Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year

May your year be filled with health, prosperity, and happiness.
For our French readers, a recent article of note discussing Delaware as an incorporation State...

Aux Etats-Unis, l'Etat du Delaware fait figure de "business lover"
La Tribune - édition du 23/12/2002

Les avocats de l'Etat du Delaware, aux Etats-Unis, se frottent les mains. Plus les scandales à Wall Street décrédibilisent la "corporate America" aux yeux de l'opinion, plus ils peuvent espérer faire des affaires. En effet, depuis 1899, ce petit Etat de la côte Est (783.600 habitants) s'est fait une spécialité d'attirer les entreprises qui veulent non seulement se créer à moindres frais (75 dollars suffisent pour déposer un dossier d'enregistrement contre plusieurs centaines dans d'autres Etats), mais aussi savoir comment elles seront traitées en cas de litige.

D'autres avantages, en termes de flexibilité laissant la possibilité à une société d'héberger plusieurs types d'activités, aux actionnaires d'avoir le choix de venir ou non en personne aux conseils, ou à la comptabilité de ne pas avoir ses livres de comptes présents physiquement dans le Delaware -, sont ainsi recherchés, sans compter les avantages fiscaux.

Spéc! ialistes du droit. Mais pour les professionnels du Delaware, tel Russell Rozanski, spécialiste des "incorporations" au cabinet Delaware Intercorp. Inc., l'aspect fiscal il n'y a pas, par exemple, de taxe sur les ventes est accessoire. "Notre avantage premier, c'est notre expertise en matière de droit des affaires", explique Lawrence Hamermesh, professeur de droit de l'université de Wydener, à Wilmington. De fait, ajoute Russell Rozanski, "les cas ici sont jugés par une cour spécialisée, la Court of Chancery, dont les juges sont nommés au mérite et non pas élus, et qui ne fonctionne pas avec une quinzaine de jurés n'ayant aucune expérience en matière de droit des affaires et censés pourtant donner leur avis sur des dossiers parfois compliqués".

Du coup, les décisions écrites des juges du Delaware servent de référence pour d'autres cas à travers les Etats-Unis et l'avis de ces experts est recherché. Toute b! onne faculté de droit s'enorgueillit d'avoir des professeurs formés à cette école. Et tout bon avocat d'affaires américain a étudié les cas du Delaware, qui servent de précédents dans le système de jurisprudence américaine.

Certes, la crise économique pèse sur les affaires actuellement. Ainsi, en 2001, seules 39.289 nouvelles sociétés se sont faites enregistrer au Delaware, contre 53.687 en 1999. Il n'empêche, si les spécialistes disent ne pas avoir remarqué une augmentation de leur activité, certaines entreprises, hébergées auparavant dans des paradis fiscaux comme les Bermudes, réfléchissent à un retour aux Etats-Unis. Pour montrer à l'opinion publique qu'elles rompent avec leur passé. Tyco, dont le PDG est inculpé de détournement de fonds, est de celles-là. Si toutefois elle passe à l'acte, elle pourrait bien choisir le Delaware, ou le Nevada, qui offre quelques avantages aussi, comme nouveau port d'attache.

Lysiane J. Baudu, à New York
an invitation?

Did Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Veasey extend an invitation for a case to challenge an unreasonably high CEO compensation package? Some commentators think so. In a Fortune article, by Jerry Useem, Chief Justice Veasey is credited with offering to break 60 years of legal tradition by allowing Court review of CEO compensation.

Was this just a warning to corporate executives, or will we now begin to police the boardroom? The latter would be a dramatic departure from current law. See, for example, this article from the New York Law Journal about the dismissal of the stockholder derivative suit concerning the severance package for the President of Disney. This brief article shows how the "business judgment rule" has been applied to these cases in the past.

Will it continue?

Monday, December 30, 2002

sticks and stones

By, and republished with the permission of: Ian Connor Bifferato, Esquire, of Bifferato Bifferatto & Gentilotti, as published in, In Re (The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association) Volume 26, No. 5, December 2002

It seems like the general public’s fixation with lawyer bashing goes back almost as far the beginnings of our honorable profession. How many times have you been assailed with William Shakespear’s most mis-quoted line from King Henry VI (“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers”) by some misguided guest at a social gathering? Some lawyers are probably tempted to respond by saying “most educated people know that Dick the Butcher’s line from that play comes from a discussion among rebels about how they would have overthrown the government and made themselves lords.” In the end though, most of us come to the conclusion that the irony of that retort would likely be lost in the ensuing discussion, and we simply let the comment slide.

Most Americans have heard the sensationalized story of the lady who received a jury award of 2.9 million dollars after she spilled hot coffee in her lap. When retold completely out of context, that story is generally predicated with some statement along the lines of “the problem with America today is . . ..” I did not even know the real story of Stella Liebeck of New Mexico until relatively recently. Apparently in 1992, Ms. Liebeck, then seventy-nine years old, purchased a small cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive through. She parked and placed the coffee cup between her knees to remove the lid when the contents of the cup spilled into lap causing third degree burns over 6% of her body, including her inner thighs, pertineum, buttocks, groin and genitals. She was hospitalized for eight days where she underwent skin graft and debridement treatments.

At trial, evidence was presented that McDonald’s company policy required their coffee to be served at 180-190 degrees, just short of boiling, and that in the ten years prior to Ms. Liebeck’s 1992 accident, McDonald’s received at least 700 complaints per week of burns from their coffee. A McDonald’s executive testified at trial that McDonald’s was aware of the danger of serious burns from their coffee, but that they decided not to warn customers or change their stated policy regarding the temperature at which their coffee was served. Ms. Liebeck tried to resolve her claims against McDonald’s prior to retaining counsel for $20,000, probably to help defray her medical expenses. Jurors who were interviewed following the trial claimed that it was the seriousness of Ms. Liebeck’s injuries coupled with the callous attitude of McDonald’s that resulted in their verdict. What about that verdict? The $200,000 in compensatory damages awarded to Ms. Liebeck was reduced to $160,000 based upon a finding of 20% comparative negligence and the 2.7 million in punitive damages, which was apparently based on the company-wide revenue from two days sales of coffee, was reduced by the trial judge to $480,000. Take from these facts what you will, but it doesn’t seem to me to be evidence of a legal system run awry.

Civil litigators are not the only subject of lawyer bashing. Criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judiciary alike are most often attacked for “letting criminals run free.” I was recently out of town, sharing a cab with another Delaware lawyer on our way to a hearing. We happened to be talking to each other about the then recent arrests of the snipers in Montgomery County, MD. The cab driver chimed in with something along the lines of “it doesn’t matter anyway. They’ll just plead insanity and some lawyer will have them out on the streets in no time.” The underlying tone of that comment was indicative of the biggest prejudice and misconception in certain segments of our society: lawyers protect the guilty while the innocent suffer. Would it have made a difference to that cab driver if one of us had launched into a dissertation about how the provision of a competent defense to every person put on trial for a crime carrying significant penalties is really intended to protect every innocent person, not the criminals? Probably not.

None of us can ever single handedly take on the task of changing deep rooted mis-perceptions about lawyers. In reality, many people just love to hate lawyers. They do not really know why. No one can ever rationally explain or justify a prejudice. Maybe it is just because it is one of the few remaining prejudices in America that have not finally become morally unacceptable or politically incorrect. In my opinion, at the heart of the matter, every prejudice is really just an irrational means by which people target the intangible frustration and hatred that festers when they feel at a loss to control the things that they do not like about society. Everyone wants someone to blame.

It is difficult to say what we can do to improve the public’s perception of our image. Obviously, not being the stereotype is the first step, but that is rarely a problem in Delaware. Maybe during this holiday season you will not let that “harmless,” but disparaging comment from a distant relative at a family gathering slide without a quick but friendly reality check. One thing that is certain, however, is that we can never tolerate any of our own members acting to exploit or proliferate the irrational misconception that the public carries about our profession. Tolerance of that type of behavior is tantamount to acceptance of the concept that there is something wrong with what we do, rather than something very laudable and necessary.

Derogation of lawyers never sounds so offensive as it does when it comes from one of our own. Perhaps even worse, it is never so accepted as true in the public’s eyes and ears as when it is advertised by a fellow lawyer. As lawyers we are so often vested with the public’s trust that we have become a very highly self-regulated profession to ensure our integrity. As members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Delaware, we should also be confident that we can trust one another to be honorable.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

just don't call it "finger printing"

Picture this: You've spent the afternoon filling up a shopping cart with things you want to buy. You pull up to the checkout line, and realize that you've left money, debit cards, and credit cards at home. Do you abandon the cart? Ask someone from the store to keep an eye on it while you rush home to get some cash or a card? Or do you just put your index finger on a finger image reading pad, and your purchase is complete?

A couple of Kroger stores in Texas are experimenting with letting people use finger image technology to make purchases. They don't like using the term finger printing because of the law enforcement image it evokes. Is this a wave of the future? They do have 10,000 participants, but it is still in the testing phase.
political web site edits?

A couple of changes to the sites of the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some critics concerned (NY Times, reg. req'd) that the sites have abandoned reliable scientific statements with politically influenced ones:
The National Cancer Institute, which used to say on its Web site that the best studies showed "no association between abortion and breast cancer," now says the evidence is inconclusive.

A Web page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used to say studies showed that education about condom use did not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity. That statement, which contradicts the view of "abstinence only" advocates, is omitted from a revised version of the page.
The world wide web presents another issue that political figures will have to address in some meaningful fashion. When web sites become a primary means of disseminating information to the public, what type of oversight will need to included when pages change, and information is revised?

[later -- more on data disappearing from government web sites, from searchenginewatch, in the December 19, 2002 edition of Searchday.]
crafting on the web

The internet is a great entry point for people who want to start businesses online. Small businesses can start out as a hobby, and grow to something larger. I came across a nice article about people who have found some success selling homemade crafts online from the writers of the Wall Street Journal. If this is something that you might want to do, there are a good number of sites that offer help and suggestions. In addition to the groups and message boards indicated in the article, you can check out the classes and resources available from your local Small Business Administration. There is also a very informative, and free, online business course on the pages of My Own Business.

Saturday, December 28, 2002


Darrell Lambert is a 19 year-old who spent ten years in the Boy Scouts of America, earning the rank of Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster and 37 merit badges. Last month, he was asked to leave the Boy Scouts because he admitted to being an atheist. On Monday, he filed an appeal with the organization. After reading Darrell Lambert's Appeal Letter to the Scouts, I find myself hoping that they give some serious thought to his words and reconsider their decision. It's an impressive letter that shows a tremendous strength of character and a considerable amount of class.
obstacles online

In many ways, the world wide web is like the wild, wild west, though some would disagree with that statement. There's a freedom and an anarchy that many people love, and many others find confusing or even distressing. An Associated Press article called More fences coming as Internet outgrows its innocence takes a look at some of the structures evolving in the online world which may limit access to different parts of the web. There are some interesting comments from people involved in the growth of the web, including a few from Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain.
pentagon papers

An Atlantic Monthly article from 30 years ago looks at jury selection for the Pentagon Papers Trial. The case posed some "very special problems" during the jury selection process.
why Delaware?

I am frequently asked why more than half of the Fortune 500 companies have made the choice to incorporate in Delaware. Why Delaware? What is so special about Delaware?

Delaware has developed a public-private partnership between the Delaware Secretary of State – Division of Corporations, Delaware’s Attorneys, and the private Registered Agent firms. This partnership involves a highly integrated system of cooperation which takes the best of each participant. From the Government, we contribute stability, impartiality, and the strength of the State.

Delaware Attorneys contribute legal analysis and drafting so as to keep the laws up to date and accurate. The private Registered Agent firms inject a no-nonsense business analysis and application to the equation to make sure things actually work. The Registered Agent firms are in daily contact with the Division of Corporations, and many of them can actually enter and read the incorporation data directly onto and from the Division’s computer system via dedicated direct line networking.

We have formal meetings, quarterly and annually, so as to keep everyone in the industry fully abreast of the pulse of the Delaware incorporation process and the changes we are consistently implementing. And as in business, if something needs immediate action it happens in Delaware. This process has the full support of the Delaware Legislature, as it is in a large part responsible for Delaware’s ability to avoid a State sales tax.

The public-private partnership is really the key to how Delaware stays in the forefront of this industry. The resulting laws and structures that fine tune the incorporation and corporate litigation arenas trim the fat, costs, and delays that you will find in other States.

Here is an excerpt from the Division of Corporation’s site as to how this trimming makes Delaware a lean, mean, corporate machine:

Businesses choose Delaware not for one single reason, but because we provide a complete package of incorporations services including:
Modern and flexible corporate laws;

Our highly-respected business court, known in Delaware as the Chancery Court, which has written much of the modern business case law;

A state government that is business-friendly and accessible;

The expertise of Delaware's corporate and legal service providers; and

The customer service oriented staff of the Delaware Division of Corporations.

The Division of Corporations has Specialists in each section to answer any questions or assist you in filing your corporate, tax and UCC documents. You may also file annual tax payments and UCC documents online through our e-Corp Internet filing system.
So, there is no one “holy grail” answer to the question, why Delaware, unless it is that we have a comprehensive and detailed system for managing it efficiently.

Oh, and did I mention? It’s less expensive.
one more excuse fails

Wilmington's mayor announced that the City will not appeal the dismissal of their ill-conceived suit against the firearm industry, as reported in the News Journal. Now the finger pointers will have one less target in Delaware. Sooner or later they will have to look closer to home.

I have asked Lawrence G. Keane, vice president for the National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., to contribute weekly gun safety tips for publication here. I look forward to his response.

Friday, December 27, 2002

internet law case summaries

While doing some research on internet law cases [we call it intellectual property] , I ran across this nicely done summary by Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, L.L.P. I found it to be helpful and conveniently organized. Maybe you will too.
local opinions

One of the nice features of one of Delaware's local papers is the local opinion section, in which members of the public share their thoughts. Because of a short holiday hiatus on my part during the holiday, I missed out on commenting upon the following couple of columns. The first, from Michael Kingsley, former editor of Slate is Why innocent people confess.

Another that I enjoyed was one by James Campion, a columnist for the regional music and events magazine Aquarian Weekly. The article, Fakery is the American way of getting off easy looks at how the Federal Trade Commission is beginning to focus on the task of protecting us from our own stupidity.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

taking business counseling to the next level

The Next Level Advisory Board (N-LAB), an entity in formation, is bringing together a local team of professionals to use a cooperative approach to business, estate, and investment planning. They will act as a Board of Directors with respect to the clients' planning needs, and utilize the individual skills and experience of the professionals coordinated by the breadth of the group.

You will be hearing more about N-LAB. This much is for sure.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

blogging through the snow...

Dale Dallabrida, of the News Journal, has discovered Delaware blogging. On Christmas Eve day, we discovered an article in the Leisure Section which exposed the several Delaware bloggers which we have so far identified. Thank you, Dale.

Dale poses the question, where will blogging take us? Is it a fad? The blogging community knows the answer. It is a tool which opens up internet publishing for us regular folk. As such, when more regular folk find out about it, it will explode.

As a demonstration of the ease of use of this tool, I can let you in on a secret. I am writing this from my home office on Christmas morning while I wait for my wife to wake. It took me about 3 minutes, and requires no programming skills.
Merry Christmas!

We are thankful for the opportunities and privileges that we have enjoyed throughout this year. We hope that you are each able to share this holiday season with someone you love.

Monday, December 23, 2002

tracking Santa

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has confirmed a successful Santa Sleigh test flight. If you would like to follow Santa on his journey across the globe, make sure to visit the NORAD tracks Santa web site. You may want to visit early to make certain that you have all of the appropriate plug-ins for your browser.
insecurity checkpoints

Walk through metal detectors, x-ray machines scanning purses and packages and check-in baggage -- these are devices that we may see much more of in the future. We have them at airports and in public office buildings. What we rely upon for our security aren't the machines as much as the people using them. Those people need training and they need to treat people as more than just suspects. There have been many troubling stories printed in the media about abuses committed by the people running security checkpoints. Perhaps the most egregious account I've seen is one reported on the pages of LewRockwell.com (via bOING bOING). Though, this article troubled me a great deal, too.
online data security?

A troublesome story run by MSNBC tells about a password leak that exposed detailed information on 180,000 domain name transfers that happened over the past two years, including credit card information.
creative commons and web sites

Pioneering California appellate attorney Denise Howell, of Bag and Baggage has licensed her blog under the terms of the licensing project devised by the people at Creative Commons. Denise explains how and why in a post called IAAL: A Lawyer Licenses her weblog.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

legally beer?

There are a number of alcoholic beverges out on the market place that have become known as Malternatives. These types of drinks are things like hard lemonades and hard colas, and others (you must be 21 or over to enter those sites). The State of Tennnessee considers them to be liquors rather than beers, even though they are packaged like beer and have about the same alcoholic content. In Tennessee, beer can be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. An administrative law judge will chose one classification or another with testimony beginning on February 20th. Reminds me of the battle over whether tomatos are fruits or vegetables.
trial by jury

It's something that we take for granted. Most criminal cases in the United States don't even go to trial, but are halted earlier on by dismissal or the entry of a plea. But the right is available to us. In Russia, trial by jury will become part of a new way of life, and it has people worried:
It is a form of justice that most Russians recognize only from books and Western films. Although Russia's 1993 constitution envisioned the right to jury trials, only nine of the nation's 89 regions have actually held them, and then only as an experiment to see whether they would work.

The vast majority of this nation's courts have not rendered a verdict by a jury of one's peers since 1917, when the Bolsheviks abolished the system created by Czar Alexander II in the Great Judicial Reform of 1864. The jurors' re-emergence, reformers say, shows how Russia's priorities have shifted from the interests of the state to the rights of individuals.
There's a concern that the shift to jury trials will overwhelm Russia's legal system. But the results in the areas that have been holding trials by jury show an intresting trend:
The old system produced a 99.6 percent conviction rate, partly because judges were forced to share the prosecutor's burden of proving a defendant's guilt. Defendants in the nine pilot regions have fared better before juries, winning acquittals about one-fifth of the time.
At this point jurors only hear major cases, and Russia has rejected the concept of plea bargains. We often take the right to a trial by jury for granted. We shouldn't.
politics in delaware

Delaware is a small state, and if you're not careful, it's easy to trip over one of our many politicians. With Washington, D.C. only a short train ride away, it's easy for our Senators and U.S. Representative (yes, that's singular) to commute. We also have a number of State Senators and Representatives to keep an eye out for. You just never now where one might turn up.

Thankfully, we now have someone who is very familiar with politics in Delaware keeping an eye open for us. Celia Cohen covered politics for the Wilmington News Journal for a while, and now does the same online at Delaware Grapevine. We've always been a little more concerned about the laws and the issues than the people behind them at the Delaware Law Office. It's good to know that someone's now watching the people making the laws, online.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

blogging new york

It's only a couple or three hours to New York City from Delaware. It's a definite destination spot for things that just can't be found here in the hinterlands. Actually, we're a little spoiled in that Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City aren't really all that far away.

A couple of blogs providing news of New York, including events worth seeing have sprung up recently. There's the stylish and amusing Gawker, and CityBlogs New York which has the feel of a well written campus bulletin board. I like both, and look forward to seeing them grow and succeed. Maybe someone in the other cities I listed will follow up with blogs focusing on their hometowns. Maybe someone will do the same for Delaware. Until they do, we may try to point out some coming events in the First State...

Commenting on Copyright Comments

The United States Copyright Office, at the Library of Congress, asked for comments on possible exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And comments they received. Wired covers the Office's release of the comments to the public in an article called Critics Weigh In on Copyright Act. They also provide a link to the comments, which are at: Comments on Rulemaking on Exemptions on Anticirumvention.

There are some great comments. If you would like to add to what has been expressed in one of the comments that has been submitted, there is an opportunity to do so. As the Copyright Office states on this page, "Reply comments (due February 19) may be submitted in opposition to or in further support of exemptions proposed in the initial comments." That page also contains information on the format that you should follow if you wish to make a submission. Remember, the topics are now limited to what has been expressed in one of the initial comments.
standing still sun

Today is the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year and longest night. Solstice means "standing still sun." There are some nice pages on the web that explore the ways that this day has been viewed and celebrated in the past, including Candlegrove's Solstice page, and School of the Season's Celebrating Winter Solstice. The actual moment of solstice, or the sun's lowest latitude in the sky is 8:14 Eastern Standard time, 5:14 Pacific Standard. May this be a happy and peaceful Yule to all.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Wearing tin foil helmets?

While browsing Mike's List, I discovered a link to a site advertising hats with a silver lined ear flap to shield against microwaves while using a cell phone.

Mike says it makes you look like a dork. I think plug-in ear pieces have little to worry from this competition.
Alaska Driving Tips

Slow. Drive slowly in the snow. When you approach intersections, slow down almost to a stop when you get about 50 yards from the light, and then inch forward. They don't use salt to melt the ice (it would be an exercise in futility). The exhaust fumes from the vehicles turn all of the intersections into skating rinks. Only once in a while will they scatter cinders around to assist in traction.

Watch out for moose. Really. This includes when leaving the house to go warm up the car, while you are driving, and before you leave the car. It doesn't matter if you are in a city, so are the moose.

4 x 4 is preferred. Really.

Slow. Did I mention slow? Expect the other fellows to slide through the intersection. They frequently do.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

cnn loses names to cnn

In a battle of CNNs over 325 domain names, Lebanese-based Channel News Network had an arbitration decision made against them and on behalf of world-wide news agency Cable News Network. This is believed to be the largest domain name dispute to have been decided under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
missing reindeer

If you're traveling around central Delaware, and you happen to see a reindeer go by, don't panic, and don't look for a white-bearded gentleman dressed in red chasing after her. Give the police a call. They've received enough of them now so that they no longer think that callers are spreading (or imbibing) holiday spirits. The reindeer escaped from a christmas shop on Tuesday. More about reindeer here.

[2002-12-19 (morning) update. Holly Berry, our runaway reindeer, eluded capture and is still on the loose. Her trail was lost just before dark last night.]
the law goes to school

You too can have a real live lawyer come visit your classroom if you're in Delaware. Details to that and more are on the pages of the Delaware Law Related Educational Center, Inc. (DELREC) Note to people from outside of Delaware -- we have a thing for strange acronyms in the first state. They also have information about the 2003 Delaware High School mock trial competition, including some specifics about the case in question. This is a great program, and the winners have the opportunity to compete in a National Mock Trial Competition.

Streetlaw.org also has some very good pages on law and education. They also recently set up a site for teachers interested in presenting material about the US Supreme Court called Landmarkcases.org. There are some interesting activities on those pages, like this one which has participants consider whether the Miranda case should be overturned.
touring state capitols

The ever interesting LLRX is beginning a series of armchair tours through the capitols of all fifty states, to take a look at the features and services offered by each. The journey is in alphabetical order, so they've included a swing through Delaware's Capitol, Dover, on the first leg of the trip. I didn't know that the City was offering dialup internet access to all Delawareans for $15.00/month.
unsafe toys?

I came across Safechild.net earlier today. It has some good safety tips about gifts for young children, and also enables you to search through 350 major toy recalls issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Commission has a number of other safety suggestions on their own pages, and an almost overwhelmingly large set of publications.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

the dmca

It's possible by now you've heard that the criminal prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against Russian software manufacturer Elcomsoft was halted by a jury's decision to find the company not guilty earlier today:
Defense attorney Joe Burton said the government failed to prove Elcomsoft intended to violate the law, but predicted more prosecutions.

"I don't see it as throwing a blanket on DMCA," Burton said. "It will take another case to test that."
Another application of the DMCA that I missed a few days ago was its use in the shutdown of a parody site involving Dow Chemical. The parody site is now gone, and the domain name now redirects to Dow Chemical's pages.
play ball

Baseball is a summertime sport, but the last few days have seen a lot of activity surrounding the United States' national pastime. Winter baseball meetings, sometimes the scene of big trades, were quiet this year. A few moves were made, but expectations are that many more may happen before the end of the week.

An official announcement was made today that the Expos will play 22 homes games in Puerto Rico next season. I know a few people who are very excited about this happening.

A Roberto Clemente exhibit has also been set up at the Museum of Puerto Rican Art in San Juan, where it will stay until May 5th. After that it will travel to Pittsburgh, and then other cities in the US.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to issue an edict ordering a minimum age of 14 for batboys sometime next month. The ruling is in response to a near collision during the 5th game of last year's World Series during a play at the plate. The 3 year-old son of then San Francisco manager Dusty Baker wandered too close to the play, and was scooped up out of harm's way by quick-thinking J.T. Snow.

Another edict that might be issued by the Commissioner may involve the reinstatement of Pete Rose to baseball. Should Rose get a second chance? Or, should he not? There are a lot of divided opinions.

But, the biggest news in baseball this week may focus upon fans. Specifically, the fans fighting for ownership of the baseball that Barry Bonds hit last year to set a record for most home runs in a season. A decision on the case is expected tomorrow. I wonder how the litigants would feel if the Judge decided that the ball should be cut in half?
updating the web

I was looking for some statistics regarding web browsers on the net when I came across a page called Browser News. It has a lot of information about new releases for browser software, and security patch updates. There have been a good number of those in the last month. It's worth a peek.

The United State's government is also looking at some upgrades in their use of the web. The E-Government Act of 2002 was signed into law today. While the law allows the federal government to employ people from private industry to help improve the level of online services and information available, I'm hoping that they keep an eye on the excellent Usability Guidelines developed by the National Cancer Institute.

The American Library Association has a very good analysis of the Act. (E-Government Act links via Metafilter)

Monday, December 16, 2002

under the deep blue sea

A University of Delaware oceanographer was part of a team that has discovered a deep-sea crab with a very unique set of eyes.

The Wilmington News Journal takes a look at cyberterrorism, and solicits the viewpoints of representatives of some local businesses such as Verizon, MBNA and DuPont. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is planning a seminar on the subject some time early next year to help spread information on how to avoid being a victim of an internet based attack.
copyright has a new look

And so does the web site of Creative Commons. If you create copyrighted materials, and you would like to share some of your rights to that material in certain situations, you might want to consider "offering your work" under a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

law office temporarily closed

Due to an emergency, I will be out of state and the law office will be closed until 12/23/02. A skeleton staff will be on hand during limited hours to handle mail and messages. Business will resume with vigor upon my return to Delaware.
froogle unleased

I'm not certain what this will mean to the world of online shopping, but Google has unveiled a new product search engine called Froogle (in beta). My credit cards will have to be locked up out of my reach before I even dare to search for computer hardware. Shopping has a whole new look. (Thanks, Peter)
10 most wanted pop-ups

The FBI will be serving pop-ups on a number of web sites. They won't be advertising. Instead, they will be showing pictures of people on the agency's "Ten Most Wanted" list. OK, they've got good intentions. But, I still don't like pop-ups.
loss of words

Sometimes, when the appropriate word just won't come to you, it's good to have a thesaurus to turn to. The java-based Visual Thesaurus is a lot of fun. I spent way too much time there tonight.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

the mail must go through

Herodutus' words from almost 2,500 years ago may sound familiar: ""Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." And, our postal service has a proud tradition of carrying the mail. Perhaps the most amazing tales of mail delivery come from the time of the pony express. Even those folks must have made mistakes sometimes, and misdelivered the mail.

When a letter carrier brings mail to the wrong address, who is responsible? Some serious problems could result from letters and packages going to the wrong places. What should you do when you receive mail that is addressed wrong? What about mail that is delivered to the wrong address? An article called What Happens When The Mail Is Misdelivered? takes a look at those problems, and what to do when you get mail that you weren't supposed to receive. They also link to the US Postal Service's page on the potential liability of the USPS for misdeliveries, and a military justice case, U.S. v. Fox, which looks at laws concerning mail ending up in the wrong hands.

Sometimes, though, misdelivered mail can result in a happy ending.
violins in Wilmington

Wilmington's David Bromberg (that has a nice ring to it) has been known as a musician's musician through out his career as a performer. The artist is the most visible part of Wilmington's efforts to revitalize the City. Out and About magazine has more on Delaware's newest, and only, Violin Store and Museum and its owner, David Bromberg.

For an encore, maybe the city would consider building and operating a community based recording studio.

Monday, December 09, 2002

rural sprawl

The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at rural America, and problems with handling sprawl in the countryside. While their article focuses upon Missouri, it's a problem we recognize in Delaware. How is the State of Delaware attempting to address this issue? The Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination has a web site that tries to provide some answers called Liveable Delaware.
right to counsel

The Quincy Herald-Whig Online takes a look at Hannibal's native son Clarence Earl Gideon, and the legacy that he left behind in a landmark battle that found its way to the US Supreme Court. Gideon v. Wainwright held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the right to counsel in all criminal cases.

The National Constitution Center has more about Clarence Gideon's journey to the Supreme Court, including a copy of the "answer to respondent's response to petition for writ of certiorari" that he filed.

As an aside, I'm looking forward to visiting the Constitution Center. From their site:
NCC is building the Constitution Center, the first-ever museum honoring and explaining the Constitution. The Center will be located in Philadelphia on Independence Mall, joining two of our nation's greatest symbols of freedom - Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Center broke ground on Constitution Day, September 17, 2000 and will open July 4, 2003.
This sounds like a summer time excursion worth taking. It's been a while since I had the chance to take a peek at the Liberty Bell, and this addition definitely merits a return visit this summer.
pet peeve of the day

RRBP's. Rapid Random Button Pushers. Those people who, when the computer is giving unexpected feedback or options, rapidly push a random sequence of mouse and keyboard buttons. This gives me great concern. Please, slow down. Read your options. Choose only the appropriate button, and only once.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

political action figures

It appears that the President Bush action figures are selling fast. Almost 8,000 of them have been sold so far. My favorite line from the Talking President's site:
Press the button on George's back to hear him say 17 powerful and patriotic phrases.
I understand that the same instructions apply to the doll, too.
a very polish christmas

Anna Szymañska, from the Warsaw Business Journal, shares her correspondence with a certain jolly gentleman about a business trip he is planning to make on December 24th. There are some useful suggestions such as the immunization of reindeer, and the proper ways to get through the customs office. A certain unique Polish flavor filled the correspondence:
We would also like to stress that if any of the recipients of the goods leave you a glass of wódka or a few slices of apple pie, these would be subject to 22% VAT for the giver, if the giver is a VAT registered person. Additionally, this could be subject to Personal Income Tax and potentially social insurance (ZUS), if it were deemed to arise from your employment. Practically 40% of the wódka and apple pie ought to be retained by the giver to satisfy the withholding liability. I, therefore, suggest that you drink no more than 60% of each glass of wódka and eat no more than 60% of each piece of apple pie, leaving the remainder to be sent to the tax office.
May you have a very merry Christmas, Anna.
on the web

I came across a couple of articles focusing on the web, from November's issue of FirstMonday, which I enjoyed.

One, entitled Corporate Cyberstalking: An Invitation to Build Theory, takes a look at harassment both by and against corporations online. The intention of its author, Paul Bocij, is to get people to start paying attention to, and documenting these types of problems so that people have a better understanding of how to respond when they happen.

Another article, Examining the Determinants of Who is Hyperlinked to Whom: A Survey of Webmasters in Korea, looks at the reasons why a number of webmasters in Korea linked to other sites. While the factors for linking that they discussed may have played a part in decisions to link to sites from here, we try to add some new sites every once in a while that we find interesting. Here are some that I'm adding to our blog roll today:

Inter Alia
The ResourceShelf
Weatherall's Law
fun with trademarks

On Friday, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that they had begun to implement a new electronic filing system which would replace paper filings (USTPO press release). We also received news that a recent adoption of the Madrid Protocol by the United States, which will go into effect on November 2nd of next year, will make filing of international trademarks much easier. More from the International Trademark Association here on how this might impact upon Trademark law and practice in the US. Given this news, I thought about taking a quick look at some of the trademark action reported in the media recently.

It appears that there's a nice battle (NY Times, reg. req'd) going on in Austin, Texas, over the right to "keep Austin weird."

You've got to to cough up some bucks if you want to prepare to rumble.

If you send poetry in your emails (NY Times, reg. req'd), you better make certain that haiku isn't trademarked, or you face being labeled a spammer and an infringement case.

Selling hoagies might be expensive in Pennsylvania if you don't call them subs instead. Though, there maybe, might be, a case for prior culinary art, or possibly a generic defense.

And, across Europe, you might get away with calling yourself Santa Claus, but Father Christmas may be another matter.
If you say prayers, and think of it, please say one for Bernd Zechel and Bill Sullivan.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Delaware ratifies the Constitution

Delaware became the first state in the United States on this date back in 1787 when the Deputies of the State unanimously ratified the US Constititution.

[December 8, 2002 -- The Wilmington News Journal has information upon this year's celebration of Delaware Day]
rolling around in the blogoverse

These were some of the many things I came across today:

The Trademark Blog has a suggestion for turning the economy around, and it's an interesting one.

I don't know why, but I have a soft spot for fights over animated characters, via 1715 IP on the soft side

Flash fun on a 404 page pointed out by The Shifted Librarian

Andrew Raff, at Shameless Self Promotion, sums up what it's like to be in lawschool at this time of year with two location shots. To all those blogging law students out there gearing up for finals, good luck. You're almost there.

Larry Kestenbaum, at Polygon, the Dancing Bear, writes about his experiences in lawschool, Detroit, and Eminem's new movie in a lyrical manner that has me wanting to go see 8 mile.

The funniest blawg entry I read today is from the author of Lex Communis, Peter Sean Bradley, who writes about how Denise Howell, of Bag and Baggage, has forced him to adopt an alternative business plan.

I was excited when I heard that "I, Robot" was being made into a movie. The title was written by Isaac Asimov many years back, and a screenplay was penned for it by Harlan Ellison almost twenty years ago. The news from Kuro5hin is that the only thing really being used from the short story collection is the name. I'm hoping that it will at least use the three laws of robotics:
  • a robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm;
  • a robot must obey orders given to it by a human, except where it would conflict with the first law;
  • and a robot must protect itself, as long as that protection doesn't violate either the first or second law.
Some interesting and useful advice on picking a company name, trademarking the name, and getting a domain name, from heels.com, via Rick Klau.

What I've heard of Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs makes it sound like an interesting read. After hearing more about it at copyfight, I may have to stop at a bookstore this afternoon and pick up a copy.
pet peeve of the day

I get pretty aggravated when people approach an intersection with no understanding of traffic signal actuators. They will invariably either pull out into the intersection at the red light, to wait there for the green, or they will wait far back from the intersection. Then after a long wait, they will run the red light.

Traffic signal actuators control many of our roadways' red lights. They consist of wires buried in the pavement which are designed to detect the metal of a vehicle sitting on top of the actuator, and to then cycle the traffic light. If you don't stop on top of the actuator, you will never get a green light. Some of the lights still work on timers, but most seem to me to have been converted to these actuators.

Signal actuators don't work very well for bicyclists since they don't consist of a sufficient amount of metal, and they don't stop in the main traffic lanes.

Here is a picture of an intersection with traffic signal actuators:


Can you see the faded stop line and the patchwork that covers the actuator's wires? If you stop at the stop line, you will be in the proper position to activate the red light to change to green for you, and for me.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

filtering out the bad stuff

We've been following the studies of Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman, from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society since July, when they looked at the filtering of web sites taking place in Saudi Arabia. Some recent updates regarding their look at filtering in China have been getting the media's attention, including an article at internetnews.com called China's Filtering Tech Evolving.

ReasonOnline has what I would gauge to be a satirical look at the subject named Filter Tips: What Europe can learn from China's censors:
Translating the protocol into filtering software may be tricky. Ideally, the filter should be sophisticated enough to catch a statement like, "Those French sure are thin-skinned and intolerant." But China has shown that you can make a dent in the problem of dangerous speech even if you can't be 100 percent successful.
Zittrain and Edelman have already demonstrated that some European countries don't need the help.
it pays to be connected

But, maybe not always in a good way. An article from the New York Times from a couple of days ago called Doing Business by Cellphone Creates New Liability Issues discusses this topic while looking at auto accidents involving business related calls on cell phones.
media protection for bloggers

Eugene Volokh has written an interesting article about state statutory rights and other privileges given to members of the media, and considers whether those might also apply to people who write weblogs. His article raises a number of questions, without really giving any answers. But, sometimes just framing a question is a pretty good starting point for intelligent consideration of a topic. Another question -- would having an International Standard Serial Number for your weblog (as an electronic publication) make a difference? (link to Volokh article via Lawmeme)
researching the government science

Today was the official launch date for Science.gov. The Official press release (pdf) tells us that this e-government initiative brings us research and technology reports from "the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Interior; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation." There's even a section they've called homework help for students and teachers. There are some nice resources on the federal government's pages. If this makes finding them easier, then I think that it's great.
jurors and net don't mix?

Law.com looks at the potential problems that a court might face when jurors decide to do a little online research concerning information that they hear in court.
wintertime follies

The forecast for Delaware is calling for our first snowstorm of the season, starting sometime this morning, and into the afternoon. The last National Weather Service message I looked at threatened the possibility of seven inches of snow for northern Delaware. The central and southern parts of the State are expected to see more rain, and less flakes. There's something magical about the first snowstorm of the season. I'll be reminding myself of that during rush hour traffic in the morning, which is predicted to be the most intense period of precipitation.

Blogging here tonight is going to be light, after preparing for the storm. (Do you know where your snow shovel, and salt, and gloves, and so on are?) I did want to point out Matt Haughey's post over at a whole lottanothing from late November called digital restrictions management. It's an interesting forecast of what might come, complete with screenshots.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

in the fast food court of public opinion

McDonalds from two different angles, in the NY Times (reg. req'd). One article, Fast Food and the Obesity Problem looks at the fast food industry, and how its members are considering changing in light of the possibility of litigation. McDonalds also gets a mention in Advocates for Animals Turn Attention to Chickens, for their promise to "buy eggs only from producers who do not starve their chickens to force molting and who raise them in cages of at least 72 square inches for each bird, nearly double the current United States average of 40 square inches."
talking amongst ourselves

One of my all time favorite songs is from legendary local band Rocket 88, sung by Mark Kenneally, aka Dr. Harmonica. The first time I saw them perform, the good Doctor was swinging from the rafters, and filling the room with more blues than it could handle, in a place known as the Deer Park Tavern. The band counts amongst its contemporaries the more well known George Thorogood, and Tommy Conwell. The song had a chorus line, which may have also been its name, that went something like this: "I was looking back to see if she was looking back to see if I was looking back at her."

That was what I was thinking of when I read Ernie Svenson's blog entry yesterday called Weblogs are conversations too. It's kind of funny how information travels around the net. Rather than recap, I'll point you to Ernie's expanded take, an Anatomy of a conversation among weblogs . It seems that a number of us were excited to hear Federal Judge Richard Posner's thoughts concerning intellectual property and copyright extensions. One of the fun parts about the decentralized nature of blogs, and the conversation between them is watching how they grow. I've been searching for a transcript of Judge Posner's speech. While the Eldred site had a link to a pdf file of the talk, it wouldn't open correctly for me. Thankfully, Ernie pointed to a copy at the Tech Law Journal. Looking at the Eldred site again, it appears that they've accidentally put up an older (though still very interesting) speech, from the Spring 2002 issue of Dædalus. I'll point the webmaster to the TLJ page. The conversation widens.
left-over judges

Yesterday, I came across a couple of great brainteaser legal questions from Lily Malcolm over at The Kitchen Cabinet. While you'll probably want to look at Lily's much more charming framing of the questions, here are her brainteasers in a nutshell. (I hope that she does more.) One of them asked why a federal court might send a case back to a lower court for "proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion." Why the double negative? Why not "proceedings consistent with this opinion?" The answer has to do with the relationship between the courts. The other asked what might be the "most aptly named case in American constitutional law." (answers)

While I missed out on the glory of being the first to respond with an answer, the double negative question lead me to think of the unusual relationship between trial judges and appellate judges which existed in Delaware between 1897 and 1951. During that time span, the Supreme Court of Delaware was comprised of the state judges who had not heard the case below. This method of final appellate jurisdiction has been referred to as the "left-over judge system." In 1951, Delaware became the last state in the union to create a separate Supreme Court. There were some interesting developments in the way that the court system evolved during the "left-over judge" period. The Court's web site has a great article about that time, called The Supreme Court of Delaware: 1900 - 1950.
critical linking

Somedays it pays to have a healthy dose of skepticism. One of the phrases that seems to have been repeated around the Law Office for years is "there's always something else." It's a warning to not always accept things complacently, but to also dig beneath the surface a bit. With entries like the hundredth monkey phenomenon, and Bach's flower therapy, I'm a believer in the value of the the Skeptic's Dictionary. And it's just one of many interesting sites that can be found through Tim van Gelder's Critical Thinking on the Web.
it makes calls, too

I thought that I had a pretty good grasp of what the term conspicuous consumption encompassed. After seeing a $19,450 phone (NY Times, reg. req'd), I'm going to have to stretch my definition a bit. (link via gizmodo.com)

Monday, December 02, 2002

There's gonna be no dancing

Last night I had a dream that Kevin Bacon moved to a new town where people weren't allowed to dance. Except, instead of it happening in a small town named Bomont, it took place in New York City. But, after reading the pages of Legalize Dancing NYC, I realized that was an unlikely dream. It may not be mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but I'm tempted to agree that dancing is a fundamental right. Even incidental dancing.
no child left behind

The No Child Left Behind Act is new federal legislation that "redefines the federal role in K-12 education." According to the US Department of Education web site:
It is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.
There's even a nochildleftbehind web site, which provides more information about how the bill will work.

There's a provision of the Bill that has a number of people worried. In addition to the educational aspects of the legislation, it also includes a forceful, and ham-handed requirement to give military recruiters earlier, and greater access to young teenagers. I looked through the nochildleftbehind site to try to find more on this subject. An explaination of the federal funding for access requirement under the provisions of the Bill. I couldn't find anything along those lines there.

The military does provide opportunities for many. But, should schools be required to report the names ages, addresses, and phone numbers of high school juniors and seniors to military recruiters or risk losing federal funds? Private schools receiving federal monies would also have to turn over information. Wired Magazine considers some of the issues involved in an article called Students Can't Get No Privacy. Mother Jones also covers this increased access to students:
Recruiters are up-front about their plans to use school lists to aggressively pursue students through mailings, phone calls, and personal visits -- even if parents object. "The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman," says Major Johannes Paraan, head U.S. Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York. "Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list."
That adds a slightly different meaning to "no child left behind."
toons in copyrightland

If you've been visiting the Eldred v. Ashcroft web site, you've noticed that they have been regularly adding links to articles about the battle against the Bono Copyright Extension Act. If you haven't, there's some interesting commentary coming out on the litigation from a broad spectrum of the population. The latest addition is an article from Animation World which came out back in April, and discusses how the courtroom drama might affect toondom.

Speaking of toondom, I was exploring Donald D. Markstein's Toonpedia, which bills itself as "a vast repository of toonological knowledge." It definitely is. It surveys some of the early days of animation. While I thought that his page on Mickey was pretty good, I also discovered that before Mickey, there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and before Oswald came Felix the Cat. In addition to the Toonpedia site, I also came across a page on Ub Iwerks, who was one of Walt Disney's closest friends and a collaborator on a number of characters, including Mickey Mouse.
regulating whoopee cushions

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an article called The Making of a Policy Gadfly, (link via Lessig blog) has an insightful look at the writings of Princeton Professor Edward W. Felten at his blog Freedom to Tinker. The article focuses upon a series of postings in which the inventor and educator explains how Sen. Fritz Hollings' Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) will help us by requiring that copyright protections be developed by private industry to allow the federal government to protect digital content. Professor Felton provides a large number of examples of products that will need to be protected under the law in a category of his blog which he labeled Fritz's Hit List. Some of the many examples: Big Mouth Billy Bass, the Shop With Me Barbie toy cash register, the TinkleToonz Musical Potty, and the remote controlled fart machine (a definite must read entry).
San Francisco takes a stand

The Segway scooter has been quickly permitted to grace sidewalks in a number of states and cities around the country. Legislation has been passed which would allow the vehicle to be driven on sidewalks, along with pedestrians. Remarkably, there has been little protest about its use on public walkways. But, not everyone is entranced by the machine. The City of San Francisco is considering banning the scooter.
a law for us and a law for them

Do we have a separate and parallel legal system? That's what the media is reporting:
The Bush administration is developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects -- U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike -- may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say.
It sounds like a pretty accurate assessment.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

15th annual World AIDS Day

A large number of web sites are taking part in the link and think campaign today to bring awareness of the AIDs pandemic to more people. This is a world wide problem, and while groups like the International AIDS Trust are working to try to make a difference with spokesmen like Bill Clinton (NY Times -reg. req'd) and Nelson Mandela, the most immediate difference you can make is to learn more about the disease, and its prevention and treatment.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

jury debriefing

The Delaware Supreme Court is accepting comments on a proposed rule change that would allow jurors to be questioned by attorneys (and perhaps pro-se litigants) after the case is over, in a supervised setting. Today's News Journal's article portrays several attorneys' views on the subject. Here is another.

I am not convinced that this would be a good idea. I think that when we balance the good that allegedly would come from this as against the appeals chaos that it will inspire, the balance comes out in favor of leaving jurors alone. Furthermore, I think that our system of justice depends heavily upon the privacy of the jury deliberation chamber, and the freedom that the jurors have to express their respective points of view, and share their frank opinions. When we put these jurors in a situation where their deliberations now become part of a public circus, I can smell only disaster.
are you ready for e-stamps?

The United States Postal Service and Microsoft are teaming up to bring us a new service that allows confirmation of the delivery of emails with a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a sender. The news was announced at the Fall Comdex. (link via UnderReported.com) AuthentiDate is the company that would provide the confirmation and authentification services.

Friday, November 29, 2002

privatizing the moon

An Alternet article called The Men Who Sold the Moon looks at private attempts to get into orbit, and onto the moon. Last month, TransOrbital, Inc. became the first private business to be granted permission from the US government to explore, photograph and land on the moon. Their site gives more details on their first three commercial missions -- TrailBlazer, Electra, and Electra II. Sending a message to the moon seems pretty affordable.
guarding the coast

Once upon a time, there were five federal agencies known by the following names: the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service. At different periods in time, these agencies all became part of the US Coast Guard. Seaford Delaware's branch of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary includes a History of the US Coast Guard on their site which explains how these different agencies were united. I learned quite a bit about the history of the nation from this report from the US Coast Guard Historian's Office. The Auxiliary's site also has a lot of information about boating, regulations, and safety on their pages. The Coast Guard is just as busy today as ever. Maybe busier.
who's watching the henhouse?, no, who's on first

New Castle County's ethics soap opera continues. As seen in today's News Journal, the County is attempting to recreate their failed attempt at maintaining an Ethics Commision without correcting the problem that caused it to fail. In short, they either didn't want to adequately fund it or they didn't want it to have sufficient funds to operate effectively. You pick.

A token watchdog is worse than no watchdog at all, at least for our citizens. It would give us the false sense of security of thinking that someone is overseeing the ethics of our county government. So let us think about it. Who would be served by a token Ethics Commission, that is ineffective? The article in the News Journal said that the County Commissioners said that the constituents want to keep the Ethics issues local, rather than turning the process over to the State. Is this true? Are ethics better dealt with by an underfunded body under the direct control and pay of the people they are policing? Remember, time after time we have seen in the news how our county government has been misused and corrupted. Would the State oversight option not be cheaper and more nuetral? Yeah, I can see how we, the constituents opt out of the cheaper better plan and choose the ineffective and more expensive plan. That's just like us.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

happy thanksgiving

We will be spending today, and possibly tomorrow, with our friends and families celebrating all of the positive things that have happened over the past year, so posting here will probably be light. A large part of what we have to give thanks for are the many people who have visited this site, and the Law Office, and whom we have had the good fortune to meet, to work with, to exchange ideas with, and to learn from. Thank you.

We look forward to the coming year, and hope that it brings us all plenty to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke

Question: I am a paralegal in a law firm specializing in plaintiff’s personal injury cases. Our client was involved in a collision on the Delaware Memorial Bridge as she passed through the toll booth. The defendant, in this case, is a New Jersey resident. He was taken into custody by the Delaware River Bay Authority Police immediately after the police officer checked his license.

How do I find out more information about the defendant?

Answer: Start with the drivers license number. A New Jersey drivers license number is 15 digits. A letter, followed by 14 numbers. There are three sets of five digits each, and each set is separated by a single space.

The letter digit is the first letter of the licensee’s last name. The next four digits represent the next four letters in the licensee’s last name. They are in an unpublished DMV code. Every person with the same last name will have the same first five digit set in New Jersey.

The next five-digit set is an unpublished DMV code representing the middle initial and other DMV administrative data. The first two digits of the last five-digit set indicate the licensee’s month and year of birth. Hence, the first two digits will always be 01 through 12, if the licensee is a male, and 51 through 62 if the licensee is female.

NJ DMV adds 50 to the birth months to represent a female gender. The third, and fourth, digits of the final five-digit set represent the year of birth (the same for both gender). The final digit is eye color. 2 is brown, 4 is blue, 5 is hazel, and 6 is green.

Contact NJ DMV in Trenton, N.J. and obtain a certified copy of the defendant’s driving history, and vehicles by name. Also obtain vehicle registration information on the vehicle the defendant was operating at the time of loss.

The driving history will reveal a last known address, and date of birth. The vehicle information will provide you ownership information and the name of the insurance company.

You now have the names, and addresses of all defendants -- the driver, the vehicle owner (negligent entrustment), and the insurance company.

Use your favorite investigative resource (you can call me) to verify the addresses, and obtain other materials relevant to your case. It will be especially interesting to conduct an inquiry regarding criminal records involving the defendant.

Why did the Police Officer take the defendant into custody? Review the Uniform Traffic Collision Report.

Was there a DUI involved? Was the defendant charged with a moving violation? Any witnesses listed on the Report by the Police Officer?

If the accident was especially severe, the fatal accident reconstruction team will also provide a report. This report is conducted on some non-fatal accidents.

Secure recorded statements of all witnesses (driver, passengers, toll collectors, police officer, EMT’s, Fire/Rescue personnel) for future use.

Was either of the vehicles towed? Don’t forget to contact the tow operator. You can’t imagine the things said to a tow truck driver.

Obtain photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles involved in the collision.

Ask the investigator to provide asset/liability information with their report. This will help the attorney decide if they should go after policy limits in extreme cases, or in an asset rich environment, take another approach.

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. He is also a Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA. Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street,
Suite 425, P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE
(302) 427-3600.

Or you may e-mail him at DeIrish5@aol.com.

Previous Tricks of the Trade from Michael T. O'Rourke:

October 20, 2002
September 16, 2002
August 25, 2002
May 28, 2002
March 25, 2002
February 25, 2002
January 17, 2002
November 26, 2001
October 23, 2001
September 25, 2001

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

blacklists and the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the agency leading the battle against unwanted and unsolicited commercial emails in the U.S. Washington is interested in the problem. We even have lobbyists joining together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss how to lessen those emails.

News that the FTC has become the first federal agency to turn to email blacklists has a number of people concerned that their rights to access to the government are being infringed. Some companies filtering emails based upon blacklists that they compile from spam reports have been described as overzealous in their attempts to thwart unsolicited commercial email. I appreciate the efforts that many of these companies are making, but there are signs that some of the criticism leveled their way might be warranted. The irony is that a number of messages sent by email to the FTC either reporting spam, or on methods and ideas to fight spam, have been blocked [according to the news reports] by at least one of the blacklists which the FTC is using. This is a technology in its infancy, and it needs time to grow and develop. But, in the mean time, the mail may not be getting through.
santa switches

I've watched it a couple of times. Will Farrell's life after Saturday Night Live seems to be filled with commercial art. Or, should I say, commercials. His latest is an Apple Switch parody brought to us by Apple (does it count as a parody, if they target themselves?). Anyway, I'm trying to decide if the Santa and Lawyers ad (requires quicktime) is funny. I snickered when I saw it. But, I've always thought that a parody should bring belly laughs. Or at least a ho ho ho.
total information briefing

We've been trying to following the different aspects of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Total Information Awareness project, but it seems to be growing quickly beyond our means. It's a good thing we're able to turn to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). They held a press briefing yesterday at the National Press Club, providing some interesting information to the media. Their Total Information Awareness page also shows a number of other updates on the status of the project from the last couple of days. If we keep on writing about this topic, I may have to start posting all of my entries here anonymously. Otherwise, I fear someone will pay me a visit asking me to get with the program, and keep my mouth shut.

posted by anonymous

A domain name versus trademark dispute has Norweigan company SMSfun, selling sunglasses at Google.no, squared off against American search engine Google over the use of the domain name. The Berkman Center's Greplaw is covering the story, which is mostly in Norweigan. It appears that the Norweigan business has won the first round.

Monday, November 25, 2002

the digital millennium copyright act (dmca) in court

Software that gives people the ability to make copies of ebooks inspite of copyright protections will be examined closely next week, in a federal court in San Jose, California. The Copyright Act became law in 1998, and now, four years later, it faces a challenge. At a hearing today, issues such as an interpretation of the criminal provisions of the DMCA for a jury were discussed.
budgets and bottles

Just how bad is the budget crisis that many states are experiencing? Reuters says that they are "sunk in the worst financial doldrums since World War II." But, those aren't their words. The wire service is repeating the statement made by the National Governor's Association in their Fiscal Survey of States (pdf). It may be time to look for some creative ways to decrease projected budget deficits. Delaware is reviewing one solution that Massachusetts followed in 1990 -- having unclaimed bottle deposits turned over to the State. I'm not keen on the idea of the State benefitting at a cost to the environment, and I've written a little on the subject before. I appreciate the State's consideration of ways to lessen the bleak financial picture we've seen painted in the media. Hopefully, we'll also consider some other ideas that don't rely upon me throwing a bottle away, rather than having it recycled, to benefit the State's finances.
state court jurisdiction over the net?

When I read the headline Court blocks state DVD-cracking suit, I knew right away that I had to turn to the pages of Denise Howell's Bag and Baggage for the full story. Denise doesn't disappoint. She sat in on the oral arguments before the California Supreme Court in September, and provided a great amount of insight as to what happened during those proceedings. Thanks, Denise!
computer geeks and politics

Slate is running an article called Why Computer Geeks Should give Up on Politics. It covers a variety of subjects, including Digital Rights Management, government sanctioned computer intrusion to "protect" copyrights, the GeekPAC, blogging politicians, and what Slate calls the highest stakes issue of all -- the Total Information Awareness (TIA) research project. DARPA, which is in charge of the TIA project, may have been instrumental in starting the internet. But the net's success so far is because it's something that people wanted, often despite the the protests of bureacracy. People may not be quite as euthusiastic about supporting the TIA.

[November 27, 2002 -- Contrast that article to Declan McCullagh's Is it time for a GeekPAC?.]
a bit of cinema noir about it

I almost picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood a couple of weekends ago, and upon reflection I should have. I really loved Wind-up Bird Chronicles by the same author. After reading Bill Altreuter's thoughts about the book over at Outside Counsel in his November 12th and 14th posts, I want to go back to the bookstore that I found it at and buy it. Unfortunately, I'll have to travel to the other end of Delaware to do that. I saw it down at a bookstore in Dewey Beach, which is Sneaking Suspicions territory. Raymond Chandler is another favorite author of mine, and I think that Bill captures the connection between the two pretty well. I was thinking about Chandler when I read about the Hollywood gumshoe who had weapons charges filed against him earlier today. The story seems to have all the makings of a Chandler plot.
filming jurors

I've written here about cameras in courtrooms before, but the thought of a judge allowing a crew to film jurors' deliberations comes as a bit of a surprise. A Texas judge is allowing video recording to take place during the decision-making of a jury in a capital murder case.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

when art becomes crime

Is it against the law to incorporate popular cultural figures and symbols into art? Our newest intellectual property laws are having an effect upon artists and their works. They are possibly making those creators criminals. We've pointed to illegalart.org here before (make sure that you read the pop-up disclaimer for full effect). The Newark Star Ledger writes about the organization's exhibit to be held in New York City through January (the illegal art web site indicates that the show will close on December 6th, so if you plan to go, check the dates carefully). The Star Ledger's article explains how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Bono Copyright Extension are chilling artistic endeavors. The exhibit will also be shown in Chicago. There are some nice links to copyright resources on the illegal art site's pages.
library runs into filtering problem

The problem is that they used their name as part of the domain name for their web site. The Flesh Library (named after Leo Flesh, who donated the money for the library's present location, 70 years ago) also installed filtering software on their computers. When they officially unveiled their new web site, to their chagrin, it was blocked. (via slashdot)
computers in classrooms

Good idea or bad idea? I came across a link on Arts & Letters Daily, in their list of "Classics" to an article called The Computer Delusion. Though it's five years old, it makes for some interesting reading, and it has sparkled a great amount of debate since its publication.. I'm not sure that I agree with a number of the arguments that it makes, but the main one is spot on right. Computers are just a tool. Without good teachers, a healthy cirriculum, and other resources, the goal of having computers in classrooms is a short sighted solution, focusing more upon the tools than the objectives of education. I just wonder, five years later, what author Todd Oppenheimer might think of computers in classrooms. His article from 1999, describing educational methods in Waldorf Schools, shows a healthy education system in the absence of computers. A Red Herring article called Is our children learning? also examines the question. They make a good point, that I'm happy to see:
The new law, called No Child Left Behind, also requires that 25 percent of technology funding be allocated for training teachers to use the new tools.
I think that's the key to realizing a benefit in having computers in classrooms -- enabling teachers to learn to use the technology as just another available tool to achieve educational objectives.

[November 25, 2002 -- Today's Wilmington News Journal has a look at computer in classrooms in Delaware, in an article called Students test online exams.]