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Legal Blog Watch

Tap into the legal community's daily buzz with the e-mail version of's blog, Legal Blog Watch.

Updated: 2013-06-25T15:51:55-04:00


Use Hyperlinks, Don't 'Bitch-Slap' -- and Other Tips from a 'Cranky' Federal Judge


The legal blogosphere is taking note of an amusing new guide to legal writing, courtesy of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Kopf and his entertaining blog, Hercules and the Umpire. (Hat tip: Lawyerist) Kopf, who joined the short list of judge-bloggers earlier this year, made waves back in 2008 with an irreverent Top 10 style critique of the U.S. Supreme Court's sentencing decisions, published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. Kopf took on the high court again this April in a blog post titled "The frequent irrelevancy of the Supreme Court." Now he's back to the Top 10 format with some words of wisdom for attorneys submitting briefs to him and to "other all-knowing beings who ascend the federal trial bench, both literally and figuratively." Here's a sampling of Kopf's "Top ten legal writing hints when the audience is a cranky federal trial judge" (some of which he illustrates with links to relevant Urban Dictionary definitions and YouTube videos): Unless you are retrograde … or the judge won't allow it, hyperlink to cases and citations to the record. Remember, 9 out of 10 times a law clerk -- not the trial judge -- is the only...

'Terroristic' Tattoo Spells Trouble for Minn. Man


The Pioneer Press (via ABA Journal) has the story of a Minnesota man who was sentenced to probation this week after pleading guilty to making a terroristic threat against a police officer -- a threat that took the unusual form of a tattoo of a pig. Twenty-one-year-old Antonio Jenkins Jr., reputedly a member of the Bloods street gang, was charged after he posted a photo on Facebook of a tattoo on his bicep that depicted a person holding a gun to the mouth of a pig. The Pioneer Press reports that, according to the criminal complaint, the pig was "wearing a police hat and uniform with a patch on the right shoulder with 'Mpls. 8230' and a nameplate with the name 'J. Seidel' under the patch. Below the 'J. Seidel' were the words 'F--- the police.'" The message was allegedly intended to threaten Minneapolis police officer Jeffrey Seidel, who works in the gang investigation team. In a caption on the photo, Jenkins wrote, "My tattoo iz a pig get'n his brains blew out." The criminal complaint noted that 18 people had "Liked" the photo on Facebook. In November 2012, Jenkins was charged with making a terroristic threat for the benefit...

Tenth Circuit Gives Man License to Sue Over 'Rain God'


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has revived a lawsuit by an Oklahoma man who objects to the image of a Native American sculpture on the state's license plates because its message conflicts with his Christian beliefs. The Associated Press reports that the court decided that Keith Cressman "can sue the state over its Indian 'rain god' license plate, ruling that the depiction of a noted sculpture on 3 million license plates could be interpreted as a state endorsement of a religion." (Turtle Talk, the blog for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law, has the filings in the case.) Oklahoma's license plate, unveiled in 2008, depicts artist Allan Houser's sculpture "Sacred Rain Arrow." According to Cressman's suit, the sculpture is based on a Native American legend and shows an Apache warrior shooting an arrow into the sky so that the "rain god" or "spirit world" would answer prayers for rain in a time of drought. Cressman claims in his suit that the sculpture tells "the story of a Native American who believes in sacred objects, multiple deities, the divinity of nature, and the ability of humans to use sacred objects...

Law Firm's Viral TV Ad Leads to $1 Million Suit


An actress who starred in a popular advertisement for a New York personal injury law firm has filed a suit alleging that the agency that produced the spot licensed the ad and her image to law firms around the country without her knowledge and without compensating her. She's seeking close to $1 million in compensation from the agency and the other law firms that licensed the ad. Elena Aroaz appeared in a 2009 advertisement for Trolman, Glaser & Lichtman that spoofed gold-digging personal injury plaintiffs. The ad, called "Machete," featured Aroaz sitting at a table discussing an injury in grave tones, with mournful piano music as the background score. "The pain was excruciating," she says. "It's like I had this huge, really sharp machete chopping down on me every time I tried to move." Soon, the nature of the wound is revealed: "It was the worst paper cut I ever had. They made that paper way too sharp." Aroaz raises one index finger with a green bandage on it, saying, "Someone has to pay." Text on the screen reads, "There are some cases even we can't win." As the contact information for the law firm appears, a voiceover says: "If...

Fifth Circuit Finds Breastfeeding Is 'Related' to Pregnancy


While several new health studies concerning breastfeeding are making the rounds, the topic has also been generating headlines in the employment law context, thanks to a recent Fifth Circuit ruling (as reported in Texas Lawyer's Tex Parte Blog) involving the firing of a woman because she wanted to use a breast pump at work. According to the opinion, when Donnicia Venters spoke to her boss at Houston Funding about using a breast pump at work upon her return from maternity leave, her request was met with a long pause, then the news that her position had been filled. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a Title VII action against Houston Funding, alleging the company had discriminated against Venters based upon her sex. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes (who has recently made news and caught bloggers' attention for allegedly racially insensitive comments) granted summary judgment in favor of Houston Funding, finding that Venters' firing did not constitute sex discrimination because "lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition." While "cramping, dizziness, and nausea" are conditions related to pregnancy, Hughes wrote, lactation does not make that list. After Venters gave birth, the opinion stated, "she was no longer pregnant...

A 'Judge Smash' in Sentencing Dispute With Prosecutors


It's not unusual for judges and prosecutors to fail to see eye-to-eye on criminal sentencing issues. But it might just be a first for a federal judge to send an email comparing herself to a comic book character known for morphing into a large, green, superhuman "Hulk," and warn lawyers in the U.S. Attorney's Office, "You won't like me when I'm angry." The email has, not surprisingly, garnered some interest -- as has the resignation of the prosecutor who received it. The Des Moines Register (via the Sentencing Law and Policy blog and ABA Journal) has the story of the clash between U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose and prosecutors in the Southern District of Iowa U.S. Attorney's Office over sentencing in several criminal cases. Rose, who was confirmed as a federal judge last September in a U.S. Senate vote of 89-1, is the country's youngest federal judge at 40 years old. She had been a longtime federal prosecutor and served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa before her appointment to the bench. The Des Moines Register reviewed recently unsealed emails sent between Rose and federal prosecutors concerning the case of a convicted drug dealer named Bryan...

Father Seeking Visitation Rights Wears Nazi Uniform to Court


Last week we discussed an Illinois judge who, after being arrested on drug and firearms charges, ended up at a court hearing wearing cut-off jean shorts and a T-shirt bearing the slogan, "Bad is my middle name." Not the most appropriate ensemble, to be sure, but here (via Jonathan Turley) is the story of a litigant who took the concept of questionable courtroom attire to the extreme. A New Jersey man attended a family court hearing this week wearing a Nazi uniform. Yikes. On the other hand, the outfit did coordinate nicely with his Hitler-esque mustache and swastika tattoos. Heath Campbell and his family gained notoriety in December 2008, when employees of a ShopRite supermarket refused to spell out the name of their 3-year-old son on a birthday cake. That name: Adolf Hitler Campbell. Heath Campbell said at at the time that he named his son after Adolf Hitler because "no one else in the world would have that name." Indeed. He said that those who would object to such a moniker "need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did." And the Campbells stuck to the same...

Warnings Aside, Parents Still Want Their Kids to Grow Up to Be Lawyers


A new survey from has been making the rounds on law blogs this week, due to its somewhat surprising revelation that, even amid seemingly constant headlines about the shaky job market greeting today's law grads, nearly two-thirds of parents hope that their children will pursue careers in the law. The survey results were based on 1,001 phone interviews conducted in English and Spanish. Of survey respondents with children in their household, 64 percent said they hope their kids will grow up to be lawyers. Respondents were also asked about whether they would like to have a lawyer as a son- or daughter-in law. A majority of mothers surveyed -- 55 percent -- liked the idea, while future father-in-laws were less keen, with only 38 percent saying they were interested in having their child marry a lawyer. "Being a lawyer means being a respected professional, and that's something that parents want for their children," Larry Bodine, editor-in-chief of, is quoted as saying. “Despite the tough economy facing the next generation, it's exciting to note that nearly two-thirds of parents would be happy with a law degree in their child’s future." But some commentators find the results more alarming than...

When Complaining About Your Job on Facebook Can Get You Fired


Employment law blogs, including Porter Wright's Employer Law Report and Ogletree Deakins' Employment Law Matters, have been discussing an Advice Memorandum recently released by the National Labor Relations Board that addresses when an employee may be fired over negative comments about an employer on social media, and when such messages constitute "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act. The case involves private Facebook group messages written between current and former employees of Tasker Healthcare Group (doing business as Skinsmart Dermatology). During a group message discussion initiated to organize a social event, one employee took the opportunity to express some dissatisfaction with her supervisor and with the company in general. Among other comments, the employee (who the NLRB memo refers to as the Charging Party) wrote that the company is "full of shit ... They seem to be staying away from me, you know I don't bite my [tongue] anymore, FUCK … FIRE ME … MAKE my day …" No other current employees participated in that part of the conversation, but later on, one employee did write that "it's getting bad" at Tasker and that "it's just annoying as hell. It's always some dumb shit going on." The morning...

'Bad' Judge Embroiled in Drug Scandal After Colleague's Death


An Illinois judicial scandal involving drugs, death and some truly unfortunate courtroom attire has been gaining steam this week. An arraignment was held Tuesday for St. Clair County probation worker James Fogarty, who is accused of selling cocaine to two county judges, Joseph Christ and Michael Cook. Christ died in March while on a hunting trip with Cook at a lodge owned by Cook's family. A coroner on Friday confirmed that Christ's death was due to cocaine intoxication. Christ, a longtime prosecutor, was sworn in as a judge only 10 days before his death. He was 49 years old and a father of six. Cook, a 43-year-old St. Clair County circuit judge, has not been charged in connection with Christ's death, but was arrested last week on charges of heroin possession and using a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Cook resigned from the bench on Wednesday, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. A letter submitted by his attorney stated that Cook "was away in treatment." Cook pleaded not guilty at a hearing Friday, appearing in court wearing cut-off jean shorts and a T-shirt bearing the message "Bad is my middle name." That was apparently...