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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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Posts Tagged ‘Lawsuit’

Duking It Out

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

220px-John_Wayne_-_still_portrait

I will admit to a slight obsession with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge since the royal wedding, but just as there is one fictional lawyer for me (who you can now take to the beach in ebook form—thanks, Harper!) there is only one Duke. Do I need to give you three guesses, Pilgrim? Obviously I’m talking about Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne. Fun fact—John Wayne starred in the “print the legend” masterpiece, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,  which contains my second favorite fictional lawyer, Ransom Stoddard. So when I hear that certain institution of higher learning is putting its dukes up against the legend who brought Sean Thornton and Rooster Cogburn to life, its’ going to catch my attention.

Duke University and John Wayne Enterprises—Wayne passed in 1979, but his heirs are keeping up the legacy—have been squaring off over the word “Duke” for years now. (Back in ’05, the University objected to the heirs’ trademark application to use the name Duke for a restaurant.) Now the University is objecting to John Wayne Enterprises’ plans to expand into the bourbon market.  The heirs have taken the University to court, arguing, “Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contexts for all purposes.”

Them’s clearly fightin’ words. I’m not sure how this one is going to shake out, but I am fairly certain that you don’t want to mess with the Duke.

Major Coinage

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Penniesbins

It’s tearin’ up my heart to believe anyone can harbor any true rage in a world where there’s a rumored ‘NSYNC reunion in the works, but those are the breaks. In lawsuits with damages, there are two potential outcomes—either you’re the one who just got paid,  or you’re the one doing the paying. As for the ones who have to pay up, sometimes they just…pop.

Have you heard the one about the angry ex-wife who decided to pay her $50.12 divorce settlement in pennies with some beans and rice thrown in on the side? The entire settlement wasn’t in pennies though—the ex-wife took out the cost of the plastic bins (about $3) that held the pennies, beans, and rice, but was kind enough to include the receipt, should her ex-husband want to return them. Apparently there is one lawyer who weighed in on this trending story and offered to go after the $3 since those plastic containers aren’t legal tender.

However, one does have to offer a hat tip to that ex-wife who succeeded where another had failed. Back in July, two Southern Illinois law offices received a settlement payment in protest fashion. It was a $150,000 payment that appeared in the form of 7,500 pounds of quarters. Why quarters? “Because I couldn’t do it in pennies,” was the response.

It appears that both Washington and Lincoln have gotten a lot of face time this summer. But what about FDR and Jefferson? I think that the faces of the dime and nickel respectively feel they need love and attention from settlement payers.

The Bill of Rights and Middle-Child Syndrome

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

third-amendment

Quick—what’s the Third Amendment? It’s taking you a minute, isn’t it? (No judgment if it takes you a while to recall because you have to use process of elimination to get there—it’s what I had to do.) Unlike its fellow Bill of Rights siblings, the Third Amendment, otherwise known as the Jan Brady of the bunch, doesn’t really get much play.

The First Amendment is the typical eldest child. It’s the one everyone remembers right off the bat. It’s invoked in numerous opinions and is in regular rotation in the news. While the Second Amendment has been a favorite of gun enthusiasts, it also had a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun  with all of those puns about the First Lady and her fashion choices. The Fourth Amendment has been getting some press with recent NSA revelations.  (It also has ties to a Jay-Z track.) As for the Fifth Amendment…well, if you tune in for any police or legal procedural (or have seen Godfather Part II) , you’re going to be familiar with the Fifth Amendment. But what about #3?* It appears that the Third Amendment is currently having a moment in the 36th State.

On July 10, 2011, in the course of handling a domestic violence call, the Henderson (a Las Vegas suburb) Police decided that they needed to use Anthony Mitchell’s house to get a “tactical advantage” over their suspect.   When Mitchell refused to allow the use of his home, he was subsequently arrested and charged with obstruction. The charges against Mitchell—and his father, Michael, whose home on the same street was also commandeered without his permission—were eventually dropped.  Though there are several causes of action in the current suit—including false arrest and imprisonment, assault, and conspiracy—invoking the Third Amendment is very interesting because it requires a determination of whether or not a police officer could be considered a soldier.

You’re finally getting some spotlight, Third Amendment. Enjoy it before your siblings take it back.

*Yes I realize that there are five other amendments in the Bill of Rights, but bringing them into the mix would have totally blown the metaphor.

Good Example of a Horrible Warning?

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Gavel

In one of my favorite books, a wise and perhaps slightly disturbed character offers this adage: If you can’t be a good example then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning. It’s interesting to think about, but seems like it could be kind of messy to put those two diametrical opposites into practice. Especially if you don’t think that your actions constitute the horrible warning, but school officials do.

Back in Georgia in 2011, a Fayette County school administrator, Curtis Cearley, gave a presentation about “the dangers and often permanent nature of Internet postings.” So far so good, right? Wrong. After showing a cartoon where a mother had to explain her old Facebook profile where her hobbies include bad boys and jello shots to her child, Cearley’s presentation featured a photo of then 17-year-old senior Chelsea Chaney, wearing a bikini and standing next to a replica of Snoop Dogg (as he was known then).  The picture was said to have the caption “Once it’s there, it’s there to stay” and Cearley identified Chaney by name.

Chaney claims that being forced into the “horrible warning” category damaged her reputation and is now suing Cearley and the school district for libel, slander, and invasion of privacy and is asking for $2 million in damages.

As this case heads into federal court I can’t help but notice there seem to be horrible warnings all over the place with this one. The first is students posting pictures that are publicly available and the second is school administrators trolling students’ profiles.

What Twain Said…But Worse

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Bag Men

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that giving a kid a name is kind of a big deal (somewhat more so in certain countries, but I digress…). Now it’s time to turn to what happens when you invoke someone’s name. Using someone’s name can be a powerful thing. In some cases, if you say a name three times, insanity ensues. Other times you may use the name in a novel and find yourself slapped with a lawsuit. (Though the apparent moral of this story is that some appear to care more than others on this front.) But unsuspecting people don’t just care when their name turns up in fictional works. Oh no. They also care when their name appears in news stories, particularly news stories linking them to a crime they did not commit.

On April 18, the front page of the New York Post had a picture of two men with the headline “Bag Men.”  Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi were identified and said to be wanted for questioning. The two had nothing to do with the bombing, as was proven later that day when the FBI released photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the actual suspects.  Last week Barhoum and Zaimi launched a lawsuit against the New York Post. The newspaper is accused of invasion of privacy, defamation, and infliction emotional distress.

This is not the first time that innocent individuals have been mistakenly linked to horrendous acts, and it seems to be becoming a trend. Mark Twain noted, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on.” That was an observation in the 19th century. Imagine how that quote would change if he had any notion of social media. This lawsuit may prove interesting to see if it leads to greater care in identifying individuals in the future. After all, thanks to a certain movie, we are all aware the internet (and all those news sources that appear on it) “is written in ink.”

Stage-Side Service

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Ciara

If there is one thing one could take away from the Trojans back in the day—you know, other than stealing someone else’s wife may lead to the downfall of your people—it was to beware Greeks bearing gifts. Well that lesson has evolved in the 21st century for performing artists to something along the lines of beware fans waving papers.

Music artist Ciara had been schedule to perform at a bar called The Factory on Friday night in L.A. The following night she was scheduled to perform at LA Pride. Per her contract with LA Pride, Ciara was prohibited from performing on Friday night. The singer’s rep claims that notice was given  to The Factory about the conflict in commitments, but The Factory decided to sue Ciara for breach of contract. How convenient for the process server that everyone knew where Ciara was going to be Saturday night.

A video from Ciara’s concert this past Saturday night shows a “fan” holding up papers, which the singer took while performing on stage…and seconds later dropped.

With the video making rounds to entertainment gossip websites, this could prove to be a teaching moment to today’s youth that “you got served” is a phrase that has meaning beyond b-boy b-list movies.

How to Anger Neighbors and Alienate People

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George | 1 Comment

Photo Issue

You know what they say about people in glass houses right? They live brightly and carry a big stick. Wait…that’s not right. Or is it?

There’s a brouhaha in full boil in Manhattan over a certain photographer who used a telephoto lens to take pictures from his apartment of his neighbors up the street in their apartments. The neighbors had no idea they were being photographed until local media chatter started about an exhibit called (appropriately) “The Neighbors.” (There was also an article about it in the New Yorker magazine.)

One family is taking photographer Arne Svenson to court. The family, which includes minor children, raised privacy concerns and is seeking an injunction against releasing the photographs (a few photos of the family were not included in the show, but are intended for sale with five-figure price tags) as well for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  It looks like this will be a instance of artistic expression and privacy facing off.

According to the complaint, when promoting the exhibit Svenson said,  “For my subjects there is no question of privacy. . . . The neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.” Definitely makes me think that the neighbor had it right in “Mending Wall,” except maybe he should have broadened the statement to say that good curtains make good neighbors.

War of Words

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Book

To paraphrase an Avenue Q song that is inappropriate to post in full, everyone’s a little state-ist sometimes. It’s true. I know this because, being born and bred in the Great State of New Jersey, I’ve experienced everyone from sea to shining sea dumping on my beloved home state—sometimes literally and with Supreme Court approval. Know who really has it out for us? The Manhattanites. Those from Jersey (as well as the outer boroughs of NYC) are nothing but bridge and tunnel folk to them. But you know what they say about people who pick on you—it’s just that they’re insecure. Appropriately enough, it was a case invoking the Sunshine State that brought a bit of Manhattan sensitivity to light.

Following a case involving alleged manipulation and corruption of television ratings in India where Sabharwal & Finkel, a New York law firm, represented New Delhi Television Limited and Sir Martin Sorrell was on the opposing side, there were some hard feelings. Sorrell made a few comments that were published last year. Among them was that Sabharwal & Finkel was a “two-lawyer firm . . . based in Florida”  and that its specialty was “restaurant law.”  Based on the comments, S&F decided to bring a defamation claim against Sorrell.

Judge Cynthia S. Kern was having none of that,  pointing out “There is nothing defamatory about the statement that a law firm is located in Florida as many respected law firms are located in Florida and the statement does not reflect poorly on plaintiffs’ character or abilities as lawyers and a law firm.” Ditto for practicing restaurant law.  The case was dismissed earlier this month.

This case leaves me with some questions. Namely, is Florida going to take Jersey’s crown as the red-headed stepchild of the Union? And, do restaurant law-practicing Floridians take offense at the offense that was taken?

To Cheat Mockingbird

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Harper Lee

Oh for the love of Maycomb, what’s going on here? Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and creator of the character who won this year’s Millie for Best Lawyer, brought a lawsuit against Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of her long-time literary agent, Eugene Winicik.  In the suit, Lee claims that Pinkus, who took over as Lee’s agent when Winick became ill years ago, did not properly protect the copyright to her work, To Kill a Mockingbird; failed to respond to licensing requests; and took advantage of her failing health (her hearing and eyesight are on the decline) to transfer the copyright of the book to a company under his control.

The 87-year-old Lee has become a bit of a Boo Radley over the years, refusing interviews and leading a life on the DL.  Now she is in the headlines and one hopes that justice—as it is embodied in her memorable character—will be served. Under normal circumstances, I’d end with some quip along the lines of how one shouldn’t mess with Atticus (or his creator) because I’ve heard tell that even Chuck Norris wears Atticus pajamas, but instead I’ll leave you with a quote from Ms. Lee’s novel:

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

You Had One Job…

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Phil

It’s been going on six days now that Punxsutawney Phil and I haven’t been speaking. (In related news, it’s been six days that Punxsutawney Phil has been unaware of that fact.) See, back on February 2, Phil made a prediction. By not seeing his shadow, Phil promised that spring was coming early. So I waited, and March 20 rolled around, and guess what. I had to clean snow off of my car. Twice. But recent events have shown that there’s nothing to be gained from getting mad—or blood-thirsty like the Onion. No, it’s far better to get litigious.

On March 21, 2013, Michael Gmoser, prosecuting attorney in Butler County, OH accused Phil of “misrepresentation of early spring,” an unclassified felony “against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio.” Phil supporters are quick to point out that Woodstock Willie, Woodstock, IL’s groundhog, also predicted an early spring, and that to seek punishment for an incorrect forecast could be a slippery slope (best watch your back, weather forecasters). On Friday, the Nurick Law Group took up Phil’s cause, drafting a public cease and desist letter to Gmoser.

Ultimately, this faux-suit served its purpose. You gave a little chuckle—at least hopefully since this was all in good fun—even as you suffered the effects of a prolonged winter. Everyone has off days, even groundhogs. Of course, when you just have one job to do  on one particular day, it’s preferable not to mess it up…