Full or Left Justification?

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Are You Justified?, from Legible, A blog from Legalwriting.net by Wayne Schiess

http://sites.utexas.edu/legalwriting/2013/01/17/are-you-justified/

Do you prefer full or left justification? In the legal writing community, this is a serious debate. It ranks up there with whether citations belong in the text or in a footnote, but not quite as serious as whether you follow the rule of one or two spaces after a period.

The point is whether your choice makes your writing easier to read and understand, which is, after all, the legal writing holy grail. -CCE

Announcement: Comment Requested to Restyle the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

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Invitation for Comment to Restyle the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, United States Courts 

http://www.uscourts.gov/rules-policies/proposed-amendments-published-public-comment/invitation-comment-restyle-federal-rules

Over the last several years, many of the federal rules have undergone a process known as restyling, designed to make them simpler, more understandable and easier to read and use. With the exception of the rules in Part 8, which were recently revised, the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure have not been restyled, partially in deference to their close linkage to provisions of the Bankruptcy Code.

The Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules is now considering whether to recommend that the Bankruptcy Rules undergo the restyling process and is soliciting input from the public. With the assistance of the Federal Judicial Center, the Advisory Committee’s Restyling Subcommittee has created a short survey seeking opinions and comments on the benefits and drawbacks of restyling.

If you or your organization would like to provide feedback, please complete the survey (link is external) by June 15, 2018. We encourage you to contribute your views.

The survey results will be reviewed by the Restyling Subcommittee and given careful consideration as it decides what recommendation to make to the Advisory Committee.

Sandra Ikuta, Chair, Advisory Committee on Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure

Dennis Dow, Chair, Bankruptcy Rules Restyling Subcommittee, Chair-Designate, Advisory Committee on Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure

Why The Jury Blamed The Injured Plaintiff.

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Understanding Why Jurors Want To Blame The Injured Plaintiff, by Paul Luvera, Plaintiff Trial Lawyer Tips

http://plaintifftriallawyertips.com/understanding-why-jurors-want-to-blame-the-injured-plaintiff

There are times when it simply does not make sense that the jury did not sympathize with the plaintiff. Yes, there can be legal reasons for the outcome, but there are certain psychological motives as well. This post does an excellent job of identifying and explaining them. -CCE

Federal Judge’s E-Admissibility Chart.

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Handy Chart on E-Admissibility, posted by Craig Ball, Ball In Your Court (with hat tip to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm)

https://bit.ly/2HFzZE1

In my opinion, Craig Ball, his seminars, and his blog, are at the top of my list of “go to” sources anything related to e-discovery. Written by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm, this chart is e-discovery gold. Highly recommend a bookmark! -CCE

I received a fine gift this morning from U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, and with the authors’ permission, I’m sharing it with you.  It’s a splendid chart on admissibility of electronic evidence that any trial lawyer will want when going to Court.  For younger readers, I will explain what “going to Court” means in a future post.

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United States Sentencing Commission Unanimously Adopts 2018 Guideline Amendments.

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NEWS RELEASE: USSC Unanimously Adopts 2018 Guideline Amendments

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSC/bulletins/1e8f001

To access the new amendments, click here: https://bit.ly/2JLNGj6. -CCE

 

If You Want To Know How To Do Something, Ask A Paralegal.

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How the legal profession under utilizes paralegals: exclusive interview with Deborah Hampton of Chemours, by Adam Houldsworth, World Trademark Review (hat tip to William P. Statsky)

https://bit.ly/2veKSrh

I met Deborah Hampton years ago, and was impressed then by her intelligence, poise, kindness, and professionalism. I am even more impressed now. -CCE

State-by-State Recording Laws from the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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State-by-State Reporter’s Guide – Tape Recording Laws At a Glance, Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press

https://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/state-state-guide

Do you ever record a telephone conversation without telling the person at the other end of the line? It happens quite frequently. But, is it legal? Do you need the other person’s consent? Can it be used as evidence in court? Could you get arrested if you let someone else listen to it? What about hidden cameras?

These statutes were last updated in 2012. When you find your state and the relevant statute, verify that the law has not been changed since 2012. I would take it one more step, and check to see whether there is any pending legislation that might change the law. -CCE

Check Your Facebook Data and Settings.

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How to Download Your Facebook Data, by Roman Loyola, Senior Editor, PCWorld

https://bit.ly/2pIYmGC

How can I download a copy of my Facebook data? posted by Facebook Help

https://www.facebook.com/help/302796099745838

Do you use Facebook personally or as a marketing tool? Unless you have lived under a rock, you have heard about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. If not, just Google it. You will find plenty of recent posts. It will make you think twice about taking all those personality tests you find frequently on Facebook.

This is not the only Facebook glitch, if glitch is the proper word. Hacked lately? By that I mean, has someone sent posts to your “friends” pretending to be you?

Hopefully, you have checked your safety settings. That will help, but the type of data you share online may negate your efforts.

Hopefully, you do not share that you plan to attend an event (a feature Facebook provides), photos of your vacation while you are on vacation, or post that you are – at that very moment – at a specific location away from home.

Hopefully, you do not post photographs of your children with your child wearing a school t-shirt or jersey, the front of your house with the house number, or a photo with your vehicle’s tag number in the background.

You get the idea. If you want to use Facebook, whether for personal or business use, Facebook – and others – I suspect you already know they know more about you than you realize.

It will not hurt to look at your Facebook data and re-check your Safety Settings at https://bit.ly/1j7xk0x. I recommend another Google search (yes, search engines, news media, and other social media are tracking you, too) to find more ways to update your Facebook settings. Please look at the date of whatever you find. You want the newest version. The newer, the better. -CCE

Historical Supreme Court Cases Now Free Online.

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Historical Supreme Court cases now online thanks to Library of Congress (and Hein & Co.), by Joe Hodnicki, Law Librarian Blog

https://bit.ly/2GeSxLG

According to the press release, ‘More than 225 years of Supreme Court decisions acquired by the Library of Congress are now publicly available online – free to access in a page image format for the first time. The Library has made available more than 35,000 cases that were published in the printed bound editions of United States Reports. … The digital versions of the U.S. Reports in the new collection were acquired by the Law Library of Congress through a purchase agreement with William S. Hein & Co. Inc. The acquisition is part of the Law Library’s transition to a digital future and in support of its efforts to make historical U.S. public domain legal materials freely and easily available to Congress and the world.’ You can access the collection here.”

Find Bills and Amendments and Who Sponsored Them.

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How to Locate the Bills and Amendments a Member of Congress has Sponsored or Cosponsored in Congress.gov, by Robert Brammer, In Custodia Legis, Law Librarians of Congress

https://bit.ly/2I1mESZ

This looks handy. -CCE

One of the questions we are frequently asked is how to locate a bill or amendment that a member of Congress has sponsored or cosponsored. There are a few ways to do this on Congress.gov.

  1. Visit a member profile page

Locate a member you are interested in and open their member profile page. Next, you can use the filters on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow down your results. For example, if you are only interested in legislation that the member sponsored or cosponsored in the 115th Congress, under “Congress”, click on “115”. You can also use the filters in combination with one another to further narrow down your results.

If you are looking at a member profile page for a current member of Congress, note that you can click “get alerts” at the top, left-hand side of the screen to sign up to receive an email each time that member sponsors or cosponsors legislation.

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Witness Preparation – The Classics.

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Witness: Top 10 Posts, by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator

http://bit.ly/2DFr8fI

Have you ever prepared witnesses or clients for a deposition or trial? If you have, then you know these rules or techniques are the classics. Tried and true. If you haven’t, here is some of the best advice you will ever get. This is a “must bookmark.” -CCE

USSC Has A New App for 2016 Sentencing Guidelines.

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United States Sentencing Commission Launches A New Guideline App

http://bit.ly/2IzSlUt

The new App gives you access to:

  1. 2016 Guidelines Manual;
  2. Statutory Index Search;
  3. Sentencing Tables;
  4. Appendix – Amendments;
  5. Guideline Range;
  6. Drug Quantity; and
  7. Drug Equivalent.

It also includes Frequently Used Tables and the Archive. -CCE

 

Federal Research Honey Pot.

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Comparing Methods of Statutory Interpretation Used By The Lower Federal Courts and The Supreme Court, by Joe Hodnicki, Law Librarian Blog

http://bit.ly/2pd4k2t

Joe Hodnicki calls this article “recommended,” which means we just found a honey pot for those who research federal case law and statutory interpretation. -CCE

“Here’s the abstract for Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl’s very interesting Statutory Interpretation and the Rest of the Iceberg: Divergences between the Lower Federal Courts and the Supreme Court, Duke Law Journal, Forthcoming:

‘This Article examines the methods of statutory interpretation used by the lower federal courts, especially the federal district courts, and compares those methods to the practices of the U.S. Supreme Court. This novel research reveals both similarities across courts and some striking differences. The research shows that some interpretive tools are highly overrepresented in the Supreme Court’s decisions while other tools are much more prevalent in the lower courts. Another finding, based on a study of forty years of cases, is that all federal courts have shifted toward more textualist tools in recent decades but that the shift was less pronounced as one moves down the judicial hierarchy.

The divergence between the interpretive practices of different federal courts has implications for both descriptive and normative accounts of statutory interpretation.’ . . .” Continue reading

Paralegal Checklist for Trial.

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What Does A Paralegal Do At Trial: Six Things Your War Room Must Have, by Christina Roberts, CP, Digital Paralegal Services (with permission from author and website)

http://bit.ly/2IkFXb5

This excellent post highlights important steps to prepare for trial. This is especially helpful when your trial is out of town.

I like the emphasis on the trial notebook. Your lead counsel may specify something similar. Regardless, it is your job to make sure they have whatever works for them. Still, this trial notebook is ideal, and is an excellent model to follow.

Some quick words about using technology in the courtroom. Visit the courtroom ahead of time. Write down the location of all electrical outlets. Take a lot of duct tape. Use duct tape to secure all wires and cords.

Ask the judge’s staff whether the judge has a preference or pet peeves. Perhaps the judge has local rules for technology in the courtroom?

If you got to trial often, you likely have your own stories of technology attempts that didn’t work. That could be a post all by itself. Mainly, my best advice to you is that, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Anticipate it, and be ready with a back-up plan. -CCE

Why Do Bad Clients Deserve The Best?

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A good friend recently shared a paralegal post in which the author complained about ill-tempered clients. The author warned that, as a result, the clients’ work would remain at the bottom of the stack on her desk. I disagree.

I recall witnessing this behavior more than once as a legal secretary and paralegal toward clients, young lawyers, and legal interns. Law students were particularly vulnerable. I caution any legal support staff against behaving so unprofessionally.

If you find yourself tempted, let me remind you of this simple truth. Law students and young lawyers have a bad habit of becoming senior partners and your future employers. And, they have long memories.

Most people, as a rule, do not call an attorney’s office because they are having a good day. Before they became our clients, they realized they had a problem, tried to deal with it, were unsuccessful, stressed, and lost sleep. In short, we are not seeing them at their best.

Take good notes when your clients vent, rant, or repeat themselves. Because they are upset, they may be mistaken or confused. Let the client know that you are listening to them. Interrupt only when you need them to repeat something to make sure you get it right. Document the clients’ concerns, and tell your attorney they called and why.

Helping clients resolve their legal problem is our job. It is what we do, and it is why we are there. They deserve the best service we can give them. -CCE

Your Mother Was Right. Manners Matter.

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Courtroom Conduct Matters. Yes, Counsel: That Includes You, by Kacy Miller, Persuasion Matters

http://courtroomlogic.com/2018/02/12/courtroom-conduct/

Regardless of who sits at the counsel table or part of the team sitting in the gallery, courtroom conduct matters. Many judges have their own set of courtroom rules. Like all local rules, follow them exactly. These are rules, not suggestions. It is especially important that your client understands the importance of proper court etiquette, as well as any family members or friends who may be seated in the gallery.

I have seen bad behavior by clients and counsel alike. Some clients have trouble controlling themselves. Some attorneys act more like they are in a theater rather than a courtroom. Go to court often enough, and you will quickly see what impresses a judge or jury and what doesn’t. -CCE

Smokers with Dementia or Alzheimer’s – A Unique Challenge.

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A Seldom Discussed Legal Issue? The Problem of Smokers with Dementia, by Katherine C. Pearson, Dickinson Law, Penn State, Elder Law Professor Blog

http://bit.ly/2sN5xSq

If you are a smoker, then you already know it’s hard to stop. This post discusses something I had never considered. How do you address a smoker who is also an aging family member or friend with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

This is not about whether smoking is bad for your health. Just as folks eventually reach the age where it is not safe to do certain activities, think of what it is like for someone with Alzheimer’s lighting and dropping cigarettes – everywhere. Burns start showing up on the carpet and the favorite chair. Those are certainly dangerous signs, but the scariest scenario is finding burn holes in bed.

This is an excellent post. It also provides links to other posts. For those who practice in elder law or deal with this personally, you will want to read this. -CCE

When Does a Subpoena for Documents in a Foreign or International Tribunal Require Personal Jurisdiction?

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Oh, And One More Thing . . . Issuing A Subpoena For Documents Under 28 U.S.C. § 1782 Also Requires Personal Jurisdiction Over The Subpoena Target, posted by Gilbert A. Samberg, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, Lexology Blog

http://bit.ly/2FbbE5e

When someone mentions a subpoena for documents, most of us think of a subpoena duces tecum under Fed. R. Civ. P. 45. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1782 also is used to subpoena documents, but in cases involving a foreign or international tribunal. How easy is it to meet that standard?

This post explains the three threshold standards and how the Second Circuit Court handled it. -CCE

Update to Historical Statutes At Large Online.

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More Historical Statutes at Large Available Online, by Jennifer González, In Custodia Legis, Law Librarians of Congress

http://bit.ly/2Fdv49P

The individual statutes for congresses 68 through 81 are now available on the Law Library of Congress website. This addition closes the gap for the years for which the Statutes at Large were not available on the Internet. As with the volumes for previous congresses, each of these statutes is tagged with tailored, descriptive metadata to help users search and browse by facets.

SCOTUS Notes Has the Supreme Court Justices’ Handwritten Notes!

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SCOTUS Notes transcribes notes written by Supreme Court justices during conference meetings, posted by Joe Hodnicki, Law Librarian Blog (with hat tip to BeSpacific Blog)

http://bit.ly/2EA7cvK

We can read the U.S. Supreme Court justices’ handwritten notes during their deliberations? What will this mean for legal analysis and where do I sign up? -CCE

SCOTUS Notes is the newest crowdsourcing project under the Zooniverse platform originated at the University of Minnesota. ‘In this project, members of the public transcribe handwritten notes from U.S. Supreme Court justices. Unlike members of Congress, justices cast their votes in complete privacy during weekly conference meetings. Only justices are allowed in the Chief Justice’s conference room when they discuss, deliberate, and make initial decisions on cases that focus on some of the nation’s most pressing legal issues. The only record of what has been said, and by whom, is provided by the handwritten personal notes the justices themselves take during conference. These crucial documents detail the discussions and debates that took place in thousands of cases spanning multiple decades.’

[Emphasis added.]

You Have The Right To Remain Silent, But Can You?

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Suspect Who Asks About His “Other Murder Case” Is Charged With That One, Too, by Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar Blog

http://bit.ly/2FEdpXI

A good friend has a saying that ranks as some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: “You can think anything you want. You just don’t have to say it.”

I have found that it works well in most work and life situations. In this particular instance, it would have been ideal. -CCE

Historical Versions to the U.S. Code Now Free Online.

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Historical Versions of the United States Code Now Online, by Sabrina I. Pacifici, beSpacific Blog

https://www.bespacific.com/historical-versions-of-the-united-states-code-now-online/

The Library of Congress has bought over 60 years of the U.S. Code from Hein Online. The historical research you will find here has not been available for free online before this publication by the Library of Congress. Because of the depth of the research at this site, you should definitely take a look.

This link will take you directly to the website, which will also give you a complete description of the information you will find there: https://www.loc.gov/collections/united-states-code. I also suggest taking the time to check out this link for the United States Code prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives: http://uscode.house.gov/browse.xhtml.

There will be times when you will find no case law to support a state or federal statute. To make a convincing argument to the court, you may need to rely upon the legislative intent – the reason why the legislature made the law. To do that, you will need to read committee reports and other information to fully understand the legislature’s rationalization for writing the law as it did. These websites should enhance your ability to perform that research for federal statutes. -CCE

“No Passion in the World is Equal to the Passion to Alter Someone Else’s Draft.” H.G. Wells

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We are the Products of Editing, Douglas E. Abrams, Precedent, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 12-14, Spring 2008; University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-18.

Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1138300 

How many of us take the time to proof and edit what we write? I suspect that most, if not all, good legal writers do it. No, I’m not talking about simply running a review of your grammar, style, and punctuation in Microsoft Word. I mean really reading, proofing, and editing what you write.

When you write for the court, what is your goal? To be understood? Of course. To persuade? Absolutely. To do that, you must keep your reader’s attention. Long sentences that take up an entire paragraph, legalese, and unnecessary words are boring – period. Why would anyone want to read a quote takes up an entire page?

Persuasive legal writing is an art. It takes work, and that means editing and polishing until your writing is clear, concise, and logically flows from one point to the next. Your goal, as I’ve mentioned before, is that, by the time your judge finishes reading your brief or other document, that judge is subconsciously nodding in agreement.

As someone who has seen a state supreme court judge literally throw a party’s brief across the room because it was so badly written, I promise that judges will not waste time reading legal gibberish. If a judge finds one side‘s brief difficult to read, how much frustration does it take to put it down and pick up the other side’s well-written brief to get the facts of the case and legal argument? Folks, it doesn’t take much.

Don’t take my word for it. Mr. Abrams’ article does an excellent job. -CCE

South Carolina Legal Blogs – The Cream of the Crop.

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Most Popular South Carolina Blawgs, Blawg Search, Justia

https://blawgsearch.justia.com/blogs/countries/united-states/south-carolina

For my paralegal friends in South Carolina, here’s the top legal blogs in South Carolina sorted by popularity. There’s a little bit of everything here, and several caught my eye. It will take a while to digest it all. I recommend bookmarking this site, and visiting it often. -CCE

Bryan Garner Shows Us How to Start a Sentence.

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How To Start A Sentence: Consider All Your Alternatives, And Sprinkle In Some Conjunctions, Too, by Bryan A. Garner, Bryan Garner on Words, ABA Journal 

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/how_to_start_a_sentence

Bryan Garner is one of the recognized experts on legal writing. This post isn’t about just how to start a sentence. It shows you why the last sentence in a paragraph is the most important, and how to use the first sentence to set it up.

Check out the second paragraph of the post. Look at the example of how to show, not tell.  Don’t worry about whether you understand his use of words, such as “adverbial elements.” Pay attention to his examples. He will show you what works, and what doesn’t.

Were you taught, as I was, never to use a conjunction to start a sentence? In the latter part of this post, Mr. Garner illustrates how using conjunctions to start sentences is an excellent writing tool. And I agree with him. -CCE