Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lack Of Biological Connection No Bar To Parent Status

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that a woman whose then-partner had a child through insemination of an anonymous sperm donor had adequately pleaded parentage of the child in guardianship and adoption proceedings.

Assuming the truth of Susan’s alleged facts, and construing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to her...we conclude that she adequately pleaded that she received Madelyn into her home and openly held Madelyn out as her child. She and Melissa planned to have and raise children together. They prepared Madelyn’s nursery together in the home they had jointly purchased because they "thought it would be a good place to raise a family." When Madelyn was born, Susan was in the delivery room. She alleges: "From the very beginning, Maddie, Melissa, and I were a family. Melissa was the ‘Mommy,’ and I was the ‘Momma.’ Together we were . . . Maddie’s parents, and Maddie was our daughter. I loved Maddie as my daughter, treated her as my daughter, and saw her as my daughter."

Susan’s allegations, taken as true, indicate that Melissa also regarded Susan as Madelyn’s parent as evidenced by, among other things, giving Susan a greeting card commemorating the "Birth of Our Baby," and including her as "Momma," and her parents as Madelyn’s grandparents, on Madelyn’s family tree. The allegations also indicate that Susan appeared "to the world" to be Madelyn’s parent. Madelyn shares Susan’s last name. Susan was named as a parent, along with Melissa, in birth announcements and in a church ceremony. Susan was named as a parent in Madelyn’s school and medical records, and was treated as a parent at Madelyn’s preschool.

The court concluded that the governing statutes apply equally to men and women and that the "lack of a biological connection" was not a bar to a parent-status claim. (Mike Frisch)

July 2, 2014 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flying Hotdog Not Inherent Risk Of Watching A Baseball Game

A longtime Kansas City Royals baseball fan who lost a jury verdict for an eye  injury allegedly sustained during the "Hotdog Launch" by team mascot Sluggerrr gets a new trial.

The plaintiff was at a sparsely attended game with the Tigers.The court noted that the Royals won.

He and his father had moved down into choice seats nearthe dugout. He claimed he was struck by a hand-tossed hotdog but did not report any injury at the time. In fact, he attended the next night's game.

He sought medical attention and claimed the toss caused a detached retina. He advised the Royals of his claim eight days after the incident.

Sluggerrr had no memory of the event.

The jury found the plaintiff 100% at fault.

From the web page ofthe Missouri Supreme Court

A spectator, allegedly injured when a hot dog tossed by a baseball team’s mascot hit him in the eye, appeals a jury verdict in favor of the team that assessed 100 percent of the fault for his injury to him. In a unanimous decision written by Judge Paul C. Wilson, the Supreme Court of Missouri vacates the judgment and remands (sends back) the case. Whether a particular risk is inherent in watching a sporting event is a question of law for the court, not a question of fact for the jury. The risk of being injured by the hotdog toss is not one of the inherent risks of watching a baseball game. As a result, the trial court erred in submitting an instruction putting this question to the jury. Because the error affected the outcome of the case, it was prejudicial, requiring the judgment to be vacated and the case remanded.
 
The court's opinion is linked here. Also linked is a story from the Associated Press.
 
(Mike Frisch)

June 26, 2014 in Law & Business, Law & Society, Lawyers & Popular Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hyperbole Only

A law firm's suit for defamation was dismissed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:

In this action for defamation, plaintiffs, a law firm and its two members, allege that defendant, the chief executive of a party named as a defendant in a law suit brought by plaintiffs on behalf of their client, NDTV, defamed them in an interview conducted by a journalist in India and published in an online Indian financial publication. Among the allegedly false and defamatory statements made by defendant were that the plaintiff firm is a two-lawyer, Florida-based law firm specializing in restaurant law, that it accepted cases on a contingency basis, and that it broached the topic of settlement with their client's adversaries in an attempt to "extort" money from them.

The motion Court properly found that plaintiffs failed to state a valid cause of action for defamation. Given the overall context in which the statements were made, a reasonable reader would conclude that they constitute hyperbole and convey non-actionable opinions about the merits of the lawsuit and the motivation of NDTV's attorneys, rather than statements of fact.

(Mike Frisch)

May 6, 2014 in Law & Business, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2014

New release in ebooks of classic collection on the sociology of the professions

Most of the ebooks and print books produced by the book project I started in 2010, called Quid Pro Books, are on law, history or political science, and are not really the topic of this blog. But one we released this week goes to its core. It is a republication, in Kindle, Google Play, andThe Sociology of the Professions cover interior Q Nook formats (and next week in Apple iTunes; this summer in paperback), of the renowned collection edited by Robert Dingwall and Philip S.C. Lewis, The Sociology of the Professions: Lawyers, Doctors and Others. The new edition adds a substantive 2014 Foreword by Sida Liu of the University of Wisconsin. Chapters are by Dingwall, Lewis, Paul Atkinson, Maureen Cain, John Eekelaar, Eliot Freidson, Marc Galanter, Gordon Horobin, Malcolm Johnson, Geoff Mungham, Topsy Murray, Alan Paterson, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, P.M. Strong, and Philip Thomas. A full description is found at any of the links above.

We also just released a courtroom thriller by University of Houston law prof David Crump, The Target Defendant. Its ebooks are out already, and the paperback will follow next Target Defendant cover Apple interiorweek. And last month we published a mystery novel by Stanford law prof Lawrence Friedman, called Who Killed Maggie Swift? Here is an interview of Professor Friedman in Palo Alto Weekly in which he discusses mystery writing and his other books with this publishing project ... and shouts out to me!  [Alan Childress]

April 11, 2014 in Childress, Comparative Professions, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 7, 2014

All That Jazz

An interesting opinion from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department sounds like a New York, New York kind of a story

This case, apparently one of first impression, aptly illustrates the well-known axiom that cautions against mixing business with pleasure. The question presented is whether a so-ordered stipulation, agreed upon by plaintiff and defendant Valenti in Family Court and which precludes all contact between them except by counsel, renders impossible the performance of two prior contracts between plaintiff and Jayarvee, Inc., Valenti's artist management company. We hold that it does.

Plaintiff is a well-known professional jazz singer. Valenti is the sole shareholder and president of Jayarvee, a corporation that manages musical artists, produces musical recordings, and owns and operates the well-known jazz club Birdland. Plaintiff and Valenti met in 2003 while plaintiff was performing at Birdland, and the two quickly kindled a romantic relationship. By early 2004, plaintiff had moved into Valenti's Manhattan apartment. They became engaged that year, and for some years held themselves out as husband and wife, although they never married. They also developed a professional relationship, many details of which are still at issue in Supreme Court.

By 2011, the couple's personal relationship had deteriorated. Plaintiff alleges that in or about March 2011, Valenti obtained her private electronic materials — in part by physically overpowering her — and subsequently made repeated threats to release those materials to the public. He allegedly stated that he would ruin plaintiff's professional career and personal life by posting the data on the internet.

Despite the ongoing personal drama between plaintiff and Valenti, their professional relationship continued. Plaintiff and Jayarvee — with Valenti signing as the company's president — entered into a recording contract and a management contract in April 2011 and June 2011, respectively. Plaintiff moved out of their shared residence in May 2011.

Nonetheless, in October 2011, plaintiff commenced a Family Court proceeding in which she sought an order of protection against Valenti. The court granted a temporary order of protection that, inter alia, prevented Valenti from contacting plaintiff, either directly or through third parties. The order was extended on consent several times through June 2012.

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on November 21, 2011 — while the Family Court proceeding was pending — against Valenti, Jayarvee, and plaintiff's accountant, Howard Weiss (who is not a party to this appeal). Among other things, plaintiff sought rescission of the contracts and a declaration that Jayarvee was in breach. In April 2012, defendants answered, Valenti counterclaimed for the return of an engagement ring he had given to plaintiff, and Jayarvee counterclaimed for breach of the contracts. Defendants then moved for a default judgment against plaintiff for failure to timely respond to the counterclaims; the motion was ultimately denied. In their verified answer, Valenti and Jayarvee — and Valenti, in his affidavit in support of defendants' motion for default — argued that the temporary order of protection had made performance of the contracts impossible.

Plaintiff and Valenti resolved the Family Court matter on June 13, 2012, by entering into a stipulation, so-ordered by the court. Under the terms of the stipulation, plaintiff withdrew her petition without prejudice, and both parties agreed to have no further contact with each other. The stipulation specified that "[n]o contact shall include no third party contact, excepting counsel." Following that provision, there is language, visibly crossed out, that would have allowed for contact by "other individuals at Jayarvee or [Valenti's] place of business." Thereafter, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on her claims for rescission of the contracts. Supreme Court granted the motion and declared both contracts terminated on the ground of impossibility. We now affirm.

The court intrepeted and applied the doctrine of impossibility. (Mike Frisch) 

February 7, 2014 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Court Affirms, Remands In High-Profile Domestic Case

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has affirmed the divorce decree, initial custody and visitation orders in a domestic dispute that involved the twin sister of Jill Kelley, noted for her role in the General Petraeus downfall.

The litigation had been the subject of numerous media reports because of the Petraeus connection.

The court remanded for further proceedings a motion to modify the custody award to the father and dismissed an appeal to the attorney's fees award "for lack of a final order."

The National Organization for Women Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of the mother.

Judge McLeese wrote the division's opinion. (Mike Frisch)

February 6, 2014 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Konefsky and Sullivan on Placing the Big Changes to Legal Practice and Legal Education into a Broader Context of the Profession

Alfred Konefsky (SUNY University at Buffalo, Law) and Barry Sullivan (Loyola-Chicago, Law) have posted to SSRN their fascinating paper, "In This, the Winter of Our Discontent: Legal Practice, Legal Education, and the Culture of Distrust." It will be published in Buffalo Law Review. Its abstract:

This essay seeks to situate the challenges facing legal education within the broader context of professional culture — a context that seems to us to have been neglected in the present debates. In a sense, the “market reformers” have been swept up, consciously or not, in a wider movement that elevates markets over other forms of social analysis and therefore asserts and takes for granted what is in fact deeply contested. More specifically, they have pushed to the side the public-serving dimension of the lawyer’s role because it allegedly conflicts with the psychology of classical economic liberalism. Our aim, then, is to restore the concept of the public domain to a discussion now dominated by mere considerations of costs and a belief in the inevitable triumph of a narrowed sense of professional culture. Before we can begin to reform the infrastructures of legal education, we need to identify the function of the legal profession in a democratic society and the role that a legal education might play in preparing men and women for service in a profession so conceived. In that sense, cost is not an independent variable, and any judgment about the cost-effectiveness of legal education necessarily depends on a decision concerning the purposes to be served by a legal education.

In Part I, we discuss, in a general way, some of the changes that have occurred in society, the profession, and legal education in the past 40 years or so. We are particularly interested in the growing tendency to re-conceptualize many social phenomena in market terms and the effects of this trend on legal education and the practice of law. In Part II, we continue our discussion of those themes, as they relate to the current debate over the future of legal education, by considering the analyses of Thomas D. Morgan and Brian Z. Tamanaha, both of whom approach the problem from the vantage point of economic analysis. Notwithstanding the similarities in their methodologies, their respective prescriptions point in somewhat different directions. We suggest that a broader view is necessary and that the work of these commentators and others suffers from a failure to give sufficient attention to the public dimension and significance of the legal profession. In Part III, we endeavor to reframe the problem in a way that may be useful in developing a forward-looking approach to accomplishing the reforms that are necessary.

Definitely worth a read, especially for its taking the costs meme from Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools and others to a different level. [Alan Childress]

November 15, 2013 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

John Flood on an inside view of the corporate law firm

Here's a new book in my Quid Pro project that is about the legal profession. UK law prof John Flood (Westminster) embedded himself into a Chicago firm and accounted for the firm's activities, culture, and representations beyond litigation. It was one of the first black-box views of BigLaw. It's like an Cover  Flood bookanthropological look inside a law firm. He updated it throughout into this Second Edition, and added a new introduction and afterword on the global changes to law practice and firm governance (comparing the UK). Lynn Mather of SUNY Buffalo law school added a new Foreword. You may want to recommend to your library that they add this book to the collection. Find it at YBP, Ingram, Amazon, B&N, etc., in paperback, hardcover, and ebooks. [Alan Childress]

November 5, 2013 in Books, Childress, Comparative Professions, Law & Society, Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stalled Litigation Resumes

A commercial landlord and the building's managers may be liable for invasion of privacy after installing surveillance cameras in the men's and women's bathrooms of a building, according to a decision of the New Jersey Appellate Division.

The defendants had gone to the video in response to vandalism, and claimed that privacy was not invaded because the toilet stalls were not surveilled.

The court concluded that "a rational jury could reject defendants' claim and find in favor of plaintiffs' factual contention that the scope of the surveillance included the toilet stalls."

The court held that the case was erroneously resolved by summary judgment in favor of the defendants as to invasion of privacy but affirmed the dismissal of infliction of emotional distress claims. (Mike Frisch)

October 17, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Probationer Can Sue Lab On False Positive Claim

The New York Court of Appeals has held that the tort claims of a probationer who contends that a drug testing company falsely reported a positive test for drug use survive the company's motion to dismiss.

The court majority found that public policy favors a cause of action because

...the release of a false positive report will have profound, potentially life-altering consequences for a test subject. In particular, here, plaintiff faced the loss of freedom associated with serving an extended period of probation. The laboratory is also in the best position to prevent false positive results. Under the circumstances, we find that [the laboratory] had a duty to the test subject to perform his drug test in keeping with relevant professional standards and that the existence of its contract with the County does not immunize defendant laboratory.

Not according to the dissent

The law of defamation provides a remedy for people who claim that they have been falsely reported as testing positive for drugs. The remedy is subject to strict limits, as it should be. There is no good reason to invent a new tort.

(Mike Frisch)

October 10, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Weekend

A limited liability corporation that owns an Alququerque art filmhouse had its criminal conviction for an ordinance violation arising from a film festival ("Pornotopia") that showed at least one adult film reversed by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The court concluded that a weekend of pornographic films does not make the theatre an "adult amusement establishment" any more than serving martinis on a single weekend makes a bar a "Martini Bar." The court quotes a Wisconsin case for this proposition.

The governing legal principle:

One weekend of erotic films per year does not an adult theatre make.

(Mike Frisch)

 

 

September 24, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Text Sender May Be Liable For Negligence Of Driver Recipient

The New Jersey Appellate Division has held that "the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted."

The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment against the plaintiff but disagreed with the trial court's reasoning that the sender has no legal duty to someone injured by the driver's negligence.

The defendant sender testified that she sends 100 or more texts a day: "I'm a young teenager. That's what we do."

Claims against the young driver were settled.

The accident occured shortly after the driver had left the YMCA and caused both of the victims to suffer horrific injuries.  (Mike Frisch)

August 27, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dinovitzer, Garth & Sterling Question (Empirically) Current Meme of Buyers' Remorse in Going to Law School

New at SSRN is Buyers' Remorse? An Empirical Assessment of the Desirability of a Legal Career by acclaimed law-and-society scholars Ronit Dinovitzer (Toronto), Bryant Garth (now at UC Irvine, in addition to ABF and Southwestern), and Joyce Sterling (Denver). Their abstract:

The literature attacking the value of legal education relies as a rule on the idea that individuals attend non-elite law schools because of optimism bias -- thinking they will get the lucrative corporate jobs deemed necessary to pay off educational debt. They presumably would then get buyers' remorse when their optimism proves unjustified. Drawing on the first two waves of the only longitudinal data on lawyer careers, the After the J.D. Study, the authors examine whether those who began their careers in the year 2000 -- with substantial debt even if not as high as today's graduates -- showed evidence of buyers' remorse about their decision to get a law degree. The evidence indicates that law graduates beyond the most elite were able to pay down their debt at the same rate or better than most elite law graduates. In addition, after seven years of practice the great majority of these lawyers were still satisfied with their decision to become lawyers. In fact, there is no statistically significant difference in reported satisfaction with the decision to become a lawyer when we compare graduates from the higher and lower ranked law schools. And while there is some suggestion that lawyers who reported still owing more than $100,000 after seven years of practice were either ambivalent or dissatisfied with their decision to invest in a legal career, multivariate models show that percent of debt remaining seven-eight years into one's career has no significant relationship with career satisfaction. Thus, in contrast to the dominant story, most respondents irrespective of debt are extremely or moderately satisfied with their decision to become a lawyer. There is no indication in our data that these law graduates feel they made a mistake by choosing to go to law school. The data also show that those most likely to favor eliminating the third year of law school were elite law graduates and attorneys in large corporate law firms -- again a contrast to the dominant story.

Check it out. [Alan Childress]

August 26, 2013 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Filing Probate Claim Not Unauthorized Practice

A non-attorney may file a claim on behalf of a business entity in probate court without running afoul of unauthorized practice restrictions, according to an opinion issued today by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The process for an allowance of claim merely requires the filing of a single page standard form that can be found on a court web page. The form requires an attestation that the claim is valid, timely and unpaid.

None of these activities require the professional judgment of an attorney or entail specialized legal knowledge and ability.

Bravo. (Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2013 in Current Affairs, Law & Business, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Should Ineffectiveness Claims Be Allowed In Termination Of Parental Rights?

 The Vermont Supeme Court has affirmed the termination of parental rights of a father who had claimed that his attorney was ineffective and conflicted.

The court summarized the claim

At the beginning of the hearing, father told the court that he was receiving ineffective assistance of counsel.  Father argued that his lawyer had failed to pursue various strategies recommended by father to investigate and prepare for the trial, projected that she would not introduce or object to important evidence at trial, and said she would not advocate aggressively for him in the trial because she had been a foster parent and was thus sympathetic to DCF [the Department for Children and Families].

The court explained that it could not assess father’s lawyer’s effectiveness at trial until after the hearing, but did invite counsel to address father’s concerns regarding her preparedness.  Father’s lawyer explained that she would, in the hearing, be raising many of the points identified by father, and that she had assessed and made decisions about the appropriateness of various issues raised by father based on her knowledge of the law.  She indicated that she was prepared for trial. 

The attorney denied being a foster parent and stated she had adopted a child. She had no current relationship with DCF.

The trial court found there was no conflict and the hearing went forward.

The Court:

We discern no conflict of interest that precluded father’s attorney from representing him.  Rule 1.7 deals with a lawyer’s obligation to avoid concurrent conflicts of interest, including not representing a client when there is a “significant risk” that the representation is “materially limited . . . by a personal interest of the lawyer.”  V.R.Pr.C. 1.7(a)(2).  The comments to the rules explain that such personal interest conflicts may include a lawyer’s business or employment interest with an opponent’s client or law firm, a lawyer’s financial interest in an opponent, or a lawyer’s personal connection to other lawyers in the action.  Here, there is simply no conflict.  Father’s attorney had no personal interest in the outcome of the case that prevented her from providing father with adequate representation.  Counsel had not represented DCF in the past and had no current or past relationship to DCF beyond counsel’s adoption five years previously of a child who had been in DCF custody.  This created no inherent bias that would prevent counsel from adequately representing father.

Justice Dooley concurred, stating that he has not decided that ineffective assistance claims should be allowed in termination of parental rights cases. (Mike Frisch)

June 10, 2013 in Clients, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Emerging Law Of YouTube

The Delaware Supreme Court has affirmed a conviction for Murder by Abuse or Neglect in the First Degree of a defendant in connection with the death of his infant daughter.

The issue on appeal was the admission of a YouTube video posted by the defendant prior to the crime as he "participated in a radio contest by filming himself performing a stunt."

The defendant titled the video "when idiots try to win a contest."

The court here found that the trial court properly admitted the video to counter evidence that the defendant was suicidal. The probative value outweighed the prejudice. (Mike Frisch)

May 3, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cell Phone Carelessness Sufficient For Negligent Homicide

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has affirmed a conviction for negligent homicide committed by a driver who struck a pedestrian.

The defendant failed to yield to the pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.

The court rejected the argument that "using a cellular telephone while driving does not constitute the requisite wrongful or blameworthy conduct to establish the culpable mental state for criminal negligence..."

Rather, the court concluded that the evidence establishing carelessness was sufficient to sustain the conviction.

 The court also rejected the suggestion that court had committed error by admitting the defendant's cell phone records for the period of over one-half hour prior to the impact.

The Boston Glode reported that the Supreme Court argument was held at a high school. (Mike Frisch)

February 11, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Justice Prevails In New Jersey

The New Jersey Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of a middle school librarian on aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child charges because of exculpatory evidence that was not known by either prosecutor or defense counsel at the time of the criminal trial.

The court held that newly discovered evidence "severely undercut" the credibility of one of the child accusers.

The child was followed by an adult at all times and was considered a "pathological liar." An informal gag order by the (now deceased) school principal had impaired the ability of the defense to discover these critical facts.

The court noted that the case did not involve either prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel but concluded that

...even though a defendant is generally barred from presented a claim on [post-conviction review] that has been previously litigated or that could have been raised at trial or on direct appeal, the rules do not require the Court to acquiesce to a miscarriage of justice.

(Mike Frisch)

January 22, 2013 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sperm Donor Not Father To Child For Social Security Benefits Purposes

In response to a question certified from federal district court, the Utah Supreme Court has held that a deceased husband who donated sperm to his wife prior to his death is not considered as the father of the resulting child for social security benefits purposes.

The sperm was donated because the husband was ungoing cancer treatments that rendered him sterile. The child was not conceived until after he had died from his cancer.

The court concluded that the signed agreement to donate the sperm did not establish the donor's consent to be treated as a father. (Mike Frisch)

October 14, 2012 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cell Phone In Jail Cell No Crime

The Nevada Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal of criminal charges brought against a jail inmate who was found concealing a cell phone in his jail cell.

The defendant was charged under a statute that prohibits possesssion of an item that can be used for escape. The court concluded that "it would be virtually impossible to use a cell phone to forcibly break out of, or physically flee from, a jail cell." (Mike Frisch)

October 7, 2012 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)