Metadata and all the information on Legal Blogs

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As of late, the hot-button word in the law blogosphere is metadata. It's all over the big law blogs, but the definitive post about it comes from Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog. Apparently all those little blinking, beeping ones and zeroes of computer language mean something, and there are some people who can actually make heads or tails of it. Every electronic document is filled with encrypted data, much like a Three Musketeers bar is packed with delicious nougat. When you send a text file, the recipient can open the file's properties and view its revision history. This poses a major problem during the discovery process, wherein opposing counsel may access things that were deliberately redacted from electronic files.

The Florida Bar's Board of Governors declared metadata mining to be unethical. Tech Law consultant Dennis Kennedy finds the Florida Bar's determination to limit a burgeoning technological area baffling. The PDF for Lawyers blog says the decision sounds like something from The Onion. I'll admit I'd never heard of metadata before, but neither had the Florida Bar's Board of Governors. That doesn't mean I'm not techno-savvy, however. I was just too busy trying to set the clock on my VCR. Do people still use VCRs?

The law blog fracas of the week took place over USA Law, a blog portal that publishes several legal-themed Web logs. Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog cried foul over USA Law's publishing his content without permission. He was joined by Dennis Kennedy, who claimed USA Law had implied that he endorsed the blog network by including his material. USA Law editor Nick Carrol replied that all bloggers link to other blogs and that it is a fixture of blogdom.

I'm going to have to side with O'Keefe and Carrol on this issue. I was once in a similar situation, where I faced imprisonment and fines of up to $500,000 for broadcasting football games without express written permission from the NFL. Although in that analogy, I guess the NFL would be the bloggers, and I would be USA Law. So I guess I don't know what to think. I just don't want to go to jail.

Last week, I forecasted that the Enron trial would be better than the O.J. and Michael Jackson trials mashed together and slathered with a creamy sauce of Bush v. Gore. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. It's even better than that! The Houston Chronicle's Enron TrialWatch blog is offering hourly updates on the happenings in the courtroom. Quite frankly, it's fascinating. Highlights include former executive Ken Lay offering his handkerchief to his attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, an audio recording of Lay saying the word "a-hole," and Judge Sim Lake revealing that the jury had tacos for breakfast. That's right, tacos for breakfast!

The trial has actually gotten off to a painfully slow start, which is hardly surprising for a white-collar trial involving financial fraud. So far, the prosecution has spent a lot of time on direct examination of former Enron investor relations chief Mark Koenig. According to Houston attorney Tom Kirkendall of Houston's Clear Thinkers blog, this strategy backfired, as the defense got Koenig to admit in cross-examination that he wasn't really sure if Lay and former executive Jeffrey Skilling deliberately mislead the public about Enron's finances.

While the Business Law Economics Society blog Conglomerate predicts full acquittals for at least one of the defendants, Prawfsblawg, a consortium of law school professors, is predicting that the trial will suck. The real bad guys have already copped pleas and nobody really understands Enron anyway, argues Prawfblawg. The complexity of the crimes in question could lead to a confused jury. Who cares? More tacos, please.

The Enron trial has taken a backseat to the big news story of the past few weeks, those cartoons that caused mass rioting and violence abroad. I am speaking, of course, about Garfield. His passion for lasagna has caused uproarious bouts of chaotic laughter worldwide. Actually, the real story is the Danish newspapers that printed and reprinted anti-Muslim cartoons under the banner of free speech, sparking widespread and deadly protests. While the story has received a lot of attention in the law blogosphere, the analysis from American law-minded bloggers has been a little weak, as pointed out at Dawg's Blawg, a Canadian law blog. That is understandable. At the core of the debate is a lesser-of-two-evils argument over racism vs. censorship. Ann Althouse takes the middle-of-the-road position that the rioters ought to argue against the ideas behind the cartoons rather than endorse the suppression of speech.

The latest development in the story reveals that when the cartoons were dispersed throughout the Muslim world, additional forged cartoons were added, presumably to fan the flames of hatred. Blawg God Eugene Volokh has declared a fatwa on whoever added the three new fake cartoons. As someone on the Judged message boards mentioned, the most shocking aspect of the cartoons, which are available for viewing here, is that they are not funny at all. I'll take Hagar the Horrible any day.

As new developments in this story and all other matters blogworthy arise, I will keep you apprised. I'm out there every day, scouring the law blogs, pondering the tough issues, and preparing keen and insightful analysis so you don't have to.

Jeff is a writer from Los Angeles, CA. Currently, he is the moderator of the message boards at Judged.com, the largest insider source of law firm information.

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