Once hidden behind the paywalls of Westlaw and Lexis Nexis, the law is quickly becoming open source. Court decisions have always been part of the public record, at least in theory, but accessing those decisions has always been difficult for both lawyers and non-lawyers alike. The internet has been slow in getting around to making court decisions publicly searchable and understandable.
Recently, two online communities have attempted to make the law more user-friendly by letting lawyers and members of the public add comments, explanations, and cross-references. Both communities are worth exploring if you are a solo or small practitioner. . . .
This is the ugly side of at-will employment. Under at-will employment, a worker can be fired for any reason, so long as the reason does not involve discrimination and a few other rare exceptions. Marissa Holcomb was fired from her job as manager at the Popeye’s in Channel View, a Houston suburb after the place was robbed. The robber took $400 from the cash register. Ms. Holcomb was told to pay back the $400 or be fired. The pregnant mother of three chose to be fired. She could not afford to pay $400, especially after risking her life for her employer. The robber pointed a pistol at her and others during the incident.
Ms. Holcomb was fired less than 36 hours after the robbery. A franchise spokeman said she was fired because she left too much money in the register. . . .
Okay, there’s no question that the person who wrote this document had some issues to get off her chest. We all need to express ourselves. Some of us just do it differently than others. Regardless of what has happened in this case, this reaction over the top.
This is probably a good time to mention that this is not the way to persuade the court to do what you want. -CCE
In this Facebook post, Tamah Jada Clark, the author of the now-legendary pleading entitled ‘To F— This Court And Everything That It Stands For,’ expresses puzzlement as to why that pleading ‘has now, apparently, become a ‘big deal.’ She also suggests that ’there is a lot of ambiguity and confusion as to what exactly has taken place heretofore to provoke what may appear to some to be a ‘rant’ of sorts.’
That may appear to some to be an understatement of sorts.
Clark suggests in the post that she ‘will take time to address the matter’ in the near future, and I’m certainly looking forward to that, but she does offer a couple of justifications. First, she argues that the incident is being exaggerated, saying that the ‘Notice [To F— This Court And Everything That It Stands For] is one of MANY documents I filed with the court and it only represents less than 1% of what has taken place.’ I know what you mean. You do everything right and then just ONCE you snap and file a nine-page profanity-filled diatribe telling a federal judge that he ‘sucks nuts’ and should ‘die,’ and then they never let you live it down.
Second, she claims that the judge has treated her unfairly all along and, oddly, that the judge has not allowed her to express herself. . . .
Georgetown Law has announced that it has teamed up with law firms DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create a new nonprofit law firm designed to help low-income individuals with their civil law needs. Named the D.C. Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), it will be a nonprofit low bono law firm that will provide affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District. The anticipated opening date is October 2015. . . .
If you’ve ever been to trial and in charge of wrangling witnesses, you know about the rule of sequestration. Usually one or both parties invoke the rule at the beginning of trial, and anyone who may testify as a witness must leave the courtroom. The point is to prevent any witness’ testimony to be influenced by that of another’s.
This post discusses the Rule and the Court’s ruling when the Rule is not followed. Like Mr. Miller, I don’t understand the Court’s ruling on this one. -CCE
Similar to its federal counterpart, Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 615 reads as follows:
At a party’s request the court may order witnesses sequestered so that they cannot learn of other witnesses’ testimony. Or the court may do so on its own. But this rule does not authorize sequestering:
(a) a party who is a natural person;
(b) an officer or employee of a party that is not a natural person (including the Commonwealth) after being designated as the party’s representative by its attorney;
(c) a person whose presence a party shows to be essential to presenting the party’s claim or defense; or
(d) a person authorized by statute or rule to be present.
So, assume that a judge orders a witness sequestered and tells him not to discuss the case with prior witnesses. Further, assume that the witness violates this sequestration order by talking to a prior witness. You’d expect there to be severe consequences for that witness, right? . . .
There simply is too much at this website to describe it all. The list below is only a portion of the data. Most importantly, it includes the 2015 USSC Guidelines Manual, updated November 1, 2014, as well as a wealth of research, statistics, training, tables, demographics, sentencing information, and more. Here is a quick summary.
A litigant that squeezed multiple words together and resorted to abbreviations didn’t satisfy word limits in its briefs and won’t be able to pursue its appeal, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The appeals court tossed the patent appeal by Pi-Net International in an April 20 order (PDF). How Appealing links to the opinion and a story by Law360 (sub. req.), which dubbed the creative wording ‘a trick straight out of high school English class.’ . . .
* * *
On appeal, JPMorgan objected to Pi-Net’s first brief, saying it attempted to evade the 14,000 word limit by deleting spaces between various words and squeezing them together, according to the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit offered an example: One case citation consists of 14 words, but Pi-Net squeezed them together to make them into one word. . . .
This past Saturday morning [April 18, 2015] at ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, I teamed up with Dallas attorney Tom Mighell, Ohio attorney Joe Bahgat and Florida legal tech consultant Adriana Linares to present the 2015 installment of 60 iOS Apps in 60 Minutes. Lots of useful and fun apps were discussed during the session, and the enthusiasm from the standing-room-only crowd was fantastic. I know that the session was fast-paced, so for those of you who attended and who may have missed an app or two, and for those of you who could not make it to ABA TECHSHOW 2015 this year, here is a list of the apps that we discussed. . . .
Patent Litigation – Been Sued or Gotten a Demand Letter? by uspto – United States Patent and Trademark Office Blog
Regardless of whether you are a novice or expert in intellectual property law, you should find this website helpful. It has many FAQs, resources, and other tools to help the inventor and those you work in this area of the law.
Click on http://www.uspto.gov/learning-resources for more links to resources for the legal profession, educators, inventors, and others, including instructions for filing online. Nice laid out, comprehensive, and easy set up alerts for fee and rule changes. Definitely worth a look. -CCE
Answers To Common Questions About Abusive Patent Litigation
Received a letter about or been sued over a patent? You’re in the right place. See below for answers to common questions: (Trademark-related resources) are also available.) . . .
The Pleading, by Mark Cooney, Plain Language, 94 Mich. B.J. 3, 42 (March 2015)
Another article from the Plain English Subcommittee of the Michigan Bar Journal. As always, each article makes a case for using plain English in legal writing. This group has been, and remains, a strong proponent for elegant legal writing without legalese.
This selection is a clever take off Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, that cautions the reader against writing pleadings with stuffy, archaic language. Its author, editor in chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing and author of Sketches on Legal Style, Mark Cooney, is a legal writing professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. -CCE
Once upon a docket dreary, as I pondered
Over many a curious case then pending
with the busy court,
While I read, attention sapping, suddenly
there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at
my chambers door.
‘Tis my clerk again,’ I grumbled, ‘tapping
on my chambers door—
Oh, yet another matter more.’
Pausing just a moment further, bracing
for the fresh-faced fervor,
Up I turned my heavy head to bid my
clerk in through the door.
In he stepped with youthful stride,
brand-new filing at his side,
Still another motion coming briskly
through my chambers door—
A docket full and motions more, another
through my chambers door—
Coming through my chambers door. . . .
In this wrongful termination case, the court was considering the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, as well as the defendants’ motion to strike certain exhibits attached to plaintiff’s brief in opposition to summary judgment for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) & (e). One of the items that the defendants sought to exclude was a read receipt sent from defendant Grimes email address to plaintiff, triggered when an email plaintiff sent defendant Grimes was opened, arguing that the Read Receipt was ‘unauthenticated hearsay’.
Judge Flanagan made a swift ruling on this issue when she stated ‘Defendants’ argument fails. The Read Receipt is not hearsay.’ . . .
Asked to name the world’s best opinion writers, traditionalists might rattle off Lord Denning, Learned Hand, or Oliver Wendell Holmes. Modernists often prefer Antonin Scalia or Richard Posner. And the trendy might cite new kids on the block like Lord Sumption or Elena Kagan.
Those august names all deserve heaps of praise. But the fame that these judges enjoy raises questions of its own: Can you write a ‘great’ opinion if you’re a judge who’s not a household name, or even especially influential? And can you write a ‘great’ opinion in a case that’s not a high-profile constitutional crisis, but just another run-of-the-mill dispute in an overflowing docket?
I say ‘yes’ on both counts. No matter how routine a case, and no matter how little time you have, you can write a great opinion. It may not be ‘great’ for the ages, but it can offer readers a clear, accessible, and easy-to-follow analysis of your reasoning, with even a bit of flair or personality for good measure. . . .
There is a unique group of movies that show the best — and worst — traits and practices by the legal profession. We all have our favorites. Check out the ABA’s list. Are your top choices there? If not, please leave a comment, and share your favorite. -CCE
What would Hollywood do without lawyers? In a town built on copyrights and cosmetic surgery, lawyers have done far more than pen the small print in studio contracts or post bail for hollow-eyed stars on the way to and from rehab. From the incisive Henry Drummond and the droll Mr. Lincoln to the callow Danny Kaffee and the regal Atticus Finch, lawyers have provided some of Hollywood’s most memorable cinematic heroes and some of its most honorable and thoughtful films.
Earlier this year, the ABA Journal asked 12 prominent lawyers who teach film or are connected to the business to choose what they regard as the best movies ever made about lawyers and the law. We’ve collated their various nominees to produce our jury’s top picks.
Together these films represent 31 Oscar wins and another 85 nominations as befits the best work of some of the greatest actors, writers and directors of their time.
So quiet, please. A rap of the gavel, a pull of the curtain, and ‘Hear ye! Hear ye!’ for the 25 greatest law films ever made. . . .
Acronyms continue to bedevil the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Parties before the court are advised in circuit rules to avoid little-known acronyms; lawyers who didn’t heed the advice were called out in a 2012 opinion. Now the clerk’s office is doing its part to police the briefs. . . .
In this short article, David Noll explains procedural terms with which students often are unfamiliar. These terms predate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which most Civil Procedure classes seem to pass over.
These terms, like ‘demurrer’ and ‘nonsuit,’ may pop up not only in old court cases that students may study, but also in state court procedural rules. . . .
Two annoyances in life often involve cliches and living out a cliche. This is especially true when the cliche is ‘shooting yourself in the foot.’ But T-Mobile got to experience both last week when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that it engaged in unfair labor policies.
The ruling arose out of T-Mobile’s employee handbook, code of conduct, and a confidentiality form that all employees are required to sign. However, because of the manner in which T-Mobile drafted these documents, the NLRB found they obligated T-Mobile employees to comply with unlawful labor rules. The full NLRB opinion is available here (NLRB_T_Mobile_Opinion_2015_3_18).
We previously explained that employers need to be mindful that the NLRB would be focusing on employee manuals, sometimes called employee handbooks, and other employee agreements that violate employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (an act that applies to union and non-union employees). See Employee Manuals Need Spring Cleaning Thanks to the NLRB. We also expressed our concern that many provisions in employee manuals and agreements could violate the NLRA and, therefore, subject companies to an unfair labor practice charge similar to what T-Mobile got hit with.
A review of the T-Mobile opinion substantiates these concerns in that the offending provisions were construed or otherwise interpreted to prevent workers from communicating with one another about wages, from speaking to the news media about workplace conditions and from speaking with co-workers to marshal evidence against disciplinary charges. Over all, administrative law judge found that 11 of the 13 policies subject to the litigation were illegal. . . .
Last week I had the (good?) fortune to attend two depositions spanning three days in a construction defect case. We represent a fairly peripheral sub-contractor, so despite exceeding 20 total hours, I didn’t get the opportunity to ask a single question. However, we’re not so peripheral that I could completely space out.
Over the course of three days, which included the introduction of about 100 exhibits (I’m impressed at the plaintiff’s counsel’s restraint, except when you consider that many exhibits exceeded 250 pages each), I listened intently. Or as intently as possible.
Until the other part of my brain, the part that writes this blog, kicked in. I analyzed what I thought was an intelligent, if complicated, system put in place that uses Dropbox for sharing exhibits. But that was really it. No video, no digital exhibits, remote participants listening by phone. I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better way than this. . . .
I’ve gotten some good feedback and questions in response to my post [April 10, 2015] yesterday regarding the shooting of Walter Scott. The point of that post was to note that, even if it was otherwise reasonable for the officer to shoot Scott, this use of lethal force was still unreasonable if (1) the officer failed to give a warning prior to shooting; and (2) such a warning was feasible. The main question I have gotten is: When is such a warning not feasible? . . . .
I’ve been asked a lot today [April 9, 2015] about the shooting of Walter Scott. The topic that always comes up is the so-called ‘fleeing felon’ rule. Here is the thumbnail explanation of this rule by the Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner:
This case requires us to determine the constitutionality of the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of an apparently unarmed suspected felon. We conclude that such force may not be used unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
Obviously, anyone watching the video of the shooting likely has serious doubts about whether such probable cause could have existed. Even if those doubts could be quelled, however, there is a second problem for the police officer who shot Scott….
This index allows you to browse through the more significant posts on iPhone J.D. since I started the website on November 17, 2008, including reviews of iPhone and iPad apps and accessories plus other significant posts. Also, remember that there is a helpful search box at the top right of every page if you are trying to find something specific. . . .
In February, we discussed a report about data breach trends in 2014 and how those trends compared to data breaches in 2013. That report provided breach trends for several industries, including the healthcare industry, which suffered the most breaches last year (possibly because stolen health records are apparently worth big money). But, according to a recent report, you won’t see any trends for law firms because the legal profession almost never publicly discloses a breach. . . .
You are really getting two for one (and more) with this post. Please note the hyperlink to consumer protection law in the first sentence. Both posts provide guides on how to research both subjects. Click on “Legal Research” to the left once you are at the website, and you will find the link to all posts at this website on how to research other laws. -CCE
In response to our last post on consumer protection law, we determined there was additional interest in ‘lemon laws.’ Lemon laws are defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as statutes ‘designed to protect a consumer who buys a substandard automobile, usu[ally] by requiring the manufacturer or dealer either to replace the vehicle or to refund the full purchase price.’ So, if you find that the new car of your dreams is actually a waking nightmare, you can use this guide to determine what recourse you might have. Lemon laws vary by state, but this guide should help get you started with your research. . . .
Legal actions can result in one party paying the other for damages, but a judge can also order a party to do, or not do, something to protect the plaintiff’s rights and interests. This can be accomplished through an injunction or restraining order, which can be temporary or permanent.
A judge can issue an injunction pursuant to a statute of through his or her equitable powers when not specifically authorized by statute. Equitable powers of a judge allow a decision based on the overall fairness of the situation. Given how broad this could be and the potential for abuse, judges are normally not eager to exercise equitable powers.
A party wanting a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction must show that the relief sought in an underlying lawsuit depends on preventing the occurrence or continuance of an act that would result in waste or irreparable injury. . . .
You and your attorney have worked on this complicated case for months – maybe years. You both know every nuance and the meaning of every exhibit and which witness will say what. To you, it all makes sense but you have had months to learn all about the case.
The jury does not have that luxury – they have to “get it” and absorb all the evidence and testimony from both sides presenting the case. You and your attorney are positive that, if only the jury understands your client’s case, it will return a verdict in your client’s favor.
Some people are more visual than auditory. Would a timeline as part of your trial presentation help the jury understand the details it took you months to piece together? Maybe – read this and then decide whether this tool would indeed work as a jury’s roadmap to navigate the intricacies of your case. -CCE
‘You can’t miss this event!’ your friend exclaims. ’It’s simple. The event is on the left-hand side of the street, two blocks down Lincoln Avenue. You’ll hang a right onto Third, before the gas station. Third is a few miles straight ahead once you exit – when you’re on the freeway, just keep your eyes open for exit 42. Alright, then just continue down Third for a few blocks and hang another right on Lincoln. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of wine, too…. There should be a supermarket near the freeway entrance.’
Confused? Tempted to skip the event and stay home for the evening?
Then consider how a jury must feel when a complicated story gets told in bits and pieces, out of order, and is still expected to find its way to the proper destination (i.e., a verdict for your client). Now include a second attorney who provides a different set of directions altogether!
Timelines, by nature, are often the perfect graphic to solve this problem. They’re the jury’s navigation app. That may be why they’re the most widely used trial graphic of the last 20 years. . . .