Category: Weird


Trial by Lots

paper_rock.jpgAfter one particularly frustrating and confusing day in law school, I remember vehemently defending trial by ordeal to one of my classmates. (Unfortunately, I was that kind of law student.) For example, in ancient Israel they seem to have resolved litigation from time to time by resort to a kind of holy set of dice, known as the Urim and Thummim, which would be cast to decide who would win a case. There is much to commend such a system. It is quick, efficient, eliminates any advantage that one party might have because of wealth or power, and in an actuarial sense it is completely predictable. One can’t say the same thing, for example, about American tort law. It would seem that the Honorable Gregory Prensell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida shares some of these sentiments. In Avista Management, Inc. v. Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co., No. 6:05-CV1430ORL31JGG, 2006 WL 1562246 (M.D. Fla. June 6, 2006), he issued the following order:

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion to designate location of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition (Doc. 105). Upon consideration of the Motion–the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts–it is

ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of “rock, paper, scissors.” The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006. If either party disputes the outcome of this engagement, an appeal may be filed and a hearing will be held at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, July 7, 2006 before the undersigned in Courtroom 3, George C. Young United States Courthouse and Federal Building, 80 North Hughey Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801.


I still think it would have been cooler if Judge Prensell had ordered the parties to throw a set of sacred dice.


Reason No. 347 why it’s good to live someplace other than Somalia

beach.jpg The headline pretty much says it all, unfortunately: “Somalia bans swimming for women at beach.” The article continues, noting:

Sheikh Farah Ali Hussein, chair of a northern Mogadishu Islamic court, said Friday that the ban applies only to the northern Mogadishu Leedo beach, where families usually go on weekends to play and relax. “We stopped women from swimming because it is against the teaching of Islam for women to mingle with men, especially while they are swimming,” Hussein said.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, one’s ability to swim at the beach is a relatively minor matter. As an offense, this doesn’t come close to the big violations that occur regularly in Somalia. Somalia is, after all, a land without effective government; run by warlords and Islamists; the location of frequent and grave human rights violations. These are the kinds of serious and somber charges that we hear so often that they threaten to generate listener fatigue.

Against that backdrop, I think, it can be useful to point out small things, sometimes. After all, there’s something deeply repulsive about a society that would deny its women not only effective political participation or much in the way of human rights, but also so simple and innocuous a pleasure as the ability to go to the beach.


YouTube of the Day: Creating Beauty

One of my research interests concerns the relationship between persuasion and fraud, and, in particular, how the digital revolution changes the economic analysis of lying. This ad campaign, which I found through YouTube, is an interesting data point.


It was a dark and stormy night

Ronald Dworkin famously compared judicial interpretation of legislation to the writing of a chain novel. I recently noticed an attempt by a few blogosphere types, led by Orin Kerr, to apply the same model to legal scholarship. The combined article is being blogged; its current text reads:

Intellectual property is neither intellectual nor property. Or at least that’s what some people think; in reality, a moment’s reflection will reveal that this is completely wrong. More correctly, a moment’s reflection will reveal that the courts consider this completely wrong. But they, too, are quite wrong. It was a dark and stormy night.

(And you thought that the discussion highlighted in Dave’s research-agenda post was unorthodox . . . ).

It’s a fun little goofy idea. And, of course, there are areas in which open-source and collaboration can work really well. An easy example is the analysis-of-multiple-states’-laws-about-X piece, where one professor can write on one state’s laws while another professor covers another state.

But a sentence-by-sentence open-sourcing of an article seems problematic. It just seems too easy for one or more of the participants to try to insert funny or incongruous sentences. And just one out-of-place sentence could destroy the continuity of an argument. Help! I’m being held prisoner in a fortune-cookie factory.


The accidental bigamist?

Warren Jeffs is in the news lately, and you may find yourself discussing bigamy at a cocktail party some time. Given that possibility, let me forearm you with a genuine, certifiable cocktail-party question guaranteed to dazzle and impress your friends and co-workers (or your money back):

In order to be convicted of bigamy in Utah, what is the minimum number of wives (or husbands) a person must have?

(answer below the fold)

Read More


AOL’s Treasure Hunt for Spammer’s “Nazi” Gold

gold bar 2.JPG

AOL is prospecting for gold. Literally. CNET reports that AOL won a $12.8 million verdict against three men one of whom is Davis Wolfgang Hawke, an alleged neo-Nazi and spammer sending ads pushing penile implants and diet pills. The judge in the case “granted a motion giving AOL the right to any property that Hawke left with his parents or his grandparents.” So AOL is planning on using sonar and radar to search Mr. Hawke’s parents’ property. His parents, Hyman and Peggy Greenbaum, (according the article Mr. Hawke changed his name from Andrew Britt Greenbaum to cover his Jewish heritage) are not pleased and think their son is not a spammer and that “their son would [not] be ‘stupid’ enough to bury gold bars on their property.”

Curiously, CNET reports that Mrs. Greenbaum believes gold bars do exist, just not on her property. She also thinks her son is hiding in Belize.

With all the oddity on the defendant’s side, AOL’s spokesperson may be the winner in the understatement category as he noted “This particular defendant may have a colorful and outrageous history–there are some conditions that might make this case unique” but asserted that AOL always goes after assets and property and cited past examples such as AOL’s taking a Porsche, a Hummer, and gold coins.

So my question is does AOL sell these items on its site or on eBay?


Vacation Reading (Or, a Book-Plugging Post)

grammer.jpgOne of the great joys of summer is the chance to catch up on reading. To that end, I thought I’d open up this post for comments on new and noteworthy novels that folks have been enjoying, from the serious to the beach-puff. I’ll start off with two different books that I recommend. The first is Getting Grammar: 150 New Ways to Teach an Old Subject, a book that is technically (a) not a novel; and (b) not law-related. But it is co-written by my brilliant and accomplished mom, Dr. Sandra Josephs Hoffman (Millersville University, along with colleague Donna Topping), and apparently contains some writing of mine from first grade, which may (or may not) have dealt with legal issues.

Second, I can recommend The Interpretation of Murder, by Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld. I received a galley copy of the book from its publisher a week or so back, and finished it over the weekend. I’m a sucker for historical detective novels (Name of the Rose; Instance of the Fingerpost), and Rubenfeld’s book is a great example of the genre. The basic story concerns the murder of young women in turn-of-the-century New York, investigated by a group of psychotherapists, including Sigmund Freud. The book is chock full of tidbits about life in the City, including some well-researched observations about the development of the professional police force, psychology, and life as a member of the social elite. I wonder which lucky Yale law student RA got to research this instead of, say, another article about the First Amendment? It is an easy read (albiet a little more salacious that I would have expected) and I recommend it.

Other suggestions?