Bad Ideas

airplane cabin 2 Above the Law Legal Blog.jpgSome updates and corrections to our post from yesterday, And Don’t Even Think About Joining the “Mile High Club”. We quoted an AP article that begun thusly:

A couple’s ill-concealed sexual play aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles got them charged with violating the Patriot Act, intended for terrorist acts, and could land them in jail for 20 years.

First, a correction. The couple wasn’t charged with violating the Patriot Act, but with violating 49 U.S.C.A. § 46504. As Professor Orin Kerr explains, this provision was amended by the Patriot Act, but “the substantive offense that was charged dates back to the 1960s.”
Second, an update. The couple may have needed air sickness bags rather than a hotel room. From a later AP piece:

A man arrested for allegedly engaging in “overt sexual activity” with his girlfriend on an airliner was lying with his head on her lap because he wasn’t feeling well, his attorney said.

That gesture was misinterpreted by a flight attendant, who humiliated and harassed the couple, said attorney Deb Newton, who represents Carl Persing.

But we can’t blame the flight attendant for misinterpreting things. After all, the woman was “observed smiling.”
Chicken or beef? We’ll have what she’s having.
Lawyer: Man Felt Sick — Not Sexy — on Plane [CNN]
Earlier: And Don’t Even Think About Joining the “Mile High Club”

airplane cabin flight attendant steward Above the Law.jpgJeez, the terrorists really HAVE won. They’ve sucked all the fun out of flying:

A couple’s ill-concealed sexual play aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles got them charged with violating the Patriot Act, intended for terrorist acts, and could land them in jail for 20 years.

According to their indictment, Carl Persing and Dawn Sewell were allegedly snuggling and kissing inappropriately, “making other passengers uncomfortable,” when a flight attendant asked them to stop.

“Persing was observed nuzzling or kissing Sewell on the neck, and … with his face pressed against Sewell’s vaginal area. During these actions, Sewell was observed smiling,” reads the indictment filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Help us out here. How does “pressing one’s face” against the “vaginal area” of a fellow passenger violate the Patriot Act? Especially if that passenger is “observed smiling”?

On a second warning from the flight attendant, Persing snapped back threatening the flight attendant with “serious consequences” if he did not leave them alone.

The comment was enough to have the couple, both in their early 40s, arrested when the plane reached its destination in Raleigh, North Carolina, and charged with obstructing a flight attendant and with criminal association.

Okay, that makes more sense. Press all you want into the “vaginal areas” of your fellow passengers (provided, of course, that you know them and they consent). Just don’t threaten the stewardess flight attendant when ordered to stop, and you’ll be fine.
Update: Professor Orin Kerr has some doubts about this case. See here.
Further Update, and Correction: They weren’t charged under the Patriot Act, but under 49 U.S.C.A. § 46504. See Professor Kerr’s update. Serves us right for not looking at the indictment ourselves.
Mid-flight Sexual Play Lands US Couple Afoul of Anti-Terrorism Law [Associated Press]

Borat Above the Law Legal Blog Law Gossip Borat.JPGOn Friday night, we saw Borat at our local movie theater. We found it hilarious for the first fifteen minutes, before it turned repetitive. That said, there were some impressive set pieces in the second half of the film, such as the hotel room wrestling match.
(We viewed Borat on the recommendation of one of the Elect, and we spotted another in the theater. Supreme Court clerks: They’re just like us!)
If you’d like to know more about how the film was made, including who was in on the joke and who wasn’t, check out this Guide to Borat, from Salon (via How Appealing). According to Salon, most of the people who interacted with Sacha Baron Cohen in the movie were NOT in on the joke.
Commenting on “Lexytime” — our prior post about Borat, concerning two fraternity brothers who are suing the film’s producers — Tortious Malfoy wrote:

If you had seen the movie you would know why they’re suing: they went on a racial rant about how they wish they could still own slaves, women were nothing, and alot of other hostile stuff. Don’t think they’ll be getting much love in the South anytime soon, especially considering the movie’s reach.

Actually, if Borat’s portrayal of the South is even halfway accurate, we think that the plaintiffs might be embraced by southerners (e.g., the people at the rodeo, the gun store owner, etc.).
Having seen Borat, we actually have the opposite reaction to what Tortious Malfoy predicted: We are LESS sympathetic to the fraternity brothers’ lawsuit against 20th Century Fox and One America Productions. The frat boys are recorded drinking, watching porn, and spewing racist and misogynistic statements. And now they’re upset because, among other things, they thought that the movie would only be screened in Europe? Please.
Furthermore, we agree with this commenter at the WSJ Law Blog. In vino veritas. If the frat boys come across as racist and misogynist, well, maybe there’s a reason for that.
We also note that the frat boys’ lawsuit is counterproductive, due to the Robert Steinbuch effect. By filing a lawsuit, the plaintiffs are only highlighting the actions and statements of theirs that they did not want exposed to public view.
The impoverished Romanian villagers who are now thinking about suing over Borat are far more sympathetic than the frat boys. Regardless of the legal merits of the contemplated action, Cohen and the production companies might as well throw some money in the villagers’ direction, especially in light of Borat’s financial success.
A bunch of poor, exploited Romanian villagers are sure to arouse some public sympathy. Especially this man:

Mr Tudorache, a deeply religious grandfather who lost his arm in an accident, was one of those who feels most humiliated. For one scene, a rubber sex toy in the shape of a fist was attached to the stump of his missing arm – but he had no idea what it was.

Borat was number one again at the box office this past weekend, taking in another $28.3 million. Surely Cohen and Fox can afford to do something nice for the villagers. Like buying Mr. Tudorache a fist dildo made of glass, not rubber.
* The plaintiff frat boys are represented by the very handsome Olivier Taillieu. Here’s an excerpt from his unintentionally amusing bio:

[Olivier clerked] for the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of the most prestigious and sought-after clerkships in the country. Following his clerkships, he entered private practice as a litigator in the Intellectual Property and Technology Department in the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, one of the top 15 law firms in the country as ranked by revenue by The American Lawyer.

Now, we are the last people to dispute the prestige of a Ninth Circuit clerkship and a Biglaw gig. But traditionally law firm bios merely list these credentials, without the grandiose description.
(Then again, self-promotion is to be expected from a former contestant on the short-lived, ill-fated reality TV show, The Law Firm.)
Earlier: Prior Above the Law coverage of Borat (scroll down)
Collected Borat coverage [How Appealing (linkwrap)]
Guide to Borat [Salon]
Borat film ‘tricked’ poor village actors [Daily Mail]
Olivier A. Taillieu, Esq., bio [Zuber & Taillieu]

box for mailing Above the Law Legal Blog.JPGWe’ve all done it: Use of office resources for personal purposes. Maybe you take the occasional personal call on your office telephone. Maybe you used the work fax machine to receive a one-page tax document from your accountant. Maybe you took some paperwork home with you one night, along with an office-issued ballpoint pen, and later used that pen to take down your mother’s chicken casserole recipe, as she read it to you over the phone.
If it’s de minimis use, then it’s okay. But this might have been, um, de maximus:

According to court records, while an attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Seth Zimmerman used his office’s Federal Express account to send Redskins tickets to eBay bidders….

The FTC says he cost the federal government $1,938. FedEx also says it lost $3,880 due to the discount shipping rate given to the federal government. According to the plea agreement, Zimmerman also profited by charging each buyer an additional $12 fee for the FedEx delivery.

Two grand strikes us as a sizable sum. But there is room for argument. Zimmerman might respond: “Come on, feds, lighten up! Isn’t that just, like, three Pentagon toilet seats — not even the padded kind?”
So how was the fraud detected? Was an elaborate investigation required?

In August 2004, investigators at the Office of Inspector General for the FTC were contacted by people complaining that tickets they bought from Zimmerman on eBay were never delivered.

What could have been some difficult Internet sleuthing was made easier because Zimmerman used his FTC e-mail address to set up his eBay account. The inspector general subpoenaed records from eBay showing that Zimmerman had been buying and selling tickets on the site since 2001.

Seth, it’s called Gmail. Try it, you might like it.
(Yes, we know: even if Zimmerman had used Gmail, if he used it from his work computer, messages could still be traced back to him using his IP address. But at least then the investigators would have WORK a little to uncover his identity, instead of having it served up on a silver platter.)
Penalty Box: FTC Lawyer No ‘Overnight Sensation’ [Legal Times (pass-through link) via NYLawyer.com]

stripper Above the Law Law Blog.JPGIt’s tough enough as it is to make a living as a strip club dancer. Do we really need to make it harder for them?
In Tuesday’s elections, Seattle voters answered this question in the negative:

[L]ap dances will remain legal in Seattle. With a no vote on Seattle Referendum 1, voters were firmly rejecting the city’s “four-foot rule,” which would have banned lap dances by requiring exotic dancers and customers to keep their distance.

It’s nice to see the electorate strike a blow for free expression. If a “no contact” rule had been forced upon the clubs, they’d quickly go out of business. Patrons would just stay home — and watch porn. Same experience, no cover charge.
Another rule struck down by the vote would have required adult cabarets to be “well-lit.” Now that regulation would have REALLY killed the clubs.
Why? So many strippers have seen better days. They rely upon the cloak of darkness — plus foundation and concealer, by the pound — to look vaguely alluring to their clients.
(Summer associates who explore stripping careers, on the other hand, make up in youth what they lack in experience.)
Gavel bang: How Appealing.
4-foot Rule’s Defeat Means Seattle Reverts to Old Law [Seattle Times]
Seattle Initiatives: Attempt to Restrict Strip Clubs Failing [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Earlier: Summer Associate Stories: Girl Gone Wild

Supreme Court Above the Law Legal Gossip Blog.JPGThe judiciary was largely upstaged yesterday by developments from the other two branches: the Democratic takeover on Capitol Hill, and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
But the Supreme Court was still doin’ its thing yesterday, hearing the cases of Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. These cases raise the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. So of course there was disorder in the court:

[O]ne man, clad in a shirt that read JESUS, entered the courtroom and sat in the spectator section midway through oral arguments.

Wake up, SCOTUS marshals!!! The guy might as well have worn a shirt reading “ARREST ME” — which is what they did, after this happened:

[D]uring the time allotted to [Priscilla] Smith, the pro-choice lawyer arguing on behalf of Nebraska abortion provider Dr. Leroy Carhart, the man erupted. “ABORTION!” he thundered in a voice that reverberated in the quiet and still courtroom. “REPENT OR YOU WILL PERISH,” he went on. He grabbed the arm of Carhart, who happened to be seated next to him, and pulled him to the ground.

As one would expect, the gracious and unflappable Chief Justice handled the interruption quite smoothly. He “drew polite laughs when he then offered Smith three extra minutes to make her case.”
Update: Or was it just an extra 30 seconds? See here and here.
The protester, a gent by the name of Rives Miller Grogan, was charged with violating 40 U.S.C. 6134. Here’s what that statute provides (robe swish: Orin Kerr):

It is unlawful to discharge a firearm, firework or explosive, set fire to a combustible, make a harangue or oration, or utter loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building or grounds.

Professor Kerr: “That’s right: It’s illegal to make an oration in the Supreme Court building! So be careful out there, folks.”
Drama in the Court [MSNBC via FARK.com]
When Oral Argument Is a Crime [Volokh Conspiracy]
High Court Focuses on Medical Alternatives in Partial-Birth Abortion Cases [Legal Times via How Appealing]
Commentary: Kennedy vote in play on abortion [SCOTUSblog]
Title 40, United States Code, Chapter 61 [House.gov]

Shakira Above the Law Legal Tabloid Nude Pictures Naked Pictures Nude Pics Shakira Shakira Shakira.JPGIf we were counsel to MTV, we’d advise them to include a warning each time they play the mesmerizing music video for “Hips Don’t Lie.” As Shakira’s hips undulate hypnotically to the beat, a warning should scroll across the bottom of the screen: “Don’t try this at home.”
Why? A failure to warn could subject MTV to a wave of lawsuits. If the 15-year-old daughter of a plaintiff’s lawyer pulls her groin while trying to “get her Shakira on,” expect MTV and Shakira to get served the next day.
If you find this far-fetched, consider this wacky lawsuit:

A New Jersey woman who fell off a wet bar and injured herself while dancing in a “Shake-It-Like-Shakira” contest is suing the Manhattan bar that sponsored the shake-off.

Megan Zacher, 22, of Delanco, N.J fell inside Calico Jack’s Cantina on 42nd Street at Second Avenue on July 8, 2006. Her lawyer, Lawrence Simon, said the fall caused a torn ligament in her left knee and required surgery.

And what’s the plaintiff’s theory of liability?

[Zacher] has filed suit against Calico Jack’s Cantina, saying the bar “knew or should have known that the ‘Shake It Like Shakira’ promotion was dangerous and likely to lead to injury.”

We’re of two minds here. On the one hand, the plaintiff bears some of the responsibility: she may have been negligent (or drunk) herself, or at least assumed much of the risk. On the other hand, any reasonable barkeep “knew or should have known” it could be dangerous to let a bunch of drunken bridge-and-tunnel girls dance, on top of a wet and crowded bar, in a contest to imitate a talented terpsichorean.
Remember, dramshop owners: Coyote Ugly was only a movie.
Earlier: Previous Lawsuits of the Day (scroll down)
Those Hips May Not Be Judgment-Proof [TortsProf Blog]
Hips Don’t Lie For Injured Lady In Wet Bar Contest [WCBS - NY]
GAL $HAKES HER FIST AT HIP BAR [New York Post via WSJ Law Blog]
Shakira: Hips Don’t Like [YouTube (click through and enjoy now, before it gets yanked)]

little person above_the_law.jpgThis next interview story has something for everyone. Both the interviewer and the interviewee can be made fun of. Here you go:

A friend of mine was interviewing at a big law firm. As a 1L who basically went straight through from undergrad, his résumé is not terribly long, though it has some interesting tidbits (working at the British Museum and elsewhere around the world). He also listed the old standby of “excellent oral and written communication skills,” more as a space filler than anything else.

Time for some ATL career advice: Do NOT boast of “excellent oral and written communication skills” in your résumé. It’s total chaff. You’re a law student or lawyer; it goes without saying that your communication skills are strong (or at least you think they are, or wouldn’t admit it if they weren’t).
Back to the story:

The firm utilizes teams of interviewers, so he is sitting across from five attorneys who are peppering him with questions. Of course, one of the interviewers, probably a litigator, decides to be the hardass and asks: “What do you mean on your résumé when you list excellent oral and written communication skills?”

Without missing a beat, my sarcastic and quick-witted friend answers: “Haven’t you understood everything I have said so far?”

The other four interviewers burst out laughing, probably because the hardass was shown to be a fool. Needless to say, no offer.

HA!!! We like this story. The applicant erred by including the empty boast of “excellent oral and written communication skills” on his résumé. But then he redeemed himself beautifully, when one of his interviewers tried to expose its emptiness.
To be sure, the applicant pissed off the prick interviewer, thus torpedoing his chances of getting an offer. But we do love how he turned this job interview into a Beckett play, or a strange work of performance art. He’s our interview hero for the day.
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

supreme court with heart above the law atl.JPGNormally we might think twice about posting an e-mail like this, since it’s somewhat personal in nature. But it has been making its way around the D.C. law firm email circuit, and we’ve received it from multiple sources.
By now, dozens of Biglaw associates in Washington have a copy of this email in their inbox. If we don’t post it, some other blogger will. This message has been read by hundreds of people. So what’s a few more thousand?
The author of the e-mail, we’re told, is a current Supreme Court clerk. Here it is:

Hey guys,

I have a short, quasi-junior-highish, but sincere and meaningful request.

A [student from a top law school] named [X] is interviewing at your firm. It would take too long to explain the full story, but the short of it is this: she and I have become fairly close in the last couple of months. I would like to date her. She has a long-term, long-distance boyfriend that she is not totally into. She has expressed interest in me, but she’s not able to break things off in her current relationship. I am willing to be patient because I think she’s really amazing.

Now to the junior-highish but sincere request. If you end up interviewing her or taking her to lunch, please please please, in the very unlikely event that the opportunity arises and it’s not contrived, say really great things about me. [Ed. note: Emphasis added.]

That’s all. I can’t imagine the opportunity would arise, and I won’t be so presumptuous to think that somehow my name would ever come up (I gave her a tour of the Court, so if she mentions that, maybe there’s an opportunity…), but in the very slight chance that it does, I would really appreciate any glowing review you could provide on my behalf.

Specific positive attributes available upon request. Yeah, I know this is pathetic, but those of us still in the single world need all the help we can get — you remember what it was like. Thank you so much.

Supreme Court Clerks: They’re just like us. Sometimes they get lonely, even desperate. And when they do, they enlist their friends — and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, and the readers of a popular legal gossip site — in the effort to win over the object of their affection.
We have some advice for the young lady in question. If you read this post, and figure out that you’re the subject, please: Throw the long-term boyfriend overboard, and go with the SCOTUS clerk.
This is a no-brainer, honey. First, he’s a Supreme Court clerk. Second, he’s going to be $200,000 richer in a year. Third, given the extent to which he’s willing to embarrass himself in pursuing your affections, he is clearly VERY into you.
And did we mention that he’s a Supreme Court clerk? What more could a girl ask for?
(We were not an original recipient of this message — we received it as the inevitable email forward — so we can’t vouch for its authenticity. Nor can we tell you the names of the individuals involved. But we found it somewhat amusing, assuming that it’s true, so we thought we’d put it up here — and save everyone the trouble of continued email forwarding.)

aquagirl.jpg* Meet Aquagirl. She’s the Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who had too much to drink, then wound up in the drink.
* But even Aquagirl can land a good job — in fact, two (a Biglaw gig, and a clerkship) — after her fifteen minutes of infamy.
* In fact, legal employment is even available to people who make pathetic fools of themselves at their interview lunches.
* Interview Horror Stories: Is the supply inexhaustible? (Click here, scroll down.)
* More law firms get the urge to merge. The latest legal Brangelinas: Dewey/Orrick, Thelen Reid/Brown Raysman, and Pitney Hardin/Day Berry.
* The Ninth Circuit: Why can’t they all just get along?
* Speaking of the Ninth Circuit, Judge Kozinski is just as cool as ever. And he photographs well, too. The New Jersey Supreme Court, on the other hand, does not.
* When you aggregate the “Most Favorite Justice” and “Least Favorite Justice” scores, Justice Scalia comes out on top.
* So ATL readers think that Justice Scalia rules (except for those who blame him for judicial incivility). But does anyone want to take a nude cruise with him?

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