Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Legal News Stories

It's end-of-the-year list time. The National Law Journal has The Year in Review, compiling top legal news stories for 2012. CBS provides its list in video form. Inside Counsel has two (!) lists---editors' picks and readers' picks. Like your legal news on the weird side? Here is The Week's 9 craziest lawsuits of 2012 and FindLaw's Top 10 Legally Weird Stories of 2012.

Curious how the hoi polloi ranked events in 2012? Check out Google-users' top searches for 2012.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Free Legal Research Tools from Westlaw

You may have had enough of hearing about how much Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg will cost you once you're in practice.

Good news: Westlaw provides several practice-oriented research newsletters you can subscribe to for free! Here is a list of just a few of the electronic newsletters (with West's descriptions) that you can subscribe to and have sent to your email inbox when they are published:
  • The Estate Planner - This is a periodic complimentary newsletter highlighting legislative changes and other developments and techniques affecting estate planning professionals.
  • Perspectives - This journal for legal research and writing instructors and law firm and law school librarians, published three times a year, provides a forum for discussing the teaching of legal research and writing.
  • Business Law SECurities Digest - Thomson Reuters Westlaw Business Law Research SECurities Digest is a daily report of SEC developments with access to transactional information that is unavailable from any other source in the industry.
  • Corporate Counsel Connect - A free, bi-monthly newsletter providing meaningful insight, case review and best practices for corporate counsel. This informative and insightful newsletter is authored by your legal colleagues and industry professionals, centered around the in-house perspective.
  • Global Law Quarterly - Four times a year this newsletter provides timely feature articles about international legal issues; interviews with authors, practitioners and academics; and updates on the latest books and electronic materials from Thomson Reuters legal publishers worldwide.
Free newsletters from Westlaw

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Robert Bork, 1927-2012

Robert Bork, famous for his contentious Supreme Court nomination and his originalist view of judging, died yesterday from complications of heart disease.

Wall Street Journal Law Blog

New York Times

Now that exams are drawing to a close, perhaps you'd like to learn more about Robert Bork?  The Moritz Law Library has many books by and about him, including:

The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War with Itself, by Robert Bork

Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges, by Robert Bork

Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, by Robert Bork

A Time to Speak: Selected Writings and Arguments, by Robert Bork

Advice and Consent: Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, and the Intriguing History of the Supreme Court's Nomination Battles, by Paul Simon

Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America, by Ethan Bronner

Matters of Principle: America's Rejection of the Bork Nomination, by Mark Gitenstein

Originalism in American Law and Politics: A Constitutional History, by Johnathan O'Neill

Essays in Honor of Judge Robert H. Bork, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Spring 2008 (at HeinOnline)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Attorney Ethics: Online Document Sharing

WestlawNext and the ABA Journal bring us some useful tips on maintaining attorney-client privilege, work product protections, and law firm intellectual property:

Best Practices for Sharing Legal Research

The tips are sound whether you use Google Docs, Dropbox, or some other cloud computing (i.e., internet-based) file sharing program. This story explains a bit more about the ethical issues that could arise when attorneys use the cloud.

For the OSBA take on things, pick up this CLE handout on the subject:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fact-Checking Lincoln

How does one go about fact-checking Lincoln? Put another way, if you land a job aiding film makers in their pursuit of historical accuracy, where do you turn?

Well, you can start with a plethora of secondary sources. Then, cull those sources for information about specific events and dates so that you can pull primary sources (e.g., transcripts of speeches, Congressional hearings and reports). For the latter, check out Congressional and Presidential collections on HeinOnline and ProQuest Congressional. If you're not finding what you're looking for online, keep two things in mind: (1) the database you're searching may not have the coverage dates you need (e.g., you might be looking for something from 1864, but the database only includes items as old as 1900); and (2) just come in to the library (or call or email!) for good ol' antiquated paper. We're happy to help.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Should Attorneys Care About the Metric System?

A favorite podcast of mine recently explored the question "Why isn’t the U.S. on the metric system?" After a lengthy discussion of the history of the metric system (with frequent references to Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson), the hosts brought up the key reason we have uniform systems of measurement: commerce. If you're buying or trading X amount of something, you want to be certain you truly know what you are getting. A "ton" of carrots may be a short ton to one person (2,000 pounds) or a long ton (2,240 pounds) to another.

So why should attorneys care about the variety of measurements out there?

If you are responsible for drafting a contract, it may not be just the legal terms you're concerned with. Sure, limitations of liability, indemnifications, and warranties are the trifecta of legal issues in a contract, but mistake of fact is certainly a legal issue you should consider, particularly if your client is contracting with someone in another country. (Who doesn't remember Frigaliment from 1L Contracts?)

One way to assure all parties are on the same page when drafting key terms is to incorporate by reference an external source, or simply add defined terms to your agreement. For example, parties could make reference to a publication by the Weights and Measures Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Similarly, there are a number of texts for just this purpose in the OSU libraries, and here are a couple of examples:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Trial Attorneys Beware - Legal Research Could Cause a Mistrial

A Washington paper reports on a mistrial due to a juror's legal research in an emotionally fraught criminal case. The  Everett Herald reports
A Snohomish County deputy prosecutor couldn't bring himself to force a 6-year-old girl to take the witness stand again to testify against her father -- the man accused of raping and molesting her.
The case was strong against the Bothell man. Eleven jurors had believed he was guilty before a mistrial was declared.
One juror had played by his own rules, ignoring repeated commands by the judge to only consider evidence presented at trial.
After the first day of testimony, the juror launched his own investigation.
                                                                   *   *   *
In the past, judges warned jurors to avoid stories in newspapers and radio and television broadcasts. Now, judges often have lengthy colloquies about what other sources of information jurors also should avoid, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and text messages.
Trial attorneys must be prepared to work well with jurors. Fortunately, we have a number of books you might be interested in before your next case:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hemingway Cats and Interstate Commerce Claws

Speaking of exotic pets, here's perhaps the best line about a case you'll read all day:

"Descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cat Snowball that live at his museum home are subject to federal regulation because they substantially affect interstate commerce, a federal appeals court has ruled."

Polydactylism is a genetic condition that results in the cats having more toes than is typical. According to the Hemingway Museum, the cats "that have 4 and 5 toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. Most cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes on their back feet as well."

Christian Science Monitor

Thanks to Sarah Glassmeyer for the horrible pun.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Ohio Exotic Animal Law Leads to Lawsuit

We have written in the past about the new Ohio exotic animal law, which followed the October 2011 tragedy in which a Zanesville man released dozens of dangerous animals before committing suicide.

Last month, four owners filed a lawsuit challenging the new law.  The first hearing was held yesterday, and U.S. District Judge George Smith has ruled that the Humane Society may join the state in defending the law.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Dayton Daily News

Zanesville Times Recorder

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holding Office While Serving Time

Just across the state border, a judicial officer is making headlines for a recent jail sentence for buying votes. The question of the day: will he retain his office while he's imprisoned? Would you believe there's precedent for that?

For more on judicial ethics, check out these sources:

Friday, December 07, 2012

Legal Potpourri

There are too many great stories out there right now to choose just one to feature, so here are links to all of my current favorites:

The Law and Order Database: If you're an L&O junkie, this site has the stats for you on the outcomes of every trial on the show. For example, just over 35% of the time, the jury came back with a guilty verdict. Using this data, you can also assess which character had the best job performance outcomes.

In labor union news, the NHL lockout continues. If the season will run fewer than 48 games, it will likely be cancelled.

The government can register trademarks, and it has with the GI Bill® to protect veterans from confusion when applying to colleges that may deceptively use the trademark to increase enrollment.

In local news, and Ohio attorney is suing to protect rights of publicity potentially held by arrestees featured on mugshot websites. Rights of publicity are a state law issue, however, so the likelihood of success on the claim depends in part on the state in which the arrestee resides.

Finally, a research tip: don't do all the work of compiling a legislative history of a law if someone has already done it for you. A legislative history is, essentially, anything that tells a person why a bill became a law. It can include committee reports, transcripts of hearings, and even presidential (or gubernatorial) signing statements.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Parents Challenge Homicide Convictions

A Wisconsin couple did not seek medical help for their dying daughter, but instead prayed that she be healed.  They were convicted in 2009 of reckless homicide after the 11-year-old girl died of a treatable form of diabetes.  Now, Dale and Leilani Neumann are appealing the convictions to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Oral argument took place on Tuesday.

ABA Journal

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Pioneer Press

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Chutzpah and Moxie - Starting Your Own Law Practice

The ABA Journal this week brings us the story of a new lawyer personally showing up to seize the assets of a judgment debtor, much to the delight of the news media.

For more on starting a practice, check out How to Start and Build a Law Practice or Flying Solo in the law library. Also, the Columbus Bar Association has started an incubator program for new attorneys looking to develop their business management skills.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Crime recently started Crime, "A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness." The blog includes thorough, sometimes amusing explainers on a variety of criminal law matters, including pending court cases and the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

For more criminal blawgs, check out these lists from the ABA Journal. Professor Berman also offers a criminal blawg specifically addressing sentencing.