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September 28, 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: The German parliament is banning all laptops from their meetings because the clicking of the keyboards is a noise issue. Can I circumvent this ban by using a typewriter?

Answer: No problem. (Geekosystem, German Parliament Bans Laptops, Pirate Party Shows Up With Typewriter)

2) Question: I'm a policeman. We are at a woman's house to arrest her but she insists that we wait until after she has taken a bath. Can she do this?

Answer: No, she needs to forgo the bath. (PhillyBurbsWoman to cops: "You're not arresting me until I take a bath")

3) Question: I am about to be sentenced for burglarizing a house. While I was committing the burglary, I was shot by the homeowner with a shotgun, which, frankly, hurt and was quite traumatic to me. Can I get a lighter sentence, given the trauma I endured from being shot?

Answer: No, "being shot is not mitigation. If you burgle a house in the country where the householder owns a legally held shotgun, that is the chance you take." (The GuardianBurglars should accept risk of being shot, says judge)

September 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 27, 2012

'Substitute Criminal' Concept Spreads to Sweden

You may recall this post last month about "substitute criminals," or people who agree to do prison time for someone else for a fee. In China, for example, substitute criminals can be hired to go to jail for you in for the bargain-basement rate of $31 per day. According to Slate, the practice is now so common in China that there is even a term for it: ding zui, or "substitute criminal."

It now appears that the substitute criminal concept has reached countries beyond China, as well. Sweden's The Local reports that an international arrest warrant is now out for a 37-year-old Gothenburg man who avoided serving jail time by paying a friend to serve his prison sentence while he headed off to Asia and later to the Philippines. The man was sentenced to one year in prison in 2008 after being found guilty on charges including copyright infringement and handling smuggled goods.

However, he was not immediately remanded to prison, and devised a plan that involved acquiring a driver’s license under his name but with a photo of the friend who agreed to serve his time. The Local reports that the substitute criminal scheme was not discovered until May 2012, when a police officer who was at the prison to speak with the Gothenburg man realized he was facing the wrong person. If the entire sentence had been served, the true criminal could have walked free, according to The Local

Also of note, the substitute criminal was released from jail following the discovery, and there is no indication that he is being charged for any new crime for his part in the deception.

September 27, 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: I am simply trying to ride on the rollercoaster. Why are these theme park workers demanding that I subject myself to a Breathalyzer test? I'm not steering this thing, am I?

Answer: No, you are not steering, but some rollercoasters have had to shut down so much due to drunk riders vomiting everywhere that theme parks plan to breathalyze guests and turn away those over the limit. (ShortList, Theme Park to Breathalyze Riders)

2) Question: I'm a lawyer and the judge mispronounced my name twice during a trial, accidentally referring to me as "Ms. Bogus." Can I get the $1.4 million verdict against my client thrown out for this reason?

Answer: Sorry, but no. (Legal Pad, The Name Game)

3) Question: My child was invited to a pool party and the host hired a company to place a live alligator in the pool -- with the alligator's mouth taped closed -- to swim around with the kids. Is this a real, legal thing that people do at parties these days?

Answer: It appears that if the alligator provider has a "permit to exhibit," it may be legal. Hope that tape is strong! (New York Daily News, Rent-a-reptile: Florida company adds alligators to kids’ pool parties)

September 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

September 26, 2012

At What Time Should a Deposition Start?

The Abnormal Use blog says in a post today that it is an unwritten rule -- in fact, the "most important" unwritten rule of the practice of law -- that no deposition should start before 10 a.m. Jim Dedman of AU writes that there are several reasons for this practice:

  • "Colleagues planning to attend a deposition may want to stop by their own office first or travel from another city before arriving at a deposition."
  • It allows attorneys flying in from out-of-town to possibly catch an early flight and still arrive on time.
  • It allows participants who fly in the night before to "accustom themselves to their new surroundings and make it to the deposition without unnecessary haste."

(To this list I would also add that it may allow the local attorneys involved to drive in to the city after rush hour is over.)

But despite the many excellent reasons for a 10 a.m. start time, Dedman notes that he is alarmed to have seen a "number of notices calling for the deposition to begin at -- gasp -- 9:00 AM.  Oh, the humanity!" Dedman says that while there are exceptional cases where a deposition must or should start early, these 9 a.m. start times he's been seeing seem to be for no good reason.

So what is the proper response from an attorney who receives a notice violating this unwritten rule and setting a deposition at the ungodly hour of anything prior to 10 a.m.? In baseball, for example, when the unwritten rules are violated, a batter on the offending team may get a fastball thrown into their ribs in retaliation. What can lawyers do?

Max Kennerly, a commenter on Dedman's post, has one solution: disobedience. Kennerly writes that "the 10 AM rule is typically enforced through civil disobedience to earlier times. The only time you have an earlier deposition is if multiple lawyers are traveling to the site and multiple depositions have to take place, to ensure everybody gets finished in the allotted number of days."

I have not participated in a deposition for about a decade, but my recollection is that the 10 a.m. start time was firmly in place back then, as well. Is this true all over? And what do lawyers do if faced with a notice for a rule-breaking 9 a.m. deposition?

September 26, 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: These stupid replacement referees just handed the game to the Seahawks last night, completely hosing my beloved Packers. Can I get my state senator to introduce legislation banning replacement refs?

Answer: New Jersey state Senator Stephen Sweeney is way ahead of you. He has already announced that he will introduce legislation banning replacement officials from being used in professional sporting events. (Deadspin, New Jersey State Senator Wants To Ban Replacement Referees)

2) Question: I was playing quarterback in an NFL game when I was knocked down by a "late hit" and actually lost part of my left ear in the collision. Not my hearing, my actual ear -- like Evander Holyfield! Can I sue the defensive player who dished out the late hit on me?

Answer: Possibly, if the hit was intentional and fell outside of the NFL rules. (Jonathan Turley, Foul or Tort? Texans QB Schaub Loses Part of Ear After Late Hit By Broncos)

3) Question: I was driving down the street when a man flagged me down and insisted that I drive him and his pregnant-and-very-much-in-labor girlfriend to the hospital. I told him I didn't have time for that, but he threatened to shoot me so I drove them. Then he started demanding that I run all the red lights, which I didn't want to do, and ordered me to get out of the car. People can't just carjack other people when their girlfriend goes into labor, can they?

Answer: No, sir. That is armed carjacking, with or without a pregnant girlfriend. (Orlando SentinelVolusia deputies: Carjacker was trying to rush pregnant girlfriend to hospital)

September 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 25, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 25

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20Volume 21Volume 22Volume 23 and Volume 24 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:

  • Attempt to smuggle the endangered "loris" in your pants.  Passengers may not attempt to smuggle the rare loris, a tiny, big-eyed primate that is "endangered" under the Wildlife Protection Act of India, onboard a plane in their underwear. CONSEQUENCE: Loris smuggler will be turned over to customs officials and loris will be turned over to wildlife authorities.
  • Engage in a heated verbal altercation with a fellow flight attendant. Flight attendants may not argue with their fellow flight attendants to such a degree that they can't work together during the flight. CONSEQUENCEPlane will return to the gate to seek replacement flight crew, forcing four-hour delay.
  • Pretend that you are a pilot to fly for free on international flights. Passengers may not wear a fake pilot's cap and uniform and present a false pilot's ID to convince flight crew that they are pilots who should fly for free (in the cockpit). CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be charged with suspicion of putting at risk the security of air transport and "usurping a title."

September 25, 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: The U.S. Postal Service Office down in Central Florida just issued a press release urging me and my Florida neighbors to not drive our cars through post office buildings. Huh? They have drive-through post offices now, but they don't want us to use them?

Answer: No, the Postal Service wants you to literally not drive through their buildings. As in, do not crash through the brick, mortar and glass structures that house the Post Offices in Central Florida, as eight other vehicles have already done this year. (U.S.P.S. Press Release, Customers Urged To Drive Carefully at Post Offices)

2) Question: I was watching the Patriots-Ravens football game last night on television, when suddenly the angry crowd at the game began to chant "Bullsh*t!" over and over and over again. The Sunday Night Football telecast aired the whole thing, and the sounds of the crowd saying "Bullsh*t" were audible to my 11-year-old's ears! My husband and I found this assault on our family's tranquility to be outrageous, egregious and preposterous! Will the network be reprimanded or disciplined for this transgression?

Answer: No, the FCC does not impose penalties for obscenities "inadvertently heard over air." (TMZ, FCC Will NOT Punish NBC for Airing 'Bullsh*t' Chant)

3) Question: I told my girlfriend during an argument that I really had to leave, but she was adamant that I stay and she climbed on to the hood of my car. I gave her many chances to get off but she refused, and I finally drove off down the interstate at 80 mph with her still clinging to the hood. She was able to get off unharmed after some other motorists forced me to take an exit ramp. Problem?

Answer: Yes -- despite the fact that she declined your offers to get off, you still may not drive down the interstate with her on the hood. That can get you charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (WSBTV, Woman describes riding on car hood down interstate)

September 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 24, 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 a happy person and I like to smile, OK? What gives the DMV the right to tell me not to smile in my driver's license photo?

Answer: You can smile, but just not a big, toothy "as if you just won the $5 million dollars in the lottery smile." That throws off the facial recognition software used in most states. (CBS News, N.J. frowns upon smiling in driver's license photos)

2) Question: I tried to pay a toll today with a $100 bill, and the toll booth operator made me wait FOREVER while he wrote down information about my vehicle and my tag number. This is an illegal detention, right?

Answer: No, you "chose to pay the toll by tendering a large-denomination bill" and therefore "implicitly consented to the delay caused by tendering payment in this way." (ABA Journal, Don't Want Toll Booth Delay? Don't Pay with Big Bills, Says 11th Circuit)

3) Question: I stole a valuable collection of coins dating back to the early 1800s that was supposedly worth $100,000, but it all just looked like old coins to me! In fact, I spent a bunch of the stolen quarters at face value on pizza and a movie. Can I get in trouble for this?

Answer: Yes, that is first-degree theft. (The ColumbianVancouver man accused of antique coins theft)

September 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2012

Fla. Judge Grants Motion to Allow Punitive Damages in Driving-While-Texting Lawsuit

As the hazards of texting and driving become more widely known and accepted, the law continues to evolve and be tested in new areas.

Recently in New Jersey, you may recall, motorcyclists who were severely injured by a driver who was texting argued that both the texting driver and the person sending that driver the texts should be liable. Ultimately, however, the court ruled against the plaintiffs, finding no aiding or abetting on the part of the sender. "I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the [text-sending] defendant in this case under these facts. Were I to extend this duty, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case," Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand stated in May 2012.

This week, Broward (Florida) Circuit Judge Richard Eadea expanded the traditional limits of liability in injuries caused by texting in another way, when he granted the plaintiff's motion to allow punitive damages in a civil negligence suit. The Daily Business Review reports [paid-access]that plaintiffs lawyers in Florida have been routinely filing motions for punitive damages in texting cases, but without much success until this case.

The case decided by Eadea was unusual in that there was an eyewitness who claimed to see the defendant actively texting at the time of the accident. Although the defendant maintained that she only texted at a stop light, another motorist said she saw the defendant continue to text after the light turned green and that the defendant almost hit the witness' vehicle before she hit the plaintiff's vehicle.

The Daily Business Review further notes that Florida is currently one of 11 states that does not have a ban on texting while driving. 

September 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1) Question: I'm a policeman working at the precinct headquarters. A man just walked in, identified himself and asked if there were any active arrest warrants for him. In fact, there are two active arrest warrants for him. Umm, I should arrest him now, right?

Answer: Correct. (The Beacon-NewsAuroran jailed after asking cops about warrants for his arrest) (via Legal Juice)

2) Question: A city-owned vacant lot in my town is covered in garbage and broken glass, garbage, discarded Jersey wall barriers, and so on. Would it be a problem for me to invest about $20,000 of my own money to clean it up and have it cleared and landscaped? 

Answer: Oh, yes. That is called trespassing, and the city will make you restore the lot to its original dilapidated condition. (, Was spruce-up of Point Breeze lot a trespass?)

3) Question: I am a plaintiffs lawyer, and the defendant in a civil case I am working on refused to appear for the deposition we scheduled for him. May I have $113,000 in attorney fees for this transgression?

Answer: Yes. (Deadspin, Judge Orders Floyd Mayweather To Pay More Than $113,000 In Legal Fees To Manny Pacquiao)

September 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2012

'Ale to the Chief': Legal Tactics Fail but White House Releases Beer Recipes Anyway

As discussed here, a mention by President Barack Obama last month that he was home-brewing three varieties of beer in the White House (White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter) mobilized beer geeks to employ every means possible to secure the White House's secret recipe. Their efforts included multiple requests under the Freedom of Information Act for the recipe, as well as an official petition filed with the White House's "We the People" website demanding that the Obama administration "Release the recipe for the Honey Ale home brewed at the White House."

The We the People petition failed to gather the 25,000 signatures that would have required the White House to consider it (it tapped out at just over 12,000 signatures), and the FOIA requests appear to have also failed because White House documents are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act in the first place. Although these legal tactics could not get secure the White House beer recipes, however, pressure and pleas from the beer drinking public ultimately did get the job done. 

On September 1, 2012, in a post on the White House Blog entitled, "Ale to the Chief," Sam Kass (White House Assistant Chef and the Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives) wrote that the time had come to share the recipe with the world. Kass said the White House kitchen staff started with some great recipes from a local brew shop and then tweaked it to make it their own. White House Honey Brown Ale is believed to be the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. 

The full recipes are available here, and the video below is an interesting look at the process of beer-making at the White House, including a peek at the new White House "beer cellar."

September 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 19, 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: We lost our beautiful Rottweiler puppy after it wandered off of our property. It turned out the puppy went onto our neighbor's property and instead of returning the pup to us, they sold it on Craigslist for $50 and told the police that the puppy had run away! What is this i don't even. ... Seriously, what is the proper punishment for this -- life in prison? 

Answer: No, but they could be charged with conspiracy, not making a reasonable effort to return lost property and making a false report. (The Associated Press, Police: Pa. couple sold neighbor's lost puppy)

2) Question: My 11-year-old nephew is all wet after going on a water ride at the fair. If I let him ride in my sweet Lexus, the water will surely damage my leather seats, so would it be OK if I just have him ride in the trunk? 

Answer: I hear you on the leather seats, but putting your nephew in the trunk can get you charged with child endangerment and up to a year in prison and $3,000 in fines. (Star TribuneEdina woman accused of making her nephew ride in trunk of Lexus)

3) Question: I am a police officer. We pulled a man over because we believed he may have been driving while intoxicated but when we asked him to step out of the vehicle for a sobriety test he stated, "I ain't doing none of that ... I'm not taking no sobriety test. I done seen it on the MythBusters." Translation, please?

Answer: MythBusters is a Discovery Channel show that "aims to uncover the truth behind popular myths and legends by mixing scientific method with gleeful curiosity and plain old-fashioned ingenuity to create a signature style of experimentation." But according to my sources, MythBusters has not looked at sobriety tests used by law enforcement officials. The MythBusters defense therefore seems weak. (TC Palm, Man in Fort Pierce refuses sobriety test, says 'I done seen it on the MythBusters')

September 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 18, 2012

Lawyers Ponder Whether 'Secret Video' of Romney Violated Privacy Laws

Politicos want to know whether the "secret video" of Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraising event will hurt his chances in the upcoming presidential election, but some lawyers are pondering a different question: Did the person who made the tape violate state law?

CNBC reports that in Florida, both parties to a conversation must give their consent before it can be recorded legally. Recording a conversation without this "two-party" consent is a third degree felony under Florida law, and can even carry a prison term. At least one Florida lawyer, Marc Nurik, told CNBC that Romney arguably had an expectation of privacy in his secretly recorded comments, and that he believed the tape was made in violation of the Florida statute. Nurik added that the yet-unknown taper's best defense would be to argue that Romney's remarks were made at a public event and therefore did not require consent.  

Politico adds that violations of the Florida statute can also lead to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. Politico notes that any such case would likely be against the person who made the tape and not Mother Jones, the publication that released the video. Mother Jones is reportedly unlikely to face any legal issues under Supreme Court precedent that protects publication of such videos.

September 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (16)

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 know that the court rule is "no cameras in the courtroom" but, come on, what are they really going to do to me if I try to walk in with one? 

Answer: Get ready to be Tasered, bro. (Jonathan Turley, Court Staff Tasers Obnoxious Man Insisting On Entering Area With Camera)

2) Question: I work at a casino as a cocktail waitress and I would like to get some shifts in the "Party Pit" where the high-rollers hang out! How come I never get assigned to the Party Pit? 

Answer: What is your dress size? If it is not zero to four, then no Party Pit for you. (New Jersey Law JournalGolden Nugget Cocktail Waitresses Call 'Party Pit' Duty Discriminatory)

3) Question: Before I rode the mechanical bull at a bar, the bar made me sign a release entitled "PARTICIPANT AGREEMENT, RELEASE AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK." I signed it without reading it, rode the bull, and got thrown across the room and hurt my back. Can I successfully sue the bar?

Answer: In Texas, at least, courts have found that the title of such a release informed you of its purpose, and you are presumed to have read the release you signed. So you're riding that bull at your own risk! (Abnormal Use, Mechanical Bull Tosses Rider, Prevails in Court)

September 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 17, 2012

Louisville Slugger Prevails as Court Throws Out 'Defective Bat' Verdict

As a baseball fan and the father of four baseball-playing boys, I have an uneasy interest in the "youth baseball" injury lawsuits that continue to pop up periodically. As I noted in 2011, there has been a flurry of lawsuits filed by injured baseball pitchers against bat manufacturers and others that have had mixed success in recent years.

In many pitcher lawsuits, plaintiffs are unsuccessful because they are deemed to have assumed the risk of injury by participating in the sport. In a series of recent cases, however, injured pitchers have been able to get around that defense. In 2009, for example, a Montana jury awarded $850,000 to the family of a pitcher who was struck and killed by a ball struck by an aluminum bat made by defendant Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats. The jury found that Hillerich & Bradsby failed to provide adequate warning as to the dangers of the bat, and that this failure caused the accident. 

On December 9, 2011, another case went against Hillerich & Bradsby when a jury awarded $951,000 to the family of Dillon Yeaman, a 15-year-old pitcher who suffered severe facial injuries when he was struck by a batted ball in a game. (Happily, Yeaman recovered from the injuries and later was able to play high school baseball). According to CBS News, the jury found the design of the bat to be defective and also found that Yeaman did not assume the risk of injury. 

In a post today, Abnormal Use writes that things were beginning to look bleak for H&B following these cases and another high-profile settlement last month in which H&B and other defendants agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a pitcher who was severely injured by a batted ball. On September 5, 2012, however, the pendulum may have begun to swing back the other way when a federal court in Oklahoma threw out the $951,000 jury verdict in the Yeaman case. Forbes reports that Judge Stephen Pruit found that there was "no basis for a reasonable jury to find that the bat had 'dangerous characteristics.'" The judge found that the plaintiff never demonstrated that the bat in question had some characteristic that made it defective relative to other acceptable bats, and also rejected plaintiff's argument that the bat should have come with a special warning label of some kind.

As Abnormal Use writes,

Undoubtedly, an expert of some sort can testify as to the increased bat speed created by aluminum bats. We imagine, however, that even a well-struck ball by a wooden bat could cause facial injuries. The only way to prevent such injuries is to use baseball equipment manufactured exclusively by NERF. Unfortunately, sport and injury often go hand-in-hand regardless of the equipment used.

September 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 14, 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: Judges sentence criminal defendants, but they also can marry people right? So that means I could possibly have the judge in the criminal firearms case in which I am a defendant marry me and my girlfriend after he sentences me?

Answer: Correct! (News OK, Oklahoma judge hands down prison sentence, then presides over nuptials)

2) Question: I received $137 in speeding tickets due to red light cameras in my town. It took me 6 hours of folding but I plan to pay the tickets off with 137 dollar bills folded into origami pigs and stuffed into a donut box. Get it? Pigs? Donuts? Ha! Can I do this?

Answer: Yes, but be prepared that the police cashier may make you unfold every one of the bills. (ClickOnDetroit, Man pays $137 ticket with 137 origami pigs)

3) Question: We have installed expensive red light cameras in our town, but people keep vandalizing the cameras, shooting them with marbles, lighting them on fire, etc. Is there such a thing as cameras that monitor other red light cameras, so we can catch the vandals? If so, we want one!

Answer: Of course! (Mike Rosenwald, In Prince George's, cameras to monitor speed cameras. Really.)

September 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nathaniel Burney's 'The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law'

Back in December 2011, I began following an interesting project by lawyer Nathaniel Burney. At the time, Burney had recently launched a beautifully illustrated series called "The Criminal Lawyer's Guide to Criminal Law" in which he used his own drawings and text to explain criminal law concepts such as punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence and retribution.

Burney book-coverNow, Burney has gone the next logical step and packaged all of the 17 installments in his series into a book entitled, "The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law." The 260-page book is available here through Jones McClure Publishing, and addresses the topics above and many others, including mens rea, entrapment and self-defense.

In his final installment on criminal law, which came out earlier this week, Burney notes that he will soon take on his next topic: criminal procedure.

September 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 13, 2012

Gamblers Hit Pay Dirt Again, Prevail in Unshuffled Cards Lawsuit

Last month, I wrote here about 14 mini-baccarat players at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, N.J., who, after discovering that the cards in use were unshuffled and being dealt in the same sequence, racked up more than $1.5 million in winnings. After originally believing that the players were cheating somehow, the casino eventually figured out that the playing-card manufacturer it worked with had failed to pre-shuffle the cards as required.

The casino predictably sued the card manufacturer. It also sued the gamblers, however, under the seemingly weak theory that state gambling regulations require all casino games to offer fair odds to both sides. Although nine of the gamblers were able to cash in $500,000 in chips, the casino prevented others in the group from cashing in about $1 million in chips.

Earlier this month, the gamblers won big again, however, when a New Jersey state court ruled that the Golden Nugget must allow the gamblers to cash in the remaining nearly $1 million worth of chips they won. The Associated Press reports that in addition, the court found that the casino cannot go after the approximately $500,000 it already paid out.

According to the AP article, the unshuffled cards were not dealt in an obvious numerical order, "such as 2-3-4-5." Rather, they came out in "a predetermined pattern that the manufacturer lists as a proprietary secret." But the 14 gamblers figured out the recurring pattern, and raised their bets from $10 per hand to $5,000 per hand to rake in the $1.5 million. 

The adverse ruling also drew a furious response from the casino's general counsel, who reportedly yelled at the judge for not properly reviewing all of the pertinent evidence in the case. "I've been on the bench for 12 years now, and I don't believe anyone has ever spoken to me like that," Superior Court Judge James Isman said. The casino intends to appeal the decision.

September 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 12, 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: How many car washes does it take to get free sex at this car wash?

Answer: It used to be free sex after nine car washes, but the police busted that up. So no free sex for you. (USA TodayPolice bust ends 'free sex after nine car washes')

2) Question: Should I tell the judge that I cannot be a juror in a lawsuit in his court due to my "extreme homophobic and racist views?"

Answer: Well, it may get you off of the case, but it may also get you charged with contempt of court. Your call! (Daily Echo'Too homophobic and racist to be a juror' at Southampton Crown Court)

3) Question: I am a police officer. We were called to respond to a domestic dispute and asked an intoxicated woman to leave. As she was leaving, a witness told me to "check her pants." The woman then shook her leg and an unharmed Chihuahua fell out. This was not covered by my training. What is the proper charge here, if any?

Answer: Sounds like suspicion of animal cruelty. (9 News, Police: Woman shoves Chihuahua down pants during dispute)

September 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2012

Breaking Down the 'Crutch Words' in Legal Blogging

In The Atlantic Wire today (via Kashmir Hill), Jen Doll has an insightful and quite funny article about the use of "crutch words." Crutch words, she explains, are

those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason. 

For example, Doll notes, Vice President Joe Biden used the word "literally" at least nine times in his speech at the Democratic National Convention last week. "Literally," however, is just one of many crutch words, and Doll walks through 13 others -- some of which I painfully recognize from my own writing and that of many of the law bloggers that I read:

"Basically" -- I plead guilty to the use of this crutch word, and I think Doll nails it when she explains who uses this word and why:

You like to cut to the chase, to synopsize, to bring things down to old bottom line of what's really, truly important ... So, basically, this is what you do. You talk for a long time, maybe, and then you sum up what you really meant to say with a basically. Everything else was just chatter, but it got you to where you were going, so, basically, that's OK with you. Basically, that's it.

I think "basically" is a major crutch word for bloggers in general, as we sometimes get started on one path, deviate a bit, find some other shiny object to talk about, and then try to wrap things up and focus the chatter at the end with a "basically." Like I said -- I know I'm guilty of this one.

"Apparently" -- This is definitely another common blogger crutch word and is, as Doll notes, in the same family as "reportedly." Most bloggers are not reporters and are not calling sources or wearing out shoe leather to cover events. Instead, we often rely on other sources, which makes "apparently" quite handy. Doll says "apparently" is 

a way of getting out of a tricky situation. If someone else says it, you see, you're free and clear to repeat it. Apparently sheds a bit of dubiousness upon the fact or analysis, and therefore, you've covered yourself if it turns out not to be true. It was only apparent! Not your fault ... except, you did repeat it. 

Doll breaks down numerous other crutch words, including:

  • As it were. (If you use this, Doll says, "you're the most self-aware of crutch-word users, because you know you're saying something rather cliched, a hackneyed expression or at best an aging metaphor, and yet you're going forward with it anyway.")
  • At the end of the day. ("If you use the English language's worst phrase, you are the forward thinker of crutch-word users. You know each day has an end, and some day we will reach it, and therefore this phrase will be relevant, except really it's not. ...")

The full list is here. Basically, I liked it.

September 11, 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: Yes, I want to buy my wife a diamond engagement ring but, doggone it, I also want to buy a hunting rifle. Is there any way that I can do all of my shopping at once?

Answer: Try D. Geller & Son Jewelers. They've got you covered. (Tosh.0, Look Out Bambi: I'm Engaged)

2) Question: I'm a lawyer. I was arrested after having too many drinks and crashing my car, and I then tried to get out of this mess by bribing a cop with a $2,000 personal check. Can I still practice law?

Answer: No problem. (ABA Journal, Lawyer Who Tried to Bribe Cop with Personal Check Had Impaired Judgment, Is Censured, Not Suspended)

3) Question: I am a woman and I am tired of all of the wolf-whistles I get when I walk down the street here in London. Can't we just criminalize wolf-whistling already? 

Answer: Coming soon. (The GuardianSexist remarks and wolf-whistles could become criminal offences)

September 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 10, 2012

R.I. Woman Fights for Her Cockatoo's Right to Call Neighbor a 'F*cking Whore'

We all have our times when things aren't going well, when every last thing just seems to be going poorly. But look at the bright side -- at some of these things that are almost certainly not happening to you right now:

1. You do not live 50 feet away from your ex-husband's new girlfriend.

2. The ex-wife of your new boyfriend who lives 50 feet away from you didn't teach her cockatoo to call you a "f*cking whore."

3. You are not the prosecutor responsible for pursuing the "animal-noise ordinance" violation against the cockatoo owner, nor are you the judge who had to hear the case and issue a decision in a motion to dismiss it.

I feel better already, don't you? You're welcome!

In Warwick, R.I., a cockatoo named Willy and his owner, Lynne Taylor, are reportedly being charged with violating the city's animal-noise ordinance. The Providence Journal reports that Taylor and her neighbor, Kathleen Melker, are now facing off in court concerning this ordinance after Taylor allegedly trained the bird to call Melker a "f*cking whore." Melker is not only Taylor's neighbor, who lives just 50 feet away, but also her ex-husband's new girlfriend.

Although Melker could have taken a more "Ron Burgundy-esqe" approach to the bird's talent ("You pooped in the refrigerator? And you ate a whole wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? I'm not even mad ... that's amazing"), she was mad and apparently managed to get Melker accused of violating the city's animal-noise ordinance. Taylor elected to fight the $15 fine in municipal court on the grounds that it was vague and unconstitutional. According to the Providence Journal, however, a judge denied Taylor's request to dismiss the case last week.

On the Internet, people seem to be supporting Willy. With over 1,000 votes recorded, over 62 percent of voters say that yes, "Willy the salty-mouthed cockatoo has First Amendment rights."

September 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 07, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 24

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8,Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20Volume 21Volume 22 and Volume 23 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:

  • Remove sex toys from a passenger's luggage and tape them to the outside of their bag (for airline baggage handlers). Baggage handlers may not remove a private sex toy from a passenger's bag, cover it in a greasy foul-smelling substance, and tape it prominently to the top of the bag. CONSEQUENCE: Airline will face a lawsuit seeking punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and negligence.
  • Fight a fellow passenger for reclining his seat.  Passengers may not slap the passenger in front of them in the head for reclining back in his seat during the meal service, and follow that up by fighting that passenger in the aisle. CONSEQUENCEPassenger will be restrained using plastic straps until the plane lands and then arrested. 
  • Phone in a fake terror threat to get even with your ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. Ex-boyfriends caught in a love triangle may not call airport police and claim that the new boyfriend is carrying liquid explosives onboard the plane. CONSEQUENCE: Ex-boyfriend will be charged with "conveying false information that interfered with aviation" and face up to 10 years in prison and possible restitution.

September 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 06, 2012

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 criminal defendant. I fired my first lawyer and screamed "You're an idiot" at him, then managed to drive my next lawyer away through other abusive behavior. Can I have another lawyer, please?

Answer: No more lawyers for you. You have "engaged in sufficiently egregious activity to forfeit [your] Sixth Amendment right to counsel." (Legal Profession Blog, Hard To Get Along With Defendant Forfeited Right To Counsel)

2) Question: My neighbor threatened to "kick my (expletive) (buttocks)." Actually, he said "When I get done taking a (poop), I am going to kick your (expletive) (buttocks)." Even with the delay for taking the poop, that is still misdemeanor assault, right?

Answer: Correct. (TC Palm, PSL man threatens to beat neighbor, but he's gotta poop first, report says)

3) Question: I am a passenger on a train and my fellow passengers are swearing like sailors all around me. Can I sue the train company for my "moral suffering?" 

Answer: If you are in Russia you may be in luck, to the tune of about $230. (UPI, Train passenger sues for 'moral suffering')

September 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

TSA May Want to Check Your Coffee at the Gate For Explosive Chemicals

You made it through airport security, finally. You waited in line for 30 minutes, took off your shoes, removed your computer from its bag, put your keys in the dog bowl, removed your belt and ultimately had to pose for the "back-scatter body imaging device" so that the TSA could get a quick, blurry peek under your clothing. Maybe you even got an unwanted groping of your "crotchal area" by the TSA somewhere along the way, to boot.

But you finally made it through, and now you're chilling in the terminal waiting to board your plane, drinking the Starbucks coffee you just bought and -- wait -- why are TSA agents coming over to hassle you yet again while wearing rubber gloves and staring at your coffee?!?!

Threat Level reports that travelers who thought they were through dealing with the TSA for the day may find themselves and their beverages subject to further screening even after they’ve gone through security. In fact, such an encounter was videotaped this past weekend in the Columbus, Ohio airport. In the video (available here), several passengers have their coffee, water bottles and other beverages checked by TSA officers carrying test strips and eyedroppers. 

The passenger who took the video writes here that, after his wife and son returned from the coffee shop in the terminal, the TSA approached them and said they "were checking for explosive chemicals (as we are drinking them)." The TSA's own blog explained here in July 2012 that the TSA has actually performed random "liquid screening" at the gate dating back to 2007:

The test involves a test strip and a dropper containing a nontoxic solution. In case you're wondering, our officers don't place the test strips in your beverages/liquids. They simply have the passenger remove the cap/lid and they hold the strip over the opening of the container. Procedures call for moving the test strip to the side and applying the solution from the dropper to test the strip. If the test results are positive TSA will conduct additional testing to make a final assessment.

Threat Level adds that "passengers cannot refuse screening once they have proceeded beyond the screening checkpoint entrance."

September 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

September 05, 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: My partner-in-crime and I have carefully planned out a carjacking of a sports car, down to the last details. I think we have idiot-proofed it, but I have this nagging doubt. Are there any key things we should remember?

Answer: Do either of you know how to drive a stick shift? (The Associated PressDeputies: Carjacking failed, car was stick shift)

2) Question: I get a weird vibe from my doctor. He just doesn't seem to know all of the basic doctor stuff that I expect him to know. Are there any tell-tale signs that he may not be a real doctor?

Answer: Does he sometimes try to answer your questions by going on the Internet to consult That would be a red flag. (CTV News, Sheriff: Man stole doctor's ID, saw 500 patients)

3) Question: I have worked for this company for 10 years and now they are asking me to take a pay cut. I really want to moon these bozos and walk right out the door. Could doing so affect the $2 million in unvested profit-sharing that I am owed by the company?

Answer: Yes, indeed. Live by these words: "He who would moon a superior should first consider whether his profit-sharing plan has vested." (Lowering the Bar, The Two-Million-Dollar Moon)

September 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lawyer Files Extraordinary Amicus Brief in Form of a Comic Strip

Today I discovered (via the Legal Writing Prof Blog, yet again) an extraordinary amicus curiae brief filed in an antitrust case involving Apple e-books. Usually, of course, you will not find me reading amicus curiae briefs on any topic, and most certainly not on antitrust. However, I eagerly read this brief, filed by California lawyer Bob Kohn, because, well, it was written as a comic strip

The brief (available here) starts out looking like every other brief filed in the Southern District of New York, with a standard caption and a Table of Authorities with citations and such. But then, as you turn to page three ... a comic strip about antitrust law begins. That sounds odd but if you are trying to get a court to actually read an amicus brief, why not? In five pages of drawings, Kohn delivers a short and sweet argument on why the court should not hold a particular settlement to be in the public interest. 

The artwork is attributed to a cartoonist named Julia Alekseyeva. The Media Decoder blog reports that Kohn found Alekseyeva through his daughter, a graduate student at Harvard who connected him with her fellow student, Alekseyeva. Kohn wrote the script and Alekseyeva drew the illustrations for the strip, which distills a 55-page brief that Kohn had previously prepared down to five pages.

September 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 04, 2012

LBW Commenters Turn Up the Heat in the Yale-LRW Skirmish

On Thursday, I wondered in this post if a recent letter from an associate dean of admissions at Yale Law School might lead to a period of detente in an escalating squabble between that dean and the legal research and writing (LRW) community. That may still end up being the case, but now we may need to negotiate a separate peace between different factions of the LRW community, which have taken to the comments section of my original post to air some additional grievances with each other.

To recap, the associate dean wrote a blog post in 2011 that advised prospective transfer students not to use a recommendation from legal writing instructors, but rather to use recommendations from "core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts. ..." Many in the legal research and writing (LRW) community found that post objectionable, for obvious reasons, which ultimately resulted in a strongly worded letter from several LRW professors to the associate dean co-signed by 450 supporters. Last week, the associate dean agreed to take down the offending post (although she did not really take back her comments).

Over the holiday weekend, dozens of comments began to pile up on my original post, some of which showed that not all of the LRW community supported the letter sent to YLS. Comments from some of the dissenters (all anonymous) included:

  • "Please know that MANY in the legal writing community are embarrassed by this letter and completely disagree with its contents. In fact, many prominent leaders in the legal writing community refused to sign the letter."
  • "As a legal writing professor, I completely disagree with the premise of the letter sent to YLS. My colleagues have no business telling YLS how to make decisions about transfer applications.... As long as its transfer policy doesn't violate the law, it can do as it pleases insofar as deciding what application materials best predict success as a YLS student. This letter was ill conceived and damages the reputation of all legal writing professors."
  • "I'll speak for myself: I didn't sign the letter because I think this is an old and unwinnable "battle"; let Yale be Yale (and Harvard be Harvard, and so on). We have better things to focus on...."
  • "... hardly any of those regarded as leaders in the field signed the letter. In fact, only a few members from the Board of the Legal Writing Institute (the governing body) even signed it. Noticeably absent are the signatures of LWI's president, president-elect or even the past three presidents. To say this letter represents the views of most, or even a majority, of those teaching legal writing is ridiculous."

In response, many who co-signed or otherwise supported the letter criticized the commenters above for failing to explain why it was "embarrassing," as well as for the anonymous nature of their attacks. Comments included:

  • Cathren Page: "I do not see how [the letter] damages our reputation. In fact, we were correcting misunderstandings about what it is we do. This issue is larger than Yale's policy. The admissions blog is read by the legal community at large, and we were right to stand up for our reputation. Many of the same people who were leading the charge have been standing up for legal writing professors for years. Because of them, nationwide legal writing departments have received increased credits and resources. Student to professor ratios have improved. The status of professors has also improved with respect to their salaries, benefits, rights, academic freedom, and titles. The end result is that legal education has improved."
  • Mary Garvey Algero: "I am a former president of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. I signed the letter. I signed the letter as an individual, not in any representative capacity. Others chose to sign the letter; some chose not to sign the letter. Yale Law School has the freedom to conduct its admissions process any way it likes within the bounds of the law. My colleagues and I have the right to comment on that process, especially when we feel that incorrect information is being posted about the depth of knowledge legal writing professors gain about their students' abilities and how that knowledge can be especially helpful in the admissions process...."
  • Ralph Brill: "1. The policy of the Legal Writing Institute has, from its creation, excluded the idea of taking political stands, with the exception of trying to influence the ABA Standards. 2. That would not preclude individual members of the board from signing on, but they, like you, have the freedom to choose or not. 3. I would hope that you consider some of the signers as leaders in the field? 4. At any rate, it is interesting that you did not express any negative views at the time the issue of whether or not to write a letter to Yale was being discussed on the Legal Writing listserv....but then that might have required you to identify yourself."

September 4, 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: I am 13 years old and I just moved to Newport News, Va. I asked some of my new friends to go trick-or-treating with me this Halloween and they just laughed at me. What's going on here?

Answer: Sorry, but trick-or-treating by someone over 12 years of age is a Class 4 misdemeanor in Newport News. (Legal Juice, Truth: It's Illegal For 12-Year-Olds To Trick Or Treat Here)

2) Question: I'm a police officer. A man just punched a pizza deliveryman in the head "because he forgot the garlic knots." I hate when they forget the garlic knots, too -- that is not "justifiable" assault, is it?

Answer: The garlic knots are delicious, but no -- not even close. (The Smoking Gun, Cops: 346-Pound Floridian Punched Pizza Deliveryman "Because He Forgot The Garlic Knots")

3) Question: I work at a bank. New FDIC regulations bar us from employing anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. One of our employees just 'fessed up to having used a fake dime in a laundromat washing machine in 1963. Do we need to fire him? 

Answer: It looks that way. (ABA Journal, Bank Fires Customer Rep for Using Fake Dime at Laundromat in 1963, Cites New Regulations)

September 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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