March 11, 2012
Browsing On A Sunday: False Law School Job Data As A Crime, Libraries At SXSW, and Searching Cell Phones Without A Warrant
There is a new paper on SSRN that strongly suggests that law schools deans could be criminally liable for reporting of false or misleading data to U.S. News as part of the ranking surveys. U.S. News may have its own criminal issues as well. The crime? From the abstract of Law Deans In Jail by Morgan Cloud and George B. Shepherd, both from Emory University School of Law:
A most unlikely collection of suspects - law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees - may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News' ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents' crimes.
Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools' expenditures and their students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates' employment rates and students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.
U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data's accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.
Could the same be said for information submitted to the ABA? A news report appears at Allgov.com. The paper might make an interesting premise for a reality show on The Learning Channel. Law deans in jail have more to do with learning than most anything on the channel these days.
Time Magazine is reporting on a SXSW interactive talk called The Great Library Swindle: Your Rights Are at Risk. It was given by Carson Block. The reporter was shocked to find out that publishers are hostile to libraries by limit the use of e-books by libraries, raise prices, or refuse to distribute e-books at all. It’s not as if libraries don’t have the technology to distribute e-books with the same ease and limitations as with physical books. When a copy is checked out, it’s checked out. I’ve said it many times that e-book piracy occurs whether libraries distribute books or not. Why punish an institution that plays by the rules?
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion a few weeks ago that held police do not need warrants to search cell phones incident to the arrest of their owners. According to a report in Bloomberg BNA, the court analogized the electronic container to that of a paper container despite the difference in utility and amount of comparable storage. The Court invoked officer safety and evidence preservation as part of the rationale allowing the search incident to arrest. Officer safety is an issue because of the availability of tasers that look like cell phones. The preservation of evidence is related to the ability of an arrestee or a confederate to wipe the cell phone remotely. Here the police retrieved the cell phone number and used it to gather other incriminating evidence from the phone company related to drug deals. The Court declined to decide what circumstances are required to justify a more thorough search. The case is United States v. Flores-Lopez, 7th Cir., No. 10-3803, 02/29/12. [MG]