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


Friday, February 21, 2003

Big Law Firms Suck

Neil Shapiro practiced law for 30 years in big firms. He eventually decided that life there was increasingly unbearable, and moved to a better place. He writes about his move here. I worked at the same Big Firm that Neil recently left for several years before coming to the same conclusion he did (a couple of years before him). No offense to that particular firm, but he is right that things have changed for the worse. Not just at that firm (which is probably better than most), but at Big Law in general. I say: Tune in, turn on, drop out! Greed is dead. This profession used to be a great way to earn a comfortable living doing something you loved and could be proud of. Whatever happened to that?
Flummoxed by "Progress"

California Appellate Justice William W. Bedsworth explains why he would be happier remaining in an earlier century here.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Brouhaha Over Big-Screen Ads

"The practice of showing commercials before the start of movies defrauds the public and should be stopped, according to lawsuits filed against two movie theater chains. The suit accuses the chains of deluging 'captive audiences with unannounced and unwanted advertisements,'" CBS reports here.
Judge Dismisses Antitrust Lawsuit Against Blockbuster, Studios

"A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against video rental giant Blockbuster Inc. and five movie studios, saying video store operators who brought the case failed to show the defendants conspired to strike favorable deals not available to other video stores. Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney granted Blockbuster's motion for summary judgment," the AP reports here.
Burglar Gets No Break Because Occupant Was Dead

"A Rochester-area burglar's claim that he could not be convicted of breaking into a 'dwelling' because the 'occupant' was dead split an appellate panel 3-2 but failed to persuade any of the judges on New York's highest court," according to this.
New York State Judicial Conduct Rules Struck

"A U.S. judge in Albany, N.Y., on Thursday delivered a body blow to the New York State Judicial Conduct Commission's power to regulate the political activities of judges. Judge David N. Hurd, ruling in a challenge brought by Albany Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo, struck all specific prohibitions on judicial activity contained in the New York Code of Judicial Conduct as a prior restraint on protected First Amendment activities." Read all about it here.
Online Archive of Lawsuits by Slaves Offers Glimpse of the Past

The Missouri State Archives has a project to catalogue, manage, and digitize the State's pre-1875 legal filings, including many cases in which slaves sought their freedom, the AP reports
here. You can visit the Archives online here.
Law Schools Enacting Dating Policies in Wake of Dwyer Scandal

Dahlia Lithwick has a humorous take on the matter here from The American Lawyer.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Disbarred Lawyer Sues Judges

"A veteran Queens lawyer who was disbarred last April has filed a federal suit against two state Supreme Court judges, claiming they signed off on a conspiracy to swindle him out of real estate worth $3.8 million," the NY Post reports here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

More Second Amendment Fun from the 9th Circuit

The 9th Circuit has just published another Second Amendment case, Nordyke v. King, which holds that an Oakland, California law banning the possession of firearms or ammunition on county property is constitutional. The law effectively bars gun shows in the county.

In the portion of the opinion discussing the Second Amendment, the panel followed the 9th Circuit's own ruling in Hickman v. Block, 81 F.3d 98 (9th. Cir. 1996), which held that the Second Amendment gives a collective right to a militia to the states, not a right to own guns to an individual . The court noted that it had no choice but to follow Hickman, and criticized the panel that recently decided Silviera v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2003), for including a detailed analysis of the Second Amendment when such an analysis was unnecessary because of the binding precedent of Hickman.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Ronald M. Brown goes so far as to say that though he is bound to follow Hickman, he believes that both it and Silviera are wrong, and that the correct rule is that the Second Amendment does confer an individual right to gun ownership, as was held by the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001). (In other words, "I know this decision is wrong, but I am bound by precedent to render it.")

Looks like the issue is ripe for a new Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment, which it has not addressed for a quarter century. Or at least for en banc review in the 9th Circuit, which could result in Hickman's reversal.

UPDATE: has published an article about today's decision here.
Thwarting a Useful Jury Experiment?

I don't necessarily agree with it, but here is an argument that the recent Texas court decision keeping a documentary crew from videotaping a capital jury's deliberations was wrong. Read it here from the Washington Times.

Monday, February 17, 2003

California Judges Clamp Down on Publicity

"Judges who preside over some of California's highest-profile trials have been clamping down on press coverage despite legal rules and admonitions from higher courts telling them to keep doors and documents open," the AP reports here.
Tech Manufacturers Using Copyright Law to Thwart Competitors

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was supposed to protect copyrighted materials -- such as music and movies -- from digital piracy. But, as some argued in opposing it, tech manufacturers are beginning to use the DMCA to try to stifle competition. As BusinessWeek reports here, Lexmark has filed a suit under the DMCA trying to stop a chipmaker from selling chips to third-parties who sell remanufactured toner cartridges for Lexmark's printers, arguing that the code in the chips is protected by copyright.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Google Buys Pyra, the Parent of and Blogger

I love Google! Honest I do! If I ever said anything bad about Google, I take it back . . . .

Google now owns the host of the website you are reading, and the software I use to maintain it, according to this article in the San Jose Mercury News. In all honesty, I do love Google. The "Google Tool Bar" is one of the most useful web inventions yet. Plus, Google has given WeirdOfTheNews a "PageRank" of six out of ten, which virtually guarantees that my website will be found by all manner of freaks and weirdoes doing Google searches -- which is an endless source of amusement to me. Just check Disturbing Search Requests if you don't believe me.

Supreme Court to Consider Review Of Case Seeking Release of Vince Foster Suicide Photos

This Friday (Feb. 21), the Supreme Court will decide whether to add the case to next year's docket. The case pits the rights of those who suspect Foster was murdered against the privacy interests of Foster's family, and tests the limits of the Freedom of Information Act, American Lawyer Media reports here.
NY Lawsuit Poses Test of Same Sex Marriages

New York lawyer Neal Conrad Spicehandler died in the hospital three days after suffering a fractured leg when hit by a car on a hit-and-run spree. He was "married" to his partner John Langan under Vermont's civil union law. Langan is now suing the hospital, and the suit will test whether Vermont's civil union law will be recognized in New York, or whether it will be trumped by the federal "Defense of Marriage Act," the NY Law Journal reports here.
Doctor Files Complaint Against Trial Lawyers

West Virginia physician Julie McCammon alleges the lawyers have driven the cost of medical malpractice insurance through the roof by filing frivolous and meritless lawsuits against doctors. She's representing herself, according to this.
9th Circuit Justice Kozinski's Impartiality Questioned After Visit to Death Row Inmate

The California Attorney General's Office is questioning whether Kozinski can continue to hear death penalty cases after he corresponded with and then met inmate Michael W. Hunter. This despite the fact that Kozinski is generally considered an unwavering proponent of the death penalty. Fellow Justice Reinhardt thinks "they have to be nuts" to seek Kozinski's disqualification, the L.A. Times reports here (registration [free] required).
Actor, Producer Trade Lawsuit Tirades

In dueling lawsuits over the move Why Men Shouldn't Marry, actor Sean Penn accuses producer Steve Bing of blacklisting him because of his opposition to a war in Iraq, while Bing accuses Penn of blackmailing him over a movie deal that never materialized. Read all about it here.
Judge Removed for Moral Turpitude

"The Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Calvin M. Westcott, a town court judge in Hancock, Delaware County, should be removed for having sex with a mentally retarded woman entrusted to his care, the New York Law Journal reports" here.
'Horse's Ass' Initiative Out Of Starting Gate

A judge has given tentative approval for a voter initiative to have Tim Eyman -- the local king of voter initiatives -- officially labeled a "horse's ass." David Goldstein, the initiative's author, "wants to call attention to what he sees as abuse of the initiative process by Eyman and others," according to this. UPDATE (3/10/02): David Goldstein has a website devoted to his "horse's ass" initiative.


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