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Archive for the ‘Fun with Law’ Category

The Oatmeal redefines legal badassery

This is how you do it.

1. Create a brilliant web comic with thousands of fans.

2. Keep tabs on unauthorized redistribution of your own intellectual property on the web.

3. Identify websites that profit from unauthorized, unattributed copies of your work. Contact them regarding the copyright infringement.

4. When the infringement doesn’t stop, write a factual, sourced, entertaining blog post detailing the activities of one of said websites. Get the website to remove your stuff.

5. Wait about a year.

6. Receive a letter alleging defamation against said website from a lawyer whose main claim to fame is litigation over a porn site (not that there is anything wrong with that), demanding an unreasonable settlement.

7. Remain calm.

8. Respond with wit and sarcasm, remaining calm and clearly outlining a counteroffer.

9. Raise the demanded settlement amount online in sixty-four minutes.

10. Continue raising orders of magnitude more than the originally demanded amount.

11. Sit back and allow the world to marvel at your epic pwnage.


Playtime is not what it used to be

Let's Play!

This picture has nothing to do with the article, but it looks like a fun play date

Some parents are now requesting that other parents sign waivers of liabilitybefore their children can come over for play dates or parties.

I wish I was making that up.

When I was a kid, I don’t think our parents used the phrase “play date.” I think we just went over to one another’s houses. I’m almost positive that no waivers and indemnifications were involved. I blame us lawyers for this, alas.

Photo credit: Let’s_Play! by Jon Hurd (originally posted to Flickr as Let’s Play!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


I maintain my faith in humanity – for now

Illustration by Ravenscraft Graphics, Photo by Wayne Slezak PhotographyThe American Bar Association has published its 5th Annual Blawg 100 list, naming its picks for the one hundred best blogs dealing with legal issues. (Law + blog = blawg. Get it? Ha!)

For the fifth straight year, I am not on the list.

This gives me reason to believe that the American Bar Association knows what it is doing and is an excellent judge of blog quality.


Celebrating a Year of Censorship and Attempted Censorship!

This monkey wonders why people are such asshats to one another...The always-intriguing and entertaining Popehat has put out his nominees for the “Censorious Asshat of the Year,” and the field is indeed proud. I am of course reblogging this for reas0ns, but I invite my reader(s) to take a look at the whole list and marvel at the human capacity for inanity.

To those who would use our hallowed legal system to try to quiet the voices of  those who would dare to hurt their fee-fees, intentionally or not, I simply have this to say:

Photo credit: The Thinker… by law_keven on Flickr.


I rule the world of appellate Twitter haiku!

I have been writing haiku for fun and to annoy my fellow man since I learned of the medium in middle school. A few weeks ago I wrote up a few legal haikus in response to a contest hosted by the Texas Bar Appellate Law Section. I am proud to say that my poetic and legal creative powers have now received their due recognition. I didn’t win anything tangible, but receiving an honorable mention from a group of people I mostly don’t know, in a state bar section to which I don’t belong, in an area of law I have never practiced, is all the victory I need. At least where legal haiku is concerned.

Check me out on page 2:


In praise of Austin’s cleverly snarky jurists

The Honorable Sam Sparks

It is unwise to anger Judge Sam Sparks

Law is a conservative profession, in that it is rarely given to huge leaps of fancy or whimsy. English common law has given us a system based on precedent, where the challenges and disputes of the present are resolved using the solutions of the past. Innovation comes slowly, and the writing tends to be both precise and ponderous. No one reads legal briefs or law journals for the lulz.

Every so often, though, a judge comes along who challenges the notion of a staid, unflappable jurist. Today, I take a moment to salute the Honorable Sam Sparks, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. (Full disclosure: I am licensed to practice in the Western District of Texas, I think, but I do not have any cases in Judge Sparks’ court and do not intend to file any. Therefore, there is really no need for full disclosure. Never mind.)

Lawyers who practice in federal court in Austin generally know that Judge Sparks does not abide tomfoolery in his courtroom. Despite conventional wisdom, every so often lawyers who should really know better decide to bring questionable motions in his court, and his responses and resulting orders ought to be forever recorded in the annals of legal history.

Above the Law, as with so many stories, has a good overview of some Sparks gems. In 2004 he compared bickering lawyers to kindergarteners, and in 2007 he issued an order in rhyming couplets, complete with this conclusion:

There will be a hearing with pablum to eat

And a very cool cell where you can meet


My personal favorite story out of his courtroom comes from recent news and involves litigation over Texas’ new ultrasound-before-abortion law. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in federal court in June seeking to block the new law from taking effect (read the original complaint). The defendants in the case are the individuals and agencies that will be charged with enforcing the new law: David Lakey, M.D., Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services; Mari Robinson, Executive Director of the Texas Medical Board; and David Escamilla, County Attorney for Travis County. Seems pretty straightforward–group opposes a new law, so sues the state officials in charge of enacting it–and uncontroversial, at least procedurally, right?

Oh, silly, silly reader(s)….

Have you forgotten that this is Texas?

Not content to allow this lawsuit to proceed in the same fashion as any other lawsuit filed in America, the two sponsors of the bill, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, asked leave of the court to file amicus briefs supporting the law. On August 9, 2011, Judge Sparks said no (PDF):

Both parties in this case are well-represented by competent and diligent counsel, and neither they nor this Court needs assistance from Senator Patrick or Representative Miller–particularly when much of their “assistance” is nothing more than thinly-veiled rhetoric. This is a federal lawsuit about the constitutionality of a statute, not a soapbox for politicians or a sounding board for public opinion. The Court is confident counsel in this case can protect their clients’ interests all by themselves.

Judge Sparks did not even have to make that rhyme to make it sting. A mere three days later, on August 12, he similarly rejected an attempt by other Texas legislators to intervene in the case (PDF):

[C]ounsel for the parties are more than capable of advocating for their clients’ positions without outside input. This is especially true where, as here, that input comes in the form of, among other things, commentary by legislators on “the clear legislative intent of H.B. 15′s severability clause.”

If the severability clause is as clear as the Representatives indicate, their interpretive assistance will not be required. And if it is not, it would be unhelpful, if not improper, for the Court to look to statements made by a subset of the Legislature, in a document prepared for the purposes of litigation, to determine legislative intent. (Citations omitted)

Thankfully, that put an end to the chicanery, and the case has been able to proceed according to normal court procedures. Just kidding! San Antonio attorney Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation (I’m not linking to them) also requested leave to intervene in the case, and he decided to do a little show and tell with his motion (specifically a picture of a “first-trimester aborted child” according to his own list of exhibits.) On August 23, Judge Sparks took his polite gloves off and went right to it (PDF, of course):

The Court has already turned down two extremely tempting offers to transform this case from a boring old federal lawsuit into an exciting, politically-charged media circus. As any competent attorney could have predicted, the Court declines the latest invitation as well.

However, the Court is forced to conclude Allan E. Parker, Jr., the attorney whose signature appears on this motion, is anything but competent. A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant; and if he foolishly did both things, he surely would not be so unprofessional as to file such exhibits unsealed. A competent attorney who did these things would be deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilties, offenses for which he would be lucky to retain his bar card, much less an intact bank balance.

House of detention, photo by Jascha Hoste

Not pictured: the actual holding cell at the federal courthouse (photo by Jascha Hoste)

I have no involvement in this case at all, and yet my stomach did a few lurches reading that part of the order because I can imagine the horror of having a federal judge that mad at me, and the possible implications of that. Yes, Judge Sparks called the man incompetent, and he did it a lot. Moral of the story: if you come into Judge Sparks’ courtroom with weak arguments that he has already dismissed, you will not leave with your dignity. You might not leave with your bar card. You might not leave as financially whole as when you arrived. You might not leave at all.

Okay, that last part was an exaggeration. You’ll get to leave eventually.

This week, we have a different case (h/t Mike Johnson), involving two attorneys who may have just done something really dumb, or may have had the misfortune of doing something kind of dumb with a judge fresh off of his Allan Parker-fueled disdain for shenanigans in his courtroom. Either way, the hammer dropped on attorneys Jonathan L. Woods and Travis Barton, who have been invited ordered to attend Judge Sparks’ “kindergarten party” on September 1 in his courtroom, covering topics such as how to properly plan and schedule depositions and how not to waste a federal court’s time for being “unable to practice law at the level of a first-year law student.”

Courts have a pretty specific purpose, and they have limited resources to achieve that purpose. The purpose is to resolve disputes, and to do so as efficiently as possible. Many Austin lawyers have horror stories about Judge Sparks (and no, I’m not telling any here),  but I applaud the effort to keep idiocy out of the courtroom, and to do it with some flair. I salute Judge Sparks and his brand of don’t-*******-with-me-in-my-courtroom jurisprudence.

That said, I know full well that if I ever argued a case in his courtroom, he would eat me for breakfast and use my bones for toothpicks at lunch. And I’m okay with that.


Tweeting briefs, haiku edition

The State Bar of Texas Appellate Section is hosting a “Twitter Brief Competition” in preparation for its annual meeting in September. It’s exactly what it sounds like: craft an appellate argument in 140 characters or less.

Be honest, this is the moment the legal profession has been dreaming of. No more verbose jargon! No more impenetrable legalese! An end to “heretofore” and “thereunder”! Short prepositions only!

But seriously, it seems like some lawyers might have an edge in this competition. Section co-chair Anne Johnson seems to agree:

“My initial observations is we may see some generational differences,” Johnson says. She explains: “People who are used to posting on Twitter are going to have an advantage.” There’s another commonality among many competing Tweets so far: They focus on a “theme of waiver,” Johnson says. For example: “Honorable court, the claim has been waived. Respectfully submitted, appellee,” says Johnson, adding: “That’s an argument that is pretty simple and can be said pretty quickly.”

Personally, I would prefer to see an appellate haiku competition. Here are a few of my own:

The appellee lacked

Standing to sue, and venue

Was improper too.

The First Amendment

Dictates dismissal of this

Meritless action.

Appellee tried this

Once before, and did not win:

Res judicata.

This Court can review

Just abuse of discretion.

No de novo here.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if practicing law by Twitter catches on.


Legal jargon for sale is a terribly entertaining site, where artists, designers, programmers, and other enterprising individuals sell a variety of services for $5.00.

I obtained this drawing from a Fiverr seller, for example:

Now, I have decided to offer some variants of my legal training to Fiverr users, by offering some legal jargon on demand. More offers to follow, I’m sure.


Guest post from the Legalese Generator

Today’s post is from a guest blogger, the Legalese Generator:

Key employees, or other paper or the Company will be furnished by the event royalty by the recitals or mental disability shall be disclosed under the Plan have personal collection upon which the parties HEREBY and as aforesaid parties hereto, without negligence has been established on the Committee may also to the right to be registered Warrants in accordance with respect of the Date such date. As expressly noted herein. Amendment to the Company, be made in the proceeds of the acceleration of his work duties of manufacturing and shall be ignored if any), and all of the Warrant Agent is currently receiving benefits from any other information as the Stock Option granted hereunder; and decision shall be merged or more beneficiaries to initiate any other compensation PLAN may be assigned, sold or longer. This Plan, and conditions, not be evidenced thereby circumventing this Agreement. The Warrant certificates to time by the Committee so authenticated by promissory notes or the balance converted to such loans available resources to the consent of the laws of the extent not directly interfere with any other agent. (a) The corporate Bond rate. Section 3.1 and exclusive and the Corporation. The death (or any deferral account, together with the premises and binding upon with the Stock in writing its remaining after grant. (b) The form of the Committee. Stock were not be made with the shares subject to the acquisition by the Company expects such shares of its sole and all or shall mean the Stock Options and CHARACTERS (IMAGE) cannot be released at any communications containing terms of the Licensee shall execute, acknowledge and , as to subcontract, use of Exercise price of this User Agreement and the Committee may consult with the Purchaser, the scope of the following MUTUAL COVENANTS or for which the Internal Revenue Code of the forgoing, this User Agreement may be addressed to be canceled, modified, amended from time a sum sufficient to be subject to become payable to such notice of the Offered Debt Securities or access to anyone else for such exchange [or transfer]. (d) METHOD OF the Committee may deem advisable; to such terms and biological parents that it in writing by the earliest   to the Date the public. (E) Certain Conditions.

You can have your own bit of legal gibberish too!


Check out my first post at #BlogathonATX

BlogathonATX, Saturday, October 1, 2011.

I’ll be there. Are you cool enough?