Friday, May 16, 2008


Twittering From the Courtroom

"There's a new kind of journalism coming from a Kansas courtroom this week," writes Anne Reed at her blog Deliberations. She calls it "Twitter journalism." Whereas blogging a trial already seems old-hat, Wichita Eagle reporter and multimedia producer Ron Sylvester is reporting a capital murder trial through a series of Twitter posts -- each capped at 140 characters.

As he explains at the Society of Professional Journalists blog Technolo-J, his "tweeting" of this trial evolved from his experiment last year live blogging an earlier trial, e-mailing his posts to the newsroom, where other staffers would post them online. But the workflow lagged, and he found himself filing faster than the staff had time to post. So this time, he decided to try Twitter as an experiment, thinking to himself, "Who would notice?" As it turned out, plenty of people noticed. "I didn't expect the reaction," he writes. "This is important to me, because they are local people, looking for local news. They're not readers or viewers or audience anymore -- in this world of social networking, they're my friends."

Back at Deliberations, Anne Reed sees this as another way in which Twitter is finding its way into the legal world. "Ron Sylvester is reporting jury selection with a fresh and direct style you don't often see," she says, "except on Twitter." 

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 15, 2008 at 08:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

WIPO Elects Next Director General

Gurry In a hard-fought election decided by a one-vote margin, the World Intellectual Property Organization elected Australian lawyer Francis Gurry to be its next director general. Gurry has worked for WIPO in Geneva, Switzerland, since 1985, most recently as deputy director general in charge of patents. Before assuming that role in 2003, he was assistant director general and legal counsel. In the mid-1990s, he founded the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center and remained its director up to the time of the election.

The election was hard-fought, reports Intellectual Property Watch, with 15 candidates originally in the running after it became clear that the current director general would be pressured out over lack of confidence in his leadership. "But in the end, Gurry, considered a favourite as one of the most senior officials in the organisation who had nevertheless crafted a reputation for relative independence from the existing administration, prevailed." After the vote, Gurry told WIPO members, "I want to assure the membership that as of conclusion of this process my mind will be set on all members. I'm very much aware of the diversity of the organization."

More about Gurry here in his resume.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 15, 2008 at 08:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not All Quiet on the John Yoo Front

My, how the blogosphere buzz over John Yoo has quieted. Just a month ago, I posted here about the debate among legal and academic bloggers over whether the co-author of Bush Administration memoranda condoning torture should be allowed to retain his professorship at the University of California's Boalt Hall School of Law. Now, there is hardly a murmur about his tenure. But not all is quiet on the John Yoo front, with two noteworthy developments this week.

First, Yoo himself speaks out once again on the issue of presidential power, asserting that the central purpose of executive power is "to respond quickly and decisively to unforeseen crises and emergencies in foreign affairs." Sounds familiar, only he is referring in this case not to President Bush, but to President Thomas Jefferson. In a Boston University Law Review article, Jefferson and Executive Power, Yoo argues that Jefferson was "a bundle of contradictions," perhaps nowhere more so than in his views on executive power. Nonetheless, Yoo contends, "Jefferson's success as Chief Executive is closely intertwined with his broad conception of presidential power." He concludes by contrasting Jefferson with his successor, James Madison, whose narrow view of presidential power, Yoo says, was his downfall.

Elsewhere, the National Lawyers Guild, which last month led the charge for Boalt to dismiss Yoo, this week issued a statement calling on Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute Yoo and others for their roles in condoning torture. Along with the statement, the NLG published a white paper setting out the legal and factual arguments for prosecuting the memo writers under international and U.S. law. NLG President Marjorie Cohn recently testified on Capitol Hill that Yoo and others were "part of a common plan to violate U.S. and international laws outlawing torture."

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 15, 2008 at 08:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Study Debunks Med-Mal Crisis

Massachusetts has the fourth-highest median malpractice settlement payments in the nation. It only follows that Massachusetts doctors should pay the fourth-highest insurance premiums. Right? Turns out, Bay State physicians actually saw their inflation-adjusted malpractice premiums drop between 1990 and 2005. This is the finding of a newly released study conducted by researchers at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. Published this week in the May/June issue of the journal Health Affairs, the study "raises serious questions about claims that Massachusetts doctors are facing a medical malpractice premium crisis that threatens the viability of medical practice in the Bay State," say its authors. From the announcement:

Suffolk University Law School researchers Marc Rodwin and colleagues analyzed malpractice premiums from 1975 to 2005 using data from the state-regulated mutual insurer known as ProMutual Group. In 2005, inflation-adjusted malpractice premiums were $17,810 for the coverage level and policy type that physicians most frequently purchased, compared with $17,907 in 1990. Despite premium increases since 1995 or 2000 for all physicians, premiums were still lower in 2005 than 1990, when they reached a 30-year peak. Mean premiums increased only in three specialties comprising 4 percent of physicians: obstetrics, neurology and orthopedists performing spinal surgery.

Even in high-risk specialties, where insurers charge surcharges, the situation is not as dire as so-called tort reformers would suggest. In OB-GYN, for example, nearly one third of physicians paid lower premiums in 2005 than in 1990, the study found.

In The Boston Globe, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society countered the study with this confounding statement: "The issue of the malpractice crisis is not purely a premium-based issue, although we certainly have documented the high cost of liability insurance is a major factor in [physicians'] perspective on the practice environment. I think to some degree looking at malpractice premiums ... may provide an unfair picture of what is really going on."

What I think he said is this: If the insurance argument isn't going to work anymore to deflect those nasty tort lawyers, we'll think of something else.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 15, 2008 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Consulten, opinen y escriban
Rodrigo González Fernández

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