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

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Napa Means Napa!

Another big decision rolled through wine country yesterday as the California Court of Appeal upheld a state labeling law that says that the names of places mean something and if you want to use the name of that place in your winery name, then the bulk of the grapes have to come from that place.

This decision is good news for consumers. Federal law basically requires that the brand name not be misleading but had an exception for brands established before 1986. The California law eliminates this exception. Additionally, wine labels that wish to state a particular state, county, or viticultural appellation are subject to additional federal requirements. To use a state or county appellation on the label, at least 75% of the grapes used to produce the wine must be from the state or county. In order to use an approved viticultural appellation, the wine must be at least 85% from that AVA.

Bronco Wine Co., the company challenging the state law, claimed that its labels were not misleading or deceptive. The ruling will have an immediate impact on three of Bronco’s brands: Napa Ridge, Napa Creek Winery, and Rutherford Vintners, but shouldn’t affect its massively successful Charles Shaw brand. Napa Ridge, Napa Creek and Rutherford Vintners are all produced with grapes grown outside of Napa or Rutherford.

If you weren’t in the wine industry or hadn’t read this post up to this point would you have had any indication that the above mentioned wines weren’t from the famed Napa Valley? On the face of things you probably would have thought that these were Napa products even though the federally mandated fine print prohibited a claim of Napa as the source of the fruit. The fact of the matter is if you aren’t a wine geek like me, you probably wouldn’t look at the fine print and would just assume a wine called Napa Ridge was from Napa.

The court felt the same way, “Although more sophisticated wine consumers may not be misled by a brand name of viticultural significance that does not meet the appellation of origin requirements, other wine consumers are unaware of the technical meaning of the term 'appellation of origin,' and do not understand the significance of the specification of origin on the label. At the same time, these less sophisticated wine consumers are sufficiently aware of Napa Valley and its reputation as a premium wine growing region and consider that factor when purchasing wine.”

Thanks to the California Court of Appeal, now you can be sure if the label says Napa, it means Napa!

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Michel J. Ayer on Friday, May 27, 2005 at 13:21. Comments Closed (0) |

Who Should Be Arrested?

You're watching the big game, having a few brews, and despite your seventeen calls to Fast Eddie's Pizza (first I just made that name up, but then discovered that such a place really exists. I'm sure the real Fast Eddie has great pizzas and delivers on time - probably even ahead of time. I just thought the name would make a great play on words, and really didn't plan on digressing this far. So, with that, please realize that my fictional 'Fast Eddie's' is just that - fiction), the pizza hasn't arrived yet.

Out of frustration, you call 911, thinking perhaps the pizza guy is stuck at a red light and needs an escort.

Berating the pizza parlor didn't do much more than escalate into a name-calling contest that ultimately degraded all the way down to such monikers as "you old coot."

Ouch.

Finally the 911 operators tire of your constant calls about your failed pizza delivery, and you get arrested for abusing the system. You've been told by the operators to stop calling, but you ignore them.

The twist is, however, that you're 86 years old.

If you've clicked on the link above, you know that a slight variant of this fictional story is true. The police in Charlotte, North Carolina did arrest an 86-year old woman for calling 911 about not getting her pizza delivery. My point in relating this story is that she shouldn't have been arrested. I think the 911 calls were really calls for help. Perhaps a better outcome to this story would have been to provide the help she needed rather than put her behind bars.

Maybe when she gets in front of a judge, rationale thought will set in. Then again ...

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:07. Comments Closed (0) |

It's Your Blog

You can tell MIPTC where to go. Literally. MIPTC will institute some sweeping changes in the coming month - including getting podcasting back online. The changes are all open for discussion. We're doing a redesign from the bottom up.

Don't like the ad? Express your opinion in the comment box below or call our comment line and leave your rant. We'll post it for you.

What more graphics? Less graphics? Let me know.

Movement?

Any design ideas?

Coverage topics?

About the only things I'll put my foot down on are the judge and the name. They stay. Those elements can go elsewhere on the page, but they're the first things I started with, and I happen like them and ... well, I pay for the page. Plus, Leonard Rivkin was kind enough to allow me to have his MayItPleaseTheCourt.com web page, and I agreed in turn to feature his book "above the fold."

So, if you ever wanted to have your own blog designed the way that you wanted it, now's the time to speak up.

Or forever hold your peace.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at 10:44. Comments Closed (1) |

Land Mines At Foreclosure Sales: Buyer Beware

Ever thought about buying real estate at a foreclosure sale? At one time or another, most of us have, coupled with the thought of turning a quick buck on a fixer-upper and resale. Even if you haven't thought of it, surely you've seen those late-night-you-can-become-a-millionaire-overnight-by-buying-and-selling-houses paid programs.

Caveat emptor.

In an opinion driven perhaps more by result than law, the Fifth Appellate District decided late last week that an owner can trump a title obtained at the trustee's sale. How? The justices give it away on page five of the opinion. They recognize that California Civil Code section 2924c allows an owner to cure a default up to five days before the foreclosure sale. But here, the owner cured the default just four days before the sale.

The question, then, is what happens during the five days of twilight after the redemption period expires but before the foreclosure sale?

The Court answers that the owner and the bank can voluntarily agree to the cure and reinstate the mortgage, essentially setting aside the default. People who buy at foreclosure sales know the redemption statute, and figure that if the default isn't cured five days before the trustee's sale, they can safely buy. Not so anymore. An owner can cure a default after the statutory redemption period but before the trustee's sale.

The buyer at the trustee's foreclosure sale had a host of other defenses in its attempt to gain good title: negligence (the bank forgot to inform the trustee that the default had been cured, and the trustee sold the house not knowing about the owner's payment curing the default), the common law presumption of regular and fair foreclosure sales, a third-party buyer's right as a bona fide purchaser, and lack of notice. Like bowling pins, the Court knocked the defenses down one by one.

If you're in the market to buy property at foreclosure sales or considering it; be careful out there kiddies. Land mines are all around.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 23, 2005 at 20:41. Comments Closed (0) |

Fair Use On A Hard Drive Behind A Username and Password

What's the difference between books on reserve in library stacks for students (who are going to copy them and take the copies back to the dorm to study) and the same books on reserve online (where the same students can just hit the print button in their dorm room)?

Add to the online equation access limited by a username and password, compared to open access on the library shelves. Library reserves are considered fair use. When professors limit access to their class, internet access is more restrictive than libraries.

Publishers, however, want to challenge online use of published works. Looks like we're headed for a court fight.

So what is fair?

Use is the key word. It's not whether it's on a shelf or on a hard drive. It's how it's used. If the use is limited, as it is when it takes either a library card or a username and password to get to the published work, then it's limited, and the use is fair.

That rationale isn't a tautology, it's hopefully the way the courts will see it when they get there a year from now. Any other predictions out there?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 01:41. Comments Closed (0) |

330 Years Later, We Can Fish In The Middle Of The Lake

In Woostah, where I was born, my dad used to tell me about a lake called Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaugg, in a small town called Webster, Massachusetts, near Connecticut. I could never get the beginning, but somehow managed to say the end of it, something like gog-cha-bunga-mog. It's a Nipmuc Indian phrase he translated as, "You fish on your side of the lake; I'll fish on my side of the lake; and no one fishes the middle of the lake."

Somehow, Bahston never got that lesson. For the past 330 years, the City has had a law on its books that prevented Indians from entering the City. It stemmed from a battle between English settlers and Native Indian residents, long since forgotten.

But not by some. Unity - Journalists of Color, Inc. wanted to hold a conference in the City, but members of the group are Native Indians. Even though the law has not been recently enforced, the group protested - and won.

Boston now welcomes the Indians who were its first residents, and the convention will proceed as originally planned. We've taken a big step forward from 1675, now haven't we?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, May 21, 2005 at 00:45. Comments Closed (1) |

You Can Hack, But You Can't Hide

Nine (9) - count 'em - nine (9) search warrants were used to round up a group of unrelated hackers who broke into the LexisNexis database and downloaded identity information of more than 300,000 individuals. Under California law, LexisNexis was required to disclose the theft.

The FBI executed the warrants. According to the Washington Post,"They busted down the door and ran at me with guns pointed in my face," said Jason Hawks, 23, of Winston-Salem, N.C., in a telephone interview with reporter Brian Krebs. Hawks allegedly hacked the LexisNexis database.

The records hacked are particularly worrisome because they were taken from the Seisint database, a "Matrix"- style database that combines personal information data with law enforcement databases, a first of its kind. It couldn't have been much worse, which is likely why the theft drew high-profile attention in the FBI. On the other hand, maybe it was because the hackers were able to obtain a single police account number after sending out a surge of emails containing a virus, which allowed them to record the keystrokes typed by those who opened the junk mail. The junk mail promised downloads of child pornography. One police officer fell prey and then logged into a police database on LexisNexis.

The hackers tracked the keyboard strokes, duplicated the username and password, and were off to the races. Now, however, they're off to the gray bar hotel.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 20, 2005 at 22:09. Comments Closed (0) |

And You Thought It Was Al Qaeda?

Nope. One of the nation's top law enforcement executives (that seems like an odd title, doesn't it?) say that our top domestic terrorist threat has to do with environmental groups, animals and animal cruelty.

It's not Al Qaeda.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director John Lewis said we have more to fear from within than we do from without. Where do we go from here?

These organizations need money and members to further their goals, just like Al Qaeda. That's one place to start.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 19, 2005 at 12:14. Comments Closed (0) |



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