I'm an editor emeritus at Above the Law. I am still a contributor to ATL, but now spend my days at Forbes writing about privacy, technology and the law at The Not-So Private Parts. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook.
A legal challenge to Google search results garners more sympathy in Europe than it would in the U.S.
A cutting-edge legal complaint in Europe over internet reputation could force Google to rethink how it handles individuals’ control over the search results for their names.
Spanish plastic surgeon Hugo Guidotti Russo wanted Google to liposuction from his results a 1991 news article about a patient angry about an allegedly botched breast surgery. The article from El País, about a breast surgery that led a female patient to accuse Russo of malpractice, has the translated headline, “The risk of wanting to be slim.” Russo was later cleared of wrongdoing in the surgery, but the article, which doesn’t mention his acquittal, shows up on Russo’s first page of results. Google, as is its policy, refused to scrub it.
The case is one of over 80 in Spain in which the country’s privacy regulator, the Agency for Data Protection, has ordered Google to intervene and delete links from search results because they are out of date or contain inaccurate information. The agency summed up the conflict with a public advisory on its website in January: “Google Trial. The right to forget meets the freedom of information.” The “right to be forgotten” is not one found in the American Bill of Rights, but it’s becoming a popular one in Europe in the digital age, even if it does sound like the most depressing right ever.
There’s some good news this week for those people whose blood boils at the mention of Citizens United. The Supreme Court proved that it is not always sympathetic to the rights of corporations — and is even willing to have some fun at their expense.
Chief Justice John Roberts penned a tongue-in-cheek opinion lambasting AT&T lawyers’ legal reasoning that has Dahlia Lithwick at Slate asking whether Roberts is the funniest justice ever. (Cue a scowl here from the legions of Scalia lovers in the audience.)
The case at the heart of the hilarity is FCC v. AT&T. The telephone company was involved in a billing practices investigation in 2004, in which it paid a $500,000 fine but admitted no wrongdoing. Some clever rivals at CompTel — a trade association representing some of AT&T’s competitors — wanted to take advantage of FOIA to get documents from the investigation and find out more about AT&T’s inner workings and alleged wrongdoing.
AT&T claimed protection under the Freedom of Information Act’s “personal privacy” exemption. A lower court was sympathetic to AT&T: “Corporations, like human beings, face public embarrassment, harassment and stigma” when they get involved with investigations by authorities. In other words: artificial persons have feelings too!
The Supreme Court did not agree. John Roberts whipped out a can of dictionary definitions to explain why corporations aren’t entitled to “personal privacy.”
The late 20s-early 30s lawyers I sent out both went to school in Boston, both described themselves as Dem-GOP mixes (she said she was a hybrid, he ‘fessed up to being a libertarian), and both named Scalia as their man at One First Street. Asked to describe themselves in three words, she gave me an alliterative four — “sweet, sarcastic, smart, social” — and he used slashes with abandon — “Spunky/energetic, funny, old school/1950s-ish, conservative.”
I sent them to Proof wine bar on a Tuesday night. Here’s what happened next….
The cutting-edge information and security practice of Hunton & Williams is getting the firm lots of media attention these days — but not of the positive variety. The firm’s lawyers are getting coverage due to their information becoming insecure after a hacktivist group leaked emails they exchanged with security firm HBGary.
Last night, the firm’s logo was flashed several times on the Colbert Report, as Stephen Colbert named the firm as the link between the DOJ, HBGary, and Bank of America, in coming up with questionable tactics for undermining liberal activists. (See our prior post, Hunton & Williams Gets WikiLeaked.)
What is most significant here is that you have these plans that are clearly crossing a legal line, with very serious players involved. Law firms like Hunton & Williams are the most powerful in D.C. And no one at any point said, “Maybe this goes a little too far, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this.” So willing to cavalierly to put a plan like this that clearly proposes illegal steps down on paper. It clearly shows that this sort of stuff in this world of corporate and government consortium of power is pretty normal, is par for the course.
Moral of the show: BigLaw + BigGov = Evil. Check out Colbert’s telling of the “techno thriller” tale (after the jump). Think Star Wars, with Bank of America as Darth Vader, HBGary and Hunton & Williams as commanders of the Imperial Forces, WikiLeaks as Princess Leia, and Anonymous as Han Solo….
If you’re not booting up your laptop or iPad during voir dire, you’re not a very good lawyer. That’s my takeaway from recent WSJ and Reuters articles on jury selection in the social media age.
This week, the Wall Street Journal took a look at the evolution of jury selection in the age of social media, while Reuters took a look at this last week, quipping that “voir dire” is becoming “voir Google.”
Facebook-stalking jurors is presented as a questionable and still evolving practice. But the only thing that seems questionable to me (besides a DA considering forced-friending in exchange for Internet access) is why any trial lawyer wouldn’t have jumped on this already. Along with not Googling prospective jurors, I imagine these guys also avoid Lexis-Nexis in favor of the law library, type their memos up on an old-school typewriter, and review deposition recordings on an eight-track.
Both articles point out that potential jurors may be more candid online than they are in a courtroom, and round up some tips from trial consultants on reasons to strike potential jurors based on their Facebook likes and Google footprint. BigLaw types might be well-advised to strike anyone, for example, who lists “Erin Brokovich” as one of their favorite movies…
Two dates, including one on Valentine's Day, fell flat.
Given the track record of Above the Law’s lawyer-matchmaking series, some may think we should change the name of the series to the Courtship Misconnection.
In one of our first Washington, D.C. couplings, on Superbowl Sunday, a male lawyer fumbled his date with a “disarmingly feisty and unabashedly vivacious” female associate. (Beware the women who self-describe as “feisty,” says Slate.) Undeterred, I’ve continued to set up dates in the nation’s capital.
I sent two Biglaw types to Solly’s on U Street last week — a late 20s female Donkey who wanted a trunk and an early-thirties male Elephant who requested ass. If not a lawyer, she said she’d be a cage fighter, and he said he’d be a writer. I thought I had an excellent “opposites attract” formula. I was wrong.
She described the date as a “pretty lackluster affair” and he said no “love connection was made.” “You are no Patti Stanger,” female Donkey wrote me (a little bitterly). Boring dates may be even worse than disastrous ones.
Luckily, the other two dates recounted here were more entertaining. One, because it was a blind date on Valentine’s Day, and the other because it’s our first occurrence of Courtship Connection leading to a lawyer’s pants being torn off…
Hunton & Williams is having an uncomfortable week, and will get its very own page in the WikiLeaks saga. Thanks to a feud between hacktivist group Anonymous and a security firm, emails that Hunton lawyers exchanged with that security firm were leaked in a major document dump last week.
Journalist (and lawyer) Glenn Greenwald of Salon is now calling the firm’s lawyers the “central cogs” in a devious plot to take down WikiLeaks and its supporters (he’s especially miffed as he was named in a secret PowerPoint as one of those supporters). The New York Times named Hunton as the intermediary between security firms offering up unseemly sabotage tactics and clients like Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So how unseemly were these alleged tactics, and which Hunton partners are getting blasted by the press?
Only one person had a good time on this date. (Stock photo.)
With Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, now seems like a great to time to relaunch ATL’s Courtship Connection — our well-intentioned but only sporadically successful program for hooking up our single legal-eagle readers.
Like the Real World, the series is back and in a new city. Judging from the date we’ll now recount, our matchmaking adventures in D.C may be as disappointing as the eight strangers MTV picked to live in a Dupont Circle house last year. (But hey, dating through Above The Law has got to turn out better than dating through Craigslist in D.C.)
This was an East Coast (him) meets West Coast (her) match. Both were of the politically-liberal persuasion. I matched these two top law grads in the 25-35 age range in part because I thought they would look good together. Both are hotties. When asked to describe themselves in three words, neither could stick to the word limit. He said he was a “brainy, preppy reformed frat-guy” and she said she was “disarmingly feisty and unabashedly vivacious.”
I should not have been so superficial. While he enjoyed her vivacity, she enjoyed… writing up a feisty recap of the date….
Facebook’s lawyers have been looking for a rumble over the company’s responsibility to turn over user account information in legal cases. Now they’ve got one, thanks to a California juror and his grandstanding defense attorney.
The case stems from a gang violence criminal trial. Members of the Killa Mobb were being tried for a 2008 attack on a San Francisco man at a gas station. One of the 12 angry apathetic men in the jury box, Arturo Ramirez, posted to Facebook during the course of the trial that it was “boring.” Now the Killa Mobb’s defense attorneys want to get a hold of those postings, and any responses from Ramirez’s friends, to prove that he may have been biased — so the Mobb members can get a new trial.
Facebook refused to turn over Ramirez’s information, citing a 1986 law that protects Americans’ electronic communications. Ramirez originally told the Sacramento Bee that he was willing to turn the status messages over, but that was before he linked up with his own defense attorney, Ken Rosenfeld, who looks like he might like a little media attention. Rosenfeld’s now planning to fight tooth and nail to keep his client’s Facebook privacy settings high…
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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