Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are You Being Watched?

This Wired post reveals the extent to which warrantless spying by the Justice Department has exploded over the past decade.  I'm not sure it matters who you're voting for this election; but it's clear things have accelerated in the past four years.

With the explosion of surveillance comes an explosion of banal jobs consisting of sifting through the vast amounts of nonsense that most of us generate in the course of our everyday Internet lives.  I pity the poor fool who is charged with reviewing my latest Facebook bon mot, and only hope that I'm able to entertain him or her in the way I hope to entertain both of my Facebook 'friends.'

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This is Why I do What I do

When a major NYC law firm manages to run up $3.1 million in fees while "helping" a client recover a $4.68 million down payment on a condo, whilst billing more than 5500 billable hours - well, you know that the system is broken.  Read it and weep here.

Here's a clue: lawyers should be in business to help their clients achieve sensible results to their real-world problems.  When clients are spending stupid amounts of money to achieve these results, we have an obligation to let them know they may be wasting their funds.

This looks like one of those cases where the lawyers may have told the client "Don't worry; our fees are recoverable."  As the court found in its opinion:

"[I]t appears that Sponsor has not actually paid any legal fees to [the firm] on this matter. Astonishingly, [the firm's] attorneys, paralegals, and staff amassed 5536.4 billable hours on this matter, employing four partners, three special counsel, ten associates, eight paralegals, and a summer associate. (See Declaration of [nameless lawyer], dated Aug. 23, 2012 . . . . . Partners billed their time at rates ranging from $6801hour to $1025Ihour; associates at rates ranging from $440/hour to $745/hour; paralegals at rates ranging from $250/hour to $295/hour; and, last but not least, a summer associate at $335/hour. [The firm's] total bill for legal fees is a breathtaking $3,164,828.00."

As Judge Pauley put it, "This Court doubts that Sponsor - or any other client-would pay over $3.3 million in fees and expenses for the mere possibility of securing a $4.68 million down payment."

Don't get me wrong - the firm involved here is a well-known, high-quality, top-tier firm that is capable of providing great legal work for its clients.  But at some point the Rule of Reason needs to intervene.  And what this means from a practical perspective is that the Big Name Law Firm is not always your best choice for a good result at a good price.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


What has 9/11 wrought?  Did it bring us closer together as a nation?  Briefly.  Then it became an excuse - for warrantless searches and surveillance; for intrusive, meaningless security theater in our transportation systems; for questionable military actions that have killed many times more than perished on that terrible day; for the outsourcing of torture under the guise of 'rendition,' and for our own acts of torture and indefinite detention.

Of course we should never forget those who perished and those who risked and lost their lives to save them.  But we should also question the country we have become in the years after.  

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Dr. Seuss in Advertising

In the early days, pre-Cat, pre-Sneetches
Dr. Seuss was not living life on the beaches,
A mad-man was he, pitching that, pitching this,
To generate cash, and familial bliss. 

(Click each logo you see on the website below
and to the Dr. Seuss ads for that company you'll go!)

Official Web site of the University of California, San Diego
A UCSD Libraries Website
Part of the Dr. Seuss Collection
Presented by the Mandeville Special Collections Library

Friday, September 07, 2012


I supp(orthose) I can't really argue with former German first lady Bettina W(oof, woof woooooof, awooooooo)ulff's lawsuit against Google for the manner in which its autocomplete feature managed to tack on words such as "escort" and "prostitute" to her name in search results.  I mean, I'm sure if when someone started Googling "Kelly" the phrase "green dildo" or "loves small animals" immediately popped up, I'd be irritated too.  Especially if I had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with green dildos, or small animals.  Which I don't.  I swear. No, really.

Now go away.  Don't you have a college football score to check or something?

Chris Kluwe Rocks

Yes it's foul.  Yes it's irreverent.  Yes it's foul.  (That's how foul it is.)  But NFL punter Chris Kluwe's rant against a homophobic Maryland state delegate deserves to be read.  Enjoy.  NSFW if you are still sounding out your words.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Keeping it Classy

After such a long hiatus, I want to come out of the box with something that will set the standard for future posts; something that I can look back on and say to myself "Self, THAT'S what legal blogging is all about;" something I can be proud to show the kids and their grandparents.

Which means, of course, we're going to talk about porn.

Not just any porn, mind you.  Ice cream porn.

I don't know about you, but regular porn bores me.  I mean, I no matter how much of the stuff I watch, it all seems the same to me.  I've tried, and tried, and tried but just don't get it; Part A plugs in to Part B and/or Part C, except for the occasional brush with Parts D, E, or F . . . blah, blah, blah.  To quote Lilly von Schtupp: "I'm had my fill of love . . . from below and above."

The folks at Rodax Distributors and Caballero Videos apparently were aware of this growing sense of ennui among the porn cognoscenti.  I can see the think tank in action now: "Okay folks, our sales are down.  Pizza delivery guys showing up with extra pepperoni just aren't cutting it anymore.  We need a gimmick; something to draw attention to . . . Spencer, what are you eating?  Ice cream?  Wait a minute . . . I've GOT IT!"

And thus, perhaps, was born the "Ben & Cherry's" line of porn films, complete with packaging uncomfortably reminiscent of "Ben & Jerry's" ice cream containers, and featuring cleverly titillating titles such as "Boston Cream Thigh," "Hairy Garcia," and "Peanut Butter D-Cup."

(Here is the point at which I step aside for a brief moment and allow the masters at the New York Post to tell you the rest of the juicy background stuff.  I'll wait.)

Having read about the case, I naturally went looking for a copy of the complaint to share with you, my dear reader.  This was completely in the interest of scholarly research, and had nothing to do with hoping that the complaint would include salacious images that could liven up my otherwise dull and dreary blog.

This is where things got a bit strange.  I had the case number (thanks to Bloomberg, which left out all the interesting bits covered by the Post, but did list the case number).  I went to the Southern District of New York Pacer site, but at least as of this morning the case number didn't yield any results at all.  It was like the case didn't exist; and I presume the folks at Bloomberg don't just make up SDNY case numbers.  

Things changed a bit later - the case appeared on the website, but even then, the complaint wasn't available.  Later this afternoon, an order appeared on the site - Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry's (allowing the company founders, of course, to count their money and watch porn at their leisure), had secured a temporary restraining order against the defendants.

So that's good for the plaintiff, but where was the complaint?

Then, an order issued.  I can only imagine how the complaint must have circulated around the clerk's office -- it's now probably all dog-eared, with pages stuck together -- before somebody thought to call the judge and bring the thing to his attention.  At any rate, the judge, possibly in the interest of protecting the SDNY servers from crashing, has ordered as follows:

"1. Pending further order of the Court:

"a.  The Clerk is directed to redact all images (including without limitation Exhibit 6 to the declaration of David Stever, Exhibits 6, 7 and 8 to the complaint, and the image contained in paragraph 54 ofthe complaint) from the electronic versions of documents filed or offered for filing in this case, but shall preserve and file in hard copy, under seal (available to counsel for all parties), all redacted material.

"b.  The attorneys shall redact all images from electronic versions of documents filed on the CMlECF system, Such images shall be filed only in hard copy and under seal as above."

(Heheh . . . the order said "hard copy.")

Fortunately, the judge gives us legal voyeurs some cause for hope:

"3.  The Court is mindful of the qualified right of public access to court documents and is prepared to reconsider this temporary measure upon application."

Did you know you had a 'qualified right' to look at dirty pictures filed with the court?  Now you do.  So call me if you want to make an application to look at the now-forbidden images . . . I will work for ice cream.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Renaissance?

It's obvious that I haven't posted for awhile, but I am hereby making a public commitment to significantly increasing the frequency of my posts, if only, to borrow from the inestimable Rumpole, to placate She Who Must Be Obeyed.  I would like to say that it's been all of those Supreme Court arguments and high-stakes preliminary injunction hearings that have been keeping me away from the keyboard, but that would not be truthful and as a lawyer, of course, I'm nothing if not truthful.  So I'll just come right out and admit to sloth and lack of dedication to my reader - you know who you are - and leave it at that.  

I'm also going to be playing around a bit with the focus of this blog, so please bear with me.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there are hundreds of blogs out there whose quick-typing, hyper-intelligent authors will bring you a keen analysis of tomorrow's legal news today.  Being neither quick-typing nor hyper-intelligent, I'm probably going to start working another angle going forward.

So stay tuned to this channel, and feel free to unleash your worst by way of comment.  I'm not saying I'll publish all of them, but even if I don't publish yours, you can take comfort in knowing that my ever-tenuous sense of self-worth will be bolstered just by seeing the email notice that your comment awaits my review.