As you put on your scarf and gloves, pull on your boots, and chip the ice and brush the snow off your car this morning, take heart that you are still having a better day than Punxsutawney Phil…
(courtesy of usatoday.com)
Last week, a prosecutor in Ohio indicted Phil on felony fraud charges stemming from the Gobblers Knob resident’s February 2nd prediction of only six more weeks of winter. Citing “aggravating circumstances” and seeking the death penalty, the indictment accuses the groundhog of “purposely, and with prior calculation and design,” causing people to believe that an early spring was forthcoming. Intriguingly, Phil’s 39% accuracy rate is far worse than random guessing. He is overwhelmingly likely to predict a long winter, forecasting an early Spring less than 14% of the time. His century-long pattern of inaccuracy may help save his hide.
Extradition issues aside, Phil is unlikely to stand trial. Being a prudent and savvy marmot, he has already retained top-notch legal counsel. In a motion to quash filed over the weekend, Phil’s legal team lays out a highly scientific defense. Additionally, Bill Deeley, a high-profile member of Phil’s entourage, is attempting to take some of the heat off of the ground squirrel asserting: “I’m the guy that did it; I’ll be the fall guy. It’s not Phil’s fault.” Likely on advice from counsel, Phil has declined to publicly comment about the charges against him and maintained a low profile.
Will a defense consisting of rodent illiteracy, a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, and the misinterpretation of ‘Groundhogese‘ prevail? Only time will tell. Regardless of Phil’s ultimate fate, get ready to stow those snow boots for at least the next six months. Relief is in sight. In the meantime, stay warm!
Posted by Michelle Botek
| March 25th, 2013 | 0 comments
The extremely popular Jumpstart research program returns to the Law Library. Jumpstart sessions will be available April 1st-April 12th. The program, designed by the reference librarians, will again work towards preparing law students for summer internships, clerkships and the first year of practice. During last year’s sessions, a number of students learned the necessary research skills for dealing with materials such as legislative history, administrative law and the regulatory process, and computer-assisted legal research.
Following the formula established in previous years, each of the Jumpstart sessions will begin with a brief review of the basic legal resources so that every student has a complete grasp of the legal research process. The librarians will also provide information about more specialized types of reference books, including practice aids and form books. The Jumpstart sessions will then focus on individual student problems and questions about legal research, with an emphasis on the type of practice student participants will be seeing in the summer.
If you have any questions about the Jumpstart programs, be sure to drop by the Reference Office and speak to a reference librarian. We’d especially like to hear from those of you who already know in what jurisdiction you’ll be working this summer and any special areas of law with which you’ll be dealing. We tailor the Jumpstart sessions to your particular needs in order to make the program a continuing success.
Posted by Keith Buckley
| March 22nd, 2013 | 0 comments
(courtesy of pbs.org)
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark Supreme Court decision concerning the right to counsel. Clarence Earl Gideon was a poor man living in Florida in 1961. A single eyewitness accused Gideon of breaking into a local pool hall and stealing money from its vending machines. At this time, a felonious offense. After requesting and being denied legal counsel by the trial judge, Gideon was sentenced to 5 years in state prison.
While incarcerated, Gideon began reading and researching his case. From his prison cell, he sent a handwritten petition to the Supreme Court requesting review of his case. The Court granted certiorari and Abe Fortas, who would later become a Supreme Court justice, was appointed to represent Gideon. A complete transcript and audio of the oral arguments is available from the Oyez Project.
On March 18th, 1963, in an opinion penned by Justice Hugo Black, the Court ruled in Gideon’s favor. Invoking the Sixth Amendment, the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon requires states to provide legal counsel to indigent defendants charged with felonies. Subsequent decisions expanded this right to all cases punishable by imprisonment (See Argersinger v. Hamlin, 1972).
On remand, Gideon received a new trial and — with the assistance of legal counsel — was acquitted. In 1964, Gideon’s story was made into a book, Gideon’s Trumpet (later, a critically acclaimed made-for-television movie). Yet controversy rages on as to whether the goal of providing effective legal counsel to indigent defendants, as endorsed by Gideon, has ever been realized.
Posted by Michelle Botek
| March 18th, 2013 | 0 comments
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in the Shelby v. Holder case. Shelby County, Alabama is challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In 1965 the Act was created to prevent discrimination in the voting process. Prior to the VRA there were several practices designed to disenfranchise minority voters, particularly literacy tests. Section 4(b) of the VRA identified states and political subdivisions that were particularly at risk for voting discrimination—states that had some sort of discriminatory voting practice in place and very low voter turnout. Most of these states were in the South. Section 5, meanwhile, requires “preclearance”—that is, if any of the states or political subdivisions wanted to change their election laws, they had to clear it with either the Attorney General or the D.C. District Court. In 2006, Congress renewed this provision for another 25 years. Full Story »
Posted by Cindy Dabney
| February 28th, 2013 | 0 comments
(courtesy of Rittenhoused.com)
Although we officially celebrate it on the third Monday of February each year, George Washington’s birthday is February 22, 1732. Many happy returns, President Washington! If you are interested in knowing more about our first president, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, maintains a website devoted to all things George. You can even subscribe to his daily blog!
As a humble gift to the legacy of George Washington and the men who followed him, we offer a few fun presidential facts. Earlier this month was the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth; however, the month with the most presidential birthdays remains October, with six. In addition to being a statesman and lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was a licensed bartender and co-owner of an Illinois saloon. Andrew Jackson was involved in over 100 duels and carried bullets from two of them in his body throughout his life. Full Story »
Posted by Michelle Botek
| February 22nd, 2013 | 0 comments
Want to wish your sweetie a happy Valentine’s Day and looking for an appropriate law-related way to do it? Try using one of these Supreme Court Valentines from Georgetown Law Weekly! Remember, nothing says romance like Justice Scalia. Happy studying, and happy Valentine’s Day!
Posted by Cindy Dabney
| February 14th, 2013 | 0 comments
The Law Library has just added another video to its YouTube channel. It’s called Just Say No Thank You, a public service announcement that warns students about a danger they all face. You might also see some familiar faces—go check it out! And while you are there you might revisit our Infomercial and our 50’s propaganda film!
Posted by Cindy Dabney
| February 1st, 2013 | 0 comments
First, there were “shrink wrap” contracts – contracts accompanying physical products, such as software, in which the consumer “agreed” to to the contract by breaking the shrink wrap. In the digital age, we have become accustomed to “clickthrough” or “clickwrap” contracts – the user agreements requiring us to click OK in order to, say, download the latest version of iTunes. (And let’s be honest here – just as with the shrink wrap contracts, not many of us can claim to carefully read these before clicking OK.) In legal terms, these are considered contracts of adhesion, a “standardized contract form offered to consumers of goods and services on essentially a ‘take it or leave it’ basis without affording consumer[s] realistic opportunity to bargain and under such conditions that consumer[s] cannot obtain [the] desired product or services except by acquiescing in form contract” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed.). Due to the lack of bargaining power, courts may be lenient when it comes to particularly outrageous provisions in these contracts, but by and large they are not considered unconscionable.
To say these types of contracts are commonplace today would almost be an understatement – there are very few products you can download or internet services you can sign up for these days without encountering such an agreement. However, as recent news reminds us, the savvy person will make an effort to know what s/he is signing up for. This week, Instagram, a photo-sharing service that makes it simple to share photos taken with your phone, has come under a great deal of heat about the recent changes to its user agreement. In particular, the following language has come under fire:
This language is in contrast to the provision’s previous version:
What will be more interesting, perhaps, is to see how else the language of these new provisions can be interpreted. Beyond Facebook advertising, what else might advertisers be able to do with your content? Given the immediate backlash, will Instagram simply back off and retain its current Terms of Service instead? With the story still in development, only time will tell. If nothing else, this is a great example of the risks of clickthrough agreements and a lesson in safe consumerism.
Posted by Ashley Ahlbrand
| December 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
With finals just about over many of you are probably looking at getting out of town for the winter break. For those of you who are flying, Legal Blog Watch from Law.com has some advice—a series of 27 volumes of Things You Can’t Do on a Plane. Stay safe, have a wonderful holiday, and don’t do any of these things on planes!
Posted by Cindy Dabney
| December 14th, 2012 | 0 comments
The White House has created a means by which the American people can voice their concerns on any range of issues and urge POTUS to take action. “We the People” is the site where you can create a petition or browse and sign other petitions.
According to the How & Why, “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
I wonder what the official response might be to the petition urging construction of a Death Star.
As of this posting, the Death Star petition has received over 1,400 signatures. This petition suggests that “[b]y focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.”
Check out some of the other pending petitions, which include the following:
Posted by Jennifer Morgan
| December 4th, 2012 | 0 comments