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


Friday, February 28, 2003

11th Circuit Grants en banc Review of 28 Year Old Opinion

"Atlanta's federal appeals court looks ready to strike down one of its precedents -- a 1974 decision authored by then-Judge Griffin B. Bell concluding that federal wiretap laws did not apply to a husband secretly recording his wife's telephone conversations," reports here.
Strange Strategy for Accused Molester: Fires Lawyer, Offers to Expose Himself

"A Pennsylvania man charged with child molestation fired his lawyer at his preliminary hearing then offered to expose himself to the judge to prove his innocence," it says here.
Court Says Lawyer Must Lop Dog's Tail To Compete

A dog-owning lawyer who refused to cut off his spaniel's tail to meet American Kennel Club competition standards does not have standing to seek civil enforcement of New York's anti-cruelty statute, a divided state appeals court ruled Thursday, according to this.

Judge Removed from Bench for Being "A Jerk"

"Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Bruce Van Voorhis became the first judge in California to lose his gavel over his demeanor alone Thursday when the Commission on Judicial Performance announced his ouster," it is reported here.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

War of the Greedy Associates Boards

In the beginning, a few associates at big law firms gathered in Yahoo! groups to compare and complain about their salaries and firms. Momentum built.

Sniffing steady traffic and thus a steady revenue source, soon created its own bulletin boards and invited the greedy ones to post there. Then there was light.

A bunch of regional and topical sub-boards of "greedy associates" flourished there. They eventually had hundreds of posts per day, and many thousands of page views. Lucrative stuff for

Most of the posts were rubbish. Some were scatological. Some offensive. Some slanderous. But occasionally there was news. And when law firm news broke (such as the news of the recent demise of Brobeck) the boards were the place to go for instant (if not always accurate) news.

But recently, something happened. I'm not sure what. Everything seems to be shrouded in mystery. The consensus is that has been acquired by some huge corporation, and is suddenly worried about liability.

Anywho, announced out of the blue that it would heretofore delete not only the posts, but the infirmation accounts of all posters who posted anything offensive, including all posts containing either the words "shit" or "fuck." These words had been part of the lingua franca of these boards for years prior to this announcement.

Then, infirmation actually started doing it: deleting not only posts, but the accounts of posters.

So the hardcore greedy ones decided to boycott They quickly set up an initial alternative message board. But when they tried to post links to the new board on the original boards, the overlords immediately deleted the posts containing the links to the new, competing boards.

Then the new, alternative board's overlords threw the greedy ones out yet again (for reasons that remain unclear), and the greedy ones wandered off into the hinterland once more, in search of a new home. And on it goes.

This may seem somewhat of a tempest in a teapot. But I can tell you that some people are plenty pissed about it. And some are making Herculean efforts to overcome it.

In any event, the new greedy associate boards are here (at least for the moment). (Link updated 2/28/03.)

[You can apply to get email updates about ongoing greedy associates board developments by emailing Tyrone Slothrop and providing him with your board "sock" (anonymous identity) and an email address.]

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Personal Injury Lawyers Indicted for Soliciting Scam

"Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau Wednesday indicted six New York attorneys who allegedly bribed hospital workers for medical records that revealed prime candidates for personal injury lawsuits," reports here.
California Attorney General Sues Law Firm Using Unfair Competition Law, Alleging Abuse of the Same Unfair Competition Law

California's Business & Professions Code section 17200 has become a potent weapon for plaintiffs. But it is notoriously subject to abuse, and reform of the statute is a current hot topic. Now the State has jumped into the debate by suing Los Angeles' Trevor Law Group, a firm that it alleges "did not investigate claims before it sued, filed against unrelated businesses, made secret settlements with no public benefit, split attorneys fees with non-attorneys and violated rules of civil procedure," as reported here.
Picking on the Little Guy

Are solo practitioners and minority lawyers more likely to be the targets of bar disciplinary proceedings? If so, why? The ABA reports on the issue here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Juror Anger Leads to Larger Punitive Awards

Statistically, punitive damages awards increased in 2002 in both raw size and as a percentage of the actual damages on which they are based. reflects on what that means here.
Top Defense Wins of 2002

The National Law Journal reports on the top ten (plus ten more) defense verdicts of 2002 in this interesting article.
Appeal Court Wants Judge Punished for Comments to Jury

"On Tuesday, Sacramento's Third District Court of Appeal referred Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O'Flaherty to the state's Commission on Judicial Performance for possible discipline after finding a second instance where he advised prospective jurors to conceal any racist feelings. This only a year after the appeal court had reversed O'Flaherty in People v. Mello for doing the same thing," The Recorder is reporting. You can read the court's opinion here.
Strip Search Case Revived Against Store

"The full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the civil rights suit of an African-American woman who charged she was wrongfully strip-searched at a Dillard’s department store in Cleveland. The Cincinnati-based court ruled that section 1981 civil rights claims aren’t limited to state actors," the ABA Journal reports here.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Trial to Start in Federal Prosecution of Exam Cheats

"A trial opening in Camden, N.J., this week will showcase the first use of the federal mail fraud statute to prosecute students for cheating on standardized tests. Hany Al-Hedaithy is one of about 60 Middle Eastern students charged with hiring impostors to take a college entrance test. Al-Hedaithy has moved for discovery on whether he was singled out based on race, since this use of the mail fraud statute appears unprecedented," reports here.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Supreme Court to Decide "Ineffective Counsel" Capital Case

The legal test for whether a conviction can be overturned because of the ineffectiveness of trial counsel has grown murky since the Supreme Court decided Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, in 1984. Now the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case of Wiggins v. Corcoran, No. 01-311, and many hope that the decision will clarify the test, the ABA Journal reports here.
DNA Dragnets

So far, DNA dragnets have been used more in Europe than here. But a case in Louisiana is pitting the interests of law enforcement in using this incredibly powerful tool against individuals' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches, as reported here.
Fun With the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

As noted earlier, companies are getting creative about using the DMCA in ways its drafters never envisioned to thwart competition. The LA Times has published another interesting article about it (free registration required).


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