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 - A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. - Oscar Wilde
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Fourth Circuit Denies Copyright To Non-unique Website

When you view a colored map of the United States on a website and then click on a particular state to find the subject matter available in that website, do you believe you're using copyrightable materials?  The United States Copyright Office doesn't think so, and neither does the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You can get a first-hand look and make the evaluation yourself by clicking on this link to appraisers.com, which was the subject of the declined copyright application and subsequent court case

But in case you're looking for the standard on how to determine whether a technical drawing is copyrightable, here it is:  "[i]n order to be copyrightable, a work of the visual arts must contain a minimum amount of pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship" and "[c]opyright does not protect familiar shapes, symbols, and designs . . . [or] mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, fonts, or coloring," as quoted by the Court in its opinion.

In other words, to be copyrighted, it has to be unique.  A map of the United States isn't that unique, and therefore doesn't qualify.

Try telling that to the National Geographic cartography division.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, June 04, 2007 at 18:15. Comments Closed (0) |

State Cannot Take Your Property Without Notice To You

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the State of California simply cannot take property that you have left unclaimed without giving written notice designed to reach you.  Publishing in a newspaper is not enough notice.

Just in case you don't read the newspaper or check your mail, you can check your unclaimed property here.  I did, and found at least two amounts due me - one for $27.21 and $87.51. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, June 03, 2007 at 12:57. Comments Closed (0) |

So You Want To Become A Blogger? Here's How, And How You Can Cash In.

Here's a little bit of shilling for an upcoming webinar that Larry Bodine and I are offering (and yes, we will get paid from the fees charged).

In this live Webinar, please join me and fellow veteran blogger Larry Bodine, Esq., author of the LawMarketing Blog, describe how a blogs attract new clients and generate new revenue. Attendees will get step-by-step instructions and practical techniques to harness a blog for business development.  You can click here to sign up for this event.

Webinar Date: Thursday, June 7, 2007, Noon Central Time

Location: On the Web, on your computer.

There are 1,800 active law firm blogs and lawyers post 117,000 posts on an average day.  Done properly, a blog will attract clients, generate fee revenue, spark calls from the news media and establish a national reputation for you.

Contact Laura Kresich: (312) 217-3895

or email Lkresich@LawMarketing.com 

Registration fee: $300

Sign up online at http://www.pbdi.org/pages/cceventform.asp?EventID=152

As you may know I started this weblog, MayItPleaseTheCourt.com in August 2004.  You'll find posts here focusing on legal news and observations, which have brought our firm a significant amount  of legal business.  Thanks to the blog, his practice has grown in complex business litigation involving  environmental, real estate, land-use and computer matters and their respective insurance coverage and related tort issues.  MIPTC has also generated interviews from news reporters at the New York Times, Business Week and other national publications.

Larry Bodine, a lawyer and business development advisor in the Chicago area, launched his LawMarketing Blog in April 2004 at http://blog.larrybodine.com/. It quickly became a leading online destination for information on how law firms can get new clients and generate new business.  The site attracts hundreds of visitors per day, many of whom call Larry to retain him for new projects.  Because many visitors are from the news media, he has appeared on national television and been quoted in numerous legal news publications.

Who should attend

  • Law firm leaders looking for a new source of business. 
  • Partners who want an effective way to market themselves and establish themselves as leading experts.
  • Lawyers seeking more attention from the news media.
  • Attorneys who are currently blogging and who want more visitors and new business.
  • Associates who want to use technology to leapfrog to the head of their class, develop their own clientele and pave a path to partnership.
  • Sole practitioners looking for an easy and effective way to distinguish themselves. 

The curriculum

Attendees will get practical, how-to information on creating and tuning up a blog to generate more business and increase revenue.  Among the topics Williams and Bodine will cover are:

checkmarkWhich topics to write about to attract clients and make you money.

checkmarkHow often to post new material and finding the time to write new material.

checkmarkEasy ways to find content for your blog.

checkmarkGetting the news media to call you and winning the "race to the keyboard." 

checkmarkPromoting your blog and creating buzz about it. 

checkmarkDeveloping a distinctive voice that attracts visitors. 

checkmarkElements of a money-making blog post.

checkmarkWhat topics to write about and which topics to keep away from.

checkmarkCommon blogging mistakes and how to avoid them.

checkmarkThe importance of a professional design, your photo and use of graphics.

checkmarkHow to keep track of other bloggers -- and see what they are saying about you.

checkmarkA case history of a successful lawyer blog, and how you can duplicate it.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 09:59. Comments Closed (0) |

Blogosphere Strewn And Littered With Corpses Of Anonymous Bloggers

The latest and perhaps one of the most expensive falls of an anonymous blogger happened this week after Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Massachusetts's Suffolk Superior Court, where he defended himself in a malpractice suit over the death of his 12-year-old patient resulting from an alleged misdiagnosis of the child's diabetes.  Lindeman had been blogging anonymously under the nom de plume "Flea," a derogatory term surgeons called him in medical school because he was studying to be a pediatrician. 

Flea blogged the trial everyday, and included details only someone who had been attending the trial would know.  Opposing counsel noticed, and she (nicknamed by Flea as "Clarissa Lunt, a nail biter") confronted him with his blogging on the stand.  It turns out the blogging was not flattering to the trial, and likewise not to Dr. Lindeman's benefit in the trial.  As an example, according to a Boston Globe article about the event, "In April, before the trial began, he wrote about meeting with an expert on juries who advised him how to act when he was cross-examined. Flea was instructed to angle his chair slightly toward the jury, keep his hands folded in his lap, and face the jury when answering questions, slowly. 'Answers should be kept to no more than three sentences,' he wrote." 

Within a day after the Plaintiff's counsel questioned Dr. Lindeman about his blog, the case settled.  The blog is now down, and although you can read three pages of it on The Wayback Machine, there's nothing that relates to the malpractice case.  It is, however, obvious that the anonmymity Dr. Flea thought he had allowed him to blog about events and people he shouldn't have blogged about, such as particulars of his patients and their visits to his office and the hospital.  Other local bloggers recognize the dangers, and changed some of their posts.

Anonymous blogging encourages a certain freedom in writing that can be dangerous.  Witness Washingontonienne, who now faces an invasion of privacy lawsuit arising from her anonymous description of sexual escapades with a man who did not want to be publicly outed.  Anonymous blogging allows a double cachet - the writer feels able to say more than good taste, social mores and perhaps the law may otherwise allow, and the reader voyeuristically enjoys an insight not otherwise available.  There are even recommendations on ways to unmask anonymous bloggers, although they do enjoy some level of First Amendment protections despite the six degrees of anonymity.  Others scorn anonymous bloggers.

The apparent double win frequently leads to a major loss for the anonymous blogger.  David Lat, a former U.S. Attorney started "Underneath Their Robes" offering sometimes startling insights into federal judges.  Lat voluntarily left his job after being discovered. 

Is there a lesson here?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, June 01, 2007 at 11:17. Comments Closed (0) |

Water Battle Rages - But Do We Have The Issues Framed Right?

State water officials have turned off water pumps to the Central Valley and millions of people in favor of a three-inch fish called the Delta Smelt and two species of salmon, all endangered species.  The Endangered Species Act prevents consideration of economic consequences when considering how to protect an endangered species.  The water pumps now shut down support a $300 billion (yes, with a "B") economy.

Here's the Daily Journal article on the issue.  It's laden with layers of issues and interests, but is it simply a matter of people versus fish?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 11:34. Comments Closed (0) |

Equal Pay Claims Subject To 180-day Statute Of Limitation From Date Of Injury

Statutes of limitation bar old and stale claims, and provide certainty to eliminate past claims that may exist.  For years, the date of injury has been the trigger for statutes of limitation in tort (injury) claims.  In other words, it's the injury that puts the injured person on notice that the clock is ticking to file suit.  The concept that the date of injury triggers the start of a statute of limitation has been the rule of law well before Sir William Blackstone started writing his commentary on the law in merry old England back in the mid-1700's. 

So this week's Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company may surprise some, but perhaps more so on the basis that the Court was split along ideological lines in its 5-4 decision upholding Congresses' 180-day statute of limitation for bringing equal pay claims under the 1964 Civil Rights Act instead of this fairly long-established rule of law.   Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes this point best with her dissent:  "The Court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."   Justice Ginsburg pointed out that early in a woman's employment at a company, she may not even be aware of the salaries of others, and "understandably may be anxious to avoid making waves."

But that's not the test.

The basis for determining whether a claim is time-barred is based on the injury, not the remedy.  Justice Ginsburg argues instead for a tolling or delay of the 180-day time period based on the more amorphous passage of time to develop a better case.  "Only over time is there strong cause to suspect that discrimination is at work," Justice Ginsburg wrote, meaning that a woman may not become aware of her claim for pay differential years after the cause of action arose.  But Congress could not have intended such a result when it enacted a 180-day time limit on claims.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito who wrote, "This short deadline reflects Congress' strong preference for the prompt resolution of ... allegations."  The majority decision was based on the core rationale for statutes of limitation:  protecting employers from having to defend practices that may be long over. 

Certainly Congress can amend the Civil Rights Act and provide for a longer statute of limitation as Justice Ginsburg suggested in her dissent, but for now, the law of the land provides 180 days to bring a claim under Title VII.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 15:42. Comments Closed (0) |

CSI Effect Addressed By Prosecutors In Phil Spector Case: Will It Work?

Prosecutors complain that juries are looking for CSI-level investigations and testimony (dubbed the ("CSI effect"), and bemoan the fact that defense attorneys have used the popular televisions shows as a means to defeat criminal cases weak on science.  Well, no more.

The Phil Spector trial has entered the 21st century.  According to prosecutors, science will be the "silent witness" in this case, bringing the TV effect into the courtroom.  We'll see if the effort has the desired effect. 

As regular readers know, my fellow Law.com blogger and Lawyer to Lawyer co-host Bob Ambrogi regularly interview other lawyers about legal issues of interest around the world, and this past week we had the distinct pleasure of hosting two very well known and high-powered criminal attorneys, Jennifer Keller and Tom Mesereau.  You can listen to their take on the Phil Spector case as well as other Hollywood criminal cases, and see how science and tactics play out in the courtroom. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 16:21. Comments Closed (0) |

Eight Wives, Two Years In Prision And Four Proposals May Yield More Jail Time

First married to a 43-year old woman at 18, Bishop Anthony Owens, now 35, has at least eight wives.  He claims to have divorced some of them, but he can't remember which one.  No matter, however, at least four other women claim he proposed to them. 

A judge will determine whether to send him back to jail for the transgressions.  He already spent two years there on - what else - bigamy charges.

The fun never ends.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 28, 2007 at 12:16. Comments Closed (0) |



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