May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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Quote of the Day - Night court used to be the most open and accessible court in the state, and there was always some excitement down there. It brought the generally curious and the morbidly curious. Some folks would take a date down there and stay all night. - Tom Nelson
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Mickey Spillane Comes Back To Life At Night In New York

One of MIPTC's favorite distractions is Court TV's Fluorescent Justice Blog.  Maybe I'm a closet New Yorker.  Maybe I enjoy the Mickey Spillane-esque (God rest his soul) style of writing.  perhaps it's just the images the name of the blog communicates. 

You might want to saunter over and get a look inside some of New York's grimiest night-time courtrooms.  The blog has a new podcast, along with some interesting sketches to spice it up.  It's worth a listen, look and read. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 12:42. Comments Closed (0) |

Cable Guy Not Liable For Punitive Damages

You're hard at work writing screenplays (yes, we're in LA) on your computer, and the doorbell rings.  Finally.  It's the cable guy, and he's here to hook up your DSL service.  You're looking forward to ditching that almost-as-slow-as-snail-mail dial-up modem in favor of blazing-fast downloads.  At least that's what the cable company told you over the phone.

If you've ever had the cable guy hook up DSL, then you know that he's got to access your computer in order to complete the set-up.  Kind of like the old house calls that doctors no longer make.  You know, look under the hood, prod in a few places and tell you to take two aspirin and call me in the morning.  Everything will be fine.

Well, for Nicholas Boyd, not everything was fine when the cable guy left.  Sure he had his new, blazing-fast DSL, but he was short three screenplays.  The cable guy reasoned that certain icons and other items on Boyd's computer weren't necessary, and deleted them.  Like any other red-blooded screenwriter, Boyd sued his DSL provider, SBC Advanced Solutions, Inc., now AT&T.  Boyd claimed he had a $2.7 million deal for the three screenplays, even though he had never previously sold one.  He did, however, have a producer testify that such a deal was in the works, but was far from a written contract, or even a famous Hollywood Handshake.

Instead of believing Boyd and the producer, the jury awarded Boyd $27,000 for the loss of the screenplays, and another $33,000 in punitive damages, figuring that Boyd was partly to blame, both for not backing up the screenplays and then using the computer after the files were deleted, saving over the sectors on the hard disk where the screenplay files had been saved.  The forensic computer consultant hired by SBC recovered only part of one screenplay.

The Second District Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision (payment required to view), reversed the punitive damages award against SBC because the jury failed to make a finding that the cable guy intentionally erased the screenplays.  Without intent, punitive damages are inappropriate, the Court ruled.

Boyd recovers $27,000, less SBC's costs on appeal, for his screenplays.  He'll likely end up owing SBC for the experience.  The cable guy got fired.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, July 19, 2006 at 12:17. Comments Closed (0) |

Bigfoot Found In California Court

You've known since you were a kid that he was out there.  That's right.  Bigfoot.  You've seen the movie and even read the stories, but you may not have known about the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization in Rohnert Park, California.  Yep.  Right there not too far from Happy Camp and right there next to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bigfoot Scenic Byway.

He's got to be real:  the USDOT and the Forest Service recognize him

C. Thomas Biscardi does.  Biscardi's been looking for Bigfoot since 1967, according to this site.  Biscardi recently went looking for Bigfoot again, but this time, in court in lovely Marin County.  Biscardi claims that the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization owes him money for Bigfoot artifacts he provided the group.  Biscardi alleges that he's requested the items back, but GABRC hasn't either returned them or paid for them.

Priceless.* 

Well, in Biscardi's mind, the items are worth about $215,000, and he alleges the GABRC has made only one payment for them.  Maybe Biscardi will be able to prove in court that Bigfoot exists

Only in California.

                                                            

* (Video link with sound, sexual references, not appropriate at work.)



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 08:16. Comments Closed (0) |

Neo, Did You See That Ripple In The Internet?

Denise Howell still works at Reed Smith according to the firm's website (link may be taken down, but it exists today), even though she's traveling now.  She's one of MIPTC's inspirations and the first person I went to talk to about starting this blog.  To say she's an influence on the Internet is an understatement.  Now, however, she's out on her own, having been given the boot by her firm, despite what its website may say.

This lawyer used to work at a similarly sized firm and likewise took the high road to establish this one.  Our firm is intentionally relaxed about the things that make big firms crazy, but we still handle the procedural things the same way.  It's a comfort level, without the insanity.  I think she might like the style.  Denise and I have sat together on at least one panel and blog in the same neighborhood in Newport Beach.  I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get together more frequently now that she's not spending half of a billable day on the road.

Denise is particularly mum about the whys and wherefores due to a confidentiality agreement (read:  severance package, I'm guessing).  Whatever the reason, what was Reed Smith thinking?  I don't know about Denise's rainmaking, but she's certainly a forward thinker and more than creative.  There was a ripple in the fabric of the Internet the day that decision was made.

I hadn't noticed that we both sit on the same chair when I went to her office to visit with her about blogging some three years ago, but knowing Denise, it's not the only similarity.  Somehow, I think there may be space for an extra Aeron around here. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, July 17, 2006 at 23:07. Comments Closed (0) |

Hindsight Is 20/20: Second Guessing The FBI's Pre-9/11 Actions

It's difficult to look back now, but this CNN story invites a second look at the complacency we all felt before 9/11, including those investigating the possibility of terror on our shores. 

That's the most troubling aspect of looking back.  You judge on what you know now, not what you knew then. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 13:36. Comments Closed (0) |

You, Too Can Become A Fish Farmer

Sure, there are million-dollar aquariums in homes, but how can you cash in on Americans' increasing diet for consuming fish?  As a former Iowa gentleman farmer (which means I lived on a farm but didn't farm), I've watched with some consternation about how America's farmers are finding it more difficult to make a living. 

Now it appears you don't even need to own a farm to become a farmer.  You can buy a few fish tanks, or for that matter convert your swimming pool into a fish farm.  MIPTC has no financial interest in fish farming, but offers this article to those farmers wondering how to make a living.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 12:55. Comments Closed (0) |

Push Zero If You Want To Secretly Tape Telephone Conversations With Californians

"Please note this conversation will be recorded to ensure quality service" is still OK, but not secretly tape recording telephone conversations with residents of California without our consent.  It doesn't matter if your state or country has laws that allow one-sided taping, California doesn't and we intend to enforce our laws, according to a recent California Supreme Court ruling.  While exercising stock options with her company's broker Solomon Smith Barney in Atlanta, Georgia, Californian Kelly Kearney's telephone conversations were taped without her permission. 

She filed a class action suite for violation of her and other Calfornian's privacy rights, and won.  But in winning, she lost. 

The ruling came without a retroactive remedy.  The Court did not award any damages.  Instead, the Court applied its rule only prospectively by allowing an injunction to issue since the parties involved (and the rest of us) were unclear which state's laws prevailed in the event of a conflict.  In Georgia, Solomon Smith Barney can tape telephone conversations without the other party's permission.  Here on the left coast, you can't.  But what happens when Georgia calls California and wants to tape the conversation? 

Well, for one thing, Georgia can tape her side of the conversation, but not California's side.  That's still true after this ruling, but the kicker now takes away Georgia's ability to tape California's side of the conversation, too. 

For lawyers, the most interesting part of this decision is not the outcome, but the remedy.  The Supremes put a stop to secret taping, one of the remedies sought by the Plaintiffs.  So, on one hand, the Plaintiffs won.  The Supremes, however, likewise put a stop to the Plaintiffs and their lawyers because they barred the recovery of monetary damages.  As you likely know, for plaintiff's lawyers, class actions are about recovering damages.  Especially when the case, as this one likely was, is "on contingency" in terms of how the lawyers get paid.  So, on the other hand, the Plaintiffs and their lawyers lost.

You can be sure the rest of this case will die a quick death because nobody's being paid.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, July 14, 2006 at 23:23. Comments Closed (0) |

Coast to Coast Internet Radio Appeals to the Supreme Court

There have been several big changes over the past year in the U.S. Supreme Court. Take, for example, the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the nomination and resignation of Harriet Miers and the controversial choices of two new justices:  Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.  All of these changes have created a new complexion for the high court.

Please join me and my fellow attorney and Law.com blogger Bob Ambrogi while we analyze what's happened with two experts on the Supreme Court.  Coast to Coast welcomes Rex Heinke, partner at the firm of Akin Gump Straus Hauer and Feld LLP and Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times, American Lawyer Media, and Law.com. Donít miss this roundup, and give a listen.



Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 17:39. Comments Closed (0) |



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