Ernie the Attorney : searching for truth & justice (in an unjust world)
Updated: 6/5/2003; 10:44:42 PM.


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Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Happy Birthday Overlawyered & Congrats to Denise's dad

Denise points out that "A fine site has just turned three. And posted a list of legally preoccupied weblogs for the reading." via [Bag and Baggage]

Yeah, I agree it's a great site.  Apparently, it's on a well-deserved week long vacation.

Oh, and to those of you that didn't know, Denise's dad is a lawyer.  And a writer.  And his thriller "Where There's Smoke" was recently favorably reviewed by the top reviewer on Amazon.  Oh, let Denise explain it...

"Harriet Klausner gave my Dad's book a great review. And if that doesn't warrant links to her site and the current Wired News article about her, I don't know what does."

I think I had added her dad's book to my wish list, but if I didn't I will now.  Any mystery novel that offers an interesting angle on the Kennedy assassination is appealing to me.  It was the day before my fifth birthday when Kennedy was shot, and there is a strong New Orleans connection to the assassination for a lot of reasons (Oswald lived here right before the assassination etc.).  Anyway, I'm interested in some good summer reading.
11:51:20 PM    

More interesting stuff on the Pledge case...

Howard has some interesting points about the procedural course that the Newdow case took on its way to becoming headline news.  What's most interesting to me is that Mr. Newdow's lawsuit was first categorized by the court legal staff as a routine case that presented no significant legal issue (or, as Howard puts it an "easy, uncontroversial" case).  Newdow himself challenged that assessment and because of certain procedural apects he wound up having his case actually heard by a panel, and one which ruled in his favor no less.  Now he's got a case that might wind up in the Supreme Court.   Wow, talk about the squeeky wheel getting some grease!
11:00:54 PM    

Blawgs - aka legal blogs

Denise calls lawyer blogs "blawgs."  Well, here's one I stumbled across a few minutes ago called "Unbillable Hours."  Looks pretty good.  Check it out.
8:45:09 PM    

HMO's engaged in racketeering?

No, they're not, but they are being sued by attorney Richard Scruggs under a statute called RICO (see story).  And that stands for "Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations" Act.  It's a civil remedy that was designed to let businesses that were preyed upon by mobsters sue in federal court and collect treble damages and attorneys' fees.  In the early 1980's attorneys discovered it and started trying to use it for ordinary civil fraud -- even though that was not what it was intended for.  But, I guess since no one was using it to sue actual mobsters (I wonder why?) the plaintiffs bar decided to put it to good use (remember the part about treble damages and attorneys' fees?).  So now Dicky Scruggs, of tobacco litigation fame, is going to pursue RICO claims against HMOs in a court in Miami.  When asked how the HMO's are a "racket"  Scruggs responded as follows:

"I don't know how else you would define it," Scruggs said. "When they reap millions in premiums and don't deliver benefits, it's just garden variety fraud."

Well now, I thought that RICO wasn't intended to apply to "garden variety fraud."  Or maybe I'm wrong about that.  Yeah, the federal government passed a statute to stop mobsters from engaging in "garden variety fraud."  Whatever.  I'm sure that Mr. Scruggs has a good grasp of the legislative history, and would never ask a court to apply a statute in an inappropriate manner just so that he could make an obscene amount of money.  Oh, if you're interested, here is the definition of "racketeering activity" from the statute.   Ignore the stuff about "murder, kidnapping, gambling and arson" and skip over to the part about "garden variety fraud" by corporate organizations.  I'm sure you'll find it in there somewhere.

Later: Oh, apparently the Louisiana State Medical Society is joining a lawsuit filed in a New Orleans state court that more or less tracks the Miami lawsuit.  (see story).   I don't know if that includes RICO claims, but I'll find out soon.  Later:  it doesn't.
8:02:05 PM    

Customer Relationship Management Software

Rick writes: "Good interview with HBS professor Susan Fournier: 'Customer relationship management (CRM) programs have become too much about the technology, not enough about the customer relationship.'"  [tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog]

I agree (as if I know anything about CRM), but the technology, if it works right, is the engine that gets the job done.    Just today I learned that a particular lawyer in my firm holds a key piece of knowledge that may enhance our firm's ability to get an important piece of business.  I would never guessed he was "The One" and neither would he.   But if I had been able to search all people who knew a certain person then I would have known.   But, sadly, we don't have a database like that to search.

I guess that's the thing about CRM software.  If you don't know that there is something important that you don't know, then you don't know.  Ignorance may be bliss, but it is not the foundation for sound marketing practice.  CRM is going to be an integral part of most law firms, and I would like to hear more about KM and CRM from people like Chris, Joy, and Rick.
7:44:39 PM    

Jennifer Aniston settles suit over topless photos

For some reason I get a lot of searches on this topic hitting my site.  So I guess I'll report the outcome of this totally meaningless litigation for the benefit of those wayward google travellers that wind up at this site.   [CNN]  Oh, and thank you for stopping by this site.
4:10:46 PM    

Great Article on Copyright laws affecting library digitization projects

Library Digitization Projects and Copyright via []

It is a well-written, comprehensive article.  Even if you aren't interested in the library side of things, the explanation of copyright law is engaging a clear.
11:41:16 AM    

Gotta love the First Amendment

Touching Speech. According to the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Division Two, topless dancers at a sports bar where alcohol was served who touched and fondled their bare breasts during dances were not engaged in constitutionally "expressive" speech. (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board of California, June 26, 2002, PDF) This may be the first time a court has been asked to take judicial notice of Michael Jackson's inter-performance crotch grabs [n.24], and the opinion also wryly posits that "gentlemen do not go to topless bars to see 'Swan Lake' or even Twyla Tharp."  from  [Bag and Baggage]

I'm practicing law in the wrong state.
11:32:46 AM    

Cyberlaw is a bunch of crap.

That's what this article from MSNBC, entitled "Cyberlaw: Cybersmart or Cybersilly?" says, referring to a bunch of legal honchos who reject the idea that the Internet requires special regulation.  Note this passage that explains what the skeptic honchos believe:

"While the skeptics emphasize different points, they all have as a core principle a rejection of the notion of “Internet exceptionalism,” or the idea that the Internet is a new, unique thing that requires its own special laws. “The steam engine ... probably transformed American law, but the ‘law of the steam engine’ never existed,” writes Joseph H. Sommer, counsel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in a law review article called “Against Cyberlaw.”

Okay, I don't disagree that many aspects of the Internet are hyped.  Of course, it's the press (with its dumbed-down presentation of reality) that does the most to foster the hype.  Remember the Y2K scare?  And that wasn't an Internet-specific issue.  With the press, any old boogie-man will do.

Here's the problem with this story.   It's a typical straw-man story.  The press hypes the Internet, and hypes it, and hypes it.  Lots of time passes while this is going on.   But now we're bored with the hype.  So how can they get our attention?  Oh let's see, maybe we can say that the Internet is overhyped.  Let's do a legal angle, says the press.  Well, remember when we had the legal angle that some judge in France prohibited Yahoo from selling Nazi memorabilia in France?   We got legal experts to say this was a threat to the Internet. The legal experts said that the decision was terrible, and the Internet is a delicate child that needs special protection and yada yada yada.... 

Now they've got "legal experts" that say that all of this is overblown and that the first group of legal experts are whiney babies, and the Internet is just a bunch of phone lines, and that the steam engine didn't need different laws. 

Oh really?  Well let's see, the railroad was a new method of transportation that used the steam engine, and there were all kinds of laws enacted specifically for the railroad (read Stephen Ambrose's book, if you need some background on this).  And anyway, we already have laws passed specifically for the Internet.  (e.g. check this).   Look I don't have time to shoot down all the stupid points in that story.

I don't disagree that there is a whole lot of hyping going on, and I don't criticize "legal experts" for bringing this to our attention.  But I notice that the press didn't ask these legal skeptics about Larry Lessig's views about the Internet (which as far as I can tell don't argue that we should pass Internet-specific laws, but rather than when we pass laws that affect the Internet we should have a better understanding of the effect of those laws on the Internet as a whole).  Do they disagree with him?  Because if they do, then that's worth talking about.  But I don't want to read these bullshit straw-man stories that the press concocts, and then to the extent there is a good angle there they totally drive by it.  Why?  Oh, they'd say, because that angle is too complicated for our readers.  Only lawyers would be interested in that.  Fine.  Then don't cover it at all.  Fucking idiots!

Later:  Oh, excuse me.   Apparently, MSNBC swiped the story from The Wall St. Journal, at least that's what it appears from Martin's post.  I gave MSNBC too much credit.  They aren't even creative idiots.
10:24:59 AM    

Diner's Club sued over rejection of credit card

Okay, you guessed right.  It was a lawyer who sued, but... not an American lawyer.   Need more info?  Click here.
7:54:07 AM    

© Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson.

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