Ernie the Attorney : searching for truth & justice (in an unjust world)
Updated: 6/5/2003; 10:52:31 PM.


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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

eGovernment & online records - is there any reason why we shouldn't be able to access important government information online?  Especially statutory law, and court rulings.  Did you know that there is a legal presumption that by publishing laws (in whatever arcane dusty volume those things get printed in these days) the unwashed populace is presumed to have knowledge of those laws?  Yep, that's right.  Forget about whether the average person stands a chance of understanding the laws that get passed; you're supposed to know what the law is.  So here we all are living in a world where the government could pretty easily publish those laws to the web.  Why isn't this more prevalent?  You've paid for the laws to be passed; it seems like the least that government could do is to put a copy out there where you could see it.  Free of charge. 
10:47:58 PM    

Weblogs as Journalism - Dan Rosenbaum weighs in on this never-ending discussion. 

6:58:33 PM    

Law Firm pays $3,000/month for associates to not workI'm not making this up.  Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison is offering to pay some first-year associates as much as $3,000 per month not to show up for work until January 2004.
6:07:35 PM    

Zen & the Art of Marketing - Dave Weinberger's one act play is entitled I am Spartacus! No, wait, I am Godzilla!
4:11:40 PM    

Winer & Lessig - I must be missing something.  I respect both of these guys, and I admit that in their respective fields they know a lot more than I do (so maybe that's the source of my misunderstanding).  From what I do grasp, it seems that Dave is concerned about Lessig's views on software copyright.  I have read Lessig's book The Future of Ideas and I have listed to his recent OSCON talk.  My understanding of what Lessig is saying on this point is as follows: copyright law shouldn't grant a monopoly without the person who seeks it revealing what they are trying to protect.  Other than with software, that's the way it usually works.

In the patent world, you get a patent in exchange for revealing the process and describing it in legally sufficient detail.  For most copyrighted material (i.e. songs, writings, paintings) it's pretty much the same.  But with software copyrights, if the person seeking the copyright wants to they can copyright the stuff and not provide the source code.  That is unusual as far as I know.   I suppose it stems from the fact that when the law first confronted software it didn't know what pigeonhole to put it in.  Patent law would've been the logical place, but at the time people thought that software was just an alogorithm and there was skepticism about if patent law could be used to protect what in essence were just a series of instructions (but hey now we've got business method patents, so what's wrong with algorithms?)

Anyway, I am out of my league.  I admit it, so don't hold it against me.  Still, I really don't hear Lessig complaining about people having the right to protect software (although I think he obviously prefers that people follow in Stallman's footsteps and give it away).  Despite my freely acknowledged ignorance, it does seem strange that software (which is "useful") is lumped into copyright law, which is otherwise strictly there to protect "creativity."  Patent law, which does protect "useful" stuff only does so for a 17 years, whereas copyright law has much lengthier terms.  I'm just a lawyer who handles mostly commercial disputes, but to me the current patent law and copyright law system is clearly out of whack.
3:32:31 PM    

Old Lawyer Blogger looks a young lawyer bloggers - "Who Stole the Tarts is a particularly good example of the burgeoning law student weblawg phenomenon.  I also really like Sua Sponte, and I don't think she's even started classes yet...say Bill Altreuter  (okay, you're not that old).

3:01:46 PM    

Tara Sue Grubb - running against Howard Coble in North Carolina's 6th District, she ties to unseat an inveterate Hollywood sympathizer and tech-unsavvy politician.  Coble doesn't know how to turn on a computer; Tara Sue has figured out how to start a weblog
2:40:55 PM    

A Pox on Copyright Extension - says Glenn Reynolds and his co-author in this law review article, which is conveniently available online (as all scholarly articles should be).

2:32:51 PM    

Legal Ethics - can you teach it? - Alice W. has some ponderings on the subject, which are succinct and clever.

2:29:01 PM    

Spot the Terrorist - it's getting harder to do because they are so clever at concealing themselves.  You could be driving your car with one in the back seat and not know it, as Ken Layne points out.
12:02:16 PM    

Know your federal judge - the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary is a great publication, but for years it was only available in print.  It has biographical information on all of the judges in the federal judiciary.  Stuff like who appointed them, date of birth, educational and professional background and so forth.  It also now includes financial information gleaned from the mandatory disclosures that the judges are required to file.  By far the most useful facet of the work is the anonymous comments of practioners  I haven't used the book lately (because it costs a lot to update and our copy has most of the judges that we need to know about), but when I did last look at it I was impressed at how useful and accurate the comments (taken in the aggregate) were.  The Almanac, which is published by Aspen Publishers, is now available online.  The bad news is that it costs $1,900 (although you can try it free for 10 days).  The online service provides a directory of court guidelines that is updated 3 times a year.   If you spend a significant amount of time in federal courts outside of your home turf then the price of this publication is a pittance.
10:50:05 AM    

Response to TalkLeft's criticism of removal of Judge Sharon Hunter - I read TalkLeft's post, and I think it is a well presented argument.  It doesn't change my mind; I think that removing Judge Hunter --under all of the circumstances-- was the correct decision.  But, putting aside our differences of opinion on the remedy, there are some things that TalkLeft may not know, or may have inadvertently downplayed in its account of the events at hand.

Judge Hunter took the bench having had no experience in criminal law.  Why she wanted to run for a criminal court seat when she had no experience is hard to say.  The election was a close call, and she got the job. I don't view her lack of experience as the basis for an exoneration of her administrative failures.  Lack of experience, to me, militates in favor of working harder to learn the job.  I doubt that she was at a loss to find people to help guide her.  She had been an assistant city attorney before she ran for judge and certainly knew enough people in and around politics to seek whatever guidance she might have needed.   Her biggest sin was losing transcripts, which might not seem like an offense that would cause one to be removed from office.

Losing transcripts does happen in criminal court, and she isn't the first one to lose a transcript.  However, her office lost key parts of at least a dozen trial transcripts, which caused the appeals courts to overturn convictions in at least 11 cases, some of them murder cases. Getting witnesses to testify in murder cases is tough in Orleans Parish; and getting them to testify in retrials of murder cases is harder still.  Clearly, her failures had a serious effect on the criminal justice system.  Many people here in New Orleans, which has a serious crime problem, believe that her incompetence warranted removal from office.  Some people around here didn't think it was a problem.

TalkLeft cites two people who are critical of the removal action.  They refer to Charles Jones "as one of the Supreme Court Justices deciding the case."  Jones is not a Supreme Court Justice; he is a judge on the state Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  He is critical of the court's decision to remove Judge Hunter.  That's not surprising.  He was censured not too long ago for physically brawling with one of his colleagues on the Fourth Circuit during a routine judges meeting (I'm purposefully leaving out the racial angle of this account, but I invite others who think it is relevant to supplement my description).  He was not happy with the punishment he received, and is therefore not likely to be unbiased in his assessment of the Supreme Court's action.

Darlene Jacobs is quoted as well.  Darlene is a colorful figure in Louisiana to say the least.  I know her and like her personally.  However, everyone in the state knows that she ran a bitter campaign to be elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court about 10 years ago and has very strong negative feelings towards that court, and towards Chief Judge Calogero, whom she ran against.  Her comments have to be assessed with that background in mind.

Reasonable minds can disagree about the proper remedy for Judge Hunter, but I can tell you that it wasn't a decision that was made without careful reflection.  The Supreme Court faced a difficult decision, and I think that whether you agree with the decision or not, it belittles the seriousness of the court's effort to call it a "high-tech lynching."

Oh, and I admit that perhaps I don't have all of the facts.  But here is one thing I know that I think counts for a lot.  Serving as a judge is a privilege, not a right.  I'm sure someone will say, "well then let the community make the decision at election time."  I think that's a cop out.  The system should root out the really incompetent judges, and shouldn't give much weight to claims of ignorance and naivete.  If you aren't sharp and driven to make the system better then maybe you shouldn't be a judge.
10:14:38 AM    

Louisiana Supreme Court removes trial judge from the judiciary - The Associated Press is reporting tonight that the Supreme Court of Louisiana has removed a trial judge from that State's judiciary "because her office lost court transcripts or turned them in late or inaccurately, leading to the reversal of 11 convictions." You can access the Louisiana Supreme Court's lead opinion here, and two concurring opinions here and here. You can access here an appendix to the high court's ruling.

7:33:14 AM    

© Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson.

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