Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette3 Comments on Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker laid out their visions for the future of mass transportation in Milwaukee at today’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha program at the Law School. (A podcast is here.) The transportation issue invites vision statements in part because $91.5 million in federal funds are set aside for mass transit in Milwaukee and in part because Milwaukee’s once prized transit system is badly broken. Without an agreement between Barrett and Walker, the federal funds are unlikely to be released. But an agreement between those leaders will be hard to come by: the mayor looks to cities that are growing and thriving and sees rail service as a key component of the local transportation strategy; the county exec looks at Milwaukee’s deteriorating bus system and wants those federal funds to shore up and improve county bus transportation.

Where Barrett sees local rail service as a critical economic development tool that can invigorate the region, Walker sees inflexible routes and minimal practical benefit. Where Walker sees improved bus service as a reliable system for moving workers and students, Barrett sees a county bus system that is in a “death spiral” which cannot be fixed just with more buses. Continue reading “Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee”

Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment LawLeave a comment» on Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled

Mlblogo That’s the idea about this campaign by the U.S. Department of Labor and Major League Baseball.

Together, they are launching the ‘PITCH’ campaign to encourage businesses to hire people with disabilities. Former Major Leaguer Jim Abbott, famous in baseball history for being the first pitcher to make it to the majors pitching with only one hand, will be serving as campaign spokesman. Continue reading “Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled”

Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

Posted on Categories Popular Culture & Law, Religion & LawLeave a comment» on Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

One of my guilty pleasures – and the guilt is substantial – is the animated series “South Park.” I fully admit that the show is occasionally offensive and often tacky, but the laughs are worth it.

Everyone doesn’t agree. Via the indispensable Religion Clause Blog, we learn that authorities in the Basammy region of Russia want to ban the show, citing an episode called “Mr. Hanky’s Christmas Classics,” which contains some faux Christmas carols (on which I will not elaborate) that certainly might offend certain religious sensibilities (although it is hardly the most offensive bit of the South Park library). The effort apparently rests upon a 2006 law that prohibits “the abasement of national dignity” and “inciting religious and national hatred.” Continue reading “Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!””

Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Tort Law, Wisconsin Civil LitigationLeave a comment» on Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law

My colleague Ralph Anzivino has a helpful new article that explores the fine line between contract law and tort law: The Economic Loss Doctrine: Distinguishing Economic Loss from Non-Economic Loss, 91 Marq. L. Rev. 1081 (2008). As developed by Wisconsin and many other states, the economic loss doctrine indicates that purely economic losses are recoverable in contract, while non-economic losses are recoverable in tort. The difficulty lies in distinguishing economic from non-economic, particularly with respect to property damage resulting from product failure. (Imagine, for instance, a defective garage door opener that causes a garage door to close on the owner’s car.) Continue reading “Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law”

Breaking News: Harry Potter Lexicon Found Infringing

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law1 Comment on Breaking News: Harry Potter Lexicon Found Infringing

Judge Patterson in the Southern District of New York issued his opinion today in the Harry Potter Lexicon case, which involved an attempt by the defendants to convert their very popular website into print form and sell it. J.K. Rowling and the studio behind the Harry Potter films sued, and the court held that the Lexicon was not protected by fair use.

I’ve only had time to skim the decision, but my quick take is that a district court in the same circuit that decided the Seinfeld Aptitude Test case (Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publishing Group, 150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998)) would have had a hard time finding fair use here. If multiple choice questions based on “Seinfeld” infringe on the show, then encyclopedia entries based on Harry Potter probably do, too. That’s not an endorsement, just a syllogism.

How Does One Punish a Fiction?

Posted on Categories Tort Law3 Comments on How Does One Punish a Fiction?

Having spent a good deal of time over the past several years studying all the various nuances of punitive damages law [John J. Kircher & Christine M. Wiseman, Punitive Damages: Law & Practice (2000 & Supp 2008)], questions still remain unanswered: How can a legal fiction like a corporation engage in egregious conduct so as to justify imposition of punitive damages against it? How does one punish and deter a corporate entity.

Most jurisdictions do allow punitive damages to be awarded against business entities for the wrongful conduct of their employees or agents. Some are very liberal, allowing punitives to be awarded against the business simply if the agent’s conduct was sufficient to make the business liable for the compensatory damages occasioned by the act. In others additional proof is required. The principal must direct the agent to perform the egregious act; the principal must subsequently approve that act; or, the agent who performed the act must have been in a “managerial capacity” at the time that act was performed. Obviously, with a corporation, the one doing any of those three things must be a human being.

Imposing punitive damages upon a corporation does not punish or deter the human being who engaged in the egregious conduct, it merely renders such a person anonymous. It is akin to requiring a liability insurer to pay the punitive damages resulting from the wrongful conduct of its insured. But some jurisdictions allow that as well. The life of the law is certainly not logic!

The Final Frontier . . . for Law?

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Marquette’s faculty workshop series continued today with a terrific presentation by Joanne Gabrynowicz of the University of Mississippi School of Law. Joanne, who directs the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law, brought us up to speed on the major legal challenges facing space tourism (“informed consent is the issue”) and other persistent difficulties relating to the commercial use of space (e.g., allocation of rights and responsibilities between public and private sectors). Joanne’s blog looks like a great resource for anyone interested in following these issues.

A U.K. Lesson: Increased Maternity Rights Diminish Job Prospects for Women?

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law1 Comment on A U.K. Lesson: Increased Maternity Rights Diminish Job Prospects for Women?

I’m not buying what this article in the U.K. Daily Telegraph seems to be selling:

Employers may stop giving jobs to women because the cost of maternity leave and temp cover is set to double, legal experts have warned . . . .

New rules mean that female staff due to give birth from next month onwards must receive job perks such as paid holiday, childcare vouchers and gym membership for a full year rather than six months.

Companies will be liable for sex discrimination claims if they refuse to give the same benefits to women throughout 12 months of maternity leave.

Continue reading “A U.K. Lesson: Increased Maternity Rights Diminish Job Prospects for Women?”

Mandatory Meetings in the Workplace

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law1 Comment on Mandatory Meetings in the Workplace

Paul Secunda takes on Wal-Mart in this new commentary for the Legal Times. Along with coauthors Melissa Hart and Marcia McCormick, he criticizes recent mandatory employee meetings at Wal-Mart that have allegedly pushed employees away from supporting the Democratic presidential nominee. They urge other states to follow the lead of New Jersey in adopting a Freedom from Employer Intimidation Act, which makes it unlawful for any employer to force its employees to attend employer-sponsored meetings whose purpose is to discuss the employer’s opinions on religious and political matters.

Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, U.S. Supreme Court1 Comment on Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent

In June, the Supreme Court offered its’ latest pronouncement on the right of criminal defendants to represent themselves in court.  The Court first recognized this constitutional right in 1975 in Faretta v. California, a case that I like to present in my Criminal Procedure course as one of the few instances in which the Supreme Court has given any real weight to the dignitary interests of criminal defendants (which are usually subordinated in criminal procedure to competing objectives, such as judicial economy and reliable fact-finding).  I think the Court was right that it is profoundly demeaning for the state to force a lawyer on an unwilling defendant, and then authorize the lawyer to decide how the defendant’s story will be presented to the jury.  (I discussed this point at greater length in this essay a few years ago.)  Yet, the Court’s post-Faretta decisions have generally worked to diminish the scope of the right to self-representation, and the most recent (Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S.Ct. 2379 (2008)) is no exception. Continue reading “Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent”

It’s Hypocrisy All the Way Down

Posted on Categories Political Processes & Rhetoric5 Comments on It’s Hypocrisy All the Way Down

So says a wonderfully titled post on Prawfsblog by Matt Brodie. The point is that much of our political discourse is given over to charges of hypocrisy. We wrap ourselves into knots to be able to say that those we don’t agree with have been inconsistent. Anyone who even casually follows political blogs has read the hackneyed “pot, meet kettle” so often as to wish to never see or hear it ever again.

Why do we do this? My own view flows from  two observations. The first is that our society has altered the former balance between the perceived value of personal authenticity in the sense of following your own lights and the virtue of conforming to a set of standards that originates outside yourself. We have moved toward a greater appreciation of the former. This is not to argue that we have given ourselves over to a radical moral relativism, only that our discourse had shifted in a way that charges of hypocrisy have a particular salience. Continue reading “It’s Hypocrisy All the Way Down”

Do People Who Investigate Websites Need P.I. Licenses in All 50 States?

Posted on Categories Computer Law, Legal Practice2 Comments on Do People Who Investigate Websites Need P.I. Licenses in All 50 States?

MediaSentry Logo

The techie blogosphere is abuzz with the news that Michigan amended its private investigator licensing laws in May to add “computer forensics” to the list of activities that require a P.I. license in Michigan. This may not sound like big news, but it raises the possibility that MediaSentry, a company that gathers information on peer-to-peer filesharers for use in the RIAA’s lawsuits against online infringers, may be violating the law in several states. Given the general antipathy to the RIAA among the technorati, suddenly a large number of bloggers are interested in the arcane details of P.I. licensing requirements.

But the issues raised by the law go well beyond the RIAA lawsuits, and potentially affect any investigation of online misbehavior. Any lawsuit against an anonymous online individual begins with an attempt to identify that person. Furthermore, the definition of “computer forensics” in the Act is so broad that it includes printing out a web page for use in a lawsuit. Attorneys need to pay attention here too: the Michigan law exempts attorneys, but only if they are “admitted to practice in this state.” And other states have similar laws. So do you need a P.I. license or a bar admission in all 50 states before you can sue that defamatory blog poster?

Continue reading “Do People Who Investigate Websites Need P.I. Licenses in All 50 States?”