are trying to only pay me the 2.4 million rand. Can I make them pay me the 24 million rand?

Answer: Sorry, you'll need to tough it out on the 2.4 million rand since you were admittedly aware that the figure in the agreement was an error. (BloombergJPMorgan Wins Case Against Trader Over Decimal Point Dispute)

3) Question: I am a 20-year-old student at a culinary school in Illinois. We are about to begin our wine tasting lessons but the legal drinking age in the state is 21. Am I allowed to participate? 

Answer: Yes, but only if you spit the wine out after you taste it. (Rockford Register StarYoung culinary students get Illinois OK to 'sip and spit')

March 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 28, 2012

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 in my first week as a new state trooper. I was asked to respond to a call today where a person found an injured and unconscious bobcat, placed it in his car and drove it to a nearby highway Welcome Center. But after the car arrived at the Welcome Center, the bobcat woke up and now I'm being asked to remove a very angry, injured and quite conscious bobcat from the car. This was definitely not covered by my trooper training. Thoughts?

Answer: Best practices seem to be to use your police Taser on the bobcat, then have a veterinarian administer a sedative. (Burlington Free PressBobcat retrieved by driver on Interstate 91 in Guilford)

 2) Question: I'm a U.S. congressman. Can I wear a hoodie while delivering remarks on the House floor? 

Answer: No, wearing a hoodie violates a rule in Congress that prohibits wearing "hats" on the House floor. (CBS News, Dem Rep. Bobby Rush escorted from House floor for wearing hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin)

3) Question: I am a prostitute, a career I started after being fired from McDonald's. Can I sue McDonald's for my current plight? 

Answer: You would not be the first to try. (The Consumerist, Prostitute Blames McDonald's For Driving Her Into Profession)


March 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 27, 2012

Brainstorming Warning Labels for Purchasers of a Legal Education

As you probably know, the excellent Abnormal Use blog covers product liability issues. As such, AU occasionally features discussions of inherently dangerous products and analyzes whether there should be warnings on such products and what those warnings should say. Today, AU's Frances Zacher looks at the bleak statistics facing people purchasing the product known as "law school education" and ponders whether law schools should design a warning for the legal education product they are selling.

Zacher summarizes some recent data on law school tuition and the expected earnings of new law graduates:

  • tuition at top private law schools can top $30,000 per year.
  • the average educational debt for graduating law school students is $106,000 at private schools and $70,000 at public schools. 
  • the median starting salary in 2010 for law school graduates was $63,000.
  • According to Jim Chen, dean of the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, a law school graduate must earn six times the amount of annual tuition he or she paid for school in order to attain a "good" level of financial viability, i.e., private schools grads must earn approximately $180,000 per year. 

Looking at these statistics, Zacher asks readers, "if we were to design a warning for a legal education, what would it say?" Zacher offers two potential warnings:

WARNING: You may not be able to pay these loans back during your lifetime.


WARNING: Go to law school, and you may wind up bankrupt and still liable for the student loan debt.

I think we need to add some non-financial warnings, too:

WARNING: Go to law school, and a disproportionate number of your friends may be lawyers.

WARNING: Go to law school, and you may someday introduce yourself at parties as a "recovering lawyer."

WARNING: Go to law school, and you may end up as a legal blogger.

What other warnings should be tacked on to legal education?

March 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I am a burglar. I stole a laptop and discovered it was filled with disgusting child porn images. I'd like to turn the owner in, but, again, I obtained it by committing a felony. Thoughts? 

Answer: Sometimes burglars with a conscience will take the laptop they stole with child porn on it to the police anyway. That is one option for you. (The SunI am so glad we were exposed my father as a paedophile)

 2) Question: I'm a 6-year-old girl in the U.K. I always play at recess with my best friend, Annie, but the teacher told me today that I cannot do that any more. Did I do something wrong? 

Answer: No, you did nothing wrong. In the U.K., primary schools are now adopting a "no best friends" policy for children to ease the possible pain from any "falling out." (Daily MailTeachers tell children not to have 'best friends' in primary schools... to prevent pain of falling out)

3) Question: I have lived in South Carolina my whole life, attended the University of South Carolina, and even have a large tattoo of the school's "Gamecock" bird mascot on my calf.  But now a "Joint Boundary Commission" that is performing the first survey of the state line between the Carolinas in more than 200 years is trying to say that my house is actually just over the borderline and sits in North Carolina. No way! Can they do this to me? 

Answer: Yes, sorry. Welcome to Tar Heel Nation! (The Consumerist, Property Owners Find Out They've Moved From South To North Carolina)

March 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 26, 2012

Pynchon: Diversity Lacking, as 'Old White Men' Still Dominate Arbitration World

At her She Negotiates blog, Victoria Pynchon makes the argument in a recent post that although there is greater diversity among judges and juries these days, this diversity is less significant than it might appear because key Supreme Court decisions have had the effect of steering disputes out of court and into private arbitrations. And once you arrive at your arbitration to resolve your dispute with your bank or cellphone provider, Pynchon writes, you can fully expect that your arbitrator will be an older white male.

Pynchon writes that while she would like to believe the arbitration system is fair and equitable, "I can't stay in denial, however, because bias places limits on my ADR career and on the careers of most other women 'neutrals' I know. The reality, Pynchon says, is that participants in arbitrations are highly likely to get an old white male arbitrator because arbitrators are typically chosen by partners in the Am Law 200, who are themselves more than 80 percent white men.

Even though AAA requires at least 20 percent women and men of color on their lists of available arbitrators, Pynchon believes that the lawyers selecting arbitrators tend to shy away from hiring women because there is a stereotype that women are more compassionate -- and "most lawyers don’t want a compassionate judge or a compassionate mediator because they believe that will cut against their chances to get a ruling in their client’s favor. Lawyers justifiably want judges who are more moved by logic and reason than by emotion."

In short, Pynchon concludes, parties to disputes need to realize that with the shift to more arbitrations, their right to a jury trial has already been eliminated in many cases. The remaining question, she says, is whether people will grasp the need for a more diverse ADR profession before they end up like a dog being judged by a jury of cats.

March 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I have reached the finals in the Miss Universe Canada pageant. Pretty impressive for someone who was born a male, right!? What do you think my chances of winning are?

Answer: Probably zero unless you keep that "born a male" information to yourself. Pageant rules ban transsexuals or anyone else who is not a "naturally born female." (International Business TimesJenna Talackova: Miss Universe Canada Dumps Transsexual Finalist Who Is Not a 'Naturally Born Female')

2) Question: I'm a male enjoying a trip on a gay cruise ship. Sex is allowed onboard, right? 

Answer: Of course -- unless your cruise ship docks in the country of Dominica, where "buggery" is illegal. (The Consumerist, Two Men Arrested For Having Sex With Each Other On Gay Cruise Ship)

3) Question: I work at a brewery in Lithuania, and our working conditions are terrible. The workers are contemplating going out on strike -- any advice?

Answer: Sorry, but the Lithuanian courts have deemed brewing to be an "essential service" like medical supplies and drinking water. No strike for you. (Lowering the Bar, Court Declares Brewing Beer an "Essential Service")

March 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2012

Facebook Revises User Agreement to Bolster Trademark Claim on Word 'Book'

As we have seen for a couple of years now, Facebook really wants to hold trademark rights over the word "book." It does not have a registered trademark on the word, but that has not stopped it from filing lawsuits against websites such as Placebook, Teachbook and Lamebook (discussed here) alleging trademark violations by those businesses. Law & Disorder reports that Placebook changed its name rather than litigate the matter, Lamebook reached a settlement that allowed it to keep the name, and litigation is pending between Facebook and Teachbook.

Now, Law & Disorder notes, Facebook is trying to bolster its right to the word "book" by adding a claim to it in its revised "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" for its users. The idea is that by using the term and binding its many users, Facebook can add support to its legal arguments in future "book" lawsuits.

Specifically, Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities now reads, 

You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.

The word "book" did not appear in prior versions. 

Law & Disorder also notes that other companies such as myEworkBook have tried, and failed, to trademark the word "book" in the U.S. Facebook has submitted a trademark application on "book" in the European Union's trademark database, but the application has been opposed on the grounds of "likelihood of confusion."

Trademark experts say that although the terms of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities only apply to its users, this still helps Facebook given the hundreds of millions of users it has worldwide. Speaking to Law & Disorder reporter Jon Brodkin, attorney Denis Ticak explained, "Let's say you go out and create 'Brodkinbook.' Whether or not they have a registered trademark on 'book,' since you in all likelihood use Facebook and so have accepted that contract, they can arguably prevent you from using that name on the site."

March 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 in the IT department of a major investment banking firm. I was asked to run a massive search of thousands of employees' emails for the term "muppet." Huh? Are we representing the Jim Henson Company now or something?

Answer: Possibly, but sometimes firmwide searches of emails for the term "muppet" also result from a departing employee's scathing op-ed in The New York Times. (Reuters, Goldman Scans Internal Emails for ‘Muppet’: Sources)

2) Question: I'm a college basketball coach. My all-star guard was present for all of our pre-game routine and warm-ups, but now just a few minutes before warm-ups I cannot find him anywhere. What is going on here?

Answer: Sometimes when police know a college basketball player will be at the arena for a game, they will arrest him on an outstanding warrant just before tip-off. It happens. (The Virginian-Pilot, ODU coach didn't know about Bazemore's arrest )

3) Question: I fell asleep in bed while smoking a cigarette and burned down my own house. That is the fault of the tobacco company that sold me the cigarettes, right? 

Answer: Nope. (Abnormal Use, Philip Morris Not Liable for Fire Started by Cigarette)

March 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 22, 2012

Latest Bizarre Twist in Allen Stanford Case: Blame It on Twitter

For those of us who follow financial fraud issues closely, the prosecution of R. Allen Stanford has provided a steady dose of craziness since his world began to unravel in 2009. The latest development in that case -- Stanford blaming his conviction on Twitter -- would be extraordinary in most any other context, but in the Stanford case it is merely par for the course. Let's recap:

At the beginning of 2009, Stanford was a billionaire on top of the world, pegged as the 205th richest person in the U.S. with a fortune estimated at $2.2 billion. His office at Stanford Financial's Houston headquarters had a private exit for him through his personal bathroom, and included a five-star dining room, movie theater, professional kitchen and wine bar. The "leading benefactor, promoter, employer and public persona" of Antigua and Barbuda, Stanford became the only American ever granted knighthood in the nation, and began using the title "Sir Allen."

On March 6, 2012, however, Sir Allen was found guilty on thirteen counts related to an alleged Ponzi scheme, including charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and obstructing an SEC investigation. Stanford was first arrested on these charges in mid-2009, and the road from his arrest to his conviction nearly three years later was full of bizarre developments, including:

  • Stanford became the first person ever to be stripped of his knighthood in Antigua and Barbuda for the "embarrassment Stanford caused the country with the alleged Ponzi scheme he ran from his Antigua-based offshore bank."
  • Stanford hired and fired legal teams at least four times in less than a year, going through "a total of about 120 lawyers, paralegals and clerks from at least 10 law firms" as of mid-2010.
  • While awaiting trial, Stanford was involved in a jailhouse fight and suffered a concussion, two black eyes, and a broken nose. He later claimed that this fight caused him to suffer total amnesia of all events pre-dating the fight.
  • While recovering from the jailhouse fight in the prison hospital, Stanford somehow managed to become addicted to an anti-anxiety drug called Klonopin that left him "mentally foggy." To the outrage of his victims, Stanford's trial was postponed until he could be weaned off of the drug and deemed competent to stand trial.
  • After nine months, Stanford finally kicked the Klonopin habit, but immediately advised the court that the amnesia caused by the jailhouse fight left him unable to stand trial since he could not "remember anything about his past and what he did for 20 years there in Antigua."
  • After prosecutors argued that "convincing, reliable evidence demonstrates that Stanford was faking memory loss," the court denied Stanford's motion to postpone the trial due to amnesia.
  • After the court denied a last-gasp motion by Stanford's entire defense team to withdraw from the case just 12 days prior to the start of jury selection, the trial finally got underway on Jan. 23, 2012.

Stanford has now been convicted, but if you thought that meant the circus had left town then you haven't been paying attention. To the contrary, Stanford has already asked for a new trial because, among other things, U.S. District Judge David Hittner "let reporters send Twitter messages from the courtroom, even while the judge and lawyers were talking outside the jury's presence, and failed to instruct jurors to stay off Twitter."

In their motion for a new trial, Stanford's lawyers did not assert that any Stanford-related tweets actually reached any of the jurors, but rather that these tweets are "likely to have reached a juror, since Twitter does not require active pursuit of information, but rather, if a friend of the juror's was following the 'Stanford trial,' the tweets might automatically show up on a juror's Twitter account." 

Stay tuned, as there is undoubtedly more to come when the appeal process begins.

March 22, 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: Here is the plan, which I believe to be foolproof: I must give a urine sample under the terms of my probation. Because I would surely fail the urine test for drugs, I will fill a small vodka bottle with "clean" urine, insert it in my vagina, and then remove it and use the clean urine for the sample. Then I'll put the bottle back in my vagina and walk on out. Can't fail, right? 

Answer: Right ... unless the urine in the vodka bottle also fails the drug test, leading to your arrest for violating probation and the discovery of the hidden vodka bottle when police do a body scan on you while booking you into jail. (WTSPPolice: Woman hid urine-filled bottle in vagina to beat drug test; still fails)

2) Question: I'm a police officer. I need to transport two mattresses, but all I have is my squad car. Can I use my squad car for this if I'm off-duty and I can strap the mattresses on the roof without damaging the police lights? 

Answer: No, sorry, that is still a violation of police department policy that can get you suspended. (Jonathan Turley, My Sleep Number is 911: Miami Officer Suspended For Hauling Mattresses On Patrol Car)

3) Question: I wanted to have a small flower garden in my front yard, but my condo association said I couldn't. But the condo bylaws didn't forbid gardens so I did it anyway. My condo association started issuing me a $50 per day fine for the garden, and now they say I owe them $6,000 plus legal fees! That's it, I am selling this stupid condo and getting out of here!

Answer: You can try, but check to see if the condo association has placed a lien on the property. If so, that may complicate your sale. (ConsumeristCondo Association Puts Lien On Woman's Townhouse Over Tiny Flower Garden)


March 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 21, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 15

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13 and Volume 14 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:

  • Have a child throwing a tantrum. There will be no tantrums by children onboard a flight, specifically including children who resist sitting in their seat. CONSEQUENCE: The plane will return to the gate and the child's entire family will be removed from the plane "for the safety of all customers and crewmembers on board."
  • Pet the penguins. Passengers may not pet any penguins that may be waddling throughout the cabin on their way to the New York premiere of "Frozen Planet," a new Discovery Channel documentary series. CONSEQUENCE: No real consequence, just don't pet the penguins, OK?
  • Kick women off of flights for breastfeeding. Airlines may not order breastfeeding women to leave the plane if they refuse to cover themselves with an airline blanket. CONSEQUENCECivil lawsuit against the airline with an "undisclosed" settlement for the woman kicked off of the plane.

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm the pastor of a church. Last year we blessed a local highway by placing holy oil on it. But this week, a group of atheists that did not like the fact that we blessed the highway went out with brooms, mops and "unholy water" and unblessed the highway. Unacceptable!! Can they do that?

Answer: The blogosphere has no specific answers for you on the propriety of unblessing a highway. You may want to check with Religion Blog Watch. My best guess is that if a highway can be legally blessed it can be legally unblessed. (FOX News, Florida church responds to 'unblessing' of highway, says atheist group is desperate for attention)

2) Question: I am a police officer. I have been asked to respond to a domestic disturbance at a residence over "how the pizza was sliced." Really? I have to do this? 

Answer: You obviously are not a married person. This pizza-slicing argument could go nuclear in a short period of time. Get moving, officer!! (Bee News Police Blotter) (via Legal Juice)

3) Question: I am doing so well as a candidate for U.S. president that I'm now entitled to Secret Service protection. Do I get to pick my own Secret Service code name? If so, are there any guidelines that I need to follow? I'm thinking of going with "Ace."

Answer: You do get to pick your own Secret Service code name but "Ace" won't work. Whatever you pick has to be clearly comprehensible over the radio, with two or three strong syllables. Try something like "Javelin" or "Renegade." (GQ, Exclusive: GQ Reveals Romney's and Santorum's Secret Service Code Names)

March 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 20, 2012

Job Applicants Contend With Employer Demands for Their Facebook Login Info During Interviews

The economy remains stagnant and job-seekers do not have much leverage in many instances these days. So what would you do if, during an interview, the interviewer asked you to provide him with your Facebook username and password so he could take a look at non-public items on your Facebook account such as your posts, photos and interaction with friends?

According to The Associated Press, requests for applicant's login information during interviews are becoming more common lately, even by government agencies hiring employees such as police officers or 911 dispatchers. Other employers stop short of asking applicants to provide login information, but instead ask the applicant to "friend" the company's human resource managers or to log in to Facebook on a company computer during the interview.

While applicants are typically taken aback by such requests, the AP reports that most people comply because they really want or need the job. In McLean County, Ill., for example, the sheriff's office asks job applicants to sign into their social media accounts during interviews so the sites can be screened by the sheriff's office. Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas of that office said that applicants have a right to refuse, "but no one has ever done so." According to Thomas, that "speaks well of the people we have apply."

That is one way to look at it. According to others, such as Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the fact that people comply with requests to examine their Facebook pages speaks more to the power of coercion than to the applicants' character. Andrews says that "voluntarily" providing such access to employers "is coercion if you need a job."

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I received a summons to serve on a jury, but I don't want to do it. I'm only nine years old, plus I'm kind of shy around adults and I don't even get home from elementary school until 4 p.m. Can I get out of this somehow?

Answer: You had me at "only nine years old." Have your mom call the court -- sometimes the county will enter a citizen's date of birth into the system incorrectly and accidentally summon a 9-year-old. (Cape Cod TimesCape third-grader gets jury summons)

2) Question: I am in a same-sex marriage. We were married in San Francisco but now live in Maryland. We now want to get a divorce but the Maryland courts won't let us. What are we supposed to do now? Stay married forever?

Answer: The Court of Appeals of Maryland is set to decide that issue next month. Stay tuned. (The Baltimore SunSame-sex divorce case heads to top Maryland court)

3) Question: I am a police officer. While I was on duty I ended up having sex in my squad car. Unfortunately, I also managed to broadcast the audio of this encounter over an open radio channel accessible to anyone with a police scanner. Is this going to be a problem? 

Answer: I'm afraid you can be expected to be relieved of your duties until the allegations surrounding these "inappropriate communications" are resolved. (My FOX Memphis, Cop Caught Having Sex in Squad Car)

March 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2012

Blonde Justice: Keep Your Mouth Shut When Police Ask 'Is This You?" in Photo

Today on the Blonde Justice blog, Elle Woods (or whoever writes the anonymous Blonde Justice blog) addresses an issue that

happens every day, so let's deal with it.

The police come to your house or a detective calls you into the police station, and they show you a photo. It's a photo of you, but you're not doing anything bad, just walking down the street, let's say. 

The police officer asks you, "Is this you?"

What is a wise response here? I suspect that most people, especially people who don't believe they've done anything wrong, would simply say "yes" if they recognized the person in the photo to be themselves. According to Blonde Justice, however, that is a mistake, and the proper response is: "I'm not answering any questions without a lawyer present." 

According to Blonde Justice, police can lie to a suspect during their investigation, and may try to elicit a response by saying they are just trying to "clear possible suspects," or that "as soon as we know if this is you, we can exclude you as a suspect."  But Blonde Justice says that the whole reason the police would ask you the question in the first place is because there is some way to incriminate you with the photo, i.e., distinctive clothing in the photo that matches clothing worn by the perpetrator caught on tape during a robbery. 

Blonde Justice says she frequently must contend with clients who have identified themselves to the police in this fashion, and who have essentially abandoned their ability to later claim that the person caught on tape committing a crime is not them but rather some other blonde woman, some other 300-pound man with a red lumberjack hat, and so on.

Bottom line, according to Blonde Justice: When the police show you a picture and ask "Is that you?," keep your mouth shut.

March 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 16, 2012

States Pursue Legislation to Make Facebook Accounts Part of 'Digital Estate'

Almost two years ago I wrote here about the concept of the "digital afterlife," and what people who devote time, energy and money to their "digital selves" can do to plan for the time when they are dead and gone. That post referenced blogs and other online assets, but did not consider one digital asset that has since surged in prominence: social media accounts, and particularly Facebook accounts.

The Associated Press reports that in Nebraska and Oklahoma, lawmakers are taking that issue into their own hands with legislation that makes a person's Facebook and other social network accounts part of their "digital estate" upon their death. Oklahoma was the first state to pass such a law. Under the Oklahoma law, friends or relatives are authorized to take control of social media and email accounts if the deceased person lived in the state. Ryan Kiesel, who wrote the Oklahoma law, told the AP that while existing law adequately addressed how to distribute things like mementos and shoeboxes with photos, it did not contemplate personal photos and other items on Facebook accounts. "We wanted to get state law and attorneys to begin thinking about the digital estate," he said.

Presently, Facebook's policy is that when it is informed of the death of an account holder, it puts the account in a "memorialized state" where certain information is removed and access is limited to friends only. The AP reports that Facebook will only provide the estate of the deceased person with a download of the account data "if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law." Facebook is now working with Nebraska legislators as they craft a law that will be similar to the one in Oklahoma. Similar legislation may also be introduced in Oregon next year.

March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I went into a sex shop because I was going to rob it. I pulled out my gun, demanded money, the whole nine yards. The clerk asked me why I was robbing the shop and I admitted I needed the money. She then offered to get me a job at the store if I would fill out an application. I'm about to fill out the application but I have a nagging suspicion that may be a mistake. Any advice?

Answer: Sounds like a great idea to me. Go for it, what do you have to lose? (Daily MailTeen talked out of robbing sex shop after being offered a job ... then arrested after he put his REAL name on the application)

2) Question: What would happen if I grabbed a lighter at this convenience store and tried to light a bag of beef jerky? 

Answer: Well, in short, some poor store clerk making minimum wage will have to try to put the fire out by blowing on it and, after that, you'll be arrested for first-degree arson. (Des Moines RegisterWaterloo teen accused of setting beef jerky on fire)

3) Question: I am a freelance embalmer, and I work out of funeral parlors. For some reason, when these funeral parlors have gold teeth or crowns from bodies to dispose of they put them in a bag to be thrown away or recycled. Is there any problem if I take these gold crowns that they are trying to get rid of and sell them to pawn shops?

Answer: Even though the gold is being disposed of, you could still get charged with "providing false information to a pawn broker." (Longmont Times-CallLongmont police arrest Brighton man suspected of selling dental gold taken from dead) (via Consumerist)

March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 15, 2012

Angry Female Legislators Turn Tables, Propose Laws Affecting Male Bodies

Anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws in several states have been in the news recently and over the past few years. Just last month in Virginia, for example, state legislators debated a bill that would have required women to undergo an invasive "transvaginal ultrasound" in order to give informed consent for an abortion. TPM reports that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ultimately backed off of the provision requiring the transvaginal ultrasound, and the bill passed with a reportedly less-intrusive requirement that women undergo a "transabdominal ultrasound" prior to an abortion.

The WSJ Law Blog reports that these types of bills in Virginia and other states are starting to get female legislators quite perturbed. Unable to keep government laws off of female bodies, several female legislators have decided to turn the tables and put some government laws on male bodies with proposed legislation of their own aimed directly at men. Several of these bills take aim at the use of Viagara by men:

  • in Ohio, a bill that would require psychological counseling and written information from doctors about the potential risks before a man may get a Viagra prescription
  • in Illinois, a bill that would require men to watch a graphic video about the side effects of Viagra before being able to get a prescription for it
  • in Virginia, mandatory rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for men seeking Viagra

Other bills include one in Georgia that would limit vasectomies for men, and legislation in Oklahoma that would declare it an act against unborn children to "waste sperm." In Wilmington, Del., the WSJ Law Blog reports, the city council has now passed a resolution "calling on the state legislature and U.S. Congress to pass laws granting 'personhood' rights to eggs and sperm."

So here's a heads up to all of you Viagra-using male legislators: Watch your back!

March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a high school student and my family just moved to San Diego. I asked my teacher today if I could leave class to use the bathroom and she said no, handed me a bucket, and told me to go to another room and urinate in the bucket. Is this a West Coast thing or something? We did not do this in my old school.

Answer: No, that is not standard procedure in San Diego or anywhere else with indoor plumbing. (Los Angeles TimesSan Diego student complains of being forced to urinate in bucket)

2) Question: I'm trying to fill my car up with gas in the U.K. The gas pump works for everyone else but as soon as I try to put gas in my car the pump stops functioning. Any ideas? 

Answer: Are you uninsured? The U.K. is rolling out cameras at gas stations that will automatically stop uninsured or untaxed vehicles from being filled with fuel. Sorry. (MirrorCCTV at petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured cars being filled with fuel)

3) Question: I used to be a gay porn star, but now I want to be a teacher. Does my past disqualify me from getting a Florida teaching certificate? 

Answer: No problem. (Jonathan Turley, Former Gay Porn Star Secures Right To Pursue Florida Teaching Certificate)

March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 14, 2012

Champion of Oregon's 'Death With Dignity Act' Uses Law to End Own Life

My ill-informed impression following the uproar and various prosecutions that followed Dr. Jack Kevorkian during his life was that physician-assisted suicide is illegal throughout the United States. It turns out that is not true at all, as I learned today that physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in three states. Who knew?

According to The Associated Press, Oregon actually passed the "Death With Dignity Act" way back in 1994, allowing "terminally ill patients to take their own lives with the help of lethal medications supplied by a doctor." Washington and Montana have also adopted similar legislation. has an interesting analysis of the laws governing physician-assisted suicide. Beyond the three states noted above, ProCon notes, the law breaks down as follows:

  • 36 states have specific laws prohibiting all assisted suicides;

  • Seven states prohibit all assisted suicides under common law; and 

  • Four states (and the District of Columbia) have no specific laws regarding assisted suicide, and do not recognize common law in regard to assisted suicide. reports that there is no specific federal law regarding assisted suicide. 

The subject of physician-assisted suicide was in the news today because one of the champions of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, Dr. Peter Goodwin, died over the weekend at the age of 83 "after using lethal chemicals obtained under the Oregon law." After living with a rare brain disorder since 2006, Goodwin elected to go out just as he had promised he would years ago if he ever received a terminal diagnosis. "I don't want to go out with a whimper. I want to say goodbye to my kids and my wife with dignity. And I would end it," he said in an interview well before his diagnosis. 

March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My taxes are due and I need a quick answer -- my business partner and I communicate with each other only via carrier pigeon. He is so distrustful of technology that he will not use a telephone or computer. Don't judge. Can we write off the cost of the pigeons, as well as their care, food and housing as a business expense?

Answer: It appears so. (CNNMoney, Craziest tax deductions)

2) Question: Sure, I flashed a little cleavage while I was participating in the European Individual Women Chess Championship, so what? Why are all of the tournament officials huddling and looking at me menacingly?

Answer: You need to button that shirt up, as you appear to be in violation of Rule 13.2. That rule clearly states that "in respect to shirts, the second from the top button may also be opened in addition to the very top button." There is no room for "décolletés" in women's chess! (DeadspinEuropean Women's Chess Tournament Bans Excessive Cleavage)

3) Question: My wife and I were married by a Universal Life minister who was ordained online on some website. Things aren't going so well in our marriage. Can I get the whole marriage annulled based on the claim that the minister was not legit?

Answer: That is an interesting idea, which has been the subject of academic articles but remains untested in court. Want to be a pioneer? (ABA Journal, More Couples Get Hitched by Clergy Ordained with a Mouse Click; Are Legal Challenges Ahead?)

March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 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'm a plaintiffs lawyer. Everyone calls me the Gorilla because I'm so tough and powerful in court. Can I get "Injured? Get the Gorilla" trademarked for my law practice?

Answer: Already taken, sorry. (Tex Parte Blog, "Get the gorilla": Jiu-Jitsu nickname becomes Lubbock lawyer's marketing magic and government-approved service mark)

2) Question: I have two wives. For obvious reasons, I really don't want Wife 1 to know about Wife 2 (and vice versa!) Any pointers to keep me out of trouble? 

Answer: Tip No. 1: Do NOT "friend" both wives on Facebook. (The Associated Press, Facebook 'friend' offer exposes man's other wife)

3) Question: I was thinking about becoming a barber in Iowa, but I see the state requires 2,100 hours of training. Body-piercing is my career choice number two. Does the state require less training time to become a body-piercer?

Answer: Yes, 2,100 hours less. (The Des Moines RegisterPiercing in Iowa: There are no rules)

March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 12, 2012

Obama Administration Launches '' Site

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format." Last week, President Obama fulfilled that promise with the rollout of, which "brings records and data from across the federal government to one central location, making it easier for citizens to hold public officials accountable." is available to the public and allows anyone to access and search the records of seven different databases: 

  • White House Visitor Records
  • Office of Government Ethics Travel Reports
  • Lobbying Disclosure Act Data
  • Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act Data
  • Federal Election Commission Individual Contribution Reports
  • Federal Election Commission Candidate Reports
  • Federal Election Commission Committee Reports

According to a White House press release, the database includes millions of White House Visitor records, records for entities registered with the Federal Election Commission such as PACs, records for each candidate who has either registered with the FEC or appeared on a ballot list prepared by a state elections office, lobbying registrations and much more.

On his Sunlight Foundation blog, John Wonderlich, who is Policy Director for the Sunlight Foundation and an advocate for open government, wrote that while fulfilled the president's pledge, "neither money and politics research nor executive branch oversight are going to be revolutionized by this search page -- at least not yet." He added that while it will not happen immediately, the site could become a primary destination for investigative journalists or ethics officials. 

Wonderlich said that to him the two most exciting things about were "1) OGE travel reports, which weren't easy to get before, and 2) the ability to search for a name and see their White House visits alongside their campaign contributions.  That's a pretty exciting view."

March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 09, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 14

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8, Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12 and Volume 13 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:

  • Paint your nails. Passengers may not apply nail polish mid-flight either in their seat or in the lavatory. This is true even if they "only have two nails left to paint." CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be handcuffed by two police officers when plane lands and taken to local police station.
  • Warn passengers, incorrectly, over the PA system that the plane is going to crash. Flight attendants may not order the pilot to return to the plane to the gate due to perceived technical difficulties and, if the pilot refuses this order, may not say "Captain, I am not responsible for crashing this plane" over the PA system. CONSEQUENCE: Flight attendant will be forcibly removed "kicking and screaming" from aircraft by passengers and other flight crew.
  • Bring a rabbit onboard a flight. Passengers may not bring an "emotional support animal" that is a rabbit onboard a flight even if the support animal has all proper documentation and is listed on reservation. This is due to the fact that some flight attendants incorrectly believe rabbits are rodents, and rodents are prohibited onboard. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be forbidden to board with rabbit and must make separate reservations on another airline for three times the cost.

March 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 wife and I are separated but we still live in the same house. Now she has a boyfriend and I'm tired of hearing them, um, you know, make noises when they are together. Can I plant a listening device under her bed so I'll know when "the coast is clear" before I entering the house?

Answer: No, that probably would get you charged with the crimes of "invasion of privacy and felony interception of communications." (Lowering the Bar, Non-Standard Explanation Offered for Bugging Wife's Bedroom)

2) Question: I found a chicken nugget that looks just like George Washington (here is the photographic proof). After saving it in my freezer for 3 years I placed it up for bid on eBay and received an $8,100 bid. Now the lucky bidder is backing out of the deal for my prized nugget. Can I sue? 

Answer: You might pursue an action for breach of contract to buy a nugget, but why not just save the headache and sell to the next highest bidder for $8,000? (The Associated Press, Top bidder chickens out of $8,100 McNugget deal)

3) Question: I stole the judge's nameplate off of his door after my court appearance, but nobody knows about my awesome heist. Maybe I should post a photo of myself holding the nameplate on Facebook?

Answer: Bear in mind that while this may seem like a good idea now, the photo will be incriminating evidence against you and could lead to a felony probation violation. (ABA Journal, Mystery of Judge's Stolen Nameplate Is Solved with a Facebook Photo, Cops Say)

March 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 08, 2012

Birth Control Pill Packaging Errors Keep Getting You Pregnant

Back in my day, women took birth control pills and the pills worked and they didn't get pregnant. Simple, right? So what is going on lately in the birth control pill industry that is causing various lots of pills to be recalled every few months? Oddly enough, it seems like the pills themselves are usually fine, but there continue to be errors in packaging that put women at risk of accidentally getting pregnant.

As I noted here in September 2011, a company called Qualitest Pharmaceuticals had to urgently recall certain lots of its birth control pills because the pills were distributed in a package in which the blister packaging was rotated 180 degrees within the card. This error had the effect of reversing the weekly tablet orientation, meaning that the "daily regimen for these oral contraceptives may be incorrect and could leave women without adequate contraception." D'oh!!

Recently, two more birth control pill makers had to recall certain lots of their pills, again because of packaging issues. On Jan. 31, 2012, Pfizer Inc. announced that it was voluntarily recalling lots of Lo/Ovral®-28 Tablets and Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol Tablets because "some blister packs may contain an inexact count of inert or active ingredient tablets and that the tablets may be out of sequence." 

That was followed shortly thereafter, on Feb. 24, 2012, by an announcement by Glenmark Generics Inc. that it, too, was recalling certain lots of pills because of a "packaging error, where select blisters were rotated 180 degrees within the card, reversing the weekly tablet orientation. ..." Again with the upside down blister packaging? Damn!

The flurry of packaging errors has not been lost on plaintiffs lawyers. Last week, at least one law firm announced that it was now "investigating unintended pregnancies due to Glenmark’s recall of birth control pills due to defective packaging." An attorney from the firm stated that “[i]t is hard to believe that Glenmark did not have proper quality control safeguards in the drug manufacturing and packaging process. Women could be compensated for unintended pregnancies which could include expenses related to raising the child, emotional distress, medical expenses and loss of earnings during and after the pregnancy.”

March 8, 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 am working the night shift at a convenience store. Some loser just went into the restroom with a jar of Tostitos Salsa Con Queso Medium Cheese and spread the cheese all over the floor and walls. Welcome to my world. Is this, hopefully, a crime of some kind that I get him charged with?

Answer: Yes, that is the crime of a "criminal mischief with cheese." (IowaCityPatchCoralville Man Arrested at Grocery Store for "Criminal Mischief With The Cheese")

2) Question: The sheriff believed that I was illegally keeping chickens on my property. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't, I'm not sayin'. But then the sheriff conducted a dawn raid of my home that began with a real tank knocking down my block wall while a Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff's Office SWAT team in full riot gear (plus a bomb robot) stormed in to my home. Then it got weird, when actor Steven Seagal showed up dressed in camouflage and sunglasses and hoisting a rifle. Is this legit conduct by a sheriff? 

Answer: According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the use of a tank, a bomb robot and 40 deputies is part of its normal course of duties in these type of cases. Not sure about the Steven Seagal part. (The Republic, MCSO, actor Seagal sued over 2011 arrest)

3) Question: I was arrested for driving while using a cellphone. I did not have a cellphone on me, nor do I own a cellphone. Please explain. 

Answer: If the police say that you have a cellphone then, by golly, you have a cellphone. (Consumerist, Man Without Cellphone Ticketed For Talking On Cellphone While Driving)

March 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 07, 2012

Blogger/TSA Critic Shows 'How To Get Anything Through TSA Nude Body Scanners'

In early November 2010, the Transportation Safety Administration began forcing air travelers to submit to a nude body scanner (also known as "AIT devices," or "backscatter x-rays") or accept an "enhanced pat-down." As has been well documented, the enhanced pat-downs unfortunately involve TSA agents grabbing between your legs and moving around other private parts of yours in ways you probably don't like. On Nov. 16, 2010, Jonathan Corbett filed a lawsuit against the TSA "requesting an injunction against the TSA to prevent them from touching or photographing our private areas without any reasonable suspicion."

Since then, while he pursues his lawsuit, Corbett has maintained a blog called TSA Out of Our Pants on which he discusses developments in his case, as well as other TSA-related lawsuits and news. On March 4, Corbett told his readers that he had a huge announcement that he would share no later than March 6 that he "believed will be the end of the nude body scanner program." Yesterday, he wrote that he had "sent the TSA their advance copy of my blog post so that they can act on it to "keep us safe" (I hear that's their job ;) )." Later yesterday he posted an item entitled, "$1B of TSA Nude Body Scanners Made Worthless By Blog -- How Anyone Can Get Anything Past The Scanners" (via The Fraud Files Blog) that shows, on video, how anyone with pre-existing or improvised side pockets on their clothing can get a metal object past the nude body scanners.

According to Corbett, and as demonstrated on his video below, nude body scanners show the body of the person being searched as drawn with light colors and placed on a black background. Metallic objects in your shirt pocket, for example, will clearly appear as a black shape on your light figure. However, he observes, "if you have a metallic object on your side, it will be the same color as the background and therefore completely invisible to both visual and automated inspection." 

To demonstrate this, Corbett sewed a pocket directly on the side of a shirt, placed a heavy metal carrying case in the pocket, and sailed through nude body scanners at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and also at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. Corbett concludes that the nude body scanner program is "nothing but a giant fraud ... the TSA must immediately end the nude body scanner program, and return to the tried-and-true metal detectors that actually work, and work without invading our privacy, as well as implement better solutions for non-metallic explosives, such as bomb-sniffing dogs and trace detection machines."

Check out Corbett's video of how he easily got his metallic carrying case through security.

March 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm at the Frederick County Courthouse in Maryland. Why did they suddenly evacuate the building?!

Answer: A courthouse deputy found a stray coconut. (WUSA9, Deputy Spots Suspicious Coconut At Frederick County, Md. Courthouse; Deemed Safe)

2) Question: I recently won $2 million in the Michigan state lottery! Can I stay on food stamps? 

Answer: Michigan? Yes, that's what two other winners there did, so I guess so. (Consumerist, Michigan Woman Who Won $1 Million In Lottery Stays On Food Stamps)

3) Question: How can I be arrested for jogging naked in public? What part of "I lost a bet in a bar over a game of darts" don't you understand? 

Answer: Sorry, but "bar bet" is not an affirmative defense to this type of disorderly conduct charge. (WHBL, Naked Man Cited in Fond du Lac)

March 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2012

Palm Beach Sheriff's Office Puts Arrestees on Blast After Mobile Home Prostitution Sting

Attention all you people who think you are going to just walk, bike or drive on in to the Plantation Mobile Home Park in West Palm Beach, Fla., and hook up with some mobile home prostitutes: the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office has other plans for you!

The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office announced that on March 1 it arrested 17 people in "an enforcement operation targeting street level prostitution" in the mobile home park in West Palm Beach. According to an amusing post (via The Legal Satyricon) on The Pulp blog at the New Times Broward-Palm Beach, the Sheriff's Office's news release 

also included a dissemination log of the arrests, but the spreadsheet was spelled "dissemenation log," which, believe it or not, is only the second-most amusing part of the documentation: Police also included what appears to be documentation of what each suspect allegedly wanted and how much they were going to pay. 

The dissemination log is available here. If you are on it, apologies in advance. The log includes the arrested person's name, photo, mode of transportation (vehicle, bike or on foot), whether your vehicle was towed, the price offered and what services were allegedly requested. Entries include items such as "5.00 B.J.," "20.00 Sex X 2," and one reference to a big-spender who allegedly offered $75 for "Everything." Perhaps the biggest loser on the night was a 26-year-old man arrested for "20.00 B.J." whose entry also includes "50 grams marijuana" and, sadly, "Vehicle Towed: Sister's."

March 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2012

Mark Bennett of 'Defending People' Running for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Mark Bennett, a Houston criminal defense lawyer who is also the author of the Defending People blog (not to mention one of the Three Angry Lawyers), announced Sunday night on his blog that he will be running for a judge position on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The announcement was so momentous that it prompted Scott Greenfield to start posting again at his "Simple Justice" blog, which he had shuttered back on February 13.**

Bennett explains that he will be running on the Libertarian ticket. He writes that in his view, traditional conservatives "favor less federal government, as though state governments are benign." Bennett says that "for anyone who might not share the political views of the majority, the opposite is true: the nearer government is to us, the more it can intrude in our lives and interfere with our liberty." Bennett adds that "[l]ibertarianism has to start at home and grow from there. That, friends, is why I’m running for office."

Best of luck to Mark Bennett in his run for a spot on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals!

** Going forward I believe the importance of any single event should be evaluated by whether or not it prompts Scott Greenfield to re-open Simple Justice for a post, i.e., does the event meet "The Greenfield Test."

March 5, 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: Yes, I did urinate in my own front yard. But I did not anticipate that the Google Street View car was going to rolling by at that precise moment, memorializing my urination for the world to see and making me a laughingstock in my small village. Can I sue Google?

Answer: Of course. A similar case is underway in France right now (Reuters, Frenchman sues over Google Views urination photo)

2) Question: Our church likes to provide free bottles of water along the Mardi Gras parade routes. Why are we now receiving a cease and desist order over providing free water? 

Answer: No permit, no giving away free bottles of water. (FOX News, Church Ordered to Stop Giving Away Free Water)

3) Question: I am the Clerk of the county court. One of my employees improperly refused to transmit a complete appellate record because of some missing documents, causing a law firm over $9,000 in expenses. Should I apologize or something? 

Answer: Yes. And you may also be personally on the hook for the $9,000. (The Clarion LedgerJudge orders Hinds circuit clerk to pay $9,535) (via ABA Journal)


March 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 02, 2012

Courts Starting to Embrace Twitter for Distribution of Opinions, News

There has been a decent amount written about jurors' use of Twitter in courts, and also about whether journalists should be allowed to report from the courtroom using Twitter. I have seen much less, however, about the use of Twitter by courts themselves.

Earlier this week, David Bilinsky wrote at Slaw that the Courts of Nova Scotia have recently become the first courts in Canada to tweet "news and information about the Courts, decisions of the Courts, and notices to the Bar. ..." The Courts of Nova Scotia website now offers a series of specialized Twitter feeds to allow users to receive the specific information they want, i.e., separate feeds for decisions of different courts, notices issued to the Bar, and so on.

For some reason, the Nova Scotia courts found it necessary to end their "outdated" RSS feeds that also provide this type information when they rolled out the new Twitter feeds. As several commenters on the Slaw post note, killing off the RSS feeds seems unnecessary:

Not sure of the logic with this move. As [Slaw's Simon Fodden] points out, creating Twitter posts from RSS content on the other hand has always been quite easy, and a number of services (Twitterfeed, Hootsuite) allow this. Why wouldn't the Nova Scotia Courts simply leverage existing RSS feeds into these new Twitter profiles? Seriously, does anyone know why the move at the cost of RSS? I think it's great to have the Twitter option, don't get me wrong, but I'm stumped why both could not be sustained.

For those seeking additional information on Twitter concerning Canadian law, Fodden has also created a number of Twitter feeds to allow ready access to Supreme Court of Canada decisions and court of appeal decisions for many Canadian provinces. 

My quick research as to state courts' use of Twitter in the U.S. indicated that many states are already using Twitter for various purposes, including:

On the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court is using Twitter to distribute opinions, as is the 9th Circuit and courts such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. I could not find a comprehensive guide to "courts on Twitter" but it seems likely that one exists out there somewhere. If you know of such a guide, please shoot me a link to it and I'll update this post.

March 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My employer wanted to perform a routine drug test on me. For some unknown reason the drug test guy kept showing up at my mom's house to try to perform the test, where of course I was not present because I do not live there. Now I've been suspended from my job for "refusing" to take a drug test! What the heck?! I'm 28 years old. I don't live with my mom! 

Answer: Sorry, but sometimes Major League Baseball can't get its act together on the drug tests, just ask Ryan Braun. You can still appeal. (Deadspin, Minor Leaguer Suspended For Refusing Drug Test Says Testers Went To The Wrong Address: "I'm 28 Years Old. I Don't Live With My Mom!")

2) Question: I admittedly was a bit uncivil when I complained about my meal to the cashier at McDonalds. But the cashier was completely unprofessional when she went in the back, got a metal spatula, and began hitting me in the head with it. Unacceptable! Can I sue McDonalds?

Answer: No, because the cashier's hitting you with the metal spatula "was motivated by personal animosity and anger, presumably from [being called] a 'bitch,' and [the employee] was never vested with any duty on that day other than working the cash register." (Consumerist, McDonald's Customer Can't Sue Golden Arches For Attack By Spatula-Wielding Cashier)

3) Question: I have a furniture store called Sofa King. Our prices are low, or as we like to say, "Sofa King Low!" Can we use this slogan in our ads? 

Answer: No! Please, think of the children! (GuardianSofa shop told: ditch rude catchphrase) (via Consumerist)

March 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 01, 2012

Federal Judge Finds Proposed Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels Violate Free Speech

Since November 2010 I've been following here and here and here the effort of the Food and Drug Administration to require nine new, graphic warning labels on cigarette packs and advertisements. As I previously summarized,

The graphic images include corpses with their chest sewed up, smokers with smoke coming out of a hole in their throatdisgusting-looking lungs that are yellow and diseased from smoking, a close-up of someone with mouth cancer, a suffering baby, and so on. If the purpose of the new warning labels is to convey the message that smoking is dangerous and gnarly, then mission accomplished.

With each of the updates I offered above, however, the FDA's chances of success seemed to diminish a bit further. On Wednesday, the FDA campaign may have died out altogether, as U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted summary judgment in favor of five tobacco companies who objected that the proposed warnings would violate their free speech rights, cost millions of dollars to print and require them to feature anti-smoking advocacy more prominently than their own brands.

In his opinion issued Feb. 29, Leon wrote that it was clear to him that, and the government had effectively conceded, "the Government's actual purpose is not to inform or educate, but rather to advocate a change in behavior-specifically to encourage smoking cessation and to discourage potential new smokers from starting." 

The FDA told the court that the warnings were part of its effort to carry out the congressional mandate of the "The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," which requires larger and more visible graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and ads. The FDA argued the court did not have the authority to second-guess Congress even if the congressional mandate violated the First Amendment.

Leon, however, did not agree, finding that there was "no evidence that Congress even considered the First Amendment implications when drafting the Act." He added that

To say the least, implementing a Final Rule consistent with a congressional mandate does not require a Court to hold that the Rule automatically passes constitutional muster. Congress must pass laws, and the FDA must implement final rules, that are consistent with the requirements of the Constitution.

Applying a "strict scrutiny" standard, the court held that the government failed to demonstrate a "compelling interest" nor that the rule was "narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech." Accordingly, the court held, the proposed warnings violated the First Amendment.

Reuters reports that the government is likely to appeal Leon's ruling. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a proponent of the warnings, issued a statement that the ruling "ignores decades of First Amendment precedent that support the right of the government to require strong warning labels to protect the public health."

March 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: My buddy and I are both over age 70. We were golfing and I was in the middle of my backswing when some punk teenage kids intentionally blew a loud air horn to startle me. Unacceptable! They ran away but one left his jacket behind and just walked back near us. Do we have a right to give him a few whacks with our metal ball retriever on his backside? Did I mention I was in the middle of my backswing?!

Answer: Sorry, but you do not have that right and might wind up getting yourselves charged with child abuse. (NWF Daily NewsTwo charged for striking teen with golf ball retrievers)

2) Question: I was charged with going 8 mph over the speed limit. What is that going to cost me? 

Answer: $9,000. (Legal Juice, Can A Speeding Ticket For 8 MPH Over The Limit Cost You $9,000?)

3) Question: I was stopped for going 105 mph in a 55 mph zone. What is that going to cost me? Did I mention that I am a County councilmember? 

Answer: That will just be a warning for you, councilmember. (WTOP NewsCouncilwoman stopped going 105 mph in a 55 mph)


March 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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