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July 5, 2016

A watch list, which relies on the predictive judgments of anonymous analysts predisposed to err on the side of caution


The threats that the terrorist watch list and no-fly list pose to civil liberties -- indeed, to the very idea of citizenship -- are enormous. Watch lists are designed to circumvent the protections of due process and the separation of powers. They subvert a principle of our free society: Our rights aren't held on loan until a government official labels us suspect, at which point they are easily stripped away; our rights are ours unless and until a court concludes that we have violated the law.

This is not the case with a watch list, which relies on the predictive judgments of anonymous analysts predisposed to err on the side of caution. Their job is to stop something horrible from happening. Why would they be inclined to err the other way? Their decisions require no judicial approval, and their standard for labeling someone a suspected terrorist to be watch-listed is very low, a mere "reasonable suspicion."

As one federal judge noted in a case involving a plaintiff's challenge to being placed on the no-fly list, "an American citizen can find himself labeled a suspected terrorist because of a 'reasonable suspicion' based on a 'reasonable suspicion.' "

Some people who are tempted by watch lists but reluctant to deprive people of rights without due process propose combining them with the procedures used for search warrants or wiretaps. Why not just open up the watch list process to a judge who can assess these determinations? If it's good enough for the Fourth Amendment, isn't it good enough for the Second?

But this analogy doesn't work. The low standards and one-sided nature of warrant requests are only the first step in a longer, public, adversarial process. They satisfy public safety needs to investigate and stop suspected crimes, but this is followed by an opportunity for a trial with a higher burden of proof and a meaningful chance to confront and respond to the state's evidence.


-- Jeffrey Kahn, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, is the author of "Mrs. Shipley's Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists."

June 16, 2016

Net neutrality is real

The court's decision upheld the F.C.C. on the declaration of broadband as a utility, which was the most significant aspect of the rules. That has broad-reaching implications for web and telecommunications companies that have battled for nearly a decade over the need for regulation to ensure web users get full and equal access to all content online.

"After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections -- both on fixed and mobile networks -- that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future," Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C., said in a statement.

The two judges who ruled in favor of the F.C.C. emphasized the importance of the internet as an essential communications and information platform for consumers.

Continue reading "Net neutrality is real" »

May 31, 2016

NY prosecutors: Rappers lyrics detail their credit card fraud scheme

"These kids have grown up with computers. They have been downloading movies and music since they were 10 years old, so it's not much of a leap to download credit card numbers."

-- said Lt. Timothy Fenfert, who leads the Police Department's Special Fraud Squad in Brooklyn.

April 27, 2016

Proof at 75 percent

The government also instructed schools to adopt a new standard for determining the outcome of a sexual-harassment or violence case. At the time, many schools used the standard of "clear and convincing" evidence, meaning that the adjudicators (usually a panel of administrators or faculty) believed that it was substantially more likely than not, or roughly 75 percent likely, that the accused had committed the offense.

The letter from the civil rights office demanded that schools switch to a lower standard of proof, a "preponderance" of evidence, meaning that it was more likely than not -- above 50.01 percent -- that the offense was committed. The office noted that preponderance is the standard that courts use to decide civil suits for sexual harassment. A few schools, including Princeton and Harvard, initially refused the new standard and then found themselves under investigation for suspected Title IX violations.

March 23, 2016

Lumosity lawyer needed 2

In one TV commercial, a man declared that with Lumosity "decisions come quicker. I'm more productive." The company website stated that brain training could help "patients with brain trauma, chemofog, mild cognitive impairment and more," adding that "healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and ward off cognitive decline."

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission said: No more.

Its complaint charged that the company could not substantiate such marketing claims. "The research it has done falls short because it doesn't show any real-world benefits," said Michelle Rusk, an F.T.C. staff lawyer.

She called the commission's yearlong investigation "part of an effort to crack down on cognitive products, especially when they're targeted to an aging population."

Lumosity agreed to give its one million current subscribers, who pay $14.95 a month or $79.95 annually, a quick way to opt out. It also accepted a $50 million judgment, all but $2 million suspended after the commission reviewed the company's financial records.

Previously: Lumosity lawyer needed ?

Continue reading "Lumosity lawyer needed 2" »

February 25, 2016

H-1B ?

Demand for the 65,000 H-1Bs available annually so outstrips supply that, last year, the window to file for them opened on April 1st ... and slammed shut only five days, and 172,500 applications, later.

So how were the lucky winners selected? By the quality of the employers? By the quality of the individuals? Of course not. By lottery. I kid you not.

Maybe this would be reasonable if all H-1B jobs were roughly equivalent. The problem is, as I've written before, they're anything but. Let's compare, say, Facebook and Google with those well-known body shops Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions. Click on the links in the previous sentence to see their H-1B stats for last year. See anything that jumps out at you?

That's right. Facebook and Google brought in 900 and 2,800 H-1B employees, respectively, with salaries of $140,000 and $127,000. Cognizant? 3,300 at $72,000. Tata? A whopping 16,435 for a (relatively) paltry $70,000 - literally less than half what Facebook paid.

-- TechCrunch 1, 2, 3.

February 14, 2016

One person, one vote ?

Evenwel-v. Abbott, or one voter, one vote ? A question of law.

Continue reading "One person, one vote ?" »

January 17, 2016

Lumosity lawyer needed ?

Update:
Cognitive tests used to assess participants' progress are often so similar to the training games that investigators may be "teaching to the test."


In one TV commercial, a man declared that with Lumosity "decisions come quicker. I'm more productive." The company website stated that brain training could help "patients with brain trauma, chemofog, mild cognitive impairment and more," adding that "healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and ward off cognitive decline."

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission said: No more.

Its complaint charged that the company could not substantiate such marketing claims. "The research it has done falls short because it doesn't show any real-world benefits," said Michelle Rusk, an F.T.C. staff lawyer.

She called the commission's yearlong investigation "part of an effort to crack down on cognitive products, especially when they're targeted to an aging population."

Lumosity agreed to give its one million current subscribers, who pay $14.95 a month or $79.95 annually, a quick way to opt out. It also accepted a $50 million judgment, all but $2 million suspended after the commission reviewed the company's financial records.

The company had already stopped making health and cognition claims, its new chief executive, Steve Berkowitz, said in an interview. But the firm settled because "we came to the realization that the most important thing we could do is focus on the future," Mr. Berkowitz said

October 5, 2015

VW Diesel: lawyers wanted

James E. Tierney, a former attorney general in Maine who now runs a program at Columbia University that conducts research on state attorneys general, is less optimistic that the cases will move swiftly. While the Volkswagen company has been forthright in describing its diesel deception, he said, it will still be motivated to minimize any potential cost.

Potential damages for the company, Mr. Tierney said, might be "incalculable," with each false advertisement to consumers, for example, carrying a potential penalty. "This product was designed to operate illegally, and that is very serious," he said.

VWshirt_tdi.jpg

May 18, 2015

Straw buyers are real buyers

gents with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, who questioned whether these small export companies were violating federal law by usingstraw buyers -- people paid small sums to buy cars -- to conceal that the vehicles were being bought by people who had no intention of keeping them and were using cash from other people to make the acquisitions. Federal authorities have argued that using straw buyers is a deceptive practice that potentially deprives American consumers of a chance to buy the luxury cars and limits the ability of automakers to keep tight control over sales to domestic dealers and to foreign countries.

But the Justice Department recently advised its prosecutors to be more judicious in pursuing civil forfeiture actions -- and even criminal cases -- against car export companies and their owners.

"Over the past year, we have been engaged in a comprehensive review of the asset forfeiture program, including straw-buyer luxury export cases and other aspects of the program," said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, in an emailed statement. "As a result of this ongoing review, the department is encouraging prosecutors to pursue civil and criminal sanctions for straw-buyer fraud cases that lead to other criminal violations, such as tax fraud, identity theft fraud and the submission of false export documents."

May 17, 2014

Net neutrality, the early days

Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the largest change in communications law since the 1930s. The law maintained the basic/enhanced dichotomy, but it renamed its two parts. Basic services became telecommunications services; enhanced services became information services.

Now, into which of these two categories does the Internet fall? The FCC regards the World Wide Web--the entire apparatus of browsers and HTML files, the layers upon layers of computation and presentation--as an information service (i.e., an enhanced service). It would make sense, then, that the wires through which this information service traveled were regarded as a telecommunications service (i.e., a basic service). Indeed, when most people accessed the web through phone wires with a dial-up modem, the agency did categorize phone lines as a telecommunications service--because it regarded all phone lines that way.

January 23, 2014

$375,000 a year in New York City? Bankrupt, not middle class.


How far does $375,000 a year go in New York City? Strip out estimated income taxes ($7,500 a month), domestic support ($10,517), insurance ($2,311), a mandatory contribution to his retirement plan ($5,900), and routine expenses for rent ($2,460 a month) transportation ($550) and food ($650) and Mr. Owens estimated that he was running a small monthly deficit of $52, according to his bankruptcy petition. He has gone back to court to get some relief from his divorce settlement, so far without any success.

Continue reading "$375,000 a year in New York City? Bankrupt, not middle class." »

October 23, 2013

Chase vs Schneiderman: Why have no top Wall Street executives have been charged criminally for risky acts

Why have no top Wall Street executives have been charged criminally for the risky acts that triggered the crisis. The government also prefers to settle with big companies rather indict them, fearing that criminal charges could unnerve the broader economy.

The government investigations into JPMorgan, which focus on securities the bank sold from 2005 to 2007, raised questions about whether JPMorgan had failed to fully warn investors about the risks of the deals.

One of the largest pieces of the $13 billion deal could come from a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The agency sued JPMorgan over loans it had sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage finance companies.

The settlement would also resolve a case related to Bear Stearns, the people briefed on the matter said, a lawsuit that has pitted the New York attorney general against JPMorgan.

Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, sued JPMorgan last October, saying Bear Stearns and its lending unit, EMC Mortgage, had duped investors who bought mortgage securities assembled by the companies from 2005 through 2007. Through a deal backstopped by the government, JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns in 2008.

Mr. Dimon has called the lawsuit unfair, arguing that JPMorgan should not be penalized for buying Bear Stearns.

Yet JPMorgan's board, faced with regulatory problems, one more vexing than the next, is eager to strike a conciliatory stance. Toward that end, the bank's board approved the payment of about $1 billion in fines to government authorities so it could resolve investigations into the trading loss in London and an inquiry into the bank's credit card products.

July 1, 2013

Prosecutors' fallacy sampling and odds


To see why, suppose that police pick up a suspect and match his or her DNA to evidence collected at a crime scene. Suppose that the likelihood of a match, purely by chance, is only 1 in 10,000. Is this also the chance that they are innocent? It's easy to make this leap, but you shouldn't.

Here's why. Suppose the city in which the person lives has 500,000 adult inhabitants. Given the 1 in 10,000 likelihood of a random DNA match, you'd expect that about 50 people in the city would have DNA that also matches the sample. So the suspect is only 1 of 50 people who could have been at the crime scene. Based on the DNA evidence only, the person is almost certainly innocent, not certainly guilty.

This kind of error is so subtle that the untrained human mind doesn't deal with it very well, and worse yet, usually cannot even recognize its own inability to do so. Unfortunately, this leads to serious consequences, as the case of Lucia de Berk illustrates. Worse yet, our strong illusion of certainty in such matters can also lead to the systematic suppression of doubt, another shortcoming of the de Berk case.

Continue reading "Prosecutors' fallacy sampling and odds" »

January 25, 2013

Douthat abortion counter



Ross Douthat abortion counter:

    2013 January

  1. douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/the-liberal-hour

    But a tentative and ambiguous pro-choice trend in public opinion after a long period of pro-life gains does not mean that liberals have won the abortion wars, especially given that the main policy shift of the Obama era has been an uptick in state-level abortion restriction.

  2. nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/douthat-divided-by-abortion-united-by-feminism.html

    Stereotypes link the anti-abortion cause to traditionalist ideas about gender roles -- to the belief that a woman's place is in the home, or at least that her primary identity should be maternal rather than professional. Writing in the Reagan era, the sociologist Kristin Luker argued that this dimension of the debate trumped the question of whether unborn human life has rights: "While on the surface it is the embryo's fate that seems to be at stake, the abortion debate is actually about the meaning of women's lives."

October 29, 2012

Smartphone apps as bugs

Angry Birds, the top-selling paid mobile app for the iPhone in the United States and Europe, has been downloaded more than a billion times by devoted game players around the world, who often spend hours slinging squawking fowl at groups of egg-stealing pigs.

While regular players are familiar with the particular destructive qualities of certain of these birds, many are unaware of one facet: The game possesses a ravenous ability to collect personal information on its users.

When Jason Hong, an associate professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, surveyed 40 users, all but two were unaware that the game was storing their locations so that they could later be the targets of ads.

"When I am giving a talk about this, some people will pull out their smartphones while I am still speaking and erase the game," Mr. Hong, an expert in mobile application privacy, said during an interview. "Generally, most people are simply unaware of what is going on."

What is going on, according to experts, is that applications like Angry Birds and even more innocuous-seeming software, like that which turns your phone into a flashlight, defines words or delivers Bible quotes, are also collecting personal information, usually the user's location and sex and the unique identification number of a smartphone. But in some cases, they cull information from contact lists and pictures from photo libraries.


Data-Gathering via Apps Presents a Gray Legal Area
The data collection practices of app makers are loosely regulated, but the European Union is working on proposals to get explicit consent from consumers to cull their personal information.

Continue reading "Smartphone apps as bugs" »

October 16, 2012

Supreme Count decision on Obamacare: But wait, there's more


The CNN and Fox producers are scanning the syllabus. Eight lines from the bottom of page 2, they see the following language: "Chief Justice Roberts concluded in Part III-A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause." They immediately and correctly recognize that sentence as fantastically important. The individual mandate is the heart of the statute, and it is clear that the Court has rejected the Administration's principal theory - indeed the only theory that was discussed at great length in the oral arguments and debated by commentators.

Into his conference call, the CNN producer says (correctly) that the Court has held that the individual mandate cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and (incorrectly) that it therefore "looks like" the mandate has been struck down. The control room asks whether they can "go with" it, and after a pause, he says yes.

The Fox producer reads the syllabus exactly the same way, and reports that the mandate has been invalidated. Asked to confirm that the mandate has been struck down, he responds: "100%."

The Bloomberg team finishes its review, having read the Commerce Clause holding and then turned the page to see that the Court accepted the government's alternative argument that the individual mandate is constitutional under Congress's tax power. At 10:07:32 - 52 seconds after the Chief Justice began speaking - Bloomberg issues an alert: "OBAMA'S HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL UPHELD BY U.S.SUPREME COURT." Bloomberg is first, and it is right.

Continue reading "Supreme Count decision on Obamacare: But wait, there's more" »

September 9, 2012

Uber #2


Taxi officials say that Uber's service may not be legal since city rules do not allow for prearranged rides in yellow taxis. They also forbid cabbies from using electronic devices while driving and prohibit any unjustified refusal of fares. (Under Uber's policy, once a driver accepts a ride through the app, no other passenger can be picked up.)

Cabbies using the Uber app receive a smartphone loaded with its technology, which tries to predict areas where rides are in high demand. The driver nearest to a requested pickup location receives a notification and is given 15 seconds to respond.

Travis Kalanick, Uber's chief executive, rejected criticisms that the service violated city rules against prearranged yellow-taxi rides. "Prearrangement means it's basically on behalf of a base," he said in an interview. "We're not working with a base."

David S. Yassky, the chairman of the commission, said only that the city had "led the country in terms of putting new technology to work for riders" and noted that the commission was currently requesting proposals for a smartphone-based payment system.

At the meeting, officials raised concerns about a regulatory issue that would prevent Uber from processing credit cards for taxi rides, according to Mr. Kalanick.

Mr. Kalanick said he had agreed to make the app's new services available for no charge for the next week, so that riders could "get a taste of the future," while the two sides try to resolve the regulatory concerns.

Uber is one of several start-ups, like Taxi Magic and GetTaxi, trying to profit by connecting drivers and passengers more efficiently. Another company, Hailo, said it had already registered 2,500 drivers to use a similar service that it planned to unveil in the coming weeks.

Continue reading "Uber #2" »

July 2, 2012

Computers are speaking


In today's world, we have delegated many of our daily decisions to computers. On the drive to work, a GPS device suggests the best route; at your desk, Microsoft Word guesses at your misspellings, and Facebook recommends new friends. In the past few years, the suggestion has been made that when computers make such choices they are "speaking," and enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

The argument that machines speak was first made in the context of Internet search. In 2003, in a civil suit brought by a firm dissatisfied with the ranking of Google's search results, Google asserted that its search results were constitutionally protected speech. (In an unpublished opinion, the court ruled in Google's favor.) And this year, facing increasing federal scrutiny, Google commissioned Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, to draft a much broader and more elaborate version of the same argument. As Professor Volokh declares in his paper: "Google, Microsoft's Bing, Yahoo! Search, and other search engines are speakers."


-- Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia, is the author of "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires."

Continue reading "Computers are speaking" »

May 27, 2012

Facebook IPO aftermath $FB


Zuckerberg's torture-by-attorney didn't start in the past twenty-four hours, when law firms in New York and California initiated the first of what is sure to be a slew of lawsuits related to last week's controversial I.P.O. Ever since February, when Facebook filed its initial investment prospectus, the youthful C.E.O. has had to check with his own lawyers before saying virtually anything publicly--a requirement imposed as part of the S.E.C.'s pre-I.P.O. "quiet period," which applies to any company preparing to issue stock.

Continue reading "Facebook IPO aftermath $FB" »

May 26, 2012

Six degrees of meeting the definition of "employee"


The definition of "employee" under the Fair Labor Standards Act is quite broad, and it covers many unpaid interns. Only unpaid internships that build skill and meet the Department of Labor's six-part test are exempt from minimum-wage laws.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

May 9, 2012

Rogue HOA in Las Vegas

When a new development was nearing completion, the group would buy a couple of units in the community and then transfer partial ownership of the condos to individuals secretly on its payroll, according to court documents. While pretending to be residents of the communities, these "straw buyers" would run for leadership positions on boards of the new homeowner associations.

By paying off community managers, hiring private investigators to find dirt on legitimate candidates and rigging elections, the documents allege, the straw buyers were able to infiltrate boards at several new developments in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2008. Once in control of the boards, the straw buyers would then use their governing positions to steer millions of dollars in construction and legal fees back to their co-conspirators. Targets included the Chateau Nouveau, Chateau Versailles, Park Avenue, Palmilla Townhomes, Jasmine, Pebble Creek, Mission Ridge, Mission Pointe, Horizons at Seven Hills, Sunset Cliffs and the Vistana.

-- Felix Gillette, Businessweek

Continue reading "Rogue HOA in Las Vegas" »

April 3, 2012

Local police track cel phones, or track people via their cel phones


The practice of local police tracking cel phones has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of "surveillance fees" to police departments to determine a suspect's location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.

In cities in Nevada, North Carolina and other states, police departments have gotten wireless carriers to track cellphone signals back to cell towers as part of nonemergency investigations to identify all the callers using a particular tower, records show.

In California, state prosecutors advised local police departments on ways to get carriers to "clone" a phone and download text messages while it is turned off.

In Ogden, Utah, when the Sheriff's Department wants information on a cellphone, it leaves it up to the carrier to determine what the sheriff must provide. "Some companies ask that when we have time to do so, we obtain court approval for the tracking request," the Sheriff's Department said in a written response to the A.C.L.U.

And in Arizona, even small police departments found cell surveillance so valuable that they acquired their own tracking equipment to avoid the time and expense of having the phone companies carry out the operations for them. The police in the town of Gilbert, for one, spent $244,000 on such equipment.

Cell carriers, staffed with special law enforcement liaison teams, charge police departments from a few hundred dollars for locating a phone to more than $2,200 for a full-scale wiretap of a suspect, records show.

Continue reading "Local police track cel phones, or track people via their cel phones" »

November 24, 2011

Three types of leadership: humane authority, hegemony and tyranny.


According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Xunzi, there were three types of leadership: humane authority, hegemony and tyranny. Humane authority won the hearts and minds of the people at home and abroad. Tyranny -- based on military force -- inevitably created enemies. Hegemonic powers lay in between: they did not cheat the people at home or cheat allies abroad. But they were frequently indifferent to moral concerns and often used violence against non-allies. The philosophers generally agreed that humane authority would win in any competition with hegemony or tyranny.

In other countries, China must display humane authority in order to compete with the United States, which remains the world's pre-eminent hegemonic power. Military strength underpins hegemony and helps to explain why the United States has so many allies. President Obama has made strategic mistakes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but his actions also demonstrate that Washington is capable of leading three foreign wars simultaneously. By contrast, China's army has not been involved in any war since 1984, with Vietnam, and very few of its high-ranking officers, let alone its soldiers, have any battlefield experience.

Continue reading "Three types of leadership: humane authority, hegemony and tyranny." »

November 6, 2011

Modern Love


"I have seen women in great positions of authority who make assumptions that the women who work for them are their friends," she said. "They share intimate information with them -- their marital relations, their sex lives, whether they think the delivery guy is hot. They go shopping with them, they go into the dressing room with them. These women, in their mind, are exempted because they consider it a friendship. But it is bad boundaries."

Fran A. Sepler, president of Sepler & Associates, a Minneapolis firm that investigates harassment claims on behalf of employers, says she has examined about a dozen cases in recent years involving women harassing women. Often the situations are not explicitly sexual, she said.

Continue reading "Modern Love" »

July 19, 2011

Value of law school


From 1989 to 2009, when college tuition rose by 71 percent, law school tuition shot up 317 percent.

There are many reasons for this ever-climbing sticker price, but the most bizarre comes courtesy of the highly influential US News rankings. Part of the US News algorithm is a figure called expenditures per student, which is essentially the sum that a school spends on teacher salaries, libraries and other education expenses, divided by the number of students.

Though it accounts for just 9.75 percent of the algorithm, it gives law schools a strong incentive to keep prices high. Forget about looking for cost efficiencies. The more that law schools charge their students, and the more they spend to educate them, the better they fare in the US News rankings.

"I once joked with my dean that there is a certain amount of money that we could drag into the middle of the school's quadrangle and burn," said John F. Duffy, a George Washington School of Law professor, "and when the flames died down, we'd be a Top 10 school. As long as the point of the bonfire was to teach our students. Perhaps what we could teach them is the idiocy in the US News rankings."

For years, it made economic sense for smart, ambitious 22-year-olds to pay the escalating price for a legal diploma. Law schools have had a monopolist's hold on the keys to corporate lawyerdom, which pays graduates six-figure salaries.

But borrowing $150,000 or more is now a vastly riskier proposition given the scarcity of Big Law jobs. Of course, that scarcity hasn't been priced into the cost of law school. How come? In part, it's because schools have managed to convey the impression that those jobs aren't very scarce.

For instance, although N.Y.L.S. is ranked No. 135 out of the roughly 200 schools in the US News survey, it asserts in figures provided to the publisher that nine months after graduation, the median private-sector salary of alums who graduated in 2009 -- which is the class featured in the most recent US News annual law school issue -- was $160,000. That is exactly the same figure cited by Yale and Harvard, the top law schools in the country.

Continue reading "Value of law school" »

July 5, 2011

Justice for professional class includes a home in the Hamptons


Is the judiciary a middle class vocation ?

Indeed, in a series of interviews, judges acknowledged that it could be difficult to make the case for a judicial pay raise in hard economic times. Justices of New York's highest-level trial court, the State Supreme Court, make $136,700. The chief judge of the state makes $156,000. Across the country, "there is a devaluing of the job that judges do," so there is little pressure to pay them well, said Seth S. Andersen, the executive director of the American Judicature Society in Des Moines, which studies and evaluates judicial systems.

Current and former judges described the pressures they felt in fending off offers and trying to pay for mortgages and tuition bills. Mr. Spolzino, 52, said he had expected that he would remain until retirement, as judges did in the past. "It's very heady when you walk into a room and everybody rises, people laugh at your jokes," he said.

Emily Jane Goodman, a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan, said the practical effect of her stalled pay was that she had to sell a summer home in the Hamptons and was having trouble paying for increasing fees on her two-bedroom apartment in the city.

"Here I am," Appellate Division on Madison Avenue, Justice McGuire said, "in a position where I'm working to achieve justice for other people and I don't feel that I'm experiencing justice."


"I tormented myself for the longest period of time about whether I should go, because I love the work," he said. "And then I realized, 'I've got no choice. The only responsible thing for my family is to go.' " Justice McGuire, 57, has two children, ages 5 and 3.

Continue reading "Justice for professional class includes a home in the Hamptons" »

April 17, 2011

A study that is statistically significant


"A study that is statistically significant has results that are unlikely
to be the result of random error . . . ." Federal Judicial Center, Refer­
ence Manual on Scientific Evidence 354 (2d ed. 2000). To test for
significance, a researcher develops a "null hypothesis"--e.g., the asser­
tion that there is no relationship between Zicam use and anosmia. See
id., at 122. The researcher then calculates the probability of obtaining
the observed data (or more extreme data) if the null hypothesis is true
(called the p-value). Ibid. Small p-values are evidence that the null
hypothesis is incorrect. See ibid. Finally, the researcher compares the
p-value to a preselected value called the significance level. Id., at 123.
If the p-value is below the preselected value, the difference is deemed
"significant." Id., at 124.

..

For the reasons just stated, the mere existence of
reports of adverse events--which says nothing in and of
itself about whether the drug is causing the adverse
events--will not satisfy this standard. Something more is
needed, but that something more is not limited to statisti­
cal significance and can come from "the source, content,
and context of the reports," supra, at 15. This contextual
inquiry may reveal in some cases that reasonable inves­
tors would have viewed reports of adverse events as mate­
rial even though the reports did not provide statistically
significant evidence of a causal link.

-- supremecourt.gov/opinions 09-1156

Continue reading "A study that is statistically significant " »

January 10, 2011

Law school rankings: misleading ?


Professor William Henderson of Indiana University and his allies. But he contends that law schools -- which, let's not forget, require students to take courses on disclosure and ethics -- have a special moral obligation to tell the truth about themselves. It's an obligation that persists, he says, even if students would sign on the dotted line no matter what.


Certain definitions in the surveys seem open to abuse. A person is employed after nine months, for instance, if he or she is working on Feb. 15. This is the most competitive category -- it counts for about one-seventh of the U.S. News ranking -- and in the upper echelons, it's not unusual to see claims of 99 percent and, in a handful of cases, 100 percent employment rates at nine months.

A number of law schools hire their own graduates, some in hourly temp jobs that, as it turns out, coincide with the magical date. Last year, for instance, Georgetown Law sent an e-mail to alums who were "still seeking employment." It announced three newly created jobs in admissions, paying $20 an hour. The jobs just happened to start on Feb. 1 and lasted six weeks.

BUSINESS DAY
Is Law School a Losing Game?
By DAVID SEGAL
Published: January 8, 2011
Law schools' rosy statistics say most graduates are working. The problem is, many aren't working as lawyers, or making enough to pay back their student loans.

Continue reading "Law school rankings: misleading ?" »

December 27, 2010

Intellectual capture of regulators


What one might call intellectual capture. While I would strongly argue that the FSA in my day did not favor firms unduly, it is perhaps true that we--and in this we were exactly like our American counterparts--were inclined to believe that markets were generally efficient. If willing buyers and willing sellers were trading claims happily, then, as long as they were "professional" investors, there was no legitimate reason to interfere in their markets. These people were "consenting adults in private," and the state should avert its gaze.
We now know that some of these market emperors had no clothes--and that their activities were far from benign: They could result in severe financial instability and generate serious losses for taxpayers, not to mention precipitate a global recession. That has been a grave lesson for regulators and central banks.

-- Howard Davies, former chairman of Britain's Financial Services Authority and a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, is director of the London School of Economics. His latest book is Banking on the Future: The Fall and Rise of Central Banking.

December 18, 2010

Stop order on foreclosure and loan modification package to arrive the next day ?


Catherine Cortez Masto, the attorney general of Nevada said her office's findings were confirmed by interviews with consumers, former employees, third parties and documents. Former employees said that Bank of America's modification staff was "chaotic, understaffed and not oriented to customers," according to a news release. One former employee said, "The main purpose of the training is to teach us how to get customers off the phone in less than 10 minutes."

Another employee said, "When checking on a borrower's status, I often found that the modification request had not been dealt with or was so old that the request had become inactive. Yet, I was instructed to inform borrowers that they were 'active and in status.' One time I complained to a supervisor that I felt I always was lying to borrowers."

The Arizona complaint cites the case of an Apache Junction couple who faced foreclosure. When the wife called the bank, a representative told her 'not to worry,' there was a stop order on the foreclosure and the couple's loan modification package would arrive the next day. The next day the homeowner learned that her house had already been sold, the suit says.

Terry Goddard, attorney general of Arizona, said the lawsuit was filed in part because the bank had violated the terms of a 2009 consent decree that Countrywide Home Loans -- which Bank of America purchased in 2008 -- had engaged in "widespread consumer fraud" in originating and marketing mortgages. As part of the judgment, Countrywide had agreed to create a loan modification program for some Arizona homeowners.

Continue reading "Stop order on foreclosure and loan modification package to arrive the next day ?" »

December 3, 2010

(upper) middle class: assets of $2 million to $15 million, a bracket Ms. Napp described as "the lower end of the high end".


Michelle Pont moved out in the spring of 2009 and filed for divorce. The estranged couple has since spent several hundred thousand dollars on lawyers, accountants and investigators. The judge overseeing the case has warned that the total could exceed $1 million if the two sides cannot reach a compromise.

Ms. Pont said the money from Balance Point would allow her to sustain the case for as long as necessary. Balance Point does not charge interest; instead, clients pay the company a percentage of their winnings.

Lawyers who finance other civil cases generally keep at least a third of the winnings. Ms. Napp said Balance Point required a "substantially smaller" share from clients, though she declined to be more specific.

The company wants to focus on people with marital assets between $2 million and $15 million, a bracket Ms. Napp described as "the lower end of the high end." She said that investing in smaller disputes was not worthwhile. Wealthier people, she said, seemed to resolve divorces more easily -- perhaps because they still felt wealthy in the aftermath. "Anything south of $15 million, when you divide that in half and take out the legal fees, you're not in the same house, you're not taking the same trips -- your life is different," she said. "You can't maintain that same quality of life that you're used to."

Continue reading "(upper) middle class: assets of $2 million to $15 million, a bracket Ms. Napp described as "the lower end of the high end"." »

November 21, 2010

Why not attend school on a student visa ?


Next June, among the thousands of graduates in U.C.L.A.'s class of 2011, around 30 will be undocumented students, including Leslie, Ilse and Andrea. During the commencement ceremony, the women will move their cap tassels from right to left. They will listen to commencement speeches with phrases like "moving forward" and "a new future." They will know that many of the words do not apply to them. "It feels like a slam," Ilse said. "It's not closure for me. It doesn't promote me."

Like Ilse, Leslie will probably move home after her final quarter, losing the protection a university offers, where it is safe to take risks -- to say, "I'm undocumented." Leslie expects to work full time cleaning houses and waitressing. She says she hopes to earn a private scholarship for grad school, which would buy time for the Dream Act to pass, after which she could be employed legally. She'd like to be a social worker or a counselor or a lawyer for a nonprofit. For now, she knows the reality: many undocumented U.C.L.A. graduates are short-order cooks, waitresses, baby-sitters, doing jobs for which they do not need a high-school diploma.

Continue reading "Why not attend school on a student visa ?" »

November 7, 2010

Pay for foreclosure defense with a second mortgage ?

Foreclosure defense is a new legal specialty whose strategies and techniques are still being worked out. Mr. Ticktin, who has some 3,000 foreclosure clients, says his plan to collect fees by taking another mortgage on his clients' properties has already been copied by other firms.

The Ticktin mortgages resemble the loans that the clients originally got from Countrywide, GMAC and other lenders. Each will be a contractual obligation with the law firm, labeled as a mortgage and structured like one, too, with the client paying a certain sum every month and using the house as collateral.

Unconventional payment structures are becoming popular in the foreclosure hotbed of Florida. Whether they yet have caught on elsewhere is unclear. Certainly, Mr. Ticktin is far from the only lawyer being forced to innovate.

"We can put in $100,000 of our time but over the length of a case be paid only $6,000 in monthly fees," said Thomas E. Ice of Ice Legal in Royal Palm Beach.

Mr. Ice, Mr. Ticktin and many other Florida foreclosure lawyers typically receive a few hundred dollars a month from each client. To supplement that, they seek legal fees from the banks they successfully challenge as well as contingency fees.

Contingency fees are standard in cases in which the client has little money but there is the possibility of a large payout. A slip and fall on a store's wet floor or a medical malpractice claim are classic contingency cases. If the plaintiff wins, insurance companies ultimately foot the bill.

In foreclosure cases, however, the client pays the contingency fee. While such an approach is sometimes used in commercial litigation, this is a first for consumer cases, said Lester Brickman, a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York.

"For a lawyer to supplement or replace the banks as a long-term mortgage creditor of homeowners leaves me a little queasy," said Mr. Brickman, an expert on contingency fees. "It's an invitation for the public to say, 'There go the lawyers again.' "

If the Ticktin lawyers -- there are 19 now and will be two more soon -- cause the original mortgage to be nullified or reduced because of the bank's misdeeds, the client must take out a new mortgage for 40 percent of the savings.

For instance, if the mortgage was $500,000 and is reduced by the bank to $200,000, the client would owe Ticktin 40 percent of $300,000, or $120,000, minus any legal fees paid by the losing bank as well as any monthly sums paid to the law firm.

Clients would be attracted to this arrangement because they might save nearly $200,000 and avoid foreclosure. They can either stay in their house or -- after another legal hurdle -- sell it.

Mr. Ticktin conceded there were potential problems with this "pay later" plan, starting with the uncertainty over whether the clients could and would pay the debt over a period of many years and what Mr. Ticktin's response would be if they did not.

"We would never enforce the mortgage and foreclose," he said. "We're not in that end of the game. We're not money lenders. We're charging a small amount of interest" -- four percent -- "just to make it legal."


Continue reading "Pay for foreclosure defense with a second mortgage ?" »

September 20, 2010

Dangerous Chinese Drywall: sulfur, corrosion, health, ...



Exciting feature of boom-time construction: imported Chinese drywall with health effects,
brings litigation opportunities to depressed communities.


BUSINESS
Drywall Flaws: Owners Gain Limited Relief
By ANDREW MARTIN
Published: September 17, 2010
Even as hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over tainted drywall, which was mostly made in China, most insurance companies have not paid a dime.

July 27, 2010

Supporters of Arizona's immigration law say the Obama administration should be going after local jurisdictions that have proclaimed themselves relatively safe places for illegal immigrants.


Critics of the Obama administration's decision to sue Arizona over its new law to control illegal immigration accuse the government of overlooking a more obvious target: the dozens of cities that called themselves a "sanctuary" for immigrants.

"Everyone has noticed the hypocrisy of the government going after Arizona and ignoring the sanctuary cities," said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "They have it exactly backwards. Arizona is applying federal law, and sanctuary cities are violating it."

Kris Kobach, the Kansas law professor who drafted the Arizona law, said he particularly objected to cities that have a policy of freeing criminals who are illegal immigrants without notifying federal immigration officials. "It's pretty clear they are breaking the law. And they are doing it with impunity," he said.

He pointed to a provision Congress added to the immigration laws in 1996. It says state and local agencies and their officials "may not prohibit or in any way restrict" their employees from "sending" information about a person's immigration status to the agency then known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But Congress did not set a penalty for violations. And since then, neither Republican or Democratic administrations have taken legal action to enforce it, according to government officials and immigration lawyers.

-- David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau
July 25, 2010

Continue reading "Supporters of Arizona's immigration law say the Obama administration should be going after local jurisdictions that have proclaimed themselves relatively safe places for illegal immigrants." »

July 25, 2010

Justice Elena Kagan: a reasonable person pursuing reasonable purposes reasonably ?


The most interesting question about the Kagan nomination remains this: Why did Barack Obama nominate someone with largely unknown legal and political views to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court? Under the circumstances we can do little more than guess, but I would venture that three inter-related factors were crucial. First, Obama himself, as a former president of the Harvard Law Review and University of Chicago law professor, has been immersed in cultural context -- elite legal academia -- which puts a great deal of stock in the belief that being a good Supreme Court justice is largely a matter of technical competence. Legal academia is (quite literally) invested in the idea that being a "good" judge means accepting "good" legal arguments and rejecting "bad" ones, with good and bad defined as the correct and incorrect application of legal rules. This belief is absurd - any case that reaches the Supreme Court can't be resolved merely through the application of legal rules - but its persistence signals how important it still is to American law schools, which remain committed, against all intellectual odds, to maintaining a sharp distinction between "law" and "politics."

Continue reading "Justice Elena Kagan: a reasonable person pursuing reasonable purposes reasonably ?" »

July 13, 2010

Perpetual trusts: The Rising Power of the American Dead


Tax breaks are not the only special advantages that American dynasty trusts provide. Even more troubling, they commonly include a "spendthrift clause," which provides that trust assets cannot be reached by a beneficiary's creditors. If a beneficiary causes a car accident, for example, the victim cannot be compensated with assets from the trust, even if they are the driver's only resources. So beneficiaries are free to behave as recklessly as they like, knowing that their money is forever protected for themselves and their heirs.

Surprisingly, dynasty trusts can also be bad for the beneficiaries themselves. Many wealthy people agree with Andrew Carnegie and Warren Buffett that it is not in their children's best interest for them to be given so much wealth that they don't need to work. Dynasty trusts rob future parents of the ability to decide this for their children, because the ancestor creating the trust is the one who determines how much wealth each generation of his descendants will receive.

What can be done to eliminate these trusts? A state-level solution is unlikely, since all 50 states would need to act in unison. But Congress could fix the problem by limiting the generation-skipping-transfer exemption to trusts that last no longer than two generations. After that, beneficiaries of a trust should be subject to tax, like everyone else. Then America would not have to face the uncontrollable growth of a new aristocracy.

Ray D. Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School, is the author of "Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead."

Continue reading "Perpetual trusts: The Rising Power of the American Dead" »

July 5, 2010

Avertisseur radar "radar warning": Vive le Navx, a la trapster

Navx is a €1m a year French company whose business is speed radar location databases. In France, it is illegal to sell or use selling radar detectors, devices that pick the microwave or laser radiation emitted by speed guns and automated cameras. But providing speed trap location data is lawful. In fact, the French Interior Ministry maintains a public database for fixed radars. And companies such as Navx, or various GPS makers supply location information for mobile radars.


-- Frédéric Filloux

June 19, 2010

Tracking federal financial reform


Updated tables tracking federal financial reform.

Continue reading "Tracking federal financial reform" »

June 17, 2010

What do scalpers sell ?


For brokers and others who favor a free secondary market for tickets, these concerns cut to the philosophical heart of the issue: Is a ticket a commodity that can be freely exchanged, like a stock, or is it a license granted by a theater, a sports team or an artist that can be used or revoked on their terms?

Continue reading "What do scalpers sell ?" »

May 21, 2010

Cass Sunstein, blog leader

Junior Minister for 4Chan ?


Sunstein had, during his academic career, a penchant for publishing trial balloons -- they were a necessary part of his inquiry, a perpetual what if? Now, with their author a government official, some of these conjectures seem more worrisome. Sunstein has, for example, written often about the corrosive effects of rumors and falsehoods on democratic discourse (it is the subject of one of the two books that were published while he was waiting to be confirmed last year), and in a 2008 paper, he proposed that government agents "cognitively infiltrate" chat rooms and message boards to try to debunk conspiracy theories before they spread. The paper was narrowly concerned with terrorism, but to some, these were dark musings. The liberal essayist Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, called the proposal "spine-chilling."

Continue reading "Cass Sunstein, blog leader" »

April 17, 2010

How to argue: opposing the government and powerful business to interests to 'help the financial productivity of the state'.


And after students at a state-financed law school clinic at Rutgers University in New Jersey sued to stop a developer's plans for a strip mall in Franklin Township, the developer filed suit against the clinic under the open-records law seeking copies of internal documents, saying he planned to expose how the clinic used taxpayer money to discourage investment in the state.

Back in Maryland, Rena Steinzor, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a former director of the environmental law clinic there, rejected the idea that law clinics in her state or elsewhere were trying to harm industry. "The clinics represent people or groups that can't otherwise afford lawyers and by definition, this work often puts the clinics on the opposite side of the government or powerful interests," she said.

"If Maryland has a clean environment, a fair legal system and an unpolluted bay," she added, "doesn't that help the financial productivity of the state?"

Continue reading "How to argue: opposing the government and powerful business to interests to 'help the financial productivity of the state'." »

April 5, 2010

Bankruptcy filing as a prototype mortgage cramdown


At the heart of the existing process is a strategic choice between liquidation under Chapter 7 or rehabilitation under Chapter 13. Under Chapter 7, households give up all of their nonessential assets (as determined by the law of the state where they live), but pay nothing out of any future income to clear their debts; those debts are simply erased. Under Chapter 13, households make payments out of future income, but are more likely to retain their homes and automobiles.

The 2005 reforms, driven by an exaggerated concern that debtors might game the system, instituted a series of paper-intensive procedural safeguards. All debtors must produce documents that estimate potential increases in expenses or income during the year to come, a monthly net income statement and a complex "means test calculation" that certifies expenditures in a large number of specific, carefully defined categories.

the bankruptcy system was doing its job, the mortgage-driven financial crisis should then have led to a sharp increase in filings under Chapter 13. Homeowners unable to keep up with their mortgages should have been able to file for relief under Chapter 13, resolve their problems and move on with their lives. Yet the share of Chapter 13 filings fell in 2009 to only 28 percent of all filings, from 42 percent in 2006.

That's another perverse result of the 2005 reforms: Chapter 13 does not let people avert foreclosure by paying the actual value of their homes, even when their bubble-era mortgages far exceed realistic market prices. In fact, a "special rule" for home mortgages allows lenders to prevent normal bankruptcy relief for borrowers. Thus, the reforms created a system that makes it harder to file for Chapter 7 while doing nothing to make Chapter 13, once the savior of homeowners, useful in this sort of mortgage crisis.

Continue reading "Bankruptcy filing as a prototype mortgage cramdown" »

January 13, 2010

To prevent fraud EU pays by planted rather than the tons produced.

Calabria, like other southern Italian regions rich in agriculture, has long benefited from hefty European Union agricultural subsidies. To prevent fraud in which small acreage yielded puzzlingly large harvests, in 2007 the European Union changed its rules to base subsidies on the number of hectares planted rather than the tons produced.

The result, some authorities hypothesize, is that it may be more lucrative for some Calabrian landowners to let their harvests rot on the tree and collect the subsidies than to pay pickers. In theory, the migrants may have become less useful and, possibly, less tolerated.



Still, the violence was dramatic. After immigrants struck residents and shops with sticks and burned and smashed cars, residents began responding with violence. By late Saturday night, most immigrants feared for their safety and voluntarily boarded buses and trains that took them to immigrant detention centers elsewhere in southern Italy, Rosarno authorities said.

Continue reading "To prevent fraud EU pays by planted rather than the tons produced. " »

December 5, 2009

Police Tapped Sprint Customer GPS Data 8 Million Times In A Year

Under a new system set up by Sprint, law enforcement agencies have gotten GPS data from the company about its wireless customers 8 million times in about a year, raising a host of questions about consumer privacy, transparency, and oversight of how police obtain location data.

What this means -- and what many wireless customers no doubt do not realize -- is that with a few keystrokes, police can determine in real time the location of a cell phone user through automated systems set up by the phone companies.

And while a Sprint spokesman told us customers can shield themselves from surveillance by simply switching off the GPS function of their phones, one expert told TPM that the company and other carriers almost certainly have the power to remotely switch the function back on.

To be clear, you can think of there being two types of GPS (global positioning system). One is the handy software on your mobile device that tells you where you are and helps give driving directions. But there's also GPS capability in all cell phones sold today, required by a federal regulation so if you dial 911 from an unknown location, authorities can find you.



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October 21, 2009

Surveillance 'totally unwarranted'

Suspected of sending children to an out-of-distrct school, state collected a surveillance report and the family's telephone billing records.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're within their rights to scrutinize all applications, but the way they went about it was totally unwarranted.

Continue reading "Surveillance 'totally unwarranted'" »

July 6, 2009

Sales tax clampdown on internet merchant

The shots heard 'round the web: Amazon.com has closed its internet associate programs in Hawaii, North Carolina and Rhode Island after the states enacted laws requiring out-of-state internet vendors to collect sales taxes.

-- By Jeff Segal, Considered view, 01 Jul 2009

Continue reading "Sales tax clampdown on internet merchant" »

May 30, 2009

Unamerican names part 3

Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.

Mark Krikorian, Center for Immigration Studies blogs on the Corner

April 19, 2009

Big Law 1, vs in-house counsel 0 ?

Are in house counsels the miniballers of law ?

Many in-house attorneys that I have met lead nice little simple lives. They shop at discount outlets for clothes and drive Volvos or low end luxury cars. I wouldn't call that the life of a big dog. The simple truth is most in-house attorneys could not handle the demands of working at a peer firm. The ones that worked at peer firms, burned out easily and escaped to the havens of in-house counseldom. A low six figure salary and some stock options. Very pitiful indeed. You better pray that you don't fall victim to the economic tsunami as I see very limited future employment opportunities for you. As a tip, you better dip yourself in sour mustard so that the big rodents won't eat you first.

Continue reading "Big Law 1, vs in-house counsel 0 ?" »

March 4, 2009

Thailand overcomes migrants

In one case last month, the reports say, 410 Rohingya migrants were taken out to sea on a Thai Navy vessel and forced onto an open barge with just four barrels of water and two sacks of rice.

Four people were thrown overboard with their hands and feet tied as a way to encourage the others to board the barge, according to the reports.

After drifting for two weeks, about 100 of the migrants were rescued on the Andaman Islands, which are administered by India. About 300 remain missing after trying to swim to shore, according to several reports from the news media and human rights groups.

In a second case soon afterward, 580 people were reportedly seized off the Thai coast on three overcrowded fishing boats. These were towed back out to sea after their engines were removed, said Chris Lewa, an expert on Rohingya issues who runs a private human rights group called the Arakan Project.

Continue reading "Thailand overcomes migrants" »

January 11, 2009

Federal prosecutors, judges 'bored' by working on federal law

Strange story planted in the NYT on the travesty of federal employees having to work on federal matters

Federal prosecutions of immigration crimes nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, reaching more than 70,000 immigration cases in the 2008 fiscal year, according to federal data compiled by a Syracuse University research group. The emphasis, many federal judges and prosecutors say, has siphoned resources from other crimes, eroded morale among federal lawyers and overloaded the federal court system. Many of those other crimes, including gun trafficking, organized crime and the increasingly violent drug trade, are now routinely referred to state and county officials, who say they often lack the finances or authority to prosecute them effectively.

Push on Immigration Crimes Is Said to Shift Focus
By SOLOMON MOORE
Published: January 12, 2009
Federal judges and prosecutors say immigration cases are overloading the court system and eroding morale.

Continue reading "Federal prosecutors, judges 'bored' by working on federal law" »

December 31, 2008

A Better Oakland stands up to Jean Quan

Commenters propose a succession from Oakland to form the city of "Piedmontclairidge" consisting of Piedmont, Montclair, and Rockridge. We suggest a Liz Krueger style campaign.

Staff from the City Attorney's office then reiterated that the Committee was not being asked to adopt ordinances the homeless advocates were objecting to as unconstitutional, but rather to allow an option of a reduced charge for existing ordinances, and emphasized the broad community support for the program. Jean Quan asked a bunch of clarifying questions, in response to which we learned, again, that adopting the item in question would not introduce a new ordinance, nor would it necessarily change the level of citation for violating the ordinance, but would simply give the prosecutors discretion to charge these crimes either as a misdemeanor (which they are currently) or now as an infraction, as they deem appropriate.

Up to this point, the discussion was fine. Sure, we heard the same thing over and over again, and sometimes after a long day, that can get pretty tiring. But in general, I don't mind. I much prefer that the Council be extremely clear on what they're voting on than they just push things through in a hurry.

Then, the whole thing just collapsed. Jean Quan, totally randomly, started talking about the County's alcohol detention center. She's bothered that the Oakland police don't take more people there, and doesn't see how approving this would do anything to get more Oakland residents into the center. You know, I don't see how the Committee approving the ordinance is going to do anything to make the sidewalks downtown less treacherous to my heels, but I didn't feel the need to march down to City Hall and protest it because of that.

She received a very polite response explaining that first, someone passed out in the street from alcohol needs to go to a hospital, not a detention center, and that two, the center is for people who want to go there willingly for treatment, and it's not something you can force people to do.

Jean Quan then asked if the proposal had been presented to Project Reconnect, and got yet another response from the attorney's office explaining that the proposal was not about homelessness at all. Quan responded that in order for the misdemeanor prosecutions to be successful, we need cooperation of homeless advocacy organizations to create restorative justice programs for them. She suggested delaying the item for a month, and said they should, in the meantime, meet with a coalition of homeless advocates to give their input about how to craft a restorative justice program for homeless people who can't pay their tickets.

December 25, 2008

Lessig for publicly funded election campaigns

Lessig argues for publicly funded election campaigns.

Without suspicion of lobbyists and campaign contributions motivating legislators,
the public would suspect stupidity, not corruption, as the causal mechanism in law.

Lessig_venality.png

Continue reading "Lessig for publicly funded election campaigns" »

December 19, 2008

Larry Ribstein, private partnerships have been used as alternatives to solving sticky problems of corporate management

University of Illinois law professor Larry Ribstein has been a pioneer in the study of how private partnerships have been used as alternatives to solving sticky problems of corporate management.

Much of his work has centered on the problem of aligning managers' and owners' interests. He notes that the private partnership model popular in the private equity world might be very useful for Goldman here.

Continue reading "Larry Ribstein, private partnerships have been used as alternatives to solving sticky problems of corporate management" »

November 29, 2008

Traditionally, the yakuza have run protection rackets, as well as gambling, sex and other businesses

The Dojinkai is one of the country's 22 crime syndicates, employing some 85,000 members and recognized by the government.

Traditionally, the yakuza have run protection rackets, as well as gambling, sex and other businesses that the authorities believed were a necessary part of any society. By letting the yakuza operate relatively freely, the authorities were able to keep an extremely close watch on them.

Continue reading "Traditionally, the yakuza have run protection rackets, as well as gambling, sex and other businesses" »

November 27, 2008

Voting: more than Yea or Nay

It can be daunting for a first-timer. When a facilitator calls for consensus, members hold up cards to signify their positions on an issue. (1) Green means the holder agrees with the decision; (2) blue means he or she is neutral; (3) yellow, is unsure or unclear; orange, has serious reservations but will not block consensus; and (4) red, will block consensus. The group recently added a (5) white card to signify "I'm not up to speed on this issue because I didn't do my homework."

The revealing voting of co-housing in Brooklyn.

Continue reading "Voting: more than Yea or Nay" »

November 10, 2008

Telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties

Alert: The muchly annoying robo calls are under investigation.

This is the second warning that the factory warranty on your vehicle has expired.

ATTORNEYS GENERAL in several states are investigating what they suspect are telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties, often by calling cellphones or numbers that are listed on do-not-call registries.

The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said his office had received "a huge number of complaints -- hundreds of complaints." Connecticut is part of a large, multistate investigation into such calls, he said.

Another of those states is Iowa. "They are trying to trick you into believing that the communication is coming from the auto manufacturer and that your warranty is about to expire and you need to do something to extend that warranty," said William L. Brauch, a special assistant attorney general and director of the consumer protection division in Iowa.

But automakers are not behind the policies, Mr. Brauch said, and after purchasing such a policy it may be difficult if not impossible to get reimbursed for a repair.

"A number of these companies tend to routinely deny paying, they come up with various interpretations, shall we say, of the agreements, which they say justify them not covering whatever the ...

Fill story after the jump

See also: Amazon Prime $79 Refund class action suit.

Continue reading "Telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties" »

August 14, 2008

Foreign oil speculator outrages Toronto cyclists

In the past, Igor Kenk has said that he was accumulating bicycles in preparation for a severe oil shortage. But in a somewhat disjointed interview in July for a radio documentary, portions of which were published by The Globe and Mail, a Toronto daily newspaper, Mr. Kenk portrayed himself as a crusader against theft and a protector of cast-off bicycles.

Mr. Kenk holds a passport from Slovenia and has claimed he was a police officer and a former K.G.B. agent. He has shed little light since his arrest. After one court session, he told reporters, "I'm a dead man."

22canada2.190.jpg

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June 30, 2008

Ethics column done right

One of this country's greatest achievements is its separation
of legality from morality, so that individuals can hold themselves
to a higher standard, as they see it, without forcing it on
everyone else.

-- Slate's William Saletan sets the bar higher than the NYT's 'ethicist'.

June 16, 2008

What do you want out of law school ?

What do you want out of law school ? Lawyers !
When do we want them ? Now !

A more refective take on the attorney factory.
[Via lawandletters]

September 3, 2007

False pretenses of unethical social research

In 1970, Laud Humphreys published the groundbreaking dissertation
he wrote as a doctoral candidate at Washington University called
“Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places.” Because of his
unorthodox methods — he did not get his subjects’ consent, he
tracked down names and addresses through license plate numbers,
he interviewed the men in their homes in disguise and under false
pretenses — “Tearoom Trade” is now taught as a primary example
of unethical social research.

Continue reading "False pretenses of unethical social research" »

May 17, 2007

Temporary Attorney

temporaryattorney: life after graduating from a tier III law school.
Document Review rate sheet.

May 11, 2007

Amazon Prime $79 Refund class action suit

Amazon Prime automatically charged customers $79
for Amazon Prime Club free shipping.

Stay tuned for the AMZ*Prime Club $79 Refund class action suit.

Continue reading "Amazon Prime $79 Refund class action suit" »

April 13, 2007

Shareholders do not own the corporation

Shareholders lack most of the incidents of ownership, which we might
define as the rights to possess, use, and manage corporate assets, and
the rights to corporate income and assets.

Stephen Bainbridge

January 13, 2007

Freeper homosexualagenda

Freeper's homosexualagenda is a (inadvertently) great source for queer news.

December 31, 2006

Unbanked and illegal

Many of the immigrants surveyed said they lacked the
identification papers needed to open bank accounts,
while others said they shunned banks because of
hidden fees and the large penalties for bounced
checks. Some immigrants said that banks’ hours
and locations were inconvenient and some said
they could not wait for a week for their paychecks
to clear.

...

Since November, New Labor has provided cards to
200 immigrant members, including some who are
here illegally. Three other centers — in Hempstead,
N.Y., Chicago and Los Angeles — have begun
offering the cards as well, and organizers say they
hope to make them available to tens of thousands
of immigrants at 140 worker centers nationwide
within the next few years.

-- STEVEN GREENHOUSE, NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.

Continue reading "Unbanked and illegal" »

October 3, 2006

NY traffic lawyer for speeding tickets

I was not speeding: traffic lawyers and ticket fixers in NY and NJ:

The National Motorists' Association NY referrals.
--------
Frank Desousa at ticketproblems.com
516-505-7715
also
--------
NotSpeeding.com
fax (877) 742-2268
ph (877)965-3237
Fax them your ticket, they phone back with a free consultation.
--------
NYTraffic Lawyer
A former NYC Traffic Court Judge
NYC speeding tickets a specialty
--------
traffic-summons.com aka Michael Spevack
recommended at SQC
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Speedlaw.net
Casey W. Raskob: has personally lobbied for the 65 mph limit in Albany
and at numerous Traffic Safety Conferences in New York State and
elsewhere. With the National Motorist’s Association he has testified
before the New Jersey State Senate and NY/NJ Port Authority on
motorist’s issues. Self-description; recommended on NE Mini.

September 3, 2006

Strict scrutiny test requires a compelling public interest

Before 1990, the court had generally held that any
government restriction on religion must serve a
compelling public interest in the least burdensome
way — a standard known as the “strict scrutiny” test.

But in one Oregon case dealing with two Native Americans’
sacramental use of peyote, an illegal drug, the majority
concluded that there was nothing unconstitutional
about states expecting citizens to comply with valid,
neutral and generally applicable laws — like those
criminalizing peyote — even if compliance conflicted
with religious beliefs.

Continue reading "Strict scrutiny test requires a compelling public interest " »

June 17, 2006

Law and tax: options dating

Chicago Law faculty finds a link between executive compensation,
performance, governance and tax law.

The purported goal of section 162(m) of the IRC (the provision
that limits deductibility) was to reduce total amounts of
executive compensation.

The problem cases involve the managers deceiving the board,
not the company deceiving the government.

Continue reading "Law and tax: options dating" »

May 6, 2006

Ideoblog busmovie / Larry E. Ribstein

Corporate law and governance are topics of Ideoblog Ribstein. Examples:
Gretchen Morgenson on corporate governance, the state's role in changing corporate contracts.

May 5, 2006

Chicago personal injury lawyer or New York lasik

Chicago personal injury lawyer or New York lasik laser eye surgery are
valuable search words.

So hire a Chicago personal injury lawyer if your New York lasik fails.

Continue reading "Chicago personal injury lawyer or New York lasik " »

April 15, 2006

Rorabacher on illegal aliens

And if illegal aliens were jailed ...

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, dismissed
arguments made by President Bush and business leaders who say the
United States needs a pool of foreign workers. He said businesses
should be more creative in their efforts to find help and suggested
that employers turn to the prison population to fill jobs in agriculture
and elsewhere.


"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "We can do
it without bringing in millions of foreigners."

via Reason Hit and Run.

April 11, 2006

Legal defence of Scooter Libby

Defence attorney team for Scooter Libby has impressive advisors.

March 28, 2006

Tax Attorney vs Federal tax and spend

Ranked by tax attorney or tax CPA ? No.
State by state federal taxing and spending ranked.

Income of out-of-state workers who work via email and
telephone and often have little or no physical contact
with the state.

“The growing practice of multiple states taxing the income
of telecommuters acts as a direct financial disincentive for
employers and employees to use telecommuting.”
-- Tax Attorney

March 27, 2006

Undocumented physician

Undocumented physician, Stephen Brian Turner, doctors immigrants in California.

December 17, 2005

Kenji Yoshino

it is now time for us as a nation to shift the emphasis away from
equality and toward liberty in our debates about identity politics.

Only through such freedom can we live our lives as works in
progress, which is to say, as the complex, changeful and
contradictory creatures that we are.

-- Kenji Yoshino.

Continue reading "Kenji Yoshino" »

December 5, 2005

eSpitzer as a Soprano

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been compared to Tony
Soprano in that, as Stephen W. Stanton has put it, "He breaks the law.
He lies. He intimidates. He makes his own rules, and he gets what
he wants. And yet he remains a very popular guy. "

Houston's Tom Kirkendall and Tech Central Station 1 2.

November 29, 2005

New Palgrave Dictionary: A sneak preview

New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law is previewed
(links to chapter PDFs) at the New Economist.

October 25, 2005

Legislating from the bench

* Any judicial ruling overturning a law is in wrong, that judges
can only decide what a law means not whether or not it is
Constitutional, so that any ruling overturning a previous ruling
that made new law is simply restoring order to the land. That
negating something doesn't bring anything else into existence.

* State legislatures and Congress are the only ones with the
authority to intepret the Constitution and that they also have the
power to change it whenever they choose, without having to resort
to a Constitutional amedment.

[*]

Continue reading "Legislating from the bench" »

October 24, 2005

Dahlia: fans and non-fans

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate-based legal commentator, has her fans and
her detractors.

September 27, 2005

Beldar Law Review

Beldar's legal review.

On Dahlia Lithwick.

On Eliot Spitzer:
Whose job, as he views it, is to use the power of the State of New
York to enforce not "the law per se," but ... well, whatever he
damn well pleases whatever he thinks will get him elected to his next
target
office whatever his keen insight perceives as being
within that broader, unwritten social compact. (Or maybe its
penumbras and eminations.)

September 24, 2005

Chief Justice Roberts

Roberts purports to rock: offers lawyer jokes
and doubts Michael Jackson.

September 5, 2005

Find Articles

findarticles is the poor man's Lexis/Nexis.
Can't find it there ? Try MozBot instead.

August 22, 2005

June was Lane Courtesy month

June was Lane Courtesy month.
Keep right except to pass.
Slower traffic keep right.

It's the law.

Continue reading "June was Lane Courtesy month" »

July 8, 2005

Castle Coalition

Eminent domain, condemnation, expropriation:

“Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
U.S. Constitution, Amendment V

Castle Coalition opposes taking, even with just compensation.

Peter Sprigg thinks marriage if more for public purpose than private purpose.
(Family Research Council at panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania,
February 12, 2004).

July 6, 2005

Police unsure how to enforce squeegee kids law

Vancouver police and the RCMP are not rushing to enforce B.C.'s new
law outlawing aggressive panhandling and squeegeeing, saying it will
take them some time to figure out exactly how they're going to use
it.

"Will there likely be any tickets issued today? Probably not,"
Vancouver police spokesman Const. Howard Chow said Friday. "And it's
not because we don't like the act -- but it's growing pains with any
new legislation coming out. It was just released yesterday."

Chow said the department still needs time to get details about the
Safe Streets Act and its penalties out to its officers on the beat
and to resolve enforcement issues, such as how to issue tickets to
people without a fixed address.

Chad Skelton and Krisendra Bisetty
Vancouver Sun

2005 January 29

Continue reading "Police unsure how to enforce squeegee kids law" »

January 11, 2005

White Collar Crime

Law professors' white collar crime covers the legal issues in business crime.

Continue reading "White Collar Crime" »

December 20, 2004

Overlawyered

Overlawyered chronicles the excesses of litigation, lawsuits,
and regulation. By Walter Olson, intellectual guru of tort reform,
and Ted Frank.

The ethics sections includes an even handed look at pro bono work.
Good to know, even if you don't need a lawyer.

October 25, 2004

Talkleft / Jeralyn Merritt

Talkleft / Jeralyn Merritt thoughtful leftish blog, sometimes about crime.