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March 29, 2013

My Last Day: Logging Out of Legal Blog Watch

In the movie Cocktail, bartender Brian Flanagan (played by Tom Cruise) says that, "All things end badly. Otherwise they wouldn't end!" That is often the case, but does it have to be?

In an effort to be an exception to the Flanagan Principle, today is my last day as the voice of Legal Blog Watch. I have been writing here at LBW since September 2009, and I have really enjoyed my time spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of legal blogs and information you deserve. After three-and-a-half years on this beat, however, I feel like it is a good time for me to declare victory and move on.

As my esteemed LBW predecessor, Carolyn Elefant, explained in her own September 2009 "farewell" post (also after a three-and-a-half year stint at LBW), blogging every day can cause you to simply "run out of steam." I'm not out of steam yet, but I definitely feel my internal steam pressure declining. 

Could I write Things You Can't Do on A Plane, Volume 31? Could Judge Carton return to the bench to rule on the inanities that will surely arise next week? Could I find three more Burning Legal Questions for today and tomorrow and the day after that? Yes, yes, and hell yes, but I think that is the wrong path to take here. Taking a look back on the many, many posts I've cranked out here at LBW since 2009, I'm pleased with the creativity I've been able to bring to this publication. In short, I'm proud of the work I've done here and I want to go out feeling that way.

Thank you again to the terrific editors who have been associated with LBW during my time here: John Bringardner, Paula Martersteck and Laurel Newby. You have all been an absolute pleasure to work with! Thanks also to Bob Ambrogi and Eric Lipman, who were my co-authors along the way. And, finally, thanks to all of you for reading LBW these past few years. I have really enjoyed my time here and I now look forward to being a Legal Blog Watch reader in the years to come. 

March 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (11)

March 28, 2013

Thanks to Some of My Favorite Legal Bloggers

With just two days left in my time here at LBW, I want to seize the opportunity today to say thank you and "until we meet again" to some of my favorite legal bloggers. Here are just a few of the many lawyers and writers who have made my time writing for LBW enjoyable. In no particular order:

  • Kevin Underhill, a partner in the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon and author of Lowering the Bar. Kevin, didn't anyone tell you that big firm lawyers are not supposed to have a sense of humor? Lowering the Bar unquestionably made me laugh more than any other law blog out there. I have many favorite LTB posts, but the one that comes to mind right now is "Man Who Stabbed His First Two Lawyers With a Pencil Stabs Another Lawyer With a Pencil."
  • Scott Greenfield, criminal defense lawyer and author of Simple Justice. Scott, I already said goodbye to you once when you head-faked the Internet into thinking you'd retired from blogging. One goodbye per person, sorry.
  • Elie Mystal, editor, Above the Law: It is not easy to find something interesting or funny to blog about every day. I know that. Elie finds a way to do it consistently, including one of my more recent favorites, "Wearing A Class Ring From Your Law School Is An Expensive Way To Advertise That You Are A Loser Who Has No Friends."
  • Venkat Balasubramani, co-founder of Focal PLLC and author of Spam Notes and Focalize. I appreciate Venkat's powers of observation. He is able to connect the dots quickly, such as when he astutely noted an unfortunate trend in 2010, when bloggers were increasingly associating "two totally random things that have no connection at all, and asking what one can teach the other (or what one can learn from the other)." This led to Venkat's post entitled, "What Tibetan Goatherders Can Teach us About Lawyering."
  • Ken from Popehat: Kicking ass and taking names on since 2007. Admired for his work in killing off Lawspammers and promoting the use of ponies as a form of currency.
  • Jonathan Turley, professor of law at The George Washington University Law School and author of the Jonathan Turley blog. Nobody is better than Prof. Turley at identifying and highlighting the most interesting legal stories of the day.
  • Kevin O'Keefe, CEO of Lexblog and author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs: He won't remember this, but I first spoke with Kevin about legal blogging in 2004. Nearly 10 years later, Kevin continues to be the leader in bringing lawyers and law firms to the blogosphere, collaborating with everyone from Robert Scoble to the already thanked Scott Greenfield to get his message out.
  • Many, many others who have made the LBW writing gig enjoyable and whose names I will surely remember too late to add to this post.

Thanks to all of you, and please keep doing what you're doing!

March 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (7)

March 27, 2013

Judge Carton Rules: The Complete Set

Since February 2010, Judge Carton has been ruling on important matters here at Legal Blog Watch. As I wrote when I introduced Judge Carton, 

No, Judge Carton is not a real judge and, like Judge Wapner, my rulings are not "technically" binding on the parties. But that has never stopped me from ruling before, see, e.g., MacStupid, aka MacGyver v. MacGruber, and it certainly won't stop me here. Moving on.

My mission? To spare the parties to cases in which the outcome is obvious the time and expense of further litigation.

Given my imminent departure from LBW (Friday), I want to be sure that the collected works of Judge Carton are preserved for history, as I anticipate that fake judges in the future will want to rely on the precedents established in my rulings. Here, then, for posterity, are all of the rulings by Judge Carton.

  • Case 1: Dee v. Daily Telegraph -- British tennis pro Robert Dee sued the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph for describing him as "the world's worst tennis pro," saying the insult ruined his professional reputation. 
Judge Carton's ruling: Given that Dee reportedly lost 54 successive matches in international contests, including 108 sets in a row, the Daily Telegraph's future motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
  • Case 2: Record company EMI appealed a court ruling that the Australian band "Men at Work" copied a flute riff from the children's song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree" in their 1980s song, "Down Under."
Judge Carton's ruling: Despite EMI's claim that similarities to two bars of the Kookaburra song would only be noticed by "the highly sensitized or educated musical ear," the key bars from those songs sound exactly alike to Judge Carton's decidedly non-highly sensitized/educated musical ear. Appeal DISMISSED.
Judge Carton's ruling: Bwaaaah haaahaaaaahaaaaaa hahhaaaaa!! Wow. Good to laugh like that once in a while. Now get out of my fake courtroom, "Lindsay," and do not return. E-Trade's future motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
  • Case 4: Alhambra Superior Court sentenced 35-year-old serial bank robber Anthony Richard Cuellar to 1,948 years in prison for a nail salon robbery and eight bank heists in 2007.
Judge Carton's ruling: Even divided by 10, Cuellar's sentence is still 40-plus years longer than Bernard Madoff's 150-year sentence. Cuellar's future motion to modify the sentence is hereby GRANTED and the sentence is reduced by 1,800 years, down to 148 years.
  • Case 5: Ginger McGuire fell asleep on a flight from D.C. to Philly that landed shortly after midnight. She claimed no one woke her up until a cleaning crew found her four hours later. Her lawsuit alleged "false imprisonment, emotional distress and negligence" against United Airlines. 
Judge Carton's ruling: You were asleep during the alleged imprisonment and distress, so United's future motion to dismiss is hereby GRANTED, and you get nothing. In the alternative, I rule that you are awarded $100 for the airline's negligence, but must pay $101 to the cleaning crew for the wake up service. Your call, please see the clerk on the way out.
  • Case 6: Lauren Rosenberg sued Google after she was hit by a car while following walking directions provided by Google Maps on her cellphone. She claimed the Google Maps BlackBerry application told her to walk along a dangerous highway with no sidewalks to get from one Park City, Utah, address to another and she was hit by a car while doing so.
Judge Carton's ruling: I came back from the beach for this? Google's future motion to dismiss is hereby GRANTED and the plaintiff is forbidden from using any type of smartphone with Internet access for a period of 60 months. In addition, the plaintiff is hereby ORDERED to watch this video within the next 30 days, and certify to this court that she has done so.
  • Case 7: The Hershey Co. sued one of its competitors, Mars Inc., regarding the packaging that Mars used for its Dove chocolate bar with peanut butter. Hersheys claimed that the Dove wrapper infringed on its trademarks because it is so similar to the packaging Hersheys uses for its Reese's line of candies. Hershey's claimed this was "unfair competition."Reesesdove
Judge Carton's ruling: The court has taken five seconds to look at the two wrappers and they look absolutely nothing alike ... One wrapper is bright orange and one is brown. The court is not persuaded in the least that the presence of a tiny yellow/orange swoosh on the Dove bar makes it look like a Reese's bar. In fact, there is really not one thing similar about these wrappers. Case dismissed.
  • Case 8: A woman was walking through a mall while texting a friend about a birthday party and she walked straight into the fountain wall and fell head first, fully clothed, into the water. She quickly hopped out of the fountain and went on her way, but a video of her falling into the fountain went viral on the Internet, allegedly causing her "humiliation."
Judge Carton's ruling (from the official fake transcript):

JUDGE CARTON: It is impossible to tell who the person falling into the fountain is from this video. How was your client humiliated by this video?

PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: Your honor, my client says that members of her church were able to recognize her in the video from "the way she walks."

JUDGE CARTON: Case dismissed.

  • Case 9: A restaurant offered "all you can eat sushi for $28." A diabetic man partaking in the "all-you-can-eat sushi" who could not eat rice just ate the seafood off the top of and left the rice. The owner of the restaurant told the man that if he wanted the all-you-can-eat price, he'd have to eat the rice too and not just fill up on fish because "sushi" includes rice, and "sashimi" is just fish. The man refused and sought at least $4,000 in damages for the "humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish" he suffered after being discriminated against "on the basis of his disability" (diabetes).
Judge Carton's ruling: I rule that the restaurant cannot make a person eat rice if they do not want to eat it any more than an all-you-can-eat prime rib restaurant can make me eat a basket of bread before I start on the meat. I rule that the plaintiff gets a coupon for one all-you-can-eat meal of fish only at defendant's sushi bar for the originally offered price of $28. And I rule that defendant must change his sign to state the price of a fish-only all-you-can-eat meal. I award plaintiff zero dollars in damages.
  • Case 10Sears has a well-known brand of car batteries called "DieHard," and it owns the trademark rights to that phrase. RockHard Laboratories began marketing a topical "desensitizing spray" that supposedly prevents premature ejaculation in men -- also called DieHard. Sears demands that RockHard cease its use of the DieHard name, "and pay damages and the cost of an ad campaign to correct any damage to the DieHard brand reputation." 
Judge Carton's ruling: After reviewing these claims for five seconds, it is the judgment of this fake court that RockHard's use of the DieHard name for a sexual enhancement spray, while creative and somewhat amusing, is embarrassing to Sears and will probably subject it to unwanted "DieHard" jokes from late-night comedians. Accordingly, the court finds in favor of Sears on its request that RockHard stop using the name. The request for damages and an ad campaign is denied, however, as any ad campaign attempting to further "clarify" this matter would simply add to the late-night comedy fodder.
  • Case 11Plaintiff attended an awards banquet at which there was a charity auction. At one point in the auction the president of the Florida Marlins major league baseball team joked that the next item for bid was the Florida Marlins and he'd sell them for $10 million. The plaintiff promptly bid $10 million and nobody else said anything. The Marlins then refused to sell plaintiff the team (purchased in 2002 for $143 million and recently valued at $360 million) to plaintiff for $10 million. 
Judge Carton's ruling: I rule that the president of the Marlins, who does not own the team anyway, was obviously joking when he offered to sell the team at a charity auction for a fraction of its market value. I rule that your client has no sense of humor. I rule that people who jokingly say, "I'm going to kill him" when they are irritated with someone are not guilty of any crime. Costs and attorney fees for the 120 seconds that this hearing has taken up are hereby awarded to the defendant's charity.

March 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 26, 2013

Lindsay Lohan Mug Shot Gallery, Part III

This is my last week here at Legal Blog Watch. That's right, after Friday you will be on your own in terms of figuring out all of the Things You Can't Do on a Plane.

This week, I'm going to try to wrap up as many loose ends as I can, starting with Lindsay Lohan. In July 2010, when her mug shot gallery stood at a then-impressive three, I posted a montage here along with the message I derived from each photo. By October 2011, the Lohan mug shot gallery had grown to five mug shots. In this post that featured all of her new and old mug shots, I pondered if this was a new celebrity mug shot record, and set the over/under for the number of Lohan mug shots by the end of 2012 at six. 

I was wrong on the over/under and the number of Lohan mug shots stayed at five through 2012. This month, however, Lohan pushed the number of mug shots to six after she turned herself in to Santa Monica, Calif., police and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges relating to a car crash in June 2012. As one Lohan mug shot expert stated, her "sixth mugshot is by far her hottest mugshot. Her eyebrow game is pretty on point." Lohan's current six mug shot gallery is provided below.


March 2013

March 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 22, 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: There are some funky weeds growing on the farm right near my home. How can I tell if I have a cannabis farm in my backyard? 

Answer: You can use the police-issued "scratch and sniff cannabis card" to determine if cannabis is being cultivated in your neighborhood. (Mirror Online, Scratch and sniff out drug crime: Cops will hand out cards to help people recognise smell of cannabis farms)

2. Question: I have had a few drinks but I'm not sure if I'm too drunk to drive. Is there an app for that? 

Answer: Of course! (CBS NewsSmartphone breathalyzer tells when you're too drunk to drive)

3. Question: I am thinking about becoming a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar. Do I need to have argued a case before the Supreme Court? 

Answer: No, all it takes is membership in a state bar for three years, the signatures of two other Supreme Court bar members and 200 bucks!  (The Associated PressFor lawyers, the Supreme Court bar is vanity trip)

March 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 21, 2013

The WaPo's Outlook Section Avoids These Phrases, and You Should, Too

A set of posts on the Jim Romenesko blog this week reveals a long list of words and phrases that writers at The Washington Post's Outlook section are instructed not to use. Looking at the list, it strikes me that lawyers would be well-served to similarly keep away from these words and phrases.

On Tuesday of this week, the managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sent a note to his staff stating they were "seriously over-using the word 'iconic.' ... Let's try not to use it unless it is truly the best possible word for that sentence." After this note was discussed on the Romenesko blog, Carlos Lozada, editor of The Washington Post's Outlook section, sent Romenesko his lengthy list of "Things We Do Not Say in Outlook" (and noted that he'd been inspired to add "iconic" to the list). The list is as follows:


At first glance
As a society (or, "as a nation")
TK is not alone
Pundits say (or "Critics say")
The American people (unless in a quote)
The narrative (unless referring to a style of writing)
Probe (as substitute for "investigation")
A rare window (unless we’re talking about a real window that is in fact rare)
Begs the question (unless used properly -- and so rarely used properly that not worth it)
Be that as it may
It is important to note that
Needless to say
[Anything] 2.0 (or 3.0, or 4.0 ...)
At a crossroads
Outside the box/Out of the box
TK is a favorite Washington parlor game
Yes, Virginia, there is a TK
Midwife (as a verb that does not involve childbirth)
Call it TK
Pity the poor TK
Imagine (as the first word in your lede)
Palpable sense of relief
Rorschach test (unless it is a real one)
The Other
Effort (as a verb)
Little-noticed (that just means the writer hadn't noticed it)
Ignominious end
Tightly knit community
Rise of the 24-hour news cycle (it rose a long time ago)
Remains to be seen
Feeding frenzy/feeding the frenzy
Double down
Dons the mantle of
Hot-button issue
Face-saving compromise
The argument goes (or its cousin, "the thinking goes")
Shutter (as a verb)
Paradigm shift (in journalism, all paradigms are shifting)
Unlikely revolutionary (in journalism, all revolutionaries are unlikely)
Unlikely reformer (in journalism, all reformers are unlikely)
Grizzled veteran (in journalism, all veterans are grizzled -- unless they are "seasoned")
Manicured lawns (in journalism, all nice lawns are manicured)
Rose from obscurity (in journalism, all rises are from obscurity)
Dizzying array (in journalism, all arrays make one dizzy)
Withering criticism (in journalism, all criticism is withering)
Predawn raid (in journalism, all raids are predawn)
Sparked debate (or "Raised questions")
Ironic Capitalizations Implying Unimportance Of Things Others Consider Important
Provides fresh details
But reality/truth is more complicated (oversimplify, then criticize the oversimplification)
Scarred by war
Shines a spotlight on (unless there is a real spotlight that really shines)
TK is no panacea (nothing is)
No silver bullet
Shifting dynamics
Situation is fluid (code for "I have no idea what is going on")
Partisans on both sides
Charm offensive
Going forward
Stinging rebuke
Mr. TK goes to Washington (unless a reference to the actual movie)
The proverbial TK ("proverbial" doesn't excuse the cliche, just admits you used it knowingly)
Fevered speculation
Growing body of evidence
Increasingly (unless we prove in the story that something is in fact increasing)
Tapped (as substitute for "selected" or "appointed")
Any "not-un" formulation (as in "not unsurprising")
There, I said it (more self-important than "voicey")
To be sure

The reasons why these words and phrases are discouraged at the Post are not provided, but I believe most are self-explanatory. Many are simply cliches; others are over-generalizations -- there is probably not one thing in the world that "the American people" agree on or have in common; others are simply so worn-out that if I gave you the first word you'd instantly be able to provide the second word (grizzled veteran, manicured lawns, dizzying array, withering criticism, predawn raid).

Other phrases on the list are avoided, I assume, because they are common words and phrases that writers use to make their piece, or themselves, seem more important or insightful. As Lozado notes, writing that something is "little-noticed" just means the writer hasn't noticed it. And writing that "reality/truth is more complicated" suggests that the writer has oversimplified a point, and is now criticizing that oversimplification.

I really like this list and I'm going to try to live by it in my own writing. Lawyers may want to do the same.

March 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 20, 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: The whole situation is asinine, but I was charged with disorderly conduct for entering a bingo parlor and yelling out "BINGO" when nobody actually had bingo. Now the judge has sentenced me to, among other things, not saying the word "bingo" for six months. Really? Really?!?! Can a judge do this?

Answer: It appears so. Watch your mouth for the next six months. (NKY.comBogus 'bingo' earns no jail time)

2. Question: I am in 5th grade. Do I have a constitutional right to pass out invitations to a church Christmas party to my classmates during school?

Answer: Yes, you do. (The Morning Call, Fifth-grader can hand out Christmas party invitations in public school, court rules; The Legal IntelligencerElementary-School Students Enjoy Speech Rights, Too, Third Circuit Rules)

3. Question: My company sells faux fur coats. Is it going to be a problem if we actually provide purchasers of our faux fur coats with coats made out of real fur? After all, real is better than fake, right? 

Answer: It is going to be a problem. (The New York TimesReal Fur, Masquerading as Faux; The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, Neiman Marcus Settles with FTC Over Faux Fur Labeling Flap)

March 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 19, 2013

Moorish American Nationals Laying Claim to Unoccupied Houses Throughout the U.S.

Last year, I tried to explain, generally, what adverse possession was and wasn't. I did this not because of any particular knowledge (or interest) in that area, but more because I got off on a rant about the growing number of people who thought they were going to be able to stroll into a foreclosed house and claim it as their own under "adverse possession:"

Now, let me tell you what adverse possession isn't: it isn't when someone else's house goes into foreclosure and is sitting vacant, and you somehow get into the house, put your couch in the living room and declare it to be yours under adverse possession.

Happily, the reports of people trying to pull this stunt on foreclosed homes in the U.S. seem to have slowed down in the past year (a development for which I take full credit). Today, however, I read about a new twist in the world of people trying to lay claim to vacant houses. The Washington Post reports that a group called Moorish Americans, who "get their name in part from the Moorish Science Temple of America," are claiming ownership of unoccupied homes across the country.

Spencer Dew, a professor who is an expert on Moors, says that the Moorish Science Temple of America was formed in the early 20th century and "preached obeying laws and had an uplifting message for African Americans: Be proud of who you are." Dew says that one of the Moorish tenets -- the idea that African Americans lived in the U.S. long before the arrival of Europeans -- is now being used, however, "to justify the assertion that land instruments such as mortgages are not valid and that local laws do not have to be obeyed."

According to the Post, there is a growing national trend where Moorish “sovereign” nationals try to move into homes they don’t own. These cases are reportedly being seen in every state, and particularly in California, North Carolina and Georgia. Most recently, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., police were called to deal with a man named Lamont Butler who had begun to occupy a vacant Bethesda, Md., mansion with "floors of imported marble, 12 bedroom suites, six kitchens and a history of playing host to political gatherings. ..." Butler claimed the mansion belonged to him because he was a Moorish American National, and he offered paperwork "with references to a 1787 peace treaty and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations."

Butler reportedly told police that he wanted the house to be an embassy for the Moors. Alas, the Montgomery County Police Department was not persuaded, and charged Butler with breaking and entering, fraud and attempted theft.

March 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (8)

March 18, 2013

Will Lawyers Snatch Up Hurricane Domain Names to Develop Business?

Hurricane season is just around the corner which means it is time for lawyers to start planning their pro bono efforts to help others who will be affected buying up hurricane-related domain names to help bring in hurricane insurance claims lawsuits.

The Star-Ledger reports that although there are still a few months before hurricane season begins in June, the list of 2013 storm names is already a hot topic as "Internet speculators are registering domain names for future hurricanes, anticipating heavy traffic and potential profits if one makes history like Sandy." The first hurricane name that will be used by the National Hurricane Center is Andrea, and has, predictably, already been snagged, along with many others and even some "sets."

The Star-Ledger notes that serious seekers of storm-related domains can actually purchase a "full set" of domain names for the 21 named storms on the 2013 National Hurricane Center list on eBay for $999. Bargain! That's right, with just one click you can own all of the following names and, as the eBay ad encourages, begin to "profit off of large storms" as the owner of: 


How can lawyers profit off of the next Hurricane Sandy? Well just look at Sandy itself, which resulted in more than 300 Sandy-related domain names being registered on the day the storm hit land. Andrew Allemann, editor at, told The Star-Ledger that "a Sandy domain name increases traffic. That’s valuable to lawyers for claims lawsuits, insurance companies, people offering recovery services."

March 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 15, 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 am a rapper. Can I take a tax deduction for the tens of thousands of one-dollar bills that I distribute to strippers in strip clubs when I "make it rain"?

Answer: Some of your fellow rappers like Drake and Bizzy Bone claim that they are entitled to claim stripper tips as a business expense. I'm not certain these rappers also have their CPA licenses, however, so deduct at your own risk. (Accounting WebStrip Club Tips Rain Tax Deductions for Rapper)

2. Question: My husband is having an affair with another woman. While he was out with his floozie, I advertised a "Lying Cheating Sale" on Craigslist and sold all of his things (clothes, tools, furniture, etc.). Can I keep all of the money?

Answer: Unlikely. In divorce proceedings, the court often requires both sides to account for all assets, including funds raised from a Lying Cheating Sale. The court will then likely divide up the assets as it sees fit. (The Province, White Rock woman holds 'Lying Cheating Sale' to sell all her husband's stuff while he's 'gone with his floozie')

3. Question: Any chance that I could successfully create a fake movie, like in Argo, to allow myself to claim millions of dollars in tax deductions and tax relief? 

Answer: No, the tax authorities are on to "film-tax fraud." (The Associated Press, 5 convicted of inventing movie to hide tax fraud)

March 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 14, 2013

Bloggers Mourn and Bemoan the Imminent Death of Google Reader

Google announced yesterday that it is shutting down Google Reader, its RSS feed reader. Buried as the 5th bullet on a long list of product "closures" it was making as part of a spring cleaning, Google stated that

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Judging by the sentiment on Twitter, the public reaction to Google's shutdown of Google Reader breaks down roughly as follows:

  • 99 percent of the world could not have cared less, and were actually bemused to see that ...
  • 1 percent of the world looked and reacted as if the veterinarian had just said that their dog had only a few months left to live.

Speaking as a member of that howling 1 percent, my own reaction to learning about the imminent death of Google Reader was, and I quote, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" I believe that a large number of the other members of that 1 percent who care are bloggers, including many of the legal bloggers who I follow here at LBW (see, e.g., Like a Dagger to Bloggers' Hearts, Google Just Killed Google Reader).

Why do bloggers care about RSS feeds, and, specifically, Google Reader? Quite simply (unless you are Scott Greenfield), most humans and legal bloggers are incapable of sitting down at a computer and repeatedly coming up with ideas for intelligent, interesting posts. Yes, you may be able to do it for a day or a week or possibly even a couple of weeks, but blogging is a marathon and not a sprint. Can you do it every day for several years? I don't think so.

Following hundreds of blogs, news sources, Twitter feeds and things like key word searches is the way that most legal bloggers that I know of stay on top of what is going on in their area of interest. Subscribing to the RSS feed for each of these hundreds of sources is the easiest way to have all of this information pushed to you (rather than visiting hundreds of sites), and an RSS feed reader aggregates all of that information in one place. For me, that one place has been, since around 2008 or so, Google Reader. Although there are other RSS feed readers out there, Google Reader has been a dependable and easy-to-use tool that has allowed me to easily keep track of a huge amount of information, and to add new sources as desired.

Are there other RSS feed readers out there? It looks like it, but I'm sure 90 percent of the options stink and it will take me time and effort to figure out which is the best, and still more time and effort to move hundreds of feeds and learn how to use another reader. So please excuse me and my fellow legal bloggers while we mourn and possibly whine about this a bit.

March 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 13, 2013

Traffic Engineers Strike Back at Topless Women Boaters Distracting Truckers

For a few years now, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has been faced with an unusual traffic problem: slow traffic and distracted driving on the part of truck drivers on Interstate 77 in the Lake Norman area. The cause of the problem -- women boaters on the lake exposing their breasts to the truck drivers -- was known. But how could the state's transportation engineers solve such a dilemma?

According to the Lake Norman News, engineers from the state's Department of Transportation are now rolling out Operation Coverup, an effort to keep truck drivers' eyes off of the natural beauty in the lake and on the road. [Note: I just made up the name Operation Coverup. The rest is true, though]. The state's plan is to prohibit boaters from dropping anchor (and their bathing suit tops) close to the interstate by installing buoys in the lake around the causeway. The buoys will also bear signs stating that

"boats cannot stop and anchor between the buoys and the causeway," said Timothy Kirk, operations engineer for DOT. "This was done to prevent boats close to the causeway from creating opportunities for drivers on I-77 to rubberneck and take their attention away from the roadway."

Kirk described the buoy installation as an "out-of-the-box" idea, and the early reviews from the local police are that it is "a good solution to a persistent and dangerous problem."

March 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 12, 2013

U.K.'s SRA 'Intervenes' in Law Firm, Tells 250 Employees to Clear Out Desks

In the U.K., there is a regulator called the Solicitors Regulation Authority. According to its website, the SRA regulates more than 120,000 solicitors in England and Wales, and is charged with protecting the public "by ensuring that solicitors meet high standards, and by acting when risks are identified." It appears that sometimes, the SRA will decide to "intervene" in a law firm, which means that they will walk in and tell all of the lawyers and staff to clear their desks and go home because the law firm has been closed effective immediately.

Such an intervention occurred this week, The Warwick Courier reports (via ABA Journal), when the SRA rolled in to a British law firm called Blakemores Solicitors and shut it down after 50 years in business. According to The Law Society Gazette, all 250 solicitors and employees of Blakemores were called into a mid-morning yesterday and "told to get their possessions from their desks and go home."

The SRA stated that in order to protect Blakemores' clients, former clients and trust beneficiaries, it would "stop the firm from operating, take possession of all documents and papers held by the firm including clients' paper, and take possession of all money held by the firm including clients' money." Visitors to the Blakemores website are now redirected to the website of Stephensons Solicitors LLP, a law firm that the SRA has appointed to handle the intervention. 

According to The Law Society Gazette, Blakemores once had an "innovative and fast-growing" operation under the consumer brand "Lawyers2you," but it was hit hard by a combination of legal aid cuts and the shrinking of the personal injury market. As recently as 2010, Blakemores' Lawyers2you received an award for the "Most Innovative Marketing Idea 2010" by consultancy 360 Legal Group. 

March 12, 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 own a restaurant in New York City. The city has banned the sale of sugary soft drinks over 16 ounces in size, but this is stupid and I'm not going to comply. What are they going to do, send an inspector with a 16-ounce measuring cup out to bust me?

Answer: The ban is now tied up in litigation but, yes, the city plans to arm its inspectors with 17-ounce measuring cups. (New York Daily News, City restaurant inspectors will now be armed with 17-ounce cups to make sure eateries aren't selling oversized sugary beverages)

2. Question: I was exercising my right to boo the bozos who are on the board of my town, Riverhead, N.Y., but I was promptly told booing was not allowed. Is this possible?

Answer: Yes, Riverhead just banned booing at its town board meetings. But applause is still allowed! (NewsdayRiverhead board bans booing at meetings)

3. Question: My annoying teenage girl neighbor sent me a note saying that the holidays were long over and that I needed to "take my damn Christmas lights down." Can I get her charged with a crime?

Answer: Yes, disorderly conduct. (, Police: Teen threatens neighbor 'Take your damn Christmas lights down')

March 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2013

Second-Ever LBW 'Costanza Award' Goes to Former Softball Coach

And the second-ever LBW 'Costanza Award' Goes to ... the former Roosevelt High School softball coach!


Seinfeld, Season 3, episode 12 ("The Red Dot"):

Mr. Lippman: It's come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?
George Costanza: Who said that?
Mr. Lippman: She did.
George Costanza: [pause] Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon ... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time.
Mr. Lippman: You're fired!
George Costanza: Well, you didn't have to say it like that.


You may recall that LBW's first-ever "Costanza Award" went out to former executives of a Munich Re subsidiary who rewarded 100 of the company's top-performing insurance agents by hosting a party and bringing in 20 prostitutes. It has been a while since that last Costanza award, so let's not delay the latest installment of this award, which goes out to Troy Hennum, the now-former softball coach at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Wash.

Just days into his new job as softball coach, The Seattle Times reports, the coach sent members of his team "out on an unusual scavenger hunt. The mission: take photos of 'cute girls' and bring them back, with telephone numbers, for his perusal." One 21-year-old woman working at a sporting-goods store told the Times that a "group of giggling girls approached, explaining their mission. Later that day, the 21-year-old began receiving text messages from Hennum."

It is unclear if the ensuing discussion between the coach and the administration at Roosevelt High School that led to the coach being placed on unpaid leave just six days into his new job went exactly like this Seinfeld scene ("Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? ... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices. ...), but I'm betting it did.

March 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 08, 2013

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Special Harlem Shake Edition

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 28Volume 29 and Volume 30 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.

With the Harlem Shake spreading like wildfire, I thought that in the interest of public safety that we should put out this Special Edition of Things You Can't Do on a Plane. You may not:

  • Do the Harlem Shake in mid-air at the wrong altitude. Passengers may not do the Harlem Shake while their plane is in mid-air unless the plane is at a high enough altitude for the seat belt sign to be off and for passengers to be out of their seats and moving about the cabin. CONSEQUENCE:  The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct an investigation into the altitude at which the Harlem Shake occurred to determine if the "fasten seat belt" sign should have been on. 

See the passengers of Frontier Flight 157 doing the Harlem Shake here.

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 07, 2013

Can Woman Whose Pictures Were Stolen to Create Te'o 'Girlfriend' Persona Sue?

The Legal As She Is Spoke blog poses and sets out to answer an interesting question yesterday: "Can Manti Te'o’s 'Girlfriend' Sue?"

To be more specific, given that Manti Te'o's girlfriend was non-existent, the post examines whether Diane O'Meara, the woman whose Facebook pictures were copied and used to create the persona of the fictitious "Lennay Kekua," could successfully sue Ronaiah Tuiasosopo or even Notre Dame. Tuiasosopo has admitted that he was the person behind the hoax.

LASIS says that O'Meara could pursue a claim of "false light" against Tuiasosopo, although such a claim is by no means a sure-fire win. To succeed on a false light claim, LASIS writes, O'Meara would have to prove several things:

  • Tuiasosopo implied something false about her, which she can likely do by showing that she "is not now, and has never been, Lennay Kekua, that she wasn't in a terrible car accident, and that she didn't die of leukemia."
  • That what Mr. Tuiasosopo did was offensive to a reasonable person. Probably not too tough, LASIS argues, given Tuiasosopo's use of her personal pictures.
  • That the falsehood was publicly disclosed and that Mr. Tuiasosopo was at fault. Yes and yes, LASIS concludes.

LASIS also examines whether O'Meara might also be able to bring a claim against Tuiasosopo for violating her right to privacy when he used her pictures and likeness without her consent. This might be tough given that O'Meara would have to show that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her photos because "several cases have held that no reasonable expectation of privacy exists for Facebook, especially once you’re 'friends' with someone." Since O'Meara and Tuiasosopo were "friends" on Facebook, LASIS writes, "she was implicitly acknowledging that information and photos she published would be shared specifically with him."

Finally, LASIS is dubious about a possible negligence or intentional infliction of emotional distress case against Notre Dame. "Notre Dame didn't know the true identity behind the photographs of Lennay Kekua, even after conducting its own investigation," LASIS argues, and didn't owe O'Meara a legal duty, in any event.

Check out LASIS's full analysis here.

March 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2013

TSA Says Hockey Sticks, Pool Cues Now A-OK to Bring on Board

I'm not saying that it is an easy job for the Transportation Security Administration to decide what can and cannot be safely carried on to a plane. I'm not saying that. But at some point, as the TSA makes monthly, micro-detailed changes to the types of knives, sporting goods and snow globes that can be carried on board, the whole exercise starts to seem quite farcical and more than a little random.

As discussed here in December, one of the most recent TSA policy changes gave an "OK" to check snow globes in baggage. But not all snow globes. Only snow globes that "appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size)." Whatever.

I see (via Doug Cornelius' Compliance Building) that this month, TSA is serving up a new batch of "Changes to Prohibited Items List (PIL)." As Compliance Building notes, travelers still cannot bring a doggone bottle of water on board, but they can now carry on an assortment of knives so long as the blade is shorter than six centimeters and narrower than 1/2 inch. (TSA did not explain why they felt the need to use centimeters for length and inches for the width limits here. "I guess the TSA wanted to use both sides of the ruler," Compliance Building writes). 

The updated TSA rules now also allow for an odd assortment of new sporting goods to be brought on board:

  • Lacrosse Sticks
  • Pool Sticks/Cues
  • Golf Clubs (limited to 2)
  • Hockey Sticks
  • Ski Poles

Do you remember the Jerry Seinfeld joke about all of the videos of terrorists training on the monkey bars? Does this mean that there will now be terrorists diligently training to be able to take you out with nothing but a lacrosse stick, a pool cue, a ski pole, or some combination thereof?

March 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 05, 2013

LBW Trend Watch: People Using Food to Assault Other People

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 as you navigate the various disputes and scrapes in your life: people using food to carry out assaults on other people.

As usual, my declaration of an official trend started out with an initial, memorable observation. Specifically, I was surprised to read last week about a man who was charged with simple battery after he "delivered" (his word) a Taco Bell burrito to his 16-year-old brother-in-law's face in a way that left "burrito cheese, sauce and meat all over his clothing and face." Yes, battery by burrito.

I filed that incident away in the recesses of my brain, never thinking that assault and battery via foodstuff would become a "thing," but one week later the hits keep coming. Indeed, over the weekend, I saw reports of not one but two incidents where people were charged criminally for food attacks. On Friday, The Associated Press reported that a Canadian couple both face domestic assault charges after attacking each other with chips and dip after fighting over the last beer. When the police arrived, "they found both people covered in chips and dip." 

Then, on Saturday, a Louisiana man celebrating his birthday was arrested for "simple battery of the infirmed" after he smashed a cookie cake over the head of his father. Just as with the chips and dip and the burrito incidents, the victim was "covered in the cookie cake" when the sheriff's deputy arrived on the scene.

People, please! Stop smashing each other with food and getting arrested. Our police have more important things to deal with than people on the giving and receiving ends of food attacks.

March 5, 2013 | 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: I just entered the court for my argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but all of the judges present for the argument are from the Third Circuit. Am I in the wrong place? Am I being Punk'd?

Answer: No, sometimes every judge serving on a federal appellate court finds it necessary to recuse themself from an appeal pending in their court, and federal appellate judges serving on a neighboring circuit will be assigned to sit by designation to resolve the appeal. (How AppealingThird Circuit judges to decide Second Circuit case)

2. Question: I just saw the security guards at my local Wal-Mart chasing some guy around the parking lot. Honestly, I'm not even sure why they are chasing him but count me in! I am carrying a concealed weapon -- can I fire a few shots at the guy's car so that the car will be marked for the police?

Answer: No, sir, your life is not in immediate danger nor are you trying to defend someone else whose life is being threatened. Shooting up the car will get you charged with charged with aggravated assault and shooting into an occupied vehicle. (The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Police: Shopper shoots at fleeing Walmart shoplifting suspect's car)

3. Question: I'm a mine worker. Can my fellow workers and I create an underground mine Harlem Shake video? 

Answer: No, you will likely all end up getting fired for breaching the mining company's "core values of safety, integrity and excellence." (Reuters, Australian miners fired for dancing the Harlem Shake underground)

March 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2013

Things That Exist, Vol. 8: Lawsuits Over Google 'Auto-Complete' Suggestions

I feel like I'm on my computer constantly, poring through hundreds of feeds and stories daily, spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of legal blogs and information you deserve. But I definitely miss a lot of things that everyone else seems to know about -- the type of things where I can only scratch my head and say, "Really?!? They have that? Never heard of it." 

Today's thing I never knew existed: Lawsuits against Google by people who don't like the "auto-complete" suggestions that come up when they type their name in the search box. 

On the Digital Medial Law Project blog, Jeffrey P. Hermes writes about a case filed in December 2012 by Dr. Guy Hingston, an Australian cancer surgeon, who sued Google in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. According to DMLP, Hingston alleges that "Google portrayed him in a 'false light' through its 'autocomplete' feature, because for at least some users entering his name into Google's search engine has triggered the option to search for the phrase 'guy hingston bankrupt.'" Similar lawsuits have been previously filed in Germany and Japan, but this is reportedly the first to be filed in the U.S.

Could such a lawsuit succeed under California or U.S. law? DMLP breaks it down:

  • "False light" requires that the publication in question must identify, or be "of and concerning," the plaintiff. DMLP observes that "it is a stretch to presume that every autocomplete result must relate to a prior search directed at this particular Guy Hingston," as there are presumably many Guy Hingstons in this world.
  • "False light" also requires that the publication at issue conveys an implication that is provably false. DMLP notes that while Hingston interpreted the autocomplete result "guy hingston bankrupt" to imply that he is bankrupt or associated with a bankruptcy, that is also a stretch: "But even if there were only one Guy Hingston in the world, the most that an autocomplete suggestion implies is that someone in the world once thought that they might find content of interest by searching the terms "guy hingston bankrupt." It does not, however, indicate that there is any content on the Internet actually responsive to that search, let alone any content that is damaging to Dr. Hingston."

Overall, DMLP declares Hingston's lawsuit "dead on arrival." Check out the full analysis here.

March 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 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: After doctors took out most of my colon, God spoke to me and told me “Jesus up.” I did so by starting a clothing line called "Jesus Up." I saw that the clothing line "Jesus Surfed" could not get a trademark on the name, but how about "Jesus Up"? DId I mention that God supports this?

Answer: Again, Christ's name has already been trademarked by Jesus Jeans. You'll need to work it out with them. (Redding.comItalian jeans maker fighting Bella Vista man over right to use the name 'Jesus')

2. Question: I found a diamond ring in a Cracker Barrell parking lot. I told the restaurant about it, but did not leave it there. When I learned that the owner was posting online trying to find it, I promptly turned it in. Can I get in any trouble for this?

Answer: You could be facing a felony "theft of lost or mislaid property" charge here for failing to take reasonable measures to return the ring. (ABA JournalStranger’s lost diamond ring leads to criminal charge for lawyer who found it)

3. Question: My neighbor destroyed my flower bed because she claims I trained a squirrel to enter her garden. I deny this! What am I, Dr. Doolittle? I can't even get my kids to pick their wet towels off the floor, let alone train a wild squirrel to do something. Can my neighbor be charged for this attack on my garden despite this "squirrel defense?"

Answer: Yes, your neighbor can be charged with criminal damage here. (Daily Mail, OAP neighbour from hell, 78, ripped out homeowner's flowers in row over a SQUIRREL she thought was trained to enter her garden)

March 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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