Blog Wars

A large portion of the strenuous life of bloggers consists of cruising various news sites, looking for some tidbit ridiculous interesting enough to merit a couple hundred words. You do this long enough, and you wind up getting picky pretty quickly. So, last night, when I clicked over to Wired, it was surprising in and of itself that when I saw the following story I literally stared at the screen, slack jawed, for close to a minute.

That’s how ridiculous this proposed legislation coming out of New York is. The only thing I can say is that if this bill somehow managed to become law, the Above the Law commentariat would not be happy at all…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New York Lawmakers Want to Ban Anonymous Commenting. I Wish I Were Kidding.”

Boo. Boo. BOO.

Joe Lieberman, the Senator from Connecticut who has evolved into a cartoon-level villain on the left, is at it again. The Daily Kos reports that Lieberman is proposing to gut Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. For you commenters who don’t know what Section 230 is, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain it to people who benefit from the freedom that it provides and then question the manner in which it provides it.

Seriously though, if Lieberman has his way, websites could be held responsible for the filthy, disgusting, misogynist, racist, and often quite funny comments left on their posts. This could lead sites to crack down on or eliminate anonymous commenting.

If you think I’m going down so somebody can make a walrus joke about the wrong person, you’ve got another thing coming….

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People always ask the Above the Law editors, “What kinds of people leave such horrible comments on your website?” And we always say, “Regular people, the ones you work with or socialize with.”

Most internet commenters are regular people who, under the Invisibility Cloak of cyberspace, feel free to say whatever disgusting/ridiculous/illogical thing that pops into their heads.

Lest anyone think the phenomenon is unique to our website, please think again. For better or worse, trolling is an inevitable part of online media. Most of the time, it’s best to just ignore it. Once a while, however, anonymous online commenting may signify something larger and more pernicious.

Case in point: our inbox was flooded over the weekend with the emerging scandal of a prosecommenter (yeah, you read that right) in New Orleans. This is what happens when a federal prosecutor takes his case to the interwebs instead of the court. Bad times…

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The people over a Thomas M. Cooley Law School have a long and illustrious history of inventing ridiculous law school rankings that magically show Cooley Law at or near the top. It’s pretty pathetic to make up your own ranking and rank yourself.

But now a third party has put together a ranking where Cooley has risen to the top. A Georgetown professor has ranked all the websites from ABA-accredited law schools, and Cooley’s website ranks eighth. Hey, they know how to sell themselves.

The top of the list isn’t only about law schools that are trying dazzle students into making a ruinous financial decision. The rankings mainly seem to reflect whether or not law schools care about their website at all….

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SOPA is getting pwned. Yesterday, all the uber players with their epic gear hopped on Vent and raided the SOPA base, and now the newbie Congress people who sponsored the law are running scared. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act have “renounced” their law. The New York Times reports that Senators and Congresspeople are abandoning this thing like it was a campaign promise.

Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, all of the big internet corporations flexed their muscles — and oh, by the way, this is what it looks like when corporations use speech for speech, as opposed to pretending that anonymous corporate campaign contributions magically count as speech.

In the wake of this victory, here’s a question: Is this what we want? Yesterday, the internet used its power for good (though I fear the movie industry will strike back by making you watch full-length Kevin James movies before you can download the next Batman preview). But what if in the future “the internet” wants something bad, something that is more than the mere protection of freedom?

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Mommy, have you seen my Hot Wheels car?

* Trademarks, and textiles, and taboos, oh my! Take a look into the fabulous world of fashion law with Charles Colman of Law of Fashion. [Professionelle]

* When you make stock market bets on SCOTUS outcomes, you better have a lot of money to throw around. Luckily, Ted Frank has plenty. [Point of Law]

* Jackass star Ryan Dunn passed away yesterday, which is sad. While normal people mourn the man who shoved a toy car up his butt, lawyers think up ways to assign liability. [Litigation & Trial]

* A J.D. is apparently still worth all of the debt associated with it because… why? Given that landing a job right now is about as easy as nailing jelly to a tree, how is this profession worth the debt? [Kiplinger]

* The blogs of the Am Law 100 have grown a lot this year, from 126 blogs to a whopping 269. Some firms are blogging duds, but I guess they’re busy making money. [Marketing Strategy and the Law]

* It may be better to be pissed off than pissed on, but getting peed on is apparently a natural step in professional development. [An Associate's Mind]

* Attorneys fall into one of three categories when it comes to the iPad: you got one; you want one; or your firm got one for you. Here are some lawyerly apps for you to play with. [Law Degree]

Let’s say that instead of taking on huge debts while I was in law school, I had taken up a wicked cocaine habit. Let’s say I had done loads and loads of blow from 2000 to 2007 and then went into a 12-step program. If I had been lucky enough to avoid an overdose or jail, you could argue that things would be better for me right now — even if I had a really serious cocaine problem where I spent my all my disposable income on the drug, and even if I put a good job and a good marriage straight up my nose. If I had been through all that and then wrote an essay about the highs and the lows of doing cocaine throughout my legal career, if I was telling kids that they could overcome a wicked cocaine habit even though the consequences were severe, if I was truthfully telling people that even though I’m trying to stay clean and sober now I’m not “ashamed” of my past life, I’d have nearly everybody in my corner.

Instead, I didn’t have a cocaine habit in law school and beyond. I defaulted on my student debts.

Really, the smart thing to do would have been to default on all my loans, then blame it on the cocaine that I was “powerless” to stop. But instead of playing the victim, I marshaled what autonomous power I had and chose not to pay back my loans in a timely manner. I decided to go down on my own terms, not the terms set out for me in a promissory note.

That seems to be what has really pissed everybody off…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kids, Get High Off Drugs, Not Debt. It’s More Fun And People Are Nicer To You When It’s Time To Recover.”

Andrew Shirvell (far right) and Chris Armstrong

Here’s a quick update on a past Lawsuit of the Day. Last month, Chris Armstrong, the openly gay ex-president of the University of Michigan student body, sued Andrew Shirvell, the former Michigan assistant attorney general and outspoken opponent of homosexuality. As you may recall, Shirvell criticized Armstrong in a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch, making allegations that according to Armstrong were false, and Shirvell also followed Armstrong around Ann Arbor. So Armstrong sued Shirvell for stalking, invasion of privacy, and defamation (among other claims).

Now Andrew Shirvell is firing back. Last week, Shirvell, proceeding pro se [FN1], moved to dismiss Chris Armstrong’s lawsuit.

Not surprisingly, Shirvell claimed in his motion to be a victim: “Plaintiff’s course of conduct was politically motivated and intended to make an example out of Defendant in order to deter others from criticizing Plaintiff’s homosexual activist agenda.” More specifically, Shirvell argued that certain counts of the Armstrong complaint fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted, that Shirvell’s criticism of Armstrong was protected by the First Amendment, and that Shirvell never had direct contact with Armstrong (e.g., by email or by phone).

In addition, Shirvell lodged some counterclaims against Armstrong. What is the basis for Shirvell suing Armstrong?

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Former Michigan prosecutor Andrew Shirvell might be gone from the Michigan attorney general’s office, but he has not been forgotten. Shirvell, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, has just been hit with a lawsuit — by Chris Armstrong, the ex-president of the University of Michigan student body.

Armstrong is suing Shirvell in Michigan state court for stalking, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and abuse of process. His lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and injunctive relief (to enjoin Shirvell from, well, being such a creep).

As you may recall, Shirvell seemed obsessed with the young, beauteous, and openly gay Armstrong, devoting an entire blog to criticism of Armstrong and following Armstrong around, day and night. As explained by Armstrong’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, Shirvell demonstrated a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong, reflected in numerous blog and Facebook postings in which Shirvell asserted that Armstrong was advancing a “radical homosexual agenda.” [FN1]

Let’s take a closer look at the complaint….

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Andrew Shirvell, now a FORMER Michigan AAG.

We mentioned this briefly last night in an update appended to Non-Sequiturs, but it’s big enough news that it merits more coverage. Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell — whom we’ve covered extensively, for his blogging campaign against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay (and ridiculously handsome) student body president at the University of Michigan — has been fired by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

(A commenter had this punny response to the news: “Gosh. Is that the last time Andrew Shirvell will run into trouble with Cox?”)

I previously wondered whether Shirvell deserved to be fired. As AG Cox noted in explaining why he didn’t fire Shirvell immediately, government lawyers have free speech rights too.

Most of you weren’t as concerned. In an Above the Law reader poll last month, over 80 percent of respondents said that Cox should fire Shirvell.

And so he has. According to the Michigan AG’s office, Shirvell went well beyond the bounds of permissible free speech….

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