A reminder from Ken at Popehat: “Every time you hum to yourself, you’re taking bread from the mouths of musicians.”
A “consulting outfit called Open Source Risk Management has partnered with Lloyds of London underwriter Kiln and broker Miller Insurance Services to offer insurance against open-source liability” — that is to say, the risk of getting sued for use or development of open-source software. OSRM chairman Daniel Egger says he was inspired to start the outfit by SCO Holdings’s suits against IBM and other defendants over Unix-derived code: “”What was striking was the amount of uncertainty and fear caused by a relatively weak claim,” Egger said. “Just because they cried wolf doesn’t mean there aren’t wolves out there.” (Marie-Anne Hogarth, “Open-Source Software: Open to Liability”, The Recorder/Law.com, Nov. 15). See Nov. 13, 2004 and Nov. 6, 2003.
Welcome to Blawg Review #33, the latest installment of the weekly carnival assembling some of the best recent weblog posts about law.
If this is your first visit to Overlawyered, we’re among the oldest legal sites (launched in July 1999, practically the Eocene era), and over the years we’ve built a vast collection of information (with links/sources) on strange, excessive and costly legal cases, examples of the over-legalization of everyday life, pointers on litigation reform, policy stuff of generally libertarian leanings, and much more. We’re a fairly high-volume site; 6-8,000 unique visitors on a weekday is pretty typical. And although our work is regularly critical of trends in the legal profession — or maybe because of that fact — practicing lawyers around the world are among our most valued and loyal readers.
More specifically, there are two of us posting here. One of us (Walter Olson) has been writing about these topics for twenty years as the author of several books (The Litigation Explosion, The Excuse Factory, The Rule of Lawyers) and a great many shorter articles. He’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who lives and works in Chappaqua, N.Y., north of New York City. More recently Ted Frank, who’s in Washington with the American Enterprise Institute, joined as a regular blogger. Unlike Walter, Ted is a lawyer, having practiced until lately with O’Melveny & Myers. Both of us also blog at the (somewhat more serious-toned) website Point Of Law, which unlike this one is sponsored by our respective institutes and boasts numerous other contributing writers.
Enough about us. Here’s Blawg Review #33, written by Walter with
indented sections by Ted.
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The week in headlines
The talk of the blawg world last week? The New Yorker’s unmasking of the girlish “Article III Groupie” who’s blogged anonymously about federal judges at “Underneath Their Robes”, as, in fact, a (male) Assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark. Much more on that from Ted, below.
The pace of commentary on Samuel Alito Jr.’s Supreme Court nomination has slowed a good bit, despite the release of a 1985 memo detailing Alito’s views on abortion (which occasioned this post by Will Baude taking exception to a Dahlia Lithwick Slate column) and, more tantalizingly, on the Warren Court’s reapportionment cases (see posts by Nathan Newman and Steve Bainbridge). Alito is now heavily favored among bettors to win confirmation, notes San Diego lawprof Tom Smith.
And the Fifth Circuit is coming back to New Orleans (Tom Kirkendall).
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Splendors and miseries of legal practice
* What makes a talented 39 year old attorney burn out of a criminal defense practice? (Norm Pattis, Crime and Federalism)
* What sorts of squirm-inducing compliments do criminal defense lawyers hear from their clients after scoring legal points on their behalf? (Ken Lammers, CrimLaw)
* Is it smarter for big law firms to compensate their partners on an “eat what you kill” model, a “lockstep” model, or something between the two? (Bruce MacEwen, Adam Smith, Esq.)
* How do licensing professionals decide what’s a reasonable royalty rate? (Patent Baristas)
* What sorts of bad things can happen to a law firm when one of its individual lawyers behaves rudely to a stranger? (Jim Calloway)
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Read, ponder, and make up your own mind:
Did Texas execute an innocent man, Ruben Cantu? (Doug Berman)
Conservatives are still griping about the Ninth Circuit, but the new twist is that they think its judges aren’t activist enough. (Eugene Volokh)
Every so often, through luck or pluck, the “fair use” side manages to win one in copyright litigation (Ron Coleman, Likelihood of Confusion).
A group is “pushing for a ballot referendum that would strip South Dakota judges of their immunity from suit for actions taken in their capacity as judges.” Atlanta attorney Jonathan B. Wilson calls it “one of the worst reform ideas ever”.
Michael Newdow, of Pledge of Allegiance suit fame, has filed a new legal action demanding that the motto “In God We Trust” be removed from U.S. currency. Jon Rowe winces.
Our own Ted Frank takes a look at the much-talked of “Dodgeball” document and concludes that it by no means proves Merck’s guilt in the Vioxx matter. (Point of Law). Also at Point of Law, James Copland of the Manhattan Institute and Dr. Bill Sage of Columbia have been engaged in a spirited debate on med-mal litigation.
In a Providence courtroom, the state of Rhode Island is demanding that companies that once manufactured lead paint be held liable for the cost of lead abatement programs. Speechwriter/ghostwriter Jane Genova is liveblogging the case’s retrial, and suggests that the defense side has been making its points more effectively.
A court has ordered the Armour Star meatpacking concern to pay $3 million for using a strength test to screen applicants for a job requiring much lifting. George Lenard’s Employment Blawg originally covered the case last month, Overlawyered picked it up, and now George has returned to the subject, observing that those dissatisfied with the suit’s outcome should realize that sex discrimination law’s distrust of strength tests isn’t something the EEOC just came up with the other day and in fact dates back at least a couple of decades. (I quite concur, having written at length on the subject back in the 1990s.)
The British government recently published a white paper entitled “The Future of Legal Services: Putting the Consumer First”. Dennis Kennedy at Between Lawyers provides a link.
In other consumer news, State Farm conceded earlier this year that when it disposed of many wrecked-and-repaired vehicles it failed to ensure that they were given appropriate “salvage titles”. E.L. Eversman at AutoMuse has been following the issue.
The head of the NY state bar association is advising prospective clients not to be swayed by lawyers’ advertising. David Giacalone, who frequently discusses legal advertising on his blog f/k/a, isn’t impressed.
San Diego lawprof Gail Heriot discovers a convicted rapist is living a few doors down from her, which gets her to thinking about the interaction of “Megan’s Law” statutes and statutory rape.
New York AG Eliot Spitzer has gone after former NYSE head Richard Grasso but not the board that approved Grasso’s plans. Larry Ribstein suspects the worst, charging that Spitzer “gets securities industry political support if he handles this so only Grasso gets hurt.”
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Scheherezade at Stay of Execution, who wrote a classic post last year giving advice on whether or not to go to law school, now fields a reader’s question: Should I transfer to a higher-ranked law school?
Called for jury duty, Jeremy Blachman gets shown a somewhat hokey video entitled “Your Turn: Jury Service in New York State.” “I wanted to really mock the video, but in all honesty it was a better explanation of the jury system than anything we got in law school”.
Michael Froomkin offers a surprising and counterintuitive quiz on the U.S. Constitution in the form of a “scavenger hunt”. He also suspects that a national ID card might abet price discrimination.
And this from Ted:
Congratulations to Amber, G, Marissa, Grigori, Eve, Jeremy, and others who passed the bar. Third Attempt failed for the second time, and is opening a blog on the subject of his third try, with links to other passers and failers. Only 13% of those who repeated the California bar passed.
On the lighter side, law student Kurt Hunt quotes his prof’s maxim that “Cahoots is not a crime” but wonders what would happen if “tomfoolery, cahoots, no-gooding, antics and shenanigans were redefined as ‘Crime-Lite'”. And Colin Samuels of Infamy or Praise is among the many human beings who don’t manage to eat as well as (UCLA lawprof) Steve Bainbridge’s dog.
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Buzz about blogs
Now I’ll turn the floor over to Ted again to discuss the UTR affair:
The blawgosphere likes nothing more than navel-gazing, and the New Yorker’s outing of anony-blawger “Article III Groupie” as Newark AUSA David Lat and resulting implosion of “her”/his popular “Underneath Their Robes” blawg has generated lots of curiosity and posts with Austin Powers references; the story even made Drudge and the New York Times. Blawg Review has a retrospective look at the blawg. Howard Bashman has done the most original reporting, interviewing Jeffrey Toobin, who revealed Lat’s identity, and publishing the reminiscences of a former co-worker of Lat’s. Denise Howell provides an obituary for the blawg. The Kitchen Cabinet’s “Lily” comments from the perspective of another anonymous blawger, as does Jeremy Blachman, who got a book deal from his anony-blogging. Ann Althouse muses on the nature of humor; Professor Solove and Howard Bashman comment on blogger anonymity, as does Half Sigma, who pulled a similar hoax using the photo of a Russian mail-order bride earlier this year as the image of “Libertarian Girl.” Another blawgger claiming to be a libertarian female, this one with the implausible name of “Amber,” meta-comments on the various shattered blog-crushes exhibited in the garment-rending Volokh Conspiracy reader comments on the subject; JD expresses his own disappointment. (Judge Kozinski claims to have known all along, but Judge Posner has proof of his foresight.) And Ian has sound commentary on A3G’s “status anxiety.” (And speaking of status anxiety, a Harvard Law School admissions dean snarks on Yale and gets snarked back. One can understand the sniping: HLS and YLS are good schools, and there’s a lot of competition for who’s #2 behind Chicago Law.)
Some fallout: anony-blogger “Opinionistas” got an e-mail accusing her of really being a man, and Will Baude and Heidi Bond make a bet over the gender of anony-law-prof Juan Non-Volokh, who promises to come out of the closet soon.
Taking second place in interblog buzz is the IP sticky wicket that awaited the former Pajamas Media (discussed by Blawg Review here) when shortly before launching it decided to switch to the more dignified monicker of Open Source Media. Turned out there was already a well-known public radio show by the name of Open Source which hadn’t been consulted even though it occupied such URLs as opensourcemedia.net. Ann Althouse has been merciless (here, here and here) in needling the OSM organizers, while Prof. Bainbridge piles on with a law and economics analysis of OSM’s market.
Monica Bay passes along the views of legal-tech consultant and frequent CLE presenter Ross Kodner, who charges that law blogs are “narrow-minded” and display “elitist exclusionism”. “I am sick and tired of being repeatedly asked why I don’t have a blog,” he declares. Okay, Mr. Kodner, we promise never to ask you that.
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Finally, intellectual property lawyer Doug Sorocco, of the ReThink(IP) and phosita blogs, arrives “fashionably late to the BlawgThink ball” (in Chicago last week). Sorocco’s Oklahoma City firm also figures prominently (as the acquiring party) in what Dennis Kennedy says may amount to a milestone: “the first move of one legal blogger to the law firm of another legal blogger.” Stephen Nipper has more details about this “move” at ReThink(IP).
By coincidence, and giving us a nice way to wrap things up, phosita is going to be the home of next week’s Blawg Review #34. Blawg Review has information about that and other upcoming matters, as well as instructions how to get your blawg posts considered for upcoming issues.
A federal judge ruled last month that the current state of intellectual property law does not necessarily preclude Bikram Choudhury’s claim to copyright over a particular sequence of yoga postures; litigation continues in the case (see Feb. 9, 2004). (“Yoga Is Focus in Groundbreaking Copyright Case”, PrimeZone/Linux Insider, Apr. 9). The Seattle Times (“Download”, Apr. 4) notes that Choudhury’s adversaries, a group of yoga instructors calling themselves Open Source Yoga Unity (OSYU), say they have banded together to fight the “litigious position of Bikram Choudhury”: “Hmmm, you have to wonder what that position might look like in the studio.”
A correspondent on Andrew Sullivan’s letters page, unnamed as is the practice there, thinks the new Pixar animation “The Incredibles” (Feb. 24, Oct. 25, and, yes, I saw and liked it) might point the way to fruitful dialogue between those who deplore the litigation culture generally and those outraged at big business’s overuse of aggressive litigation tactics in areas like Linux, trademark and file-sharing contexts (Nov. 23).