Monthly Archives: August 2006
Let’s Blow this Joint
So, according to Dictionary.com, a “heist” means to “rob or hold-up.” But QuizLaw’s definition of an “awesome heist” means to “rob or hold-up while receiving oral pleasure.” And what we have for you today is an “awesome heist.” According to The Smoking Gun, out in Michigan this week, one of those spring/fall couples — Mark McIntosh (34) and Chelsea Carr (17) — decided to holdup a second-hand clothing store. But during the holdup, McIntosh pointed a gun at the store’s clerk, Charlie Cheeks, and said, “there’s only one thing that will stop” me from shooting. And what’s that, you ask? Well, McIntosh pulled down his pants and told Carr (that hot little number on the top/left) that the clerk would get the “chitlins knocked out of him” if she didn’t get his rocks off right then and there. So, Chelsea gave him a two-minute hummer, whereupon Mark said, “I feel better now,” and took off with $60, a Playstation, and a lot of second-hand clothes.
But this tale is not without a bizarre twist. First of all, after she was arrested, Chelsea Carr said that the only reason she provided the oral pleasure was to save Charlie Cheeks life, which strangely contradicted her other statement: That McIntosh didn’t actually have a gun, but a large black rock. The other bon mot to this tale, however, is that when Cheeks relayed the story to the police, they were so skeptical that they forced him to take a polygraph test. Cheeks passed; and now McIntosh and Carr are sitting in jail on counts of robbery and public indecency.
The Daily Memo - 8/31/06
Jennifer Aniston has settled a lawsuit over some topless photos, meaning fewer folks will get to see her “friends.” (Zap2It)
A local Minnesota council member decided to take advantage of the anonymity of internet newsrooms to post anonymous praise about his work, only to learn that “anonymous” is only a loose term in the world of the internets. (StarTribune)
My boy, Allen Iverson, has been sued for allegedly hiring some bodyguards who beat four dudes up. (LawInfo)
A 16-year-old British spammer has been grounded by a judge. (Crave Talk)
An academic thinks that the trend of “leashing” employees with Blackberries could lead to lawsuits. (Computerworld)
American Idol Taylor Hicks has settled the lawsuit against his former producer. (TV Squad)
South Dakota’s first execution in almost 60 years has been stopped by the Governor over concerns that the lethal injection laws are outdated (the 22-year-old law calls for an older two-drug process). (CNN)
A Chicago-area registered sex offender will be returning to court this October after being busted sharing his nakedness with the unfortunate folks able to see into his backyard. (Chicago Sun-Times)
The Further Adventures of the Secret Senator!!!
Ok, so there was this bill called the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. This was a bill introduced into the Senate earlier this year, with bipartisan sponsorship, by Senators Barack Obama (Dem., IL) and Tom Coburn (Rep., OK). The bill calls for, as the name sorta’ suggests, more transparency in what happens with federal money. But the legislation never made it to the Senate floor because a Senator put it on hold, without publicly identifying him/herself or stating a reason why the legislation was being held.
The blogosphere erupted over this, dubbing the holder the “secret Senator” and calling for a push to find out who was holding the legislation up.
Y’all remember our good friend Senator Ted Stevens, the Republican from Alaska who learned us all that the internet is like “a series of tubes?” Well you guessed it – Senator Ted Stevens is your Secret Senator. His people now claim, of course, that this wasn’t a secret hold, despite the fact that his office has apparently ignored the weeks-long call for the holding Senator to step forward. And his purported reason for blocking the legislation is the concern that it would “create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.” I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that it would make it harder for him to get bullshit funding for things like his so-called “bridge to nowhere.”
Senator Ted Stevens, everybody – putting the “cock” in “cockblock!”
Impeach the Rummy?
On tonight’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” there was a question about whether it’s possible to impeach the Secretary of Defense. This came up in response to Rummy’s recent remarks (what some might call intellectually unenlightened, while others might call borderline fascist) that any critics of the administration are simply dangerous folks suffering from “moral or intellectual confusion.”
In any event, the last sentence of Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that “[t]he House of Representatives…shall have the sole power of impeachment.” We all learned about this a while ago, in the context of dress stains and cigars. But the question is, can the House exercise this power against Rummy? Well Article II, Section 4 lists who can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” and this list includes “all civil officers of the United States.”
And because Rummy is a civil officer of the U.S. he can, in fact, be impeached. At least, from a procedural stance. Whether or not he has actually done something that reaches to the level of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors is a polarized political discussion that I don’t feel like starting right now.
And for the curious out there, a cursory internet search shows that along with Clinton’s recent impeachment and the impeachment of a dozen-odd judges, a cabinent member has, in fact, been impeached before. In 1876, Secretary of War William W. Belknap was impeached (but not convicted by the Senate) for bribery.
Notes from the Divorce Files
After years of toiling away in obscurity, SNL alum Joe Piscopo has finally managed to make headlines again, thanks to an ugly divorce. Piscopo — who had been trying to live with his wife during the separation — hightailed it to family court last week to get a restraining order against his wife, citing domestic violence allegations. Piscopo is 6’1, and his wife, Kimberly, is a 5’5 model. But as Piscopo’s lawyer stated, “It doesn’t take a very large person to spit and use foul language.”
But if you prefer large people that spit and use foul language, we give you Tom Arnold, who is filing for a legal separation this week. Mr. Arnold, who doesn’t quite lack the talent of Piscopo, is looking to get divorced for the third time. Unfortunately, there are no shenanigans yet involved.
But if you want divorce shenanigans, you need look no further than Deric Gendron, of West Brookfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Gendron’s marriage didn’t get off to its best start after he was arrested outside of the reception area, where he got into a fight with one of the guests who was allegedly groping the bride. So upset with the matter, Gendron even kicked an arresting police officer during the scuffle. Within minutes of that arrest, Gendron’s new bride – who he’d only been married to for a matter of hours – took out a restraining order against him. Later that night — after he was released on bail — Gendron was arrested once again, this time for calling his wife and asking for a divorce, which violated the terms of the restraining order.
There is no word on whether the couple plans to attend the honeymoon together.
The Daily Memo - 8/30/06
Florida’s voter registration law has been spanked with the unconstitutional paddled by a federal judge. (FindLaw)
A lunch eater at Chicago’s Block 44 restaurant ratted out the restaurant’s chef and filed the first complaint of someone violating the city’s recent ban of foie gras. (Chicago Sun-Times)
An unsurprising lawsuit has been filed relating to a woman’s death when a portion of a Big Dig tunnel collapsed on her car. (LawInfo)
A company that helps folks get ready to take the bar exam has been ordered to pay almost $12 million to the National Conference of Bar Examiners for illegally copying questions from the multiple-choice multistate bar examination used as part of every state’s bar exam. (The Legal Reader)
A high school kid has filed a financial claim against the city because he allegedly suffered serious injuries while playing “capture the cone” in gym class. (Hartford Courant)
Foxy Brown has changed her mind and, despite pleading guilty to assaulting two nail stylists, now claims she’s totally innocent and plans to withdraw her plea. (CNN)
Seriously, what the hell is going on out there?
Twice this month, we’ve already told you about parents driving their kids around to help them commit crimes. First there was the Florida judge who chauferred his kid around to burgle houses. Then there was the Indiana mother who drove her kid to the place where he was to execute a gangland killing and even told him when to shoot. Now, for the third time in just over two weeks, we’ve got another such story for you. I think this makes it some sort of ridiculous epidemic.
The model of modern parenting this time was a Los Angeles woman who used her SUV to drive her kid around to spray paint some walls. But this lady stepped things up a notch by not just driving one of her children, and not just driving two of her children, but by driving two of her children and three of their buddies. The kids are believed to be part of a tagging gang and possibly responsible for up to 100 different graffiti tags of “HIV” or “HIVC.”
The best part of the article is where it mentions that the cops involved don’t know what the mother’s motive was. Clearly she’s following the advice of parenting experts everywhere by being more involved in her kids’ lives and really finding out what they’re doing. Digging deep and getting involved in their lives, you know? And if that means caravanning around at 4:30 in the morning so they can tag some walls, well nobody said parenthood didn’t come without any sacrifices.
There’s almost nothing funny about domestic violence
You guys should go check out the fascinating story reported by the good folks over at Metroblogging Boston about a seven-year-old boy’s recent experience in family court. Trust me, it’s worth the two-minute read.
A QuizLaw Lesson in Defamation
One of the most common types of lawsuits, especially in celebrity circles, involves the tort of defamation. So, what is defamation? Basically, it’s a false statement about someone else that causes that person harm. To prove defamation, a litigant must show that the statement made was false, that it was made to a third party, and that there was an injury to the plaintiff’s reputation. The two forms of defamation are slander and libel, which are often confused with one another.
So, let’s break it down. First of all, slander is oral defamation – it’s easy to remember because you can equate “slander” with “saying.” An example of slander would be a defamation lawsuit brought by Stephanie Stephens against the former “Friends” and “Joey” star, Matt LeBlanc. In her lawsuit, Stephens claims that LeBlanc “said” to an unspecified person that she was sexually aggressive, gave him an unwanted lap dance, and engaged him in a night of sexual debauchery. If true, then LeBlanc not only had one helluva night, but this defamation suit would be unsuccessful because truth is a defense against defamation. For the record, LeBlanc’s actual statement, in part, was as follows: “She was in my face, pushing her breasts into me and grabbing my hands to go all over her body. She was telling me to caress her.” In other words, LeBlanc asserted, as Defamer puts it, that he was attacked by a stripper’s ass — a necessary claim when one’s marriage is on the rocks.
Libel, on the other hand, is a form of “written” defamation. A fine example of libel would be the defamation lawsuit recently brought against California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that lawsuit, a British television personality, Anna Richardson, claimed that the Guhvernator grabbed her breast. More specifically, Richardson said that during an interview: “He pulled me on his knee, saying ‘I want to know if your breasts were real.’ Before I knew what was happening, he circled my nipple with his finger and gave it a squeeze. He then said, ‘Yeah, they’re real’.”
Obviously, if Schwarzenegger had claimed that Richardson’s breasts were fake when they were in fact actually real, then Richardson might have had the grounds for a defamation lawsuit right there. But that’s not the case in this story. Instead, the libel suit came from printed statements made by Arnold and two of his aides, claiming that Richardson had made up her allegations just to harm Schwarzenegger’s career. Like the LeBlanc case above, the aides also claimed that Richardson forced herself upon Arnold, practically demanding that he grope her. One will never know whether Richardson could have proven libel in this case, however, as she and Schwarzenegger settled the lawsuit late last week for undisclosed terms.
The Daily Memo - 8/29/06
From one of QuizLaw’s favorite states (Arkansas) comes this little lesson - if you steal video games from your local Wal-mart (already a bad idea, since Wal-Mart all but runs Arkansas), you probably don’t want to try selling those games at a game store right next door to the Wal-mart you just jacked. (Engadget)
Matt LeBlanc is being sued, not for foisting two seasons of “Joey” on us, but for allegedly defaming a former scrump-buddy. (Zap2it)
Jackie Mason, reportedly “as Jewsish as a matzo ball or kosher salami,” is suing Jews for Jesus over pamphlets using his name and image. (CNN)
California prisons are about to get a whole lot more fun (for toppers, anyway), as the state legislature has passed a law allowing for in-prison distribution of condoms. (Yahoo)
To travel to Senator George “Macaca” Allen’s fundraiser, the President’s Secret Service agents tried to shut down heavily trafficked carpool lanes, which would’ve resulted in a D.C. and Virginia rush hour debacle, but the Virginia Department of Transportation manned up and said “not so much.” (WSOCTV)
Judge tells a probation violator the obvious, namely, that when he was found unconscious with a 0.46 (!!!) blood-alcohol level, he had gone “beyond the ‘I-have-a-drinking-problem’ stage.” (WCCO)
The RIAA showed its lack of guts, withdrawing from one of its piracy cases just one day after the defendant filed a counterclaim, comparing the RIAA’s bullying method to extortion. (Recording Industry vs The People)
John M. Lyons, Jr., of Louisiana, is a dick
Why is Mr. Lyons, Jr. a dick? Because Mark Morice is a hero. See, Morice is a man who rescued over 200 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, including old folks incapable of helping themselves (such as a 93-year-old man on dialysis). While conducting these rescues, Morice took three different boats he happened upon, to help navigate the flood waters. On the Friday after Katrina hit, Morice left New Orleans to let himself recover a bit from the trying week and he left the boats behind so that others could use them.
One boat owner said that it was good that Morice hotwired the boat and used it to rescue folks. Lyons, an owner of one of the other boats, was decidedly less pleased and has sued Morice. That’s why John M. Lyons, Jr. is a dick.
When Morice returned, he actually explained what happened to the Lyons family (including the explanation that he left the boats for other rescuers, rather than trying to return it to the Lyons home). But when their insurance company allegedly only gave them half the replacement value of their boat, Lyons wrote a letter to Morice demanding $12,000. Morice’s choice to ignore the letter led to this lawsuit. And get this - in addition to seeking the rest of the boat’s replacement value, Lyons is seeking money because he claims to have suffered “grief, mental anguish, embarrassment and suffering…due to the removal of the boat.”
Because of his heartfelt understanding of the Katrina tragedy, and his warmth in dealing with this matter, it is rumored that Bush is considering firing the current FEMA chief to give the gig to Lyons, Jr.
I feel ya’ sister…
(via Go Comics)
The Daily Memo - 6/28/06
What if I were to tell you I was going to sue you - is that something you might be interested in? (TV Squad)
Staff members of Washington’s Liquor Control Board are recommending a ban in Seattle on the sale of many cheap beers and wines, presumably much to the chagrin of Seattle’s lone Schlitz lover. (The Seattle Times).
Last week a judge detained five court spectators over a cell phone that rang during session, ordering the folks to spend more than an hour sitting in the chairs specially reserved for inmates. (The Legal Reader)
Brooklyn Law School made a boo-boo by including personal information of over 20 law school applicants on its publicly distributed academic calendars. (Law.com)
A South Carolina woman has been arrested after it was discovered that she was hosting wild parties for teenagers at her home, providing them with booze, drugs and birth control pills. (WXIA)
A defendant in one of the cases alleging the illegal downloading of music with peer-to-peer got a bit more than a slap on the wrist by the court after allegedly trying to wipe all evidence from her hard drive. (InternetCases.com)
I like you…you like me…so why, oh why, are you suing me?
Ok, so Lyons Partnership LP is the production company behind “Barney and Friends,” the kiddy show featuring that awful purple dinosaur. You know him, you hate him - that stupid sumbitch right over there.
Well, it seems that Lyons doesn’t quite have a real sense of humor about its pet, viciously trying to exert its copyrights and trademarks in places it has no right doing so, threatening litigation left and right. Well the Electronic Frontier Foundation has had all it can stand and it can’t stands no more, and the EFF is suing Lyons Partnership.
Underlying this lawsuit is a campaign Lyons Partnership took up against Stuart Frankel, the creator of a parody website envisioning Barney and Satan as being one in the same. Because he understands the basic copyright notion that parody is an excepted fair use, Frankel rightfully ignored repeated letters from Lyons Partnership demanding that images of the Purple One be taken down. And now the EFF has stepped up to the plate to take the battle to Lyons Partnership because of its “prehistoric understanding” of IP laws.
So good on, EFF. But you guys should be careful - Barney may seem like a gentle and effeminate critter, but at the first scent of blood, he’ll gnaw your limbs off quicker than a fat mid-Westerner wolfing down the $9.99 all-you-can-eat steak and lobster at the questionable Barbary Coast on the Las Vegas strip.
Pump it up until you can feel it / Pump it up when you don’t really need it
As the QuizLaw team prepares to embark on a weekend trip to Vegas (and thus take advantage of the last weekend to obtain a marriage license between midnight and 8 a.m.), we are reminded of the one time when going through airport screening when it might be okay to falsely tell a security guard you’re carrying a bomb.
Oh, sure it might mean a felony charge, but that’s fine if the alternative is admitting in front of your Mom that you’ve got a penis pump in your bag.
And that’s what happened to an Iraqi man, Mardin Amin, on his way to Turkey with his mother in tow. Indeed, when a female security guard pulled a small, black, squeezable rubber object out of Amin’s backpack and asked him what it was, Amin allegedly whispered quietly out of the side of his mouth that it was a “pump.” Security officials, however, state that they clearly heard him say “bomb.” Prosecutors, in fact, said that he told them twice that it was a bomb, and only admitted he lied later, because he was too embarrassed to admit in front of his mom that he had a penis pump.
Either way, Amin is now facing a criminal charge, and that penis pump will be admitted into evidence for all the world to see. So, QuizLaw’s advice: Add your penis pump to the list of things, including Jell-O pudding pops, not to take with you on an airplane.
Of course, this is not the only case this week to involve the penis pump. In fact, in Oklahoma, a judge with 23 years of judicial experience was sentenced to four years in prison for using a penis pump under his robe during at least four trials. Donald Thompson admitted that he owned the penis pump, which he said was a gift from a fishing buddy. And he claimed he might’ve pumped it once or twice during trials, but he said he never used it to masturbate. Investigators, however, discovered that there was semen under his bench and authorities said he used the pump almost daily during a 2003 baby-shaking case. It sounds like the baby wasn’t the only thing that got a little shake (*groan*).
Enjoy the weekend, folks. And if you’re in Vegas, lookout for one us; we’ll be the nattily dressed fellas sleeping next to the feces.
The Daily Memo - 8/25/06
“American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks is suing a former producer who is selling old Hicks songs on iTunes. (reality blurred)
New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has ruled that 500 CDs confiscated by the state from a local record store can be kept and destroyed, even though the state never proved that any of the CDs were illegal. (Union Leader)
Note to our more aggressive readers - if you get off of an assault charge, the best course of action is probably not to attack a television crew 10 minutes later. (The Shreveport Times)
Myrtle Beech has a trial date for the lawsuit filed against it by the father of a college student who took E and jumped off a pier, failing to live to tell the tale. Myrtle Beach Online)
The winner of the World Series of Poker has been sued for half of his $12 million winnings. (Sports Illustrated)
Pull My Finger!
There may be nothing I like less than flatulence humor. It is a complete mystery to me why anyone would find the expulsion of fetid exhaust via one’s anal drainage system to be the height of comedy. And yet, nary a weekend goes by when Hollywood’s new releases aren’t dominated by at least one flick that features a rectal shout-out — and folks whose brains have not yet fully evolved still seem to find endless comedic value in the Anal Anthem.
Well, we can now include our esteemed President as one of the half-evolved members of our population, who no doubt spends countless hours watching Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy family flicks and asking Laura to pull his finger. Indeed, this from U.S. News (via TalkLeft):
[President Bush] loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we’re learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he’s still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can’t get enough of fart jokes. He’s also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
Actually, the desire to “cut a few” seems to me the antithesis to a “funny, earthy guy.” Bush, on the other hand, seems like a fella who could spend days watching “America’s Funniest Videos” and never get tired of the one-gun salute. After all, this is the man whose idea of foreign policy talks is to ask Hezbollah to “stop doing this shit.” Maybe next time he’s trying to break some tension during peace negotiations with North Korea, President Bush can “cut a few” before getting the talks underway.
The Daily Memo - 8/24/06
Yikes, first there’s the couple pleading guilty to scamming their neighbors by pretending to give birth to sextuplets… (CNN)
…and then there’s the woman pleading guilty to a polygamy scam, marrying several dudes to steal their money. (CNN)
In Hollywood, the handshake deal ain’t what it used to be. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
Ralph Nader has been ordered to pay over eighty grand in costs for a 2004 lawsuit he filed against Pennsylvania trying to stay on the state ballot. (FindLaw)
Sigh…a 14-year-old girl is suing her friend over allegations that the friend lost her iPod. (Engadget)
Rhode Island is suffering a Pepsi shortage because of a new law about rebates. (TurnTo10)
Blockbuster’s been given permission to continue pursuing its antitrust counterclaims against Netflix in Netflix’s patent suit. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
Hush little baby, don’t say a turd…
It’s not just because I’m taking a highly-anticipated trip to Vegas tomorrow that I keep putting up posts about Vegas. But when The Las Vegas Review-Journal hits me up with a law-related headline like this, how can I not post about it: “Don’t sleep near feces or urine.”
That’s right peeps, a new ordinance in Sin City now banning outdoor, uh, deposits, also bans folks from sleeping near any feces or urine. Now, I totally get the desire to have a law on the books to fight outdoor sanitation dumps. But the sleep bit, what the hell is that all about? Well, when asked about it, a city attorney confirmed that it was simply a stupid mistake that won’t be enforced (although a similar provision may appear in later laws relating to parks and public toilets).
But the fact that it won’t be enforced for now, at least, means my plans for tomorrow night remain intact!
Hookers Vigilantes Gone Wild!
Like any Good Samaritan with a video camera, Brian Bates likes to videotape men having sex with prostitutes and post the results on his website. It’s a hobby of his that has garnered him the title, “The Video Vigilante (via The Legal Reader).” For quite a few years, in fact, prosecutors and police officers were a big fan of the Oklahoma City resident; Bates even made a decent living by appearing on tabloid television shows. Hell, Bates got such a big kick out of filming hookers, he even let his wife tag along occasionally.
But, like any McCarthyistic camera-wielding hooker-hater, Bates eventually got himself into trouble, allegedly becoming a victim of his own spoils. Indeed, police have arrested Bates for paying prostitutes to take their customers where he could easily video tape them; after all, dark alleys do not provide the best lighting. Accordingly, Bates is facing up to 140 years in prison and his wife has been charged with aiding and abetting prostitution.
Bates, for his part, counters that the police have a vendetta against him. He says that the city has a beef with him because he taped two police officers beating an unarmed black man. When the city prosecutor refused to charge the officers, Bates criticized the District Attorney. And now that the DA is up for re-election, Bates says that he’s just trying to shut him up.
I’ve actually checked out the site (www.johntv.com), and I’ll admit that there is nothing particularly lewd or lascivious about it. But beyond the obvious profit motive (which he denies), one has to wonder if his zealotry hasn’t gotten the better of him. Spend a few minutes on his website, and you might even start to feel sympathy for the prostitutes — maybe instead of using these women for his “Gotcha” moments, he might consider calling attention to the factors that led these women to sell their bodies for money. As it is, the dude’s actions are tantamount to taping “Bum Fights” to expose problems with homelessness. It’s not vigilantism; it’s exploitation.
The Daily Memo - 8/23/06
If you’re an 85-year-old Wisconsin man (or probably a man or woman of any age, for that matter), stop using your lawn mower to travel around the town just because you don’t have a driver’s license! (Chicago Sun-Times)
…but if you wanna’ hang around naked in a Vermont town, have at it! (Boston.com)
The D.C. Circuit has provided a narrowing definition to “income” for tax purposes that could stymie the IRS if upheld. (TaxProf Blog)
What’s the senate version of the new Patent Reform Act look like, eh? (Patent Baristas)
The Governator has signed a solar bill into law which, among other things, mandates the installation of 1 million rooftop solar panels statewide over the next 12 years and requires new home builders to offer solar power options by 2011. (Reuters)
Ok, check this S.O.B. out…
So Philip A. Giordano used to be the mayor of Waterbury, Connecticut. In fact, he was a three-term mayor who had held the office for almost six years. But that all came crashing down in 2001. He became involved in a federal corruption investigation, and while the feds didn’t find anything pinpointing him as dirty, they did find evidence that he was dirty. So in July 2001 he was arrested under various federal charges stemming from allegations that he sexually abused two underage girls and violated their civil rights. The dirtball got a 37 year sentence, and one would hope that he would quietly rot in the clink.
But apparently not one to go quietly, Giordano has written the current mayor’s special counsel, insisting that he is owed over $60,000 by the city for sick days, personal days and vacation pay! To his dismay, the mayor’s chief of staff says the town will not be paying: “It’s not authorized in the charter and we’re not obligated to give him sick time, and therefore we wouldn’t even entertain this idea.”
Just an idea Philip, but if you’re that hard-up for money, surely there must be something you have in prison that you could sell for some smokes. Maybe the same thing you took from those girls like, say, your sexual dignity, you scumbum.
Man, I’m glad I’m going to Las Vegas this weekend!
As of August 30, you will no longer be able to get a late-night marriage license in Las Vegas. That’s right - Sin City will be getting just a little less sinful, as the city’s marriagle license bureau has had to make expense cutbacks, and will no longer be open between midnight and 8 a.m.
The president of the Little White Wedding Chapel is disappointed with this decision, not only because it will hurt business but because “it’s an unjust thing to people who come in from other places. They think this is a 24-hour town.” But hero that it is, the Little White Wedding Chapel will remain open for those post-midnight marriages. Folks’ll just “have to get their marriage license before midnight.”
Get Your Flags! Get Your Hot, Flaming Flags!
It’s amazing what teachers will do these days to motivate their students to learn. When I was a high-schooler, I had a teacher who’d walk around with a desk on her head, just so the class would listen. In fact, I had a chemistry teacher who once caught our attention by teaching from the “Anarchist Cookbook,” though the results were disastrous (and my State Bar Association is not privy to those pre age-of-majority details). But this one takes the cake folks: A Social Studies teacher out in Louisville, Kentucky — who was trying to instill his students with an understanding of the power of free speech — decided to take it to the next level by burning two American flags.
Indeed, 7th grade teacher Dan Holden burned a tiny flag in each of his two Social Studies classes in an effort to motivate his students to write an essay on freedom of speech. The catch here, of course, is that Mr. Holden is now facing possible criminal charges, both for having an open flame in the classroom and potentially (it is Kentucky, after all) for burning the flag.
One has to wonder how those weekend essays will turn out: “Freedom of speech in the United States of America is a basic right that everyone is entitled to … except our Social Studies teacher, who got locked up for expressing his First Amendment right to stupidity in the classroom.”
L.A.’s Dopest Attorney
This story is all over the legal-type internet sites, so why should we be left out? If you haven’t bumped into it yet, today’s L.A. Times published a profile on Allison Margolin, a 28 year old Los Angeles lawyer who the paper equates to Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods. Margolin, the daughter of an apparently well-known advocate of pot legalization, has followed in her father’s footsteps, also supporting legalization and counting those who have been busted for using/growing medical marijuana among her criminal defendant clients. Margolin has a promo video up on YouTube and advertises herself as “L.A.’s dopest attorney,” also proudly showing off her Ivy League pedigree (undergrad at Columbia and law school at Harvard).
There’s a bad pun in here somewhere about ivy and weed, but it’s that time in the afternoon when my brain shuts down and I can’t think of nothing. So I’m going to get coffee. Chat amongs yourselves….
The Daily Memo - 8/22/06
A local judge has caused a stir by ruling that two high school kids can play out the football season before getting locked up for 60 days in a juvie center. (CNN)
A California judge who delayed the murder trial he was overseeing because he wanted to catch an Angels/Red Sox game has been publicly admonished. (Law.com)
Bam Margera’s uncle, “Don Vito,” has been arrested on two charges of sexually assaulting a child in Colorado. (Examiner)
Busta Rhymes has been busted for assault. (FindLaw)
A man committed to a mental health facility for strangling his girlfriend is now suing the facility because he wants to watch movies with violence and nudity. (The Washington Times)
Ah, city government, is there anything they can’t screw up?
So there’s this guy who lives in Brighton, a little section on the outskirts of Boston-proper. On the outside of his house there’s this spiral metal staircase that’s kinda’ old and rickety. So since the man is a contractor, he decided to fix it up. Trouble his, his neighbors were pissed off at the construction noise, so they got the city to hit him with a stop-work order because he had not obtained the proper permits. So he does what any reasonable citizen in such a situation would do, and he applies for said proper permits. And the city denies his application.
Fast forward to this week, where a man climbed the stairs at two o’clock in the morning, trying to break into the house. When the burglar tried to kick in a door from the stairs, the stairs gave out and the man died. And now the city is saying that the homeowner will be cited for having the “unsafe and dangerous” stairs on his property!
Are you f’ing kidding me? The city stopped him from fixing the stairs, didn’t give him the permits to fix the stairs, and is now going to cite him because a trespassing burglar died on the stairs he wanted to fix in the first place? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of amazement that only local politics can bring to you.
Oh, and as Bostonist correctly asks, “who wants to guess how long before the dead man’s family sues?”
God Bless YouTube
As though the world of politics was not perilous enough, now pols have to be wary of video cameras, and more specifically: YouTube. In the past, of course, politicians would work for days to get a three-second sound bite on the national or even local newscasts. But now now with YouTube, Republicans and Democrats alike can gain instant national exposure!
Unfortunately, it’s not always the type of exposure a politician desires. Take, for instance, a YouTube video from a couple of weeks ago, which caught Republican Senator George Allen calling his opponent’s staffer (who is of Indian descent) a “Macaca.” A Macaca is a species of monkey, a term that not too many Indian-Americans were fond of. But Allen made up for this snafu by welcoming the staffer to America, which was kind of odd considering that he actually hailed originally from Virginia. Apparently Senator Allen was not aware that there are non-white people born in the United States every day. I guess it’s the gesture that counts anyway, George.
But Allen was not the only Republican politician caught in an unfavorable light. Just today, in fact, a YouTube video of Montana Republican Senator Conrad Burns started making the rounds. Burns apparently took some pains to set up a hearing for a Farm Bill that that was critically important for his state. So, good on Senator Burns! Too bad he fell asleep. And thanks to the power of YouTube, we can all enjoy watching Burns doze off, while listening to a snappy rendition of “Happy Trails.” I do wish it were the Van Halen version, though. Public humiliation always goes down better with a little David Lee Roth.
The Daily Memo - 8/21/06
Yet another parent has helped their child commit crimes - this time, an Indiana mother drover her son to a gangland killing and told him when to fire. (CBS2)
Dog the Bounty Hunter is being sued. (Law.com)
20th Century Fox is being sued for $4.4 million over the old “Batman” TV show by the daughter of one the show’s producers. (Yahoo)
Blawg Review #71
Welcome to the seventy-first edition of the Blawg Review. To our regular readers who don’t know what this Blawg Review thing is, you can learn about it here. And to our new readers coming here specifically because we’re hosting the Blawg Review, pull up a chair and take a load off - the only rule here is no open bar (because we all know lawyers are lushes and y’all would drink us into bankruptcy). Old readers and new alike, you’re here for one thing - to learn about what the blawgers have had to say for themselves over the last week (and maybe to actually learn a little something-something). Well, to quote the immortal words of Dennis Hopper in Speed, it’s time for a a “pop quiz, hotshot.”
Do state governor’s have to follow the same copyright laws as everyone else?
Well, if you ask Pennsylvania Governor Rendell, he might say no. Seems he snaked an editorial from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and republished it, wholesale, on his website. As reported by PHOSITA, this led to a war between Rendell’s campaign and the paper, arguing over the merits of copyright law and fair use. The moral of the story? Mess with the bull and you get the horns, but mess with the newspaper and you get the scathing editorials.
So can I start a fantasy league using the names and voting records of various state governors?
Relying on the brand new precedent of C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., there would not appear to be any IP concerns, so have at it you wild and crazy guys. This case stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Major League Baseball, looking to cash in on the ever-expanding fantasy baseball fad. The MLB claimed that fantasy leagues owed it a licensing fee to use player names and stats. The Court saw things otherwise, finding no copyright or right of publicity concerns and, as Sportsbiz put it, “[t]his decision enables hundreds of small operators to stay in business and limits the ability of all the major professional leagues to capitalize monetarily on fantasy games growing popularity.” So feel free to draft Rendell in the early rounds of your Governor’s League; but as with fantasy football, you should definitely keep your eyes on the stud wide receivers (Lynn Swann, in this case; although he’s quickly losing ground to a resurgent Rendell).
Ok - so far, so good. Now, can I call my new Governor’s League the “G-Pod League?”
According to Apple, absolutely not! It thinks that the widespread popularity of its iPod entitles it to sole and exclusive use of the word “pod” in all trademarks. A third-year law student up in Wisconsin, R. Enochs, says that he thinks about “Pods storage units” when he hears the word “pod,” so he doesn’t buy into Apple’s claims. For us, the term “pod” immediately brings to mind the notion of “pod people,” but R. Enochs’ underlying sentiment seems right.
Fantasy games are good and all, but how about something a little more serious?
You want serious? Ok, how’s the prosecution of child abuse cases - that serious enough for you? According to the poignant poetry of a former Bronx DA over at Prosecutor Post-Script, the gig can be a bit soul-crushing, leading one to look for a “mundane” firm job because “I’m just tired of looking at dead ten-year-olds.”
Uhm, ok, that might’ve been a little too serious - maybe something lighthearted and “wacky?”
This week, the California Court of Appeal decided to throw the smackdown on some folks. As The Legal Reader puts it, “either of these decisions is more entertaining than your average airport novel, not to mention anything you’re likely to find on TV during the ungodly hours when you might actually find time to stare at it.” With an endorsement like that, how can you afford not to click on over there this very second? Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you before moving on.
Hey, speaking of California - here’s one for you: in California, do billboards have a right to be seen?
I would chide you for asking a stupid question but for the fact that we’re talking about California, where there’s no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid public representatives (more on that in a second). Seems that there’s been an ongoing battle over a billboard put up back in 2000, which has since found its viewability obscured by city-planted trees. As May It Please the Court explains, the California Supreme Court has had its final say on the matter and ruled, unequivocally, that the city of Los Angeles had every right to plant its trees and that there’s absolutely no such thing as a Constitutional right to have one’s billboards be seen. Having lived in Los Angeles for several years, I find MiPtC’s concluding sentence to be the strongest observation of the whole matter: “Unfortunately, we still have to see Century Boulevard.”
What was that you were saying about stupid public representatives?
Oh right - check this out. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog points out an LA Time’s story about a California Congressman who…wait for this shock of surprises…lied on his tax forms to avoid having to pay taxes on over $10 million of real estate profit. And of course he now declines to offer any comment on the matter. Sad thing is, this dude’s still probably a better public servant for Californians than Ahnold.
This is a lot to take in all at once - can we take a lunch break?
You certainly can take a lunch break. And more importantly, as we’ve learned from the Law.com Blog Network, if you want to invite the QuizLaw folks to lunch with you, and we’re being sticks-in-the-mud, you can file a motion to compel and force us to eat with you!
Thanks – that hit the spot! But I’m sorta’ wondering, I had some licorice for dessert – would that work as a Hodgkin’s disease treatment?
Well, thankfully, that’s a question we don’t have to answer. After a 16-year-old complained that his chemotherapy treatment wasn’t doing it for him, he and his parents decided that they’d use “a brew of herbs including licorice and red clover [and] spiritual prayers” to combat his illness. When the state tried to force him to continue his chemotherapy regimen, he went off to court. And as reported by Althouse, a Virginia state court has come up with a nice compromise which allows the boy to feel like he’s getting what he wants while also ensuring that he doesn’t resort to Yanni music and herbal tea to fight off his disease. Because, really, nobody should ever resort to Yanni music for anything. Ever. Seriously.
Ok, no Yanni - but how about Led Zeppelin?
Led Zeppelin’s always fine and, in fact, according to Howard Bashman over at How Appealing, there is actually a connection between Zep and current legal wranglings. This is because at least two of their songs refer to falling out of bed and that ties directly into a New Jersey ruling that warning labels are not required for loft/bunk beds. Why not, you ask? Because you’d have to be awfully dumb not to realize that a platform five feet off the ground doesn’t pose some sort of risk. Though you can still get money for being dumb enough not to realize that coffee might be hot.
Is coffee the only hot thing that can cause a legal snafu?
As explained by the folks over at Overlawyered, the answers appears to be no – cigarettes can getcha too, as a Jersey family unfortunately learned when two members of the family died in a house fire caused by a cigarette. Part of the reason for this tragedy was that the family’s smoke detectors didn’t work as well as one might hope. Why? Because they decided to buy their smoke detectors on the cheap (not to mention, they disabled one). Even though the detectors were cheap, a jury still held the detectors’ manufacturer responsible for not making a better product. Although a judge did reduce the jury award in half, reckoning that the six minutes the dying family members suffered before expiring didn’t warrant $6 million. Which begs the question, does this judge actually know what it must feel like when one is burning to death?
Again, that was a bit serious. How about some light entertainment?
Ask and ye shall receive. You can go burn off a couple of minutes by watching The Wallflowers and Jordan Zevon perform “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” courtesy of TalkLeft.
This doesn’t really have much to do with anything we’ve been talking about, but how many times does the word ‘freedom’ appear in the Constitution?
Not that too many people in the higher echelons of our government’s administration care anymore about what the Constitution says, but Matt Barr has a nice rundown of ten things you may not have known about your Constitution. Barr reveals that the Schoolhouse Rock kids left just a few words out of their musical preamble rendition. Also, did you know that probable cause is not necessary for having your person searched? Well, of course you did; you’ve been through an airport security line, right? Oh, and in answer to the above question: The Constitution contains the word ‘freedom’ only once; “liberty” thrice; and “power” or “powers” 36 times. And considering our administration’s focus on power over freedom and liberty, I guess this means maybe they have read the Constitution.
And speaking of airport security, someone’s gonna’ pay for last week’s terrorist threats, right?
Umm. Well, maybe not. According to Lizard Breath over at Unfogged, many of the suspects arrested in Britain may not even face criminal charges. Wha? Come again? We can’t sneak vodka in our water bottles onto airplanes anymore and somebody’s getting let loose? Why? Oh … because the would-be-bombers were too inexperienced to pull off the attacks. …yeah, but that never stopped anybody on prom night! Oh, and big-ups to Lizard Breath for sharing QuizLaw’s love of Veronica Mars!.
Hey, can Veronica look into whether lawyers wear boxers or briefs?
No real reason why not, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. But while you may not find out about boxers or briefs, you can find out about Word or Wordperfect? Most of you probably didn’t even realize that WordPerfect still existed in this mad, mad Word world. But over at Law Practice Management we learn that more people than you might realize actually get the shakes when they’re asked to make the switch from WordPerfect to Word. LPM’s advice to these holdouts? When making the switch — which is all the more important in today’s legal world — give your staff two days of basic Word training, and give attorneys a half-day. QuizLaw debated whether to advise that this time should be billed to clients, but on second thought, we realized that such advice wasn’t necessary, as the firms are well ahead of us on where they can milk out every possible line-item to add to their client bills.
Well, before I worry about what word processor to use as a lawyer, I should pick a law school to go to. If I want to go to not just any law school, but the oldest law school in the U.S., where should I be sending my application?
Not only are many law schools competing for the highest rank in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings, but there are a few now competing for the title of “oldest law school.” Over at Concurring Opinions it’s argued that the oldest law school is the long-since dead Litchfield Law School. Of the still-kicking law schools that you can actually go to, it would appear that both Harvard Law School and William & Mary Law School have their fingers in the “we’re the oldest” pie. Harvard focuses on continuously running, while William & Mary focuses on founding dates. So it’s up to you which school you actually want to apply to, although QuizLaw says “balls” to Harvard - you should jump to the other side of the Charles and hit up Boston University School of Law (come on guys - does this plug get us a mention in the alumni magazine or what?!).
Hey, you ever wish you were back in law school?
The answer to that is simple: No. Why? Well, here’s several reasons. The Law School Virgin is dealing with first-week insecurities, and still hasn’t lost her virginity. The Bitter Law Student still hasn’t managed to rack up enough Lexis/Westlaw points to buy that iPod nano. For one of the “Law Bitches,” school doesn’t start for another two weeks, but she’s already got 100 bloody pages of reading to do. The Law Nut is considering selling herself if she doesn’t find a job soon. And, finally, the Namby Pamby Law Student has resorted to watching 1Ls suffer at the bookstore to get his thrills. So that, dear reader, is why QuizLaw does not miss the law school years.
Speaking of legal studies, are you ever too young to start learning contract law?
Well, at least according to the ContractsProf Blog, apparently not. It would seem that Frank Snyder’s five-year-old son has had to sign a contract in quadruplicate promising to be proud of his kindergarten school, to put forth his best effort and attitude, and to remember to take home his homework, among other stipulations. Some valid questions are raised, of course: Is Frank’s son bound by the contract? Will his son be in breach if he is not proud of his school? And why must he sign a contract if he’s not even old enough to read yet? Those are some tough questions for a guy who hasn’t been potty trained for all that long.
Ok, so while we’re on the subject of kids, is it true that virgins don’t make good egg donors?
Well, not sure if that’s really true or not, but according to The Volokh Conspiracy, at least one donation agency disqualified an egg donor because she was a virgin. Seems that the agency’s apparent reasoning was that the lack of sexual experience makes it more difficult to make the egg donation decision. As Volokh says, “[n]othing illegal here, just interesting.”
Look man, can I stop asking questions yet? I’m getting kinda’ tired.
Well, they say that a good burst of oxygen can work as a good pick-me-up. However, it may be tougher for you to get your hands on some of the good O2. As Patent Baristas report, the FDA is warning the company BetterThanAir that it will have to get FDA approval before marketing and selling its canned air. BetterThanAir advertises that its air-in-a-can, or “oxygen-enriched air,” can cure or treat lung cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis and high-blood pressure. The FDA says that if it can do all these things, then it’s a drug which needs FDA approval. To all of this, QuizLaw asks: It isn’t bad enough that we pay $2 for a bottle of water – we’re now going to have to start paying for air?
That was interesting and all, but seriously, this has been going on for-ev-er.
Ok, ok, Blawg Revew #71 is officially over. Next week you can find Blawg Review #72 over at Ernie the Attorney, a guy QuizLaw likes despite the fact that his son is going to Duke. QuizLaw doesn’t like Duke.
Thanks for coming to QuizLaw. And if you want more info about this whole blawg review deal, Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions on how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
The Daily Memo - 8/18/06
A district court judge has issued a teeny-tiny little 1,653 page ruling against tobacco companies in a civil racketeering lawsuit brought by the Feds, finding that the public was defrauded and ordering Big Tobacco to admit they have lied about cigarettes’ harmful effects and to start providing warnings and advertisements about addiction. (WSJ Law Blog)
One way to try to get out of your DUI charge is to blame your 4-year-old son, who was sitting in your lap, by claiming that he was actually steering the vehicle. (WGAL)
The legal saga of wanna-be NFL running back Maurice Clarett gets more and more bizarre, the latest oddment being the claim that he was funded by the Israeli mob and was recently carrying guns because he was worried about the mob coming after him. (ESPN)
I don’t know why this story reminds me of the classic Frank Zappa tune “Titties & Beer”
Since the 1950’s, Pennsylvania has had a law on the books as part of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code which says that no place with a liquor license can offer any “lewd entertainment.” While the law has been challenged now and again, the Pennsylvania Courts have always upheld it - in fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has twice found it constitutional. Well, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has now had its say and has ruled the statute unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court found that the statute was overbroad because it could apply widely, not just to places with stripping and nude dancing, but to anyplace that has a liquor license and wants to put on a concert or performance which someone interprets as “lewd.”
Ultimately, the problem boils down to one simple fact - the law offers no definition of what “lewd entertainment” is. The state tried to argue that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the governmental entity in charge of enforcing the statute, had no intention of ever enforcing the law against “legitimate” performances. But the Court said that just didn’t matter - intentions don’t actually define the scope or limits of the law because it still could be applied more broadly, and the possibility of such widespread enforcement “creates a chilling effect.” Similarly, while Pennsylvania courts have typically interpreted “lewd entertainment” to mean “fully exposed breasts, genital exposure, or genital touching,” these aren’t limitations that are actually in the law, so there is every possibility that the PA courts could use a broader interpretation.
One assumes that the Pennsylvania General Assembly will quickly move to enact a new law which provides a narrowing definition of “lewd entertainment” and which clarifies the underlying purpose of the statute, to avoid the negative effects that stem from the dastardly mixture of nude/topless dancing and booze. While awaiting this new law, it would seem that anyplace with a liquor license is now free to have all the topless and nude dancing it wants, but I wouldn’t expect many places to jump on this opportunity.
Well, except for in Philly. The Phillies are mere weeks away from yet again crushing locals’ hopes of a wild card performance, and the Eagles are about to start yet another inevitably soul-shattering season, which means that the locals, now more than ever, need to be able to look at some nekkid while drinking their pains away.
The Bust Administration gets another court spanking as a federal judge rules the Feds’ warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional
From the first moment the stories of the government’s domestic wiretapping broke program, one of the few inevitables was that the ACLU would file a lawsuit. And sue they did, on behalf of various lawyers, journalists and scholars, arguing that the program violated folks’ constitutional rights. The feds, for their part, tried to argue that the whole thing is within the Executive’s inherent authority, although they couldn’t actually prove this without providing information that would reveal valuable state secrets.
Well earlier today the federal judge hearing this case, District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, rejected this state secrets privilege and sided with the ACLU. Taylor ruled that the wiretap program violates all sorts of laws and Constitutional rights including “the Separation of Powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Title III (of the Constitution).” She also issued an injunction, ordering an immediate cessation of the program.
Unsurprisingly, the DOJ has already indicated its intention to appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals because it considers the program “a critical tool that ensures we have in place an early warning system to detect and prevent a terrorist attack.”
Celebrity DUI Files
In celebrity legal news today, Mel Gibson has struck a plea deal with a California court over his DUI charges. Under the terms of the deal, Gibson will have two of his misdemeanor charges dropped, while pleading no contest to the charge of driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. In exchange, he will serve three years of probation, pay a $1200 fine, voluntarily enter a rehab program, and tape a public service announcement on the hazards of driving under the influence, the hazard in this case being the loss of one successful Hollywood career.
Elsewhere, Haley Joel Osment is steadily earning his way into child-stars run amok status. He has been charged with four crimes, including driving under the influence and possession of marijuana while driving. The charges stem from a July 20th incident, in which he lost control of his Saturn and ran into a brick pillar, flipping his car. He also suffered a broken rib. Osment, for the record, does not hate Jews.
The Daily Memo 8/17/06
Loft beds, like the ones used by many a college student, need not have warning labels about the risks of falling out. (WSJ Law Blog)
Fantasy football players nationwide rejigger their draft boards after Minnesota Vikings receiver Koren Robinson was arrested for a DWI after being chased down by the fuzz. (LawInfo)
A state judge in Alabama has been tossed in the clink for his possession of meth which is, you know, kinda’ illegal. (The Legal Readers)
New Jersey’s attorney general has resigned, following a finding that she violated state ethics laws when she helped her live-in boyfriend get out of a traffic violation. (FindLaw)
The city of Los Angeles has filed a lawsuit over a voter-initiative which, once it takes effect, will prevent the city from dumping waste on farms near Bakersfield - the city is presumably arguing that Bakersfield is already a wasteland and, if you’ve ever been there, they kinda’ have a point. (Yahoo)
A Spokane, Washington restaurant is being sued by the government because the owner allegedly told a black employee that he only wanted his cocktail waitresses to be “hot, white girls.” (Komo 4)
The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…
An Arizona judge has figured out a new way to F with local teenage rabble-rousers. A teenage girl had been busted for some type of traffic violation and was brought before Judge Julia Jent. Sick of seeing teenage drivers brought before her for traffic infractions, and sick of their apparent lackadaisical attitude, Judge Jent took a new tactic. Rather than fining the girl and suspending her license, the judge ordered the teenager to start taking the school bus instead of driving herself to school. When the girl left the courtroom and started bawling, Judge Jent knew she had hit on Teenage Punishment Magic.
Now, any teenage driver brought before da’ judge winds up with a similar punishment - the kid is ordered to start taking the school bus. If they comply, their case is eventually dismissed. If they don’t, the case remains and they have to pay a fine and have their license suspended. In addition, Judge Jent warns their parents not to help them get around the punishment by driving them to school - uncooperative parents could be found in contempt of court.
Judge Jent waxed somewhat poetically: “Kid does crime, kid does time, and mom and dad can’t get them out of it and don’t have to feel guilty for not helping.”
You put the balm on? Who told you to put the balm on? Starbucks Edition
If there is anything we learned following the Stella Liebeck McDonald’s hot-coffee case that resulted in an initial $2.9 million personal injury award, it’s that coffee and lawyers are a dangerous combination.
Further evidence: A Manhattan lawyer, Alice Griffin, has just won a $301,000 verdict against Starbucks, after a clerk spilled some coffee on her. Apparently, an underpaid barista — who was probably hung over from his band’s performance the night before — slid a sleeveless cup of coffee toward Griffin (a practice that only bartenders with Coors Light should engage in). The cup tipped over the edge of the counter and spilled all over Griffin’s poor foot, where her shoe and sock trapped the warm liquid inside, resulting in a nasty little burn and early retirement.
The appellate judge, who found the award a bit excessive, upheld it anyway, rejecting Starbucks’ argument that the evidence did not support the judgment. The reason for the large award was because Griffin was also a ballet dancer and the resultant burn caused permanent damage to her foot, rendering her incapable of performing.
The Daily Memo - 8/16/06
Seriously dude, you get arrested a 227th time and you’ll be in serious trouble. (CNN)
Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor and well-known opponent to many aspects of the current federal intellectual property scheme, is urging folks to use Creative Common licenses rather than simply relying on current copyright law. (c|net)
A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that two reporters must testify about how they got Barry Bond’s grand jury testimony. (SI)
The download service movieland.com has been sued by the state of Washington for allegedly using spyware to bully folks into joining its service. (Network World)
Chicago’s city council is about to be sued over the local foie gras ban. (Chicago Sun-Times)
A lawsuit is being threatened over the upcoming “Bully” video game. (Bit-Tech)
A Chicago-area woman is suing a shopping center with allegations that it helped and induced a squirrel to attack her. (CBS2)
Planets to the left of me, planets to the right of me…
Ok, this isn’t really about anything legal. In fact, it’s not even remotely related to the law. But bear with me, because I do have at least a faint connection to make.
The always interesting Bad Astronomy has put together a detailed write-up of the finding (pending a vote next week) that Pluto is still a planet and, in fact, our solar system now has three “new” planets. Now, I’m mentioning this post for two reasons. First, I was almost an astrophysicist in my pre-law life, and I like supporting science (in general) and astronomy/cosmology/astrophysics (specifically) where possible, even if such support is merely by throwing out a link.
But there actually is a QuizLaw related reason that I’m mentioning this discussion as well. Towards the end of his lengthy post, the Bad Astronomer goes into the fact that the whole “planet” issue is really about semantics, not science. And on this point, he notes that:
…[I]t is a good idea to try to categorize objects. But definitions are like little boxes, containers in which ideas sit. But sometimes they’re more like prison cells. They frame our minds, make us see things too rigidly.
I think it would do legal folks some good to remember this point as well. As statutes and legal discussions (and to a much lesser extent, case law) all get more and more bogged down in semantics, political correctness, the Right versus the Left, etc. etc., many legal practitioners loose sight of the bigger picture, namely, that the law is meant to: (a) provide structure to things; and (b) to help society. It would be useful to remember that sometimes a “legal” argument boils down to nothing more than semantics and that folks should take a step back and look at the big picture. That’s all I’m saying.
from whence it came.
(and the image, for the curious ones out there, is of Pluto and its former-moon, soon-to-be planetary partner, Charon)
So there was this great big fat woman in a Michigan town. Her name is not publicly known right now, to protect her daughter’s identity. This gem of a lady decided to get her some of the gastric bypass surgery. All apparently went well and she landed herself a new boyfriend, one Michael J. Fitzgibbon, who lived just doors away. But she had to go back in for a follow-up surgery to remove her sagging skin, and this was a problem for her. It would appear that her wonderful new boyfriend is relatively insatiable, and she was concerned that Fitzgibbon would leave her if he didn’t have someone to have sex with while she recovered from the skin-removal surgery. So she entered into a contract with the man and her 15-year-old daughter. A contract whereby her daughter would be rewarded with things like body piercings, underwear and new clothes for every time she had sex with the boyfriend.
Yes, this scumbum mother whored her daughter out to keep her man happy. The daughter, for her part, was understandably not pleased with this situation, but very much wanted things like a belly-button ring and new clothes and the right for her own boyfriend to be able to spend the night (another “privilege” she could earn under the contract). And this slimeball piece of shit Fitzgibbon apparently understood the daughter’s lack of desire, boozing her up with wine first and allowing her to wear a black mask so she didn’t have to look at him during the act (and look at that picture of him up there - you wouldn’t want to look at him and his porn ‘stache either).
This all apparently went on for several weeks before the girl finally crumbled and let a relative in on what was going on. After this asshole was arrested, investigators learned of new allegations that he was also getting a 12-year-old to sleep with him in exchange for cigarettes. Needless to say, this dickwad is facing six counts of criminal sexual conduct relating to this “contract,” and there are six more pending from the investigation of the situation with the 12-year-old. The mother is also facing three counts of criminal sexual conduct of her own.
Despicable. Utterly fucking despicable.
In an Intelligence Test with America, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne Win
You want further evidence of the dumb and dumbering of America? Well, according to a new Zogby poll, 77 percent of Americans can identify 2 of the Seven Dwarfs, while only 24 percent can name two of the Supreme Court justices. Can you freakin’ believe that? Only 77 percent of Americans can identify two of the Seven Dwarfs?! How dumb and/or oblivious do you have to be to escape your entire childhood without a passing knowledge of Snow White? She’s got more movies, books, and licensing deals than Harry Potter and Donald Duck combined.
Oh, and yeah: I’m not terribly surprised that only 24 percent of Americans can identify two Supreme Court justices. I mean, there’s no sex appeal in old men in robes deciding the fate of our legal system - if there are no nipple slips or drunken parties involved, it’s hard to get worked up about remembering nine of the most important members of the U.S. citizenry. Not surprising, however, Clarence Thomas was the most oft cited Justice, thanks largely to a pubic hair and coke can. Antonin Scalia, the Paris Hilton of the Supreme Court, ranked second, which is no shock given his penchant for esoterically flipping the bird.
Of course, given the fact that only 24 percent of Americans can identify two Supreme Court justices (and only 11 percent knew of Samuel Alito), it’s not hard to believe that our education system has gone so awry that women think that their babies should be ingesting illegal drugs. Seriously, there are two cases in the news today about that very subject. In one, an Ohio woman had to spend the night in jail after her one-year-old child tested positive for cocaine. And in the other, a woman is facing a third trial on murder charges after she allegedly breast-fed her baby methamphetamine-laced milk. I’m guessing that neither one of those mothers could identify a single Supreme Court Justice, but I bet they know who the Seventh Dwarf is: Shit-Faced.
The Daily Memo - 8/15/06
The long-existing but little-known band Supernova is seeking a preliminary injunction against the manufactured band Supernova, put together for the latest edition of CBS’ “Rock Star,” because they want to keep their name to themselves. (Zap2It)
A Michigan boy is suing his mother to find out the identity of his biological father. (The Legal Reader)
Shocking - a California Congressman lied on his taxes to avoid having to pay tax on over $10 million of real estate profit. (WSJ Law Blog)
To get around Arizona state laws banning junk food in school, many districts are now serving imitation french fries, baked low-fat versions of the fast food staple. (The Herald)
Not knowing that a girl wasn’t actually legal won’t save you from being charged with criminal sex with a minor in Florida. (Palm Beach Post)
Chief Justice Roberts has named his new administrative assistant, the Justice’s top aide. (WSJ Law Blog)
Priorities? I don’t need no stinkin’ priorities!
A new crop of terrorism concerns means that Ponyboy can’t take his hair grease onto a plane anymore. The ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel is on uber-shakey ground. But good ol’ President Bush has his priorities in order, spending some time on his casual Monday to look into, and sign, a new law which will help avoid the court-ordered removal of a cross monument in San Diego (we told you about this before).
Word has it that tomorrow he’ll consider signing the Jello Pudding Pop Act of 2006, requiring that Jello Pudding Pops be put back on the market. Now that’s the kind of priorities I’m talking about. …of course, under the new regime, said pudding pops still won’t be allowed on the plane, but it’s a start.
Isn’t a bit early to be going back to school?
Next week, your fine feathered friends at QuizLaw will be hosting the Blawg Review. “But Seth,” you ask, “what in the hell is this Blawg Review you speak/type of?”
Well dear reader, you can go take a look-see at the current edition, number 70, hosted by the preachers over at preaching to the perverted to get a better idea. And if you’ve got any blog posts that are law related and which you think might be worthy of inclusion in the QuizLaw edition of the Blawg Review, well then feel free to check out the Blawg Review submission guidelines.
See you in the funnies.
Thanks for the Ride, Pop!
You know, as a kid, I spent a lot of time bumming rides from my dad. Once you reach a certain pre-driving age, your parents tend to become glorified chauffeurs, toting you around to friends’ houses, the movie theater, or out to the store to pick up school supplies. But once you turn 33, you’d like to think you could drive yourself around a little more, especially when you need to break into someone’s house and steal some loot.
But that’s not the case for a man named Paul Brown, who has been bumming rides from his dad so that he can burglarize houses. The catch here, of course, is that his dear old father in question is actually a Florida judge, who drove his son to not one, but two house burglaries.
Judge George Brown says that he didn’t know his kid was breaking into houses and he has yet to be held accountable for his getaway skills. But there are some folks who are beginning to wonder whether Brown’s claim of ignorance rings true, especially after the judge waited in his car while his son pried open a door and walked out with a fish tank. And when the burgled resident confronted the judge and his son, threatening to call the police, the judge drove away. In fact, when challenged by another resident at his home, the judge simply responded, “If I were you, I’d just write it off and move on in life because Paul’s going to prison and he doesn’t have any money.”
It’s all kind of sad, really. The judge seems to be trapped between his love for his son and the law he is bound to uphold. The whole thing smacks of a Dabney Coleman serialized drama for CBS, in which the judge tries felonies during the day and conducts heists with his son by night. I think we’ll just call it: “Touched by a Dumbass.”
The Daily Memo - 8/14/06
Being forced by a female guard to masturbate while she watches shall remain to be considered not to be cruel and unusual punishment. (Overlawyered)
Law.com gives us a preview of the oral arguments scheduled for the Supremes’ upcoming October term, from immigration law to patent law to criminal sentencing. (Law.com)
Turns out if you help your son look for a robbery victim, well, yeah, you can get arrested for that. (Duluth News Tribune)
More and more states are expanding their definition of self-defense with controversial “stand your ground”/”shoot first” laws. (NY Times)
The RIAA is looking for a blanket gag order before allowing record label folks to appear at deposition. (The Digital Music Weblog)
Various lawsuits across the country (17 in all) brought over the Bush administration’s warrentless domestic spying program have been consolidated in San Francisco. (Yahoo News)
A New York woman has filed a $3 million lawsuit against a pet cremation company that is allegedly using pictures of her two dead Chihuahuas, without her permission, in their ads (the company claims to have a release for the photos from Getty Images). (WCBSTV)
Hey, planning and zoning commission of Cromwell, Connecticut…you’re on notice!
When thirteen-year old Joe Cadieux was just 10-years-old, the local Connecticut boy decided to do what many industrious young’ins do, and he started his own business. Instead of going with the time tested Lemonade Stand, however, Cadieux decided to play to local fishermen by selling nite crawlers gathered from his front yard. While he only made about $5 to $10 per month on this business, Cadieux seemed content with the fact that he was the Man, instead of working for the Man.
But then the real Man stepped in and brought things to a screeching halt. The local planning and zoning commission realized that Cadieux’s little “Nite Crawler” sign violated local zoning regulations banning the advertising of home businesses so they shut…him…down. Yup, the town of Cromwell hit a thirteen-year-old boy with a cease and desist order. One member of the commission said that Cadieux should’ve done like anybody else: “In a residential zone, if you want to put up a business and work out of your home you really need a special permit…[y]ou come before the commission and state your case.”
At least some officials in the town are reasonable, acknowledging that the commission’s decision goes against common sense: “This was over the top. Kids selling night crawlers and lemonade are part and parcel of life in small-town Connecticut.” The commission, however, appears to be enjoying its power trip and is unwilling to budge on the issue. Is there really nothing better for them to do than go after a kid selling worms? If not, sounds like the Cromwell taxpayers could see their money spent in a much more useful manner, ‘cause this is just ridiculous.
What is the Creative Commons?
If you’ve ever wondered what the Creative Commons is (hint: it’s a relaxed open-source type of copyright licensing that encourages sharing and free-use of works while still protecting an author’s rights), then you should check out QuizLaw’s latest set of substantive legal answers to your Creative Commons questions – What is the Creative Commons? You can learn about things like the six types of creative commons licenses (such as the “attribution non-commercial no derivatives” license and the attribution license) as well as the individual elements that make up those licenses (such as attribution and “share alike”)?
The most exciting way to spend a Friday afternoon? Not so much. But it’s informative, and if I learned anything when I was I kid, I learned that “knowing is half the battle”….go Joe!
The Daily Memo - 8/11/06
A Utah cemetery has been sued by a widow because her husband’s selected burial plot, contracted for in 1964, has been paved over with a road. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Here an idiot, there an idiot, everywhere an idiot idiot
An Oklahoma man, 64-year-old Leon Warren, has been arrested for running his own little 1930’s-style distillery. Turns out, running your own whiskey still is a felony, and it’s a misdemeanor for having liquor that hasn’t been properly taxed. Whoda’ thunk it? As a result, the schlub-in-overalls could wind up getting smacked with a $5K fine and up to three years in the clink. While our friend here may be a yokel, at least Warren got busted and didn’t turn himself in.
The same can’t be said for West Virginia’s Dennis Fields. This wondernut gave a bag of weed to the cops, apparently of his own volition, claiming that he had purchased it the prior night but didn’t need it anymore. He was given a citation for drug possession and sent on his way. In less than two hours, Fields showed up at the local police station and gave the cops two more bags of weed! Better yet, the cops figured out that at least part of the reason Fields was so free to volunteer his goodies was because he was loaded (he ended up blowing a 0.25 on the breathalyzer), so he got himself arrested for public intoxication. Unsurprisingly, one of the cops said this is one of the stupidest things he’s seen in almost two decades on the force. And for a cop working in West Virginia, I suspect that’s really saying something.
I also suspect that Fields and Warren would get along real good-like.
Breaking News: Post-Crash America Still Racist
I’m confused. After the Academy finally gave an Oscar for Best Picture to a rich, white Scientologist who lectured our country about race relations, I thought we’d finally solved this whole “racism” problem in America. I mean, we’d been given a successful film about bigotry with words short enough and colors bright enough that even Southern hairdressers could understand it, right?
Well, apparently Paul Haggis needs to head back to the drawing board. The subtlety of forced-eye removal is no longer enough. If we expect America’s hair stylists to take their cues from Hollywood films, we’re going to need to shoot for something closer to the blunt force trauma of a three-ton steel pylon to the temple.
Indeed, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today had to reinstate Jean and Seandria Denny’s race discrimination case against an Elizabeth Ardons Salon in Virginia (PDF of the Opinion via How Appealing). It seems that Seandra had purchased a $295 salon package for her mother over the phone. The salon at the time didn’t object, either because they didn’t mind taking $300 from a black person, or were too ignorant to realize that a black person could actually afford to go to the salon. At any rate, Seandra decided to upgrade her package to include a hair coloring for her mother. However, when she appeared at the salon to pay for the dye job, the receptionist did absolutely nothing to hide her displeasure. She (allegedly) just said that there was a “problem.” And what was that problem, pray tell? We don’t “do black people’s hair.”
Come again? I don’t believe this salon had a whites-only sign on the door, did it? There weren’t separate water fountains for “colored” people were there? Are there still poll taxes down in Virginia? Oh, and don’t get the idea that the bigotry was exclusive to the receptionist. No sir. The salon’s manager, allegedly, actually asked the eight or nine stylists on duty about styling Jean, and every damn one of them refused to do Jean’s hair.
Well, I guess the lesson here is: If they ever expect anyone to listen, Hollywood is just going to have to get prettier white people to tell us that it’s not okay to discriminate against black people.
The Daily Memo - 8/10/06
The American Bar Association has condemned Bush’s use of signing statements allegedly exempting himself from the bills he signs into law. (FindLaw)
The meatloaf is settled. (The Post Chronicle)
An Arizona Court has granted an attorney’s motion to compel his opposing counsel to meet him for lunch. (The Legal Reader)
Here’s the scoop behind the name of one of Fall Out Boy’s tracks on “From Under the Cork Tree,” called “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued.” (WSJ Law Blog)
A town outside of Boston may pass a local ordinance banning loud landscaping, including the use of lawnmowers and trimmers, before 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings. (CBS4)
A Seattle judge has been disciplined with an admonishment for ordering folks in her courtroom to issue a cheer for the Seahawks last year before their Super Bowl appearance. (Chron.com)
A public service message for all my California State Bar brethren out there…
The good folks over at May It Please the Court have pointed out that the bastards over at the California State Bar are actually selling member e-mails to legal vendors. That’s such horseshit! So if you’re a member of the California bar and you don’t want your e-mail address being pimped out, either shoot off an e-mail (including your bar number) to firstname.lastname@example.org, give their Member Services Center a call at 888-800-3400 or 415-538-2225 or register a profile on bar website and then choose to opt-out.
Hmmm…I think Wiley Miller is saying that he’s not a strict constructionist
Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur comic strip for today:
Twinkie Defense? What about the Cigarette-Break Defense?!
As a QuizLaw public service, several months ago we set the record straight on the McDonald’s hot-coffee ordeal, a personal injury case which, mostly through urban myth, began to typify the gross need for tort reform, even though the $2.9 million jury award in that particular case was appropriate given McDonald’s scurrilous conduct. But what of the Twinkie Defense, the legal strategy cited as an example of what’s wrong with criminal lawyers? Again, never really happened.
The actual case concerned a former city supervisor, Dan White, who broke into a city building and killed both San Francisco’s mayor and city supervisor. During White’s defense, his team of lawyers argued that he was suffering from untreated depression that diminished his capacity to tell right from wrong (and thus should not be convicted of first-degree premeditated murder). As part of his diminished capacity defense, one expert witness suggested that White, who was very health conscious, had recently turned to Twinkies and other junk food, which was alleged evidence of his depression. Of course, when White was convicted of the lesser charge, no one remembered why he ate Twinkies (because he was depressed), they only remembered that he enjoyed the soft-yellow spongy goodness, and thus the myth was born.
But while White’s case didn’t actually rely on Twinkies in an attempt to exonerate him, novel off-the-wall defenses are not always the stuff of myth. Take Philip Elmore, a Columbus, Ohio man who is facing the death penalty after beating his girlfriend to death with a lead pipe. In his death penalty appeal, Elmore’s lawyers argued that the sentencing jury was needlessly rushed to arrive at its decision. Why? Because, during deliberations, the jurors were denied a cigarette break.
The court’s justices, who are obviously all non-smokers, seemed unimpressed. But as ridiculous as it might seem, I for one wouldn’t want a group of jurors suffering from nic fits to be the ones deciding whether or not I should live or die. As anyone who has ever smoked knows, when you’re denied a cigarette break, you think everyone should die.
The Daily Memo - 8/9/06
Sly Stallone has settled the lawsuit brought by a boxer who claims he was the inspiration for Rocky and its progeny. (FindLaw)
Two new civil lawsuits have been filed in connection with the ongoing debacle that is Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
In California, a push is on for a state law banning pet owners from keeping their dogs tied up for more than three hours a day. (SFGate)
A Minnesota massage therapist may lose her license because she started schtupping her eventual husband after their professional relationship ended, but before the legally mandated two year waiting period had expired. (Yahoo! news)
The feds are being sued by a man who, while in a national forest, fell off a cliff while going to take a leak. (Oregon Live)
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Acceptance of Lunch Invitation (The Legal Reader)
At least he didn’t call the judge “sugar tits”
If there’s anything my law school and law firm days taught me, it’s that many lawyers drink. A lot. There’s no denying that. But most of them have at least a semblance of professionalism, knowing that there’s a time and place for imbibing. But a Las Vegas attorney by the name of Joseph Caramango has apparently been spending a little too much time in Sin City and must now be displeased to learn that whatever happens in Vegas does not, as promised, always stay in Vegas.
See, Caramango was defending a man in a criminal trial where said man was facing life imprisonment. Kinda’ an important thing. So when Caramango showed up 90 minutes late for the trial, with his speech a little slurry, the judge asked if he was ok. I’m sure you can now see where this is going. Caramango claimed that he’d just gotten into a car accident and banged his noggin, which was why he was late and a little out of it. The judge also asked Caramango who the woman was that came in with him, and the attorney said she was an ex-girlfriend named Christine. When the judge asked “Christine,” directly, who she was, she said her name was actually Josephine and that she met Caramango about 20 minutes ago in a nearby bar/coffee shop. Whoops.
Because of inconsistencies in his story like this little Christine/Josephine thing, the judge didn’t buy Caramango’s story and made him blow into a breathalyzer, which revealed that Caramango had a blood-alcohol level of 0.075. Caramango claims that this test wasn’t accurate and that, anyway, “If it proved anything, it proved I was not intoxicated.” Apparently, his logic is that because he blew below Nevada’s legal limit for driving (which is 0.08) then he wasn’t actually drunk and all is good in the world. Tool.
Needless to say, a mistrial was declared, although the attorney was not held in contempt, which is a little mindboggling. If showing up late and loaded for a criminal trial, recently met floozy in tow, isn’t contemptuous of the courtroom, well then I really don’t know what is.
A QuizLaw Lesson in Internet Porn
A few weeks ago, the QuizLaw blog provided a valuable lesson on at-will employment and its relationship to a children’s television host who was fired for advocating anal sex many years ago. Today, QuizLaw digs even deeper, offering another session on workplace law, this time concerning Internet use.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that your name is Jeffery Brian Ziegler and you’re an important person in a billing firm. And hypothetically, let’s say that your job doesn’t always offer the most exciting tasks and, well, you’ve got your own office hidden away from everyone else. So one afternoon, when things slow down a bit, you decide to surf around the Internet. But you’re not really interested in checking out the gossip blogs or even our fair site, which is a shame, because we might’ve saved you from a criminal conviction and a lot of embarrassment. What you are interested in, however, are nudie pictures of “very, very young girls.” In other words, you’re a pervert.
What you don’t know, meanwhile, is that your workplace actually monitors your Internet activity. And, lo and behold, the IT guy at your office has discovered, through caches of your Internet activity, that you have a fondness for child pornography. And it’s not like you just stumbled into the underage cesspool of flesh via the random email spam with the subject heading “horny amateur teen.” No, actually, there is ample evidence showing that you had searched for things like “preteen girls” and “underage girls.”
So, the IT guy calls the Feds, complaining that there is a kiddie-porn fiend in the office, and the Feds bust your ass and download your hard drives. And, of course, you’re all embarrassed that you got caught with your hand in the underage cookie jar, so you file a suppression motion.
Which brings us to the question of the day: Do you have a legitimate expectation of privacy in your office and your computer.
And the answer, at least according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is: Hell no! There is no expectation of privacy in your workplace computer, dumbass! Your company paid for the computer, your company paid for the Internet access and your company paid you for your time. Moreover, employer monitoring is an assumed practice, so what the hell are you doing looking at little girls without their dresses? In short, you’re going to jail, brother.
The Daily Memo - 8/8/06
Here’s the FAQ you may have been looking for about Congress. (YourCongress)
Jerry Lewis has filed a lawsuit over a seven-year-old deal to remake 1961’s The Errand Boy, alleging that he’s owed several million dollars. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
“The RIAA vs. John Doe, a layperson’s guide to filesharing lawsuits.” (The Digital Music Weblog)
Chris Cornell (lead singer of Audioslave and formerly of Soundgarden) has sued his former attorney and accountant for negligence relating to the handling of his divorce. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
Martha Stewart has settled her civil case with the SEC, agreeing to pay just shy of $200K in fines. (Zap2It)
Chief Justice Roberts say more of those involved in the law should actually sit down and give a good read to the Constitution. (WSJ Law Blog)
Where’s Judge Dredd when you need him?
Justice at Stake, an organization that’s been around since 2002, has a stated goal of wanting “to educate the public and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom.” Recently, the group’s executive director (Bert Brandenburg) published a compelling piece on Slate.com about the potential erosion of judicial independence. In Bench-Clearing Brawl, Brandenburg discusses some fall ballot initiatives (in states such as Colorado, Montana, Oregon and South Dakota) which could have serious impacts on the state judiciaries’ ability to properly do their job. Brandenburg is calling the judges and their supporters to essentially rise up to protect judicial independence.
I’m not sure that I agree with all of Brandenberg’s statements or assessments, but I do agree with the underlying principle that there’s a need for our courts to retain their independence from increasingly muddy politics and wind-of-the-day mentalities. The idea that a judge could, or should, be recalled or punished or thrown off of the bench at a spur of the moment because of one “rogue” or unpopular decision is a little scary. I’m not saying, nor is Brandenburg, that there shouldn’t be judicial accountability (although, let’s not forget that the Supremes have virtually no such accountability). But I do think that our system only works if judges know that they, themselves, are being judged and assessed based on their total voting record, and not any one decision, statement or action. And yes, I recognize that this is a somewhat idealistic and naive viewpoint, since the same can be said about politicians and we know that’s about as likely as my induction into the football Hall of Fame - but with some work, I think it is possible to get close-to-the-ideal with the judiciary, in a way we’ll never truly see with the executive or legislature.
Anyway, the point of this entry isn’t to preach or to particularly convince you one way or the other. Rather, I just think many folks forget this important branch of our governing system and don’t know as much about it as they should.
Sometimes, Lawyers Just Suck
Defamer has already covered this story with the middle-of-the-brow snarkiness we’ve come to know and love, but for the anti-hipsters (read: lawyers and law students) who still think that Nick Denton is the shortstop for some West Coast MLB team, the story bears repeating, if only to show how the despicable behavior of a client fosters despicable behavior from lawyers.
The story concerns an article written by the LAT about a
date-rape allegation brought by an 18-year-old former virgin against Joe Francis, the purveyor of the “Girls Gone Wild Videos” and walking gag-reflex. Joe has had a history of lawsuits, though the son of bitch keeps coming out clean, hiding his exploitative brand of misogyny behind the First Amendment. Anyway, according to Jannel Szyszka, she was grabbed by Francis one night and invited to do a few shots, which led to an unseemly performance in front of the camera. Minutes later, however, Francis asked the camera man to leave and “pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her.” According to Szyszka:
I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, ‘No’ twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, ‘Oh, my god, it hurts.’ I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn’t keep talking.
After the incident, Francis asked the cameraman to return and told him, “She’s not a virgin anymore.” Afterwards, Francis asked Szyszka to keep the incident between themselves. Several weeks later, Francis then threatened to ruin the LAT reporter for printing the story, referring her to his lawyer, Michael Kerry Burke, who responded with this email:
“Neither Mr. Francis nor any of the GGW staff in or around the bus recall Ms. Szyszka making any complaint or comment about Mr. Francis. In fact, Ms. Szyszka was in good spirits after the encounter, and numerous witnesses have stated that she danced with her friends outside the bus for nearly two hours afterward … Though Mr. Francis cannot speak to Ms. Szyszka’s discomfort during the encounter, other news stories have commented that Mr. Francis is reputedly well-endowed.”
Welcome to the legal profession, folks. Make millions of dollars for high-profile clients by dismissing rape allegations by claiming that your client is well-endowed. Because, you know, penis size is absolutely relevant to question of consent. In fact, it’s the next trend in legal defense: Forget about the Twinkie defense, folks. From here on out, expect to hear a lot about the large-member defense. Are you taking notes, David Kelly?
Election Day - The Texan Way
Last week, Texas Republicans were bitch slapped by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the election ballot this November must contain Tom DeLay’s name, after he won the Republican Primary in March. DeLay resigned from his House seat in June, after he was indicted on money laundering and corruption charges. The Texas GOP had tried to get DeLay off the ballot so that they could add another nominee, seeking to disqualify the Hammer as the nominee by arguing that he’d moved to Virginia. The U.S. Constitution does require that a House member live in-state, but the 5th Circuit said the question is where he’s living on Election Day, not now; arguably, DeLay could move back to Texas before November. The Republicans have vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Aside from the huge, honking blemish the DeLay scandal has left on the Republican party, and the fact that having him on the ballot gives the Democrats an easy target this fall, we here at QuizLaw had wondered why DeLay would be so adamant about getting his name off the ballot. And then we saw another story, revealing that a Texas judge squashed DeLay’s attempt to carry a gun in Texas while his felony trial is pending.
And then it all made perfect sense. Of course! From what we understand of Texas Election law, the Republican and Democratic candidates face off in a pistol duel on election day, and lacking the requisite firepower, DeLay is looking at a six-shooter to the stomach this November 7th. Well, no wonder he moved to Virginia.
The Daily Memo - 8/7/06
The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that a biological father may have superior parental rights that trump the rights of adoptive parents. (The Albuquerque Tribune)
A white supremacist currently serving 40 years for trying to whack a federal judge is suing his old attorney for malpractice because, among other things, the attorney allegedly put more blacks on the jury than there should have been. (Law.com)
Mr. Edwin Ng was fulfilling his civic obligations last week, acting as a member of a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York. During a jury break, however, Mr. Ng apparently decided that the process was not keeping things exciting enough for him so he went off into the jury’s assembly room to, uhm, entertain himself. When a court employee came in to restock the vending machine, she found Mr. Ng “fondling himself.” She ratted him out to the marshals, who took him into custody.
In addition to being charged with disorderly conduct and public lewdness, Ng was also charged with the destruction of government property, said property being the green carpet in the jury room. While the article is silent on the point, this third charge suggests that Ng “finished,” which makes this sentence from the Daily News article all the more amusing: “He was discharged from jury duty.”
Two Friday Afternoon Quickies
Ok, our Senators can officially blow me. It appears that some of them are getting fed up at the fact that non-Senatorial types are using the Senator-only elevator, making it oh-so-crowded for our poor pampered elected officials. Complained New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg: “Sometimes you have to shove your way through, push people.” The horror! The only person with any sense here seems to be fomer Louisiana Senator John Breaux: “I think the elevators are designed to keep members of the public from having to ride with senators.” Good on, Senator Breaux, good on.
And speaking of good on, a big surprising good on to Lucasfilm. YouTube recently took down a bunch of fan-films, spoofing and parodying Star Wars, because of concerns over copyright infringement after Lucas requested the removal of one specific YouTube video. Well when the folks at Lucas Arts found out, they took action by releasing a public statement to let “the fan film community…know that this was not done at our request.” Lucas also “asked YouTube to restore any works that they inadvertently removed.” Nice to see that big behemoth companies can sometimes remember the fans that made ‘em what they are, and remember that a little flexibility is a good thing.
The Daily Memo - 8/4/06
A North Carolina lawyer who couldn’t get himself on the ballot to run for Durham district attorney has now started a write-in campaign focused on the fact that he would “re-discuss” the Duke lacrosse rape case with the stripper who made the allegations. (WSOCTV
A New Jersey appellate court has overturned a lower decision that found a stadium concessions vendor liable for selling beer to an already drunk fan who later got into a car accident, paralyzing a girl. (SI)
The FCC has ordered Time Warner Cable to put the NFL Network back on former Adelphia systems, giving consumers at least 30-days notice before yanking the network. (ESPN)
Crazy Gets a New Bedfellow: Religio-Pederastic Wackjob
Umm. This one’s kind of creepy, folks. Out in Cleveland this week, Phillip Distasio, who is also the leader of one of those old-school (and by “old-school,” I mean: Platonic era) loony churches, the Arcadian Fields Ministries, is on trial for 74 counts of rape, pandering obscenity to minors, and passing out doobies to kids. Allegedly, Mr. Loco—Pyschotic (that charming guy pictured to the left) molested two disabled boys he tutored at his home and raped seven autistic boys at a school for special-needs students where he was a teacher’s aide; all but one of the victims were under 13.
But rather than deny the charges and volunteer a perjurious defense like any self-respecting sexual offender, Distasio has instead offered a novel defense, telling his judge that his apartment was a religious sanctuary where diddling mentally retarded boys and sharing fatties with them was a sacred ritual protected by civil rights laws.
Come again? Lemmie clear the earwax? What was that? “I’m a pedophile. I’ve been a pedophile for 20 years,” Distasio, who compares himself to St. Francis and St. Ignatius, said during a pretrial hearing. “The only reason I’m charged with rape is that no one believes a child can consent to sex. The role of my ministry is to get these cases out of the courtrooms … Not all pedophilia is bad, and sex [with boys] can be healthy.”
Holy Mary Mother of Nutjob. Healthy for who, jackass? You know what, Phil? I’m not a death-penalty advocate, myself; but in a case like this, I wouldn’t object if you were to find a healthy amount of electrical current in your Vanilla Latte one morning. But I suppose you’ll find out soon enough just how healthy sex with boys can be, when a large hairy man named Tiny has you pinned up against a jail-cell wall whispering the Constitution in your ear.
I’m in a Glass Case of Emotion!
For those of you who love to annoy your wives, fellow cubicle monkeys, law students, and/or high-paid suit-wearing Lexis researchers with your lengthy/banal conversations about real athletes accumulating real stats for your “fantasy” players, be warned: Some schmuckish law firm is bringing a class action lawsuit against ESPN, TSN, The Sporting News, et. al., alleging that fantasy sports is illegal gambling. According to the press release, Chuck Humphrey (heretofore known as the most reviled man in QuizLawian history) asserts that fantasy leagues skirt the anti-gambling laws by claiming that the game involves skill, when, in fact (according to Chuck), the “contests are games of chance.”
Chance?! Chance?! I spend half of my waking hours between September and December scanning stats, injury reports, and insipid fantasy columns written by 12-year-old prodigies with psychic powers, and every Sunday for 17 weeks trapped for 12 hours in front of a flickering screen yelling at my pretend players for a game of “chance”? If this is a game of chance, Chuck, then what the hell am I going to do with this 23-page spreadsheet?
Listen, Chuck: “Chance” is whether my wife will leave me for obsessing over fantasy sports, “chance” is whether Will Ferrell’s next movie will bring him back to his former meth-fueled glory, “chance,” is a card you pick up if you land on the appropriate Monopoly square. Fantasy Sports, on the other hand, is all skill. And this lawsuit is a ridiculous get-rich scheme with very little merit filed, apparently, to bring attention on the country’s biggest buzz kill. My guess: Chuck’s upset because no one has ever invited him into their fantasy league, and he’s like, “Well, if I can’t have any fun, then no one can.”
Oh, and according to the complaint, Chuck is suing under state qui tam laws, which allow the state to recover half the money and Chuck to collect the other half, so it’s not like Chuck is looking out for fantasy owners getting fleeced by corporate America. Dude’s just trying to cash a check. Go back to your ambulance chasin’, Chuck. You got no case;besides, without fantasy sports, men would have nothing to talk to each other about. You want that on your conscience, Chuck?
I Hope He’s Got a Copy of Hudson Hawk
If you haven’t heard, scrapbooking has swept the nation! For the nostalgic blue-hair with some free time, a paper trimmer, and some decorative scissors, scrapbooking is the hottest thing since hackey sack. But it’s not just for old ladies in nursing homes with nothing better to do than memorialize the last 70 years of their hard-drinking, pill-popping, promiscuous ways. Now, even washed-up celebrities trying to reclaim their former glory are hitting the acid-free paper, so that they can prove to their grandchildren that they were once relevant.
Take Bruce Willis, for instance. He went the extra-mile and outsourced his scrapbooking plans to a childhood friend, Bruce DiMattia, who Willis housed and charged with organizing “private family photographs, videotapes, DVDs and films depicting Willis and his family members.” But if you’ve seen the “Entourage” episodes involving Vince’s childhood friend, Dom, you probably already know where this is going.
Yep, DiMattia pilfered the Shrek doll, stealing Willis’ keepsakes and putting together his own manuscript, threatening to expose to the entire world that Willis was once a celebrity of note unless Willis paid him $100,000 and a new car. But John McClane’s not one to give in to a shakedown, so Willis turned tables on DiMattia, bringing a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages and asking for the return of Willis’ private mementos.
The Daily Memo - 8/3/06
While your taste buds may suggest otherwise, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that MGD is, in fact, beer. (NBC10)
The California Supreme Court has ruled that the Lord of the Dance can continue his extortion lawsuit, and provided some interesting precedent on the increasingly used California anti-SLAPP statute. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)
A New York attorney has been disbarred because she decided to try to forge a judge’s signature on a divorce stipulation. (Law.com)
Star Jones is threatening legal action over the continued allegations that she’s Al Reynolds’ beard. (Defamer)
Tommy Lee’s helicopter pilot is being charged for recklessly landing the chopper on a public Hollywood street to let Tommy off. (CNN)
You got served!
Via our friends over at May It Please the Court comes this fantastic little find. Last month, it would seem that one George C Swinger Jr. (not pictured at left) was representing himself in a lawsuit (what us lawyers refer to as “pro per”). It would also seem that he lost the case and felt slighted by the judge overseeing the matter. So he did what any good lawyer would do, and filed a Notice of Appeal.
Unlike any good lawyer, however, his Notice was handwritten. And unlike most lawyers, he was a bit more, uhm, flippant in assessing the outcome of his matter:
I hereby am informing you that I am appealing the asshole Ronald B. Leighton’s decision in this matter.
You have been hereby served notice, you’re not getting away with this shit that easy.
Succinct. To the point. This is just fantastic. Cheers to you, Mr. Swinger and, ah, good luck with that appeal.
I didn’t know Mel Gibson was a lawyer…
Earlier this week, Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger (who previously defended Jack Kevorkian) found himself being smacked on the wrists by the Michigan Supreme Court. In a split 4-3 decision, the state’s high court reprimanded the attorney over a little 1998 hullabaloo. Seems that Fieger’s not a fan of many state judges - for instance, he once referred to a state appeals court panel as “squirrels, mollusks and lizards.” However, what got Fieger in real hot water this time were two 1998 radio appearances where he railed on members of the state Court of Appeals, calling them jackasses and comparing them to Hitler and the Nazis (see, that’s where the Mel Gibson reference in the title comes from…”QuizLaw - clever and timely!”). The majority opinion also says that the attorney suggested that the judges “should be anally molested by finger, fist or plunger.” This Fieger sounds like a real sweetheart.
Unsurprisingly, these radio tirades led to a complaint being filed with the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. The Board dismissed the complaint in 2004, finding that Fieger had a First Amendment right to criticize the judges. Well, the Michigan Supreme Court disagrees, finding these “vulgar and crude” attacks to be poor conduct amounting to unwarranted “personal abuse.” Lucky for Fieger, a prior deal means that this ruling amounts to nothing more than a public reprimand, although he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court anyway.
I gotta’ say, this Fieger sounds like a douchebag, and his comments may not really amount to political speech. But I don’t think they amount to the kind of speech that isn’t protected by the First Amendment. I’m all for an independent judiciary, and I agree that there’s a certain amount of decorum and respect that should be given when in the courtroom, but I don’t think that amounts to all walks of life. I should be free to talk about a judge who ruled against me and colloquially call him a douchebag if I want, just as plainly as I’m free to talk about Fieger and call him a douchebag and compare him to a drunken Hollywood anti-Semite.
The Daily Memo - 8/2/06
Yikes - right out of an episode of “Nip/Tuck,” a Brazilian couple has been charged with unlicensed practice of medicine after a woman died in their basement from a botched liposuction. (FindLaw)
Ever wonder what lawyers shouldn’t do in the courtroom? (WSJ Law Blog)
A Chicago woman is suing Borders, claiming their faulty toilet seat permanently disfigured her when she fell off it as sitting down to do her business. (CBS2 Chicago)
Phew! Meat Loaf has resolved his legal troubles with former partner Jim Steinman. (Star Pulse)
That dude who was suing Michael Jordan and Nike for $800 million because he allegedly looks like Mike has decided to drop his lawsuit for unstated reasons, presumably because he finally realized it was stupid as hell. (The Oregonian)
Who the Hell You Calling Sugar Tits, Otis?
Though we are a legal blog that often focuses on celebrities, and though the biggest celebrity legal story in ages is all over the blogosphere, the tabloids, the six ‘o clock news, and the back of every cereal box in American by now — besides wondering why Mel Gibson would bite the Jew that feeds him — we’ve given the story short shrift.
But, yesterday, Mel Gibson issued his second apology in as many days, expressing self-disgust for the anti-Semitic tirade he went off on after his arrest, asking us to forgive him because, apparently, a few too many vodka-tonics makes it okay to hate Jewish people. In what sounded more like a last-ditch effort to save his unsalvageable career, Gibson made the following statement:
Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith. … There will be many in that (Jewish) community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.
But, you know what’s kind of sad? Beyond the anti-Semitism, and beyond that fact that he was engaged in an activity (drunk driving) that is responsible for 18,000 deaths a year, no one seems to be focusing on something damn near just as offensive. I mean, c’mon: Mel Gibson called a female police officer “sugar tits.” Sugar tits?! Where the hell is the National Organization of Women on this? Or Equality Now? Or Bitch magazine? Seriously! A couple of years ago, the feminist fed Arnold Schwarzenegger to the goddamn wolves when he called Democrats “girlie men” during the Republican National Convention. But where are they today?
Oh, I see. Apparently, if you drink enough, and deliver a profanity-laced tirade suggesting that an ethnic group is at fault for all the miseries of world, then you somehow get a free pass on the whole “sugar tits,” thing. So, for all you 18-wheeler drivers out there, keep that in mind next time your Waffle House waitress scolds you for calling her sugar tits and slapping her ass after she brings you your Folgers. And when she rears back her coffee pot and like she’s gonna slap the caked-on Mrs. Butterworths off your sugar lips, ask yourself this question? Is it better to have all six million Jews in the U.S. hate you for the rest of your life, or the ire of one angry working woman with a lethal weapon in her hand hate you for that one split second?
Your career? Or your life? I think we know which Mel Gibson chose.
Cars Don’t Kill People, Drivers Kill People
I’m a big fan of thematic posts, and today we are offered not one, but two stories that involve murderous car-related shenanigans.
First off, in Tampa, Florida (where else), a man goes on trial today for taking his brand of ridiculous vigilante justice in a stick-up-and-run. Lawrence Storer was sitting in his Ford Explorer one day, taking a break from work, when Shantavious Wilson pulled a gun and ordered Storer to go into his restaurant, where Wilson made off in a heist that netted him a whopping $15. Storer, however, wasn’t about to let those three crispy Lincolns escape his company. So, what does he do? He jumps in his Explorer, travels the wrong way down a one-way street, and flat-out runs Wilson over, killing him instantly. He faces up to 15 years in prison, though there is no word on whether he got his $15 back.
But if you think that’s bad, get a load of this: Out in L.A., two elderly women who needed some quick cash thought it’d be a great idea to befriend a couple of homeless men, take them in, feed and clothe them, and then take out three dozen life insurance policies on them, obtaining their signatures while pouring vodka down their gullets. So, what do old ladies do with 36 life insurance policies on old men? Take out a hit, of course. Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, and Helen Golay, 75, arranged a couple of hit and runs to do away with their homeless victims, allowing them to collect on the insurance policies. Some industrious insurance investigator, however, was smart enough to put two and two together, and now the blue-hairs are facing the death penalty.
And I don’t know about you, but I have a sudden hankerin’ to watch Stephen King’s Christine. There’s nothing like a Plymouth Fury to settle a score.
The Daily Memo - 8/1/06
A call to arms, as some state ballots are attempting to further politicize local courts and whittle away judicial independence. (Slate)
An Iowa sheriff allegedly stole over $100,000 from a suspect’s car which had almost $800,000 in it. (MSNBC)
The good guys at Fox News are apparently close to settling a sex discrimination lawsuit stemming from four women who were allegedly harassed by a marketing executive. (Variety)
The attorney of a Florida man convicted of killing six people over an Xbox is now trying to keep the man off death row by arguing that he was just scared and stupid. (NBC6)
An Indiana town official got busted trying to steal funds from the town when he paid himself more money than was in the budget. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Whoever’s homeless and hungry in Vegas stays homeless and hungry in Vegas
Wow. Las Vegas’ local city council has banned all charities from giving free food to the homeless. While individual folks (“Good Samaritans”) can still give handouts, the ban prevents “mobile soup kitchens” from taking any organized efforts to make sure the homeless are fed. Any violators of this ban risk being hit with fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The apparent impetus behind this ban is that local residents were getting pissed off at these mobile soup kitchens because they would setup in parks, and when all the homeless would gather around for handouts, the residents weren’t able to enjoy their precious parks. Of course, the council is now spinning this as being intended to encourage the homeless to go to centers, which is much better for them. The reality which the council ignores is that many of them won’t go to these centers - that’s the whole reason these mobile soup kitchens pop up in the first place.
Las Vegas - getting close, one step at a time, to being truly deserving of the “sin city” moniker.