October 30, 2010
Today in History -- October 31
1517 – On the Eve of All Hallows, law-school dropout Martin Luther posts his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Saxony..
1822 – Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide dissolves the republican-dominated Congress and appoints a junta, setting the young nation on a path of political turmoil that will plague it for more than 150 years.
1861 – Lawyer-turned-soldier Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican War, resigns after 20 years as Commanding General of the U.S. Army.
1864 – President Abraham Lincoln declares that Nevada has been admitted as the 36th U.S. state, just in time for the Presidential election scheduled in 8 days..
1913 – The first transcontinental automobile route in the U.S., the Lincoln Highway, is dedicated. It will take hardy drivers about 30 days to drive from New York City to San Francisco..
1924 – The First International Savings Bank Congress, meeting in Milan, votes to create "World Savings Day." The bankers presumably were unaware that spending money you don’t have is better for the economy than saving money that you do have..
1983 – George Halas, who took over the Decatur Staleys in 1921 and moved the team to Chicago, and who helped create the National Football League a year later, founded the Chicago Bears football team in 1920 at age 25, dies in Chicago at age 88.
2002 – A federal grand jury in Houston indicts former Enron Corp. CFO Andrew Fastow on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
News Briefs -- October 30, 2010
CHICAGO: "A group of hedge funds sued the four banks that funded Tribune Co.’s 2007 leveraged buyout, alleging that the lenders knowingly rendered the company insolvent and precipitated its 2008 bankruptcy."
PERTH: "ASX-listed Macarthur Coal on Thursday advised shareholders that two of its subsidiaries, Monto Coal and Monto Coal 2, have been served with a claim for damages of A$1,2-billion for breach of contract."
LOS ANGELES: "The legal fight over whether the 2007 film Disturbia is a rip-off of an Alfred Hitchcock classic is far from being in the, um, rear window."
HARTFORD: "As [Connecticut] voters go to the polls this week to select a new attorney general, they also will choose a new direction for how the state handles claims involving public construction projects."
NEW YORK CITY: "New York Surf Film Festival co-founder Morgan Berk has filed a lawsuit against the other three founding parties, seeking damages for trademark infringement, defamation and breach of contract."
TEL AVIV: "The Turkish government and military have suspended all major defense orders and most follow-up contracts with Israel."
Couric, facing "massive" salary cut, hits road to talk to little people
Things aren't going well at CBS for America's Sweetheart, Katie Couric. As her five-year deal comes to a close with her newscast dead last for the fifth straight year, reports are that she'll either have to take a big pay cut or get banished to cable. This may seem unfair, since her predecessor Dan Rather was allowed to finish last for about 25 consecutive years without getting a pay cut, but times are tougher now.
So Couric has decided to hit the road to connect with what she blithely calls "the great unwashed" our here in the middle part of the country which she doesn't see very often. Some of the folks here in Texas got a little offended by that, since many of us bathe every Saturday and change our underwear twice a week, but Couric assures us that she "wasn't being disparaging." That's just apparently what they call us in Manhattan.
You have to wonder what she thinks saying things like that will do for either her ratings or her contract renewal. CBS CEO Les Moonves says he's still really happy he lured her away from NBC five years ago with a massive $15 million-a-year contract, but now says the network hasn't even begun to talk about extending her contract. That doesn't sound like a good sign.
October 29, 2010
Today in History -- October 30
1485 – One of the few English monarchs with a head for business, Henry VII of England is crowned at age 28.
1735 – Lawyer, statesman, and future U.S. President John Adams is born at Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts.
1864 – A few months after discovery of gold there, the little Montana hamlet of Last Chance Gulch reorganizes itself and changes its name to "Helena."
1905 – Russian Tsar Nicholas II grants Russia’s first constitution. It will turn out to be too little and too late.
1938 – Mercury Theater of the Air, a CBS radio summer replacement series with dismal ratings, gets huge bump in listenership when it broadcasts a radio version of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. The broadcast is so popular that Campbell’s Soup signs up as a regular sponsor.
1947 – Representatives of 23 countries sign the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade—the predecessor to the World Trade Organization—at Geneva.
1961 – Josef Stalin’s body is removed from its place of honor inside Lenin’s tomb and buried elsewhere. Can you Imagine how evil you have to be to be unworthy of sharing a tomb with Lenin?
1968 – Film star Ramon Novarro (top left), who made as much as $100,000 per film during the silent era and prudently invested in Los Angeles real estate, is beaten and killed in his home by two young men who steal $20 from him.
Deadweight loss explained . . .
. . . by the economists at Marginal Revolution. It's a concept some people have trouble with, and Alex Tabarrok offers a nice illustration.
Capping interest rates for "predatory" lenders
Voters in the Big Sky Country will be voting this coming Tuesday whether to put a cap on the interest rates charged by "nontraditional" lenders like payday and auto-title loan companies. On the Montana ballot is an initiative that would cap the annual interest rate at 36%. An unsecured two-week $100 loan -- which now might carry a $15 charge -- will now have a maximum charge of $1.38. Assuming someone is willing to lend money at that rate.
The bill is expected to pass.
Beh & Stempel on "unilateral" insurance contracts
In the mail today, a nice reprint of Hazel Beh (Hawaii) & Jeffrey W. Stempel (UNLV), Misclassifying the Insurance Policy: The Unforced Errors of Unilateral Contract Characterization, 32 Cardozo L. Rev. 85 (2010), which Hazel and Jeff previewed at the February 2010 Spring Contracts Conference at UNLV.
I'm a sucker for discussions about the unilateral/bilateral thing, and the two authors do a good job of explaining why the distinction matters in the context of insurance contracts. Here's the abstract:
Insurance policies are traditionally classified as unilateral or “reverse-unilateral” contracts, a characterization we find largely incorrect, with problematic consequences for adjudication of insurance coverage disputes. In addition to the general difficulties attending the unilateral classification, the concept as applied to insurance policies is not only unhelpful but incorrect. Insurance policies are more accurately viewed as bilateral contracts. In addition, the unilateral characterization of insurance policies introduces error and inconsistency into the litigation of insurance controversies. In particular, the unilateral view tends toward excessive formalism and focus on so-called “conditions” precedent to coverage, eschewing material breach analysis and encouraging needless forfeitures as well as unwisely removing the concept of anticipatory repudiation and corresponding remedy from insurance law. Categorizing insurance policies as unilateral fails to appreciate the ongoing, iterative nature of insurance policies and the insurer-policyholder relationship. Recognizing the bilateral nature of insurance policies holds substantial potential for improving insurance coverage adjudication.
If you don't have Lexis/Nexis there's a version of it on SSRN here. You can probably get a copy from the authors, too.
"God loves a cheerful giver"; India doesn't care about the "cheerful" part
Giving away money to worthy causes is a good thing. Such a good thing, apparently, that the Indian government has decided to make it mandatory. The government has instituted a rule that requires Indian corporations to give 2 percent of their net income to "philanthropy."
In the U.S., corporate philanthropy tends to go disproportionately to elite institutions like art museums, opera houses, and universities, rather than to grass-roots level programs. It will be interesting to see how much of this new philanthropy will go toward addressing poverty, and how much to the country’s elite institutions.
FGS (quoting 2 Corinthians 9:7)
Smart, talented, pretty, and she seems to like fat guys
There are lots of lawyers who want to be pop music stars. It’s more unusual for a pop star to want to be a lawyer. But that’s the story of popular Korean singer Nikki (So Eun) Lee, who’s now apparently at 2L at Northwestern, and having a great time. This is her. (She?):
October 28, 2010
Today in History -- October 29
1618 – The father of the tobacco industry, Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded at Whitehall at the age of 66 for alleged treason.
1787 – Mozart's opera Don Giovanni premieres at the Estates Theater in Prague. Turn up the volume and enjoy the incredible Overture.
1815 – Songwriter Daniel Decatur Emmett, the author of the Southern anthem "Dixie,"is born at Mount Vernon, Ohio. A staunch opponent of Secession, he will go on to write the fife and drum manual for the Union Army.
1901 – Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated President William McKinley, is executed by electrocution at Auburn Prison in New York.
1911 – Joseph Pulitzer, a wealthy businessman who made a great deal of money campaigning against wealthy businessmen, dies on his yacht while traveling to his winter home in Georgia.
1929 – The day after Black Monday, October 28, stocks continue to tumble on "Black Tuesday." The Great Depression is under way.
1955 – The creator of the Hollywood studio system, Louis B. Mayer (born Lazar Meir in Minsk) dies of leukemia at Los Angeles. On his watch Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer became the most profitable film studio in the world.
1968 – UCLA student Charley Kline transmits the first message ever sent from one computer to another over the new ARPANET system. The system crashes in the middle of the transmission.
2004 – European heads of state sign the Treaty Establishing a European Constitution, which will be submitted to member states of the European Union for ratification. It will fail.
Bonding at the Meat Market
Over at Prawfsblawg, Florida State's Dan Markel discusses a problem: interviewees at the AALS job conference who waste the time of law school hiring committees by agreeing to be interviewed (and even to be brought back for a campus visit) when they have no real interest in going to the school. He suggests mechanisms for dealing with this, such as requiring interviewees to pay for their own trips out (refunding the money if they are rejected or if they accept the job) or requiring interviewees to make charitable donations as a sign of their interest in a school.. These "bonding costs" allow the parties to reveal their real intentions.
Sure, it may seem a bit hard to make the interviewees (who are the only ones there NOT on expense account and who have already been charged an arm and a leg by the AALS to be there) to pay more money, but the suggestion does improve the information available to both parties. From my experience, however, lots of schools waste the time of applicants in whom they know they aren't really interested. These schools fill up the dance cards of interviewees and sometimes cause them to turn down an interview with a school where they might actually get an offer. Consistent with Markel's idea, I suggest that hiring committees signal their interest by paying each interviewee they schedule $250, which the interviewee will repay when offered the job. This will help applicants get a better idea of who's really serioius about them and who's just filling slots or papering the record for diversity or internal political purposes.
Well, think about it.
N.J. law school clinics subject to Open Meetings law
A New Jersey court has apparently ruled that law clinics at the state’s two government-owned law schools (Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark) are subject to the state Open Public Records Act. Material protected by the attorney-client privilege can be withheld, but other records will have to be produced.
The court rejected arguments by the American Association of University Professors, the Clinical Legal Education Association, and the Society of American Law Teachers, who argued that compliance with the law would have a negative impact on the services they provide.
NY Magistrate Recognizes Cal. Surrogacy Contract
In a New York child-support proceeding, Family Court Support Magistrate Rachel J. Parisi (Suffolk County) upheld a California judgment of paternity for twins conceived pursuant to the terms of a gestational surrogacy contract. The judge accorded the judgment full faith and credit despite New York's public policy barring surrogacy contracts. The court pointed out that the issue was not the validity of the underlying surrogacy contract but, rather, a subsequent judgment of paternity.
The NYLJ reports:
D.P. is the twins' biological father. T.R. was his romantic partner.
Both men are New York residents. Because New York law does not recognize surrogacy contracts, they entered into a surrogacy agreement with a woman in California, one of approximately 38 states to legally recognize such contracts.
Surrogacy contracts were barred in New York in 1992 by state legislators, some of whom decried the process as "baby selling."
Many New Yorkers now go out of state to set up legally enforceable surrogate agreements—Sara Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick famously hired a Ohio surrogate in 2008.
An interesting development for non-biological parents in surrogacy arrangements, one which assures their parentage will be recognized even though the contract itself would not be enforced in New York.
Matter of Support Proceeding, NYLJ 1202474012528, at *1 (Fam., SU, Decided October 4, 2010)
[Meredith R. Miller]
October 27, 2010
Today in History -- October 28
1538 – The first university in the New World, the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino, is founded by Papal bull on the island of Santo Domingo. It will close in 1832.
1636 – A vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony appropriates £400 and charters the first corporation in what will become the United States, Harvard College. The school’s first motto will be "Truth for Christ and the Church." It will later be shortened to just the first word.
1848 – The first railroad in Spain opens. It runs 31 km from Barcelona north to Mataró.
1883 – English pottery manufacturer Thomas Twyford creates the first one-piece porcelain toilet, the "Unitas" (right), thus dispensing with the traditional wooden cabinet. Twyford’s is still in business today, and is by Royal Warrant the official toilet provider to HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Really.
1886 – On Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor, President Grover Cleveland dedicates the new Statue of "Liberty Enlightening the World. "
1919 – Just one day after President Wilson vetoes the Volstead Act, the veto is overridden by votes in the House of Representatives (175-55) and the Senate (65-20), paving the way for national Prohibition. It seemed like a good idea.
1929 – The Dow Jones industrial index drops nearly 13 percent; the day will later become known as Black Monday.
1936 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, running for reelection, rededicates the Statue of Liberty.
1948 – Swiss chemist Paul Müller is awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT. It seemed like a good idea.
Dallas lawyer seeks continuance to attend 1st Rangers World Series game
Dallas lawyer Darrell Cook has been a Texas Rangers fan since the team moved from Washington, D.C., to the DFW Metroplex when he was 13. He's been waiting nearly 40 years to see them go to the World Series. He has tickets to the first game tonight in San Francisco.
Unfortunately he also had a pretrial hearing scheduled this morning in Irving Municipal Court. So Cook filed what may be the most unusual request for a continuance that DFW lawyers have ever seen -- His Emergency Motion for Continuance in the case of of City of Irving v. Villas of Irving.
Ghosh on commercializing data
Wisconsin's Shubha Ghosh will be presenting Commercializing Data at the Texas Wesleyan Law School Faculty Workshop today (October 27) at noon. In the paper, a work in progress, he argues that contemporary debates about the commercialization of data reflect an inherent tension between (1) democratic values of transparency and accountability and (2) market goals of wealth creation. The presentation is at noon in the Schuchman Conference Center.
Higher education bubble, textbook division
This is a pretty sobering chart included in a pretty sobering piece of commentary by UW-Flint economics professor Mark J. Perry. It shows the rise in textbook and educational materials prices as compared to house prices and the Consumer Price Index.
When things can't keep going on as they are, they tend to stop.
FGS (via Instapundit)
October 26, 2010
Today in History -- October 27
312 – Constantine I sees in the sky a vision of the Cross with the words, In hoc signo vinces. The next day he will defeat his rival Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River and become undisputed emperor of Rome..
1275 – A small fishing village near a dam on the Amstel River in Holland receives a charter from Count Floris V. During the Golden Age of the Netherlands, the city of "Amsterdam" will become the commercial capital of Europe
1795 – The United States and Spain sign the Treaty of Madrid, which defines the borders between the young nation and the Spanish colonies in America. The treaty doesn’t last long.
1810 – United States annexes Spanish West Florida, which it claims is part of the Louisiana Purchase. It will later snap up the rest of Florida in 1819, in exchange for $5 million and renunciation of American claims to Texas.
1811 – Isaac Merritt Singer is born at Pittstown. New York. After he fails at his first career choice, acting, he’ll make a fortune from inventing the first practical sewing machine at age 39.
1966 – Matthew Nathan Drudge is born at Takoma Park, Maryland. He’ll later create a news web site that makes more profit than the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe, combined.
1975 – Rex Todhunter Stout, creator of fictional detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, dies at age 88.
2004 – A bad day for curses: the Boston Red Sox win the World Series after an 86-year drought. The Series MVP is Manny Rodriguez, who will lead the club to another title in 2007 but then will be traded as a “cancer” on the team.
Thinking about football (soccer) contracts
For those interested in sports contracts, here's an interesting history of contracting practices in Britain's Football Association.
Moral hazard, insurance contract division
Via Marginal Revolution, Tampabay.com has the tale of a town where back in the 1950s and 60s people were amputating their own limbs to get big paydays from insurance companies. The story is not actually as grim as it sounds. Some of the claimants were pretty clever, including one guy who bought some 30 insurance policies and made sure he had a tourniquet and an automatic-transmission car handy when the "accident" took off his foot.
As one insurance rep ruefully explained, "It was hard to make a jury believe a man would shoot off his foot." No kidding.