What Were They Thinking

Things are Settling Back Down in Yoknapatawpha County

July 22, 2013

“It was as though she realised for the first time that you – everyone – must, or anyway may have to, pay for your past; the past is something like a promissory note with a trick clause in it which, as long as nothing goes wrong, can be manumitted in an orderly manner, but which fate or luck or chance, can foreclose on you without warning.” Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner __________________ For many years the Estate of James Joyce was infamous for its use of copyright law to restrict what many people considered fair uses of  Joyce’s works. Now that most of Joyce’s works are in the public domain, it seems that the owner of William Faulkner’s copyrights, Faulkner Literary Rights LLC (“Faulkner”, is stepping up to take its place. But in the “Midnight in Paris” case you’ve gotta wonder: what the heck was Faulkner thinking? Even many people who have never read a word of William Faulkner will recognize these famous lines: “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” These words are spoken by the fictional County attorney Gavin Stevens in Faulkner’s novel Requiem of a Nun. The production of a Hollywood movie oftenrequires the producer to obtain many copyright permissions. However, when Woody Alan’s Midnight in Paris was released in 2011, one of the characters paraphrased these lines from Faulkner. When the protagonist, Gil (played by Owen Wilson) accuses his wife, Inez (played by…

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What Happens When You Get A Federal District Court Judge Really, Really Mad In a Civil Case

April 24, 2013

I haven’t written a post that falls in the “what were they thinking” category for quite a while, but you don’t see this very often. In Angiodynamics v. Biolitec AG Massachusetts federal district court judge Michael Ponsor (pictured left) entered a preliminary injunction forbidding the defendant from entering into a merger with its German subsidiary corporation, so as not to put the company’s assets outside the reach of the plaintiff. In addition to corporate defendants, the corporate defendant’s CEO, Wolfgang Neuberger, was named as an individual defendant. The injunction order was appealed, and the First Circuit upheld the injunction. The defendant then went forward with the merger in direct violation of the court’s order. When Judge Ponsor received the plaintiff’s motion for contempt he ordered that Mr. Neuberger appear at the hearing on that motion. Neuberger declined to attend on the grounds that he was “afraid that the Court may . . . incarcerate him.” Based on my experience with Judge Ponsor, he is a relatively easy-going, patient judge (as federal judges go). Not in this case. In response to the plaintiff’s motion for contempt he wrote that the defendant violated the injunction “in every way it could be violated: text, substance, spirit, body, and soul.” Judge Ponsor has been on the federal bench for 25 years. He wrote that the defendants’ conduct “constitutes the most flagrantly offensive violation of…

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Sixth Circuit Finds Trip Advisor’s “Dirtiest Hotel” Ranking Is Not Defamatory

August 30, 2012

I guess the owners of the Grand Resort Hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee have never heard of the Streisland Effect.  Their attempt to sue Trip Advisor for defamation based on the hotel’s inclusion in Trip Advisor’s annual “Dirtiest Hotels” list was dismissed by the federal district court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  While facts can be defamatory, opinions can not. The court concluded that no “reasonable person could believe that TripAdvisor’s article reflected anything more than the opinions of TripAdvisor’s millions of online users.” Professor Eric Goldman discusses this case in more detail here. Seaton v. TripAdvisor, LLC

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The Road Goes on Forever, But the Lawsuits Never End: ConnectU, Facebook, Their Entourages

January 18, 2010

The ConnectU/Facebook legal saga is truly astounding.  Imagine a mature Oak tree.  Now give the it properties of Kudzu vine (the “vine that ate the South”).  Each branch of this tree is another lawsuit involving ConnectU, Facebook, the principals, and their lawyers. Now, a new branch has burst forth.  Wayne Chang has sued ConnectU and its lawyers in Superior Court Business Litigation Session in Suffolk County, Boston, claiming that Chang is entitled to as much as 50% of the value of the ConnectU/Facebook settlement (so called, since ConnectU has challenged the finality of the settlement). You can read about the ConnectU/Facebook saga here, or wait until the movie comes out. Here is the complaint in the Chang case, and apologies to Robert Earl Keen. Chang v. Winklevoss Complaint

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Boring Lawsuit We Missed the First Time Around ….

April 11, 2009

How many residential driveways are there in the USA? I have no idea, but I would estimate tens of millions. So it figures that someone whose driveway was videotaped by Google and put on the Internet for all to view (!?) on Google Street View would sue Google for invasion of privacy and trespass. Copy of opinion here. Link to the Boring’s home on Google Maps here. My theory: these people actually crave attention for their property, and what better way to get it, than this? But then, I am married to a psychologist. Oh, and of course, there’s this.  No need to get paranoid, now …..

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DOJ to Senator Ted Stevens: “We Deeply Regret That This Has Occurred”

April 8, 2009

It’s not often that the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes a sitting U.S. Senator, obtains a conviction at trial, and then concludes it has no choice but to voluntarily dismiss the charges and let the former defendant walk free, totally vindicated.  But that’s what happened in United States v. Ted Stevens, the government’s case against the longest-serving Republican in the Senate’s history.  If this has ever happened before in the United States, I’m unaware of it. To quote from today’s New York Times: Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the charges against Mr. Stevens, which was expected given the way the case has disintegrated since the conviction in October. But the judge went well beyond that step, declaring that what the prosecutors did was the worst “mishandling or misconduct that I’ve seen in my 25 years.” Judge Sullivan spoke disdainfully of the prosecutors’ repeated assertions that any mistakes during the trial were inadvertent and made in good faith. He said he had witnessed “shocking and serious” violations of the principle that prosecutors are obligated to turn over all relevant material to the defense. The judge appointed the attorney Henry Schuelke as special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal contempt charges against the prosecution team. How could this happen?  The article suggests the lawyers may have been grossly overworked, rushed to trial by an aggressive defense (damn good move by the defense, if…

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Who Watches the Watchmen?

April 2, 2009

“How does the court have confidence that the public integrity section has public integrity?” Judge Emmett Sullivan, during the trial of former Senator Ted Stevens   Prosecutor: I already got no proof how the victim got hold of that heroin. Now you’re saying I can’t put Hodgins on the stand? Why? FBI Agent: You don’t wanna know the answer to that. Forensic Investigator: Why doesn’t she wanna know? Prosecutor: As the prosecutor in this case, I’m obliged to share everything I know with the defense. Forensic Investigator: [starts to explain…] Prosecutor: Whoa! Goodnight! From TV Show “Bones” ____________________________________________ Prosecutors have a legal duty to provide criminal defendants with exculpatory evidence. Every criminal prosecutor knows this – it’s probably Rule No.1 for prosecutors: “YOU MUST GIVE DEFENDANT EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE.” This has been a constitutional right since the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland. Rules 2 and 3 are, don’t forget Rule No. 1. Today’s decision by the Obama Justice Department to dismiss criminal charges against former Senator Ted Stevens means that prosecutors at the highest levels of the DOJ forgot this rule (or disregarded it). This is an enormous embarrassment for DOJ, and a probably a career killer for the attorneys involved, who are likely to be sacked, at the very least. (Keep in mind that former U.S. Attorney General Roberto Gonzales has been unable to find a private…

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The Face of Evil May Be Behind The Judge’s Bench

February 13, 2009

Judge: Miss West, are you trying to show contempt for this court?’ Mae West: On the contrary, your Honor, I was doin’ my best to conceal it.’ (During a trial in which she was accused of indecency on stage) “The thing to fear is not the law, but the judge” Russian Proverb “One bad apple ruins the barrel” —————– History is replete with judges who are open to bribery, who serve special interests or who are otherwise corrupt.  We often read of judges who are sanctioned or prosecuted for misconduct. When a person dons a judge’s robe her character and values don’t change. Despite the long history of judicial misconduct, I still was surprised to read about this kickback scheme in the February 13, 2009 New York Times. Quoting excerpts from the article: [O]n Thursday . . . judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, [judge] Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. . . . While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to…

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Website Hook-Ups: if a Hook-Up Site Requires its Members to Represent That They are Over 18, is the Site Liable When a User is Busted for Having Sex With a Member Who is a Minor?

December 31, 2008

The answer to the question posed in the title is:  No.  No, no, no, no, no. Only a lawyer with really bad judgment would file a suit alleging breach of contract, fraud, and related claims.  And, after losing in federal district court, appeal to the Sixth Circuit. If you really want to know the “legal” grounds for dismissal in this case, the decision is Doe v. SexSearch.com,* But, ’nuff said on this one. If you feel compelled to use a site like SexSearch.com (not that there’s anythingwrong with that), it might be prudent to ask your partner for an I.D. before, …. well, you know. Hmmm …. on second thought, maybe its best to just stay home and watch the telly. * The online contract between SexSearch and its members states: SexSearch “cannot guarantee, and assume[s] no responsibility for verifying, the accuracy of the information provided by other users of the Service.”

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Really Judge Murphy. Really !?!

December 19, 2008

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy won a $2 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald after the Herald incorrectly reported that he had said that a 14 year old female rape victim should “get over it.” Fair enough, but that was not the end of the story. The Herald appealed (ultimately losing), but during the appeal Judge Murphy sent two letters to Patrick J. Purcell, owner and publisher of the Herald, which led to today’s SJC decision publically reprimanding Judge Murphy for this incident. Here are quotes from the letters, taken from the SJC reprimand. The letters proposed a meeting between Judge Murphy and Patrick Purcell, were hand-written on Superior Court stationery, and proposed a luncheon meeting between Murphy, Purcell and (presumably) the Herald’s insurer. The letter went on to tell Purcell – to “have one person … at the meeting…. Under NO circumstances should you involve [counsel in the lawsuit] in this meeting…. You will bring to that meeting a cashier’s check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000. No check, no meeting.” In the postscript, the judge writes that it would be “a mistake … to show this letter to anyone other than the gentleman whose authorized signature will be affixed to the check in question. In fact, a BIG mistake.” The letter of March 18, 2005, states, “[Y]ou have a ZERO chance of reversing my…

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"Yesterday's Masters of the Universe are Today's Cosmic Dust" or "I Have Found a Flaw in How the World Works"

October 30, 2008

I’ve heard this quote attributed to Alan Abelson of Barron’s, but who knows, it may be from Kansas. Maybe Abelson used to listen to Kansas. In any event, it came to mind when I heard that the Maestro, a Master of the Universe if there ever was one, spoke thus before Congress last week: REP. WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality — MR. GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived as the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak. REP. WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology was not right. It was not working. MR. GREENSPAN: Precisely. That’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

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Ohhhhh, Boston you're my home …..

October 29, 2008

So I’m shocked, just shocked, to learn that all of our state legislators may not be completely on the up-and-up. But, that’s what the local feds seem to think. Eighteen-year state senator Diane Wilkerson was arrested by the FBI earlier today for allegedly taking bribes to help a nightclub secure a liquor license. Looks like Wilkerson was the subject of an elaborate sting– the lengthy FBI affidavit suggests that all of her bad behavior was video or audio recorded and photographed over an 18 month period. Wilkerson faces federal charges, and a long, long time in the federal pen if convicted. Here is Wilkerson below, allegedly stuffing a $1,000 cash payoff into her bra during a meeting with an informant at No. 9 Park restaurant on June 18, 2007. No, I didn’t take this photo. I can’t afford to eat at No. 9 Park which, for out-of-towners, is a haute cuisine restaurant right near the State House, not a doorway on some poorly lit side street. This photo was part of the FBI affidavit. The U.S. Attorney’s office has told the federal court that there are many photos, videos and audio recordings that make the government’s case solid. (Haven’t those guys ever heard of entrapment?) Well, what can you say – the world turns, sure, but Boston keeps its charm. Love that dirty water …..

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