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December 21, 2012

Hard Line Against Cellphones and Door-Slamming Leads to Five-Day Suspension for Judge

Baltimore County District Judge Norman Stone III really, REALLY, does not like unnecessary noise in his courtroom. Via the Legal Profession Blog I see that in the nine-month period between May 2011 and February 2012, Stone found 28 people in contempt for their courtroom disruptions. According to The Baltimore Sun, two dozen of these people were fined and threatened with jail time after their cellphones rang in Stone's courtroom, and at least two people were jailed for slamming doors.

Word of Stone's aggressive noise cancellation tactics eventually reached Maryland's Commission on Judicial Disabilities, however, and last week the judge agreed to a five-day unpaid suspension after acknowledging that he had exceeded his authority by sentencing people for contempt without allowing them to defend themselves in court. Stone will also be placed on administrative probation for two years.

According to The Baltimore Sun, some of the incidents in Stone's courtroom included:

  • Stone added two additional months in jail for contempt to the six-month drug sentence of a person who used a cellphone in court. The contempt charge was later dismissed, however.
  • After sentencing a man's daughter to 15 days in jail on a drug charge, Stone told the man that he, too, would be going to jail for 30 days for slamming the courtroom door. "That's my standard sentence for door slammers," the judge said. The door-slammer appealed this ruling and the case was reportedly dismissed.

Stone's attorney, David B. Irwin, told The Sun that the judge "realizes he has made some calls that were out of the strike zone, if you will," and that he has changed his hard-line stance against cell phones: "Now he says please turn your phone off or take it outside," Irwin said.

December 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 20, 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: Friday, December 21, 2012 is supposed to be the "end of the world." Do I need to go to school? 

Answer: Not if you live in Michigan. (NBC News, Mayan end-of-world rumors prompt Michigan officials to close 33 schools)

2. Question: I am a federal judge. Can I take judicial notice of Santa Claus? 

Answer: Of course! (Legal Writing Blog, Yes, Virginia, a court can take judicial notice of Santa Claus)

3. Question: I was called into my son's school because he was suspended. I then may have "accidentally" sprayed a prank item called Liquid Ass (a "power–packed, super–concentrated liquid (that) begins to evaporate filling the air with a genuine, foul butt–crack smell with hints of dead animal and fresh poo") in his classroom. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: I'm afraid so, as you may now be charged with disorderly conduct. (CBS Detroit, Father Faces Jail For Spraying 'B.O.' Smell In Son's School)

December 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 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: You are always talking about things you can't do on a plane. How about some things you can do? For example, can I wear 70 items of clothing on board a flight to avoid paying a baggage fee? 

Answer: Yes! (Digital SpyMan wears 70 items of clothing at airport to avoid baggage charge)

2. Question: I took an empty shopping cart at the grocery store that turned out to belong to another shopper. The other shopper became enraged and took it back from me, so I grabbed a different cart and tried to enter the store. But the other shopper then ran me down, pushed the shopping cart into my back, and jumped on my back and punched me in the face. I say this was unjustified -- correct?

Answer: Definitely correct. That sounds like harassment and disorderly conduct. (Herald-StandardWoman cited in shopping cart dispute)

3. Question: I am getting divorced and my wife and I need to divide up our assets. Is there an app for that? 

Answer: Of course. iSplit Divorce lets you split up your marital assets/debts by using the "drag and drop" feature of Apple's Mobile platform. Just move the asset icons around and the program automatically re-calculates the value for you after each allocation. (idealawg, iSplit: Dividing marital assets on your iPad using an app based on Maria Montessori's ideas)

December 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 18, 2012

LBW Trend Watch: Using Pets to Insult Your Neighbors

My perch here at Legal Blog Watch following hundreds of legal blogs and developments sometimes allows me to detect important trends early. In this edition of LBW Trend Watch, I reveal a new trend for you to be watching out for in your battles with your neighbors: using pets to insult your neighbors in a passive-aggressive manner. 

I thought the story I noted here back in September about the woman who lived 50 feet away from her ex-husband's new girlfriend and fiendishly trained her cockatoo bird to call the new girlfriend a "f*cking whore" was a one-off, outlier type of situation. This week, however, I learned that the use of pets in neighborhood squabbles is a growth industry. Metro News reports that in a neighborhood in northern China, a woman named Hu Lin had an argument with her neighbor, Wang Sun, over a building extension to Wang's home. In retaliation, Wang says, Hu named her dog after him, and whenever Wang was within earshot she allegedly started to curse at the pet loudly. "[W]henever she saw me she would start swearing and insulting the dog using my name," Wang complained in court. "Everyone knew what she was up to."

So far, it appears that courts are not willing to tolerate the use of pets to deliver insults. The owner of the insult-hurling cockatoo was charged with violating the city's animal-noise ordinance, and an apparently unimpressed judge denied the owner's request to dismiss the case. And in China, the judge presiding over the Hu-Wang dispute found that Hu's actions had caused Wang mental anguish, and ordered her to pay a £500 fine and apologize to Wang.

December 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 17, 2012

Twitter Rolls Out Download Tool for Users' Archives of Tweets

I started to see reports Sunday that Twitter has begun to roll out the "download all of my tweets" function it has been promising users since this summer. Slaw reports that many Twitter users have recently begun to share that the feature is now available on their accounts. To see if it is available on your account, do the following:

1. Go to your Twitter settings;
2. Scroll down to see if there is a button for "Your Twitter Archive;" and
3. If there is such a button, click on it and Twitter will email you a zip file with your complete archive of Tweets in html form;

Users who have the feature available report that when you open the HTML file, it displays a page that looks like the Twitter website that allows you to browse your tweets by month and search the complete archive. In the EU, users have for some time now been able to obtain a similar zip file containing "account details, tweets, favorites, direct messages, lists and saved searches."

Why would you want to get a copy of your complete archive of tweets, DMs and other information from Twitter? It may be demanded in litigation, for one thing. As Slaw notes, "this provides another option for obtaining discoverable contents in what is increasingly becoming relevant in litigation." It may also "raise questions of spoliation where accounts are closed or downloadable content is otherwise destroyed." In addition, as long-term Twitter users will attest, it is otherwise quite challenging to find old tweets through a search engine or through the Twitter website. 

One additional tool I discovered today called "All My Tweets" allows you to bring up a list of your last 3,200 tweets -- which for me goes all the way back to February 2009. If you have been using Twitter for a few years, plug your user name in to All My Tweets and look at the older results that come up. If you are like me, you probably do not remember a large number of the tweets that were presumably of interest to you a few years ago.

December 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 13, 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 racked up a $28,000 tab at a strip club! Can I get out of paying it given that I was quite wasted at the time and not capable of conducting financial transactions?

Answer: No, you are stuck with that tab as there is no duty upon the strip club to protect you from your voluntary intoxication. (New York Daily News, WHAT A BOOB! Manhattan man who didn't check out the oversized tab at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club has to fork over $28,000)

2. Question: I was standing near the U.S.-Mexico border when a huge can filled with marijuana fell from the sky and landed right next to me. I'm serious! Am I being framed here?

Answer: No, drug smugglers have recently been caught loading cans of marijuana into a pneumatic-powered cannon and blasting the cans 500 yards over the border. (Daily CallerSmugglers are literally shooting drugs out cannons into US)

3. Question: I loved the medical care I received in prison, but I've been recently released. Can I go commit shoplifting or something to get re-incarcerated and back on the prison health care plan?

Answer: Possibly, but some judges believe it is not humane to send a man back to jail so he can get health care treatment. (The Buffalo NewsJudge refuses to jail ex-convict on quest for health coverage) (via ABA Journal)

December 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 12, 2012

'Drum Major' Quote on MLK Memorial to Be Erased

The much-maligned "quote" that was carved into the side of the new Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C. is, after much debate, going to be erased.

As I noted here, the memorial was supposed to bear a quote from King from a speech called "The Drum Major Instinct," in which King stated:

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

At some point, however, the lead architect and the sculptor decided that the memorial would look better with fewer words, and decided to edit King's words as shown in the finished product:

KING Memorial

This effort at brevity, however, drew howls of protest from people like the poet Maya Angelou, who stated that the edited quote made King seem like "an arrogant twit." After almost a full year of discussion about replacing the quote with the full version above, the Interior Department decided this week that it would be better to simply remove the quote altogether. Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect on the project, said that any effort to use the full quote "would have looked like a patch job for the life of the memorial.” 

According to The Washington Post, the plan is now to "cut out the inscription to make it look like one of the horizontal 'striations' already in the memorial." However, the removal process will cut deeper than the existing striations, meaning that those existing striations will also probably need to be gouged deeper. The cost to remove the quote is expected to be $700,000 and $900,000.

December 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (8)

December 11, 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 am a police officer. A woman came in to the station today and said she can identify the man who committed an unsolved murder in 1957. Is it too late for her to do so?

Answer: Nope! (CNN, Life sentence closes oldest cold case)

2. Question: I am the mascot for a college football team. As part of my costume they have given me a working musket. Am I allowed to hunt bears with the musket in my off-time? 

Answer: Legally, yes, but if you want to keep your mascot job you'll need to stop hunting bears with the school's musket. (The Associated Press, West Virginia mascot, who killed bear, told to stop hunting with university-issued musket)

3. Question: I love the wine country tours in Napa Valley. Now that pot is legal in Washington, will there soon be some cannabis tours?

Answer: You are in luck, the cannabis tours started this past weekend. The cost is $275 per person, which includes the marijuana. (, A cannabis tour? That's one plan)

December 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 10, 2012

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 27

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 23Volume 24Volume 25 and Volume 26 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:

  • Sneak a cobra onboard your flight. Passengers may not hide Egyptian cobras in carry-on bags, and definitely may not lose control of their snakes mid-flight. CONSEQUENCE: Plane will make emergency landing; snake will be confiscated. 
  • Punch through and shatter the airplane window. Passengers may not show their displeasure at not being allowed to sit with their mother by punching and shattering the plane's window as the plane is pulling away from the gate. CONSEQUENCE: Flight will be delayed while the crew replaces the window, and passenger will charged with destruction of an aircraft.

  • Threaten the flight crew regarding cellphone use. Passengers may not make threats against the plane's flight crew in response to being instructed to turn off their cellphonesCONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be removed from the plane pre-flight and taken into custody. All passengers will be re-screened and their bags checked again as a precaution.

December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 paid for a prostitute and she shorted me by 10 minutes. Unacceptable! Can I get her charged with theft if I go to the police about this? 

Answer: No, but you can get yourself arrested. (The Associated Press, Police: Man tells cops prostitute shorted him)

2. Question: I forgot my belt this morning and I need to attend a court hearing today with a friend who is facing a traffic violation. My pants are definitely going to slide down. Do you think the judge will be upset about it? 

Answer: Yes, so don't be surprised if you receive three days in jail for contempt of court when your underwear shows. (Newsnet5, Judge gives Lorain man 3 days in jail for wearing saggy pants in court)

3. Question: A handyman did some very shoddy work for my mother and then had the nerve to argue with me over getting paid. This is a long shot, but would I be justified in taking him hostage and forcing him to fix my dishwasher and a broken door? 

Answer: No. That is called false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, and conspiracy. (CBS San Francisco, Handyman Held Hostage In Morgan Hill, Forced To Fix Home)

December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2012

Snow Globe Law: TSA Lifts the Code Red on Smaller Orbs

For some time now, snow globes have been Public Enemy Number 1 at out nation's airports. As pointed out here by Seth Godin, the war on snow globes was so important to the TSA that they printed up large, stand-alone signs that were dedicated solely to the mission of issuing a Travel Advisory to each and every air traveler about snow globes. You know you are dealing with some serious contraband when it has its own sign:


Somehow in the past year or so, however, the threat posed by snow globes has apparently dropped from Code Red to something much less scary -- to the point that the TSA has actually changed its policy and given snow globes the "OK" to be checked in baggage. And just in time for the holidays!

Now don't get too fired up about this, because there are some caveats. You cannot just start flying around willy-nilly with whatever snow globe you so choose. Obviously, there are strict limits involved here. Specifically, the TSA says you can now check snow globes in your luggage that "appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size)." And your tennis ball-size snow globe, including the base, must be able to "fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics."

So happy travels, and I hope that special someone in your life enjoys their new tennis ball-size snow globe!

December 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 06, 2012

Photographers Portray Prisoners' Documented Last Meals

Although the concept of a "last meal" for death row prisoners who are about to be executed is under attack for being wasteful and unnecessary in places such as Texas and Florida, the practice still seems to be quite common in most jurisdictions. Apparently there is enough information available on what certain notorious executed criminals requested for their last meal to have inspired photographer Henry Hargreaves to do a photo project documenting what these last meals might have looked like. The excellent title of this project? "No Seconds."

The PetaPixel blog discusses and reproduces many of Hargreaves photos in a post today. These last meals include:

  • Victor Feguer: a single unpitted olive;
  • Ronnie Lee Gardner: lobster tail, steak, apple pie, vanilla ice cream;
  • Allen Lee Davis: lobster tail, fried potatoes, 1/2 fried shrimp, 6 oz fried clamps, 1/2 loaf of garlic bread, and 32-ounce A&W root beer; 
  • Timothy McVeigh: 2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream; and several others. 

You can check out Hargreaves' interesting photographs here (and be careful about clicking on the "3DD" link once you get there as it is an acronym for a photo project called "Breasts in 3D").

In the comments to the PetaPixel post, readers note that there are at least two other photography projects documenting last meals: this one by James Reynolds and yet another one by Julia Ziegler-Haynes. Wikipedia also has a page dedicated to documented last meal requests.

December 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 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: I am a first year associate at a law firm and I'm doing some research. The partner I work for told me to make sure I check the "pocket part." What does that mean? 

Answer: In the olden days when people used law books made out of paper (before people started turning law books into art, and flooring and building columns), legal publishers would update their books by sending out a paper insert that you could stick in a pocket in the back of the book. These inserts were called "pocket parts." True story, ask your grandpa about it. (Futurelawyer, Pocket Parts - May They Rest In Peace)

2. Question: I am a paramedic. We have rushed to a convenience store to help someone inside with a life-threatening medical issue. However, the only parking spots available have a sign next to them stating that the vehicles of non-customers will be booted. This does not apply to us, right?

Answer: It certainly should not. But sometimes convenience store employees can be quite militant about booting the vehicles of non-customers. Check your wheels before you pull away. (WWLTV, Ambulance gets 'booted' while paramedics tend to emergency)

3. Question: I am a lawyer conducting voir dire for a jury trial. One of the prospective jurors is constantly pecking away on his phone. I think he may be tweeting!! Is there some way for me to learn more about what this person is doing?

Answer: For $295, Jury Scout will monitor a prospective juror's public social-media profile to help you decide whether that person would likely agree or disagree with your client's case. (On the Case, For $295, a window into jurors' posts and tweets)

December 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 04, 2012

After Years of Page Limit Chicanery, Texas Switches to Word Limits for Briefs

Starting December 1, lawyers filing briefs with the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the state’s 14 intermediate appellate courts must contend with a new rule that limits the filings by the number of words. Apparently, too much "chicanery" by Texas lawyers who played games with fonts and white space prompted the courts to do away with the previous type of restriction, which was page-based.

The Tex Parte blog reports that the word count limit varies depending on the type of filing (4,500 words for a petition and response to the Supreme Court and CCA; 2,400 words for a reply to a response to the Supreme Court and CCA; 15,000 words for a brief and response in an appellate court; and so on). Sections such as the index and the table of contents do not count toward the word limitations. Lawyers must include a certificate of compliance with each filing stating its word count but, thankfully, are permitted to rely upon "the word count of the computer program used to prepare the document." 

Kendall Gray of the law firm Andrews Kurth writes that since 1997, when revised Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure came into effect with page limits on filings, lawyers in the state "have perfected all manner of chicanery to cram words into the page limits for Texas appellate briefs." The page limits, he says, often led lawyers to file unreadable briefs that relied on narrow fonts, limited white space, excessive footnotes and overly long line lengths. 

The new word limit rule also require the font size used in a filing to be no smaller than 14-point. Gray notes that this may be a mistake because while a 14-point font will make a document more legible, legibility and readability are not the same thing: 

But briefs with 14,000 words need to be readable in addition to being legible. The eye needs to be able to move smoothly across the top shapes of the letters and get from line to line without fixation pauses.

A large body of scientific research indicates exactly what kind of type setting promotes readability and understanding. It is NOT double spaced 14 point font with one inch margins on a line of type that is 6.5 inches long.

According to Gray, the "golden ratio" for typography is between 9 and 11-point font, with shorter line length and line heights. 

December 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 03, 2012

'Parking Douche', Vol. 2: Self-Help Edition

In the quickly growing field of citizens ratting out and trying to shame their neighbors for their crappy and illegal parking, I now see (via commenter Creightonclark78 here) that yet another option exists beyond going to the police or going to the local newspaper:

"I Park Like a D-Bag" bumper magnets!


Yes, for those who do not want to mess with a "parking deputy app" or who are simply more into self-help, the website sells these magnets. The site explains that, "we feel that in this crazy, crazy world, we have done something to fix the little selfish actions that are such a nuisance." It suggests that people who spot "douchebaggery" in the parking world should tag the offending car with a magnet, and also take a picture and post it to the site.

For those who get tagged for their inadequate parking, the website recommends viewing it as a "badge of honor to even get tagged, so quit your whining and welcome and pay it forward with the next D-Bag."

There are not many photos on the site, but there is one amusing trend in the world of shaming bad parkers that may cause you to bring a piece of chalk with you when you head out to work or to the mall today:


December 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

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