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 - I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters. - Solomon Short
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What If The Party of the First Part Has An Idea For A Movie? See My Lawyer.

Pandora's box is still cracked open.

Back in November, MIPTC covered the consequences of the Ninth Circuit's decision in Grosso v. Miramax, a jilted screenwriter suing a Hollywood studio over a screenplay called "The Shell Game." It's "the pitch" that's in issue. You know, "I have an idea for a movie about a poker game. These two guys play poker, see ... and then ...," and the ideas go on from there, all the way to the full screenplay.

Grosso, the screenwriter, pitched his story about a poker game to Miramax. Miramax politely declined the idea. Grosso then alleged that his idea showed up in "Rounders,' movie about a poker game, and he sued. Grosso lost at trial, and then appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit originally split the baby, holding for the studio on the copyright violation, but holding for Grosso on his state law claim of breach of implied contract.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with the trial court's ruling that "The Shell Game" was different enough from "Rounders" so that Miramax did not violate Grosso's copyright on his screenplay. But that's as far as the Court was willing to go. They apparently saw enough similarities between the two to allow Grosso to establish his claim against Miramax for breach of contract.

The studios were worried. Miramax filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but just two days ago, the Ninth Circuit denied the motion, and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. One thing is for sure: this case is far from over.

The Ninth Circuit's decision emphatically states that it will not entertain an en banc (full court) hearing, and it's done with this case for now. In other words, the parties will now return to the ring and duke it out in trial. Cause and effect? Expect the studios to alter their submission agreements to deal with the legal consequences of this case.

One of the key lines in the movie in dispute, "Rounders," could be the lead-in for the Plaintiff at trial: "Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker." The question seems to be whether the screenwriter will get played for the sucker or whether the movie studio will be.

Is "the pitch" a thing of the past? Are handshake deals doomed? Most likely. Welcome to movies made through lawyers. Studios and writers will now have to turn to lawyers to ensure that their rights are protected.

Maybe we'll become the new pitchmen. Isn't that what I already do?

Podcast  Vidcast

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 14:58. Comments Closed (0) |

What If The Party of the First Part Has An Idea For A Movie? See My Lawyer.

Real Media version

Real Media version of the post above.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 14:48. Comments Closed (0) |

There Is No News Today

That's right. Plain and simple. There's no news today. Nothing happened. You don't even need to read further, because you won't learn anything. There aren't even any links in this post. OK, maybe one or two links.

Everyone stayed in bed. It's Pajama-gate, all over the world. By the way, who came up with that silly moniker? If today had happened, someone would have been sentenced to death. Someone else would have been acquitted. And the President would have given a news conference. According to news sources, it would have been the end of the world everywhere, all at the same time. Or at least that was the sensationalist news media talking.

As a matter of fact, the sun never even rose, and it's not going to set, either. The moon stayed where it started.

Ever have a day like this?

There are no cars on the road outside my office. I didn't get any email. When I turned on my computer, it stared blankly back at me. The lights were on, but no one was at home.

Then, we would have discovered that the World Champion California, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento (you pick your favorite city - no one else seems to be able to) Angels may no longer have their name on local buses.

Maybe Monica Bay will trade her beloved Yankees for a few fallen Angels.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 at 18:07. Comments Closed (1) |

Try Writing Your Way Out Of This Paper Bag: Judicial Opinions At Their Worst

Try, if you want. You may be able to decipher the case of de Leon v. Gonzales. It doesn't matter what kind of law you practice.

It doesn't even matter if you don't practice law.

Here's an excerpt: "I find the respondent is credible, but I don't find that his story relates to or meets the burden to establish persecution, per se, under that ground. The credibility issue brings many doubts have arisen in that as to the actual happenings and that what will happen to him if he is to be returned."

Huh?

The Ninth Circuit couldn't figure it out either. They reversed Immigration Judge Nathan Gordon's decision. The fact that they named him is significant; it's almost never done. The Ninth Circuit used words like "incomprehensible" and "extreme in its lack of a coherent explanation."

The immigration judge's opinion is attached to the Ninth Circuit's opinion, if you want to wade through that quagmire. Why would this problem occur? The Ninth Circuit offers these sobering facts:

"In fiscal year 2003, the most recent year for which data is available, the Executive Office for Immigration Review adjudicated almost 300,000 cases. ... More than 65,000 of those cases involved asylum claims. ... The caseload pressures are especially heavy in Los Angeles, where the IJ in this case sat. The Los Angeles Immigration Court heard more than 28,000 cases, ..., more than 12,000 of which involved asylum claims."

That said, however, the appellate court wasn't buying the IJ's failure to meet the standards of opinion-writing. They said, "it is impossible for us to decipher what legal and factual reasons support the IJ's decision..."

Ouch.

And my students in law school wonder why I harp on them in their Legal Writing classes.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 00:58. Comments Closed (3) |

Try Writing Your Way Out Of This Paper Bag: Judicial Opinions At Their Worst

Real Media version

Here's the videocast above in Real media.

Vidcast

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 00:52. Comments Closed (0) |

JAMS Reverses Restrictive Policy On Class-action Lawsuits; Agrees To Hear All Cases

MIPTC brought you JAMS' old policy of not hearing cases involving contracts that contained prohibitions against filing class-action suits. Then, we brought you the resulting uproar over JAMS' apparent lack of neutrality.

On Friday last week, JAMS recanted, and will now continue to hear all cases without prejudging the outcome. According to the press release, "JAMS is withdrawing its policy for the following reasons: The initial statement of the policy suggested to some that JAMS had deviated from its core value of neutrality. We want to reaffirm to all of our constituencies that we have a fundamental responsibility and commitment to absolute neutrality and the highest ethical and professional standards." The release also cited the varying law on this point across numerous jurisdictions.

Good move, JAMS.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 14, 2005 at 13:43. Comments Closed (0) |

The Trend Toward Ethical Wills - Why Wait?

Here's one you don't see every day: A lawyer recommending that you don't use a lawyer. Yep, you heard it here first. Surprise, surprise.

To draft a will. Not just any will, though, an ethical will. An ethical will allows you to use a written document to pass along your values. What concerns me, though, is why the need arose in the first place. If you are truly going to pass along your values, ask for forgiveness and the like, wouldn't it be better to do that while you're alive? Isn't that what we've been teaching our children all along?

For the will that you use to pass along money and property, yes by all means use a lawyer. But for an ethical will, which is not enforceable by the Courts, you can DIY.

Well, they're your values, aren't they? Who better to write it than you?

For some who are not good writers, there are resources available. For those who want an ethical will that is written well, certainly a well-trained lawyer should be able to help you.

But be careful if you elect to write one on your own. The FindLaw story from the Associated Press (first link, second paragraph above) cautions that you should only write what you are willing to have others read, and you will want to be thoughtful and "not script others' lives." Certainly, you should not use an ethical will in an attempt to transfer money or property.

Maybe you should use a lawyer after all.

Podcast 

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

Liven Up Your Online Brochure With Flash

You may be wondering how to jazz up your website. Well, have no fear. It's relatively easy. Just try flash.

Yep. We did it. Have a look here, and click on "Firm Introduction."

You can start a weblog. That'll bring readers to your site, assuming you've got something interesting to say.

But once they get there, you can use flash to liven up your "online brochure."

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, March 13, 2005 at 22:33. Comments Closed (0) |



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