Online anonymity

Do you willingly feed trolls who are trying to obscure their identities?

I’m not talking about the cave-dwelling, ugly beings depicted in folklore as either giants or dwarfs. Those trolls aren’t yet online.

I want you to focus on the more insidious demons known as the “Internet trolls” (aka troll-holes as in a-holes). Troll-holes are devoid of any moral compass. These sorry-excuse-for-humans seek to ply discord on the internet. They post hateful, anonymous comments on anything from blogs to newspaper sites to Amazon and Yelp.

They want to argue with you. They want to demean you. They want to attack you. They want to provoke you. They want to upset you. They want to emotionally gut you.

Don’t take the bait….

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Judge Mike Maggio was the now-infamous Geauxjudge on the Tiger Droppings board. Just like we all thought.

The rapidly unfolding scandal broke Monday and confirmation came Wednesday night, when Maggio admitted to his Geauxjudge alter ego and withdrew from the impending Court of Appeals race. Still unclear is whether the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission will demand that he immediately step down from his current judgeship, which Judge Maggio will otherwise hold for the rest of the year.

The latest statement from Judge Maggio is reproduced below. It’s light on the racism, sexism, homophobia, and obvious breaches of judicial ethics, but it still captures the tone-deaf attitude of entitlement. At least we know Geauxjudge is still in there somewhere….

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I am on record as an optimist when it comes to the internet. The free flow of information on the web, including but not limited to websites like Above the Law, helps people make better decisions about their lives and careers (and also entertains, a value that shouldn’t be ignored).

At the same time, as we’ve discussed before, the web has its dark side….

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The psychological term for it is The Online Disinhibition Effect, a condition brought on by the interlocking effects of dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority. This is the condition that leads people otherwise aware of proper social and professional behavior to go off the rails and say things they would know not to broadcast publicly if the world could easily identify them.

That’s what happened to a self-identified judge who routinely posted under a pseudonym on a popular college sports board.

And now it looks like we’ve cracked the code and figured out who this judge is, and if we’re right, he’s a rising star. Or he was a rising star, before this….

(It turns out that we’re right. Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post.)

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University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong continues her quest to make the internet safe for female law professors who engage in questionable scholarship. When last we heard from Leong, she was getting called out by Paul Campos for “research” that involved putting up white versus Asian profiles on Ashley Madison.

But Leong is better known for her ongoing dispute with online commenter “dybbuk.” Dybbuk made a number of nasty, racist, and sexist comments about Leong. Leong says that the comments have made her fear for her safety. She’s figured out who Dybbuk really is and is now asking his state bar to launch an ethics inquiry into his online behavior.

If you don’t like people trying to make your life awful, you shouldn’t talk on the internet. I think that rule applies equally to Leong and Dybbuk…

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J.D. = Just the Dark Roast?

* President Obama apologized to Kamala Harris after referring to her as the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” We’re guessing the First Lady was none too pleased with her husband’s behavior. [New York Times]

* If you’re unemployed (or were the victim of a recent layoff), try to keep your head up, because there’s still hope for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector added 2,000 jobs last month. [Am Law Daily]

* The 10 percent vacancy rate on the nation’s federal courts is unacceptable and the New York Times is ON IT. Perhaps D.C. Circuit hopeful Sri Srinivasan will have some luck at this week’s judicial confirmation hearing. [New York Times]

* Shine bright like A. Diamond: Howrey’s bankruptcy trustee is still trying to get “unfinished business” settlements from several Biglaw firms, but managed to secure funds from ALAS. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Contrary to what law deans tell you in the op-ed pages, if you want to work as a real lawyer, it actually matters where you go to law school. We’ll probably have more on this later today. [National Law Journal]

* Cooley Law took a hard hit in the appeal of its defamation case against Rockstar05, and now the disgruntled blogger may seek a dismissal. Score one for anonymous online speech! [Ars Technica]

* Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s first female Prime Minister, RIP. [CNN]

FIRST! Assistant United States Attorney.

First amongst weird creation myths is that of the Mbombo god, who is said to have vomited up pretty much all of our world. Similarly, the story of how this website has been… thrown up is worthy of retelling. At its essence, it goes like this: A boy blogs about very sober legal issues in an incredibly earnest way and then the governor of New Jersey tells him to start Above the Law, The End. I may have missed some crucial details and got others flat-out wrong, but I think the kernel of truth is still in there somewhere.

At any rate, that boy was working for the United States Attorney’s office in Newark at the time. Doing anything on the internet, even if it was super-serious and incredibly sincere, could be considered controversial because of the position. The lawyers tasked with working in such a high-profile prosecutorial role must be seen as impartial, lest the cases they take on get tainted by their online presence.

Which is what makes it all the more surprising that history is repeating itself down in New Orleans, where two assistant United States attorneys have become embroiled in scandal after being caught commenting on not just the law in general (like our own dear leader), but the specific cases that came through their office.

It’s almost as if the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s office is trying to outdo David Lat in some way. Which, I mean, trick please…

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On the list of those whom you may feel some measure of sympathy for, convicted sexual offenders rank somewhere between National Socialists and those who key cars. Perhaps lower. And yet, this is precisely why they are often the first against the wall when it comes to needless regulation and harassment. Like the bespectacled little spazz on the playground, sex offenders make for an easy mark.

And so it was that the state of California passed a ballot initiative that requires those already on the sex offender registry in that state to further register all of their internet activities. They must register their e-mail addresses and their impossibly witty usernames and handles. The cloak of anonymity on the internet, vital to its snark, nihilism, and generally poor table manners, has been denied to sexual deviants in California with this new law.

Well, not if the ACLU can help it. Continue reading after the jump, but only if your state allows you to…

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Ed. note: A sizable chunk of the Above the Law readership consists of partners at large law firms. Please welcome our newest writer, Anonymous Partner, who will write a candid column speaking to this demographic.

It’s about time. Time for someone like me to offer some perspective on what being a partner is, can, and should be all about. Time to leverage Above the Law’s bully pulpit to give a voice to current and future senior-level legal industry players (in addition to the valuable but inherently distanced insights of former partners, consultants, and law professors). Where a managing partner, or a general counsel, or even a newly-minted partner can let me, and by extension you, know what is really going on in this centaur-like hybrid of a business/profession. Where we can discuss what works, what is broken, and whether buying in to Biglaw is something to celebrate or to pity.

Now, Biglaw has signed all my paychecks, and it is where I have cast my lot until now, so Biglaw is what this column will discuss. And because my name does not stare back at me in gold-plated glory when I step off the elevator in the morning, this column will have to be anonymous, at least for the initial stages. Being anonymous will allow me to be as candid as possible when sharing my thoughts with you.

That said, you deserve to know at least a little about me….

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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…

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