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

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Brand X Will Remain Just That, And Likely Not Become A Household Name

There's been a lot of noise on the internet and blogs about Grokster and the two Ten Commandments cases, but have you been listening to the wires?

Wires?

Yes. In the wake of these three major rulings from the Supreme Court yesterday, there was another major opinion that ultimately may have more of an impact on the internet than Grokster: National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. v. Brand X Internet Services.

In this latter case, the Court considered whether cable companies would be required to open up their lines to Internet Service Providers like Brand X and Earthlink. The Court said, "No," giving cable companies a benefit unlike the telephone companies, which are required to allow other telephone carriers access to their telephone lines.

Remember MCI? That's how they get started. Earthlink and Brand X wanted the same leg up from the cable companies.

Now, however, internet companies can't tap into cable lines, thanks to this Supreme Court decision. The effect on cable companies is certain: profit is secure and won't have to be shared. Consumers, on the other hand, may not get such a benefit according to consumer groups.

"The decision to abandon nondiscrimination was a grave error, both harming consumers and stifling entrepreneurial innovation," the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America said in a joint statement. "Allowing cable operators to act as gatekeepers on the flow of information has slowed technological progress and adoption of high-speed Internet service."

Think about it. In 1983, Justice broke up AT&T. We all thought it was a great deal. Lower prices, more competition, and heck, we thought we finally might even get videophones.

Now we know better. The government's experiment in playing with business has come full circle. One of the smaller Baby Bells from the breakup recently bought AT&T, and now we're back to the mega-monopoly. Phone service is slowly returning to the quality that it had a long time ago.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has learned that lesson, and broadband service will remain in the hands of companies motivated to improve service and spread it across the country. Internet service is secure, and your broadband will remain broad, not narrowed down to a trickle by ISPs grabbing bandwidth.

Will broadband service cost a little more as a consequence? Perhaps. After all, you get what you pay for.

Here's another way to think about it: after the government broke up the Bell System, how good was your telephone service?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at 00:50. Comments Closed (0) |

It Took 10 Opinions To Explain The 10 Commandments

Trust Me On This One: The 10 Commandments Are Easier To Follow

The Ten Commandments have caused quite a stir for some time now. In fact, so much of a stir that Mel Brooks may have had it right in the first place.

At one time, it may have been 15 commandments, later 10, but now, depending on where it's displayed, whether it promotes a religious message and in some instances, how long it's been there, it might be Zero Commandments.

It's hard to figure out what the standards are for displaying the 10 Commandments on public property. In the course of 136 pages of ten separate opinions (no, I haven't counted the words) by various members of the Supreme Court, we learned that you can't display the 10 Commandments in a courthouse, unless, of course, it's the Supreme Court. Then it would be OK.

You can, however, display the 10 Commandments on the Texas Capitol grounds because it's been there a long time and out in the open, among 17 other monuments. But, it must not have a religious purpose.

This post doesn't address the full impact of the two decisions, Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary v. ACLU. There are many others who will give you the full academic versions. But whatever's written today may change later today.

Tuesday will bring a new light, and unfortunately, likely more conflicting separation of church and state rulings. That's when the Court is expected to announce its decisions in other as-yet undecided religion cases. One case is an appeal by the town of Great Falls, South Carolina from a ruling that it could not constitutionally open town council sessions with a prayer using Jesus Christ's name. What would that ruling be if they said the 10 Commandments?

For us practicing lawyers, these decisions are nothing short of a disappointment. Sure, the academics can read through the decisions, analyze them with the context of prior Supreme Court rulings, and somehow find the consistency among them. My question, though, is how do you justify a ruling that allows the 10 Commandments to be displayed in one courthouse but not another?

It's all based on context. Or is it?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, June 28, 2005 at 00:23. Comments Closed (0) |

You Get An Early Look At The AMLAW Top 10

Five of them are over one billion (yes, with a "B") in revenue.

They're the AMLAW top 10 law firms, and you get an early peek at the list, thanks to Law.com.

And no, just in case you're wondering, the Top Ten isn't from David Letterman.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, June 27, 2005 at 23:00. Comments Closed (0) |

What Was Wrong With Her Money Belt?

Some stories are just too hard to turn down. What self-respecting blogger could resist writing about a woman who stuffed almost $47,000 into her bra? No, I'm not kidding. And no, I don't know what denominations she used or how many bills were involved. Make it up yourself. I can only provide you with so much entertainment at one time.

How does this story unfold? She apparently tried to board a plane in Boston headed for Texas where she planned to exchange the money and return home with ... well, let's just say the same size bra she left with, just not with the money in it.

It doesn't get much better. Really, I don't even have to try to make this stuff up. It just falls off the computer screen, right onto my keyboard. Mae West couldn't have said it better: "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" Or something like that.

What happened next? Federal agents spotted (don't ask me how) the excess cash and escorted our heroine out of the queue for the plane and seized (again, don't ask me how) the cash. They claimed it was drug money. To add insult to injury, they refused to return it. I guess she had a hard time arguing that it was emergency bra money.

Yes, you know what happens next. Like any self-respecting (yes, my choice of words) citizen, she sued to get her money back.

In her suit (no, not what your thinking) - her lawsuit - our heroine claimed that a male DEA agent told her she had a nice body and didn't need surgery and just then seized the cash.

Now there's a compliment for you.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, June 25, 2005 at 01:09. Comments Closed (1) |

New Blog On The Block

You may want to check out (sounds like the beginning of comment spam to me) a link at Law Limits a brand-new blog by local blogger Jeffrey Lewis here in Orange County in Irvine, the next town over from MITPC's home.

Jeff's writing has always been engaging and witty, and I'm sure his new effort will be worthy of your time. Plus, after participating with him on the blawger panel yesterday at Legal Tech West coast show convinced me he's a great speaker, too. Enjoy Law Limits.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, June 24, 2005 at 11:30. Comments Closed (0) |

Eminent Domain Means Never Having To Say Your Sorry As Long As It's A *Public* Benefit

MIPTC blogged the Kelo v. City of New London lower court decision, but the Supremes just decided to raze some homes there for the greater public good, even though the homes that are being "condemned" are perfectly fine. The Court ruled that the "public benefit" could actually mean something different than "public use."

The 5-4 decision was sharply divided, with Justice O'Connor writing a stinging dissent assailing the majority's conclusion, claiming "the beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process," giving government a "license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more."

Look to Congress to step in now. Whose Constitution is it anyway?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, June 23, 2005 at 13:10. Comments Closed (1) |

Privacy Battle Rages In Court

Your privacy is back in the court system, and well, it's not so private anymore. Banks can sell your private information to affiliates.

The sale of such information used to be prohibited by California law, but permitted by federal law. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the less-restrictive federal law preempts California law, and invalidated portions of the California Financial Information Privacy Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act won out.

But not completely. The Court left intact more than a majority of the California Act. Financial institutions must still have consumer permission before passing the information along to a nonaffiliated company. Plus, consumer opt-out provisions remain valid. The Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings to determine just what provisions fall within the preemption.

The battle is far from over.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, June 22, 2005 at 01:02. Comments Closed (0) |

Why Blogs?

Fellow Law.com blogger Bob Ambrogi ran smack into that question at a recent seminar. It's a problem all bloggers face. I've tried to explain it to my Mom (who is more interested in what I'm doing than practically anyone else), and she somewhat gets it because I liken it to something she understands: a newspaper column, but on steroids.

When she sent a note to me suggesting a topic for me to blog about, however, she spelled it "blough." Arrrgh. Bob, I share your pain.

We have the same problem out here on the left coast. Hopefully, those attending the blog seminar at Legal Tech in LA on Thursday, June 23, 2005, at 3:30 p.m., will be more receptive than the average lawyer. Stay tuned, though, I'll report in afterward.

The seminar presenters have laid out an aggressive agenda to cover. Me? I'm thinking it's best to keep it simple: read, click, surf, rinse and repeat as necessary. You learn more that way. After all, you're here, right?

Meanwhile, keep reading.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 00:30. Comments Closed (0) |



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