Archive

Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

Everybody Researches: Out of date contract is music to Def Leppard’s ears.

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment

It is a well-accepted fact that the law is a cautious and conservative profession.  While it is populated with intelligent people, these people also tend to be risk averse, be it with their client’s money or  their clients’ lives.  Whatever the reasons may be, there are times when the law finds itself having to play catch-up with concepts that are new to the courts.  The introduction of the cell phone is an excellent example.  For many years the laws regarding wire-tapping were clearly delineated, then along came cell phones.   Now, rather than getting a warrant for an area where the suspect has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)  law enforcement needs warrants for the individual, irrespective of the type of the phone  or type of communication (voice-mail, e-mail, etc.) he or she is using.

Wiretapping technology has advanced greatly over the years.

The criminal law field is not the only one where technological changes have left the law behind.  Copyright and property law play a part in the amusing battle between band Def Leppard and Universal, the company that holds the rights to the band’s songs.  Although Universal has rights to the songs, they do not have rights to release them digitally since at the time the contract was made (1979) digital rights did not exist.  In order to make the songs available on iTunes Universal would need the permission of the band; permission that Def Leppard is not willing to give.  Lead singer Joe Elliott discussed some of the details on a recent segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and shared the band’s plan to re-record most of its  back catalog.  As Elliott explained, until Universal is “willing to come to the table with some kind of reasonable proposal…we shall go in the studio and have a bit of fun.”

The band is taking advantage of  the compulsory license for non-dramatic musical compositions under the Copyright Act of 1976.  This  compulsory cover license allows an artist to “legally sell their rendition…of another song based on a set royalty payment scale….The terms for a compulsory cover license are established by the U.S. Copyright office rather than the artist or record label and  a compulsory cover license does not require negotiations with the original musical composition copyright holder. ”

After looking at the comparably negligible royalty fees, and realizing that that “Rock of Ages” has recently moved from Broadway to the movie screen and features at least three of Def Leppard’s songs, it is likely that this maneuver is causing a bit of Hysteria over at Universal.

The U.S.C. rocks!

Edwards’ Trial a Buffet of Legal Issues

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

It is the rare person indeed who has not heard at least something about Johnny Reid Edwards‘ marital affair and  brush with the law.  Although not convicted of misusing campaign donations, Edwards will never regain his golden boy status.  Edward’s entrepreneurial mistress, Rielle Hunter, released a book telling her side of the story on June 26th.   While this latest literary effort on a tawdry topic is likely to cover Edwards’ affair and the resulting child from these assignations, I feel confident in predicting that the publicity-savvy paramour will not have given the legal issues from the debacle the same degree of attention.  Despite her omission, the array of legal topics throughout the Edwards saga reads like an exam question in issue spotting and may well be of interest to those with an interest in the law.

The legal issue that received the most press, and was of greatest concern to Edwards (as a possible sentence of 30 years does tend to get one’s attention), was the alleged violation of campaign finance laws.  After a hearing before the Federal Election Commission, Edwards was required to return over 2 million in federal election funds.  However, the FEC also found that donations Edwards used to pay expenses of his mistress and to hide his affair were not campaign contributions and therefore, did not need to be reported.  Despite the determine of the FEC, the Justice Department was not convinced and chose to move forward with charges of conspiracy and false statements in addition to receiving illegal campaign contributions.  After much sturm and drang, including a two month trial delay for Edwards to undergo heart surgery, a jury eventually found Edwards not guilty on one count and were deadlocked on the remaining five.  The Justice Department has announced that it will not refile the case.

Family law issues also abounded. Along with the commonplace matters of separation and divorce, the Edwards legal extravaganza included issues of paternity and the use of an archaic law. When Edward’s initially admitted to his affair, he still denied that he was the father of his mistress’s child.  In fact, he claimed that his former aide, Andrew Young, was the actual father and asked the aide to support this story. In a disclosure worthy of Maury Povitch, it was later determined that, JOHN EDWARDS, YOU ARE THE FATHER OF THE CHILD!  In addition to the matter of paternity, Elizabeth Edwards added another legal twist when she threatened to sue Young  under the concept of “alienation of affection,” based on his role in covering up his former boss’s affair.  Not only did she threaten to use this archaic cause of action, she chose not to use it against “the other woman,” but  instead she chose the more unusual, yet legally permissible, option of suing a third party who facilitated the marital breakdown.   Allegedly, Elizabeth Edwards was using this threat to force Young to stop speaking publicly about the Edwards’ marriage, and to either give her or destroy voice mails that she had left him during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Voice mails were not the only recordings to play a part in the saga.  When Andrew Young released his tell-all book about the events, it was discovered that he and his wife were in possession of an alleged sex tape featuring  Hunter and Edwards.  The Youngs claimed to have found the tape in the trash at a house they shared with Hunter, and claimed that they could not be sure that the tape belonged to Hunter.  Hunter alleged that she had stored the tape containing “matters of a very private and personal nature”  at the house along with other personal items.  Hunter sued the Youngs to recover the  videotape and  was initially granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the Youngs,  from selling or otherwise distributing the tape.  Eventually Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones held Young and his wife  in contempt  and ordered that the “items … be produced and turned over to the court [or the couple would be put] under lock and key — and under seal — until the lawsuit is resolved.”  The couple claimed difficulty in complying due to the fact that the  tape was “in a safety deposit box in Atlanta that required two keys to open, and one of the keys was in possession of a lawyer undergoing medical treatment in New York.”  Despite these concerns, the promise of jail time proved an effective motivator.  The contempt charge was issued on a Friday and  Andrew Young , with an escort from a court appointed private security guard , managed to retrieve the original  tape from the safe deposit box in Atlanta on the following Tuesday and turn it over to the court the next day.

These are only the most notorious of the legal issues.  Consider yourself invited to join in this legal “Where’s Waldo” game and share any legal issues that this post overlooked or that you think should have been brought.

Where’s Johnny?

 

Amendment One: last minute update

Hopefully it comes as no surprise to people that the North Carolina primary election will be this Tuesday, May 8th.  One of, if not the most debated measures on the ballot is Amendment 1.   This hotly contested issue was discussed generally on an NPR’s segment Friends And Foes Of Gay Marriage Woo Voters In N.C.  and in a detailed look at the amendment’s languageFamily law professors from North Carolina law schools (including our own Professor Reynolds) have uniformly expressed their opposition to passage of the amendment, while North Carolina business owners are divided on whether passage of Amendment 1 would harm business or have no effect.

Newspapers across the state acknowledge that the advocacy is strong on both sides and positions tend to vary with the state’s geography.  For a sampling of letters advocating both  sides, click the links below the respective images.   If you have questions about voting, such as where you should go to vote, visit the Forsyth County Board of Elections page (the polling place locator link will allow you to search all counties in North Carolina).  You can also use the Board of Elections page to view a sample of YOUR specific ballot based on party affiliation.  You might also wish to visit  Ballotpedia for a general explanation of voting and to see potential measures.

Amendment One … in the Limelight

Do you know what Amendment One is all about?  Let’s start with what North Carolina Session Law 2011-409 says: “AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE THAT MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL UNION THAT SHALL BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.”

Wait a second, I thought a Session Law is already an effective law passed by the General Assembly. Well this law is a bit different.  It is what is called a “legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.”  According to Ballotpedia, this means that this bill is “a proposed constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislative in that state voted to put it before the voters.”  State constitutions can only be amended through a specific procedure.  With a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment the citizens of a state are allowed a limited form of direct democracy compared to the initiated constitutional amendment. Converse to the  legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, with an initiated constitutional amendment, voters can initiate the amendment and approve it.  However, under the the legislatively-referred amendment, voters may merely approve or reject amendments presented by their state’s legislature.

There are various methods for amending state constitutions, from the number of legislative sessions that the amendment must pass to the size of the vote within the legislative body. One of the major differences among states in presenting a legislative-referred constitional amendment to the voters is how many different sessions of the state legislature must vote on the amendment.  For North Carolina, Section 4 of Article 13 of the North Carolina Constitution, states the following:

Sec. 4. Revision or amendment by legislative initiation.

A proposal of a new or revised Constitution or an amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be initiated by the General Assembly, but only if three-fifths of all the members of each house shall adopt an act submitting the proposal to the qualified voters of the State for their ratification or rejection. The proposal shall be submitted at the time and in the manner prescribed by the General Assembly. If a majority of the votes cast thereon are in favor of the proposed new or revised Constitution or constitutional amendment or amendments, it or they shall become effective January first next after ratification by the voters unless a different effective date is prescribed in the act submitting the proposal or proposals to the qualified voters.

Under Section 1 of this Session Law a new section (Section 6) will be added under Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution providing the following: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.  This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

Under this session law, the above amendment must be submitted to registered voters of North Carolina on the date of the first primary in 2012 (May 8, 2012), and “if a majority of votes cast on the question are in favor of the amendment set out [above], the State Board of Elections shall certify the amendment to the Secretary of the State, [where] the Secretary of State shall enroll the amendment so certified among the the permanent records of the office.”  Once certified the above amendment will become effective, and when it is effective, it becomes law.

No matter your views on the proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution, the fate of this amendment is in your hands.  To find out whether or not you are registered and eligible to vote, visit “My Election Information” at the North Carolina State Board of Elections.  They also provide information about campaign finance, candidates, absentee voting, as well as how to register to vote online.

P.S. The last day to register  in order to be eligible to vote in the primary is coming up quick — It is this Friday, April 13th!

New Year’s Lists

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

With the start of a new year the media is featuring lists.  Lists of resolutions, lists of the best and worst (fill in the blank) of 2011, lists of what to expect in 2012.  So why should we fight the trend?   While lists such as the 2011 Weird Science Awards, Weirdest Fatwas of 2011Top 10 Barack Obama conspiracy theories of 2011, and Ten Weirdest Life-forms of 2011 may have a rather targeted audience or at least are not relevant to our lives (my apologies to anyone whose life does involve cricket testicles, raw yak meat, or cyclops sharks).  However, there are also some lists out there that that lawyers and law students might want to read.

Although not directly law related, Lake Superior State University’s annual list of Banished Words is important for anyone who makes a living by being a skilled communicator.  If your find it amazing that there could be some blowback if you use the word “ginormous,”  you might wish to consider updating your vocabulary.  Thanks in advance for considering this.

SC Magazine, a computer security publication, provides a number of lists for the New Year.  Among them is a list of the “top 8 legal actions” (assorted criminal activities) in the area of cyber security.

Other lists that you might wish to consider are the lists of new laws that begin on January 1st.  MSNBC pulled together a brief national overview of what they consider are the most interesting changes.  If you are wondering what will be the new laws in North Carolina you have the choice of a brief article or video or, for the diligent, you can take a look at a the entire list of laws that have gone into effect since July 2011, broken out by month.  Happy New Year, happy reading, and those of you who might look under 18, don’t forget to take identification with you when buying cold medication.

Research Miscellanea: Everyone Researches

October 24, 2011 1 comment

After two posts about dictionaries you would think that the topic had been exhausted but not so. The new Bouvier Law Dictionary was  released this fall.  Despite its historical origins as the dictionary that was used by such legal luminaries as John Marshall, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln, the current version is  being advertised as the law dictionary for the modern student and has garnered praise for its usability.   It appears that author Steve Sheppard has been able to provide a comprehensive, yet concise dictionary that provides the user with detailed, yet clearly understood entries.  If you would like to judge for yourself, you can find the Bouvier Law Dictionary in our Reference collection, call number KF158.W65.

American University recently announced another new legal research resource.  The University is introducing a new online collection of international gender jurisprudence materials.  Working with the War Crimes Research Office,  American University’s Washington College of Law’s Women and International Law Program has developed a searchable  online database of documents culled from the War Crimes Research Office’s  Jurisprudence Collections, and will be developing digests of  key documents as well providing a forum for for expert commentaries.

“WASHINGTON, DC, September 8, 2011 – …. Reviewers have analyzed and cataloged more than 17,000 documents…., noting, for example, when evidence of sexual or gender-based violence appears in the record, when sexual or gender-based violence charges are brought, dropped, or dismissed, or when a defendant is tried for a crime of sexual or gender-based violence. The GJC features keyword and targeted search fields, which eliminate the need to sift through irrelevant documents when conducting research on the rapidly developing jurisprudence in these bodies….. To access the GJC and learn more about the project, please visit http://wcl.american.edu/go/gicl.  Please address any questions, comments, or suggestions to Alison Plenge, WCRO Jurisprudence Collections Coordinator, at genderjurisprudence@wcl.american.edu. ”

You cannot always count on that “perfect” legal research tool being available; sometimes it is up to you to do the hunting and gathering of information.  While everyone knows about LEXIS and Westlaw, everyone also knows about the cost.  Perhaps a visit to  Google Scholar  or even restricting your search further by using Advanced Scholar Search could meet your research needs for a lesser cost.  Basic Google Scholar provides a way to limit your searches to scholarly literature of all disciplines.  This is particularly helpful if you are conducting interdisciplinary research, or if want to search for news about legal and financial matters involving France and Paris without being bombarded with results featuring a vapid socialite.

Not the legal document that you were looking for!

There is a “Legal opinions and journals” section under Advanced Scholar Search that lets you  (logically enough) limit your searches  to legal opinions and journals,  and even to specific courts.  While a databases that lets you limit your searches by jurisdiction is not unique feature to legal researching, it IS unique when you do get billed for it.  If Google Scholar  sounds interesting to you, go to the Google homepage, click on the drop-down menu under “More” in the tool bar, and select “Scholar.”  After that, Google Scholar is yours to explore — and that’s hot.

First Monday in October

The first Monday in October brings a breath of autumn and with it, a new term for the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court is statutorily required to thus begin its new annual term (28 U.S.C. § 2 (2006)), although initially the Court’s work was divided into two terms, beginning in February and August (although still on the first Monday of each) (Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, ch. 20, § 1, 1 Stat. 73, 73 (1789)).

As the highest court in the land, there is a great deal of information available about the Supreme Court’s work, much of which is available directly from the Court. The Court itself provides information about the traditions and procedures of the Court. Transcripts of oral argument are now available on the Court’s website the same day as the arguments are heard, and audio files are available as well. Opinions are also posted here, immediately after they are delivered from the bench. (Older opinions are maintained on the website until bound volumes are available.)

News sources are a great place to get information as the Court’s term progresses. All of the major networks and newspapers provide some Court coverage. NPR’s Nina Totenberg has a weekly update on the Court’s work each Monday, including a Term preview on Morning Edition. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick (and others) offer analysis and commentary in a Jurisprudence column. And, of course, if you like some comedy with your news, don’t forget about The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. But much more information is available than ever makes the headlines.

A great source for information about the Court’s term is the SCOTUSblog. This blog posts analysis and commentary on cases, but also hosts docketing information and briefs for upcoming cases, as well as an array of statistics on past Court terms (formerly hosted at the SCOTUSwiki). The Oyez Project provides summaries and docketing information about cases scheduled before the Court. Cornell’s Legal Information Institute has a Supreme Court Bulletin that offers recent decisions and orders, information about the Court, and an archive of cases heard as far back as 1990. The American Bar Association’s Supreme Court Preview offers briefs from all parties for upcoming cases, as well as their scheduling information. (This is a subscription product that PCL users have access to via Hein Online, in addition to partial access via the ABA’s website linked above, and microfiche from 1984-2002.)

More information is available about the Supreme Court of the United States than perhaps on any other court in the world. You just have to know where to look, or who to ask.