Lawyers aren't exactly known to be early adopters of
technology trends, but the 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey
Report indicates they are dipping their toes a little deeper in
social media waters. One of the more tech-savvy lawyers, Robert
Ambrogi, who also authored "The Essential Guide to the Best (and
Worst) Legal Sites on the Web," took a look at the survey's stats.
Of the 823 private practice ABA-member attorneys who
completed the questionnaire, 22 percent said their firm had a
blog. That's up from 15 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2012.
However, only 8 percent of attorneys in firms with 100 or more
attorneys said they kept their own legal-topic blog. Asked if
legal blogs actually bring in business, a middling 39 percent of
respondents said they'd had a client retain their legal services
as a result of the blogging.
The effectiveness of blogs aside, questions about blogging
feel very 2008. Luckily, Ambrogi discussed respondents' Twitter
activity too. Eleven percent of lawyers said they personally
use Twitter, up from 6 percent last year. While the kids (and
by that, I mean the journalists) live and die by Twitter,
LinkedIn was far and away the winner in terms of attorney
activity -- 95 percent of lawyers said they are on LinkedIn.
If you'd like the full breakdown of the survey -- and it's
gonna cost you -- the full report is available from the ABA for
(reporting by Erin Geiger Smith)
A newly released study reveals that judges may be disposed
to handing out lighter sentences for clinically psychopathic
According to The New York Times, the study (conducted by
University of Utah researchers and published via Science), is
based on the results of an imaginary case given to state judges
from across the country. A man convicted of a brutal assault was
labeled as having psychopathic tendencies. But only half the 181
judges were shown expert clinical testimony that the man was
genetically predisposed to violent, remorseless behavior. That
half sentenced the man to an average of 13 years versus 14 given
by the half that knew his mental condition solely based on a
routine examination. (Half from each group were presented the
evidence from the "defense," the other half from the
"prosecution," with respective arguments built in).
As Vanderbilt law professor Owen D. Jones tells the Times,
the research paper is valuable because it "isolates, as well as
one can, the effects of biological testimony on outcomes ...
within a sample of the real-world decision makers." Still, it is
admittedly open-ended, which is perhaps why the report is titled
"A Double-Edged Sword." On one hand, a judge may decrease prison
time because of the convict's genetic makeup. On the other, with
clear-cut medical proof that the streets will be safer with a
psychopath behind bars for a longer period of time, the sentence
could be increased.
As the Times notes, the use of this type of evidence is
increasingly common in criminal defenses. Expect to read more
about its impact.
(Reporting by Dan Brillman)
What's in a name?
It all depends on how one defines "Jet Ski."
In considering an appeal of a case that held that "Jet Ski"
as used in a homeowner's policy excluded coverage of claims
arising from use of all personal watercraft, Judge Gregory Orme
of the Utah Court of Appeals wanted to make sure he got his
terms right. Naturally, he dipped into the vast reserves of
knowledge contained in Wikipedia (hat tip: Eugene Volokh).
This wasn't the first time that a court has referred to the
online encyclopedia, but Orme spelled out his reasons for doing
so through a footnote."In the past, we might have hesitated to
cite Wikipedia in a judicial opinion given its reputation --
perhaps not well deserved -- for unreliability." He also
credited Judge Richard Posner, who has praised Wikipedia as "so
convenient" and "very accurate," for influencing his thinking.
Orme's colleague, Judge J Frederic Voros Jr, who wrote a
concurring opinion, chimed in too. Citing an article by Lee
Peoples in The Yale Journal of Law and Technology, Voros pointed
out that some errors have crept into court records because of
judges who relied on Wikipedia and suggested jurists follow
Peoples' guideline that Wikipedia should not be cited when a
more authoritative source exists. But in the homeowners'
insurance case, the judges didn't need to "nail down the one
true meaning of 'Jet Ski,'" and therefore "an open-source
encyclopedia with many editors and millions of readers" seemed
"just the ticket."
Ultimately, the panel concluded that the insurer was
imprecise in using the term Jet Ski, which, as Wikipedia points
out, is the brand name of a personal watercraft manufactured by
Kawasaki but is often mistakenly used when referring to a
WaveRunner (which is made by Yamaha). And since the provision is
ambiguous, the court held that language doesn't exclude coverage
for an accident resulting from use of an AquaTrax, a personal
watercraft of the sit-down variety (and made by Honda).
(Reporting by Suhrith Parthasarathy)
It seems that a rough week is coming to an end for Time
magazine journalist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria. Last Friday,
Zakariah was suspended from both CNN and Time after right-wing
website NewsBusters accused him of plagiarizing his Time article
on gun control. Then, on Tuesday, the Washington Post ran an
story alleging that Zakaria's 2008 book, "The Post-American
World," contained an unattributed passage.
Some digging by The Daily Beast poked holes in The
Washington Post story, leading the paper to retract the
allegation on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, Time and CNN
announced that their internal investigations found the
gun-control article to be an isolated incident, and both
Presumably the celebrity journalist is now breathing a lot
easier. But as The Volokh Conspiracy pointed out on Friday, the
whole hoopla raises some bigger questions about the definition
The trusty Black's Law Dictionary explains plagiarism as
"The act . . . of copying or stealing another's words or ideas
and attributing them as one's own." Certainly Zakaria's
gun-control piece copied whole strings of words from the New
Yorker article he was accused on plagiarizing. But for Volokh's
Russell Korobkin, Zakaria is a "borderline case," since most of
the offending material is a "straightforward recitation of
facts" and facts cannot be plagiarized.
Given that Zakaria is not the first journalist of the year
to be embroiled in scandal, and will likely not be the last,
it's worth mulling over Korobkin's post, which argues that we
need "a more nuanced standard for what constitutes
(Reporting by Rebecca Hamilton)
Subpoena in shoebox
It seems that not a week goes by without one Kardashian or
another providing Summary Judgments with some quirky fodder.
Last week it was Robert Kardashian getting ahead of himself with
his law school plans on Twitter. This week we have Kim
Kardashian's divorce proceedings revealing an unorthodox legal
strategy: subpoena via shoebox.
As Fashionista reports, Kris Humphries, the basketball star
who believes Kim Kardashian defrauded him when she married him
then filed for divorce a mere 72 days later, was having trouble
deposing Kardashian's new squeeze, rapper Kayne West. His legal
team's solution? Send Kardashian a Nordstrom box with West's
With the judge in the divorce proceedings saying he believes
the litigation could be concluded by May, we have the better
part of a year of such antics to look forward to.
(Reporting by Rebecca Hamilton)
Right to die plea denied
Britain's High Court refused to grant pleas by two British
men to end their lives, The Guardian reports. One of them, Tony
Nicklinson was left paralyzed below the neck following a stroke
seven years ago, and now suffers from "locked-in syndrome,"
where a patient is awake but can't communicate verbally.
Instead, Nicklinson uses a computer operated by his eye-blinks,
CNN reports. The other man was only identified by his first
name, Martin, and his personal circumstances were not disclosed.
The two had petitioned the High Court, The Telegraph
reports, but the judges were unwilling to stray into what they
said was Parliament's domain. The British Medical Association,
which is opposed to the legalization of assisted dying, termed
the men's campaign "insidious" and welcomed the decision
according to a BBC report.
Under the present regime, any doctor who helps carry out a
request for euthanasia would face murder charges, writes Nelson
Jones in the New Statesman. "Forcing someone to live against
their will, as a demonstration of society's attachment to the
sanctity of life, is neither civilized nor compassionate," says
You can watch Nicklinson's tearful response to the decision
(Reporting by Rebecca Hamilton)
Summary Judgments for Aug. 16
Summary Judgments for Aug. 15
Summary Judgments for Aug. 14
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