By Dan Brillman
Much is being made of Beyoncé's alleged lip-syncing of the
national anthem at President Obama's inauguration earlier this
week, with Twitter and the mainstream media expressing shock and
awe at the idea.
OK, Watergate it's not. But it puts in mind the gold
standard for lip-syncing scandals: the discovery that dance duo
Milli Vanilli was mouthing the words to its hits in the late
1980s and early 1990s and the class action lawsuits that
For those who need a refresher course, Milli Vanilli was a
pop act from Germany starring Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan.
The revelation that the two didn't actually sing their tunes,
not even on their studio albums, was good business for U.S.
plaintiffs' lawyers, as the Wall Street Journal reported at the
time. Multiple lawsuits against Milli Vanilli's label, Arista
Records, followed. In one settlement, consumers received a $3
rebate for CDs and $2 for tapes or records. Lawyers sought $2
million and eventually received $675,000 for their troubles.
The attorneys in the cases were also criticized for the way
they recruited plaintiffs, some of whom turned out to be the
unwitting teenage children of the lawyers' friends. Walter
Olson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who wrote on
the proliferation of lawsuits, told the Journal, ``the lawyers
are doing what they accuse the record company of doing, getting
people to lip-sync for them.''
By Caitlin Tremblay
Throwing caution to the wind, County Kerry in Ireland could soon legalize “moderately drunk driving” in rural areas, according to Salon.
Why you ask? So those living isolated from towns and villages with pubs can have some fun.
Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who introduced the motion, says some rural residents are stuck at home and falling into a depression because they don’t have transportation to get home from the local pub once they’ve had a few drinks. “All they want to do [here] is talk to neighbors, talk to friends, play cards, talk about the match and the price of cattle, about such a lady going out with such a fella, and it’s harmless,” he says.
Healy-Rae proposed the motion to allow people who have had “two or three” drinks to drive home from the pub in rural areas where the speed limits are no more than 20 or 30 miles per hour. While the motion doesn’t establish a set blood alcohol percent, Ireland’s current limit is .05 percent, which is roughly equivalent to less than one pint of beer depending on the driver. The U.S. limit is .08 percent by comparison.
The motion was passed by County Kerry and not awaits approval by the Department of Justice.
Swartz’s legal legacy
By Anna Louie Sussman
The suicide of 26-year-old internet activist Aaron Swartz, who was facing federal charges for downloading academic articles, won’t change computer fraud laws, as Summary Judgments reported last week. But it could sway the public’s view of open access, the movement that advocates for free access to published scholarly information, argues legal scholar Eric Posner in Slate.com.
Posner describes the law under which Swartz was charged, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as “poorly defined and selectively enforced.” Yet the breadth of many federal laws, he says, is deliberate, allowing them to stay all-encompassing even as social norms and technology evolve.
While the law will likely remain as is, Swartz’s death has ignited a backlash against the prosecution of hackers and others fighting for open access to information.
“By becoming a martyr to open access, Swartz has, for better or worse, dealt a blow to government efforts to delegitimize hackers and their values,” Posner writes.
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
An Ohio woman who says she was unlawfully arrested and detained due to her ethnicity filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Frontier Airlines, Detroit airport officials and federal authorities, the Detroit Free Press reports. Shoshana Hebshi, 36, who says she is half-Jewish and half-Arabic, was removed from a plane that landed in Detroit on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. She was then stripped naked, asked to squat and cough as an officer looked on, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on Hebshi’s behalf. Hebshi says she was released after four hours of interrogation in which she was questioned about her family, her education, her travels and “pretty much my whole life story,” reports the British Daily Mail.
During the flight, Hebshi was seated next to two men of south Asian descent, whom she says she did not know, but who went to the bathroom in succession during the flight, according to public records. The men were also arrested but later cleared of any wrongdoing and released from custody.
At the time of Hebshi’s detention, the FBI’s attitude was "Better safe than sorry," observes James Fallows of The Atlantic. “Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously," an FBI spokeswoman told the AP. “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”
By Anna Louie Sussman
When it comes to your genetic material, what you don't know
can hurt you. Unfortunately, what you do know can hurt you too,
NPR reports. A 2008 federal law prohibits health insurance
companies from discriminating against consumers on the basis of
their genetic material, but it says nothing about companies
providing life insurance, disability insurance or insurance for
Because of a loophole in the Genetic Information
Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, those types of insurance
companies may legally charge higher rates or deny insurance to
people at risk for Alzheimer's or other terminal diseases, says
Nita Farahany, a professor of law and genome sciences and policy
at Duke University.
Robert Green, a researcher in the genetics department at
Harvard Medical School, oversaw a 2010 study that found that
people who tested positive for the gene associated with
Alzheimer's are five times more likely than those with average
genetic risk to purchase long-term-care insurance.
Until the GINA loophole is closed, it will be legal for a
company providing long-term care or disability insurance to
demand to see the results of a potential client's genetic
testing, or even require a potential client to take a genetic
test before selling them an insurance policy.
Insurance companies -- whose business model is based on
selling a product to the masses and hoping it only gets used by
a few -- say they can't survive if genetic testing becomes
common practice, unless they can access the same information as
A spokesman for Genworth, the U.S.'s largest seller of
long-term-care policies, told NPR in an email that it wants to
retain its ability to "utilize all information."
By Caitlin Tremblay
While the East Coast was busy prepping for the presidential
inauguration, law professor and sexual harassment awareness
activist Anita Hill received a standing ovation at the Sundance
Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Hill is the subject of a new
documentary, "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power," which was
directed by Freida Mock and premiered at the fest on Saturday.
The 85-minute movie tells the story of Hill's testimony in
front of the Senate Judicial Committee during Supreme Court
Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings in 1991, when
she accused him of sexually harassing her. It also includes the
push back and disbelief Hill faced when she first went public,
as well as her current work raising awareness about sexual
According to The Toronto Star, Hill told an audience after
the premiere that she hopes the film will help further her
activist work. "The thing that I love about this film is we're
looking at the next generation of young people ... and we have
to really commit ourselves to getting it right in the future and
that's what I'm hoping this (documentary) will do for us. To not
simply think about the past but to think about where we need to
The Salt Lake Tribune says one of the film's most striking
moments comes when Hill reveals she never again put on the blue
dress she wore while giving her testimony. The Sundance Channel
has a great interview with Mock and Hill about how the film,
which took three years to make, came about.
Summary Judgments for January 22
Summary Judgments for January 18
Summary Judgments for January 17
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