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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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Posts Tagged ‘legal news’

Thanks A Lot

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


Much like the indomitable Esther Smith, there is plenty out there that I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate. At the top of the list right now (because #1 will always and forever be Buffalo Winters, ugh) is whoever swiped Mark Twain’s cemetery plaque.  (Sidebar: whoever you are, give it back!) Back in the day, before I knew that lake effect snow and thundersnow were actual things and people let Samuel Clemens rest in peace, the #1 on thing on the list was writing the dreaded thank you note. Thank you notes took all the fun out of getting presents. Much like how wishing someone a happy birthday doesn’t count until one does it on Facebook, one hasn’t really thanked a person until one has drafted a note doing so. It was agony because that thank you note couldn’t just say “thanks” and be done with it. Oh no. It had to be personalized and it had to mean it.

Somehow—and I’m really not sure how, so much thanks to the Legal Skills Prof Blog for its post—I missed out on the saga of one Joan Orie Melvin. Former state Supreme Court Justice Melvin was busted for using state staffers to campaign for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. (She wasn’t successful in 2003, but won the election in 2009.) Melvin wasn’t the only one facing the music—it was a family affair with her two sisters also punished for participating, with one serving 2 ½ years in prison while the other was under house arrest for a year. When she was convicted in 2013, Melvin was facing three years of house arrest, two years of probation, working in a soup kitchen three days a week, and—wait for it—writing letters of apology to around 600 judges and former staffers. Those letters had to be “personalized and written by her” although there was no specification that they had to be hand written. Oh and did I mention that those letters were initially supposed to be written “on pictures of herself in handcuffs”? (After an appeal, the Superior Court decided that the letters didn’t have to be on the pictures after all.) Dramatic right? But wait, there’s more.

In December 2014, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s Attorney Newsletter retracted an earlier report that stated Melvin had completed her letters. Turns out that Melvin’s efforts weren’t “satisfactory” and had to be redone. (Apparently the letters “all had a generic salutation to “members of the Pennsylvania Judiciary” [and] looked as though they came off a copier….”) Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus also added, “The attempt to have the defendant have any kind of humility has failed.” Much like how my younger self had to turn over any thank you drafts to a higher authority (my mother), Melvin will have to show hers to Judge Nauhaus before they can be sent and her sentence completed. Way harsh.

The Fury of Finals

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


Finals is a magical time of year. Sorry did I say magical? What I meant to say that finals is horrible, stressful, hysteria-inducing time of year that makes you forget that there was ever joy and happiness. (Of course, the light at the end of the horrific tunnel is that I am able to get good parking during winter break, but I know students aren’t as excited for me as I am.) But students aren’t the only ones that sometimes lose it during finals season. I give you Exhibit B-School Prof.

Harvard Business School Professor Ben Edelman, J.D., just wanted some Chinese food. He ordered and then found out that he had been overcharged. Some might say that his reaction (emailed threats of litigation) was a bit over the top considering it was the difference of $4, but Edelman was standing on principle (also the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute).  Though one law prof says that Edelman might have been interpreting the law incorrectly. **Update** Edelman has apologized.

Maybe Edelman was just having a bad day. Maybe someone took his favorite study spot. Or maybe that girl sitting in the next aisle over just wouldn’t stop clicking her pen. Or maybe finals had nothing at all to do with it and he’s just that guy. Though I do give a hats off to him for reminding the world that there is a non-music definition of the world treble. So in conclusion, gentle readers, if you are amidst the fury of finals, I advise you to take a breath, remember that it’ll be over soon/your librarian will be able to get decent parking in mere weeks, and don’t sweat the metaphorical 4 bucks.

Knock It Off With The Knockoffs

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


If there is one piece of my wardrobe that I consider a staple, hands down it’s my chucks. If you need to ask what color, clearly you don’t recall my philosophy from the Law Library’s fashion exhibit. Generations have enjoyed the classic sneakers, and they even managed to work their way into pop culture (perhaps you had the eye of the tiger and noticed them on a certain boxer from Philly during an iconic training montage). With such a history, you can image that Converse is none too pleased that there are other companies edging onto its turf and is now looking to KO the knock-offs in court. (See what I did there?)

On Tuesday, Converse filed 22 separate lawsuits that accused 31 companies of trademark infringement.  You may recall some of the intricate footwork required when Christina Louboutin tried to trademark its red sole  or the Beyonce/Jay-Z fail to lock down the name Blue Ivy. Converse claims that its trademarked designs include the black stripe on the mid-soles as well as the “logo-crested heel bumpers.” Converse tweeted out a diagram explaining what “makes a Chuck a Chuck” on October 14.  On top of the 22 lawsuits it filed in the United States District Court in Brooklyn, Converse is also looking overseas since it filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission.

Best of luck, Converse. You’re looking at a Drago of a challenge.

Have Flag, Will Claim

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


All I have to say after skimming the news this Tuesday morning is that I clearly was not loved enough as a child. Back in the day when I announced my intentions to become a princess, all I got was laughter. But when seven year old Emily Heaton wanted to become a princess, her father tracked down a disputed tract of land and claimed it for his own kingdom.  Yep you heard me. One little girl in Virginia indicated her desire to become a princess and within a year her father kinda sorta made it happen.

Now all you international law people out there know that there’s more to creating a kingdom or country than following the Eddie Izzard method of country claiming. So before you go off trying to earn your #1 Mom or Dad titles, you might want to pop on over to the Law Library to check out some of our international law sources to make sure you cross those t’s and dot those i’s before establishing your dynasty. Might I suggest consulting the Encyclopedia of Public International Law  (it’s only available on site) or one of our international law study aids (such as Murphy’s Principles of International Law)? As one quoted expert pointed out,  diplomatic recognition is kind of a big deal and should probably be worked out before one goes ordering new letterhead. In other news, I’m currently working on my own flag so I can claim the reference area as my own fiefdom and become the Empress of All Knowledge.

The Sound of Sort-of Silence

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |

Calm Act

Lately it seems like everyone and his mother is espousing some version of the Brits’ Keep Calm and Carry On paraphernalia. But for the last week, calm has taken a whole new meaning this side of the pond. Since December 13, the CALM  Act has been in effect. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act was passed in 2011 (with a one year grace period) to keep television commercials from being louder than the programming they accompany.  The Federal Communications Commission put together some information if you want to know more.

Thanks to CALM, no longer do you have to lunge for the mute button as soon as your show hits a commercial break. Of course it does mean that you more likely to sleep through a show now…

Up Social Media Creek Without a Paddle

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! With an app recently pulled for possible COPPA violations by he? SpongeBob SquarePants!

This past Monday, the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that SpongeBob Diner Dash, a free app featuring the popular Nickelodeon character SpongeBob SquarePants, is in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA was enacted in 2000 to protect children under the age of thirteen from privacy violations online. The law contains marketing restrictions, privacy policy standards, and parental consent requirements for any website or online services targeted towards or used by children under the age of thirteen. Today the FTC announced amendments for COPPA that will bring the twelve-year-old law up to speed to today’s social media.

According to the CDD’s complaint, the app collected children’s email addresses and other personal information without requiring children to ask their parents first, and violates COPPA’s marketing restrictions by using push notifications. Nickelodeon temporarily pulled the app from the Apple and Google Play stores while it investigated the complaint. But, today, the Nickelodeon resubmitted the app, claiming that it was unfairly accused of COPPA violations.

Online privacy—particularly with social media—has been a constant concern, but really reached fever-pitch over the past couple of weeks. First there was the Facebook hysteria over copyright protections. Then, just a couple of days ago, Instagram learned what happens when a sleeping giant is rudely awoken with an announcement that advertisers will gain more access to photos on its site. In case you haven’t heard, the results aren’t pretty, with National Geographic, the hacktivist group Anonymous, and countless individual users calling for a boycott. In response to the outrage, Instagram pulled a Qwickster-esque turnaround and promised to remove the offending policy language, but even that has not smothered the fire.  It seems that society is now attuned to privacy issues online and more than willing to read the fine print.