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Whats in the legal blogs

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This week bore witness to the best thing I have ever heard, as well as the worst. The best, needless to say, was the Vice President accidentally shooting his hunting buddy in the face with a shotgun. Harry Whittington, the 78-year-old attorney, is reportedly recovering from a residual heart attack after being used for target practice. Weblog Boing Boing wonders if Cheney shooting a lawyer was simply a statement about the need for tort reform. At Balkinization, Yale Law School professor Jack M. Balkin posted a phony DOJ memo asserting that Whittington was actually an enemy combatant. Several bloggers find the Cheney jokes in bad taste because Whittington's condition is not as rosy as it was initially reported. Instead, I find the barrage of gun-related puns to be truly offensive, including dead-eye Dick, sharpshooter, taking aim, etc. Wonkette will back me up on this.

While it's unlikely that Cheney will be held accountable anywhere except the Court of Public Opinion, some law bloggers are speculating on the question of liability. Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog doubts that Cheney would be charged with anything even if Whittington dies from the injuries sustained. At Prawfsblawg, Ed Lee pondered what, if any, tort had been committed, concluding that it potentially seems like a case of negligence rather than battery.



I happened across the worst thing I have ever heard while reading the legal news blog Objective Justice. The story concerned a medical malpractice issue involving Article X Section 25 of Florida's Constitution, which protects patients' right to know about adverse medical incidents. A Florida woman checked into a hospital to give birth to a baby, but doctors amputated all four of her limbs. When the patient inquired why the decision to amputate was made, the Orlando Regional Healthcare System informed her that it could not disclose why her limbs were removed unless she filed a lawsuit. The moral of the story seems to be "Don't get pregnant in Orlando if you have any kind of sentimental attachment to your arms and legs."

While a lot of the law blogosphere seems to be fun and games—chatting about quadruple amputees and shooting people in the face—it is actually serious business. LexBlog posted the results of a Technorati study that revealed a remarkable growth in blogging over the past three years. The number of blogs is more than 60 times greater today than it was in 2003. Once per second, a new blog appears on the Internet. The figures are rather astounding, so it's no surprise that blogging has become a big-money industry. New York Magazine published an article on the blog establishment that details how blogging has become a mainstream form of media with its own celebrities (blogebrities), hangers-on (bloggers-on), and wannabes (bloggabes).

Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs, Inc., is such a blogebrity. A few weeks back, he authored a post titled "Super Bowl guide for dummies." He was promptly slapped with a legal letter from the publishers of the "for Dummies" series of books, telling him to attribute the trademarked term to Wiley Publishing. This created an uproar in the legal blog community by those who argued that it was fair use. Journalist and professional "Blog Daddy" Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine is encouraging bloggers to use "for dummies" in as many blog headings as they possibly can without attributing the trademark. I can understand where the "for Dummies" people are coming from. I once wrote that I thought the Hamburglar was stealing newspapers from my porch and found myself in a protracted battle over copyright infringement and libel with the good people of the McDonald's Corporation.

From the rumor mill comes the story that Justice John Paul Stevens is itching to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court. I first saw the story this week on Wonkette, though it is a perennial rumor that returns each year like the lotus flower. Stevens is technically older than moss, and he recently had a contract taken out on his life by Ann Coulter. He has reportedly stated that as one of the few remaining moderate voices on the High Court, he is hesitant to let President Bush appoint a conservative replacement. But as the story goes, Stevens allegedly muttered that he "can't put up with this shit anymore." Some law bloggers believe this is a hint of Stevens' eminent departure. With moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat taken by the presumably conservative Justice Samuel "Frito" Alito, Stevens' comment could reflect his intention to retire from the bench. At this point, it's all speculation.

If he does retire, it may not be the last we see of him. Cher has retired at least three times since 1995. Stevens is no Cher, however. Evan Schaffer of Legal Underground points out that in a FindLaw SCOTUS survey with a margin of error +/- 3%, only 3% of respondents knew that John Paul Stevens wasn't the bass player for Led Zeppelin.

Lastly, I regret to announce I will not be attending the First Comprehensive Conference on Blog Law & Blogging for Lawyers this April. The seminar is to be held at San Francisco's Pan Pacific Hotel and will be moderated by Law.com's Jennifer Collins. I will, unfortunately, be unavailable, as I have been asked to give the keynote speech at the Third Annual Quantum Leap Fan Fiction Conference to be held April 20-21 in sunny Rochester, New York. See you there!

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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