May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.
If a Tree Falls In A Forest, Who Hears It?Did you ever think that loggers would oppose logging? In certain circumstances, it happens. Here, we have small commercial tree farmers against big logging.
And, interestingly enough, the Sierra Club. But you already know whose side they're on. That environmental organization, as well as the Southern Environmental Law Center are engaging small loggers to oppose the Bush administration is reversing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a 2001 executive order by President Clinton, that prohibits road construction on nearly 60 million acres of federal forests. No roads meant no logging, mining or oil and gas development.
It also had the effect of doubling the price of wood, and helping small loggers. They can't compete against big loggers, who if they could put roads into the forests, would put many small loggers out of business.
Just as an example, here's a roadless area in California, so you can get an idea what this issue is about. You can submit your comments by email and be heard.
PA Students Not Required to Pledge AllegiancePennsylvania elementary through high school students can no longer be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In a stunning, but perhaps legally correct decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the requirement violates students' free-speech rights and the right of private schools to "free expressive association."
Just last year the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law requiring all students to start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Act 157 went into law in late 2002, as a reaction to September 11.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that there are 29 states (free registration required to access link) that have similar laws, although PA's may be the most stringent. The plaintiff in the case, a coalition of public and private schools, complained in oral argument, "The Pledge of Allegiance is exactly what it says: a pledge, an oath" ... and it was an example of "compelled speech" that violates the First Amendment rights of students.
Does this mean witnesses in court can't be required to swear an oath to tell the truth?
File-swapping Cleared from InfringementThe Ninth Circuit has further clarified contributory and vicarious liability for copyright infringement. This time, they ruled that file-swapping software doesn't violate copyrights of music artists. Quite like the argument over banning guns - gunmakers aren't responsible for murder, criminals are.
The Court reasoned that since software developers can't directly control the actions of the people that use the software, we essentially have to assume the software will be used for legitimate means.
It's a not-too-unexpected setback for the record companies. But never fear, the record companies have their lobbyists, so they've got a bill in place to ban peer-to-peer networks. Funny enough, supposedly "secret" government documents are available for download on a P2P network.
It appears that Morpheus won't be going the way of the old Napster.
Blackfaced Judge Ends Up RedfacedJudge Timothy Ellender of Louisana's Terrebonne Parish, just southwest of New Orleans, ran into trouble last Halloween. He went to a private party with blackface makeup, an afro wig and bound in shackles.
His wife was dressed as a police officer.
Not everyone was amused with the Judge's costume, and some called for an apology (scroll down to the bottom - they've had a lot a judicial problems in the South lately).
Judge Ellender could be suspended for a year without pay, which is the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana.
At least he wasn't wearing a robe.
Can You Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?You're on your cell phone while driving, and you get into an accident. Who is liable?
You certainly are, but is your employer, as well? Most likely not, because you as an employee are acting beyond the course and scope of your employment.
But that doesn't stop plaintiffs. Proving once again that anyone can be sued for anything, here are two horror stories about people who were involved in car accidents with cell phones.
There are plenty of people out there that think we should hang up and drive. But where does it stop? Can you eat and drive? What about talking to your passenger and driving?
At a minimum, try a hands-free system for your cell phone.
Watching Regulations Get Smaller?The big print giveth and the small print taketh away. There are numerous examples of this adage, even one written by our own William W. Bedsworth, on the change of batter-dipped french fries as vegetables.
Now, it turns out the Bush administration has done it again. This time, it changed the word "waste" to "fill," as detailed in a series by the Washington Post. With disastrous consequences for the environment.
Seems as though the Bush administration has been revising a lot of regulations. All the way from the USEPA to the Department of Energy - from E to E.
Ok, well from A (Appalachia) to Z Regulation Z. They're changing, in small ways, but very big consequences.
Watch the fine print. It's getting smaller.
Kindergarten and Sandbox LitigatorsIn the past, I've called it sandbox litigation. You know, the kind where the fight gets personal between opposing counsel. Here, the fight is in Texas, and like the state, is pretty big.
In one corner, we have William Davidson, local counsel in Texas, with lead counsel Irwin Gilbert. On the other, we have Richard Milvenan (click on "M" and Richard Milvenan) and a Vinson & Elkins associate.
Apparently, they can't get along. One Texas federal district court judge, Sam Sparks, who has a reputation of his own, has blasted the lawyers. He's been at it for awhile, so this missive should have not come as a surprise to these litigators.
As could have been expected, Judge Sparks did it again, and this time with a little more flair. You know it's not good when the Order starts out: "When the undersigned accepted the appointment from the President of the United States of the position now held, he was ready to face the daily practice of law in federal courts with presumably competent lawyers. No one warned the undersigned that in many instances his responsibility would be the same as a person who supervised kindergarten."
Here's the rest of the Order in all of its glory.
The Legal Race At The Athens Summer GamesThe Olympics are here again, this time in Athens, the site of the original games. But you already knew that.
You also know that with the Olympics come the disputes between medal winners and those who test positive for drugs.
How do all these disputes get resolved? By the Court of Arbitration for Sport, of course. You didn't know? The Court is now twenty years old this year - first established in 1984. The Court has offices in Athens during these games, and has permanent offices in Australia and New York, with its head office in Lausanne, Switzerland.
It is separate from the International Olympic Committee, but receives funding from the IOC. It's a tough court that rarely decides in favor of the accused athlete, although there are some famous examples. Remember Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati? He appeared before the court in 1998. Even though he tested positive for marijuana at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, he was allowed to keep his gold medal. Dude!
U.S. Sprinter Torri Edwards is next to determine wither she can race in these summer games. She tested positive for a banned substance, nikethamide, and has elected to appeal her suspension. If she fails, she may be banned from sports competitions for two years.
Law is everywhere - even as our athletes race around the track.