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Category Archives: Lagniappe

iPhone Apps for Mardi Gras — Or for Fastest Breaking News

Last year, after the Boston Marathon Bombing, I wrote about my experience reading Twitter and listening to Ustream to get news on the manhunt which was coming in 10-30 minutes faster than it reached CNN.  A year later, the article is still solid and gives some good resources to say ahead of breaking news (here).images

But let’s turn, momentarily, to a fun diversion.

Mardi Gras has arrived and, if you are going to the parades, you need this GPS-enhanced parade tracker.  Local News 4 WWL has improved this app over the years and the current version looks solid.  Turn on your iPhone auto update to make sure the app has the latest info as it gets updated quite a bit during the parade season.  App is free and here.

Back to business.  Maybe your practice involves law enforcement and developments in your area.  Or you heard about an event in another city and want to get the police scanner stream.  Ustream is an option but Scanner Radio Deluxe seems to have the edge.  Select scanner feeds nearby or by city name (e.g., I can follow local Palm Beach as a favorite and search for NOPD when I get there).  Creates a favorites list for easy access and even have the app notify you if a particular stream gets a lot of listeners (suggesting there’s breaking news).  Hopefully we won’t need it at Mardi Gras.  App is here and free.

Your Law Firm Blog is Terrible

Some of the worst legal writing is found… on the internet.  Yes, when there is an opportunity to market, explain a new legal development, or explain the latest law firm news, lawyers take to their firm blogs and write some of their worst material.  We understand.  Billable hours are draining.  You write all day.  Maybe you think it really doesn’t matter.  But it does.bad-lawyer-notlegaladvice.org_

Internet content creates attention and drives curious readers to your website, then to your firm, and (hopefully) ultimately to you.  It’s an opportunity to be the first to discuss a new case or development.  But you have to do it correctly.

Your Law Firm Blog is Terrible” is a slightly tongue-in-cheek discussion of what lawyers are doing wrong on the internet and how to correct it.  Thanks to the Palm Beach Bar for permitting me to re-publish from the August 2013 Bar Bulletin.

US Memo on Drone Strikes vs. Al-Qaida Memo on How to Avoid Them

A bit off topic of Internet law, the discovery by the Associated Press of an Al Qaida memorandum on how to avoid detection/death from American drones is a technology story worth discussing.  The news coverage on this has been bleak.skynet

On the other hand, there has been plenty of coverage of the U.S. memo entitled the Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against U.S. Citizen Who Is A Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force.

So now you can read both memos, back-to-back.

The Al Qaida memo has seemingly not hit the news yet  – google “Al Qaida memo drones” and only one story appears in Fast Company, Terrorists May Know How to Avoid Drones, Memo Says.

If you thought that Al Qaida had a lack of technical experience, this memo enumerates 21 ways to avoid drone detection (starting with hiding from under a tree and then it moves towards jamming frequencies).  There is even a discussion of the “War of the Drones” and how, according to Al Qaida, the US moved from F-16 fighters to less expensive drones.  Shockingly, it discusses using a $3,000 system called Skygrabber which you can buy off the internet at Skygrabber.com.  There is a YouTube video showing how Skygrabber can intercept (or at least in 2009) Drone communications.

For context of the US memo, Michael Isakoff’s (NBC) article on the revelation of that report is here.

Special thanks to Gizmodo, which brought the Al Qaida story to our attention (their article includes both the original Arabic as well as link to the English translation, if you are so minded to check that out).

FAA Is Considering New Rules Re: Use of Devices During Take-Off, Landing

The FAA is seeking comments about its current policy which airlines follow regarding passenger use of personal electronic devices.  Yes, that list that flight attendants rattle off (which surprisingly still includes “iPods” and “Gameboys”).  So apparently it is time for review and comment.

The FAA’s call for comments is in this several page memo.

Some interesting tidbits arise from this memo:

1.  The FAA does NOT require airlines insist that passengers turn off devices during takeoff and landing.  That’s an airline policy, not law.  Instead, the FAA leaves it up to the airline to determine the rules and makes them responsible for their decision.  Hence, the airlines err on the side of caution.

2.  The origin of this policy stems back to 1966 when there was concern that devices like electric shavers emitted FM signals which could interfere with navigation.

3.  Some of the 1966-era planes which may have been susceptible to electric shavers and other 1960′s era devices are… still in service today.  Hence the ongoing concern particularly when personal devices have become more technical.

You can post and read comments to the FAA rules, here.

Safe travels.

20 Free Programs You Should Have on Your PC in 2012

Apps for smartphones are pretty easy — finding and installing programs (the original “apps”) for a new PC is not so easy.  If you have a new PC after the holidays or simply want to make sure you have the right (free) tools which every lawyer should have on at least one PC, check out this article in the January 2012 Palm Beach Bar Bulletin.

Will Your Law Firm Accept Bitcoin?

The concept of bitcoin, a virtual online currency, has been in the news in 2011.  The good news is that it has been somewhat stable, received media attention, and survived an attempted hack (arguably better than major corporations and some nations).  The bad news is that it remains a shadow-currency with no backing and some inherent risk.  But there are a handful of firms reportedly accepting bitcoin.  Will you?

Read the September 2011 article, “Will Your Law Firm Accept Bitcoin?” from the Palm Beach Bar Bulletin.

The debate continues in the New York Times and other places

The Woes of Citing Wikipedia in Court Pleadings

In a federal court case out of Kentucky, defense counsel reportedly cribbed portions of the brief from… Wikipedia.  And then from a Federal Judicial Handbook.  Both times without proper citation.

Before getting to the orders, we note the case has the narrowest connection to Florida.

In a February 2011 order, the court wrote:

The court notes here that defense counsel appears to have cobbled much of his statementof the law governing ineffective assistance of counsel claims by cutting and pasting, withoutcitation, from the Wikipedia web site. Compare Supplemental to Motion for New Trial (DN 199)at 18–19 with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strickland_v._Washington (last visited Feb. 9, 2011).The court reminds counsel that such cutting and pasting, without attribution, is plagiarism. Thecourt also brings to counsel’s attention Rule 8.4 of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct,which states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to “engage in conduct involvingdishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” SCR 3.130(c). See also In re Burghoff, 374 B.R.681 (Bankr. N.D. Iowa 2007) (holding that counsel’s plagiarism violated identical provision ofIowa Rules of Professional Conduct). Finally, the court reminds counsel that Wikipedia is not an acceptable source of legal authority in the United States District Courts. (emp. added)

Thereafter, in an April 2011 order, the same mischief re-appeared:

As the United States points out, defendant’s counsel has apparently continued with thismotion his practice of copying, without sufficient attribution, substantial portions of other works intohis own. The court noted in its February 9 Memorandum Opinion that defendant’s counsel had cutand pasted a portion of his brief from the web site Wikipedia. It has now come to the attention ofthe court that portions of the defendant’s motion for release pending appeal appear to have beencopied from a Federal Judicial Center handbook on the Bail Reform Act of 1984. Compare Motionfor Release Pending Appeal (DN 244) at 5, 10–11 with DAVID N. ADAIR, JR.,FED. JUDICIAL. CTR.,THE BAIL REFORM ACT OF 1984 39–40, 41–42 (3d ed. 2006). The court reminds counsel that it isinappropriate to repeat, verbatim, substantial portions of other works in a manner that makes suchwork appear to be the brief writer’s own. The court also reminds counsel that the proper way to citequotations of source material is by a direct citation to the source, not through use of a “see also”signal at the end of a lengthy string citation. See THE BLUEBOOK: A UNIFORM SYSTEM OF CITATIONR. 1.2(a) at 54 (Columbia L. Rev. Ass’n et al. eds., 19th ed. 2010) (explaining that no signal is used“when directly quoting an authority,” whereas the “see also” citation is used when “[c]ited authorityconstitutes additional source material that supports the proposition.”).

Keith Lee, at An Associate’s Mind, beat everyone to the Citations-to-Wikipedia debate with this post, where he found instances where Wikipedia was cited as an appropriate source.

While we are crediting our sources, check out this ABA Journal article, which caught our attention.  Make sure you read some of the helpful and creative comments by other readers.  We too have to credit the Legal Writing Prof blog, and its commentators, who provided the cites as well as some insights.

Finally, one person who commented on the ABA Journal article raised this 2008 article from Trial, Courting Wikipedia.