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February 28, 2013

Lawsuit Claims FedEx Delivered Drugs, Drug Smugglers to Family's Home

A new lawsuit filed against FedEx in Plymouth County, Mass., explores the company's liability for delivering not only (a) 7 lbs. of marijuana, but also (b) angry drug smugglers to the doorstep of the home of the Tobin family in Plymouth.

Courthouse News reports that the lawsuit filed on behalf of Maryangela Tobin and her two young daughters alleges that on October 20, 2012, FedEx delivered a package to their home. Tobin assumed the delivery was a birthday present for her 11-year-old daughter, as it included an assortment of candles, candy, ribbons and "several large vacuum-packed bags of what appeared to the Tobins to be potpourri." When Tobin popped open one of the "potpourri" bags, however, the kitchen instantly filled with the odor of marijuana. (As Consumerist put it, Tobin was correct about the potpourri, "except for the 'pourri' part").

Tobin called the police, who came to her home and seized the package as evidence. Soon after the police left, Tobin alleges, a drug smuggler for whom the marijuana was intended appeared at her door and began asking if she had received a package that day. Tobin told the smuggler she didn't have the package, bolted her doors shut and called the police back to her home. Tobin alleges that in a call between the police and FedEx, FedEx admitted telling "someone else" that the package was delivered to the Tobins, and provided the Tobins' address.

Three drug smugglers were arrested a few days later, but Tobin alleges that "an unknown number of smugglers remain at large" and that the arrested smugglers will soon be "back on the streets." Tobin's complaint alleges that FedEx's conduct has left her young daughters very frightened, and it seeks to recover for violations of Massachusetts Privacy Laws, intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

February 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2013

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 16-year-old brother-in-law was being disrespectful to his mom so I asked his mom to bring me a Taco Bell burrito that was nearby. I then "delivered" the burrito to the boy's face in a way that left "burrito cheese, sauce and meat all over his clothing and face." Is this going to be a problem for me, because I think the boy may be calling 911 right now.

Answer: Yes, this burrito attack may constitute simple battery. (The Smoking Gun, Cops: Florida Man, 36, Assaulted Teen Relative With Taco Bell Burrito)

2. Question: Can I get a trademark on the name of my new clothing line, "Jesus Surfed"?

Answer: Sorry, but Christ's name has already been trademarked by Jesus Jeans. (The BlazeWhat are 'Jesus Jeans' and Why are They Sparking Legal Battles in (and Over) Christ's Name?)

3. Question: My buddy is the Pope. He is resigning this week and does not know what he is permitted to call himself or wear going forward. Is there any precedent for this?

Answer: Not in the last 600 years, but it looks as though the plan is for him to call himself "pope emeritus" and continue to wear a white cassock. (CBS News, Pope Benedict XVI's post-retirement name, vestments revealed)

February 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2013

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 30

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 25Volume 26Volume 27Volume 28 and Volume 29 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:

  • Keep a plane in service that has a scorpion on board. Airlines may not keep a passenger jet in service after receiving complaints that there is a 4-inch scorpion on board. CONSEQUENCE: Plane will be taken out of service and passengers will board a new plane while the crew searches the original plane top to bottom for the scorpion.
  • Slap a 2-year-old fellow passenger in the face and call him a racial epithet. Passengers may not slap toddlers on their flight in the face for crying too much and tell the tot's parents to "shut that (N-word) kid up!" CONSEQUENCE: Alleged child-slapping passenger will face federal assault charges and, separately, may immediately find himself "no longer employed" by his former employer.
  • Give "the finger" to the passengers on your plane (for flight crew). Members of the flight crew may not photograph themselves giving "the finger" to an entire plane full of passengers and then post the photo on a social network. CONSEQUENCE: Crew member will be terminated. 

February 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1. Question: I was supposed to meet with my lawyer at his office at noon today after he met another client at the jail, but it is 4 p.m. and he still has not arrived. His assistant cannot get ahold of him, either. Any ideas?

Answer: Sometimes when lawyers go to visit their clients in jail they are inadvertently locked in meeting rooms and forgotten about for hours by the jail workers. (NBC NewsLawyer trapped, forgotten inside San Diego-area jail)

2. Question: I was trying to sell my used car to a woman, and she asked to take the car for a test drive. On the test drive she asked if she could stop at the bank to get money for the purchase. She came back out with a bag of money, and we were on the way back to my house to complete the transaction when a swarm of police pulled my car over and drew their guns on us. Do people sometimes rob banks while on test drives in other people's cars?

Answer: It happens. (Yahoo! NewsWoman allegedly uses car test drive to rob bank)

3. Question: Long story but I presently have 92 bags of heroin hidden in my anus. I assume this is the record, correct?

Answer: No, a gang member in New Jersey was arrested last week following a routine traffic stop with an even 100 bags of heroin in his anus. (Daily MailGang member arrested with ONE HUNDRED bags of heroin 'concealed in his butt')

February 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2013

Court: 'Locked Up Like Lindsay Lohan' Lyric Not Actionable

If you listen to the type of pop music station that my kids prefer to hear in the car, you've heard the following lyrics from Pitbull's song "Give Me Everything" a million times:

"So, I'm tiptoein', to keep flowin', I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan." (you can listen to it here)

Get it? The "locked up" lyric is a reference to Lohan's many brushes with the law through the years and at the time the song was released in 2011. But as we've seen and discussed here, Lohan does not hesitate to go to court when she thinks she is being made fun of, such as when she filed a lawsuit against E-Trade over its funny commercial that referred to "that milk-o-holic Lindsay." In 2011, Lohan sued Armando Christian Perez (aka "Pitbull") and others including Sony Music and RCA Music on the grounds that they had violated New York Civil Rights Law by using her "name, characterization, and personality for advertising purposes, and for purposes of trade and commercial benefits." Lohan also brought claims for unjust enrichment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Last week, a federal court in New York ruled on Lohan's case (via New York Law Journal), and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. The court stated, quite simply, that the Supreme Court has made clear that "[m]usic, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment. Thus, because the Song is a protected work of art, the use of plaintiff's name therein does not violate the New York Civil Rights Law." (citation omitted).

The court also found that:

  • the isolated nature of the use of Lohan's name was not actionable under New York Civil Rights Law, as imposing such liability would present an "uncalled-for burden and hazard on publishers;" and
  • Lohan's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim could not stand because the alleged conduct was "insufficient to meet the threshold for extreme and outrageous conduct" necessary to sustain such a claim. 

So it appears that if Lohan doesn't want to hear songs in the future about herself getting locked up, she'll need to stop getting herself locked up.

February 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2013

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 dumbass roommate (aka "Florida Man") stashed four live rounds of ammunition in our oven without my knowledge. When I preheated the oven today to cook myself a snack, the bullets exploded and I was sprayed in the chest and the leg with shrapnel. Can Florida Man be charged with a crime here? Please?

Answer: Sorry, It looks like Florida Man will not be charged. (Daily MailWoman 'shot' and wounded as she cooks a snack after bullets left in her OVEN explode)

2. Question: I work at the DMV taking driver's license photos. We have a firm rule that head coverings can’t be worn in license photos unless it’s for religious reasons. A man who claims he is a practicing "Pastafarian" is adamant about wearing a pasta strainer on his head when I take his driver's license photo, but I am quite dubious. Is this a real thing?

Answer: Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is a movement opposing teaching in schools of intelligent design and creationism. Other Pastafarians have tried (and sometimes succeeded) to wear pasta strainers on their heads in driver's license photos, as well. ('Pastafarian' refuses to take spaghetti strainer off his head for license photo, South Brunswick cops say)

3. Question: I live in Tulsa County, Okla., and I simply cannot find a meth lab for the life of me. Are there any meth labs in my town?

Answer: Open your eyes, man! At last count, Tulsa County police had identified 979 contaminated meth lab sites in the county -- the most of any county in the nation. (CNN Money, Do you live near a meth lab?) (via Constitutional Daily)

February 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2013

Who is the Legal Profession's Equivalent of 'Florida Man'?

By now, many of you who are on Twitter have come across the Twitter feed for Florida Man, which provides "real-life headlines about the world's worst superhero." Basically, anything of an insane or inane nature that can be done in this country is being done by Florida Man.  

For example, who was "Charged With Neglect After Trying To Transport Infant And 4-Foot-Tall Marijuana Plant In The Same Car?" Florida Man

Who was "Charged With Battery After Argument Over Ball Scratching?" Florida Man

Who was the reason for a "Woman Injured After Bullet Left Inside Oven?" Florida Man

And do I even need to ask, who "Blamed 7-Eleven Robbery On Lack Of Sex?" You know it was Florida Man.

The Florida Man Twitter feed cleverly captures all of Florida Man's misdeeds in one convenient place (check them all out here). I am now wondering ... what/who is the legal profession's equivalent of Florida Man? The best I can come up with so far is Disgruntled Lawyer, who, while not as prolific as Florida Man, has been wreaking some havoc of his own:

Can anyone come up with a better legal profession equivalent to Florida Man? Let me know.

February 20, 2013 | 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: My cruise ship broke down in the Gulf of Mexico, stranding more than 4,200 of us for five days (including Valentines Day!) on a boat with overflowing toilets and little food. Can I sue for this miserable time on what we not-so-affectionately call the "Poop Boat"?

Answer: Unless you were physically injured, you are probably out of luck. (ConsumeristSo You Spent Days Sloshing Around On A Poop Cruise? Unfortunately, You Probably Can't Sue)

2. Question: I am a store owner in Colorado. Our state's new Amendment 64 allows adults to give one another up to an ounce of marijuana, provided it is done "without remuneration." Can I hand out ounces of marijuana to my customers if they purchase over $30 of merchandise in my store? 

 That depends on the definition of "without remuneration," which is still being worked out by lawmakers, regulators and a state task force. Maybe you should hold on to those ounces of marijuana for now. (The Denver PostMarijuana-for-donation swaps test limits of Colorado law)

3. Question: I'm not drunk so I do not need a designated driver. But I have a lot of texts and tweets I want to send out, which I know is also unsafe to do behind the wheel. What should I do?

Answer: Get a designated texter. (Orlando SentinelExpressway Authority launches 'designated texter' campaign)

February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2013

Alberta Court Concludes That Access to Internet Is Fundamental Part of Right to Counsel

Today the Slaw blog highlighted R. v. McKaya very interesting Canadian case in which a 19-year-old defendant claims he was not given a reasonable opportunity to exercise his right to counsel. The defendant's main argument is that he was not provided with "a full range of resources and access to sources of information which reasonably were or ought have been made available to him" because he was not given access to the Internet.

Following his arrest for operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, the defendant was asked if he wanted to call a lawyer and he replied, "yes." An officer then showed the accused the "resources" available to contact counsel:

  • 411 for information as to phone numbers; and
  • the White Pages and the Yellow Pages of the telephone book. 

The defendant made a telephone call to someone for legal advice, and later testified that the person he reached dealt with him abruptly and did not want to talk to him. He also testified that because he believed ("based on Hollywood movies") that he was only entitled to one telephone call, he did not request any further opportunities to get legal advice at the time. After the phone call, the defendant subsequently incriminated himself, and the case came before the Provincial Court of Alberta on the defendant's motion to exclude the incriminating evidence because he was denied a reasonable opportunity to exercise his right to counsel.

The Provincial Court of Alberta focused on whether providing a defendant with access to "411" and the White and Yellow Pages -- but no access to the Internet -- was adequate. The court noted that, like most 19-year-olds, the defendant uses the Internet and, specifically, Google to access any information that he needs. The defendant also testified that he "did not know what 411 was at the time and that he would not have considered '411 a viable search engine.'"

The court stated:

We are at an unprecedented time in human history.  The real world exists parallel to and in tandem with the virtual world.  It is uncontroverted that the vast majority of individuals born after the year 1980 first look to the virtual world for information, for education, for access to services, before they consider access to anachronistic services such as paper telephone directories and numbers posted on a wall.  The computer generation considers the internet, the cell phone, the iPad, the Smartphone, essential partners in daily life.  The average 19 year old looks to Google as a source point for much of the information necessary to carry on daily life. ...

So what happens when a 19 year old is arrested and has never faced the prospect of trying to get legal advice before providing potentially incriminating evidence to a police officer?  This Court takes judicial notice that the average 19 year old will look to the internet for information to get legal advice before checking White Pages, Yellow Pages or 411.  In fact the accused himself has testified that he did not at the material time, even know what 411 was.  In a statement of deep ignorance, the accused says under oath that he would not have considered "411 a viable search engine."  Transcript p. 8, ll. 4-16:

The court did not specifically address the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the White Pages or Yellow Pages, but I would have to guess that most 19-year-olds have never used either of these 20th century-type resources in their lives. By contrast, the court stated, a Google search for "Calgary criminal defence lawyers" immediately produced a lengthy list of "experienced top Calgary criminal defence lawyers including addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other educational information concerning the services they provide."

The court concluded that access to 411, the White Pages and Yellow Pages did not provide the defendant with a reasonable opportunity to exercise his right to counsel, and asserted that "in the year 2013 police providing access to the internet is part of a detainee's reasonable opportunity to contact legal counsel. This is so even whether counsel of choice is not an issue and the accused is simply seeking general information from a source such as Google."

February 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 15, 2013

Is a Twitter Handle a 'Must-Have' for Today's Lawyer? Not Yet

Kevin O'Keefe kicked off an interesting discussion about Twitter this week in a post on his blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs. O'Keefe argued that "your identity of record for now is your Twitter handle," and gave numerous examples of how he uses people's Twitter handles to identify them in his own blog posts, give credit to authors and otherwise acknowledge them online. O'Keefe says that this is important to him because he is trying to build relationships with people, not just have a "one-way street" where he is doing only the talking or only the listening. 

O'Keefe specifically urged lawyers to "get your Twitter handle out there. It’s how I and many others will identify you when we want to cite you, on or off Twitter. It’s also how your target audience can get to know you and begin to trust you.... You’ve got to have one."

On the Futurelawyer blog, Richard Georges agreed with O'Keefe's post and took it even further:

If you aren't engaged, as a lawyer, with Social Media; especially Twitter and Google+, you are like a lawyer in 1980 without a telephone number. I am @rickgeorges on Twitter and +Richard Georges on Google+. Just as a GMail address is essential ([email protected]), engagement in Social Media makes you a part of the global discussion. It is how you get noticed on the Internet; but, more than that, it is how you become part of the coming revolution in communications. 

I am a fan of Twitter (@brucecarton), and I definitely agree with Kevin that it is important to have a Twitter handle if you want to be identified, acknowledged or engaged by others online. But I think the Futurelawyer post pushes the argument too far, as the benefit of a Twitter handle today is a far cry from the benefit of being a lawyer in the 1980s who can actually communicate by telephone with his or her actual clients, colleagues, courts, etc.  

Particularly with respect to the "big law firm" world that I used to work in and that I still interact with daily, I just don't believe that having (or not having) a Twitter handle really has much of an impact yet. It may be different in the world of the solo practitioner, which I'm not very familiar with, but I seriously doubt even the "best" individual lawyer-Twitterers from big law firms would suffer too much if they walked away from Twitter tomorrow.

And don't even get me started on Google+ as a supposed "must-have" presence for lawyers in 2013. I'm not buying that at all!

February 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (9)

February 14, 2013

Grading Loophole Leads to Boycott of Final Exam, 'A's for All Students

Inside Higher Ed (via Jonathan Turley) has a great story out of Johns Hopkins University, where a combination of (a) an unusual grading policy with a loophole, (b) a remarkably united class of students, and (c) a cool professor, resulted in all of the students in the class getting an "A" on the course's final exam.

In his "Intermediate Programming", "Computer Science Fundamentals," and "Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers" classes, Professor Peter Fröhlich uses a grading curve in which each class's highest grade on the final counts as an A and all other student scores are then adjusted accordingly. For example, according to Inside Higher Ed, if a midterm is worth 40 points, and the highest actual score is 36 points, the person with the 36 gets 100 percent and everybody else gets a percentage relative to it.

Sniffing out a loophole in Fröhlich's system, the students collectively organized a boycott of the final exam when they realized that if the highest grade in the class was zero, then every student would receive an A. One of the students explained that tools such as social media were critical to obtaining and tracking all of the students' buy-in to the plan. To be sure, the students hung around outside the classrooms to make sure that everyone honored the boycott (and everyone did).

To his credit, Fröhlich honored the loophole in his grading policy, and awarded everyone "A"s. He applauded the students' ability to collaborate as they did to "achieve something that individually they could never have done." He has, however, changed his grading policy going forward to state that if everybody in the class has zero points, then "everybody gets 0 percent." 

February 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2013

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

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

1. Question: I'm a new police officer and I was just dispatched to arrest a woman who is supposedly on a "genital kicking spree." This was not covered in the police training. What is a "genital kicking spree" and should I be getting into my SWAT team gear?

Answer: A "genital kicking spree" is just what it sounds like -- someone standing on a city street in broad daylight kicking random strangers in the genitals. Be prepared. Maybe wear a protective cup, at a minimum. (Time.comFlorida Woman Arrested After Genital Kicking Spree)

2. Question: I am an elderly, bedridden man but I need to go to court to testify in support of an extension of a protection order against my estranged wife. Can I just testify by Skype?

Answer: No problem. (WSJ Law BlogBedridden Man Uses Skype to Testify Against Wife)

3. Question: Can I let my 3-year-old child pump my gas for me? He'll love it! 

Answer: No, that will get you charged with child endangerment. (The Smoking Gun, Mom Charged For Letting Son, 3, Pump Gasoline)

February 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 12, 2013

A Belated Welcome to Bryan Garner's 'LawProse' Blog

Via the (new) legal writer blog I see, quite belatedly, that Bryan Garner has added a blog to his LawProse website. The LawProse blog, which is dedicated to legal writing tips and lessons, is far from new and has been active since December 2011. As always, I blame all of you for failing to tell me about it. 

Garner, who is among other things the editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary, has been mentioned numerous times here at LBW (here, here and here, for example) for his expertise in the areas of legal writing, editing and drafting. The LawProse blog offers Garner's "Usage Tip of the Day" and a "Quotation of the Day," as well as periodic lessons and other observations. Some recent posts that I liked include:

  • February 8, 2013, Quotation of the Day: "An attractive title is nothing less than miraculous in gaining readers for a paper." David Lee Clark et al, Form and Style: A Manual of Composition and Rhetoric 16 (1937).

    This is quite true, and is something I was thinking about just this week when I found myself reading a law review-type article called "Cite Club." The article itself was about inconsistencies in the way Westlaw and Bluebook cite to certain publications, a topic that frankly I could not care any less about and would never knowingly read. However, it was titled, "Cite Club," which of course is a clever play on "Fight Club" -- a fact that by itself miraculously gained me as reader of that paper.

  • February 6, 2013, "A Well-Crafted Letter Still Gets the Job Done": Garner notes that well-written business letters can create a lot of goodwill with clients and increase profits, too. He offers some interesting pointers for letters, such as focusing on the reader. For example, he says, "try not to begin with the word I; make it you, if possible (You were so kind, You might be interested, and so on). Keep the reader in the forefront because -- let's face it -- that's what will hold her interest."
There are many, many useful tips on the LawProse blog. Check them all out here.

February 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 11, 2013

Kissing Your Mom, and Other Ways to Smuggle Contraband In and Out of Prison

You are an inmate in prison. Your loved ones are not in prison. Sometimes you need things from them, and vice versa, but there are pesky armed prison guards, plexiglass walls and other significant impediments standing in the way of the free exchange of these items. As two stories I've seen in the past week illustrate, however, truly dedicated inmates and their loved ones can find a way to make a clandestine transfer of almost any item when they really want to. Here are two case studies:

1. Item to be transferred out of the prison: The inmate's sperm

Just because your husband is locked up for many years without conjugal visits doesn't mean your biological clock is going to stop ticking, am I right, ladies? That's why the wives of many inmates in Israel devised a plan to smuggle their husband's sperm out of the prison and straight to a fertility clinic where the sperm could be frozen and then used in IVF treatments. According to The Washington Post, a doctor at the Razan Center for IVF in the West Bank city of Nablus, has gathered inmate sperm samples allowing 22 prisoners' wives to undergo IVF treatment, with five pregnancies and at least one baby born earlier this year. 

So how does one smuggle sperm out of a prison where prisoners are separated from their family by a glass barrier? Relatives refused to say for fear of tipping off Israeli authorities, but did admit that "eye droppers" were part of the plan. Palestine lawyers speculated that as young children are allowed to hug their fathers, perhaps the eye dropper was exchanged and carried out. Lawyers also said that "sympathetic prison guards might also be willing to look the other way."

2. Item to be transferred into the prison: Oxycodone

Unlike transferring sperm out of prison, which presumably is aided by the element of surprise, prisons are clearly on the lookout for people trying to smuggle illegal drugs such as Oxycodone into the prison. To regain that element of surprise, family members trying to get Oxycodone to an inmate need to think outside the box a bit. For example, who would expect that a mother kissing an inmate son would be willing to (a) aid in the smuggling of Oxycodone, and (b) do so by actually passing them from her mouth to his while giving him a kiss? Nobody, that's who, which is why the plot worked.

The drugs were later discovered, however, and the deep-kissing mom and son were both charged with "promoting prison contraband." The mom is now free on bail while the son remains in jail on unrelated charges.

February 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2013

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 woman in my 20s and I was ordered by the court to wear an ankle bracelet after being convicted of being in a fight outside a nightclub. The bracelet really doesn't go with my fashion style, though. Can I spice it up a bit by bedazzling it with fake diamonds?

Answer: No. That is a "serious offense" that will get you fined by the court. (The VergeWoman fined for bedazzling her court-ordered ankle monitor)

2. Question: My car was towed away because I supposedly parked in a marked handicapped spot, but I swear on all that is holy that the spot I parked in was NOT marked as handicapped when I pulled into it. Am I going crazy? 

Answer: No, sometimes the city will paint a new handicapped spot around your already-parked car and then tow your car away. (Jonathan TurleyCity Workers Paint Disabled Parking Box Around Woman's Car And Then Tow The Car As Illegally Parked)

3. Question: I am on trial for assault. The prosecutors claim that a fight I had with another man cost him his left eye. While the man was testifying against me and weeping about the impact of losing his eye, his prosthetic eye popped out. Can I get a mistrial here?

Answer: Yes! (The Associated Press, Mistrial declared when prosthetic eye pops out)

February 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 07, 2013

Is It Prostitution? Vol. 1: Having a 'Sugar Daddy' Pay for Your College

Has it always been so difficult to figure out what is and is not prostitution? I feel like back in the day, the formula wasn't that complicated:

Getting paid money for sex = prostitution.

Now it seems like there are lots of shades of gray. Are you a prostitute if you respond to an ad seeking to hire "lively and good-looking women" to be female "condom testers"? How about if you offer to perform sex acts in exchange for World Series tickets? What if you sign up for as one of their Attractive Members who are willing to set a price for Generous Members who will pay for the privilege of a first date with an Attractive Member?

And, most recently, what if you are a college student willing to provide ongoing "companionship" to a wealthy man who is willing to finance your education? CBS News reports that a website called is now billing itself as the "Elite Sugar Daddy Dating Site for those Seeking Mutually Beneficial Arrangements." The site pairs registered "Sugar Babies" up with "Gentlemen."

"Jessica," one of the Sugar Babies interviewed, said she has had relationships with three Sugar Daddies/Gentlemen so far who have agreed to pay her between $500 and $5,000 a month. She said a physical relationship "comes later" in the relationship and "boosts up the price. It always gets more money." Brandon Wade, the founder of, says the service is not prostitution because "[w]e've drawn a very clear line by saying that if you're paying simply for sex, that is not clearly permitted."

Umm, OK, then!

February 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (7)

February 06, 2013

Rise of Technology Causing Paralegal Jobs to Disappear?

A while back I looked here at whether the position of court reporter (aka "medieval scribes" according to some) was long for this world. Now I see, via The Estrin Report, that another key role in the legal profession appears to be fading away: the paralegal.

According to a study conducted by The Associated Press that analyzed detailed employment data from 20 countries, technology is being steadily adopted and replacing workers in virtually every type of business. The study found that the most vulnerable workers were those "doing repetitive tasks that programmers can write software for" such as "a paralegal reviewing documents for key words to help in a case." Indeed, The Estrin Report post notes that "out of the top disappearing jobs, paralegal is in the top 7 positions."

The Estrin Report writes that technology is not the only factor at work in eliminating paralegal jobs. Others include the five-year downturn in the legal market, which has led associates starved for billable hours to take on assignments that they previously would have pushed down to paralegals. In light of the dour outlook, The Estrin Report offers several suggestions that paralegals should consider pursuing right now, including becoming a "technology wiz" in your specialty and cross-training to become knowledgeable in multiple practice areas. Read the full list of suggestions for paralegals here.

February 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 05, 2013

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 29

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 25Volume 26Volume 27 and Volume 28 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:

  • Wear a T-shirt bearing a particular quote from the movie The Princess Bride. Passengers may not wear a T-shirt bearing Mandy Patinkin's iconic line from The Princess Bride, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be asked to take off the offending T-shirt.
  • Smuggle a bag full of live otters into another country. Passengers are prohibited from smuggling 11 live juvenile otters (six smooth coated otters and five oriental small clawed otters) into another country inside an oversized piece of luggage. CONSEQUENCE: Otters will be seized and sent to a breeding center.
  • Sit with your child anywhere but the rear of the plane on AirAsia X.  Passengers on AirAsia X traveling in economy with children under 12 are prohibited from sitting in any of the seven "quiet zones" at the front of the plane. CONSEQUENCE: Children under 12 may only sit in the back of the plane, to preserve peace and quiet.

February 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2013

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 agreed to have sex with my sister-in-law at her request because she is unable to conceive a child with her husband. Are there any legal precautions I may need to take here?

Answer: You may want to have her document that your rendezvous is (are) consensual. (Above the LawManhattan Lawyer Happy To Help Out Brother-in-Law By Banging His Wife)

2. Question: I am a doctor and one of my patients just labeled me a "real tool" on a website used to rate doctors. Unacceptable! Can I sue my patient for defamation over this? 

Answer: Sorry, but no. (ABA JournalCalling doc 'a real tool' isn’t defamatory, Minnesota Supreme Court rules)

3. Question: I have been driving around for an hour in Massachusetts but cannot find a single Happy Hour. Where da party at?!

Answer: Happy Hour has been outlawed in Massachusetts since 1984. (Consumerist, Sorry, Massachusetts: Looks Like You're Not Getting Happy Hour Anytime Soon)

February 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 01, 2013

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 took out a litigation financing loan so that I could pursue a medical malpractice case as a plaintiff. It looks like we are going to settle for $150,000 and my lawyer said I will get 111 of it. Is getting $111,000 a good deal for me?

Answer: $111,000 would be good, but you're only getting $111 -- which is not as good. (ABA JournalClient who got $111 from $150K settlement can’t sue firm for malpractice)

2. Question: I am about to testify in the trial of an alleged member of a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Can I take the stand wearing a fake handle-bar mustache, sunglasses and a black wig to hide my identity?

Answer: No to the sunglasses, but no problem on the mustache and wig. (WSJ Law BlogCourt Rules on Constitutionality of a Mustache)

3. Question: I am 12 years old and was caught spray-painting graffiti on my neighbor's home. The judge ordered me to pay $1,000 restitution, which I do not have because I am just 12 years old! Now he is ordering me to get a job to repay the $1,000 -- can he do this? 

Answer: Yes, because state law permits children as young as 9 years old the freedom to work as a newspaper delivery person. Plus, a youth can also "earn money by obtaining a paper route, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, baby-sitting, delivering groceries, or by recycling items upon which a deposit had been paid." (The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Appeals Court tells 12-year-old boy: Get a job to pay for 'tagging' neighbors’ homes)

February 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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