Thursday, June 29, 2006

Podcast: The fun side of lawyers

Lawyers who moonlight as Elvis impersonators? Lawyers who run dating services? Lawyers who carry surfboards instead of briefcases?

This week on the legal-affairs podcast Coast to Coast, we look at the fun side of lawyers -- lawyers who have lives outside law offices and courtrooms. My cohost J. Craig Williams and I interview:
  • Noley Bice, general counsel at the Baylor University Law School by day and an Elvis Presley impersonator by night.
  • Elena Albamonte, a Justice Department lawyer who founded the dating service for lawyers, Lawyers in Love.
  • Grant Hardacre, a lawyer with Blum, Propper & Hardacre and president of the Association of Surfing Lawyers.
  • Paul Kenney, a trial lawyer and partner at Kenney & Conley, who is also a book author, musician, composer and screenwriter.
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Friday, June 23, 2006

Podcast: Investigate jurors' backgrounds?

Jurors who lie or conceal information on their jury questionnaires are causing problems in the courts. Should jurors' backgrounds be checked more carefully? Would deeper checks benefit lawyers? Would they discourage potential jurors? Join my co-host J. Craig Williams and me on the legal-affairs podcast Coast to Coast as we discuss these questions with:
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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State records law trumps HIPAA

HIPAA's privacy provisions do not preempt the Texas open records law, the Texas Court of Appeals has ruled in ordering the release of statistics about alleged sexual assaults at state mental hospitals. More on the ruling is available from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

NJ media ban -- Nevermind

No sooner did I report here about New Jersey's controversial five-month-old ban on media interviews with prison inmates than I learned that it rescinded the ban last week. The state returned to its former policy of evaluating interview requests on a case-by-case basis.

[Thanks to Eric P. Robinson at the Media Law Resource Center for the heads up.]

Monday, June 19, 2006

NJ bans media from prisons

New Jersey has instituted a complete ban on news media interviews with prison inmates, The Star-Ledger reports. "The press still has the option of writing to inmates if they have questions," a prison spokesman said.

Star-Ledger reporter William Kleinknecht writes:
"For decades, the jailhouse interview has been a staple of American journalism, the fodder for books like 'In Cold Blood' and 'The Executioner's Song' and movies like 'The Thin Blue Line.'

"Inmates have long used such interviews to protest their innocence, decry prison conditions or just tell their life stories, not always a welcome prospect for law enforcement officials and victims of crime."
The New Jersey Press Association said it would seek to have the policy overturned.

Newsroom Staff Blocked from Web Sites

According to this report in The New York Times, blocking software at the Los Angeles Times keeps reporters from accessing certain Web sites, among them and, according to some reports,

False ID as sex offender not libelous

A Texas man wrongly identified as a sex offender by a newspaper and TV station has had his libel suit thrown out by a Texas state appeals court, Associated Press reports. The news organizations based their reports on a police department press release listing two men arrested in connection with a sex offender registration compliance sweep. The appeals court said the "fair report privilege" protected the news organizations in relying on the press release.

Podcast: Tivo v. Echostar and lawyer-client privilege

This week's edition of the legal-affairs podcast Coast to Coast explores the many complex issues involved in the patent litigation between Tivo and Echostar, and in particular the Federal Circuit's recent order, In re EchoStar Communications, involving attorney-client privilege and the discoverability of attorney work product in patent litigation. Joining my cohost J. Craig Williams and me to discuss this issue are two legal experts, Blair Jacobs, partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP , and Christine W.S. Byrd, a litigation partner with Irell & Manella LLP and a member of Tivo's legal team.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Web site sues N.H. over real-estate rules

A Massachusetts-based Web site that lists homes for sale by their owners today sued the state of New Hampshire, claiming that the state's requirement that it become a licensed real estate broker violates its free speech rights, Associated Press reports. Ed Williams, founder of, said the site is an advertising service that should be treated no differently than newspapers that publish real estate ads.

Podcast: Humor in the courtroom

The courtroom is a very serious place, but once in a while, it becomes a theater for human comedy as the search for justice unfolds. On this week's Coast to Coast legal-affairs podcast, you'll hear the classic humor of real-life courtroom stories from special guest, Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, a senior U.S. District Court judge in Dallas. Since 1980, Judge Buchmeyer has documented funny courtroom moments in his "et cetera" column in the Texas Bar Journal and now through the Say What?! blog on the State Bar of Texas Web site. Join my co-host J. Craig Williams and me as Judge Buchmeyer shares his humorous stories.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Is this lawyer the media's worst nightmare?

At a recent gathering of Massachusetts media lawyers, the question came up whether there is a plaintiffs' libel bar among lawyers in this state. "Yes," someone remarked, "and its name is Howard Cooper."

Boston Phoenix media writer Mark Jurkowitz profiles Cooper this week as Boston's go-to guy for libel: The media's worst nightmare? While calling Cooper "an unpopular figure in some local newsrooms," Jurkowitz paints a picture of a lawyer who is idealistic, passionate and tenacious.

Cooper spoke on a libel panel in December for the Mass. Newspaper Publishers Association (of which I am executive director). When I invited him, I joked that for him to come to a meeting of publishers and editors would be like entering the lions' den. By the end of the panel, he may not have tamed the lions in the room, but he certainly earned their respect. He honed in eloquently on a point that should be obvious: By adhering to generally accepted standards of professionalism in reporting, journalists can keep Cooper and his clients from knocking on the newsroom door.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Op-ed: No democracy in the dark

An op-ed I wrote on behalf of the Massachuetts Newspaper Publishers Association calling for open meeting reform appears in today's Boston Herald: No Democracy in the Dark.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Standard-Times calls for action on open meetings

An editorial in today's New Bedford Standard-Times calls for legislative action on a bill to reform the state's Open Meeting Law. The bill, crafted by Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, is based on a package of bills originally filed by the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, of which I am executive director. The editorial says:
"The primary beneficiary of the Cabral bill is the ordinary citizen who relies on open government to be sure that taxpayer money is well spent by elected and appointed officials. Citizens who would like to see this reform bill become law should contact their local legislator and Rep. DeLeo, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to push for action this session."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Podcast considers blogging as scholarship

The recent Bloggership conference drew attention to the role of blogs in legal scholarship. On this week's legal-affairs podcast Coast to Coast, we continue the discussion. Joining us to debate law professor blogs as legal scholarship are three highly regarded law professors and bloggers:
To listen to the podcast:You can subscribe to the Coast to Coast program feed here. You can also subscribe here via iTunes.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blogger not liable for libelous comments

Federal law protects bloggers from libel lawsuits based on comments posted anonymously to their blogs, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled this week.

According to a report on, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell ruled that the Communications Decency Act protects blogger Tucker Max against a libel suit filed by Anthony DiMeo III, a Philadelphia publicist. DeMeo sued Max after anonymous posters used Max's site to criticize DiMeo when a party he organized ran into problems.

But Dalzell concluded that Section 230 of the CDA was enacted to provide immunity from libel suits for Internet providers -- including bloggers. This is so, Dalzell ruled, even if the blogger admits he excercises some editorial control over the anonymous postings.

Text of the opinion is here.