|Legal Blog Watch|
How Congress Is Kept Offline
Politicians have fallen in love with the Web. Political candidates use blogs, videos and social-networking tools to win votes and fill coffers. But for candidates elected to Congress, their victory means they must curtail their use of cutting-edge technologies.
The authors, both bloggers, note that the franking rules were created decades ago to restrict the use of snail mail at taxpayer expense. Last updated in 1996, the rules prohibit use of outside Web services and ban links to personal or political Web sites.
The harm in this is to the public, the authors say, blocking the free flow of information to constituents and others. They call on Congress to convene a bipartisan task force to review this situation. "The time has come," they write, "to re-imagine the world of the wired elected official."
Our Judicial Imperialism
Imperialism is a word that suggests power fitting of an empire or of an emperor. An op-ed out of Australia today uses the phrase "judicial imperialism" to describe the U.S. legal system's increasing extension of its power overseas. The term might also have fit a story earlier this week out of Washington describing the increasingly imperial stance being taken by some judges towards the news media.
In the opinion piece from The Sydney Morning Herald, Lawyers Without Borders is Justice American-Style, Mark Coultan, the newspaper's New York correspondent, describes how the United States is giving new meaning to the phrase, "long arm of the law." There is Hew Griffiths, the Australian forcibly extradited to a Virginia prison last month even though he never committed a crime on U.S. soil; he is charged with helping to crack copy-protected software and media products and distribute them for free. There are three British bankers -- the so-called Natwest Three -- extradited to the United States for allegedly taking part in a scheme involving former Enron executive Andrew Fastow to acquire ownership of a Cayman Islands investment company at far below worth. "If there was a crime," Coultan writes, "it was committed against a British company, in Britain by British citizens." After citing other examples, he concludes:
In Washington, meanwhile, Legal Times correspondent Tony Mauro writes about the increasing number of libel cases brought by judges. He sets the stage:
Last week, the news media began to push back, Mauro reports, "questioning when and whether judges should be able to use their own court systems as a tool to retaliate against the media." One leader in that pushback is media lawyer Bruce Sanford, a partner with Baker & Hostetler in D.C. He tells Mauro: "If these suits lead the public to feel that judges are taking care of their own, it will only add to cynicism about the judicial process."
No question, judges sometimes find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the news media. But even Gary Hengstler, director of the Reynolds National Center for Courts and the Media at the National Judicial College, tells Mauro that judges nowadays "are more emboldened to sue." In some cases, it seems to me, this attitude begins to approach imperiousness. Judges themselves differ widely in their dealings with and attitudes towards the news media. But I say Justice Scalia got it right. Becoming a judge opens you to criticism; it does not raise you above it. Judges need to understand that going in.
A Blawger, a Priest and a Rabbi ...
This is no laughing matter. In fact, it is getting darned right serious. At her blog Legal Antics, New York lawyer Nicole L. Black is running a competition to name the funniest law blog. Why? Well, it seems we have our own Carolyn Elefant to blame ... er, thank. Last week right here at Legal Blog Watch, she suggested that other bloggers follow the lead of Jamie Spencer at Austin Criminal Defense Law Blog and poll readers on the best blogs in a given field. (Last November, I had a similar poll on top law blogs at my LawSites blog.) The same day, Black picked up on Elefant's idea and announced her funniest blawg poll. As of today, it is down to 10 finalists, with polling set to close June 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern. Still in the running for yuk-iest law blog are Above the Law, Anonymous Lawyer, Buffalo Wings and Vodka, Legal Antics, Legal Reader, Lowering the Bar, Overlawyered, PhilaLawyer, Quizlaw and Say What?
As the deadline nears, the competition heats up. At Above the Law, Billy Merck says he didn't care about it at first, but now urges readers to cast their votes because "we're getting jacked around" (pointing a finger at PhilaLawyer). And Quizlaw, amid rumors of voter fraud and ballot stuffing, says shenanigans have officially been declared. Quizlaw effectively challenged PhilaLawyer to a blogging duel when it expressed surprise at the site's standing, "considering that its 723 votes are probably more than the number of readers the blog actually has, coupled with the fact that I hadn't even heard of the site before this poll."
If you're wondering what's at stake to drive otherwise upstanding blawgers to such lengths, this is not merely about crowing rights. The winner gets his or her choice of any item from The Billable Hour.
Rodrigo González Fernández
Renato Sánchez 3586