Trials

Ed. note: Please welcome our new legal technology columnist, Jeff Bennion.

My name is Jeff Bennion, and I am a new columnist here. I’m going to write all about how we should and shouldn’t use technology in our law practices.

I am a solo practicing out of San Diego. On top of my lawyerly duties, I get asked by lawyers to advise on all matters technical – from e-discovery to trial technology to law practice management. Usually I get brought in after people have tried and failed at something. I worked in a 200-lawyer firm, a midsized firm, and a three-person firm before going solo. I’ve written for Cracked.com on such topics as whether it’s a good idea for Amazon to sell books about knife fighting for beginners, the problems with the jury system, and, of course, the Batcave. I teach college paralegal classes.

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How do I make my PowerPoints awesome for openings/closings/whatever?” Now, I’m a big fan of using technology in trial. I had a whole article written about all of my trial gadgets that compared me to Tony Stark. I remember how boring those hour-and-a-half classes were in law school, so I wouldn’t want jurors to sit through six hours of watching lawyers talk to witnesses for four days a week for several weeks at a time without breaking it up with some graphics or something.

But PowerPoint is just the worst….

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John Quinn

Is there any case so awful that it compares favorably to nearly 20 years of warfare?

No. No, there really isn’t.

So when Quinn Emanuel’s John Quinn was quoted calling the Apple v. Samsung brouhaha “Apple’s Vietnam,” it ruffled a few feathers from the sort of people who still remember the Vietnam War as more than an inconvenience.

I love the smell of IP litigation in the morning! Smells like, victory….

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That pesky expert witness is claiming that a AAA battery can’t injure your client as much as you claim. How do you undermine his testimony? Confronting him with strongly-worded questions informed by careful scientific research is one way.

Trying to electrocute him is another way.

Guess which one the lawyer chose in this case?

Oh, Watt the hell, I’ll spoil it, the lawyer tried to electrocute him….

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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

* U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wants to know more about why Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down an anticorruption commission. [New York Times]

* The ABA weighs in on the “unfinished business” controversy affecting bankrupt law firms, their lawyers, and their clients. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Better late than never: students and professors at UC Davis Law are pushing for the posthumous admission to the California bar of Hong Yeng Chang, who was denied a law license in 1890 solely because of his Chinese heritage. [Associated Press; South China Morning Post]

* Speaking of late, a robber sent to prison 13 years late because of a clerical error just got released. [ABA Journal]

* Drones could claim another victim: the First Circuit nomination of Harvard law professor David Barron. [How Appealing]

* Who still wants a landline phone? The jury foreman in the latest Apple-Samsung battle, who is sick and tired of cellphones after the month-long trial. [The Recorder (sub. req.)]

* Not such a Great Adventure: “Cadwalader To Pay $17M In Six Flags Malpractice Fight.” [Law360 (sub. req.)]

Sarah Jones

The issue here is really narrow, it’s about whether or not TheDirty.com is entitled to immunity under the [Communications Decency Act]. [Nik] Richie reviews all the posts. He’s said he’s looking specifically for things that will cause a rise. He wants to put dirt out on the Internet about private people.

Chris Roach, lawyer for Sarah Jones, the former Bengals cheerleader and high school teacher who won a $338,000 judgment after being defamed on Richie’s gossip site, TheDirty.com, commenting on the reasons why he believes Richie will not receive immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Roach went on to note that his client does not have chlamydia or gonorrhea.

(In 2009, Richie allegedly wrote a post entitled, “The Dirty Bengals Cheerleader,” asking, “Why are high school teachers freaks in the sack?” In that post, a commenter suggested Jones slept with all the members of the Bengals team and had STDs. Jones went on to be convicted on sexual misconduct charges for sleeping with an underage student, and now plans to marry him.)

You can’t be a judge very long without having a trial that presents concerning situations. We handle them by talking them through with the marshals…. This sounds like something that could have happened at any courthouse, at any time.

– Chief Judge Marsha J. Pechman (W.D. Wash.), commenting on yesterday’s courthouse shooting in Salt Lake City, in which a defendant was shot and killed after rushing a witness.

A jury trial: “the grand bulwark of our liberties.” Cross-examination: “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” I remember these quotes (from Blackstone and Wigmore, respectively) uttered grandly during Evidence or some such class in law school.

Just guessing these maxims aren’t entirely reflective of everyone’s experience. A particularly discouraging example, after the jump….

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‘But it’s not even an iPhone or a Galaxy, Your Honor!’

Please turn your phones off. We don’t want an angry judge.

– Courtroom deputy Martha Parker-Brown, cautioning those in the gallery of Judge Lucy Koh’s courtroom during the latest Apple v. Samsung patent trial. Judge Koh has previously threatened to take attorneys’ and tech executives’ phones away from them, and shamed others by making them stand up if their phones were turned on and started ringing.

Chris Brown

Is anyone tired of Chris Brown yet? I was tired of him months ago, then I got a second wind and am still interested in watching him crash.

Yesterday, the trial court heard a motion to dismiss by Brown’s attorney, Mark Geragos.  The motion contended that the prosecutors abused the grand jury process by using it as an opportunity to test their case.  Denying the motion, Judge Patricia Wynn said there is no problem with prosecutors testing their case in seeking an indictment before the grand jury.

Brown was not present at the hearing, having taken the world’s slowest flight to D.C. via the U.S. Marshals Service (five days in total). The court did grant a motion to sever Brown’s bodyguard’s trial from Brown’s trial — which was helpful to the defense, so that the bodyguard can testify for Brown in Brown’s trial…

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One of the things that was always interesting about Biglaw was just how much the skills of senior partners were celebrated, even in the absence of any verification. Or rigorous comparison to their peers, for that matter. Such exaltation of abilities was not limited to individual lawyers, of course, but extended also to practice groups and even other firms. In fact, a fair amount of Biglaw’s “prestige” is pollinated by secondhand anecdotal evidence, many times passed along by people who have either never seen their subjects in action or who are not qualified to distinguish between a great performance and a mediocre one.

Of course, I do not doubt that many, if not the vast majority of, Biglaw reputations are well-earned. For example, even though my knowledge of real estate law is severely limited, I would feel comfortable hiring some of my old colleagues at Greenberg Traurig in New York for real estate help, should I ever be in a position to acquire or dispose of some commercial real estate. I admit that I have no frame of reference, other than reputation and some personal relationships, supporting such a prospective choice. But it is not like I could “shadow” a closing and figure out which set of lawyers is doing a better job anyway. “Wow, those guys really put out a nice refreshment spread in the room with the closing binders” would be the level of my analysis. Probably not a good idea to choose counsel solely on that basis.

Are there other options out there?

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