Law and Legal
Via LLRX – Goodbye World – An Innovative Approach to Estate Planning – Shellie Steele Reed is a non-traditional law student with experience in local government. This paper was written for Dennis Kennedy’s Delivering Legal Services course at Michigan State University College of Law (MSU). Shellie’s experience living in ten states and in Japan led her to believe that legal issues are often symptoms of larger problems. While taking classes through the Center for Law, Technology & Innovation program at MSU, Shellie has focused on learning skills needed to provide efficient and effective legal services, with an emphasis on process improvement and solving access to justice issues.
The New York Times – Rushing to contain a coronavirus cluster tied to a big party in a New York City suburb, officials turned to an unusual legal strategy. “On June 17, a crowd of up to 100 people, most of them in their early 20s, attended a party at a home in Rockland County, N.Y., just north of New York City. The event violated a state order in effect at the time that capped gatherings at 10 people in an effort to slow the coronavirus’s spread. For local officials, that was just the start of the problem. The party’s host, who was showing signs of being sick at the time, later tested positive for the virus. So did eight guests. County officials, eager to keep the cluster from growing, dispatched disease tracers to try to learn who else might have been exposed to the virus at the party. The tracers hit a wall. “My staff has been told that a person does not wish to, or have to, speak to my disease investigators,” Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the county’s health commissioner, said on Wednesday. Of those being contacted about the party, she added: “They hang up. They deny being at the party even though we have their names from another party attendee.” Frustrated by the response, county officials on Wednesday took the unusual step of issuing subpoenas to eight people who they believe were at the June 17 party. Those who do not comply and share what they know by Thursday will face fines of $2,000 a day, officials said…”
The MarkUp: “Libraries are still just about the only place in America anyone can go and sit and use a computer and the internet without buying anything. All over the country, library closures during the pandemic have highlighted just how many people have no dependable source of internet on their own. According to a Pew survey published last year, less than two-thirds of Americans in rural areas have a broadband internet connection at home. Among Americans with household incomes below $30,000, four out of 10 don’t have a computer, and three out of 10 don’t have a smartphones. Digital disparities are particularly stark in rural areas, but even the most-connected cities aren’t immune. A survey by the New York City Bar Association last month found that only 6 percent of the city’s homeless shelters have internet access. On the first day of the New York City public school district’s remote-learning program, more than 20,000 school-age children were living in the city’s shelters, according to CityLimits…”
HBR – “…Given the growing weight of social media’s influence on society, the key question is whether social media will become a sentinel against systematic oppression and injustice, effectively posing a serious challenge to authoritarian regimes. In the case of China, while social media may not have the power to cause a regime change, it will, in coming years, challenge the government’s ironclad authority and lack of accountability to its people. This clearly manifests in times of crisis, most recently, with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak…Automated censorship driven by cutting edge research in machine learning and artificial intelligence can be just as counterproductive. Contrary to popular opinion, Chinese surveillance is not the black-and-white image of evil, oppression, and ruthless efficiency suggested by George Orwell’s dystopian totalitarian state in his book, 1984. Human ingenuity in using allusions, abbreviations, and other linguistic devices has allowed criticisms of the government to get past censors: a simple example is “Wuhan,” a censored word on some platforms which replaced with an abbreviated form,“wh,” can no longer be detected. Just as veiled critiques of the government have filtered through censoring software, articles and videos spreading misinformation about the virus have utilized similar techniques in getting past censors. Thus the wreckage left behind by censorship procedures is a combination of frustration and mistrust…”
ars technica: “The US Patent and Trademark Office erred by finding the term booking.com was too generic for trademark protection, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. Trademark law prohibits anyone from registering generic terms that describe a class of products or services. Anyone can start a store company called “The Wine Company,” but they can’t use trademark law to stop others from using the same name. When the online travel giant Bookings Holdings sought to trademark its booking.com domain name almost a decade ago, the US Patent and Trademark Office concluded that the same rule applied. Booking Holdings challenged this decision in court. The company pointed to survey data showing that consumers associated the phrase “booking.com” with a specific website as opposed to a generic term for travel websites. Both the trial and appeals courts sided with booking.com, finding that booking.com was sufficiently distinctive to merit its own trademark—even if the generic word “booking” couldn’t be trademarked on its own. Trademark law declines to protect generic terms in an effort to promote competition. If a company could trademark a word like “booking” or “wine,” it could interfere with competitors who want to accurately describe their products in the marketplace. That would give companies that trademark generic terms an unfair advantage…”
The New York Times – In a pandemic-induced recession, it’s more important than ever to take care of our smartphones and other gadgets. “…If we put a small amount of time into caring for our gadgets, they can last indefinitely. We’d also be doing the world a favor. By elongating the life of our gadgets, we put more use into the energy, materials and human labor invested in creating the product…So here are some of the most effective steps you can take to squeeze as much life as possible out of your phones, tablets and computers without breaking the bank…”
Fortune: “…I spoke with Jason Brennan, the chief executive officer of U.K.-based legal A.I. company Luminance. He told me the company, which now has more than 250 customers across the globe, including a fifth of the world’s largest 100 law firms, has had a 30% increase in customers since the start of 2020….This is important because it turns out that a lot of the “grunt work” of Big Law involves doing exactly what Luminance does: combing through vast troves of documents, trying to find those clauses that might be problematic. Maybe they need to be updated due to a regulatory change. Or maybe they are part of the contracts held by a company that is being acquired and would open up a big liability issue for the buyer. Either way, law firms once deployed small armies of paralegals and junior associates to find them. It used to be that law firms could simply charge for all this labor and pass the cost on to the client. But that hasn’t been true for at least a decade. These days, clients are more likely to demand law firms accept a flat fee for this sort of work, or pay based on some pre-agreed outcome, not on man hours. So firms have had to become much more efficient. Corporate in-house legal departments are also having to do more with less…”
Wired: “The Covid-19 infodemic taught social media giants like YouTube and Reddit an important lesson: They can—and must—take action to control the content on their sites. For those who follow the politics of platforms, Monday’s great expulsion of malicious content creators was better late than never. For far too long, a very small contingent of extremely hateful content creators have used Silicon Valley’s love of the First Amendment to control the narrative on commercial content moderation. By labeling every effort to control their speech as “censorship,” these individuals and groups managed to create cover for their use of death threats, harassment, and other incitements to violence to silence opposition. For a long time, it has worked. Until now. In what looks like a coordinated purge by Twitch, Reddit, and YouTube, the reckoning is here for those who use racism and misogyny to gain attention and make money on social media. For the past five years, I have been researching white supremacists online and how they capitalize on tech’s willful ignorance of the damage they are causing in the real world. At Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, I lead a team of researchers who look into the fraught politics of online life and how platforms connect the wires to the weeds. It’s too often the case that what happens online no longer stays online. Relying on media manipulation techniques to hide their identities and motives, a mass of racists began to come out in public in the lead up to Trump’s election, including the rise of the so-called alt-right. Due to social media we are all witnesses to white supremacist violence, including the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and the attack on Muslims in Christchurch. Researchers, journalists, and activists have fought to expose these networks and provide the basic research needed to detect, document, and debunk disinformation campaigns…”
Via LLRX – – As libraries go digital, paper books still have a lot to offer us – Ksenya Kiebuzinski, University of Toronto Libraries, offers perspective on how librarians face challenges in maintaining traditional means of accessing and delivering information to our users while embracing innovative media. We appreciate the value of both analogue (print books, manuscripts, maps, globes) and digital resources like Google Maps, databases and digital archives. One format captures the history of institutions in general, and of libraries, in particular. The other allows for more equitable and experimental access. Yet, being an advocate for print can be a thankless task. For librarians in all sectors this article is a lessons learned to share with colleagues and decision makers.
Via LLRX – Virtual Legal Conferences: A Formula For Success – Along with most conferences in all sectors, the largest legal technology conferences, ILTACON, will be held virtually this year. Nicole L. Black proposes using avatars to make such conferences more interesting and impactful.
Via LLRX – On DAM (Digital Asset Management) Work: an Interview with Angela Pagliaro – This is an interview with Angela Pagliaro, Global Content Librarian at Merck Animal Health and formerly a Knowledge Services Consultant at ETS, done by Naomi House of INALJ.
National Governors Association – “This map shows the strategy for state and territory reopening for certain business sectors.” Includes sections on: Statewide Stay at Home Orders; Statewide Limits on Gatherings; Statewide Employee Travel Restrictions; Quarantine Orders for Interstate Travel; Statewide School Closures; Mask Requirements; Statewide Closure of Certain Business Spaces; and Reopening Task Forces.
For more information, see NGA’s Summary Of State Actions Addressing Business Reopenings: “This chart indicates actions that states have taken to reopen certain business sectors previously restricted, deemed nonessential and/or required to close. To provide a general understanding of the current operating status for reopening businesses, such actions are classified according to the key below. Columns are divided by industry sector. Classifications/terminology of certain businesses may vary state-to-state. Please note this list is not exhaustive of statewide actions. This list addresses statewide guidance for businesses and does not address county or municipal guidance. State reopening actions will continue to be tracked and updated within this chart. You might also find interest in this page which provides summaries of public health criteria in reopening plans.”
CNBC: “A federal face mask mandate would not only cut the daily growth rate of new confirmed cases of Covid-19, but could also save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% GDP hit in lieu of additional lockdowns, according to Goldman Sachs. Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, said his team investigated the link between face masks and Covid-19 health and economic outcomes and found that facial coverings are associated with sizable and statistically significant results. “We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” Hatzius wrote in a note to clients. “Our baseline estimate is that a national mandate could raise the percentage of people who wear masks by 15 [percentage points] and cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases by 1.0 [percentage point] to 0.6%.” “These calculations imply that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP,” the economist added. He first focused on to what extent, if at all, the actual use of face masks reduces the infection rate of Covid-19 by looking at differences in population behavior by state. For example, Hatizus found only about 40% of respondents in Arizona say they “always” wear face masks in public, compared with nearly 80% in Massachusetts..”
“…In the first comprehensive accounting of judicial misconduct nationally, Reuters reviewed 1,509 cases from the last dozen years – 2008 through 2019 – in which judges resigned, retired or were publicly disciplined following accusations of misconduct. In addition, reporters identified another 3,613 cases from 2008 through 2018 in which states disciplined wayward judges but kept hidden from the public key details of their offenses – including the identities of the judges themselves. All told, 9 of every 10 judges were allowed to return to the bench after they were sanctioned for misconduct, Reuters determined. They included a California judge who had sex in his courthouse chambers, once with his former law intern and separately with an attorney; a New York judge who berated domestic violence victims; and a Maryland judge who, after his arrest for driving drunk, was allowed to return to the bench provided he took a Breathalyzer test before each appearance. The news agency’s findings reveal an “excessively” forgiving judicial disciplinary system, said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who writes about judicial ethics. Although punishment short of removal from the bench is appropriate for most misconduct cases, Gillers said, the public “would be appalled at some of the lenient treatment judges get” for substantial transgressions…”
“Plan Would Put Americans Back To Work, Save Lives, And Help the United States Reach Net Zero By 2050 – On Tuesday, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL), members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled a comprehensive plan titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” The report lays out the Climate Crisis Action Plan, full of detailed, ambitious and actionable climate solutions that Congress should enact to benefit American families in communities across the nation. The Climate Crisis Action Plan calls on Congress to:
- Grow Our Economy and Put Americans Back to Work in Clean Energy Jobs
- Protect the Health of All Families
- Make Sure Our Communities and Farmers Can Withstand the Impacts of Climate Change
- Protect America’s Land and Waters for the Next Generation
- According to an independent analysis, the Climate Crisis Action Plan would save more than 60,000 American lives every year by 2050 thanks to reduced air pollution, as well as nearly $8 trillion saved through 2050 thanks to health and climate benefits…”
“As Americans continue to process a steady flow of information about the coronavirus outbreak – from changing infection and death rates to new testing protocols and evolving social distancing guidelines – they give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health organizations the highest rating when it comes to getting the facts right. And they give Donald Trump and his administration the lowest rating for “getting the facts right” among five key sources of COVID-19 information, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 9,654 U.S. adults conducted June 4-10, 2020, as part of the American News Pathways project. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) say the CDC and other public health organizations get the facts right “almost all” or “most” of the time when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, while about half as many (30%) say the same about President Trump and his administration. Instead, a solid majority of Americans (65%) say the White House gets the facts right only “some of the time” (29%) or “hardly ever” (36%)….”
New National Survey by Pew Research Center – Just 17% say they are ‘proud’ when thinking about state of the U.S. – “With less than five months until the 2020 elections, Americans are deeply unhappy with the state of the nation. As the United States simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted from 31% in April, during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, to just 12% today. Anger and fear are widespread. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they feel both sentiments when thinking about the country, though these feelings are more prevalent among Democrats. And just 17% of Americans – including 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 10% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – say they feel proud when thinking about the state of the country. However, nearly half of adults (46%) say they feel hopeful about the state of the country, although a 53% majority says they are not hopeful. In the presidential contest, Donald Trump faces a 10 percentage point deficit in his race against Joe Biden: 54% of registered voters say if the election were held today, they would support Biden or lean toward voting for him, while 44% support Trump or lean toward supporting him…”
Carissa Byrne Hessick & Michael Morse, Picking Prosecutors, 105 Iowa L. Rev. 1537 (2020): “The United States imprisons its citizens at such a remarkable rate ––unprecedented in American history and without international parallel ––that critics have characterized the country as a carceral state. Despite its size, the “carceral state has been a largely invisible feature” of American politics: Much of the rise of mass incarceration over the last five decades has happened without significant public debate. This is in part because there is no single, national criminal justice system, but rather a patchwork of local systems. That patchwork frustrates efforts not only at coordination but also observation. Within the past decade or so, though, a dedicated group of academics has offered multiple, sometimes competing, lenses to understand why we experienced surging incarceration rates. These include racial control, racial backlash, racial wedges, racial liberalism, intra-class black politics, “pendulum justice,” political economic crises, a punitive public, and a unique institutional landscape that fundamentally transformed modern social movements. This work is nothing less than crucial. But nearly all prominent work on the politics of mass incarceration has focused, at least primarily, on a national story. As a result, the local prosecutor has been largely absent from the project of explaining why we experienced surging incarceration rates and how to unwind it. Our Article contributes to a small, but growing literature that acknowledges the centrality of local prosecutors to criminal justice outcomes. The reality has always been that the vast majority of people under criminal supervision are arrested by the local police and charged by the thousands of local prosecutors who dot the United States. William Stuntz famously characterized these local prosecutors as “the criminal justice system’s real lawmakers.” More recently, John Pfaff has provided empirical support for Stuntz’s account, using existing but under-utilized data to try to persuade others that prosecutors are “the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system.”…[h/t Mary Whisner]
Kottke.org: “The Royal Academy of Arts and Google teamed up on a high-resolution scan of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painted by his students. Even though the top part of the original is not depicted, this copy is said to be “the most accurate record of the original” and since the actual mural by Leonardo is in poor shape, this copy is perhaps the best way to see what Leonardo intended.
This version was made around the same time as Leonardo made his original. It’s oil paint on canvas, whereas Leonardo’s was painted in tempera and oil on a dry wall — an unusual use of materials — so his has flaked and deteriorated badly. It probably didn’t help that Napoleon used the room where the original hung as a stable during his invasion of Milan.
A zoomable version is available here. The resolution on this scan is incredible. The painting is more than 26 feet wide and this is the detail you can see on Jesus’ downcast right eye…”