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The Indiana Law Library Blog

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Election Day

Today is Election Day, and a it is particularly tight one this year.  Yahoo News mentions Indiana as an indicator state.  We posted information yesterday on current local elections, and on how to find your polling place.  For a more general look at Election Day in the United States, USA.gov has a nice page of links for things like the history of the Electoral College, and past vote counts.  Happy voting!

Google Under Fire

Only a few days ago Google was apologizing for accidentally capturing a great deal of sensitive information, including e-mails, e-mail addresses, and passwords with its street view cars.  More on the Indiana Law Blog and Law.com.  Today the Wall Street Journal Law Blog tells us that Google’s latest proposed purchase, a flight data software called ITA is being vehemently opposed by several smaller travel companies. They claim that Google with have far too much power over the travel industry.  Has Google gotten too big?  Is there a point where antitrust questions are nearly automatic when a company expands into a new market?

Lunar Law

Property law is a rather tangled web here on Earth, so imagine the difficulties associated with land and resource rights on the moon.  The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a very interesting entry on moon rights today.  With the recent discovery of water on the moon, it becomes more likely that humanity will hasten its exploration of the moon.  So how will ownership of the moon be decided?  There were a few treaties made back when moon exploration was at its height, but it is still difficult to say who can claim ownership and how.  For more look at this older but still interesting article in Popular Mechanics.  To buy your own little chunk of the moon, try the Lunar Embassy.

Bauer v. Shepard

Bauer v. Shepard is an Indiana case currently on petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is the SCOTUSblog petition of the day today.  The case is about the right of Indiana judges to speak about controversial issues.  A group called Indiana Right to Life, Inc. sends questionnaires out to judges every year asking for opinions on abortion.  Many judges decline to answer, some of them because they worry that expressing opinions on such a controversial issue would violate the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.  Now Indiana Right to Life and a few judges have joined in asking that certain provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct be declared unconstitutional. Several entries on the Indiana Law Blog have been keeping track of the case.

What do you think?  Should judges be allowed to express an opinion on controversial issues?  If they do, should they be allowed to rule on cases dealing with those issues?

An Animal Abuse Registry?

A few times in recent years animal rights activists have floated the idea of an animal abuse registry similar to sex offender registries. Such a measure recently passed in Suffolk County, New York.  The idea is to not only protect animals but also people, as there have been some links between animal abuse and other violent crime.  What do you think?  Should this be a standard measure?  For information, take a look at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and Time Magazine.

Supreme Court Tackles Vaccine Case

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the case of a now 18-year-old girl who began to show signs of developmental impairment after receiving a vaccination when she was six months old.  There have been many studies on the effects of vaccines, some claiming that they are linked to autism.  In 1988 the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 came into effect and established special procedures for those that have been injured by vaccines.  Plaintiffs go to a special “vaccine court” and petition the Federal Government for damages rather than suing companies who make vaccines.  This system is meant to keep vaccines affordable and available while still giving redress to those who are injured.  It also means that if the vaccine is properly prepared, the company who made it will not be at fault. For more you can look at the piece the New York Times did just before the case, or the Law.com article which came just after.

What do you think?  It is unquestionably important that those injured by vaccines get reparations, but on the other side, it is also important that vaccines are economically viable to produce.

The Court on Television

Reality judicial television shows have been around for many years.  Many of us have grown up on The People’s Court and Judge Judy.  But how do these shows first get on the air?  And what crosses the line between maintaining the dignity of the judicial system and pure entertainment?  One judge in San Diego, Judge DeAnn Salcido, recently decided to film a few of the more entertaining cases that came to her courtroom, complete with her own off-the-cuff wit in hopes of being the next courtroom TV show.  Instead of a contract she is facing discipline from the Commission on Judicial Performance.  The notice contends, among other things, that she was not upholding the integrity of the judiciary, that she made some inappropriate remarks.  Judge Salcido recently filed a response.  Law.com covers the story in two nice articles here and here.

What do you think?  Should Judge Salcido be sanctioned?  Should she get a TV show? For that matter, how do you feel about Judge Judy? Where do you think we should draw the line between the law and entertainment?

Snyder v. Phelps

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the much contested case Snyder v. Phelps.  Four years ago a group from the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the military funeral of a marine killed in Iraq.  They were protesting against gay rights, believing that God is allowing soldiers to die to punish America for homosexuality.  In the first incarnation of the case, the father of the soldier won a $5,000,000 verdict, but it was overturned on appeal.  The church argues that it is only exercising its rights to free speech and protest; the family of the soldier demands privacy and sanctity for military funerals.  CNN has a nice write up on the question. 

What do you think?  SCOTUSblog offers podcasts with attorneys arguing for either side.  USA Today offers a list of organizations which have filed amicus briefs in the case.

Suing the Social Network

There has been much speculation recently about whether Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will take legal action against the recently released movie The Social Network.  There has been similar speculation as to what his chances of winning are if he does. In general, most questioners, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, and THR, Esq. agree that Zuckerberg would be unlikely to win (and as time goes on, is more and more unlikely to actually sue) but it is an interesting problem to ponder.  It calls to mind the defamation and public/private figure issues that many IU Maurer students work on in their first year LRW classes.  Is Zuckerberg a public figure?  Is there actual malice? How do we measure the assorted claims of the movie’s truth or fiction?

Justice Kagan’s Recusals

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court granted 14 new cases.  (Discussion of all 14 cases can be found on SCOTUSblog.) Justice Elena Kagan, the most recent addition to the high court, has recused herself from four of the cases, for a total of 25 cases she will not take part in.  This is not terribly surprising—in her role as Solicitor General she was involved in many of the cases that are slated to come up before the court.  Several months ago, before she was appointed, Ed Whelan of the National Review Online looked at the recusal statistics of Thurgood Marshall, the last Solicitor General appointed to the court, and found that he had to bow out of more than half of the cases heard during his first term.  So this number of recusals is neither unexpected nor unprecedented. But it does alter the dynamics of the court.  With Justice Kagan bowing out, nearly half of the cases coming up to the docket this term have the possibility of ending in a tie.  In the case of a tie, the decision of the lower court will stand.

A month ago the Washington Post ran an article about a suggestion from Senator Patrick Leahy and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that in the event of a recusal a former member of the Court could step in on that particular case.  Leahy feels the plan would both address the tie issue, and make it easier for Justices to recuse themselves.  What do you think?  Do we need a contingency plan in the case of recusal?  If so, is this a good one?

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