Samantha Beckett

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

100 years ago today, on April 23, 1914, Wrigley Field opened in Chicago. At the time, the stadium was called Weegham Park and it was the home of the Whales, not the Cubs. The Whales — part of the short-lived Federal League — took the field that day against the Kansas City Packers. The Whales won 9-1. Today, Wrigley Field celebrates 100 years of continuous losing use — a marvel considering that 80% of current major league stadiums are less than twenty-five years old. This week, On Remand looks back at the history of Wrigley Field and the decades-long dispute over what happens there after dark….

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Fancy a bit of history, old sport? The Great Gatsby was first published on April 10, 1925. Spoiler alert! The book’s title character, a mysterious young millionaire named Jay Gatsby, does not survive the novel, dying unexpectedly at the age of 32. Gatsby — a bachelor who spent his money on lavish parties at his mansion — presumably died without a will. This week, On Remand looks back at The Great Gatsby and the story of another mysterious magnate who died without a will. Or did he?

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Years before Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center built the forty-foot high “Tower of Law” (or, as Stephen Colbert called it, “the building blocks of boring”) out of unused legal reporters, Lexis started the books’ march to obsolescence when it debuted on April 2, 1973. “Lexis,” a term the company’s president coined by combining the Latin word for law plus the letters “IS” for information systems, was the first widely available commercial electronic database for legal research. When it launched forty years ago, Lexis contained only decisions from Ohio and New York. Today, it provides access to nearly 5 billion documents, including cases from all state and federal courts, as well as notes written by law students that are still awaiting their first citation reader. This week, On Remand looks back at the history of Lexis, its rivalry with Westlaw, and its dispute with the maker of a car popular with attorneys . . .

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

At 1:24 a.m. on March 18, 1990, as St. Patrick’s Day festivities wound down in Boston, two men dressed as police officers rang the buzzer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Eighty-one minutes later, they vanished, taking eleven paintings and two artifacts with them. None of the stolen works — worth at least $500 million today — has ever been recovered. This week, On Remand looks back at the Gardner heist and another set of stolen paintings that found their way back the rightful owner — landing an attorney in prison in the process….

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Two years ago, on March 13, 2012, the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that its 2010 print edition — 32 volumes and 129 pounds — would be its last. Going forward, the internet, not bookshelves, would house Britannica’s wisdom. This week, On Remand looks back at the strange legacy of encyclopedias and one electronic encyclopedia’s recent entanglement with the FBI — with a guest appearance by Hitler.

First published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1768, Britannica’s print version lasted 244 years.  Owning a set showcased not only a family’s wealth, but also the family’s hopes that its Britannica-steeped children would move further up in society.  Despite its pedigree, however, for many generations Britannica encyclopedias were sold door-to-door.  As a result — and as shown by Monty Python — encyclopedia salesmen were more feared than burglars.

When Britannica announced it would cease publishing a print edition, it had already faced years of competition from Microsoft’s online encyclopedia Encarta. And by 2012, Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced, online, “free encyclopedia” was well established. While Britannica prides itself on careful editing and well-written articles authored by its stable of 4,000 expert contributors, Wikipedia is neither written nor edited by professionals. It is, however, updated continuously.  Wikipedia’s 30 million articles dwarfs the Britannica’s 120,000 – while requiring not an inch of shelf space or costing a penny. In addition to entries for each Supreme Court Justice and other legal luminaries from David Boies to David Lat, Wikipedia covers essential subjects like Klingon and toilet paper orientation….

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

On March 5, 1963, Arthur Melin, co-founder of the toy company WHAM-O, Inc., received a patent on the hula hoop. This week, On Remand looks back at the hula hoop and one of the era’s other crazes: Alvin and the Chipmunks.

By the time the hula hoop received its patent in 1963, it had already enjoyed great success. The hula hoop fad started in the summer of 1958, and by fall, WHAM-O had at least twenty-five million customers gyrating and swiveling their hips to keep the hoop in motion. By Christmas, the hula hoop had become the “Tickle-Me-Elmo” of 1958. Everyone wanted one, including a chipmunk named Alvin.

Alvin, and his chipmunk pals Simon and Theodore, also debuted in 1958. Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., a composer, singer, and actor now better known by his stage name David Seville, created the singing squirrels by manipulating the playback speed of his voice on a tape recorder. His gamble – spending $190 of his last $200 on the fancy machine – paid off. By Christmas, one of the songs from the first Chipmunk album, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” had reached number one on the charts. In it, Alvin pleads for the year’s hot toy: “me, I want a hula hoop!”

By the mid-60s, Americans had lost their enthusiasm for the hula hoop and Bagdasarian had grown bored with the Chipmunks. When Bagdasarian died unexpectedly in 1972, his son Ross Jr., a chip off the old block, longed to revive his father’s creation. First though, because his father had insisted, Ross Jr. went to law school. . .

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

With Mardi Gras parades and celebrations underway in New Orleans, On Remand looks back to the history of Mardi Gras and some of the strange laws and lawsuits that could only be found in The Big Easy.

On February 27, 1827, a group of students began the Mardi Gras tradition by dancing through the streets of New Orleans in masks and jester costumes to celebrate “Fat Tuesday,” the last day before the forty days of solemnity and penance of Lent. “Throws” — the beads, doubloons, cups, and other items krewe members toss from floats — first made their appearance in 1870. (Earning said throws by flashing some skin is a much more recent trend.) Today, New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras with alcohol, balls, king cake, more alcohol, and elaborate parades. With the open container laws in New Orleans, and the threat of being trampled by the parade crowds or struck by a throw, Mardi Gras should be a boon for personal injury lawyers. It’s dangerous out there, so let’s assess the risks.

First, the story of a coconut and its victim. Zulu, one of the legendary Mardi Gras krewes, introduced its signature throw, the coconut, in 1910. The coconuts – painted and adorned with various designs – are one of Mardi Gras’ most prized throws. But not everyone wants one. At the Zulu parade in 2006, as elderly parade attendee Daisy Palmer allegedly turned her attention from one float to the next, Namaan Stewart, a rider on the previous float, launched what a bystander called “The Coconut Artillery” – five coconuts rapidly tossed in succession. Tragically, Palmer was struck (although she was unsure whether the coconut was part of Stewart’s arsenal). The coconut inflicted immediate and lasting injuries: a bloody cut, a loss of interest in Mardi Gras, and nightmares of flying coconuts. . .

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

With the snow melting in Sochi, “On Remand” looks back to one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. Tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice.”

In February 1980, the XIII Olympic Winter Games were underway in Lake Placid, New York. But a little-known group of hockey players had been practicing together for months, skating themselves to exhaustion learning coach Herb Brooks’s new, fast, and grueling style of play. Most of the players on Team USA were barely old enough to order a beer, and hardly any had played hockey professionally. In a few months, several would be playing in the NHL. But on February 22, they were underdogs against a Soviet team that had won the gold in every Olympic contest since 1956 — except for 1960, when the Americans stood atop the podium. A week before the 1980 games started, the Soviets had trounced the Americans, 10-3, in an exhibition game.

“Unless the ice melts” or some team “performs a miracle,” a sports writer quipped, the Soviets would win the gold medal again in 1980. And, for most of the U.S.S.R. versus U.S. game, that prediction appeared accurate. But with 10 minutes left in the game, Mike Eruzione, Team USA’s captain, scored a goal from thirty feet, putting the Americans up 4-3. They never relinquished the lead. As the clock ran out, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels delivered his now iconic play-by-play

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Ed. note: This is the first installment of “On Remand,” a legal-history column by new writer Samantha Beckett. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

The statute of limitations never expires on an interesting legal story, so each week “On Remand” will report on legal aspects of a story from the past using a “this day in history” theme. First up, Beatlemania!

Five years before John, Paul, George, and Ringo crossed Abbey Road, they crossed the pond and invaded U.S. living rooms. Fifty years ago last night, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. The floppy-haired Fab Four were warmly welcomed by shrieking fans and America’s version of royalty – the King himself, Elvis Presley. As Ed Sullivan explained before the Beatles took the stage: “You know something very nice happened and the Beatles got a great kick out of it. We just received a wire – they did – from Elvis Presley . . . wishing them a tremendous success in our country.”

It’s safe to say that Elvis’ wish came true. The Beatles won an Oscar, racked up enough Grammys to collapse a shelf, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

By 1978, both the Beatles and the British Invasion were ancient history. Beatles fans consoled themselves with the music of Wings and the solo careers of John, Ringo, and George. And one Beatles fan in particular, Steve Jobs, was busy with his two-year-old computer company, Apple Computer. But that year, Apple Computer would experience a British invasion of its own when the Beatles’ company, Apple Corps (thank Paul McCartney for that pun), sued Apple Computer in Britain’s High Court. The dispute concerned the companies’ similar apple logos: a Granny Smith for Apple Corps, and an icon of an apple with a byte bite removed for Apple Computer….

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