A regularly updated guide to random legal news that I find interesting -- and hope you will too. And links! Always links!


Saturday, June 14, 2003


WEIRD OF THE NEWS HAS MOVED TO A NEW SITE -- The Legal Reader. Click the link to go there now, or you will be taken there automatically in a few seconds.

Monday, June 09, 2003


I've been keeping up WeirdOfTheNews here for about seven months now. Though I appreciate those of you who have become regular readers, this will be my final post here.

But DON'T WORRY!!! WeirdOfTheNews is just leaving BlogSpot, and moving to a new place called The Legal Reader on a new website powered by better software called Movable Type.

Please update any old links you might have had to WeirdOfTheNews (and don't forget to update your "favorites" list in your browser!). Then please join me at the new site, See you there!

Sunday, June 08, 2003

High Court's Freshman Awaits New Member

Justice Stephen Breyer has been the Supreme Court's junior member for nine years -- longer than any other justice since 1823. Perhaps next year, he'll have a new colleague to look up to him, the AP reports here.

Saturday, June 07, 2003


With the very generous help of Dean Esmay (who has bad feelings about BlogSpot), WeirdOfTheNews will soon have a new name, a new look, and a new (and much more reliable) home!

As soon as the new site is ready and working, I'll post a message here with the info and a link to it. Then onward ho! Thanks, Dean!
Lobbying Starts as Groups Foresee Supreme Court Vacancy

"Interest groups on the left and the right are beginning full-scale political campaigns - including fund-raising, advertising and major research - to prepare for what many expect to be a Supreme Court vacancy in the next several weeks. While none of the justices have said they plan to retire, any decision would traditionally be announced at the end of the court's term in late June," The New York Times reports here (free registration required).
EBay To Charge Sales Tax For European Sellers

EBay will now collect a "value added tax" (VAT) from sellers located in EU countries, the BBC reports here.
TiVo and NPR

This has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this blog, but: NPR's Senior Technology Correspondent John McChesney came to my house last night and interviewed me. Not about blogs (or even blawgs), but about my TiVo. He happened to overhear me talking about TiVo while relaxing after work in a Public House a couple of weeks ago. He also happened to be considering doing a story about TiVo at the time. Voila! It was fun, and kind of cool. I'll post a link to the audio if it ever makes the air. (BTW: TiVo rules!)

Friday, June 06, 2003

Drug Dealer Ordered to Return Lottery Winnings

"A Texas man who won $5.5 million in the state lottery has been ordered to give it up because he bought the winning ticket with money made selling cocaine, federal officials said Friday." Reuters has the story here.
"Is Lying About the Reason For a War an Impeachable Offense?"

John W. Dean ponders that question in this article from Findlaw and CNN.
"We, the People of the State of . . . Mmm . . . Uh . . ."

Read the latest tomfoolery from California appellate justice William W. Bedsworth here.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Lawyers Say Flat Tire Leads To Woman's Murder

Wayne State College freshman Amy Stahlecker stopped to change a flat Firestone tire on her 1997 Ford Explorer. She ended up being picked up by Richard Cook, who later shot her to death. Cook is now serving a life sentence for first degree murder. Stahleker's parent filed a civil suit against Ford and Firestone, claiming that their defective product caused their daughter's death. The trial judge dismissed Ford and Firestone, holding that Nebraska law shields them from liability unless they had "specific and actual notice of danger" to Stahlecker. The Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on June 3, the AP reports here. (Via
Judge Reviewed in Affirmative Action Case

Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati allegedly manipulated the court's ruling in a case that upheld affirmative action in admissions policies at the University of Michigan, which is now under submission at the Supreme Court. First, Judge Martin allegedly appointed himself to the three-judge panel that originally heard the case, even though assignments are supposed to be random. Then, when the case was to be heard en banc, he delayed a request to have the full appeals court hear the case for five months, ensuring the exclusion of two conservative judges who were planning to retire, according to the review. The review did not recommend any punishment, the AP reports. UPDATE: Here's another view from a former clerk of Judge Martin's.
Judge Gets Two Years In Prison For Extorting Money From Attorney

Pittsburgh Judge Joseph Jaffe pleaded guilty in March to extortion for soliciting $13,000 from attorney Joel Persky in return for granting Persky's firm unfettered access to the judge. The firm had hundreds of asbestos lawsuits pending before the judge. Now Jaffe gets 27 months in prison, 3 years probation, and a $5,000 fine, the AP reports.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Supreme Court Justices Hit Road in 2002

"The Supreme Court justices traveled widely in 2002, teaching or speaking in Israel, Croatia, China, Denmark and elsewhere, reports released Wednesday show," the AP reports.
Rape Defendant Sues County For $20,000

If convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl, Kenneth Williams could be sentenced to 112 years to life in prison. It would be his third (and last) trip to state prison, authorities say. But what recently has upset the 41-year-old Williams is a dinner he was served on May 2 in the county jail. He claims he found a fly in his mashed potatoes. Williams is seeking $20,000 from San Diego to ease the "mental stress and anguish" he said finding the fly inflicted upon him, according to this. You can read Williams' claim here. (Via

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Court Excoriates Both Judge and Defense Counsel

Having just finished reading today's 21-page opinion from California's Fourth District Court of Appeal, all I can say is "WOW"! It's quite a page turner. Miguel Hernandez was injured at work. Later, a physician, Richard M. Paicius, who was treating him for pain resulting from two surgeries on the initial injury, allegedly injured him again. He sued for malpractice. Mr. Hernandez was an illegal alien, but that was irrelevant to his case and defendant's potential liability, as he did not claim any lost earnings. But the judge, in an extraordinary colloquy, refused to grant a motion excluding evidence of plaintiff's immigration status, and betrayed his own extreme bias in the process. The appellate court rakes the trial judge, James M. Brooks, over the coals.

But it gets worse. Plaintiff's expert witness, Dr. Aengst, was also defense counsel's client in several malpractice actions against him! Despite that (and despite her duty of loyalty to him), defense counsel, Constance A. Endelicato (a partner at her law firm), absolutely devastated Dr. Aengst on the witness stand, largely through her own improper testimony (based on inadmissible evidence) about the malpractice cases against him, including at least some in which she represented him! I have never seen stronger disapproval in an appellate court opinion. Not only did the Court order its clerk to report her to the state bar, but it ordered her to report herself! Hernandez v. Paicius is worth the time it will take to read it. And I'll bet you won't stop reading until the end!

Nigeria Stoning Appeal Adjourned

"A Nigerian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for having a child outside marriage has had her appeal against her conviction for adultery adjourned. Mother-of-four Amina Lawal, 30, was told her case will not be heard by the Islamic appeal court until August 27 -- two days after the date set for her execution," CNN reports here.
Court Strikes Down Video Games Regulation

"A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a St. Louis County law limiting children's access to violent or sexually explicit video games was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overturned a ruling issued last year that supported the ordinance," the AP reports here. The court held that the ordinance is a regulation of speech based on content and does not survive strict scrutiny. You can access the Court's opinion at Interactive Digital v. St. Louis County.
Ninth Circuit Rules on Copyright in Silvers v. Sony Pictures

In a case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit ruled today that a copyright holder can assign the right to sue on an accrued cause of action for copyright infringement to a third party, even if it retains all the other rights, and the third party will have standing to sue. You can access the interesting opinion at Nancey Silvers v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.

Monday, June 02, 2003

High Court Hands Fox Copyright Defeat

"In a major narrowing of the Lanham Act, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that the law allows the copying of public domain material without giving credit to its source," reports here. You can read the unanimous opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, here: Dastar Corp v. 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
"Two Lawyers Win (an Uncollectible) $9 Million"

"In a bittersweet victory, a husband-and-wife lawyer team have won a $9 million libel award against a former South Carolina television news director. That was the sweet part.
The bitter end for the plaintiffs came when the defense prevailed with a directed verdict acquitting the station that employed the news director, all but eliminating the couple's chances of collecting any of the money from the imprisoned defendant," The National Law Journal reports here. Apparently, news director Don Feldman engaged in some rather extreme behavior . . . .
Man Wins Right To Sue U.S. Government Over "Pot Car"

A Mexican national may sue the U.S. government for selling him a car with a hidden load of marijuana, and then arresting him when he tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in it, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the government's argument that it should be immune from Jose Aguado Cervantes' lawsuit was "so off the mark as to be embarrassing," Reuters reports here. You can access the Ninth Circuit's opinion here.
DC Comics Beat The Winter Brothers

In this closely watched case, the California Supreme Court held today that DC Comic's First Amendment rights trumped Johnny and Edgar Winter's statutory right of publicity in an interesting opinion you can read here. DC Comics had published a comic book featuring two characters called "The Autumn Brothers." Some of the Autumn Brothers' distinctive characteristics were recognizably taken from the real-life Winter brothers. But the Autumn Brothers were also "depicted as villainous half-worm, half-human offspring born from the rape of their mother by a supernatural worm creature that had escaped from a hole in the ground," according to Justice Chin. UPDATE: Here's an article on the case from The Recorder.
Tucker Max In The New York Times

The Times reports here that Mr. Max's troubles with Ms. Vermont may be shaping up to be a serious First Amendment battle over "prior restraint" of speech. When will this guy finally go away??? (I discussed Mr. Max and his infamous capers earlier here.)

Friday, May 30, 2003

Southern California Jury Convicts Attorney on Three Counts

"Glendora attorney John F. Watkins, 61, faces a maximum sentence of four years, four months after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy to stalk and perjury by declaration, prosecutor Larry Roberts said." Read all about this very bizarre case here.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Wanted Man Caught on 'Kiss Cam' Arrested

I think this one speaks for itself.
Reporter Jailed for Going Behind Judge's Bench

A newspaper reporter covering a murder trial in Macon, Georgia was fired after the judge sentenced him to two days in jail for twice going behind the judge's bench during breaks in the trial, it says here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

"Quinn's Quest"

The Recorder has just published a very long "feature" article about the L.A.-based litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges. Although Quinn does not sound like a place I would like to work as an associate (it sounds like "type A personality" central), I found the article fascinating.
A Court of Civility and Controversial Conservatism

The Christian Science Monitor has just published this interesting article about the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The author speculates that the Fourth Circuit might be a likely source of any new Supreme Court appointments.
Lawyer's Disbarment Means New Trial For Murder Suspect Client

"What happens when your lawyer gets disbarred three weeks before your trial and, without letting you know about this development, goes on to defend you anyway?" The New York Lawyer answers that question here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Divided Court Rules For Police On Miranda

It took six separate opinions for a divided Supreme Court to rule that a California police officer did not violate the constitutional rights of a wounded suspect who was questioned without having his Miranda rights read to him. Those rights say in part, "You have the right to remain silent." "But justices never answered a central question in the case: whether law enforcement officials can be held liable if they coerce self-incriminating information, including confessions, out of defendants when those statements are never used in court," CNN reports here. You can read the opinion in the case of Oliverio Martinez here.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Interesting Recruiting Idea/Opportunity

The Mississippi office of New Orleans based law firm Phelps Dunbar was having trouble recruiting top law school grads, given the competition from big city firms paying big city salaries. So they devised an interesting strategy. They target federal law clerks from top schools who want to teach, but need to gain experience and to publish before they are qualified. Phelps Dunbar aims to hire two such associates per year. They bill a reduced 1,500 hours a year (to allow time to write), make at least $75,000 plus bonus, and work on appellate briefs. Sounds like a win-win to me. Read all about it here.
"Being Blonde Is Not a Protected Group Under Title VII"

So says U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in an order dismissing Shramban v. Aetna Inc., a Title VII suit brought by a white, Jewish, blonde woman from Moldavia who claims she was harassed on the basis of her gender, race, religion or national origin, it says here.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Ninth Circuit Judges Appear None Too Happy With the U.S. Supreme Court's Three-Strikes Rulings

Howard Bashman of How Appealing has the scoop here. UPDATE: (5/27) The Recorder has picked up the story here.
Fee Award in Vitamin Class Action Leaves California Justices Hungry For Answers

"Late last month, appeal court justices in San Francisco did something unusual: They mailed out a letter asking lawyers in a massive vitamin price-fixing class action to explain a few things. Why, the 1st District Court of Appeal wanted to know, are so many law firms involved? How did the number of coordinated cases grow by 12 in one six-month period? How many out-of-state law firms are involved? Which of the defendants previously entered guilty or no contest pleas to criminal charges?" Read about the unusual request here.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

"The Matrix" As a Criminal Defense

Two defendants have already been found not guilty by reason of insanity by arguing that they thought they had been sucked into The Matrix, and others are currently trying the argument, it says here.
Woman Gets Jail For Playing Radio Too Loud

"Shawna Enyart, a 38-year- old mother of six, insisted throughout her trial that she tuned in her favorite talk shows at a reasonable volume while doing laundry with her garage door open. But many of her neighbors along Ludlow Street in Garden Grove [California] said the volume rattled their windows and made it hard to hear themselves talk." Finding that she lacked remorse, a judge sentenced her to ten days in jail, fined her $400, and ordered her to give the offending radio away, according to this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

$3M Award for Libel on Internet Upheld

"In its first case on Internet jurisdiction, the North Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed a $3 million libel award to a university professor who was defamed on a student's Web site. The ruling is the latest in an area of law -- Internet jurisdiction -- that judges are grappling with across the country. Wagner v. Miskin, No. 20020200," reports here.
Sesame Street Breaks Iraqi POWs

Iraqi POWs are being subjected to loud music from Metallica, Sesame Street, and Barney in an attempt to break down their resistance to questioning, the BBC reports here. Is it torture? Amnesty International says it may be.
James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, Pardoned

"In September 1998 [I think they meant to say 1988], Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his office in Augusta, Georgia, and asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom, according to authorities. Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck," CNN reports here. And that wasn't the last time he was arrested. But now South Carolina has seen fit to pardon him.
Always Dreamed of Being a Policy Wonk?

Now you can, courtesy of, which reports on (and links to) a Cato Institute report re: "[Few Americans] have any idea about what the grand jury is supposed to do and its day-to-day operation. That ignorance largely explains how some over-reaching prosecutors have been able to pervert the grand jury, whose original purpose was to check prosecutorial power, into an inquisitorial bulldozer that enhances the power of government and now runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of citizens." Kind of interesting, if you ask me.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Federal Judge Denies Pot Guru a New Trial

"A federal judge rejected a bid for a new trial from convicted marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal on Friday, finding no basis for his claims of jury bias. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer upheld Rosenthal's highly publicized conviction in February. He now faces spending the rest of his life in prison when he's sentenced June 4. The maximum sentence is 85 years," the AP reports here.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

San Francisco DA Terrence Hallinan Pursues a Rare "Three Strikes" Case

This article concerns a current prosecution of the former Charles Rothenberg (now "Charley Charles"), who gained worldwide notoriety 20 years ago for setting fire to his 6-year-old son in a motel. The story raises all kinds of issues: the propriety of giving a prosecutor so much discretion in charging (and ultimately sentencing) defendants; the proportionality of sentencing under 3 strikes in different California counties; the competing personalities in the current SF District Attorney race; and the propriety of imposing huge sentences for relatively minor current crimes because of a defendant's past convictions. An altogether interesting read from Pam Smith of The Recorder.
Judge Tosses Plaintiffs' Lawyers Out of Class Action

U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo of Chicago recently made the highly unusual move of barring a half-dozen plaintiff attorneys from representing the claimants as a class, calling their work "inadequate." On behalf of a potential class of 17 million plaintiffs, the attorneys were going to settle for $25 million--and pocket $4.3 million for themselves, Forbes reports here. (Link via
Judge Leaning Studios' Way in DMCA Fight

321 Studios makes software that allows users to unlock the encryption codes on Hollywood DVDs and make copies on their home computers. The studios sued, saying the software violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 321 Studios argues that enabling rightful owners of DVDs to make backup copies is a "fair use" under copyright law. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California heard oral argument on a summary judgment motion in the case today. Though she appeared to be leaning toward the studios, she managed to throw a few curve balls into the mix, The Recorder reports here.
Law Partner Gets Five-Year Suspension for Neglecting Cases Over a Decade

Feeling overwhelmed? Pressured to succeed at all cost, while billing 2,400 hours a year? Read the sad but not unimaginable saga of Lawrence M. Furtzaig, a former partner at New York's prominent landlord tenant firm Rosenberg & Estis. He got so far behind the eight ball that he actually gave one client $60,000 of his own money to help conceal a failure. He was nearly disbarred, but landed a five-year suspension instead, New York report here.
"Beware Delaware"

"A string of recent decisions handed down by the Delaware Supreme Court — considered the "mother court of corporate law" — has been virtually ignored by the business press. Yet experts say the decisions could have as profound an impact on business than anything Congress or the SEC has done. Since last summer, the Delaware Supreme Court has issued at least five decisions of great concern to the corporate bar. Each was remarkable not only because it found against directors and in favor of shareholders, but also because it reversed a lower court ruling that went the other way," New York Lawyer reports here.
Oregon Budget Woes Affecting Judicial Priorities

"Oregon's budget shortfalls leave the state without enough funds to pay for public defenders for the poor. To avoid violating defendants' Miranda rights, the state is downgrading serious charges to lesser violations that don't entail court trials." Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the story via NPR here (links to Windows Media audio file).
Actor Tom Sizemore Faces 16 New Charges Related to Fleiss

"Actor Tom Sizemore is facing 16 new charges, including domestic violence and witness intimidation, stemming from a stormy relationship with Heidi Fleiss, the notorious former Hollywood madam who was once his fiancee," CNN reports here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Burglary Suspect Bleeds To Death After Cutting Himself Breaking In

"After going on a 'mini-rampage' outside a busy Fremont supermarket, a 21-year-old purse-snatching suspect bled to death when he slashed an artery while breaking into a nearby apartment, police said Tuesday. Obadiah Videau of Fremont was pronounced dead Monday night at Washington Hospital in Fremont, after he severed his brachial artery after putting his arm through a glass window while trying to climb into an apartment at the Park Villa apartment complex," the San Francisco Chronicle reports here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

High Court Farewell pays tribute to recently retired Deputy Solicitor General Lawrence Wallace who, with 157 Supreme Court oral arguments under his belt, was the most prolific advocate before the Court in the 20th century. Read all about Larry's admirable career here.
Ex-Flight Attendant Pleads Guilty To Giving Sedative To Baby

Daniel Cunningham tried to give an infant on his flight some apple juice to which he had added Xanax to stop the child's crying. Now he faces up to 11 years in prison, CNN reports here.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Sheriff: Texas Woman Says God Told Her To Kill Sons

Texan Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, allegedly killed two of her three young sons, apparently by beating their heads in with a rock. She then called 911 and confessed, saying that God told her to do it. Now the DA is trying to decide whether to seek the death penalty, CNN reports here.
Ohio Justice Sues N.Y. Times Over Story

"The New York Times and a state Supreme Court justice went to court Monday over an article involving a lawsuit filed by the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard. In opening statements in U.S. District Court, lawyer Don C. Iler said Times reporter Fox Butterfield wrote things about Justice Francis E. Sweeney that he knew were untrue and damaged the judge's reputation," Guardian Unlimited reports here.
"Google to Fix Blog Noise Problem"

"Google is to create a search tool specifically for weblogs, most likely giving material generated by the self-publishing tools its own tab. It isn't clear if weblogs will be removed from the main search results, but precedent suggests they will be. After Google acquired Usenet groups from, it developed a unique user interface and a refined search engine, and removed the groups from the main index," Britain's The Register reports here. UPDATE: Is this whole story just hot air?

Sunday, May 11, 2003

'Bumfights' Producers Plead Guilty

"Three young men who produced the brief Internet sensation 'Bumfights' pleaded guilty on Friday to paying homeless men to trade blows -- charges that could send them to jail for a year," Reuters reports here via CNN.
Lawyer Sues Rival Firm Over Trademarked Ad Slogan

Detroit labor lawyer Richard L. Steinberg trademarked the slogan "working lawyers for working people." Now he's suing law firm Miller Cohen PLC for using the phrase "working for working people" in its advertising. No wonder people make lawyer jokes. Read the story here (link courtesy of The Trademark Blog).
Wife Held for Using Perfume to Harm Spouse

"A woman was arrested for dousing herself with perfume, spraying the house with bug killer and disinfectant, and burning scented candles in an attempt to seriously injure her chemically sensitive husband, prosecutors said. Police charged Lynda Taylor, 36, with aggravated battery Thursday," the AP reports here.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Magicians Sue Brazilian TV Network

"Magicians claiming they nearly went broke after a television program aired the secrets of their trade have won a legal fight against Brazil's largest television network. TV Globo must pay damages to 21 magicians in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul because of a program that revealed how magicians perform such tricks as pulling rabbits out of hats and sawing women in half, Judge Eduardo Kothe Werlang ruled recently," the AP reports here. They must have some seriously strange causes of action down in Brazil . . . .

Friday, May 09, 2003

Judge's Drinking Brings Suspension

"A Gwinnett County [Georgia] judge has been banned from the courthouse and suspended with pay after a local TV news report showed him drinking, then getting behind the wheel of his SUV," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports here. The details are pretty shocking, including allegations that Judge David Fuller drank during working hours, and that he consumed 19 drinks in one seven-hour period, and then drove.
Chief Justice Rehnquist To Retire??

UPI legal affairs correspondent Michael Kirkland ponders that enduring question here.
Exonerated Convicts Find Freedom Is Tough

At least 35 former convicts have been exonerated through the efforts of the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School and the DNA Identification Technology and Human Rights Center of Berkeley. But some of them have found life on the outside challenging after years of incarceration. "'We were getting all these people out of prison, but we found most of them were having tremendous difficulty with life on the street,' said Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which provides legal assistance to prisoners seeking to prove their innocence through DNA testing." Now the two programs will jointly run the "Life After Exoneration Project" to help those they have freed adjust to freedom, it says here. [In case you've been feeling remiss about your recent level of charitable giving, you can find out how to support the Innocence Project here.]

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

"Plaintiff-Friendly Plan for 17200"

Here's a bad idea: A pair of California legislators (one democrat, one republican) want to overturn two recent California Supreme Court cases that established restrictions on the extent to which courts can order "disgorgement of profits" under California's Unfair Competition Law (B&P Code Section 17200). Read more here from The Recorder.
Nationally Known Asbestos Litigator Accepts Disbarment

"The referee in the attorney discipline case against prominent Miami class-action lawyer Louis S. Robles has recommended that he be disbarred, and Robles has agreed to this in a no contest plea. . . . [The referee] found that Robles engaged in a pattern of misconduct by failing to properly communicate with his clients, failing to 'properly and timely' remit funds due his clients, and charging clients 'excessive and improper' costs. Robles is nationally known for his class-action and mass torts work in representing people who claim they were injured from asbestos exposure," the New York Lawyer reports here.
Orrick in West Coast Merger Bid for Venture Law Group

"Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is in talks with West Coast technology firm Venture Law Group (VLG) about a possible takeover. It is understood that the talks, which could mean a full takeover or laterally hiring a substantial number of lawyers, are at an early stage," The reports here.
Man Removed Pacemaker While On the Lam From the Law

"A man who apparently tried to fake his own death had his pacemaker cut out of his chest in a South Carolina motel room shortly after staging his disappearance in January."

"Jasper County deputies said he staged his disappearance in January, then had his pacemaker delivered to his wife, along with a piece of skin and a letter claiming he'd been murdered by religious zealots."

Now "Steven Lukowich, 35, of Ridgeland is recovering from an infection in an Erie, Pa., jail where he faces charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution," according to this. (Thanks to The Obscure Store for both this link and the next about GM.)
Refusal To Fix Cadillac's Starter - Under Warranty - Costs GM $200k

First, a Wisconsin GM dealer could have fixed the car for a few hundred dollars, but refused. Then GM could have settled the case for $10-15k, but refused. Now GM is out $200k, consisting of $10k in damages, $108k in plaintiff's attorneys' fees, and $82k in its own legal costs, it stays here.
"Sentencing Reform Raises Legal Worries"

It certainly does, as I discussed earlier here and here. But this BBC article is talking about sentencing reform in the UK, not in the US. Though the same issues seem to arise there as here.
Court Hears Arguments on Landmark Assisted Suicide Law

"The fate of the landmark Oregon assisted suicide law rests with a federal appeals court that was asked Wednesday to decide whether Attorney General John Ashcroft can regulate 'legitimate medical practice' in a state. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Ashcroft's challenge to an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in April 2002 that barred Ashcroft from interfering with the Oregon law," the AP reports here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Tucker Max Sued

Professional jackass and one-time Fenwick & West summer associate Tucker Max, who was recently featured on the MTV show "Sex2k," is now being sued by a woman whom he claims he had sex with on his website, according to this.
Supreme Court May Review 2nd Amendment

The 9th Circuit today refused to reconsider December's ruling that there is no constitutional right to individual gun ownership. That ruling conflicts with the 5th Circuit, setting up a possible Supreme Court review, the AP reports here. The 9th Circuit's Order can be accessed here. It includes several dissents, including a very concise one by Judge Kozinski, beginning on page two.

Monday, May 05, 2003

CCA Upholds Butt Search for Crack

Thanks to How Appealing for this one: The Texas Lawyer is reporting that warrantless butt searches have been ruled legal (see third item).
Lawyer's Bid To Win Asylum Rights For Abused Women Awaits Action by Ashcroft

If I were an abused woman, I would not want my fate to be in the hands of John Ashcroft. Especially not if I were seeking asylum from another country post September 11. Read's interesting article here, and hope springs eternal.
Mississippi's Chief Justice Calls For Court Reforms

Although it may seem that WeirdOfTheNews has been doing a lot of judge-bashing lately, I'm simply passing on what the media prints. Case in point:

"The Mississippi Supreme Court's chief justice says changes are needed to restore faith in the state's courts, which have been damaged by a string of allegations of judicial misconduct.

"Chief Justice Ed Pittman's plans for reform: Switch from elected to appointed judges in the higher courts, allow cameras in the courtrooms, impose stricter codes of conduct and establish a review system if a judge refuses to recuse himself when there is a potential conflict of interest.

"'The majority of this court recognizes that we need to make some changes,' Pittman said. 'We are on the road to total recovery and absolute total neutral service to the people of this state," the AP report here.
Lawsuit Challenges Louisiana Ban on Nonresident Foreigners Taking Bar Exam

This is a strange one: "Tulane University law student Emily Maw of Wales wanted to stay in Louisiana after graduation to represent death row inmates and defendants in capital cases. Now she is thinking about practicing in Mississippi instead.

"In what is believed to be the only such rule in the nation, Louisiana prohibits nonresident foreigners from taking the state bar exam.

"The rule was issued without explanation by the Louisiana Committee on Bar Admissions in 2000 and upheld without comment by the state Supreme Court last year, triggering speculation that the justices were simply tired of foreign defense attorneys using clever arguments to get death sentences overturned," the AP reports here.
Chief Justice Warns of Congressional 'Intimidation' of Judges

"Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said Monday that cataloging information about which federal judges give lighter sentences and why [by Congress] could amount to an effort to intimidate certain judges," and interfere with the independence of the judiciary, the AP reports here.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Supreme Court Wonks Take Note!

If you're a fan of arcane information about the secretive U.S. Supreme Court, don't miss's article, which covers the recent rescission of the mysterious rule against note-taking by visitors, and the soon-to-be-infamous Justice Rehnquist bobble-head doll.
The Injudicious just published its annual roundup of the country's most outrageous judicial misconduct, which you can access here.
"Clueless In Columbus"

California appellate justice William Bedsworth sounds off about our brethren from the Midwest, and some of their recent silly antics.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

California Supreme Court to Review Slave Labor Law

"The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to review the validity of a state law allowing people to sue companies that forced them into slave labor during World War II.

"The justices, without comment, decided at its weekly private conference here to examine a January decision by a Los Angeles appeals court allowing a Korean-American man to sue the former Onoda Cement Co. and its successor, Taiheiyo Cement Corp. of Japan, which has a Los Angeles-based subsidiary. Jae Wan Jeong is seeking back wages, unspecified damages, an apology and establishment of a trust fund to benefit victims of forced labor.

"At issue is a 1999 California law allowing people claiming to be wartime forced-labor victims in Europe and Asia to seek redress until 2010 against multinational firms that operate in the state," the San Jose Mercury News reports here. I linked to the California State appellate decision earlier here, and to the Ninth Circuit's subsequent decision in a related case here.
NY Partner Convicted Of Stealing $27.7 Million

"James P. Conroy, a former partner at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, was convicted yesterday of stealing $27.7 million from a former client, Evergreen Security, an investment firm now in bankruptcy, the New York Law Journal reports" here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Hairstylist Claims Sexual Harassment on Fox Sports Show

Courthouse News Service is reporting that "A former hairstylist [Lisa Brescher] for the television series 'The Best Damn Sports Show' on the Fox Sports cable network has sued the show's producers and one of its on-air personalities [John Sally] for creating 'an environment of unrestrained sexual harassment.'" The specific allegations detailed in the complaint are pretty graphic and shocking. UPDATE: Here's a news story about the complaint, in case the Courthouse News link breaks.
Nation's Courts Grapple With Budget Woes

This article from the AP discusses some of the problems court systems are facing around the country. One particularly startling item: "In Texas, where lawmakers face a $1.8 billion shortfall, the chief justice has proposed a constitutional amendment to cut two of the nine justices on the state Supreme Court to save money," it says here.
Accused Lawyer Takes It on the Lam

"A Lafayette, La. lawyer accused of stealing roughly $130,000 that should have been paid to his clients in personal injury settlements has skipped town, investigators said. William Aubrey, 55, was charged with two counts of theft and is under investigation in connection with a third case, according to prosecutors," New York Lawyer reports here.
Gay Man's Title VII Claim Argued

"When a gay man is harassed by his co-workers, can he bring a federal claim under Title VII on the theory that he was the victim of sex discrimination because he didn't live up to the 'stereotype' of what it means to be a man?" Read about the interesting oral argument on the issue in Federal District Court in Pennsylvania today from The Legal Intelligencer here.
Sentencing in Federal "Surf Rage" Case

Two surfers who beat up a third on Federal property get home confinement, probation, and community service, SFGate reports here.
Michigan Man Sues McDonald's for $25,000

"A man is suing fast-food giant McDonald's after allegedly biting into a piece of already chewed gum in a salad," the AP reports here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

People Magazine Sued Over Scott Peterson Photos

This is weird. The woman who sold photographs of Scott Petersen and his alleged girlfriend is now suing People Magazine because the photos she sold include an image of a photograph of her hanging on the wall in the background. At least that's my understanding after reading this.
A Criminal Waste of Space

California appellate Justice William Bedsworth has gone and published his column again.
Judge Dismisses Lawyer's Loud-Music Lawsuit Against John Fogerty

"A Manhattan judge has turned a deaf ear to a lawyer's complaint that he suffered hearing damage because of an 'unreasonably loud' rock concert by singer and songwriter John Fogerty, formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival. State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld dismissed a lawsuit that had been filed by Jeffrey Powell, 56, saying Powell assumed the risk of hearing damage when he attended the concert," the AP reports here.
Music Industry Sends Warning to Song Swappers

"The record industry opened a new front in its war against online piracy on Tuesday by surprising hundreds of thousands of Internet song swappers with an instant message warning that they could be 'easily' identified and face 'legal penalties.' About 200,000 users of the Grokster and Kazaa file-sharing services initially received the warning notice on Tuesday and millions more will get notices in coming weeks," Reuters reports here.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Judge Bans a 'Nonsense' Anti-Tax Book

"A Las Vegas federal judge has called the anti-tax writings of a civil defendant 'nonsense' and enjoined him from distributing a book that's based on them. The case has sparked a legal battle that pits federal tax law against First Amendment rights. A suit brought by the Tax Division of the Justice Department has won a temporary restraining order that enjoins Irwin Schiff and two co-workers from 13 specific activities, such as holding seminars that promote any false or fictitious tax schemes. U.S. v. Schiff, No. CV-S-03-0281-LDG-RJJ (D. Nev.)." The ACLU has stepped in, arguing that the injunction is an unconstitutional prior restraint, The National Law Journal reports here.
Supreme Court Hands Victory to San Francisco in Long-Running Battle Over Giant Cross on Mount Davidson

The Court denied a writ petition, effectively ending the case, which started back in 1990 when the City sold a part of Mount Davidson Park to a private group to end an earlier case challenging the cross on public property. Details here from KPIX, or here from the AP via
Pennsylvania Lawyer Bills 81 Hours in a Single Day

I think this story speaks for itself.
Bad Attitude Lands Would-Be Juror In Jail

After failing to show up for jury duty for three consecutive days, 23 year old Brian Scott Lett left an obscenity-laden message on the court's answering machine. "'We are willing to consider some reasonable requests for exclusion from jury duty, but we don't consider, '(Expletive) jury duty, bitch,' a statement we can work with,' [court clerk Gail] VanTimmeren said." The unrepentant Lett got to spend the weekend in jail, according to this. UPDATE: Here's another story, including a picture of this fine young citizen.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

NY Lawyer's Vacation Ends In Drafting Kingdom's Laws

"So did you hear the one about the Manhattan lawyer who goes to the Himalayas with her golf pro husband, they meet this king, and, yada, yada, yada, she has to go back next year to help write their constitution?" Read the details here from New York Lawyer.

Friday, April 25, 2003

District Court Rules File Sharing Software Does Not Violate Copyright, and Is Legal

Although it is only a District Court's order on summary judgment, today's ruling could be huge. Judge Stephen Wilson of the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Grokster and StreamCast Networks (aka Morpheus) and against the entertainment industry plaintiffs. These defendants distribute file sharing software similar to Kazaa which allows millions of users to share copyrighted songs and videos for free.

Basically, the court ruled that, though the software can be and is used to violate copyright, the software companies -- like manufacturers of VCRs and photocopiers -- cannot be held liable for contributory or vicarious copyright infringement. You can read the court's order here. An AP article about the ruling can be accessed here, and now weighs in here.
Injured Big-Game Hunter Takes Aim at Bullet Manufacturers

A big-game hunter has sued a bullet manufacturer because its bullet failed to kill a charging lion when he shot it. The lion mauled him (which, in my opinion, he richly deserved). You can read the story here. (Thanks to for the link.)
Santa Cruz Sues Ashcroft Over Medical Marijuana

US Attorney General John Ashcroft and his DEA minions have been raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers in California, despite state and local laws making medical marijuana legal. Now the City and County of Santa Cruz and several individual plaintiffs are fighting back. They've sued Ashcroft and the DEA in Federal District Court for injunctive relief and damages. You can access the complaint here (PDF), courtesy of Courthouse News Service.

My prediction for Mr. Ashcroft? You're about to find the 10th Amendment stuck somewhere you never wanted it to be stuck.

Ashcroft and his neo-federalist cronies have recently been bludgeoning the citizens of the several states with the 10th Amendment in an attempted end run around some 40 years of progress in civil rights. The Tenth Amendment says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The Ashcroft team has wielded the Tenth Amendment to invalidate various federal civil rights laws as applied against state governments, arguing that such laws went too far and invaded the powers reserved to the states. To their credit, they've had considerable success. But now the tables may be turning.

I've read the Constitution several times, and I don't recall it saying anything about delegating power over medical marijuana (or anything remotely related) to the United States. I believe that's a power reserved to the States, "or to the people" (who voted for it). That includes the State of California, its City and County of Santa Cruz, and its voters.

The neo-federalists like to argue that the Federal government ought to butt out -- at least when it suits them. For example, they argue that the Federal government should have no role in protecting racial minorities or women or gays or the handicapped, or in regulating firearms. The regulation of these matters was never envisioned as a Federal function by the founders and was "reserved to the states."

Yet anything that threatens their neo-Christian-conservative outlook -- such as medical marijuana, homosexuality, abortion, or (face it . . .) plain old sex -- should not just be regulated, but should immediately be subject to federal law enforcement efforts so aggressive and intrusive that they threaten our most basic constitutional rights to protection from unreasonable searches, seizures, and detentions. Ashcroft has actively worked to suspend or limit all of those those basic protections wherever possible.

It just tickles me pink that the Tenth Amendment -- the same Amendment the neo-Federalists tried to use to limit decades of federal civil rights jurisprudence -- is about to stop them dead in their tracks. Yet another testament to the wisdom of the Drafters.
Dial Trial Pits Clean vs. Filthy

"To hear Dial Corp. tell it, the sprawling soap plant near west suburban Aurora is a bright, happy place filled with workers who treat each other like family."

"Anyone visiting the busy factory 'would not even believe' that it has become ground zero in a landmark sexual-harassment case, said spokeswoman Cindy Demers. 'It's a great place to work.'"

"It's a great place if you like being groped, cussed at and stalked by co-workers, countered Sumiko Baker, among dozens of women suing Dial in a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," the Chicago Tribune reports. UPDATE (4/29): Dial has settled the case for $10 million, the AP reports here.
Ohio Judge Arrested on Arson Charge

An Ohio judge was arrested Thursday on charges that he set his home on fire after increasing his insurance coverage, the AP reports here. UPDATE: Today Judge Donald McAuliffe was denied bail, according to this.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Arrest of Brooklyn Judge Is Expected

"A Brooklyn Supreme Court justice is expected to be arrested and arraigned as early as today on charges that he accepted money and gifts in exchange for favorable rulings in matrimonial disputes, court sources said Wednesday," the New York Law Journal says here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Supreme Court Gives Small Companies Room to Avoid ADA

"Thousands of small companies could avoid a law requiring accommodations for disabled workers under a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Court ruled Tuesday against a disabled woman who said a company's partners and shareholders should be counted as employees, thereby making the company large enough to be subject to ADA requirements. The decision mainly affects professional service companies like law firms, medical practices and accounting offices," the Associated Press reports here.
Malpractice Suit Against Lawyer Can Proceed Despite Guilty Plea

"A corporation's guilty plea for bribing a foreign official does not bar a subsequent malpractice action against the lawyer who allegedly advised that the bribery would not violate federal law, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Reinstating a dismissed claim against attorney Phillippe S.E. Schrieber, Judge Robert D. Sack said the company's guilty plea does not prevent it from claiming that it was the victim of malpractice in relying on the attorney's advice," the New York Law Journal says here.
U-Haul Parent Amerco Sues Auditor PwC

"Amerco Inc., parent of truck renter U-Haul International Inc., has filed a lawsuit against PriceWaterhouseCoopers, claiming that its financial woes were a result of its auditor's bad advice, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday," according to this.
If Nike Defends Itself, Is That a Commercial?

The Christian Science Monitor reports on tomorrow's Supreme Court oral argument in the Nike case here.
Copy of the Bill of Rights, Looted During Civil War, Lands "Antiques Roadshow" Guy in Hot Water

Stolen from North Carolina by a Union soldier during Sherman's "march to the sea" in 1865, the copy of the Bill of Rights has surfaced twice before, only to disappear again. Now North Carolina has it back, and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Wayne Pratt -- who offered to sell it -- is in trouble. Or is he? The Christian Science Monitor has the story here.

Monday, April 21, 2003

In Spite of Reform Law, Milberg Weiss Emerges as Winner in Securities Suits

"Enemies of the plaintiffs' firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach may do well to heed the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: What does not kill me makes me stronger.

"Take, for instance, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, a 1995 law that many observers say was aimed at putting Milberg Weiss -- and especially partner William Lerach, the lawyer many corporate executives love to hate -- out of business. As one securities defense lawyer who lobbied for the PSLRA told the New Yorker last year, 'The whole idea behind the law was to destroy Lerach.'

"Instead, according to a new study by Stanford Law School's Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research, Milberg Weiss is doing better than ever," reports here.
California Appellate Court Bitch Slaps Governor Davis Over Parole

"In a ruling that seems to thumb its nose at the executive branch, Los Angeles' Second District Court of Appeal on Monday overturned a parole denial by Gray Davis only four months after the state's highest court gave the governor great leeway on parole issues," reports here. You can also read the full opinion here.
Bill to Bar Suits Against Gun Industry Stuns Crime Victims

The New York Times reports here about the NRA-backed bill that has passed in the House and looks likely to pass in the Senate.
Injured Juror Loses Bid to Recover Damages

"A Brooklyn murder trial jury foreman who was injured when a table in the jury room collapsed on his knee cannot recover from the state, a Court of Claims judge said," the New York Lawyer reports here.

Friday, April 18, 2003

"Front-Seat Ban Adds to Odd Legacy of Judge Schellinger"

"Judge Jacqueline Schellinger hasn't been seen in the courthouse for five months, but her rulings - particularly the quirkier ones - will not soon be forgotten."

"It's not every judge who will demand that a drug dealer be banned from sitting in the front seat of a car while on probation - not to mention a slew of other conditions that either make no sense or couldn't possibly be accomplished in a 24-hour day."

"No wonder conservative appellate judges keep sending Schellinger's cases back to the courthouse for a second try," it says here.
Wild Animals Stalking the Supreme Court

This article describes today's capture of a brown bat that had invaded the court. But it also refers to an earlier episode involving a fox.
"Lawyer Accused of Kidnapping Associate"

It's not what you might think it is (I immediately thought "Partner Accused of Kidnapping Associate"), but it's still pretty damn weird.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A Constitutional Right to Spank Children?

Fellow blogger Howard Bashman reports on a Seventh Circuit opinion in a case "involving a private school at which the staff seems to have had a penchant for not sparing the rod." Read all about it (and link to the lengthy opinion) here.
Congress May Reform Class Action Suits

"The Senate Judiciary Committee took an important step last week when it approved a bill to curb abuses in class-action lawsuits. Class actions are an important tool for protecting citizens' rights. But currently, most class-action suits must be heard in state courts. So companies operating nationwide get haled into local courts that plaintiffs' lawyers have found particularly willing to accept class actions - and to hit out-of-state firms with costly judgments," the Christian Science Monitor reports here.
War Crimes Case Planned Against U.S.

"A coalition of lawyers and human rights groups yesterday unveiled a bid to use the UN's new International Criminal Court as a tool to restrain American military power. In a move Washington said vindicated U.S. claims that the court would be used for political purposes, the rights activists are working to compile war crimes cases against the United States and its chief ally in Iraq, Britain," the Canadian National Post reports here.


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