Cellphones

With Murdoch gone, British media can return to doing what it does best.

* A federal judge tossed out a law requiring tobacco companies to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. If paying $7 a pack doesn’t stop you from buying smokes, I don’t think nasty photos will either. [CNN]

* SCOTUS won’t deal with Arizona’s controversial immigration law for a couple months, but the Eleventh Circuit will hear oral arguments about Alabama’s even stricter law today. But why would you immigrate to Alabama, of all places? Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The Seventh Circuit ruled that police can search a cellphone for its number without a warrant. Judge Richard Posner compared it to law enforcement’s ability to open a pocket diary and copy the owner’s address. The bigger question is: do drug dealers keep diaries? [Wall Street Journal]

* James Murdoch, the News Corp. heir apparent, has resigned in the wake of the News of the World scandal and related lawsuits. Now everyone can just go back to reading British tabloids for the Page Three Girls. [Los Angeles Times]

* RIP Lynn D. “Buck” Compton, the prosecutor who secured a conviction of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, and the Army paratrooper portrayed in the book and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” [Washington Post]

Last week, the tech world caught fire with the newest in an increasingly long list of electronic privacy scandals. Carrier IQ, a small Silicon Valley software company with its product installed on millions of cell phones, made headlines when a young programmer posted a video allegedly showing the software’s ability to log keystrokes and collect other, very personal information from phones.

By the end of last week, the controversy had already sparked an angry letter from democratic Senator Al Franken, two class-action lawsuits, and a flurry of denials and explanations from the software company as well as major mobile phone carriers. We briefly mentioned the story in Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, but it deserves a deeper look.

Is Carrier IQ as bad as it sounds? Good question….

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As I waited for my plane to take off Sunday morning, coming back from Thanksgiving vacation, I was listening to music on my iPod. We had been waiting on the runway for 25 minutes and I was bored, tired, and roasting hot. I needed to distract myself. But then, before I knew it, it was apparently time to take off. Without warning, the stewardess came from the back of the plane, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “SIR, you have to turn it off now. SIR. SIR.”

Like I do every time I fly, I took off my headphones until the flight attendant walked away. Then I put them back on. I also never turned off my cell phone or put it in airplane mode.

You probably know this is not allowed. Airplane passengers are supposed to turn off all electronic devices for takeoff and landing.

But WHY? Is aviation safety so delicate that a few Kindles or iPads endanger hundreds of lives? I don’t think so. A New York Times article from Monday takes a look at this mysterious, anachronistic facet of America’s law of the skies….

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There has been justifiably a lot of talk over the last few days about U.S. v. Jones, and the privacy issues it raises. Our editor emeritus Kashmir Hill was fortunate enough to hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court in person, alongside top legal reporters such as Jeffrey Toobin and Adam Liptak.

But when it comes to electronically tracking people, Jones is just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement also often follow American citizens through their cell phones. The practice has become so widespread that some magistrate judges are reconsidering their willingness to authorize it….

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Long before I became a law blogger, I spent a good chunk of time working as a photojournalist. Periodically, I wound up photographing the police. Whether it was at an arrest at a football game, or an officer who suffered an unusual injury, officers rarely hassled me because I usually had a press pass and a big, professional-looking camera.

But anyone can film in public spaces. One of the most important — and overlooked — technological developments of the last five-odd years is the ease with which anyone can record police doing their jobs and throw the video on YouTube. The technology can be a great deterrent against police misconduct.

So it’s really, seriously disturbing when police try to intimidate witnesses into turning off their cellphone cameras. It’s even more nauseating when someone gets arrested for simply filming police activity. Luckily, a recent decision from First Circuit unambiguously told police to cut it out.

Keep reading for details about the man who was arrested for taping police in America’s oldest public park, as well as Judge Kermit Lipez’s benchslap of the officers who made the arrest….

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Gay or European? Or just puppets?

* Should the police be able to use mobile-phone location data in order to locate a charged defendant? Kash reports on a recent decision. [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* More importantly, should Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street get “gay married”? [Althouse]

* The ABA takes a lot of blame for the inadequacy of graduate employment reporting by law schools, but at least they’re taking “a step in the right direction,” according to Professor Gary Rosin. [The Faculty Lounge]

* Professor Ilya Somin: “The Decline of Men or Just the Rise of Women?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

Raj Rajaratnam

* Leave it to a whiny law student to complain about getting a package delivered before its estimated arrival time. [White Whine]

* “The Revenge of the Rating Agencies”: no, it’s not a horror film, but an interesting NYT op-ed by Professor Jeffrey Manns. [New York Times]

* Lawyers for Raj Rajaratnam argue that their client deserves a lower prison sentence due to a “unique constellation of ailments ravaging his body.” There’s a whole lot to ravage. [Dealbreaker]

* If you’d like to lose your appetite, read this Texas lawyer’s profane blog chronicling his effort to eat cheaply for a month (under $12.50 for every meal). [30 Days @ $12.50]

* No need to email us that Kentucky judge’s (very funny) “tick on a fat dog,” “one legged cat in a sand box” order, regarding a case that settled, obviating the need for a trial — we covered it last month. Thanks. [Above the Law]

Here’s an open thread for discussing the July 2011 bar exam. We hope you attack it with all the gusto of Los Angeles lawyers at a deposition.

If you’ve just finished the bar exam, congratulations. We hope you’re taking a well-deserved vacation, perhaps involving some exotic travel (e.g., the traditional bar trip).

If you’re still in the middle of the big test, good luck. At least you’re done with the MBE, which some believe to be the hardest part of the bar.

Some of you may need all the luck you can get. This morning we told you about bar exam mishaps from this week. Unfortunately, since then we’ve heard about even more bar-related problems.

Let’s hear about the latest difficulties from around the country — and give you a place to talk about the test….

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The satirical Onion News Network recently reported on new government funding for that “massive online surveillance program run by the CIA,” known as Facebook — dreamed up by “secret C.I.A. agent Mark Zuckerberg.” The report made light of how much information we’re willing to make available to a third party — information that we would never consider freely handing over to the feds. While funny, the report speaks to serious concerns about privacy. Civil liberties advocates like Christopher Soghoian and Nicholas Merrill worry about the ease with which the government can get access to the digital information we store with third-parties like Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google, as well as to the rich databases that our mobile phone providers have.

Should we call it the Tech.B.I. or the Dot.Com.I.A.?

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* In the Barry Bonds trial, an expert on steroids described how the government injected a bunch of baboons with the drug Bonds is accused of using. I, for one, welcome our new baboon overlords. [ESPN]

* Some Amish in Kentucky are fighting a regulation that requires reflective safety triangles on their buggies. Say they’d rather get Munsoned out in the middle of nowhere than use those things. [Louisville Courier-Journal]

* Fresh off his Bushwick Bill impersonation, Allen Stanford has withdrawn his lawsuit against the federal government. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A lawyer in Illinois faces possible jail time for letting her detained client use her cell phone. At least she’ll get bars now. HIYOOOO! [ABA Journal]

* The FBI has instructed agents to to hold off on Miranda warnings when interrogating “operational terrorists” about immediate threats. These threats include suitcase bombs, sex bombs, nude bombs, and La Bamba. The Los Lobos version. [New York Times]

* Law firms are whetting wetting their collective beak on drug deals. But drugs is a dirty business. It makes, it doesn’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, understand. But your business is, uh, a little dangerous. [Am Law Daily]

It's a train car, not a conference room.

Here at Above the Law, we’re trying to help you. We write about lawyers who do embarrassing things so that you can learn from their examples. Heck, you should get ethics CLE credit for reading this site.

One of our most widely-used lessons — now part of new employee training at a Wall Street firm, in fact — is the cautionary tale of Acela Bob. Pillsbury Winthrop partner Robert Robbins conducted what should have been a confidential conversation about impending layoffs at his firm — in a loud voice, using his cellphone bluetooth, on a crowded Acela train. An ATL reader heard the whole thing and tipped us off; we wrote it up. Shortly thereafter, Pillsbury — which had not yet admitted to any layoffs — confessed that cuts were coming (and “apologize[d] for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public”).

Here’s one lawyer who apparently never heard about Acela Bob, or perhaps forgot the story: James J. Kirk (no relation to Captain James T. Kirk).

This James Kirk is the managing partner of Kelley Drye & Warren — and a man who has no trouble making himself heard….

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