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Monthly Archives: October 2006

A Legitimate Reason to Write: Slut Monkey

slutmonkey.jpgThe Washington Post reported last week that a former employee for hip-hop magazine The Source successfully sued the editors of the publication for $14.5 million. Kimberly Ossario, the former editor in chief who got shitcanned last year, filed a retaliation lawsuit against the magazine, claiming that she was terminated for complaining about sexual shenanigans at the office. Included in the suit were allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and defamation.

Osorio claimed that one founder, David Scott Mays, repeatedly begged her for sex and that another editor threatened to “knock her upside her fucking head.” The sexual harassment and discrimination suits were thrown out, but the jury upheld the retaliation claim. The jury agreed that Osorio was fired for complaining about a workplace where executives watched porn, smoked doobies, and called females “bitches.” Another of the magazine’s founders, Raymond Scott, also called a journalist an “ugly bitch” and a “slut monkey.”

The attorney for The Source argued that the hostility in the workplace had nothing to do with gender, asserting “They used the ‘fuck’ word, the ‘shit’ word, the ‘damn’ word. It was not a gender-specific conduct whatsoever.”

“I feel like I’ve been vindicated,” said Kimberly Osorio. “Whether it’s hip hop, rock ‘n’ roll or the post office, there’s still laws a company needs to abide by.”

Personally, I just wish that my colleague here at QuizLaw understood the laws on hostile work environment. Following his team’s fantasy football win against my heralded “Cock Reavers” in September, he could be heard around the office claiming to be my “Daddy.” Even more offensive, however, is that when he tokes up, he never shares, declaring that the good stuff is only for “winners” and that I’m his “little bitch.”

Where’s my $14.5 million, huh? Slut monkey.

The Daily Memo - 10/31/06

check.jpgA Halloween advisory - if you own a costume shop and your kids hang around out front in Halloween costumes you, too, can get cited for using signs without a permit. (May It Please the Court)

check.jpgOver at Concurring Opinions, my previously blogged about high school compatriot is planning a rather in-depth look at Xoxohth (a “law school admissions discussion board”) that sounds rather promising. (Concurring Opinions)

check.jpgI hate Bill Parcells, but I love any legal blog that mentions football, even if it is the Tuna. (Legal Profession Blog)

check.jpgAnd speaking of football, the Philadelphia Eagles are making me utterly miserable right now, and while I’m not sure where the legal connection is (unless this is going to help me get a case together to sue the franchise for the heartburn and soul-crushing it’s causing me), again, gotta’ throw some link love to any legal blog that cites football. (Is that Legal?)

check.jpgMySpace is working to crack down on its users improperly posting copyrighted music. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.

check.jpgThe ABA’s November “Tips from the Trenches” gives lawyers some advice on telling a judge that he F’ed up. (American Bar Association

check.jpgFinally, it will be legal to get tattoos in Oklahoma! (FindLaw)

ESPN: The Worldwide Leader in Getting Sued

panda.jpgHarold Reynolds spent a little more than a decade as a second baseman in the majors, most of that time with the Seattle Mariners. After retiring, he moved over to ESPN as a baseball analyst and commentator. Apparently, he didn’t leave second base behind, because he was fired last July for alleged sexual harassment (see what I did there with the “second base” pun? It’s a good thing I’m the editor, or I could be fired for this kinda’ crap). Specifically, Reynolds allegedly gave an “inappropriate hug” to another ESPN employee during an outing at Outback Steakhouse (“come for the onion bloom, stay for the fondling!”). Reynolds, for his part, of course claims that it was a simple misunderstanding and apparently tried to get his ESPN job back.

Since that didn’t work out so well, he is now, of course, planning to sue the Worldwide Leader. In a public statement he says that he “tried everything possible to handle this situation quietly behind closed doors” but that “ESPN had no intention of solving this problem amicably.” ESPN of course stands by its decision to shitcan Reynolds and says that “[t]he suit is without merit.”

Reynolds was actually one of the few mouths on ESPN that I actually didn’t mind listening too, but I’m nevertheless rooting for ESPN here, strictly for entertainment value. If it turns out that Reynolds did, in fact, get a little grabby and inappropriate, it’s quite possible that this wasn’t the first time. Which means other incidents may come out during the lead-up to a trial (inevitably leaked “anonymously” by ESPN as a tactic to force settlement) and in these kind of cases, those past incidents can often be wildly entertaining (I’m remembering one sexual harassment case I worked on where there was a lot of hub-bub over little naked chocolate ladies - good times!). And I’m all about being entertained by lawsuits.

I can’t wait until “Behind the Lines: The Reynolds Incidents” airs. Or an over/under PTI segment on the number of incidents in Reynold’s past, wherein Wilbon will invariably take zero and be lambasted by Kornheiser, who will take some ridiculous number like forty-seven. Although what I’d really love to see is Gary Cole and Jason Bateman giving us a play-by-play of the depositions and trial on ESPN 8 “The Ocho.”


I don’t think a Fair Witness would be so vulgar (although Heinlein would certainly be amused)

stranger.jpgSo the WSJ Law Blog appears to be a little in love with a book called “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law.” One example why comes from the author’s explanation of how he trains witnesses to give very patient and narrow answers at depositions by using the example of Heinlein’s Fair Witness (from Stranger in a Strangeland). Fair Witnesses give very specific and narrow answers, without any personal opinion or speculation, and that’s exactly what a deposition witness should do.

I gotta’ give a thumbs up to any book which cites to Heinlein for practical legal techniques. Although, personally, when I was preparing witnesses for depositions I found the easiest way to get them to understand was to tell them to answer like a five-year old. You know how you’ll ask a little kid a question and they’ll often give you a nice simple answer which is often utterly infuriating because it’s a simple and direct answer to the question but not an answer to what you were really asking? Well that’s how a depo witness should answer - truthful, but simple. And invariably, the worst witnesses (and the ones who get themselves and the case in the most trouble) are the ones who try to be all clever and/or fuck with the questioning attorney. Never works.

Although it can be entertaining to watch (and yes, we’ve posted this before, but it’s just too damn funny):

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have reached our cruising altitude of 33 thousand feet. 33 THOUSAND FEET? Oh shit, man! We fuckin’ higher than Redman at the Source Awards!

snoop.jpgFor those of you whose sole source of news comes from QuizLaw and “The Daily Show,” which only airs Monday through Thursday, you might have missed Friday’s arrest of Snoop Dogg, also known as the far less back-doory, Calvin Broadus. Snoop was stopped in a California airport and arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana and a handgun and later released on a $35,000 bond. This is Snoop’s second altercation with police in a little over a month, after he was arrested in September for allegedly trying to sneak a 21-inch collapsible baton onto a plane last year. Reportedly, the TSA wasn’t as concerned with the fact he was trying to board a plane with contraband as much as they were miffed that he’d tried to do so without sticking it in a clear plastic baggie first.

After Snoop’s most recent arrest, his lawyer released a statement saying, “There was no basis for this arrest. We believe that once this is cleared up, all charges will be dismissed.”

The D-O Double G, who is starring in this weekend’s Snoop Dog’s House of Horrors, was unavailable for comment after his arrest, purportedly because he’d tried to smoke his entire stash, plus the pistol, before police stopped him. He’s currently knee-deep in Doritos. Anonymous sources, however, reveal that his two most recent airport arrests, in addition to a scuffle he had last year in a London airport, dates back to a long-standing beef that Dogg has had with airport official since the 2004 release of Soul Plane.

The Daily Memo - 10/30/06

check.jpgA Michigan judge is finding her federal nomination being held up because she attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. (Law.com

check.jpgVolokh has put up a great post in response to the North County Gazette’s attempt to unilaterally avoid fair use. (The Volokh Conspiracy via Overlawyered)

check.jpgHoward Bashman, of How Appealing, has a great dissection of the preparation involved in good appellate oral argument. (Law.com)

check.jpgNote to self - if I’ve ever got several outstanding warrants, meaning the cops will probably come looking for me, do not keep 100 pounds of pot in my garage. (AZ Central)

check.jpgBrad Pitt and E! may end up in a legal hubub because of some alleged reporter trespassing. (TV Squad)

check.jpgFormer Supreme, O’Conner, thinks folks are coming down too hard on judges. (CNN)

Ok class, please be seated…

torts.jpgWelcome to your first day of Torts. Today we’ll be talking about the case of Klein v. Amtrak. The fact pattern is very simple. Two bored seventeen-year old kids, Jeffrey Klein and Bret Birdwell, decided to kill some time one night in 2002 by trespassing onto an Amtrak lot. With no plan in place, they then decided to climb up one of the rail cars, because they figured there would be a kick-ass view from up top.

Unbeknownst to our teenage friends, there were some dangerous electrical wires up there - you know, the kind that feed power to trains. While atop the rail car, Klein was shocked by one of these wires, allegedly without even touching it, and Birdwell was zapped as well when he tried to help Klein. As a result, they both ended up burnt real toasty-like - Klein had second- and third-degree burns over 75% of his body, and Bidwell had burns over 18% of his body.

Since there were no signs warning about the danger of the wires, Klein and Bidwell sued. So I ask you, class, should they win?

Well, the defense lawyers argued that these kids, seventeen-years old, were old enough to really know better. Their lawyer made the counter-argument that just because the kids were trespassing doesn’t mean that there’s “blanket immunity” protecting a landowner from any possible dangers on their property. The Philadelphia jury apparently bought this argument, to the tune of almost $25 million (split about evenly between compensatory damages and punitive damages).

Now what should we take away from this case, class?

That’s right - this is a new America, and stupidity can pay.

The best damn day of the year!

Tomorrow is the best damn day of the year. Why for, you ask? Quite simply, thanks 15 U.S.C. § 260a, we get an extra hour of sleep. That’s the law that says that at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October we flip back from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. You know, spring forward, fall back. Which means, extra sleep!

“Extra sleep.” Two of the best words in the English language.

So remember to turn your clocks back tonight kiddies. Well, except for the poor suckers in Arizona, Hawaii and some Indiana counties, since y’all choose to ignore the whole Daylight Saving Time thing. No extra sleep for you.

And just as a heads up, starting next year, our extra-sleep-day will come a bit later, as The Energy Policy Act of 2005 takes effect, pushing the “fall back” day a week ahead, to the first Sunday in November.


mcdonaldsCowboys.jpgThe passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys is a bit pissed at McDonald’s because his wife and the family au pair were eating a Micky-D’s salad and they found themselves a little dead rat in a salad (some might say it serves them right for getting a salad from McDonald’s, for fuck’s sake). So McDonald’s is getting itself sued for $1.7 million. A spokesman for the family says that they found the rat when they got the salad home and that a manager drove to their house to see the rat. He promised to “make things right,” but since nothing’s been made right, the family was left with no choice but to sue.

I was originally going to try to come up with some clever joke here, but the good folks over at Kissing Suzy Kolber have pretty much covered that already, with a solid post title (Dallas assistant coach sues McDonald’s after finding metaphor for Cowboys’ season in salad) and a fantastic reference to “The Simpsons:”

As we learned from the Simpsons years ago, you don’t win friends with salad. Now it appears that McDonald’s may have made an enemy with their salad— in the form of Dallas assistant coach Todd Haley.

Oh yeah, and the Cowboys suck!

The Daily Memo - 10/27/06

check.jpgNJ gets a second set of props from QuizLaw in one week, this time because its Governor and Health Commissioner are refusing to go along with the feds’ abstinence-only sex education program. (Save Roe!)

check.jpgAn appellate California decision about the right of publicity has been published after pressure from both sides’ lawyers. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.

check.jpgWhile many have been saying that Google’s purchase of YouTube is the equivalent of the search engine company opening Pandora’s Box o’ Copyright Infringement, they’re ignoring the possible application of the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. (Slate

check.jpgIn the opinion of West Virginia judges, legal reporters get stuff wrong at least half of the time. (May it Please the Court)

check.jpgWhereas we love trudging in the celebrity legal gossip, the folks at Above the Law strive to be better than US Weekly. (Above the Law)

check.jpgA recent Zogby poll finds that 57% of folks between the ages of 18 and 29 support the idea of a federal cigarette ban. (KXAN)

On-field drubbing leads to…uhm..off-field drubbing

seahawks.jpgLast Sunday, the Seahawks had their collective asses handed to them by the Minnesota Vikings. So one can understand how a Seattle fan present at the home game might want to try to find something to take his mind off of the whupping. Well after being alerted by stadium employees, some off-duty deputies working as stadium security found one Seahawks fan doing just that. The 39-year-old man, who they say had obviously been drinking (at a football game? Get out!), was found in a woman’s bathroom stall, working his way down field with a 31-year-old lady, all while a long line of women waited outside.

Turns out our lecherous football fan is a deputy prosecutor who’s worked in the prosecutor’s office for just shy of 15 years. While the lady was let go, he was detained, arrested and tossed out of the stadium, and is now under investigation for obstruction and trespassing. His boss (i.e., the county prosecutor) says the man will be disciplined, but he’s going to wait to see if charges are filed first. “This could be serious,” said the prosecutor, “but it sounds more childish than anything.”

To be fair, I’ve been to football games in Philadelphia (especially at the old Vet) where the Eagles were simply getting creamed, and I think security would’ve been ecstatic if the worst thing going on was some illicit bathroom nooky. And look at it another way - this deputy prosecutor was really acting in the best interest of the county. Would you rather have a level headed prosecutor in court, or some guy with pent up sexual frustration who’s pissed off because his team just lost their starting quarterback in an eighteen point loss?

I Like Football and Girls!

There has been some inexplicable controversy surrounding Democratic Rep. Harold Ford’s run for Senate in Tennessee. First of all, the race against Republican Bob Corker for Bill Frist’s open seat is turning into a much closer contest than anyone expected. Ford is young (having entered Congress in 1996, right after graduating from law school) and he’s black, and no black person has been elected to the Senate in the South since reconstruction.

Nevertheless, the latest polls show a tight race. So, the Republicans got it into their head that the best way to smear Ford was to accuse him of attending a Playboy party, in order to call into question his faith (apparently, the GOP thinks that naked breasts and God are mutually exclusive). The Republican National Committee even ran a pretty nasty ad against Ford, basically suggesting all sorts of things about his character and his politics, ending the ad with a white woman demurely asking him to call her — implying that the single Ford only dates white women (in an effort, I can only guess, to alienate the black vote in Tennessee). Ford, being the naive, inexperienced politician that he is, initially denied having ever attended a Playboy Super Bowl party on last week’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

But earlier this week, Harold Ford finally recognized the value of having attended a Playboy Super Bowl party, and retracted his statement, saying: “I was there. I like football and I like girls. And I make no apologies for that.” And I say to Mr. Ford: Hoo-rah! That statement alone may win Harold the Senate seat in Tennessee. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the state myself, but I did grow up in the South, and as far as I can recollect, Southern men appreciate nothing more than football and women. That’s a sentiment basically every single male demographic can relate to, from farmers to car salesmen to corporate drones. Even Republicans (save for Mark Foley) like women and football! Hell, you throw a beer (and maybe twins) into that equation, Harold, and you’ve got yourself a freakin’ landslide.

That’s politics, baby! Suck it, Corker.

The Daily Memo - 10/26/06

check.jpgA federal judge ruled that a kid’s constitutional rights were violated when he was suspended without a proper-like hearing first, even though the kid was suspended after admitting that he was part of a drive-by shooting. (Rapid City Journal)

check.jpgFox is being sued for copyright infringement for allegedly ripping off the idea for “Prison Break” from real life brothers who busted out of jail in the 60’s and who allegedly submitted a script about their story to Fox in 2001. (TV Squad)

check.jpgJane Pauley is suing the New York Times because it allegedly duped her into being used in an advertisement. (CNN)

check.jpg“The New Jersey gay marriage decision ain’t activism.” (Slate)

check.jpgThe ban on internet gambling could hurt the World Series of Poker because there could be significantly less potential players. (FindLaw)

check.jpgThe plaintiffs’ lawyer group, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is changing its name to the American Association of Justice. (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgThe Center for Citizen Media is putting together an “Election Day Bloggers’ Legal Guide.” (Center for Citizen Media)

Why I’m moving, and where I’m going

uhaul.jpgSo I may have to move out of Boston, after only just arriving here last month. Why for, you ask? Because the bloody city has run out of beer and wine licenses for restaurants. That’s just unacceptable to a borderline drunkard like me (yeah, yeah, I know it’s really not “borderline,” but a kid’s gotta’ put on at least a semblance of sobriety, you know?).

The problem is that there’s a 100-year-old state law which caps the number of licenses, and while some other areas in Massachusetts have their cap grow automatically as their population expands, Boston’s cap can only be increased by the state legislature. “People around here work hard, and after a long day they want to go out to eat and unwind with a glass of wine,” says a restaurant owner still waiting on a license. Amen to that, brother! Meanwhile, Mayor Menino has apparently requested a batch of 60 new licenses from the state legislature, but that request is being held up, possibly because of an unrelated dispute over docking fees. Docking fees? This city can’t even get booze into its new restaurants and they wonder why things didn’t work out so well with the Big Dig?

But I’ll tell you this much - if I leave Boston, I’m moving to Hammond, Indiana. City employees there know how to do things right. In Boston, our tax-dollars-at-work can’t even get the city a sufficient supply of beer and wine. In Hammond, the local cops perform illegal strip searches, surreptitiously record said searches, and then hand out copies of the recording! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Hell, I don’t even need a drink with my dinner if I’ve got free porn - I’ll probably just skip dinner altogether.


It’s a Shame that Vito Spatafore Didn’t Live Long Enough to See this Day

vito_spatafore.jpgFor those who missed the headlines earlier today, the New Jersey Supreme Court made that state the third in the nation to allow same-sex unions in some form. Though it stopped short of sanctioning same-sex marriage per se, the court knocked it over to the state legislature to decide, within six months, whether to call it outright same-sex marriage or simply establish civil unions, such as those established in Vermont. Regardless of terminology, however, the state supreme court made clear that it wanted some form of legislation enacted that gave same-sex couples equal rights under the marriage laws.

The ruling, however, wasn’t viewed as an outright victory by gay and lesbian groups, who argued that same-sex marriage should be a fundamental right under the state constitution. The court, however, disagreed, noting: “Despite the rich diversity of this state, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law, the Court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution.” Nevertheless, the court iterated that same-sex couples were entitled to “the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes.”

Personally, I’m hoping for the outright legalization of same-sex marriage. Why? Because there’s no other state in the union where rat tails and mullets are so universal, regardless of sexual orientation. And the thought of two women wearing veils over their mullets just gives me a warm feeling all over. Props (kind of) to the NJ Supreme Court. I only wish that Vito Spatofore could’ve lived long enough to see this day.

Snip Snip

circumcission.jpgA couple of months ago, we reported about a case in which the parents of a nine-year-old boy were arguing in court over whether their son had to undergo a circumcision procedure. As we wrote at the time:

In the latest twist to prolonged, agonizing custody battles, the parents of a 8-year-old boy — hanging on ever so tenuously to his delicate foreskin — have taken it to a new level, arguing in court over whether little Timmy’s penis should get the full-on scalp treatment … The boy’s mother is battling to give her son’s pee-pee a buzz-cut, which she argues is necessary to save the kid from balonitis — a frequent inflammation of the hang-low.

Well, we have an update, which should make all of you anti-circumcisionists giddier than a Jehovah’s Witness with a brand-new packet of six short-sleeve white dress shirts. The judge in the case has sided with the father, who argued against the dreaded snip. The father believed that such a procedure would cause the boy psychological harm, while the mother argued that circumcision was necessary to prevent inflammation. The judge ultimately ruled that, because of the extraordinary nature of the procedure, the boy could decide for himself when he turns 18.

The Daily Memo - 10/25/06

check.jpgFinally! An excuse to put out a link about Borat - could he be sued? (Slate)

check.jpgNah…gon…do-it. (Is That Legal)

check.jpgOk people, seriously - don’t try to sell your children. And really don’t try it if you’ve already been busted for it someplace else. (WCCO)

check.jpgWhen lawyers attack. (CBS4 Denver)

check.jpg“Update on proposed New York anti-law-blog bill.” (Likelihood of Confusion)

check.jpgIt seems that Shaq was present and on duty, in his role as a reserve sheriff’s deputy, during a botched kiddy porn raid in Virginia last month. (SI)

check.jpgA Pittsburgh hot dog restaurant is changing its name from Hot Dogma to Franktuary in order to settle a a trademark dispute over the restaurant’s use of the word “dogma” with Miami Beach’s Dogma Grill. (Post-Gazette)

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria!

stantz.jpgIn an attempt to stave off such mass hysteria, a North Carolina judge just gave a serious legal bitchslap to one of the attorneys appearing before him. Local attorney Raymond Marshall has a client who’s facing an assault charge. The case had already gone to trial twice, but mistrials were declared in both instances because of hung juries. So last month, proceedings began for a third trial, before Superior Court Judge Michael Helms. Right from the start, things were apparently not so great between Helms and Marshall and on September 29, Marshall filed a motion seeking to have Helms disqualified as the sitting judge, alleging that Helms was being intimidating.

That motion didn’t put one in the win column for Marshall, because when the trial started on October 4 Helms was still the sitting judge. On that opening day, Marshall was questioning a witness when Helms stopped him. In response to this:

Marshall said “Lord,” reared back in his chair with outstretched arms, cast his eyes upward and turned to the audience, Helms said.

So Helms smacked Marshall with a contempt of court charge. That charge was heard last Thursday, and Marshall got bitchslapped but good: two days in the clink, thirty day suspension of license, court-ordered submission to a psychologist’s exam and seventy hours of community service (if Marshall completes this in less than 30 days, he may get his license back ahead of schedule). Helms said that he put such a hefty price on Marshall’s behavior to emphasize the fact that lawyers have to show respect. If they fail to do so, then their clients won’t bother respecting the court “and then we have anarchy.”

Marshall, meanwhile, can’t seem to get his story straight. As reported in one article, he claimed that he was simply beginning to say a prayer (he’s a minister) because “there are times when you feel you need strength and my strength comes from God.” However, in another article, Marshall is reported as having said he was stressed because this was the third trial of this matter and it was probably the stress that led to the remark.

In a related story, the North Carolina legislature voted down, by a narrow margin, a bill that would have legalized dog/cat cohabitation. Anarchy and mass hysteria are staved off for yet another day!

Michael J. Fox is an Asshole

You know who sucks? Michael J. Fox. Can you believe that guy? That palsied freak has the audacity to come out, in public, and exploit his Parkinson’s for partisan gain. Despicable! What’s worse is that this amoral son of a bitch clearly goes off his medication before appearing on camera, so as to exaggerate the effects of his disease. Can you believe how low some people will stoop?

At least, that’s what Rush Limbaugh is saying, clearly taking the moral high ground here by accusing Michael J. Fox of tossing his meds before appearing in this commercial to support Democrat Claire McCaskill in her run for Senate. On his radio show, despite any evidence to support his claim, Limbaugh claims that Fox admitted he goes off his medication before appearing in public to illustrate the ravages of the disease. “I stated when I saw this ad,” Limbaugh said, “that he’s either off his medication or acting. He is an actor.” He continues by saying, “I think that this is exploitative in a way that’s unbecoming either Claire McCaskill or Michael J. Fox.”

You know what’s unbecoming, Rush? Some douchebag who clearly doesn’t have a problem staying on his meds — so long as it’s Oxycontin — coming out and suggesting that anyone would play up a ravaging disease simply to ouster a Republican. Actually, perhaps Rush Limbaugh is playing up his own disgustingly narcissistic windbaggery in order to persuade a few million middle-Americans unintelligent enough to think for themselves. Clearly, if his listeners were capable of independent thought, they wouldn’t deign to listen to this shitheel’s ignorant, contemptible ramblings. A puss-filled pox on your anus, Mr. Limbaugh.

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The Daily Memo - 10/24/06

check.jpgBlawg Review #80 is bringing the Socratic method to the masses. (Blawg Review)

check.jpgWell this is a civil rights lawsuit waiting to happen - a Michigan judge dismissed a small-claims court case because the Muslim woman who filed the suit wouldn’t take off her veil while testifying. (FindLaw)

check.jpgScalia doesn’t think social issues like abortion and suicide have any relation to the Constitution and, he reasons, they therefore shouldn’t be put to the courts - but if they are going to be resolved by judges, he thinks there should be less judicial independence. (MSNBC)

check.jpgThe Libertarian candidate for Alabama governor has made her boobs the focus of her campaign. (Guardian Unlimited)

check.jpgThe federal trial in Philadelphia to decide the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act is underway. (Slashdot)

check.jpgThe copyright infringement case over The Island is getting prepped for a February trial after cross-summary judgment motions were denied. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)

We’re number one! We’re number one! We’re number…fifty-three?

BUtower.jpgThe organization Reporters without Borders has released its 2006 rankings of its Worldwide Press Freedom Index, which attempts to measure the state of press freedom throughout the world (in tasty list form!). The first such index was put out in 2002, and the U.S. then came in at the seventeen spot. Last year, we were down to 44, and now we’ve dropped another nine to a four-way tie for fifty-third with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. So, uhm, huzzah for us.

As the report accompanying the Index notes, “the steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming.” Well, at least we’re not the only ones - thanks for keeping us company France and Japan!

Should I go to law school?

BUtower.jpgSo recently an old friend said that he was thinking about going to law school, and he was wondering what my take on the decision was, particularly in light of the fact that I’ve done the firm thing and the non-firm thing. And so I says to myself, I says, “self - why opine to one when you can opine to the masses?” So here’s some rambling on the subject.

I loved the hell out of my time at law school. But I think I’m the exception to the rule. I found a really great group of friends, and we partied the whole time and, as much as possible, tried to treat it as Undergrad, Part II. Coming right out of college and unsure of what one wants to do (as was my situation, since I had just decided to bail on my science career path and was therefore scared of entering the real world), law school is a perfectly fine option. But what about when you’re 30 (or older), with a family and a stable job?

Well obviously it’s a very different matter. To my mind, the question here is simply this - what do you want to get out of it? What do you want to ultimately want to be doing, and will a law degree help you do it? While I don’t personally think law school is as hard as many make it sound, it’s still no cake walk. For example, if you’re talking about doing it while still holding down a job (i.e., going to one of the few schools that offer night classes), you’ve got to be willing to come home from a long day of work only to turn right around and listen to lectures and read a generally immense amount of legal hoo-ha. All at the expense of spending time with your family of course. And if you’re going to drop out of working and do law school full-time, obviously you have more time, but you’re also taking more courses. During your first year, you’re still probably going to see yourself losing a fair amount of family time.

All of which is to say you best talk with the significant other about all of this and make sure this time commitment is understood, and that they’re supporting. I can’t tell you the number of long-term relationships (including marriages) which died during the first year of law school. Inordinately high.

Now, my friend also asked about whether one has to go the Big Firm route following law school. This again turns back to the question of what you ultimately want out of all this. There’s certainly no requirement that one go to a Big Firm out of school. In fact, more and more, it seems like folks in our generation (and the younger peeps as well), don’t want to be career firm lawyers (which is a change from our parents’ generation, where it was all about getting into a firm and making partner, and schtupping your secretary, etc.). Instead, many go to firms after school simply because most schools are wicked expensive, and those massive law firm salaries can help one get their debt under control (that’s certainly what drove me to a Big Firm after school). But does one need to work at a Big Firm to have credibility in the field?

Not really. If you wanted to be a professor, for example, law firm practice matters very little - instead, it’s all about how great the school is that you went to and what esteemed judge(s) you clerked for following school. It may not hurt you to have a law firm on your resume, but it won’t necessarily help you. Similarly, if you wanted to go the government route (and if you can afford it, which is often a big “if”), you don’t necessarily need to go the Big Firm route first. However, depending on what government work you actually want, you may find that you need some experience first. And often the easiest, though grueling, way to get this experience is through a Big Firm. You can also do any number of things on your own, obviously, without taking on the Big Firm first. For instance, I know folks who started practicing on their own right out of school. Personally, I would’ve been scared shitless doing this without some experience, but they’ve all managed very well.

In fact, one of the only places where you really need a firm job is if you want to become in-house counsel for a company. In-house attorneys are pretty much all hired from firms or relevant government jobs. But again, it’s not about credibility, but experience. Most places won’t even think about hiring someone to come into their in-house office without at least 4 or 5 years of minimum experience (although, as always, this depends on individualized factors like what the experience is actually in and what sort of needs the company has).

The last comment, which many folks thinking about law school may not know is that, at least within the legal field, folks don’t generally care about the quality of any given field of study at a school. In other words, with college, you go somewhere because they have a great program in what you want to study. With law, you go to the best law school you can, period. It’s all about rankings. Of course, if you just want the “esq.,” a fourth-tiered law school will work just as well as a first-tier (and probably be at least a little bit cheaper). So yet again, what one actually wants to do with their law degree comes into play, as it could help you decide what school you go to.

So what’s the answer to the question of “should I go to law school?” I dunno. I loved it, and I have no regrets about going. But there are plenty of people who were miserable throughout law school and who are still miserable. So again, if you’re thinking about law school, I think you just need to really think about why you’re thinking about it and what you want/hope to get out of it.

And if you have more questions, just go to any bar near a law firm or law school and you’ll find plenty of attorneys or budding attorneys who can fill in the blanks.

Scattered, Smothered, and Spat Upon

wafflehouse.jpgToday, we have two stories that will turn your stomach and one in which someone’s stomach is revealed (along with some other naughty bits).

First, a Tennessee police officer is suing Waffle House and one of its cooks — the hilariously named Homer Disher — for $82,000. Why? Because the cook, after having received a warning from the officer during a traffic stop several weeks earlier, decided it’d be a good idea to spit in the officer’s hash browns. Note to the cop: I’ve spent many a late night in Waffle Houses and, if anything, a little saliva improves the quality and taste of their offerings.

In our second story, a Washington state man, Michael Patrick McPhail, 26, paid $20,000 in bail to get his release after being arrested on bestiality charges. McPhail’s wife, it seems, walked out onto her porch one night and caught her husband having sex with their four-year-old pit bull terrier. The wife quickly took photos with her cell phone and called the police. The dog in question was “squealing and crying” during the ordeal. McPhail was charged under a brand-spanking new law making it an offense to have sex with animals, enacted after a Seattle man died while having sex with a horse. The pit bull in question was taken by animal control and, presumably, offered a cigarette.

Finally, a California judge has dismissed charges against a woman for exposing herself to a neighbor kid. The woman in question, 40-year-old Alexis Luz Garcia, got fed up with a 14-year-old boy who wouldn’t stop playing basketball loudly next door. Garcia warned the kid to keep it down, and when he refused, she gave him a full frontal and warned that she would keep doing it as long he continued to bother her with that incessant basketball dribbling. The boy — clearly not impressed with Garcia’s figure — ran inside and told his mom, who reported the incident to the authorities, who promptly arrested her. The judge, however, dismissed the charge — which came with a possible year in prison and a requirement that she register as a sex offender for the rest of her life — because the statute in question only applied to someone who “exposes his person.” Because Garcia wasn’t a “him,” the charge was thrown out, despite protestations from the prosecution, who claimed that “his” was a typo. Clearly, the judge was more impressed with her figure than the boy was.

Supreme Court Decision Update - Purcell v. Gonzalez

supreme1.jpgWell the new Supreme term is upon us, and the first full opinion is out. The lucky first one outta’ the gun is Purcell v. Gonzalez (PDF of the opinion), a case about voting rights. Well, actually, it’s more about standards of review, when voter rights are involved and there’s an impending election.

QuizLaw Analysis: The Supremes love smacking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and they’ve done it again. The Court of Appeals basically reversed a District Court without any stated reason why, and the Supremes say that this is not good, particularly in light of the impending election (the Ninth Circuit’s ruling could complicate things for the election). Basically, the Supremes are telling the Ninth Circuit to respect their authoritah!

What’s this case about? Well, it all stems from some new voting procedures in Arizona. See, back in 2004, a ballot proposition was approved to help fight voter fraud. The state implemented new procedures to comply with this proposition and, among other things, the new procedures require voters to show proper identification at the polls. If a voter doesn’t have such ID, they can still cast a ballot, but it’s considered conditional - they then have five business days to come back with proper ID. If they do so, the ballot counts, and if they don’t, it get tossed. The Arizona procedures also say that if someone knows they won’t have valid ID by the election date, they can vote early during the state’s early voting period, since this will give the election officials enough time to establish that the voter was legit.

In May, some folks got together and sued the state to try to put a stop to these procedures. They’re worried voters will be disenfranchised, and that legitimate and qualified voters will get turned away. In September, the District Court denied their request for a preliminary injunction stopping the new procedures form being implemented. However, the Court didn’t issue any findings of fact or conclusions of law, so there wasn’t much to work with during the inevitable appeal. Nevertheless, a panel for the Ninth Circuit issued a four-sentence order reversing the District Court and enjoining Arizona from implementing the new procedures (it was a special Ninth Circuit panel because of the hurry-up necessity of this case, in light of the impending election). Following this order, the District Court actually issued its findings of facts and conclusions of law, noting that it felt that there was a possibility of success, but not a strong likelihood of success (and plaintiffs who want a preliminary injunction need to show such a likelihood of success).

What’s “per curiam” again? This opinion is a per curiam opinion, meaning it’s an opinion not actually signed by or attributed to any particular Justice.

Gotcha. Well what does this unattributed opinion say? Well the Court begins by noting that it’s important for states to preserve the integrity of their election process, but that it’s also important to make sure that qualified voters get to exercise their “‘fundamental political right’ to vote.”

Turning to the details of this case, the Supremes note that the Ninth Circuit should show deference to the District Court’s discretion in this case. Of course here, there were no findings of fact or conclusions of law from the District Court at the time the Court of Appeals made its decision. And that’s what the Ninth Circuit owes deference too. The Supremes don’t say it directly, but they sort of hint that, had the Court of Appeals explained its order a little, they might have been on board. But since the Court merely issued a four-sentence order with no explanation, the Supremes say they must evaluate this order in light of the post-released findings of fact and conclusions of law from the District Court. And since there’s nothing in the Ninth Circuit’s four sentence order to suggest that any of these findings or conclusions are wrong, and particularly in light of the fact that there’s an election around the corner and the state needs some concrete guidance, the Supremes say that the Court of Appeals is wrong, wrong, wrong. They vacate the injunction and remand this mess of a case, noting that this ruling does not touch on the final merits or disposition of the underlying case, and is just meant to ensure that the election goes off as relatively smooth as possible.

What’s Old Man Stevens have to say for himself? Justice Stevens issued a one paragraph concurrence just to note that this result will actually help the court in resolving the underlying case. The elections will now go through under the state’s new procedure, so there will be a record to show whether there really is disenfranchisement, and to show how much alleged fraudulent practice is cut down thanks to the new procedures. In other words, it’ll give the courts some concrete evidence to work with “rather than speculation.”

The Daily Memo - 10/23/06

check.jpgThis story really has nothing to do with the law, but if it’s on Law.com that’s good enough for us, especially when it lets us reference Borat. (Law.com)

check.jpgA California judge has ruled that the state’s indecent exposure law only applies to men, meaning California women are free to, uhm, unleash their beasts. (ABC News)

check.jpgWhile not likely to ever be put to the test, it’s still interesting to think about whether it would be constitutional for Bill Clinton to run for vice-president. (Washington Post)

check.jpgMotorola, Plantronics and Jabra are all being sued because they fail to warn folks that bluetooth headsets can cause permanent hearing loss. (St. Petersburg Times)

check.jpgIn Los Angeles, Boy Scout members can now get activity patches for respecting copyrights. (Engadget)

check.jpgA Pennsylvania lawyer is suing a game company over their confiscation of his virtual property in their online game. (Philly.com)

This is some heavy lifting – I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet

branches.jpgI’m feeling rather depressed this Monday morning, after watching my beloved Eagles suffer a crushing loss yesterday. So I’m going to bring you all down deep into the Monday morning funk with me. And I think self-inflicted abortion should do the job.

There’s this woman in Virginia, 22-year-old Tammy Skinner, who already has two kids and not much money to her name. When she found herself pregnant again, she decided she wanted an abortion, but her boyfriend wouldn’t pay. So Skinner ended up carrying the pregnancy to term only to, on the day she was due, shoot herself in the stomach to kill the fetus.

Since Virginia law makes it illegal for someone to administer or cause an illegal abortion, Skinner was arrested (the abortion is considered illegal since it was during her third trimester). Now, the law in question bans “any person” from administering or causing such an illegal abortion, but Skinner’s lawyers argued that this doesn’t actually apply to Skinner herself because there is an “expectant mother immunity.” While the argument may seem like a stretch, the court sided with the defense, ruling that the law differentiates between a mother self-aborting and someone else doing it (so in the court’s reasoning there’s a concrete difference between Skinner pulling the trigger herself and someone else pulling the trigger).

Needless to say, anti-abortion activists are furious over the ruling. I’m going to leave the whole abortion aspect of this for another day, as that’s more mess than I’d like on my plate this miserable Monday morning. But the legal issues are rather sticky too. Apparently, this Virginia judge isn’t the first to ever rule this way, as there is similar case law in Florida and Georgia. That doesn’t make the decision any less confusing to me. The prosecution argued that “any” should be understood to be an indefinite word meaning “all,” unless the legislation includes some restriction, and that seems right to me. Unless there’s a clear intent from the state legislature that they intended “any person” to exclude the actual mother, it seems like she falls within the statute.

Of course, that Skinner felt this was her only way out makes this a tragic story, and that tragedy would be magnified were she to be convicted. And there’s also some messy societal concerns, as raised by Skinner’s attorney - if you apply this law to the mother, how far do you go? Does this mean you have to delve into the details of every late-term miscarriage, trying to figure out what the mother’s intent was (i.e., did she take steps to cause the miscarriage because she didn’t want to carry to term)? Of course, that brings us right back to the abortion issue, and I suspect many anti-abortionists would respond “absolutely.” This argument makes it hard for me to say whether the court is wrong, form a purely “right vesus wrong” standpoint. But it doesn’t change my opinion that the court is wrong from a legal standpoint. It really seems like the court is reading something into the law that just isn’t there right now. While that may produce the “right” outcome (again, I’m not sure where I personally would come down on the matter, since it takes more than 5 minutes of early Monday morning pre-coffee thought), it just seems a little too “activist judgey” for my liking (and I can’t even believe I just typed that, as I’ve never been one to cry “activist judge, activist judge” since I think those cries are usually misguided and not actually being directed to courts that are actually overstepping their bounds).

Barring something like an unconstitutional provision, it’s the legislature’s role to decide what limitations it wants to place on its statutes. This structure of government allows for an open debate on the “right versus wrong,” and that debate is lost when a court takes up the issue instead. Again, I don’t know what the “right” answer is, but I hope that the Virginia legislature, and other state legislatures with similar laws, give some actual consideration and debate to this matter and make it clear which way their laws are intended to go. Needless to say, anti-abortion activists are furious over the ruling. I’m going to leave the whole abortion aspect of this for another day, as that’s more mess than I’d like on my plate this miserable Monday morning. But the legal issues are rather sticky too. Apparently, this Virginia judge isn’t the first to ever rule this way, as there is similar case law in Florida and Georgia. That doesn’t make the decision any less confusing to me. The prosecution argued that “any” should be understood to be an indefinite word meaning “all,” unless the legislation includes some restriction, and that seems right to me. Unless there’s a clear intent from the state legislature that they intended “any person” to exclude the actual mother, it seems like she falls within the statute.

Of course, that Skinner felt this was her only way out makes this a tragic story, and that tragedy would be magnified were she to be convicted. And there’s also some messy societal concerns, as raised by Skinner’s attorney - if you apply this law to the mother, how far do you go? Does this mean you have to delve into the details of every late-term miscarriage, trying to figure out what the mother’s intent was (i.e., did she take steps to cause the miscarriage because she didn’t want to carry to term)? Of course, that brings us right back to the abortion issue, and I suspect many anti-abortionists would respond “absolutely.” This argument makes it hard for me to say whether the court is wrong, form a purely “right vesus wrong” standpoint. But it doesn’t change my opinion that the court is wrong from a legal standpoint. It really seems like the court is reading something into the law that just isn’t there right now. That may produce the “right” outcome, but, and I can’t believe I’m even about to type these words, that may just be a little too activist for my liking.

Barring something like an unconstitutional provision, it’s the legislature’s role to decide what limitations it wants to place on its criminal statutes. This structure of government allows for an open debate on the “right versus wrong,” and that debate is lost when a court takes up the issue instead. Again, I don’t know what the “right” answer is, but I hope that the Virginia legislature, and other state legislatures with similar laws, give some actual consideration and debate to this matter and make it clear which way their laws are intended to go. In doing so, this opens the debate up to the public, and that’s not usually a bad thing (though some in the federal government might argue otherwise…ahem…I’m looking at you Bushy!).

The Daily Memo - 10/20/06

check.jpgTwo female basketball coaches are suing a Montana school district for sexual discrimination, saying they were unfairly suspended when they allowed their team to T.P. male coaches’ homes, while male coaches have allegedly done far worse with much less severe punishments. (Billings Gazette)

check.jpgGnarls Barkley is suing an Atlanta songwriter/musician who did some background music for their “St. Elsewhere” album because he’s claiming to have co-written a couple of their songs, including last summer’s hit “Crazy,” and that he therefore has authorship rights. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)

check.jpgThe woman who broke up the Beatles is suing Capitol Records to get Lennon’s royalties. (Reuters UK)

check.jpgA Minnesota law student from Africa is being charged with impersonating a local Congerssman in order to help his family immigrate to the States. (FindLaw)

check.jpgThanks to the double jeopardy laws, O.J. is free and clear to write his “hypothetical” account of what he thinks may have “hypothetically” and precisely happened during the Brown/Goldman murders - but I’m not sure how he thinks he gets to keep the book money in light of the civil judgment. (MSNBC)

check.jpgEscondido, California has decided to ban landlords from renting units to illegal immigrants. (Reuters)

The Daily Memo - 10/20/06 (Government Edition)

check.jpgSeveral Democratic candidates are emphasizing Congress’ continued focus on giving itself raises while ignoring the minimum wage (something we’ve mentioned before). (USA Today)

check.jpgA federal judge has ordered the Secret Service to open its records of visitor logs to Cheney’s office and home, at the behest of the Washington Post. (ABC News)

check.jpgConsidering the current state of affairs in our nation’s political world, it’s unsurprising to see that the Judicial branch is the “Secretariat-like” leader of of a poll about which governmental branch is the most respected. (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpg“Which of this year’s Supreme Court cases will be most significant?” (Concurring Opinions)

A Philly Two-For

temple.jpgSo a local Philadelphia man is having a bit of a quarrel with City Council. Seems that the man, Mouhammed Shaukat, runs a little newstand by the Liberty Bell. The City Council is fine with that. But as for Mouhammed’s selling of pornography near the national monument? Well, yeah, not so much. When Mouhammed was previously warned by the council that he couldn’t sell his porno, he responded by putting a sign up on his stand notifying those that object to his porn that (a) they could fuck off and (b) he would rape them!

Needless to say, City Council ain’t exactly thrilled by this. On Wednesday, a Council committee approved a bill to close his newstand, and now the full City Council will vote on it. One imagines it will pass and that Shaukat’s stand will be closed. Which is a shame really - the porn, and especially the rape-threatening sign, really give the tourists a nice taste of the Philly color.

Meanwhile, the saddest kind of war is a cheesesteak war. So it breaks my heart to hear that the owner of my beloved Pat’s King of Steaks is involved in a nasty little lawsuit with his cousin, owner of Rick’s Steaks. Pat’s owner is alleging trademark infringement, claiming that ads for Rick’s Steaks are illegally using Pat’s “name, its crown logo and trademarked phrases, including ‘Pat’s King of Steaks Originators of the Steak Sandwich.’”

I really wish they’d think about the poor cheesesteaks caught in the middle of this messy fight. Please, won’t you think of the cheesesteaks?!

Two days in a row? Well now it’s just getting silly.

derrico.jpgYesterday I talked about running into a photo of an old high school friend on a law blog. Well last night I ran into another photo of someone I know. This time, it was a dude I used to work with in my “big law firm” days. Turns out that said dude, David Derrico, is the focus of a nice little Law.com article.

Just as I left the Firm to make my mark on the internet with this here site, so too did Derrico decide to spread his wings online. Seems he’s got himself a rather interesting idea, a website (www.headhuntercalls.com) where attorneys can explicitly opt-in or opt-out of receiving headhunter calls. I’ll tell you what - those calls are annoying as all-can-do, no doubt about it. That being said, I did learn about some interesting opportunities once or twice that I wouldn’t have learned about if I had been on an opt-out list. Well, that’s assuming that the headhunters in question had actually abided by the opt-out list in the first place, since it’s really their choice whether to, uhm, opt-in to it in the first place.

Point being - as the article points out, there are definitely some reasonable concerns about the site’s viability. But it’s still an idea with some solid potential and I’m definitely pulling for Derrico. Hell, even if I thought it was a terrible idea, I’d still root for him simply because success means he doesn’t have to return to the Firm. And I’ll always root for someone being able to keep themselves out of the Firm’s grasp. Pointy, slimy, tentacly grasp.

When I talked about Dave Hoffman yesterday, I was able to share a fun little story about him calling someone a bitch during a high school debate. I don’t have any such stories about Derrico (and any stories I might, theoretically, have about the boy are probably not stories for public consumption). But I will say that he’s as good a drinking buddy as one can ask for (he was a Firm lawyer after all, so of course he can drink), and that’s really the highest compliment I can personally pay someone.

Interweaving Plotlines

magnolia.jpgDean Faiello pled guilty yesterday to assault in the death of Maria Cruz, and received a 20 year sentence. Two years ago, Faiella, a cocaine addict, posed as a doctor and offered to perform a medical procedure on Cruz, a financial analyst, to remove hair from her tongue with a laser (what the hell is tongue hair?). Unfortunately, when he gave Cruz her anesthetic, she had a bout of seizures and later died. Afraid of being arrested if he called 911, Faiello instead hid her body under a concrete slab, where it was found 10 months later. Faiello was then extradited from Costa Rica, where he had been working as a go-go dancer.

Talliyah Taylor, meanwhile, decided that a go-go dancer’s get up is too restricting. So when she decided to go drunk driving last night, she did so in the buff (the ideal state for drunk driving). She wound up running into a pedestrian so hard that the poor guy’s body flew up into some electrical wires and got diced up. Taylor’s car then hit a light pole, flew over a chain link fence, and landed upside down in a Lowe’s parking lot. Taylor had to be cut out of the car afterwards; I understand she then made a mad dash into Lowe’s to find the appropriate adhesive to put the pedestrian’s body back together.

Had the pedestrian’s body landed in one of several New York morgues, however, certain morticians would’ve had the hard part of their job taken care of. Indeed, seven funeral directors entered pleas yesterday in a broad-based investigation into the plundering of corpses for spare body parts, which were unloaded onto the black market. The purported ringleader, Michael Mastromarino, desecrated as many as 1,000 bodies, including that of Alistair Cooke, the host of television’s “Masterpiece Theater,” who died in 2004.

Finally, a certain teacher who wanted to make his students understand what the aforementioned Talliyah Taylor was seeing when she ran into that pedestrian has been held liable for negligence. The teacher in question had his students wear “drunk goggles,” which simulated what life would look like if they were legally drunk. He then had them perform certain exercises, such as standing on one leg or shooting a basketball. Lisa Voss, however, tripped and fell while wearing the “fatal vision goggles” and knocked out her teeth. The school district was ordered to pay $28,000 in damages. No word on whether the broken teeth were sold in the black market to make up for the expense.

I understand that sometime last night, frogs also fell from the sky.

The Daily Memo - 10/19/06

check.jpgAn ex-CIA agent is suing the agency for violations of his First Amendment rights after they redacted 70 pages from his 400 page manuscript, most of which is information already made publicly available (or at least cleared by he CIA for public publication). (SF Gate)

check.jpgSince there’s nothing else going on up here, Boston City Council is considering a ban on satellite dishes from the front of local buildings because they’re an “eyesore” - and, surprise of surprises, Comcast is helping to sponsor the proposed ban. (Bostonist)

check.jpgWe love when judges try to have some fun with their opinions, such as this Florida Judge who took a stab at some Seuss-like rhymes. (Sui Generis)

check.jpgA federal judge in New York says that the city can be sued by emergency workers with claims stemming from WTC dust. (News Watch 50)

check.jpgAn Indiana woman is suing the local public school for its alleged unconstitutional practice of allowing some students to attend Bible classes on the school’s grounds. (Indiana Daily Student)

Small world, and all that stuff

temple.jpgSo last night, while watching the increasingly boring “The Nine,” I was perusing all my little law blog RSS feeds for the day, as I’m often wont to do. And I came across something that caught my eye - a photo of somebody I actually know. Aside from the personal blogs of a few close friends, I never see folks I actually know on blogs. Especially on legal blogs. And my first thought, of course, was “uh-oh - this can’t be good.” Particularly since this was on Above the Law, a site that loves the stupid side of law-related things as much as we do.

So this photo was of David Hoffman. Dave and I went to school together, through high school. In fact (nerd alert!), we were teammates and co-captains of our high school’s debate team. Anyway, I knew that Dave was now a law prof at my own undergrad alma matter, Temple University. So what, pray tell, did Professor Hoffman do to get himself in trouble?

Nothing, it turns out. ATL was simply reporting on a recent lunch Hoffman had with another blogger (Howard Bashman from How Appealing). ATL’s “spy” reports that Dave ate “something greasy.”

The most interesting thing about this little discovery for me, however, was learning that Dave is himself a legal blogger, as he contributes to Concurring Opinions. One recent post, for example, asks the interesting question of whether we actually need state appellate courtrooms. I don’t know if Dave takes requests, but if so: Dave, I’d love to read a post on oral advocacy. Particularly if it includes a detailed reenactment of that time in debate when you got into a rather messy verbal spat with an opponent and even, if I recall correctly, went so far as to call her a bitch.

…in Dave’s defense, of course, she was totally a bitch.

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Incontrovertible Evidence that Growing Up Today Sucks More than Ever

dodgeball.jpgWhat the hell is wrong with this country? It’s not enough that adults have to bring a lawsuit every time they spill a cup of coffee, that fat people have to blame Burger King when their blood turns to Velveeta, or that our Congressman are diddling the kiddies. Now we have to freakin’ micro-legislate the extra-curricular activities of elementary school kids?

Well, at least they do in Attleboro (addled borough), MA, where school officials have banned playground tag and other unsupervised chasing games. Those bitches. Sort of takes all the goddamn fun out of kiss-tag, doesn’t it? You take the chase out of it, and all you have left are nine-year-olds making out. What kind of fun is that?

According to the Boston Globe, this is just part of a growing trend in elementary schools, where “many principals are making up new rules in an atmosphere reflecting society’s increasingly cautious and litigious nature.” Indeed, many schools have already gotten rid of dodgeball because it’s too dangerous and exclusionary. Well, of course it is. How the hell are children supposed to learn humility unless they’re picked last and knocked out first time and time again? Humiliation begets character, goddamnit.

When I was a kid, we shot bottle rockets and BBs at each other. And if we got a BB caught in our spine, our parents made us keep it and walk around for the rest of our lives gimped. And when we had the occasional seizure, well, that was just a healthy reminder not to shoot BB guns at each other. I mean, what’s next? Banning Duck, Duck, Goose because it discriminates against Geese?

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The Daily Memo - 10/18/2006

check.jpgA California Assemblywoman told a high school economics class that she wouldn’t kick the Governator out of her bed, and some folks are a little pissed about the comment. (CBS5)

check.jpgWell it’s official - Bush has signed the awful Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. (Washington Post)

check.jpgTrey Parker and Matt Stone treat their attorney right, by congratulating him on his firm’s 10th anniversary with an ad in Variety, complete with photo of coke, pot and guns. (Defamer)

check.jpgKen Lay is laughing from his chair down in Hell as a federal judge vacated Lay’s fraud and conspiracy conviction. (FindLaw)

check.jpgThe RIAA hasn’t learned anything and is continuing its losing war against file downloaders, with 8,000 more lawsuits being filed across the world. (Yahoo)

check.jpgA Maryland man has written his Senator to request help in becoming an illegal alien so he can get a fat income tax return, and some free health care. (Strange Politics)

check.jpgNext month, Nevada voters will decide on, and likely vote against, a ballot proposal to legalize possession of small amounts of pot. (The State)

Hey Perez Hilton - see you next Tuesday!

QuizLaw: Douchebagsayswhat.

Perez Hilton: What?

QL: Douchebagsayswhat.

PH: What?!

QL: …exactly.

I think the underlying message of this little morality play is fairly obvious - we here at QuizLaw think that Perez Hilton is a douchebag. Who is Perez Hilton, you ask? Well, you’re better for not knowing. He’s this gossip blogger who changed his name from Mario Lavandeira to the oh-so-fabulous “Perez Hilton.” He loves being a bitch, but often ends up just being a douchebag. Now he’s pointed his douchebaggery towards a legal issue, making him fair game for QuizLaw. Here’s the skinny.

There’s this website, X17 Online, which is a new blog for the X17 Agency, a celebrity photo agency (a.k.a., a paparazzi shop). As detailed here, X17 has decided to crack down on other blogs and websites that use its photos without a license or permission. They’ve let the matter slide for years, and have basically allowed free use of their images. But now that they’re blogging on their own, they’d like to be able to have their images be exclusive to them. Plus, it’s just harder in general to make money on these photos when they’re floating all over the internets. Whatever you think about the paparazzi industry, there’s an obvious thirst in our country for the photos, so X17’s new position makes sense. And it’s their legal right - they own the copyright in their photos and can do what they want with them.

Anyway, they sent out a note to various celebrity/gossip blogs, basically asking them to stop using their photos without permission. As detailed by Jossip, the note was relatively friendly:

Hi there — sorry, but I think the free ride’s ending. We’re asking that everyone cease and desist using X17’s images, watermarked or not, effective immediately. We’ve gotta get some traffic out of our Britney story and when other sites run all our pix, even with a link to us, what good does it do for us? Sorry guys, but from now on we will offer images for license only. We may be able to work out some deals with particular websites for the use of one or two images/story in certain circumstances, but you need to email first for permission. If you have pitches you’d like to make about why you should be able to use our images, how you’d like to work with us, etc., we’re always open to suggestions. This is not an angry email, we just have to start protecting our images and not giving them away — we’re losing money, guys!
This means no Britney pix unless you email first and we’ll decide on a case-by-case basis.

All told, that’s a pretty reasonable letter. X17 could’ve come right out the gate with a strongly worded “cease and desist” letter - I’ve written some of those in my law firm days, and you can make them real nasty sounding. But they took the relative high road.

But douchebag-extroidanaire Perez Hilton decided to bypass that high road with an amazingly ignorant and vulgar response:

Don’t threaten me bitch. I’m not scared! I would have gladly put up a link to your site but you had to get all nasty.
Instead of wanting to have me as a friend or an ally you choose to be a cunt! CUNT! And I don’t wanna work with cunts. And liars. And unethical people. And that’s what you are!
You’ve tried to fuck me over. And you’ve only fucked yourself over.

So the folks at X17 are cunts and liars and unethical people because they don’t want other people committing copyright infringement by illegally using their photos?


Dear Mr. Lavandiera douchebag Hilton - copyright law has been around for 200+ years now. There are plenty of places you can read up on it. Hell, you can learn about it right here on this very site! And yes, there is a little principle called fair use which sometimes allows folks to use copyrighted material without permission or a license. But your commercial use of a fully protected photograph, in a way that probably decreases the original photo’s market value, is not likely to be found fair use. So you’re probably the unethical cunt. But thanks for playing.

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“Errr…uhm…because I was looking for clients?”

shoreClub.jpgGood ol’ Florida brings us another bizarre little story. There’s this South Beach hotel called the Shore Club. It’s the place where Suge Knight got himself shot last year. Well, they’re in the news again because of a little fire-rescue that had to take place there yesterday.

In the wee hours of the morning, hotel employees called the Miami Beach fire department when they found a man trapped in the hotel’s air-conditioning duct. It seems that one Lloyd Winter, a 40-year old local man, climbed up onto the hotel roof in nothing more than a bathing suit. He then started climbing through the hotel vents and, whoops, fell down a duct. He stopped falling when he got caught on some screws, and started calling for help, which led to the eventual rescue effort. After an hour and a half of digging through drywall, the stuck Winter was set free. Winter claims that he was stuck floating in the duct for three days, although local police find this claim dubious.

Why are we talking about this on QuizLaw? Well, Winters got himself some criminal charges as a result of the debacle - turns out he wasn’t an employee or guest, so he got smacked with a trespassing charge. He also got hit with a charge of giving the police a false name. But the real reason this is QuizLaw worthy is more direct than the fact that he’s a stupid criminal - according to the police report, Mr. Winter is also a lawyer.

So QuizLaw would like to say that if you have a problem, if no one else can help, if you are in need of a Miami Beach lawyer, and if you can find what ventilation duct he’s hiding in, maybe you can hire…Lloyd Winter, attorney at law!

The Firecrotch and Other Burning Legal Items

lohan.jpgCelebrity legal news runs amok today, as we have three Hollywood bits to run, not including the lawsuit Vince Vaughn filed as what can only cynically be thought of as a conspiratorial strategy to use the legal system to hide his French-kiss philandering.

First up, celebrity Firecrotch and the blogging world’s favorite gored-out punching bag was served papers in an unusual hiding spot on Friday — the red carpet. Indeed, while attending the Annual American Cinematheque Award honoring George Clooney, Lohan was approached by what she thought was an autograph seeker, only to be met with a subpoena. The lawsuit in question was brought by a couple of men who were purportedly promised managing rights to Lohan’s music career, only to have those rights given away to Tommy Mottola. The suit seeks several thousand dollars for fraud, theft, and violation of contract. No one has yet filed the inevitable lawsuit seeking damages for the noise pollution wrought by Lindsay’s two albums, however.

Cameron Diaz was also in the news, after a photographer lost his appeal following his conviction for forgery and theft. John Rutter took nude photos of Diaz when she was only 19, and later sought to extort $3.5 million from the untalented actress. Clearly, Rutter would’ve had a better shot seeking damages for emotional distress and loss of consortium after having to see Diaz in the buff.

Finally, Wesley Snipes who, by my recollection, hasn’t made a decent flick since 1991’s New Jack City, was indicted today on eight counts of fraud, after he was accused of cheating the government out of $12 million is false refunds. What’s more, the Blade star didn’t file a tax return between 1999 and 2004. However, Snipes did file an amended return for one year, in which he listed zero income and asked for a $7.4 million refund. He faces up to 16 years in prison. It is not, however, Snipes’ first run in with the law. In the past, he has been accused of beating Halle Berry; he has tried to skip out on a paternity lawsuit that was eventually dismissed; and he tried to get into South Africa with fake passport documents. If convicted, Snipes will not be missed.

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The Daily Memo - 10/17/06

check.jpgBlawg Review #79 is up over at the Tech Law Advisor. (Tech Law Advisor)

check.jpgA restaurant is being sued, and may end up going out of business, because three covers were played by a band without the requisite copyright royalties being paid. (The Oregonian)

check.jpgLooks like Vince Vaughn is gonna’ sue some gossip rags because the photo of him they ran, making out with another woman, allegedly misleads people into thinking he was in a passionate embrace. (The Superficial)

check.jpgAn Atlanta woman has filed a federal lawsuit after being ticketed for an anti-Bush bumper sticker she had on her car (the ticket was ruled unconstitutional back in in 1990). (CNN)

check.jpgBut this doesn’t answer the question as to whether the courts actually have jurisdiction over Satan. (Sui Generis)

check.jpgNine members of the same family were all admited to practice before the Supreme Court, amid laughter at Chief Justice Roberts’ sole question - “nobody wanted to be a doctor?” (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgPrisoners can’t have any fun, as an Indiana prison has now ruled that all visiting women must wear bras and must not wear revealing tops. (ABC News)

Bah Humbug!

scrooge.jpgThis story is already great just for the fact that it’s main character is named Wendell Jerome Herman Rogers II. That’s just a solid name!

Anyways, last year, Rogers the Second was at a Christmas party on Christmas Eve, as many are wont to do at that time of the year. The next morning, Rogers the Second got into a scuffle with his wife in front of their two youngins. What exactly happened is unclear, but it sounds like Rogers the Second is a bit of a scumbum considering he was “charged with family violence, battery and obstructing and hindering a person making an emergency telephone call.”

Finally facing these charges, Rogers the Second received an interesting sentence from Judge Sidney Nation (another fun name). There’s the usual kind of things - he has to pay a $1,000 fine, and he has a 12 month jail sentence which is suspended so long as he completes an anger management course. But Judge Nation threw in one additional component - to make up for the fact that he ruined his family’s Christmas last year, this year Rogers the Second must take his family to a fancy-schmancy Christmas dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants.

Pretty amusing, at first glance. But if you look at it another way, it kinda’ sounds like a court-sanctioned “sorry I beat you honey - I’ll make it up to you by taking you out for steak tomorrow night,” don’t it?

The Secret to the GOP’s 2006 Election Strategy

kolbe.jpgDamn. Here we go again: NBC is reporting that federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that an Arizona Congressman, Jim Kolbe, took a camping trip ten years ago with a couple of teenagers. The teenagers were congressional pages, and — it probably doesn’t need to be said — Kolbe is a Republican. Oh, and the congressional pages were also boys (Kolbe is openly gay, but wasn’t at the time of the camping trip).

Kolbe doesn’t deny that the trip took place, but his people are saying that everything was on the up and up. NBC, however, has conducted several interviews with the folks who were on the trip — which included Kolbe’s sister, five current staff members, some National Park employees, and the two teenage pages — and one of the guys in attendance stated that he was “creeped out” by the attention Kolbe was heaping upon the pages, in addition to the “petting, fawning, and touching” of the teenagers’ arms and backs.

For the record, Kolbe is not actually up for reelection this fall. And, besides, I personally doubt Kolbe did anything inappropriate. In fact, I suspect the entire investigation was trumped up by the Republican Party. Having lost most of the Christian right because of the Foley scandal, I think the GOP has decided to embrace their new identity by creating a new scandal to solicit the pedophilia demographic. Pedophiles comprise about 4 percent of the population, and at the rate things are going, that’s the only 4 percent the Republicans are going to win this fall. Well, pedophiles and Baptists.

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The Daily Memo - 10/16/06

check.jpgOver 800 New York lawyers have 30 days to pay up their state bar registration fees or they’ll find themselves suspended. (Daily Intelligencer)

check.jpgJon Lovitz will be hosting an NBC show by the name of “Bad Judge,” a mockery of the plethora of courtroom shows (see “Judge Judy”) currently on the air. (TV Squad)

check.jpgPrison guards are most likely to blame for the steady rise of smuggled cell phones in prisons. (NPR)

check.jpgCopyright law is keeping some TV show DVDs MIA. (Overlawyered)

check.jpgMany are betting against the ban on internet gambling. (MSNBC)

check.jpgDo class-action lawsuits fail to hold bad companies accountable for their bad actions? (SFGate)

check.jpgA parking lot tiff between parents outside of an elementary school has led to “a series of ethics charges and legal actions that have cost [local] taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.” (NJ.com)

check.jpgAn Atlanta man went on a year-long spree, marrying 10 women from Africa. (ajc.com)

Monday Morning Distractions

girlsGoneWild.jpgSo back in 2002, Florida passed a law banning public nudity - i.e., women can’t hang out in public with their business hanging out in public. A woman from Ormond Beach (which is up by Daytona Beach) isn’t such a fan of this law, so while at the beach in March 2004, she decided to take up a protest. Elizabeth Book made her protest by pulling her top off and letting her breasts fly free. She was promptly arrested for violating this law, of course, and smacked with a $253 fine. Ever the vigilant warrior, Book took this to the courts, and god bless the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with a lower court ruling - Book is allowed to go topless in protest of the law because it’s a legitimate political protest. See, just when there are so many stories of stupidity flowing out of Florida that you begin to think about carving it away from the rest of the country, you get something like this that reminds us why it’s worth still having in the Union.

methPipe.jpgOk people, seriously - please, for the love of god, do not go to court with your meth pipe in your bag, especially if you’re going to court, in the first place, for drug charges. It’s just not smart.

orourke.jpgThe Law School Dean Hotties contest is running in full swing over at Above the Law, and on the female side of things QuizLaw’s own Dean O’Rourke is in the running. Sadly, she’s at the bottom of the pile, getting absolutely smoked by a cute little Texas blonde and another cute little Yalie.

[A note from Dustin: QuizLaw’s Pinup Gal is running second to last, and it’s a travesty, y’all. A freakin’ travesty. In fact, I think there might be some voting irregularities. David Lat is running a goddamn sham. Please, get over there and vote … a nice piece of ass like Dean O’Rourke shouldn’t be ignored (oh man – I’m so not getting invited to the alumni golf outing this year).]


A Kansas legislator is in trouble with the law after allegedly attacking a protestor, who was dressed up as a cockroach, and tearing off the cockroach head.

fruitcake.jpgAnd finally, if we’ve told you once, we’ve told you a thousand times - fruitcakes are nothing but trouble. Seriously. Just like you shouldn’t take meth pipes to court, you shouldn’t be mailing fruitcakes out to folks on the holidays. Not just because fruitcakes are lousy, but because you may end up having to sue the post office after they accuse you of being a terrorist, like this 88-year-old granny.

A horse is a horse of course of course

duff.jpgHilary Duff and her man-meat, some tool from Good Charlotte, have filed a lawsuit alleging that that they’re being stalked and harassed by two people - a 50 year old paparazzi and a 19 year old homeless Russian immigrant(!!). This homeless dude, who goes by the name of Max, has allegedly admitted his obsession with Duff, and has even been detained by the cops at least once.

Now I haven’t actually read the court documents, mind you, because I have better things to do with my day (i.e., try to find legal news relating to more important, interesting or mockable celebrities). But one assumes that Duff is seeking, at a minimum, a restraining order against Max and the paparazzi. Seems like an unnecessary thing to me though - she shouldn’t need no court papers to keep people away. One would think that those chompers of hers, and the threat of an ensuing bite, would be enough to keep even the craziest and most die hard of stalkers away, no?


The Daily Memo - 10/13/06

check.jpgWhen “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” collides with the law. (Info/Law)

check.jpgA lawyer may become a partial owner of my beloved Philadelphia 76ers ‘cause, you know, lawyers know tons about running a sports team. (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgAn Idaho judge has ruled a nine-year-old girl competent to testify at the trial of a man accussed of killing her family. (CNN)

check.jpgWal-Mart’s been found guilty of violating Pennsylvania state labor laws. (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgPlayboy is suing three Chinese companies for trademark infringement and copyright infringement for their use of the Playboy bunny. (BBC)

Yes it’s a kinda’ sad story, but I’m gonna’ make fun of it anyway

oz.jpgSo 62-year-old Timothy J. Bowers was having trouble finding a steady job after the drug wholesaler he used to work for closed down. The only work he could find was little odd jobs which only paid the meager minimum-wage, and to Bowers’ mind, he wasn’t helped any by age discrimination. Looking ahead, he knew Social Security was waiting for him right around the corner. But what to do ‘til then? What to do?

Well, he came up with a financial plan. That plan? Rob a bank, of course. But get this - he wasn’t intending to live on the proceeds of the robbery. Nope - he immediately handed the stolen money to the bank guard and then waited around to be arrested. For you see, Mr. Bowers’ financial plan was to live on the taxpayer dime courtesy of the Hotel de Prison.

Bowers pled guilty to a robbery charge and told the judge that he thought a three-year sentence would work just dandy for him. So the judge hooked him up and Bowers will be living the high life for the next three years in the clink. Here’s hoping Bowers doesn’t get stuck with a Ryan O’Reily or Adebisi type as his cell mate - a shiv in the gullet may muck up his long-term stock portfolio.

“It’s embarrassing for my position.”

golfCart.jpgThe police chief of Lamar, NC has been charged with a little crime of his own. Apparently, while in uniform, Police Chief McDonald thought it would be a good idea to steal the windshield out of a golf cart. The cart was chained to a pole, so it’s unclear at this time whether he was trying to get around the chain by stealing the cart one piece at a time, or if he just really needed a golf cart windshield. You know, like for a window in his kid’s tree house or some such.

During his bond hearing, McDonald admitted to the judge that he “messed up” and that the whole thing was embarrassing for his position. You think? He also acknowledged that the media was there and that they’d “have a field day with it.” I think he’s a little high on himself. I mean, it’s an amusing anecdote and all that (hell, I’m blogging about it, aren’t I), but it doesn’t really rise up to the level of “have a field day with it.” I mean, it’s certainly no naked prosecutor story, know what I mean?

The Daily Memo - 10/12/06

check.jpgGood thing he doesn’t take his gavel home with him - a Memphis judge and his lady friend have been slapped with domestic assault charges after allegedly having at it. (The Legal Reader)

check.jpgJ Lo, who allegedly bitches out stewardesses who can’t make her coffee right, has been sued by a private jet company which claims she owes over $30K for chartered flights. (ABC News)

check.jpgA Florida woman won $11.3 million in an internet defamation case stemming from an unhappy client who posted various complaints about her company online. (USA Today)

check.jpgGreat quote from a 1994 case: “The pungent odors of cat urine and cigarette smoke permeate this litigation.” (A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago)

check.jpgThe Supreme Court is going to decide whether buttons are bad. (Slate)

check.jpgRide a horse while you’re drunk and take it onto the highway and you just might get yourself a lil’ ol’ DUI. (Citizen-Times)

check.jpgBecause there’s nothing else for Congress to focus on, 29 Republicans have taken Dog the Bounty Hunter up as their cause du jour. (WBIR)

A modern day single’s ad

scott.jpgHello, my name is Scott Blauvelt. I’m thirty-five years old and I live in Ohio. I currently work as a local city prosecutor, after having spent time as both a defense lawyer and an assistant county prosecutor. I like sunrises, puppies, and slow walks on the beach.

Oh, and slow walks in government buildings. After hours. Naked. Is that going to be a problem?

Don’t Throw out the Bath Water with the Baby

baby.jpgWhen I was a young’in, my folks — like most, I suspect — used to argue occasionally. Sometimes, if my Mom prepared the same goddamn brand of Hamburger Helper two weeks in a row, things would really get heated. Once, in fact, after my Dad had drank four of five Miller Lites, he got so angry, he picked up the plate of Hamburger Helper and smashed it against the wall, raining Double Cheeseburger all over our dining room and eliciting a chorus of tears from my siblings and I, who loved Double Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper.*

Crazy story, right? Well, everything is relative, especially when you compare the account to that of Chyrotia Graham, a 27-year-old Erie, Pa. woman whose drunken argument with her husband suddenly turned violent. Instead of picking up a plate of Hamburger Helper and throwing it at her husband, however, Graham picked up the closest thing available: Her baby.

Yep. You heard me right. During the argument, Graham began picking up everything in sight and tossing them at her husband, up and until she picked her four-week-old son up by the legs and swung him at his father, resulting in a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain.

Graham now faces charges of assault and reckless endangerment and all her children have been removed temporarily from her custody.

(* Note: I made this part up.)

The Daily Memo - 10/11/06

check.jpgThe IRS is making a new push to hire top law school graduates. (Legal Profession Blog)

check.jpgLeading law bloggers apparently like The Macaroni Grill. (Above the Law)

check.jpgHas Google’s purchase of YouTube just opened up the search company’s deep pockets to some copyright lawsuits? (Wall Street Journal via Overlawyered)

check.jpgDoes the Congressional ban on internet gambling just make it easier for the bad guys to launder money? (I, Cringley via Overlawyered)

check.jpgA London man was tossed in the clink after farting in the courtroom and proceeding to laugh about it. (Yahoo)

check.jpgCingular Wireless is suing various telemarketers over calls made to its customers. (Yahoo)

Well at least I can still keep the army out of my house…for now

olbermann.jpgLast week, I ranted a bit about the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Well Keith Olbermann took a swing at it last night on his daily “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” specifically focusing on its slaughter of habeas corpus. He notes Bush’s oath to uphold the Constitution, pointing out that when Bush gets around to actually signing this legislation, it may kinda’ go against that oath, what with the Constitution including a little statement that “the privilege of the writ of habeaus corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Olbermann then goes on to show how the elimination of this bill and its nixing of habeas corpus can be seen as killing all but one of rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, leaving us with a Bill of Right. For example:

Ok, No. 1 is gone. I mean, if you’re detained without trial, you lose your freedom of religion and speech, press, assembly, all the rest of that. So, you don’t need that any more.

You can read the trasnscript and/or watch the video here on Keith’s site.

“If I could make my eyes actually bulge right out of my head, I would!”

runaway.jpgSigh…unfortunately, I think we all remember that damned “runaway bride” chick. When she was just a wee lass, like many other little girls, she probably pictured herself having a big ol’ fancy wedding, living happily ever after, etc. - one of the great American dreams. But since that hasn’t worked out so well, she’s now decided to go after one of the other great American dreams - winning some coin in a nice little lawsuit.

Yup, our dear Ms. Bug Eyes is suing the fled-from-fiance for half a million bucks. Here’s the deal. Said ex-fiance, John Mason, actually stayed with Bug Eyes after she ran off, for almost a whole extra year - however, everything fell apart last May. During their extended time together, the “happy couple” got $500,000 from an agent for their fantastic story. Bug Eyes alleges that Mason used this money to buy a house and that she’s now entitled to her share, a.k.a., $250,000. And while she’s at it, she’d like another $250K in punitive damages, plus some personal property returned to her (including a gold sofa). She does not, apparently, ask for her pride or dignity back.

Since the lawsuit was filed last month, Mason’s clock to respond is ticking, and he’s gotta’ get his response in by October 22. Vegas is giving even odds that he’ll be filing a counter-suit seeking damages for her fraudulent concealment of the fact that she’s bat-shit-crazy.

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Children Can Only be Returned if they’re Still in the Shrink Wrap

walmart.jpgI don’t know if it still exists, but back in my college days, Wal-Mart had a 100 percent Money-Back Guarantee, with no questions asked. It was a pretty fantastic policy, actually. People would buy lawn mowers in the spring, and return them in the fall. Often at Christmas, when I’d get a pile of shitty presents I had no desire to keep, I’d just take them all to Wal-Mart and return them, whether they originated their or not. It was usually good for $100 or so. No questions asked.

Anyway, this story isn’t apropos of anything. I was just reminded of it when I read about a 57-year-old woman who decided that she, too, wanted to make a return. Only it wasn’t at Wal-Mart. And it wasn’t a crappy Nelson cassette. It was her adopted child.

Yep. Helen Briggs is trying to un-adopt her son. In her own words, she says, “You don’t want to throw somebody away. But sometimes you have to.” Well spoken, Ms. Briggs. Well spoken.

It’s not as though Briggs doesn’t have a good reason for returning her adopted son. In retail parlance, he was defective. He’d been in and out of foster homes since he was 16 months old, he was physically abused by his biological parents, and he was possibly bipolar - all of which is a bit like purchasing a new plasma screen television and learning that it was missing several channels.

But Briggs’ real beef came when her adopted son molested a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old and was deemed a sexual predator by psychologists, which is more like finding out that your new plasma TV was missing channels and wasn’t cable-ready, and that its only working channel gave you violent seizures that compelled you to pick up an axe and chop up your neighbors. What’s more, social workers only told Briggs that the kid was “hyperactive,” though case workers are kvetching that Briggs is just trying to get out of paying child support. I bet they never hear that one at Wal-Mart.

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The Daily Memo - 10/10/06

check.jpgSome pissed off parents are thinking about filing a nice big lawsuit because their kids’ fingerprints are being collected by school without prior parental knowledge or consent. (Engadget)

check.jpgSome states are now considering keeping a close eye on blogs maintained by lawyers, possibly requiring the blogs to be registered with a committee that would review them (to ensure that there’s no unethical advertising going on). (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgHarvard Law is shaking up its One L curriculum with the biggest set of changes in over a century, adding new mandatory courses like ones about international law and legal problem solving. (NY Times via WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgLast Friday, Bush signed the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 into law. (The TTABlog)

check.jpgComedian Laura Kightlinger has filed a lawsuit alleging a “truly shocking example of the theft of intellectual property” involving two scripts about females who start working with animal rescue groups because they’re unhappy about the direction of their lives. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)

check.jpgA Portland man charged with “felony civil rights intimidation” has been ordered to avoid having any contact with 39 of his neighbors. (The News Examiner)

Can I post your e-mail on my blog?

e-mail.jpgRecently, I received an e-mail from a loyal reader wanting to know about the legality of publishing someone’s e-mail, without their permission, on a blog. While I don’t know the absolute answer to this, here’s how I think the whole thing plays out.

First, to the extent the e-mail’s author has a copyright in the e-mail, you would clearly be committing copyright infringement. Take an easy example. Suppose I write a fictional short story and e-mail it to my buddy for his opinion. If he, in turn, publishes it on his blog without my permission - BZZZT, copyright infringement! This is true even I don’t explicitly say “this is protected by copyright” or “don’t republish this” in the e-mail itself. Things are generally going to be thornier in real life, of course, as most of the e-mails in question won’t be so clear-cut with regard to whether they’re entitled to copyright protection. But that’s the first step you’d have to do - figure out if the e-mail (or portions of it) are entitled to copyright protection - if so, you can’t republish them without the author’s permission (well, you can republish them, but you’re opening yourself up to liability).

Second, there are privacy concerns. If that e-mail contains personal information about the sender, you may be violating a state constitutional right to privacy by posting that personal and private information in a public forum. And while removing their name, e-mail address, etc. would weaken this argument, the argument might still be plausible depending upon the specific content of the e-mail.

Third, you have to look at your relationship with the e-mail’s author. For example, as an attorney I cannot republish a client’s e-mail. That violates the so-called fiduciary duty between an attorney and a client, and is also a clear violation of state ethics codes. There are other situations where a fiduciary relationship may exist, which would act to limit what you can do with information given to you by someone else, including their e-mails.

Now, I was also asked if you could simply rely on the First Amendment in republishing e-mails. Not so much. The First Amendment isn’t the end-all be-all. There’s the oft-cited “you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” example to prove that point. More importantly, any of the above legal issues would trump the First Amendment. The friend who republished my short story certainly has freedom of speech. But that freedom doesn’t entitle him to “speak” with copyrighted information without permission. So long story short, the First Amendment doesn’t do it for you.

So really, you’re much better off asking for permission. Aside from the fact that it can get you past some of these legal issues (risks of copyright infringement, for example), it’s really just common courtesy. In asking for such permission, it’s obviously up to you and the facts of your particular situation as to what you tell them in your request about how you intend to use the e-mail. However, do not lie or be deceptive, lest you open yourself up to a claim of fraud, which would probably be an even bigger can of worms!

Finally, if you receive e-mails via a submission form, you can always include Terms and Conditions which make it clear that a person, by agreeing to the Terms and Conditions and submitting something to you, is aware of the fact that any of the submitted information may be posted publicly and they accept this and waive any objection. This doesn’t cover you from e-mails sent directly to you, rather than via the form, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

So that’s my thinking on the issue. If anyone’s got other thoughts on the matter, comment away.

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I woke up this morning with a bad hangover again and my penis was missing

kingMissile.jpgWhen I was in high school, I discovered this obscure little song called “Detachable Penis.” Starting with the line used as this post’s title, it detailed a man’s journey to recover his detachable penis, which is often misplaced after going to a party and getting drunk. I won’t ruin the surprise of where he finds said detachable penis.

Anyways, I learned that this song was by a group called King Missile, who had a bunch of songs like this - fun little music with spoken word bits on top of it all. My personal favorite was one called “Martin Scorsese,” wherein the author explains how he would show his love for the director in a which Scorsese-the-director might approve of (and by the by, let me just take this opportunity to plug Scorsese’s latest - The Departed is really fantastic).

Why am I talking about King Missile on a legal blog? Well son of a bitch if the group’s lead singer and lyricist ain’t a New York attorney. Seems that John S. Hall works at the little firm of Heraty Law. As his bio points out, he’s even had cool gigs like doing legal work for DC Comics and doing legal work for a documentary about Bush v. Gore. Good stuff. If I ever need a New York entertainment lawyer, I’m totally calling Mr. Hall up. Especially if the case involves my bloody mutilation of a Hollywood director or a stolen penis.

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This Post Has Nothing to do with Hastert’s Sexuality

hastert.jpgI was going to use my afternoon post to discuss recent unsubstantiated speculation floating around the Internets that the reason that House Speaker Denny Hastert was reluctant to press the Mark Foley matter earlier was because that Hastert, himself, is gay. However, I don’t think it’s ethically responsible for us to engage in idle speculation, or rehash old rumors about Hastert entering politics after charges surfaced in Illinois that he had made inappropriate contact with male wrestling students when he was a wrestling coach in the 1970s.

Moreover, there’s just no way we could justify discussing some silly liberal gossip about Hastert’s Chief of Staff, Scott Palmer, a topic that Hastert doesn’t like to discuss. But, who is Scott Palmer? Oh, he’s Hastert’s Chief of Staff. It’s not a big deal though, even if Palmer lives with Hastert while they’re in D.C — apparently a very unusual arrangement in Washington. Does living with a single man that he also works with all day make Hastert gay? We wouldn’t dare speculate. That’d be unprofessional.

Besides, Hastert is married. And obviously there’s nothing to be made of the ridiculous report that when Hastert’s wife is in town, she stays in a hotel, while Hastert maintains his place with his chief of staff. It doesn’t mean anything. So, we should just let it go.

Besides, if all of these unfounded, unsubstantiated stories that we are not reporting on actually came out and revealed Denny Hastert to be a gay man, we’d have no choice but to respect him a little more — if only for his ability to keep his Brokeback love for Scott Palmer from the public for so long. It really is tragic … I mean … would be tragic, if it were true.

But, like I said, I refuse to cover the “Hastert is Gay” non-story. Instead, I will report on a former military man who is suing a restaurant because there wasn’t enough shrimp or scallops in his seafood. It’s a much more interesting story; you can read about it here, if you’re interested.

The Daily Memo - 10/9/06

check.jpgGoogle is subpoenaing records from Microsoft and Yahoo in connection with its big ol’ copyright infringement case. (Slashdot)

check.jpgThe first line of this article says it all - “A Chicago man apologized for spreading his feces around a courtroom during his trial on drug charges.” (Breitbart)

check.jpgOh how we wish this headline were true - “Tom Cruise sues over unauthorized use of image on butt plug.” (postcards from the pug bus)

check.jpgA District Court in Virginia recently spanked the PTO for, among other things, its “arbitrary abuse of discretion.” (The TTABlog)

check.jpgBush’s policies on the environment are pissing off some judges in Oregon, California, Montana and Wyoming, and they’re not afraid to say so. (Washington Post)

check.jpgA man has sued every Roman Catholic diocese and the bishops, trying to force the identification of every pedophile priest. (WWTI)

check.jpgA mother who went to court for child support instead got smacked with statutory rape charges. (PostStar)

check.jpgThe EFF is suing the Department of Defense over cyber surveillance. (Slashdot)

Interesting articles you need to read

mondays.jpgIt’s Monday morning and you really don’t feel like working yet, right? Well, here are two good things you should read in furtherance of Operation Avoid Doing Real Work On A Monday Morning.

First up is a great article from Slate’s always interesting Dahlia Litwick. In the article, Litwick argues that the relationship between Congress and the Supreme Court has become dysfunctional, insofar as Congress now passes legislation it knows to be unconstitutional (passing them in an attempt to appease voters) with the knowledge that the Supremes will eventually set things right (while, at the same time, hypocritically decrying judicial activism). Referencing the provision of last week’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 which strips the civil courts of the ability to review detainee military commissions, my favorite paragraph of the article reads:

There is some irony in this congressional willingness to see the courts as some kind of constitutional chambermaid—as an entity that exists to clean up after Congress smashes up the room. It is especially ironic when it’s articulated by members of Congress who like to invoke judicial restraint as a constitutional value. But it is beyond ironic, and approaching parody, when Congress asks the court to clean up a bill it knows to be unconstitutional, when the bill itself includes a court-stripping provision.

This morning’s second piece isn’t really law-related, but QuizLaw has certainly been known to dabble in the closely related (and generally intermingled) world of politics. Anyway, Time magazine recently published what it calls “The Secret Letter from Iraq.” Written by a Marine officer who, as my Army friends say, is “down range,” this Marine offers a “wry narration and unusually frank dissection of the mission [which] contrasts sharply with the story presented by both sides of the Iraq war debate, the Pentagon spin masters and fierce critics.” While it’s worth reading for the many bits told via various category headings such as “Saddest Moment” and “Best Chuck Norris Moment,” it’s especially worth reading if for no other reason than the fact that it references midgets, and midgets are always worth reading about:

Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

nyMag.jpgAnd finally, although I haven’t read it yet, you can never go wrong with an article about Stephen Colbert. Especially a nice long one courtesy of New York Magazine. And if you get through that long sucker and still wanna’ kill some Monday time, they’ve also got a Colbert guide to winning the fall election.

The Daily Memo - 9/6/06 (Part 2)

check.jpgThe TTAB has sustained a trademark opposition to HARRY POTHEAD on the grounds that it dilutes the HARRY POTTER mark and is likely to cause confusion. (The TTABlog)

check.jpgAt the behest of his wife, charges against Phillies pitcher Brett Myers have been dropped (they stemmed from when he publicaly beat her outside of Fenway last June). (SI)

check.jpgNew Jersey is going to start taxing digital downloads, as D.C. already does. (Download Squad)

check.jpgThe Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the NSA wiretap program can continue, without warrants, until an appeal is heard out of the prior ruling that this program was unconstitutional. (CNN)

check.jpgOver a dozen dog owners have sued Hollywood Paws because they claim the company failed to turn their dogs into TV and movie stars. (FindLaw)

check.jpgThe Federal Circuit has ruled that damage awards for trademark infringement and patent infringement amounted to an inappropriate double recovery because the plaintiff did not show seperate and distinct harm fron each infringement. (Patently-O)

check.jpgThe 81-year-old father of Senator Norm Coleman has pled guilty to disorderly conduct charges connected with a sexual romp he had in a car outside of a pizza joint. (Star Tribune)

The Daily Memo - 9/6/06 (Part 1)

check.jpgThe California Court of Appeal has ruled that it doesn’t violate the state constitution to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. (The Legal Reader)

check.jpgOur friendly brewers over at Patent Baristas are hosting Blawg Review #77. (Patent Baristas)

check.jpgAn 80-year-old man (!!) has been thrown in the clink for 6 to 18 months after being found guilty of having tried to trade crack for sex. (Centre Daily)

check.jpgEmerson, a company that makes various household products, is tweaked that NBC’s “Heroes” showed one of its garbage disposals being used to mangle a woman’s hand, and NBC’s decided to edit future airings. (STLtoday and TV Squad)

check.jpgThe ACLU’s challenge against the Patriot Act is finally moving forward, three years after oral arguments in the case. (FindLaw)

check.jpgA Pittsburgh judge has said that a former Nazi guard must give up his U.S. citizenship and be deported. (FindLaw)

check.jpgAn Arkansas woman decided that the best thing to do for her fifth (!!) DWI hearing in a year was to show up to court drunk. (The Legal Reader)

There’s no happier alliteration than Florida Friday!

alimony.jpgJust when you’re feeling a little down in the doldrums and wondering if this Friday is ever going to get into full gear so that you can hit the weekend, our favorite state helps us out once again. This time, we look to one Lawrence Roach, who was married to his wife for 17 years. Things eventually petered out, and 18 months ago they got divorced. Since then, Roach has been paying her $1,200 per month in alimony. Now, a year and a half later, he would like to stop making these payments. Why for, you ask?

Well it seems the ex Mrs. Roach has become the ex Mr. Roach - Lawrence’s unidentified ex-wife had herself a sex change. And Roach argues that “[i]t’s humiliating to me and degrading” to have to keep paying alimony to another man. Then he presents this surprisingly enlightened, though likely just as ineffective, argument - “If you can’t be married to a man legally, how can you legally pay alimony to a man?”

“Obscenity is the Crutch of Inarticulate Motherfuckers”

schoolbus.jpgIt probably doesn’t really need saying, but we here at QuizLaw are admirers of profanity. Sometimes, the complexities of the law, the dumbasses who are arrested, or the infuriating way Justice Scalia uses logic and reason to draft opinions we disagree with simply warrant a string of gratuitous swear words. What can I say? The rate of alcoholism among lawyers is double that among adults generally, and since whiskey loosens the tongue, and since we often blog while drunk … well, let’s just say that we don’t worry about whether or not Tipper Gore is reading.

But we like to think we know where to draw the line, unlike — say — Robert Eckhardt, who managed to do what few people outside the control of the FCC can accomplish, namely get convicted for verbal obscenity. Indeed, the standard for obscenity is very high, established by the Supremes in the Miller decision, which defined obscenity as “a work that 1) taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest under contemporary community standards, 2) depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and 3) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, political, or scientific value.” That may not make much sense to our lay readers, but rest assured, there aren’t very many people who don’t peddle in child porn that are convicted of obscenity, and the number is even less when we’re talking about verbal obscenity.

But Eckhardt, a former Teamster with a lot of residual anger, managed to do the near impossible. In a two-year period he left over 200 voicemails to a Teamster office worker, Sue Ann Creech, and as many as 30 a week during a two-month period. And a jury apparently took enough offense to his messages to convict him of an obscenity charge (as well as several other harassment counts), and that’s now been upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

And believe you me, whenever anyone hears about charges of obscenity, the immediate reaction is to wonder what was so bad. And we won’t leave you hanging. Eckhart’s diatribes included, in part, messages to this effect: “Hey Sue, why don’t you take one of them fuckin’ school buses … and use it like a vibrator up your cunt” and “use them fuckin’ garbage trucks like a fuckin’ dildo and stick em’ up your cunt.” Clearly, Eckhardt had issues with the female genitalia.

At any rate, check out the opinion for a full account, which wins bonus points for the pure joy of reading a judicial opinion constructed around crude language. Hat tip to Bashman for pointing out the opinion.

The Daily Memo - 10/5/06

check.jpgWeezer is suing Miller Brewing for trademark infringement and violation of the band’s right of publicity. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)

check.jpgA Massachusetts state judge has opened the state’s gay marriage doors, ruling that a Rhode Island lesbian couple could be married in Massachusetts since Rhode Island doesn’t have a law that specifically bans same-sex marriage. (Reuters)

check.jpgRejoice - it’s still legal, and not public indecency, to have sex in your backyard hot tub as long as you think others can’t see you. (Chicago Sun-Times)

check.jpgIn Alameda, California, it’s okay to call one mayoral candidate a clown because Kenny the Clown is, you know, an actual clown. (Yahoo)

check.jpgA Boston police officer has been charged after using his authority as a cop to force a prostitute to have sex with him - he was busted because she stole his badge and went to the FBI. (Yahoo)

check.jpgLast week, a Pennsylvania man showed up to court with a cardboard box over his head in an attempt to conceal his identity from a potential witness. (Centre Daily)

check.jpgIn the least unsurprising lawsuit of the week, photographer Larry Birkhead is suing to try to prove that he’s the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s recent daughter, DannieLynn Hope, as opposed to Smith’s attorney and recent commitment ceremony participant, Howard K. Stern. (Zap2It)

check.jpgThe injunction against EchoStar, resulting from its patent infringement loss to TiVo, has been stayed. (The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.)

I’m mad as hell, etc.

network.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, I was in Germany for most of last and this week (seriously, Oktoberfest is the best). On the flight home, I learned that the Senate followed the House’s lead and approved the antiterrorism/detainee bill, known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This is something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while, and excuse me as I now go on my long-overdue diatribe - I may not be saying anything that other “lefty” bloggers haven’t already said, but one more voice is still one more voice.

This legislation is a fucking outrage. To everything that America supposedly stands for. To the fact that we’re supposed to be above the type of behavior of those whom the President and his administration raise their battle cries against whenever it’s politically convenient. To the consumers of American media who are barely being told about the true import and impact of this legislation. To those detractors who are being told by some on the right that any opposition of this legislation is un-American. To those voters (which is, per capita, an unfortunately small amount of our citizenry to begin with) who put these Senators and Representatives into office hoping they would do what is truly best for this country.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, let’s look at just some of the things this legislation does.

“Unlawful Enemy Combatant.” The whole focus of this bill is on a so-called “unlawful enemy combatant,” which is broadly and vaguely defined in the legislation as being any “person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant.” (Section 948a(1)). Ok, so this excludes those who are part of an official State armed force. I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with the inclusion of those who “engage in” hostilities against the U.S. or our friends. These two definitions combined cover al Qaeda and their friends, which is the point. My problem is with the vague inclusion of those who “purposefully and materially” support hostilities. I could maybe be okay with the direction this is going in, but not as it stands now, because it’s too vague and troublesome, leaving the door open for the Administration to basically decide who constitutes purposeful and material support. Plus, this definition presumably includes legal citizens of the U.S. Now, while a citizen of our country who helps plot against the nation is certainly worthy of being considered an enemy of the state, it’s appalling to think that some of the other things that I’m about to discuss could apply to our own citizenry. Or even to citizens of our so-called friendly nations (what few we have left). And again, what the hell does “purposefully and materially” even mean? A man who gives his brother five bucks, and the brother then uses that money to buy matches to light a bomb, could that fall within this definition? I have no doubt that many in the administration would say “you bet.” This is precisely the kind of situation where we should see some of that ever-so-annoying legalese that we all hate but which is sometimes necessary, so we can know precisely what we’re dealing with. Without it, Congress is just leaving lots and lots of squiggle room.

Defense Counsel. The bill outlines the setup and procedure for the military commissions which detainees are to be tried before. Among other things, it says that any detainee who actually gets to face prosecution (more on that in a bit) is entitled to have military counsel (that is, a JAG) defend them. (Sections 948k and 949c). Where things get interesting is with the fact that it says that a prosecuted detainee is also entitled to civilian counsel (that is, a private attorney of their choice), but only if that attorney is deemed “eligible for access to classified information that is classified at the level Secret or higher.” (Section 949c(3)). Now, excluding former government and military attorneys, there probably aren’t a lot of private attorneys who already have such clearance. And is it really that hard to believe that most civil attorneys seeking such clearance in this situation would find their path ever-so-slightly blocked? Which means these detainees are stuck with their military counsel. Which isn’t to say they’re getting bad attorneys - don’t get me wrong. I am good friends with two Army JAGs who I have no doubt are excellent attorneys. But that’s not the point - unlike many other countries, out nation has always prided itself on allowing a defendant to feel he is getting a fair trial, and that includes the counsel of his choice.

Now we start looking at the military commissions themselves, and things get even darker.

“Statements obtained by torture.” Ok, my big problem with this is that it basically excuses past bad behavior. See, the bill acknowledges that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 banned the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by our government. (Sections 948r(c) and (d)). But then it goes on to say that testimony received by such treatment can be used anyway, as long as the bad treatment happened before the Detainee Treatment Act was enacted, i.e., before December 20, 2005. Because, you know, we didn’t know these kinds of things were wrong before there was an official ban. In such an event, the testimony can be used as long as a judge finds it reliable, of probative value and in the “interests of justice.” Reliable? Despite the fact that the majority of evidence out there suggests that testimony-from-torture is anything but reliable, do we really believe in most instances that the testimony won’t be deemed “reliable” by a judge (when the only relevant evidence would presumably be testimony from those involved saying the treatment wasn’t really so bad as to coerce untrue statements)? And as for the “interests of justice,” the government will simply shout “national security” and I guarantee a judge will be disinclined to go against that in 99% of the cases. Hell, I worked on a case where the Department of Defense was a co-defendant, and everytime the government referenced “national security,” the judge bent over backwards, and this was just a little civil case that was unrelated to anything quite as serious as what these cases will be about. In other words, Congress just gave the President, the Department of Defense, et al. a free pass to ignore last term’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision.

Defendant’s right to view and respond to evidence. During a trial, as one might expect, the accused’s attorney has a “reasonable opportunity to obtain witness and other evidence” except for where there’s classified information involved. (Section 949j). When the evidence is classified, the accused gets an alternate version, if practicable. This can be either a copy of the relevant documents with the classified information deleted (the classic “blacked-out” document), a summary of the information or an alternative statement which lists the facts which the classified information “would tend to prove.” Now, think about this for a second. Instead of getting the actual information which is going to the jury and which is going to be used to possibly convict him, a defendant may end up with a simple summary or a list of the facts which the prosecution thinks the evidence proves. And in cases involving terrorism, which is what these prosecutions will be all about, it’s certainly reasonable to believe that much of the information is going to be deemed classified, right? Which it probably should be, particularly where it relates to future potential attacks, the identities of confidential sources, etc. But if it can go before the judge and jury (the actual military commission), there must be some way to get this information before the accused in a way that is useful to him, which he can find trustworthy, and yet which still protects the information. Now I don’t know enough about these things to propose that solution, but it just hits my sense of our judicial system as wrong that a defendant can be convicted by evidence that he never saw.

Oh, and this also includes exculpatory evidence. So if the prosecutor knows of some evidence which hurts their case but which would really help the defendant, he’s only obligated to turn it over where it’s not classified. If it is classified, we’re back to the summary/list approach, meaning an accused may only get some piece of the evidence that’s out there potentially holding the ticket to his freedom and this, again, simply goes against one of the fundamental aspects of our criminal judicial system.

“Fuck the Geneva Convention.” “No alien unlawful combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.” (Section 948b(g)). So fuck the Geneva Conventions, fuck the Supreme Court and its Hamdan decision and fuck the international community and its standards.

“Fuck the right to a speedy trial.” Section 810 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which relates to the right to a speedy trial, does not apply to the military commissions under this legislation. (Section 948b(d)). So the detainees can be held for a nice long time before they’re ever put on trial. According to one report I read, we’ve had over 700 prisoners in Gitmo, but only about 10 have been charged so far. And this bill basically authorizes this practice to go on indefinitely - round folks up, throw ‘em in a camp (and pretty much don’t worry about ever having to support the round-up), and then give ‘em a little torture (but don’t call it “torture”). Congress hereby gives this practice a thumbs up.

Habeas what now? The most remarkable thing of all about this legislation is that it basically kills habeas corpus. Habeas corpus means that someone being detained by the government has the right to challenge, in a court of law, his treatment and detention. It’s the ultimate “check” against the potential dictatorship that any government can easily become. And it’s been around since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. And now it’s kaput, because this bill says that any detained alien combatant is not entitled to challenge their detention, or their treatment, in any civil court. So they can’t present a challenge to argue that they’re innocent and wrongfully being detained. As Senator Arlen Spector said (before voting for the bill anyway), the suspension of habeas corpus basically takes “our civilized society back some 900 years.” Way to go guys - habeas shmabeas!

And of course, without the right to go to civil courts, this also means that the administration’s interpretations and applications of the Geneva Conventions can no longer be challenged in civil court. So if the President or the Secretary of Defense decides that a form of interrogation is ok and, in their opinion, falls within the Conventions, that’s it - game over. No more messy Supreme Court Hamdan getting in the way and mucking things up.

Think about all of this. The administration has just been given permission to round up pretty much anyone it feels like, and toss them into a military detention center. Torture them under secret interrogation techniques which can’t be challenged in court and which the public probably doesn’t even know about. If the detainee is “lucky,” they’ll eventually face a military commission where they’ll be prosecuted, probably without the attorney of their choice, probably without being able to see all of the evidence actually before them, and probably without having a fair opportunity to face their accusers (where the witness are considered top secret sources, for example). And there is no ability to appeal any of this to any civil court - not the detainment, not the interrogation techniques, not the commission proceeding. Nada.

Now some might argue, “yeah, but these guys are terrorist enemies, so fuck ‘em.” Well, I would argue that we should rise above our enemies, and treat everyone with the same standards we apply to ourselves. And this legislation doesn’t do that. Worse yet, it’s folly to assume that every detainee is actually guilty, and it’s utterly disgusting to think that innocent people can be treated in this manner and will be treated in this manner.

This whole situation is appalling, and Congress’ basic willingness to bend to the Administration’s will is appalling. And this comment isn’t just directed to the Republicans, who were the majority of the supporters of the legislation. It’s also directed to those Democrats who helped it out. And it’s directed to those who just sat by silently, and didn’t put up any real fight aside from a useless “no” vote. In other words, this isn’t about partisanship. Rather, anyone who voted for this bill, Democrat and Republican alike, should be ashamed. So should anyone (again, Democrat and Republican alike) who voted against this bill but didn’t fight it with utter outrage, and who didn’t scream to the high heavens about what this legislation would do to the principles of our nation. Shame on them all.

Am I an unpatriotic liberal or, worse yet, an America-hater, because of my opinion here? I know some would argue that I am and dismiss me with little else to say, but it should be readily obvious that quite the opposite is true. Despite its flaws (principally of which is the lack of German beer halls - seriously Congress, isn’t this something you cats could get on?), I love this country and think it’s the best thing going right now. Unquestionably. My family has received untold benefits for being in this country for over a century, and I’ve personally been given opportunities in my life that I wouldn’t have had in many other places. Including the opportunity to have my voice heard and the freedom to make this very rant. And it’s because I love our country that I want to see it maintain its dignity, and keep its respect. Sadly, this legislation does just the opposite.

In fact, while I was in Germany last week, I was sitting in the hotel lobby with another American friend, when a German man tried to strike up a conversation with my friend. His English seemed extremely limited, and our German was no better, so the conversation didn’t get very far past the man’s inquiry as to whether my friend was American. But after he said that yes, he was an American, the man’s expression basically conveyed all that needed to be known, as he shook his head woefully and asked “your President is still this Bush?”

The world continues to shake its head at us. Not just at the fact that we reelected Bush. Not just at the ongoing atrocities our government tosses at us with every ongoing day. But also at the apparent uncaring or willful blindness of our public, which seems far too willing to let these atrocities continue. And if changes aren’t made, starting this November with the upcoming elections, expect that international head to shake at us once again.

And we’ll deserve it.

And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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Catching Up

oktoberfest.jpgOk, so I was in Germany last week for Oktoberfest (which truly is the best thing in the world ever), so I’m only just now catching up on a week’s worth of headlines and legal hoo-ha’s. Join me, won’t you.

First, there’s the latest bad things about our government. Of course there’s the well covered Mark Foley debacle, including our own call for Hastert’s resignation. But there’s been some other stuff lost in the ruckus. Like the way our Congress sneakily passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 by attaching it as a rider ot the Safe Port Act of 2006. It’s an awful practice that’s woefully ignored - legislation that might need some discussion and debate (like one about what the true harms are in letting folks gamble online) gets railroaded through Congress by being attached to a bill that can’t possibly be voted down (like one about safe ports). Meanwhile, our Attorney General apparently has such little respect for the court system that he’s arguing that judges should simply defer to the president’s judgment during wartime. Could he be worried about situations like that facing his predecessor, former Attorney General John Ashcroft? An Idaho federal judge has denied immunity to Ashcroft, ruling that he can be sued, individually, with regard to the detention of a U.S. citizen who was allegedly a material witness in a terrorism-related case.

Meanwhile, things are picking up again with the top of the third branch of our federal government, those wacky Supremes. On Monday, they decided to sidestep a first amendment flap involving California attorney Gloria Allred and dinged cert on cases involving a Nazi guard, an ex-Kiss guitarist and Philly newspapers. And then yesterday was the first day of oral arguments for the new term, and the guys and gals heard arguments in interesting cases about deportation and the death penalty. The outcome of both cases should help provide further insight into the overall tone and direction of the new Roberts Court, and Justice Kennedy’s swing vote is going to be the real power play to watch (even though much of the focus so far has been on Scalia’s tequila comment).

Oh, and in response to Attorney General Gonzalez’s stance about judicial independence, Chief Justice Roberts says insulation from political pressure is everything and Justice Alito similarly worries about recent attacks against judicial independence.

We ain’t done catching up, by any stretch of the imagination, but this should be enough to keep you busy for now.

The Daily Memo 10/04/06

check.jpgJustice Scalia totally doesn’t have to worry about political correctness. (Slate)

check.jpgGoogle warns politicians of the power of the Internet. Ooops. A little late. (Reuters)

check.jpgTerrence Kiel, a safety for the San Diego Chargers, pleads not guilty to shipping bottles of cough syrup to Texas. (CBS Sportsline)

check.jpgA Colorado man sues a Dick Cheney secret service agent. (Talk Left)

check.jpgYou don’t often hear about political hopefuls advocating the benefits of masturbation during an elections season. But, here you go. (Above the Law)

check.jpgYou know what’s great about suing to recoup over $1 billion for Holocaust survivors? Submitting the bill for nearly $5 million dollars. (WSJ Law Blog)

check.jpgBob Woodward is a fuck-up. (Pajiba)

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QuizLaw dot com Officially Calls for the Resignation of Speaker Hastert

hastert.jpgRepresentative Mark Foley is a predator; a predator of the tender, nubile flesh of very young men with above average intelligence and access to a computer. It is clear from both his actions and electronic communications that Mr. Foley’s primary interest in these men is to elicit penis size, information pertaining to “cast fetishes,” and verbal previews of these boys’ masturbation habits. It is utterly despicable.

However, it has come to QuizLaw’s attention that Mr. Foley had ample justification for his predilections. He is, allegedly, an alcoholic, who has recently admitted himself into rehab. And, as everyone knows, all alcoholics are fond of young men; after a few drinks, incontrovertible scientific evidence suggests that alcoholics have no choice but to log on to their Instant Message accounts and ask boys — from ages 13-15 — if they use lotion while the masturbate. Moreover, Mr. Foley has now admitted that — as a child — he himself was molested by clergymen. Other studies commissioned by highly respectable institutions have also proven that teenagers who are molested by clergymen are 100 percent likely to attempt to molest other teenagers when they are in their 50s. This is a fact, no less certain than the theory behind relativity, the inevitability of death, and the unavoidable promiscuity of Paris Hilton. Therefore, we have no choice but to excuse Mr. Foley’s actions and behavior.

Nevertheless, we have also learned that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, was clearly aware of the communications between Foley and at least one other page as early as late 2005. It is apparent, however, that Speaker Hastert took absolutely no action to remove this dangerous predator from Congress, specifically as the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Moreover, Hastert attempted to keep the brewing scandal from the knowledge of Democrats, choosing to look in another direction (probably where a medium-rare steak was resting) instead of doing the only thing that was obvious to anyone: Take a hit out on Mr. Foley, bury him in the Vegas desert, and blame his disappearance on Democrats and homosexuals.

Yesterday morning, the conservative rag, the Washington Times, called on Speaker Hastert to resign. Unfortunately, Mr. Hastert did not heed the call of the Times, probably because it is generally ignored in political circles. Therefore, because of the political influence of QuizLaw, the power that we wield in D.C., and the significance of this scandal, we have no choice but to also call upon Speaker Hastert to resign, knowing as we do that our call to action will lead to his inevitable departure from Congress. This is not something we take lightly; we do not intend to abuse our power and influence. Unfortunately, we feel that — because no one listens to the Times — we simply had add a leading voice to the proceedings. So, go ahead, Hastert. Step on down. If you haven’t done so by this Friday, QuizLaw will have no choice but to call for your impeachment.

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College Student Sues Gravity, Initially Succeeds

bunkbed.jpgWe mentioned several weeks ago, in Blawg Review #71, that a state court awarded a college student $179,000 after he fell out of a bunk bed, but that an appeals court had enough common sense to reverse the ruling, noting that bunk bed manufacturers do not have a duty to warn students about the risks of falling. However, we ran across a pretty entertaining commentary from the Legal Times (via Volokh) that was just too good to resist posting, in part. For the full (and amusing) diatribe, check out the Legal Times piece by William Bedsworth, a California Court of Appeal Justice.

Here’s what I understand: You have two beds. You put one over the other instead of putting them side by side. That means — according to my medieval understanding of physics and anatomy — that one person sleeps higher off the ground than the other. And if that person falls out of bed, he is more likely to hurt himself than the other guy is.

This is not only NOT rocket science, it is not any kind of science at all. It is experience. Every child finds out — the hard way — that the pain caused by falling is generally proportional to the distance fallen. And they find out about falling out of bed. We do not learn these things by studying Faraday and Newton; we learn them by studying Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

You don’t even have to understand gravity. All you have to understand is “down” as the second half of the common expression “fall down.” And as beds are up in comparison to floors, you can fall out of them and down onto floors. Unless you were sick the week prepositions were explained, you should know all this long before you take your SATs.


Yet a New Jersey jury awarded a local college student $179,001 because the manufacturer of a “loft bed” failed to warn users of the bed that if they fell out of it, they could hurt themselves.

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The Daily Memo 10/03/06

check.jpgMeet Rep. John Shimkus, the man charged with arranging pages for former Rep. Mark Foley. (Jesus’ General)

check.jpgBig-shot corporate tax lawyer at Cravath is denied bail, after he initially fled to Canada after being indicted for paying underage girls for sex. (Above the Law)

check.jpgBobby Brown has a warrant out for his arrest in Massachusetts for failing to pay child support. His prerogative, I suppose. (AP)

check.jpgThe Supremes halt former Vinnie Vincent’s effort to collect royalties from his old band, KISS. Lick it up, Vinnie. (Findlaw)

check.jpgThe Dems are poised to take over the Senate this fall, so says one poll. (MSNBC)

check.jpgBen Stein is blaming the Democrats for the Mark Foley saga. Why? Because the Democrats “prime constituency … is homosexual men.” Wha? (Reason)

check.jpgSlate extensively covers the history of President Bush’s love of … fart jokes. (Slate)

Supreme Court Conservatives Already Hijacking the Court

penis.jpgThe Supreme Court didn’t wait long in the 2005-2006 session to stir up some vicious controversy yesterday, handing a crippling loss to an adult book store employee who dared to show an undercover police officer a sex toy shaped like a penis.

Indeed, Ignacio Sergio Acosta was arrested after shocking the senses of that female officer by boldly suggesting that the device might even arouse and gratify her. The arrest came pursuant to a Texas law that makes it illegal to promote sexual toys shaped like sexual organs. Acosta, in turn, sued the state of Texas, arguing that the law was unconstitutional because it infringed on rights of sexual privacy.

Similar laws in Colorado, Kansas, and Louisiana have been declared unconstitutional, while they have been upheld in Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi. The appeals court in Texas had ruled that the law barring anyone from promoting such a device did not infringe on one’s right to use it. The Supreme Court, in turn, effectively held up the lower court’s decision by denying Acosta’s appeal.

There is good news, however: The law, which only applies to toys shaped like sexual organs, apparently does not ban the promotion of sex toys shaped like picture frames, Mack trucks, or 16-year-old congressional pages. Moreover, the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo also somehow slipped through regulation.

The Last Mark Foley Post for At Least Six Hours.

Hypocrisy this rich is just too much for my little brain to resist.

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brb: my mom is yelling

foley.jpgYou’ve got to be kidding me? No longer do those in disgrace seek absolution from their parishioners or by way of calculated apology, but by entering rehab?! Mel Gibson gets sloshed and blames an entire ethnic group for the travesties of the world. Robin Williams stops making decent films. And Mark Foley verbally molests 16-year-old boys. And how do each of these men mend their ways? By entering rehab, of course.

Indeed, three days after resigning from Congress, Mark Foley has admitted himself into an alcoholic rehabilitation center, under the apparent belief that Betty Ford can cure his pedophilia. Additionally, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (who might wish to seek alcohol treatment himself for the sins he’s committed in relation to the detention center in Guantanamo Bay) has indicated he will open a criminal probe into Foley’s actions. And, of course, House Speaker Dennis Hastert— who is under suspicion for covering up concerns about Foley’s behavior — has decided that opening up his own investigation in the best way to cover his own ass.

Foley released the following statement before entering rehab: “Painfully, the events that led to my resignation have crystallized recognition of my longstanding significant alcohol and emotional difficulties. I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and related behavioral problems.”

Actually, I’m semi-inclined to believe that Foley is, in fact, a drunk. If you check out the instant message transcripts to one of his pages, it’s difficult to believe that any educated man would litter his electronic conversations with so many typos, lest he was shit-faced. Just check out the spelling mistakes in this IM exchange. C’mon, Foley: Everyone knows it’s “spurting” into a towel and not “spirting,” and you “grab” his one-eyed monster, not “gram.” However, suggesting that you “have ‘aa’ totally stiff wood now” is weirdly prescient.

The Daily Memo 10/02/06

check.jpgOur pals over at Patent Baristas are hosting this week’s Blawg Review #77. Check it out. (Patent Baristas)

check.jpgGeorge Michael, the one from Wham! that shook his ass a lot, was arrested for suspicion of marijuana possession after he was found slumped over the wheel in his car. (Associated Press)

check.jpgYouTube is going to be “sued into oblivion,” so says Mark Cuban. (Overlawyered)

check.jpgThe Supreme Court kicks off the 2005-2006 term today. Affirmative action and abortion are the big issues of the term. (Time)

check.jpgA couple of hotties have been hired over at the new National Security Division. (Above the Law)

The Wild and Wacky

albert.jpgIt’s Monday, so — to borrow a line from Marv Albert — let’s cover the wild and wacky over the weekend.

First up, police pull over a driver, find a disoriented man inside, and ask him to get out of the car. When the man stuck both arms out of the window and responded, “I cannot exit,” the police jerked him out the car window, dragged him by his knees, roughed him up, and then arrested him. The catch: The man wasn’t an uncooperative drunk, he was a diabetic paraplegic, which is why he told police he couldn’t get out of the car. Oopsie.

Next: A 72-year-old woman was sentenced to two years of prison on Friday for animal cruelty. Apparently, she went to a local veterinary clinic and asked them to euthanize her dogs. The clinic said it would cost $120, and because the elderly lady apparently couldn’t afford that, she poisoned, shot, and then burned to death her four German Shepherds. Her son was also imprisoned for 16 months for “hosting the bonfire.” That’s a fucked up bonfire.

I hate putting this one in an odd news post, but it just goes to show you that you should never point a gun at anyone, especially yourself. Indeed, a 26-year-old sheriff’s deputy was at a friend’s party with his gun. He told the guests that his .45 wasn’t loaded, pointed it at his face, and pulled the trigger, shooting himself in the face. He was pronounced dead at the scene. You gotta admit it, though: It’s one hell of a party trick.

Finally, here is a 1998 quote from Republican House of Representative Mark Foley, who abruptly resigned last Friday amid allegations (backed up by emails) that he was sexually harassing underage pages: “It’s vile. It’s more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction.” Of course, Foley was talking about President Clinton at the time, but man - how’s that for some sick irony?

The Weekend Memo 10/01/06

check.jpgDom DeLuise sues his former daughter-in-law for emotional and financial distress, after she sued him for $2 million. (Overlawyered)

check.jpgRepublican House Rep Mark Foley resigns so he can spend more time sexually harassing underage boys. (FindLaw)

check.jpgRoger Clemens the latest baseball player to become embroiled in the steroids scandal. (How Appealing)

check.jpgSeth, QuizLaw colleague and Philadelphia boy, spends weekend in Germany for Octoberfest, too drunk to care when Phillies eliminated from wild-card race. (The Philadelphia Phillies homepage)

check.jpgLawyers like poker too. (Above the Law)