July 2004 Archives

Speak to Me, Meatball!


Westlaw is down, a situation which is no doubt sending tidal waves of chaos throughout law firms across the country. We've been reduced to the tribal savagery of bound reporters which, while quaint, are profoundly unreliable. On Westlaw there's a little link with each case you look up that gives you a list of every subsequent case that cites the case you're looking at, so you can figure out if your case has been overturned or otherwise weakened. With the books you're pretty much on your own. Look for a citation to Plessy v. Ferguson in my next research memo.

I guess it's off to the Kingdom of Loathing.



My drawing pen has been resting for a while, but I've caught up with myself with three new strips for your viewing pleasure. They are:

L.A. Law, a strip that goes along with my previous entry about my trip to L.A. and the associated exciting sculpture viewing. It's also the first strip to suggest that Kam and I aren't the same person.

Mistreatisement, a study on the highly regarded but unfortunately named Chisum on Patents, which is a treatise that any summer associate working in IP Litigation is pretty much married to. Punnery inspired by co-worker Mike (of the Kansas Mikes).

With a Rag on a Stick, which shows the inevitable consequence of Krispy Kreme's new product line. Special thanks to JMV for the heads-up, and to Krispy Kreme for my newly accelerated death.

Hopefully future strips will appear in a more regular fashion (I cranked out these three on Friday night while Molly was off on a "girls' night"). But, as usual, I promise you nothing. And I deliver!

L.A. Law



UPDATE: There is now a strip associated with this entry.

I spent last week in Los Angeles, my initial foray into my six weeks at Law Firm #2. It was a week-long mock trial training thing, rendered somewhat superfluous for me by the fact that (1) I already took a much-bitched-about trial class at Boalt, and (2) I already encountered the exact same case file (Dixon v. Providential Life Insurance Co.) in Law Firm #1's mock trial program last month. Dixon is an old saw about a justice of the peace who offs himself with a shotgun while alone in his home office, and the dispute is over whether the death was an accident (entitling the grieving widow to half a million dollars) or a suicide (entitling the grieving widow to dick). I fake-represented the widow, so I began my closing argument with the classic line: "Now, I'm gonna go ahead and assume that you all hate insurance companies as much as I do."

But the most exciting part of the week was when I discovered that the L.A. office of Law Firm #2 is just a few doors down from Zanja Madre, the sculpture at the center of the seminal Ninth Circuit copyright case Leicester v. Warner Bros. (232 F.3d 1212). Andrew Leicester's incomprehensible sculpture about the history of water in Southern California is visible for a few seconds in the opening shots of the similarly incomprehensible Joel Schumacher abomination Batman Forever. Like many artists before him, Leicester feigned indignance when the movie became a hit and brought a copyright suit against Warner Bros. The Ninth Circuit ultimately held that the sculpture was part of an architectural work rather than a standalone piece of art, and therefore could be photographed with impunity, even by shit-ass filmmakers like Joel Schumacher.

But the really aggravating thing about the Leicester case is learning which part of the sculpture was actually featured in the film. If you look at the pyramid thing, the upside-down orange pyramid kind of looks like Batman (the thing on top of it has pointy things on it that look like bat ears). So you hear about the case, you see the sculpture, and you assume that Schumacher chose it based on its resemblance to the movie's main character. But, if you see the actual film, the only visible piece of the sculpture are the two pillar things out front, which bear no resemblance whatsoever to Batman.

Okay, on closer inspection the other Batman-looking thing between the pillars is marginally visible in the movie clip, but I still think that if Schumacher was going to go to all the trouble of getting Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement he could have at least spelled out the connection to the movie. I mean, the man isn't known for his subtlety.

Anyway, once I discovered that all of the summer associates were in such close proximity to such an important piece of Copyright History, I quickly headed into the building, had the security guard buzz me up to the tenth floor, then had the receptionist buzz me down to the second floor, and told everyone how excited they should be. Everybody categorically refused to be excited or even acknowledge that they had heard of the Leicester case. By the time I had finished telling everyone about the unauthorized use of Ex Nihilo in Devil's Advocate most of them had left.

In other news, Elliott Gould was behind me in the Southwest baggage check line at LAX on Friday. I wanted to tell him that he had one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies ("I never loved your mother" in Kicking and Screaming), but he was busy telling the guy behind him how he had five gifts for his grandson with him and they all contained metal.

Meet Your Federal Government


Federal Censorship Commission chair Michael "Mr. Potatohead" Powell has taken another opportunity to showcase his relentless ignorance. Let's have a look at what Chairman Pow had to say.

"Here's the truth: the ownership debate is about nothing but content. Don't be fooled. I mean, this is my greatest warning to the American public. It's easy to go after every ill in society by claiming it's the media's fault. It's the American pastime, right? Anything you don't like, it's the media's fault."

Okay, Mike, the first rule of "communication" is to develop coherent thoughts before you open your big potatohead mouth. That'll help you avoid looking like a big potatohead idiot.

"We're required to review rules at a very high, ruthless standard. A lot of the rules, which are 30 or 35 years old, are difficult empirically to justify in the current environment."

Is he talking about indecency standards? No! He's talking about ownership caps! Keep going, Mikey!

"There's really only one rule that everybody's talking about � the national ownership cap."

Your tireless efforts to get people to care about indecency notwithstanding. Those pesky American People just don't know what's good for them, do they?

"We did the work, we did the research; this market is not concentrated in antitrust terms."


"The vast majority of people don't even know what the rules say, to be perfectly candid. Name all six of them. Name what they actually do. Nobody can."

On the inside, he's saying: "Their ignorance is my strength."

"It's easy to say, 'I'm comfortable with that when the government's doing it for something I like. But I get really scared when it's something I don't.' And what is juxtaposed against the media ownership debate? Indecency, which maybe is what you mean by content. Hollywood was happy to beat up on ownership liberalization because they want the government to intervene so we can promote more independent programming � which is content. But the same Hollywood says the government can't say that Howard Stern can't say the F word, because that's censorship and inappropriate."

Let's pick this chicken apart. Basically what he's saying is that the overriding issue in communications regulation is the extent to which you want the government to interfere with the media. According to Mike's retarded logic, if you want the government to interfere to limit media ownership, you should also want them to interfere and limit indecency.

Chairhead fails to realize that "content" plays a different role depending on which type of regulation he's ham-fisting upon the American public. In the ownership cap/antitrust setting, content is a commodity. Under antitrust laws the government is supposed to promote competition (read: limit ownership), which, we're told, incentivizes content providers to deliver high-quality prices to the howling masses at low-low prices.

In the area of indecency regulation, content is speech: something protected by the goddamn constitution. I realize that the federal government has broader latitude to control content on broadcast channels, but the First Amendment still governs the regulation of radio waves.

So, Mike's good for the goose/good for the gander argument doesn't work. Just because the Commerce Clause enables the FCC to promote competition doesn't mean it also enables it to crush free speech. It isn't hypocrisy to demand government regulation of media monopolies and simultaneously demand that the government ease up on selectively squelching content.

But wait! If Mike thinks that people with context-dependent views on government interference are hypocrites, then he must be the biggest hypocrite of them all! He's all about deregulation when it comes to ownership caps, but he wants to personally cross the t's of every DJ in the country when it comes to indecency! How ever does he explain that?

"First of all, there's a separate response for indecency, since Congress has passed a statute and the Supreme Court upheld it. So I don't have any choice other than to believe that it is a constitutionally permissible restriction that the people, through their representatives, have imposed as a matter of law."

I bet that's exactly what he said when both houses of Congress smacked down his relaxation of ownership rules.

And, just to remove any lingering doubts about Mike's slobbering partisanship, he reveals himself as a Fox News apologist, too!

"We wouldn't have had as much steam in the media ownership debate if Rupert Murdoch hadn't come into the world. Conservatives were griping for decades about liberal media and nobody paid attention. Now, all of a sudden, one news channel has gotten a whole new community of people freaked out."

Stuff About Summer Associates


Here is a somewhat interesting article about the state of affairs for summer programs in Bay Area law firms. The exact thrust of the story is somewhat elusive, but here are a few take-home points.

People have a dismal view of the Bay Area legal economy, but it's coming back! It totally is!

Latham & Watkins couldn't fill their summer program, so why the hell didn't I get an offer?

Summer Associate activities aren't as extravagant now as they once were. This is actually kind of an interesting point in the article. They make hay of the fact that cocktail parties are now held at partners' homes rather than fancy restaurants, but this strikes me as something that's actually advantageous to the law firm in terms of recruiting. It's much more telling to see a partner's huge giant house than a swanky cocktail lounge.

Despite the fact that the SF Chronicle is a Bay Area paper reporting on a Bay Area issue, the reporter focuses intently on East Coast law firms, taking her sweet time to get to any mention of Stanford or Boalt.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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