Free Speech

The battle between educational institutions and loudmouth students who fight for the right to say dumb things is a rich area of recent American history. A student says something inflammatory. The school suspends/fails/disciplines the student. The student sues, and everyone has a big First Amendment debate party.

Usually, I have a lot of sympathy for the schools. Teenagers are, how do I say this, dumb. They think they know everything, and that somehow it’s of cosmic importance that they are allowed to proclaim their love for illegal drugs on campus.

But I cannot abide when schools become the fun police. The University of Minnesota currently falls under this category. In a case that will be heard today by the Minnesota Supreme Court, a mortuary sciences student is fighting to overturn ridiculous penalties levied against her for a couple of (seriously) harmless jokes made on Facebook.

Some commentators are worried about broader implications the case will have on the power colleges have over their students. I’m more upset about the fact that the University of Minnesota can’t take a joke….

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A lesson that Matt Couloute Jr. is learning.

It’s a sad fact, but almost everyone has had the opportunity to partake in a bad romance or two. And although it may sound elegant when Lady Gaga sings about it, in real life, it can be devastating. That’s why websites like LiarsCheatersRUs were created — so that jilted lovers could have a place to unleash their angst about failed relationships caused by a lover’s supposed infidelity.

But what happens when you’re a lawyer and a scorned ex-girlfriend lets loose on the internet about your infidelities? That is apparently what happened in the case of Matthew Couloute Jr., a former prosecutor and Court TV analyst, after he allegedly cheated on Amanda Ryncarz.

Now he’s suing Ryncarz and another ex-flame, roller-derby diva Stacey Blitsch, both represented by feminazi lawyer to the wannabe stars, Gloria Allred. Thus far, we’ve kept our coverage of the drama to Morning Docket entries (here, here, and here), but now, Matt Couloute has spoken out about the situation on television.

Check out Couloute’s on-air coverage, and see pictures of the women in question, after the jump….

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Our school girl is even sexier.

Ah, the high school yearbook photo. Teenage girls spend hours upon hours primping and prepping before stepping in front of the camera for the picture that will forever be remembered as their high school legacy.

And while most high school girls are worried about hiding their acne, or getting their braces removed in time for the big day, one girl in Colorado is busy worrying about whether her school will even allow her photo to be published in the 2012 yearbook.

School administrators say that her attire in her photo of choice violates the school’s dress code, but why? Probably because the photo in question features the teenager posing a bit too provocatively for a girl who just turned 18. She’s considering taking legal action against the school for trampling on her right to free expression.

So who is this mystery girl? What does her scandalous yearbook photo look like? Keep reading for pictures and video of this too-sexy-for-high-school, First Amendment freedom fighter….

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* Is the Roberts court really as pro-First Amendment as we’ve been led to believe? Lawyers aren’t really that good at math, but they’ve done studies, you know. And 34.5% of the time, it works every time. [New York Times]

* The people at the ABA aren’t concerned that William Robinson’s remarks made him seem like a tactless tool. Instead, they’re concerned that his “quotes were used out of context.” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Duncan Law wants the ABA to remove a memo denying the school’s provisional accreditation from its website. Why? So students will keep applying and paying them tuition money. At least they’re being honest. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* Montgomery Sibley, whose license to practice is suspended, is running for president and suing “Barrack” Obama. Well, that’s a unique way to establish standing in a birther lawsuit. [Huffington Post]

Prof. Hans Smit

* Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of jail. Just ask Floyd Mayweather. Thanks to this judge, he’ll be fighting someone other than his ex on Cinco de Drinko. [Washington Post]

* Hans Smit, beloved Columbia Law professor (and owner of a $29 million mansion), RIP. [Columbia Law School]

* The actress suing IMDb has finally been unmasked. I’ve never heard of her, but she’s probably suing for more than she’s ever made in her B-movie Z-movie career. [New York Daily News]

Downward dog... kind of.

* Protip for Mark Hansen, AT&T’s lawyer: when you want a judge to save your merger plans, it’s probably not a good idea to demand that she make a ruling by a certain date. [Businessweek]

* What’s going on in Cooley Law’s defamation suit against Rockstar05 (other than discussion of whether the school’s attorney understands the tort’s defenses)? An appeal. [Lansing State Journal]

* Getting a prep school education in New York isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ask Philip Culhane, Simpson Thacher partner and name plaintiff in the Poly Prep sex abuse suit. [New York Times]

* America, f**k yeah! The Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is suing the DMV over free speech rights they might not have had if they seceded from the union. [Fox News]

* Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury tried to sue his disciples for infringement of his moves, but he ended up getting it downward doggy style from the Copyright Office instead. [Bloomberg]

* “If you want a good grade, you need to have sex with me.” At the height of finals season, many law students wish this were an option, but apparently it only happens in college. [New York Post]

Professors Richard Epstein and John Yoo

The topic of whether (and how) to reform legal education remains very hot. The latest New York Times story — by David Segal, who isn’t very popular among law school deans right now — has sparked much online commentary.

And it’s not over yet. What do Professors Richard Epstein and John Yoo — two of legal academia’s most colorful characters, rock stars in Federalist Society circles — think of the current state of law schools here in the United States?

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Sometimes silence is golden.

The executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson — who once worked as a legal journalist, for Steve Brill at the American Lawyer — recently issued A Note to Our Readers About Comments, in which she explained various changes to the Times’s commenting system. We thought we’d follow in the Gray Lady’s footsteps and announce a tweak of our own to the Above the Law comments.

Comments and online anonymity are hot topics right now, both here and abroad (e.g., India). Writer Katie Roiphe just mused about the angry anonymous commenter. Privacy lawyer Christopher Wolf recently argued, in the New York Times, that websites should “consider requiring either the use of real names (or registration with the online service) in circumstances, such as the comments section for news articles, where the benefits of anonymous posting are outweighed by the need for greater online civility.” Many Times readers disagreed, defending the value and importance of anonymous speech online.

In light of these conflicting concerns — civility, privacy, free expression — let’s turn our attention to the ATL comments….

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Two months ago, to the day, I wrote that the Occupy Wall Street people would be occupying K Street if they had even the slightest clue about how power is really wielded in this country.

I suppose two months is pretty good turnaround time for a leaderless mob that votes by consensus and uses hand signals to express when something makes them uncomfortable.

Today, the Occupy D.C. movement heads for K Street. And the denizens of Gucci Gulch are terrified!

Well, maybe the lawyers aren’t terrified. People who live and work in D.C. and have a basic understanding of the right to peaceably assemble aren’t overly concerned with the prospect of protesters, though I’m sure they aren’t looking forward to the inconvenience.

But the real estate companies that own the buildings under attack from Occupy K Street, yeah, those people are totally freaking out….

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Justice Clarence Thomas

Elie here. Imagine Santa Claus stopping by your house — except this time Saint Nick is a mute, who stuffs your stocking with personal responsibility and brings you wooden toys, because those were the only ones available when his legend was born.

Well, joking aside, Justice Clarence Thomas will be stopping by Yale Law School on December 14th. And since there won’t be a case in front of him, he’ll actually be talking.

But not to everybody. Sources tell us — and Yale Dean Robert Post confirmed, in a school-wide email — that Justice Thomas will be speaking to the Yale Federalist Society and to the Black Law Students Association, as well as attending a class and a private reception. He won’t be making any general public appearance.

Setting aside commencement, it’s fairly typical for guest speakers (including Supreme Court justices) to speak to specific student groups and not the law school at large. If Justice Elena Kagan went to Yale, she’d likely speak to the American Constitution Society and the Socratic Hard-Ass Faculty Coven.

Some students claim, however, that the Yale administration has contacted several student organizations and asked them not to protest during Thomas’s visit. We don’t know if that’s true, and a message from Dean Post (reprinted below) does not directly mention anything about student protests. But the mere rumor of Yale trying to quash protests, circulated on “The Wall” (the YLS list-serv), has made some students angry.

Should they be? Strap yourselves in for an ATL Debate….

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Now THIS is a legal ad.

It’s easy to forget that lawyering is a business that requires a significant amount of advertising. Lawyers offer a service, and as many unemployed attorneys know, the profession includes lots of people doing essentially the same work. You have to find your customers to make it rain.

For more and more attorneys, blogging has become one part of an overall marketing strategy. Is law blogging always advertising? The Virginia State Bar seems to think so. Last month, it disciplined a small-firm attorney for not providing adequate advertising disclaimers on his blog.

Is the Bar, as Judge Richard Posner likes to say, being an ostrich? Is it sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the current technological paradigm — or is there a legitimate ethics concern here? Let’s see….

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