opinions, everybody's got one...
Friday, November 30, 2001
The Social Security Administration keeps track of the names of applicants, and has released information about the popularity of first names for different time periods, on the web.
The Global Positioning System is run by the U.S. military and controlled by the government. It is the only functioning network system of its type, and is used by other governments. It is managed by a multi-agency board, and run by the Department of Defense. A number of other governments see the American standard that this system brings as an American monopoly, and are working hard to develop systems of their own.
The American Bar Association has published a stance on judicial vacancies, and they would like to see those filled as quickly as possible. They begin this position statement with the following paragraph:
Protracted delays in the judicial nomination and/or confirmation process weaken the federal judiciary by depriving it of the judges needed to resolve disputes expeditiously. Protracted delays also contribute to dangerously crowded dockets, suspended civil case dockets, overburdened judges, and understaffed courts.
Message Boards and Libel
There are many people who write messages in forums and message boards on the internet, and often those messages are opinions rather than published facts or news articles meant for dissemination to the world at large. But sometimes the topics discussed become statements about people or companies that may be untrue, or cast the subject of the conversation in a negative manner.
Large corporations have taken to visiting message boards, and to using software that allows them to find online statements about their companies. Sometimes the statements can appear to be so harmful as to threaten the company's reputation. Sometimes the statements might impact negatively on the corporation's value in the stock market. The 'Lectric Law Library's definition of libel is:
Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; The defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, The material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published; distinguished from slander.
In California, a court of appeals has just issued a ruling regarding statements made in message boards about a public company. The court decided that that the message board was a "public forum," the statements of the people posting were opinions of shareholders and not competitors, and that the matters discussed were an "issue of public interest." This means that a California statute protected the statements from action against the company.
Be warned, this ruling is limited to certain types of statements and to California. A court in another state, or with somewhat different facts might make a completely different ruling. This matter will probably be appealed to the California Supreme Court, so this isn't the last word on postings in message boards in California.
Thursday, November 29, 2001
Court Ordered Home Video Cameras
Privacy concerns can be seen in many places on the internet. There are watchdog groups online like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center which provide a great amount of information about pending legal actions and concerns centering on privacy. Protecting your identity, your online habits, your credit, and credit card information are all valid considerations, and these groups are working hard to try and find safeguards for that type of information.
But what about our privacy offline? How about a map of Manhattan that can help you plan a trip through the streets along a route with the least amount of surveillance cameras? There is one online:
"iSee is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments. With iSee, users can find routes that avoid these cameras - paths of least surveillance - allowing them to walk around their cities without fear of being 'caught on tape' by unregulated security monitors."
Then again, how do you avoid cameras if a judge orders them placed within your house? A divorced couple in New Jersey, involved in a visitation dispute, with allegations of abuse, have had a Family Court Judge order that video cameras be placed in every room of their homes, except the bathrooms. The request was made by one of the parties asking that the other have video installed. The other party agreed on the condition that both houses get wired for video. The Judge agreed to the request, and then when the original party tried to back out of the agreement, the Judge refused to let them. The cameras have not been installed yet.
Is this an invasion of privacy? Or is it a legitimate method of insuring that a child doesn't get harmed? The answer will come from a New Jersey appellate court judge.
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Lost and Found
Most people don't think about a state running a lost and found department. However, in a good number of instances, the Legislature of the State of Delaware have passed bills into law that have had the State holding on to property unclaimed by others. The Delaware State Escheator (at the Delaware Division of Revenue) is responsible for maintaining and safeguarding property that has been abandoned by its owner for an extended period of time. You may ask what types of abandoned property, and what do you mean by escheator?
Here are some examples that can be found on the Unclaimed Property page of the Division of Revenue.
With some of these examples, it's easy to see how some property might go without being missed and remain unclaimed.
The word escheat comes from the time of feudalism, when a person was granted a hold, or lease on land by the owner of the land in exchange for the return of future "knightly" duties or occasional payment. The granting of the property was known as the giving of a fief, or hold on the property for the life of the person receiving it, and was often transferred to the heirs of the property holder. The word escheat means that the fief is returned to the lord when the property holder has no heir.
The word "escheator" is meant to refer to the person holding the property when there seems to be no one to claim the property, and the original owner cannot be reached. In many instances the original owner is known. The Division of Revenue page includes an index to pages where property owners' names are listed. You might want to take a peak and see if you or someone you know is on one of those lists. The State needs help in keeping its lost and find department to a minimum size.
There is also a link on the Delaware page to a States' National Database. Good luck.
- William Slawski
Monday, November 26, 2001
One of the best articles I've come across on unsolicited commercial email (aka spam) is from the pages of the United Kingdom based Journal of Information Law, and Technology. Spam Law for the Internet is written by W K Khong (a lecturer at the Multimedia University in Malaysia), and is in-depth, informative, and up-to-date. The abstract from the article reads as follows:
- William Slawski
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a Paralegal with a Law Firm that specializes in Plaintiff?s Personal Injury. Recently a Client was involved in an accident with an independent trucker on I-95. We are having difficulty in effecting Service of Process. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: Yes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sponsors a website. This web site offers information regarding license plates, insurance coverage, addresses, insurance policy numbers, DOT, and Motor Carrier numbers, and ?SafeStat? results. "SafeStat" is information on previous accidents and roadside inspections. Contact the Insurance Carrier for additional information regarding the driver. The defendants can then be served via DE Title X, ss 3112 by serving the Secretary of State in Dover. Don't forget to contact the Division of Corporations to see if the trucking company is incorporated in DE. Most of them are?..
Question: Our client feels he is under surveillance. What should he do?
Answer: First and foremost, the client should cease any behaviors that might cause adverse momentum to his case. Investigators conduct surveillance in an effort to document the activities of an individual during a specific time frame. Most lawyers will advise a client of the most probable time for surveillance. During that time period, stay alert. Exit, and enter, the shopping center, place of employment, and your residence differently each time. If you spot someone tailing you, call the police. Inform the dispatcher you are experiencing fear, and alarm, and request contact from a Police Officer. Insist on a Police Report. Report all suspicious vehicles you observe in close proximity to your residence as well. Although Title 24, ss 1302, allows a Private Investigator to conduct surveillance on you, Police Contact really puts a hamper on the assignment. It is even more insulting when you have to advise your client you?ve been "burned?.
Question: I work for a Law Firm that does a large part of their business in the Insurance Subrogation field. Occasionally I receive calls from Defendants stating they have filed for Bankruptcy. I hear so many stories, is their any way to verify this?
Answer: Utilize the internet. Try this to access the District of Delaware?s United States Bankruptcy Court. Use the Web Pacer to locate the individual's name. You can also search by Case Number. Your other option is to go to the Court. It is located at 824 N. Market Street on the 5th floor. The Court provides three computer systems for your use. The Clerks are especially helpful. All information, including Docket Sheets can be downloaded, and printed. Be sure to stop by my office for a cup of coffee. I?m on the 4th floor!
Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator, Michael specializes in Insurance Defense.
He invites your questions to
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
Or you may e-mail him at DEIrish5@aol.com.