Canadian trade policy expert calls TPP a "threat to democracy"

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Gus Van Harten is a law professor at York University's Osgoode Hall and a well-respected expert on trade law; he's published a damning report on the Trans Pacific Partnership deal. Read the rest

Massachusetts bill would force employers to pay half-salary to laid off employees for duration of noncompetes

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Massachusetts is one of the few places in high-tech America where non-compete agreements are enforceable, a factor that scholars have pointed to in explaining why the state's tech industry has stayed so small relative to California, where the best workers can always move to the best companies. Read the rest

Family of teen raising money to rescue her from pray-the-gay-away "boarding school"

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When Sarah, a 17 year old in Texas, decided to take her girlfriend to the prom, her parents forced her into an "East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens" from which she has repeatedly attempted to escape. Read the rest

Goldman Sachs bribed Libyan officials with hookers, private jet rides, then lost all their money

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In 2006, western leaders decided that Gaddafi's oil was more important than his human rights record and complicity in terrorism and lifted sanctions against Libya, creating a massive pool of cash for the country that it turned into a sovereign wealth fund whose business was aggressively courted by Goldman Sachs. Read the rest

Appeals court: FCC has jurisdiction to impose net neutrality on ISPs

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The Federal District Appeals Court has upheld the FCC's jurisdiction to impose net neutrality rules on telcos, leaving intact last year's landmark FCC ruling prohibiting carriers from downgrading the connections to networked services that didn't pay for "premium carriage." Read the rest

How to be less wrong about the First Amendment

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Former federal prosecutor and frequent plain-language law explainer Ken "Popehat" White has done the (American) Internet the immense service of producing a master(ful) post about the First Amendment, explaining why the American constitutional basis for free speech includes abridgments on speech by some private actors and why it can be invoked in civil cases. Read the rest

UK Parliament votes in Snoopers Charter, now it goes to the House of Lords

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The Members of Parliament voted in favour of the far-ranging, massively invasive spying bill after the Tories agreed to minor improvements, like dropping the requirement for mandatory crypto backdoors if they would be infeasible or expensive to implement. Read the rest

Watch: Fascinating panel on legal and privacy concerns for Big Data and the Internet of Things

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In "It's a brave new world: Avoiding legal, privacy, and security snafus with big data and the IoT" -- a panel from last week's Strata+Hadoop World conference in San Jose, Alysa Z. Hutnik, a lawyer who specializes in consumer protection in privacy, data security, and advertising and Kristi Wolff, whose legal practice is on liability in food, dietary supplements, medical devices, and emerging health/wearable technology and privacy issues, present an extremely digestable and fascinating look into the lay of the regulatory land for data-collection and user privacy. Read the rest

Why defense attorneys aren't cheering Brock Allan Turner's wrist-slap

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Ken White was once a US Federal Prosecutor, but he's also served as a defense attorney, and when he was defending clients, he routinely told the judge about the ways in which his clients were good people, and what talents they had. Read the rest

Lin-Manuel Miranda declares war on bots

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Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton is arguably the most successful Broadway show of the century (deservedly so -- the soundtrack is practically all I've listened to for the past month) but good luck if you want to get a ticket. Read the rest

"Prolific litigant" bought $40 used printer then sued seller for $30,000

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Doug Costello, 66, sold a printer on craigslist for $40. The buyer—described as a "prolific, abusive litigant"—alleged it was broken and sued him claiming astronomical damages. The resulting artisanal interstate legal snarl has cost Costello $12,000 so far. USA Today reports on a mess that's still not over after 7 years.

The printer's buyer was Gersh Zavodnik, a 54-year-old Indianapolis man known to many in the legal community as a frequent lawsuit filer who also represents himself in court. The Indiana Supreme Court said the "prolific, abusive litigant" has brought dozens of lawsuits against individuals and businesses, often asking for astronomical damages. Most, according to court records, involve online sales and transactions.

Small claims court wasn't interested, but Zavodnik's pro se actions were relentless. Even though they were insane, that's the point: Costello's failure to respond meant a default verdict for the plaintiff.

Zavodnik also had sent Costello two more requests for admissions. One asked Costello to admit that he conspired with the judge presiding over the case, and that he was liable for more than $300,000. Another one requested Costello to admit that he was liable for more than $600,000.< Because Costello did not respond to all three requests for admissions within 30 days of receiving them, and did not ask for an extension of time, as required by Indiana trial rules, Costello admitted to the liabilities and damages by default. He also did not appear at a July 2013 hearing, according to court records.

And so was necessitated the hiring of very expensive lawywers. Zavodnik appears to be a master of plinking the legal system until he shops his way to a useful-enough judge.

Wuertz said the case went through several Marion County judges, many of whom recused themselves. At one point, Zavodnik sought to have a judge removed, and the Supreme Court appointed a special judge from Boone County.

Read the rest

Britain meets its "first 101-year-old court defendant"

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The Guardian reports that Ralph Clarke, facing charges of child abuse dating to the 20th century, is believed to be Britain's oldest court defendant.

Clarke, who was born in March 1915, is alleged to have committed 17 indecent assaults, 12 offences of indecency with a child, and two attempted serious sexual offences between 1974 and 1983. During a 40-minute court appearance, Clarke turned down the offer of a hearing loop, telling the court clerk his hearing aid had a new battery.

None of the articles I found sourced their claim, though. 'Believed to be' is reporterese for 'just guessing.' Outside the UK, Clarke's seemingly beat by 102-year-old Massachusetts murder suspect Laura Lundquist, but it's not clear if she ever appeared in court (she was charged and subject to hearings, but did not have to face trial due to dementia.) Read the rest

Defense lawyers: the FBI made us use a copy-shop that made secret copies for the government

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Attorneys for Dr Salo Schapiro, on trial in Miami for Medicare fraud, says that the FBI and the US Attorney have engaged in a decade-long conspiracy to improperly gain access to confidential defense documents, in a scheme that used a crooked Ft Lauderdale copy shop that slipped CDs containing scanned confidential defense documents that had been entrusted to it to the FBI and the DA. Read the rest

Canada Post drops legal claim over crowdsourced postal code database

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Canada Post claimed a "crown copyright" over the postal codes assigned to Canadian homes, meaning that Canadian organisations and businesses could only use this vital information if they paid -- that is, they'd have to pay to access something their taxes already paid for, and the richer you were, the more access you could afford. Read the rest

George W. Bush's torture-justifying lawyer is worried about Trump's respect for the law

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When John Yoo thinks you're an unacceptably authoritarian threat to the rule of law, does that make you one of the baddies? The New York Times reports on conservative legal eagles unsettled by Trump's naked threats to wield presidential power against his enemies.

There are other precedents, said John C. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who took an expansive view of executive power as a lawyer in the Bush administration. “The only two other presidents I can think of who were so hostile to judges on an individual level and to the judiciary as a whole would be Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt,” he said.

Both of those presidents chafed at what they saw as excessive judicial power. “But they weren’t doing it because they had cases before those judges as individuals,” Professor Yoo said. “They had legitimate separation-of-powers fights between the presidency and the judiciary. Trump is lashing out because he has a lawsuit in a private capacity, which is much more disturbing.”

Yoo wrote infamous memos justifying the Bush Administration's use of torture to get (largely useless) information from terror suspects. Read the rest

Prestigious Pets of Dallas wants $1M from customers who said they overfed a fish

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If you hire Prestigious Pets of Dallas, TX to take care of your pets, you have to sign a sleazy nondisparagement contract through which you promise not to complain in public about the company's service. Read the rest

In 1977, the CIA's top lawyer said Espionage Act shouldn't be applied to press leaks

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Yesterday, the State Department declassified and released Organization and Management of Foreign Policy: 1977-80, volume 28, a Carter-era document that includes startling statements by CIA General Counsel Anthony Lapham on the role of the WWI-era Espionage Act in prosecuting leaks of classified material to the press. Read the rest

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