Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Monday, December 19, 2016

Find My Phone

AndroidDutch filmmaker Anthony Van Der Meer has recently posted his short documentary, "Find My Phone," on You Tube (and Vimeo).

In this 22-minute film, Van Der Meer tracks the movements of a person who stole (or is suspected of stealing) his android phone.  Only Van Der Meer's phone was no ordinary phone stolen under ordinary circumstances.  Before the thief stole the phone, Van Der Meer installed a tracking app (Cerberus) into the phone's system memory.   This app was installed in a manner such that it could not be deleted by resetting the phone or updating the operating system (the film explains how).  This embedded app allowed Van Der Meer to track the phone's location, access its contents and operate it remotely.  Van Der Meer even took a photograph of the user, presumable without the user even knowing.

Next, Van Der Meer purposefully let his phone get stolen (it took four days but eventually, it was stolen).  He then tracked the thief through the app embedded into the phone, learning a surprising amount of information about him.  Van Der Meer received information about when the SIM card was replaced,  tracked the phone's daily movements, took photos and videos remotely, identified the thief's phone and text contacts, read texts, listened in on his private conversations, and purchased updated call credits for the phone.  Van Der Meer is shown doing all these things in the film.

I highly recommend this short film to any lawyer interested in how our digital devices can be used or misused to track and document our whereabouts and activities and to reveal our secret lives and documents.  I am not well-versed enough in current technologies or privacy law generally to comment about the film beyond saying I found it both highly entertaining and eye-opening.  I have seen attorneys call up client documents on their phones and tablets in the courtroom and of course, e-filing has become all the rage.  How secure are these client documents, such as proprietary files or trade secrets?  How secure are sensitive court filings such as adoption records or trade secrets filed in camera?  What about other e-filed information such as tax returns?  It does not seem enough to me to incorporate these devices into practice without considering -- and paying for -- the security tools, training and protocols necessary to keep private matters private.

This film will make you think twice about the personal and business privacy issues related to your phone.

Craig Estlinbaum

December 19, 2016 in Ethics, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"The Luckiest Court in the Universe"

Daniel Nazer at reports that if patent litigation cases were evenly distributed among the 94 federal district courts in the United States, each court would have 33 such cases filed so far this year.  As it happens, the Eastern District of Texas has seen 1,387 patent cases filed this year in that particular jurisdiction.

How did the Eastern District become the mecca for patent litigation filings?  Nazer's article, "Why Patent Trolls Love East Texas... And Why Congress Needs To Fix It," tells that story.

Craig Estlinbaum

August 20, 2015 in Federal Law, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goldman and Reyes: Competitive Keyword Advertising and Legal Ethics

I am fascinated how new technology challenges existing legal and judicial ethics rules and canons.  An article forthcoming in University of Illinois Law Review, written by Eric Goldman and Angel Reyes, III titled, "Regulation of Lawyers’ Use of Competitive Keyword Advertising" addresses just such an issue.  Here is the abstract:

Lawyers have enthusiastically embraced search engine advertisements triggered by consumers’ keywords, but the legal community remains sharply divided about the propriety of buying keyword ads triggered by the names of rival lawyers or law firms (“competitive keyword advertising”). This Essay surveys the regulation of competitive keyword advertising by lawyers and concludes that such practices are both beneficial for consumers and legitimate under existing U.S. law - except in North Carolina, which adopted an anachronistic and regressive ethics opinion that should be reconsidered.

The article is available at SSRN here.  Josh King, blogging at Socially Awkward, describes competitive keyword advertising this way: "1.  “Buy” the name of your competitor from Google.; 2.  When potential clients search Google for that competitor, your ad appears.  3.  Profit!!"  That's easier to understand, I guess, though I imagine there must be something more between steps 2 and 3.

Eric Goldman has written a shorter essay about legal ethics and competitive keyword  advertising in Forbes.  Florida has issued an ethics opinion approving the practice -- North Carolina contra.

Hat Tip to Carolyn Elfant at My Shingle, who offers her own take on the practice.

Craig Estlinbaum

May 13, 2015 in Ethics, Law Review Articles, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Judge Admonished for Facebook Post

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

NKU Chase: Digital Evidence Symposium

From the NKU Chase Law + Infomatics Institute website:

The Northern Kentucky Law Review and NKU Chase College of Law seek submissions for the fourth annual Law + Informatics Symposium on February 26-27, 2015. The conference will provide an interdisciplinary exploration of digital information in the courtroom, including the importance of insuring that such information is reliable, resilient, and uncompromised.

The symposium is an opportunity for academics, practitioners, consultants, and students to exchange ideas and explore emerging issues regarding digital forensics and the rules of evidence and discovery in criminal and civil cases.

The full release is here.

Suggested topics include digital forensics, constitutional issues, digital evidence in the courtroom, international and comparative law, e-discovery and emerging issues.  The most immediate deadline is September 1, 2014 for abstracts.

Craig Estlinbaum

July 1, 2014 in Conferences, Faculty, Law Review Articles, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tennessee: Judge's Facebook Use Does Not Lead To Recusal

Tennessee v. Madden, No. M2012-02473-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., March 11, 2014), involves a second degree murder prosecution in which the defendant was a Middle Tennessee State University ("MTSU") student and the victim was a member of the MTSU women's basketball team.  During the case, the defendant moved to recuse the judge presiding because that judge had a "substantial and material connection" to MTSU.  Defendant noted the judge had 205 Facebook connections to individuals at MTSU, including with the head women's basketball coach, a witness in the case.  Defense counsel said he was not able to affirm whether the judge visited any particular Facebook pages.  The judge unfriended "numerous" MTSU connections after counsel filed the recusal motion.  The judge stated during the hearing, "[t]o be quite honest I didn't think my Facebook page was public" and that he originally believed defense counsel "hacked into my account or got somebody to pretend to be my friend and went through all that stuff."

The appeals court affirmed the trial judge's denial of the motion to recuse, but not without important comment.  First, the appeals court described a heated exchange between the trial judge and the defense attorney that culminated with the judge, "chastis[ing] defense counsel for, among other things, "filing a motion that called into question the people's faith in the judicial system and 'dimishe[d] our entire court system."  The court affirmatively stated it did not condone all that transpired below when the record showed defense counsel was merely advocating zealously for his client.  The court, however, conclude the "defendant...failed to identify any concrete manner in which she was disadvantaged by any bias on the part of the trial court."

The appellate court added (internal citations omitted):

If the public is to maintain confidence in our system of justice, a litigant myst be afforded the "cold neutrality of an impartial court."  The overall tenor of some of the questions asked and statements made by the trial court to defense counsel during the hearing concerning the defendant's recusal motion reveal that the trial judge was upset, perhaps because he felt that defense counsel had violated his privacy by visiting his Facebook page (and the pages of individuals listed as his "friends" on that page).  However, the record reflects nothing other than zealous representation on the part of defense counsel.

...When engaging in physical and on-line contact with members of the community...judges must at all times remain conscious of the solemn duties they may later be called upon to perform.  Perhaps someday, our courts will follow the lead of Maryland, which has concluded that its judges must accept restrictions on online conduct that might be viewed as burdensome to ordinary citizens and prohibits the "friending" of attorneys and witnesses likely to appear before a judge.  In the meantime, judges will perhaps best be served by ignoring any false sense of security created by so-called "privacy settings" and understanding that, in today's world, posting information to Facebook is the very definition of making it public.

One judge concurring noted that a month earlier, the court held that a judge's Facebook friendship with a confidential informant did not require recusal where the record failed to show the length of the Facebook friendship or the extent or nature of their interaction.  The concurring judge also wrote, "In this case, although one Facebook 'friendship' was sufficient to scruitinize the judge's impartiality, the record does not demonstrate more than a "virtual" acquaintance between the trial judge and the prospective witness."  Judges should strongly consider whether or not such scrutiny is best left uninvited. 

See Also:

Craig Estlinbaum

April 29, 2014 in Ethics, Judges, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Law Practice's Brave New World

Technology advances have changed the way law gets practiced and attorneys not keeping up with the changes are on a road to professional ruin.  This at least is the conclusion a judicial panel reached at a recent LegalTech New York conference, reports Joe Dysart, ABA Journal.  The judges' comments touched upon e-discovery, ethics and technology.  One panelist, U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis of New York's Southern District, summarized, "The absence of technical knowledge is a distinct competitive disadvantage."

Craig Estlinbaum



April 17, 2014 in Conferences, CLE, Ethics, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 8, 2013

On Professors on Wikipedia

Anna Samoilenko and Taha Yasseri's study, "The Distorted Mirror of Wikipedia: a Quantitative Analysis of Wikipedi Coverage of Academics" is posted at the Cornell University Library.  Robinson Meyer has commentary on the paper on The Atlantic.  He writes:

Does your professor have their own Wikipedia page? Well congratulations!, a new study finds. That probably doesn’t mean anything important.

The Oxford University study, submitted for review to EPJ Data Science* late last week, found no meaningful correlation between an academic having their own entry on Wikipedia and being productive or prolific in their field. It also didn’t find a correlation between any major measure of Wikipedia success—the length of an entry, say, or the number of edits to that entry—and an academic’s prolificness.

In short, a scientist having their own Wikipedia entry means—to use a technical term—diddly squat.

Hardly surprising, when you think about it.

Craig Estlinbaum

November 8, 2013 in College Professors, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is Folk Music Still Possible?

Geoffrey Himes at Paste asks, "Is Folk Music Even Possible Anymore?"  He begins:

Is folk music even possible anymore?


By “folk music,” I refer not to the diluted meaning of the term, where anyone with an acoustic guitar or a fiddle can be considered a folk musician. I’m talking about true folk music, songs that are created by and for a small, self-contained community, where musicians are performing for friends and neighbors in a style they all grew up with. These folk musicians don’t have to bring out the universal—or generic—elements in their songs because they’re not traveling to play for strangers.


A singer/songwriter who travels the continent with her banjo and Martin guitar is not a folk musician in this sense; she’s a pop musician with different instrumentation.

Himes' article is a good read on how mass media and the consumer culture impacts indiginous and organic art forms.   He also warns that the "diminishing possibility of folk music" impoverishes popular culture.  Himes thus defends popular artists that "play old styles the same way previous generations did," arguing that if those artists did not, "what [wells of musical tradition] would we drink from?"  Himes writes, "When the teenagers in every Appalachian gas station and every Mississippi convenience store are wearing ear buds, can there be a region isolated enough to evolve its own mutated music?"  Can there, indeed.

Craig Estlinbaum

October 10, 2013 in Music, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Campbell Law Review Call for Papers

From the Campbell Law Review website:

The Campbell Law Review is pleased to announce a call for papers for its National Edition, which will be focused broadly around Internet Law and related themes.  The Internet and associated technologies continue to evolve a pervasively networked, globalized society, creating new forces that are shaping law, society, culture, and the legal profession.

The Law Review seeks to publish papers on legal, social, cultural, and economic issues that relate to the emerging technological changes.  In particular, we seek recent essays that deal with the challenges posed and the steps that must be taken for the law to respond, now and in the future.  Representative topics include privacy law, freedom of speech, and the changing nature of the legal profession.

The call for papers includes an August 1, 2013, submission deadline for publication in Fall 2013.

Hat Tip:  SSRN Legal Scholarship Network.

Craig Estlinbaum

May 22, 2013 in Announcements, Law Review Articles, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mobile Tax App

Attorney Matthias M. Edrich developed what appears to be a remarkable product for tax lawyers. It is called Touch Tax which includes the ability to read the entire IRS Code on your Blackberry, Android, I-Phone, or Palm. He describes the product as follows:

TouchTax includes the ability to load and read all 7,700+ sections of the Code and Regulations offline without the need for an Internet connection.  As a result of user feedback, I’ve also added a new keyword search function (which, however, does require an Internet connection) allowing you to search Code and Regulation sections based on exact keyword matches as well as natural language relevancy hits.  TouchTax also permits you to add individual notes to Code and Regulation sections and to email entire Code or Regulation sections along with your notes (which the author thinks is a very convenient feature!).  If you have access to an HP printer with wireless networking, you can also use TouchTax to print a Code or Regulation section.  TouchTax also has a bookmark feature, permitting you to bookmark frequently referenced sections, as well as other relevant links, including a link to lookup IRS tax forms.  If you enjoy using TouchTax, please consider leaving positive feedback in the application market.  Read “Getting Started” on the TouchTax support site for more information on how to get started with your Code and Regulation reading using TouchTax.  Note that the BlackBerry and Android versions are currently being upgraded to contain these features.  The HP/Palm and Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod versions are already up-to-date.

More information and a link to purchase (between 0.99 and 5.99) can be found here.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

February 29, 2012 in Tax Law Information, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Offices Allowing Employees To Purchase Their Own Tech Equipment

More Offices Let Workers Choose Their Own Devices is an interesting September 22, 2011 New York Times article. As the title states, more companies are allowing workers to purchase their own technology at company expense. 

Is this a good idea? On some level, yes-and that is certainly the tenor of the article. But there are two may problems with having the employee purchase the equipment and being reimbursed later. First, there is the issue of security. I do not know much about technology so I cannot further comment.

But, there is also an employment law issue. If the company provides the equipment, case law provides that the employees do not have a reasonable expecation of privacy. Therefore, employers can, and often do, mointor email and the like. So, does an employee have a greater expecation of privacy if he purchases the equipment and is simply reimbursed? Maybe.

Law review commentary on this important issue would be most welcome.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

December 5, 2011 in Employment Law, Law Review Ideas, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Free Office Products (Fax and Conference Calls)

There are now several products on the web which allow you to send and receive a fax for free as an email and to make free conference calls via a regular telephone. There are limitations to all of these services, but the are free and I thought I would share them with readers. My favorites are as follows: 

-Send Fax Via Email (

-Receive Fax Via Email  (

-Free Telephone Conference Calls  (

I will be adding these links to the left side of my blog for future reference. If anyone has other suggestions that are totally free (not low cost), please comment below.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

July 25, 2010 in Misc., Legal, Misc., Non-Legal, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The End of The Legal Yellow Pad??

A Legal iPad is an interesting April 2010 ABA Journal article which raises the question whether the iPad and like devices will single the end of the legal yellow pad?

Will any technology device ever fully replace the ubiquitous legal pad? I’ll take the easy way out and say it’s too early to tell. Yet, it does feel like something big is about to happen, and we are moving to an era of computing where we have more choices and are more likely to pick devices that best fit our needs. Lawyers who travel a lot might find the case for an iPad compelling. Lawyers who work only at their desks might find little use.

While I’d like to see what would happen if an innovative large firm did a wholesale adoption of iPads, I don’t think that’s likely. Where I expect to see significant early iPad adoption is among solos and small firms (including boutique firms started by refugees from large firms) that are already using the Internet and technology in new ways.

Personally, I rather use a lap top. I do not see this device as getting rid of paper any time soon.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

May 18, 2010 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Judges and Google

Our sister blog, Legal Writing Prof Blog, has an interesting story about a case involving a judge who googled a search term about a defendant during a criminal trial. In a nutshell, the Second Circuit held that the judge did not act improperly. As the blog posting states:

On appeal, the Second Circuit vindicated the trial judge's impromptu factual investigation by concluding that:

[The Judge's] use of the Web was merely the electronic equivalent of what a judge in an earlier era would have done: gone to a local department store to confirm in person the "common-sense" belief that a variety of yellow rain hats, like that worn by a bank robber, can be purchased.

As 'broadband speeds increase and Internet search engines improve,' judicial use of computers is only likely to increase, the court said.

'As the cost of confirming one's intuition decreases, we would expect to see more judges doing just that,' the court held. 'More generally, with so much information at our fingertips (almost literally), we all likely confirm hunches with a brief visit to our favorite search engine that in the not-so-distant past would have gone unconfirmed.'

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 5, 2010 in Judges, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 26, 2010

PDF Web Sites For Free will pdf any page on the internet for free. Might be a nice way to save cases and articles.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 26, 2010 in Misc., Non-Legal, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Social Networking Judges and Attorneys??

Pitfalls of Social Networking for Judges is an excellent March 16, 2010 New York Law Journal article by Mark Strutin (registration required). The article highlights issues that Judges and attorneys may face if they engage in social networking. Obviously, a judge may be interacting with a party and not even know it. That may create an appearance that something is inappropriate. Attorneys, like other employees, may be embarrassed by what they write. As the article explains:

Transitions from one form of communication to another never occur neatly. They frequently wend their way through society by fits and starts, embraced by a few at first, then by masses of people until they are commonplace.

But as technology cuts a swath through established practices and institutions in this piecemeal fashion, we have to be cognizant of the perils to our professional lives and the judicial process. A social networking site cannot sanitize conduct that transgresses ethical boundaries when done in person or in print.

The article cites several ethic opinions. Law review commentary on this important topic is needed.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 18, 2010 in Judges, Law Review Ideas, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Free Kindle For Blackberry Released

Amazon has released its new, free Kindle for BlackBerry app for the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and 8900, Bold 9000 and 9700, Storm 9530/Storm2 9550 and the Tour 9630. Details and download here.

Unfortunately, at the present time, you can only download books. This is one app worth downloading.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Hat Tip: Law Librarian Blog

February 21, 2010 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Beta Available With A Free Download

Hurray and get it while you can. Microsoft Office Professional 2010 is available now with a free download. It could take over an hour to download-depending upon your computer's speed.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 18, 2009 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Smart Phone Apps

Well this is not exactly a law-related post, but it may be very helpful to lawyers, law students and scholars.

The Oct. 2009 ABA has an interesting article entitled Sizzing Apps. It is about apps that can be downloaded (many at little or no charge) to your smartphone (Palm, Blackberry, I-Phone etc.). As the article state:

Apps: It’s a little word for those mini-programs that can pay off big in productivity, knowledge or just plain fun. And they come at all price points, from expensive-but-worth-it to absolutely free.

Whether you’re a born techie or a reluctant one, you, too, can harness the power of technology with these 70 apps lawyers are sure to love.

For those of you who are not smart phone savvy, you may want to check this article out.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

November 5, 2009 in Articles, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)