Delaware Law Office
of Larry D. Sullivan, Esquire

A Weblog?
The column to the right, is a news/editorial/comment column. It is a weblog, also know as a blog.

The weblog thing comes from www.blogger.com, which offers us a convenient way to manage the posting, administratively. You don't really need to know all of that, but we have included this explanation so that you won't be confused by the term "blog".

Another important topic here is that since the column includes editorials and comments, you can be sure that we are just exercising our free speech rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and as not yet abridged by a reactionary opportunistic vocal minority.

opinions, everybody's got one...
If you would like your opinion published here, forward it for consideration and editorial review to: info@delawoffice.com.
Or add a comment. Comments by: YACCS

We encourage the exchange of responsible ideas.

Friday, May 10, 2002

 
amazing spider-man artist
The artist behind the Amazing Spider-Man is engaged in a marathon this weekend. A 48 hour sketch-athon that has him alternating between Planet Hollywood and Bar/Code Galactic Circus, drawing pictures of Spider-Man, and signing them, for a fee.

John Romita, Jr.'s 2-year-old niece needs money to pay for chemotherapy, and the man holding the pencils is trying to help out with the tools of his trade. Jordan Atherton was diagnosed with cancer late last year, and is undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants after surgery last November.

The "marathon benefit sketch event" would be a Guinness record if John Romita, Jr., can break the 48 hour mark. If you're in New York City, you can show your support by visiting one of the locations where he will appear. A number of other artists are showing up to cheer him on, including Scott Hana, Jim Lee, Tim Towsend, and John Romita, Sr. Additional details are available on Romita's web site.

More about his niece, and a link to streaming video of John Romita's weekend marathon can be found on a web site named Saving Baby Jordan. It is also possible to donate to the fund online. (via metafilter)


 
technology in the courts
Ernie Svenson of Ernie the Attorney and Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage both recently wrote about Texas Judge Curt Henderson and his webpage. While the Judge's site is not funded by the State of Texas, it enables attorneys to save time and money by using information provided on the page. It's an excellent example that other judges might want to look over.

Judge Henderson's web site is featured in an article at law.com entitled E-savvy Judge Ups Courtroom E-fficiency which mentions that the web site is only half the story. Judge Henderson is taking advantage of a number of other technological advances to make judicial proceedings more effective. These include:
  • powerpoint presentations in the courtroom

  • displaying evidence on a screen through a projector known as an elmo

  • conference calls by phone for some arguments in civil cases

  • submission of motions by fax

  • proposed orders sent to the judge by email
It's great when a judge is willing to take steps like Judge Henderson has to use this type of technology on a regular basis. To the best of my knowledge, there are no Delaware judges who have a web page like Judge Henderson's. But, a lot of the technology that he is working with is available in Delaware. The Superior Court of Delaware, the highest level trial court in the state, has been working diligently to keep up with technology.

A number of e-courtrooms have been set up which allow digital displays of evidence before the Court through powerpoint and other presentation software. Elmo projectors can be used to show enlarged versions of evidence on a screen. Diagrams drawn by an attorney or witness, on a smartboard, can be saved electronically. Digital audio recording in the courtroom gives attorneys the opportunity to take home cds of the day's proceedings. Live time reporting of a court reporter's transcription permits real-time electronic broadcasting of testimony. A "pink noise" generator can be used to mask the sounds of sidebar deliberations from the jury. Access to the internet, to the state intranet, and to attorneys' virtual private networks can result in remote information being pulled into the courtroom. A judge can contact his or her secretary and law clerk by email without leaving the bench. Instant messaging between stations allows for silent communication between the Judge and the court clerk.

Electronic filing and docketing of documents has been a reality in Delaware for a number of complex litigation cases, involving multiple plaintiffs and defendants in civil matters since 1991. Delaware Courts are looking at software to expand that capability to all cases sometime within the next few years. Electronic scheduling will also be included in that initiative.

Briefing by CD-rom is something that has also been adopted in Superior Court. The major requirement imposed upon attorneys who would file a brief by cd is that "the CD-ROM include imaged or text copies of all legal authorities cited."

The Court also has an automated sentencing order program that allows for orders in criminal cases to be generated in the courtroom almost immediately after the pronouncement of the sentence by the judge. The orders are electronically sent to the Department of Corrections and the probation offices, and the sentencing information is available to police officers in their computer database. A Drug Court Information System allows treatment providers to send their treatment reports to the court electronically.

A number of the e-courtroom tools available to attorneys are being adopted for use slowly. To help along, the University of Delaware has held Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes for attorneys to help them integrate technology into their courtroom presentations. The classes have included a visit to a Superior Court e-courtroom.

Technology is transforming the way the justice system functions, and the way that attorneys practice law. Delaware's future may or may not include judges using their own private web sites in the manner that Judge Henderson has, but it will see many more changes as the courts and attorneys include more technology into the way that they work.


Thursday, May 09, 2002

 
privacy in the national zoo
Interesting news from the National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institute. A request for medical records for a giraffe who died recently was refused on the grounds that the Zoo is protecting the privacy of the animal. The response raises a number of questions, (and the article covering it starts to delve into government secrecy issues outside of the original scope of the article).

How much privacy can an animal in a zoo have? Is the privacy being protected that of the giraffe, or of the people who cared for the giraffe?
Harvard University's Laurence Tribe, who supports the introduction of legislation to permit people or certain groups to legally represent animals subject to abuse, said that the least likely designee to protect an animal's welfare is a zookeeper.

"It is sort of the fox guarding the hen house," Tribe said. "They are clearly the ones whose neglect or mistreatment might be at issue."
When we find ourselves starting to make statements about protecting animals' rights to privacy, shouldn't we begin asking ourselves whether we have a right to hold those animals in zoos?


 
a clearer picture of einstein, or of the fbi?
Some new details about Albert Einstein are emerging from the recesses of history. Details redacted from his FBI record (ny times, reg. req'd) are being filled in. The file is available to the public online.


 
no more cookies?
A cookie is the name of a type of file that can help track a person's travels across a web site. A new technology has been announced that might make cookies obsolete. The use of cookies has made many people browsing the web nervous, and concerned about their privacy rights. This new software may make them even more nervous:
It has, as the features list makes clear, great privacy-invading potential. The "sensors" it uses:
- can be individually customised for any web visitor;
- can collect information rather than return pre-downloaded data.
- can be reconfigured remotely;
- are difficult to detect and delete;
- can be used to block access to sites, documents, data, emails, etc., based on content,
- can be preferentially customised for each user.
The software is not yet quite ready for commercial release. This technology that holds the ability to bring more security and control also appears to hold the promise of more potential abuse, enabling someone to remotely monitor a web site visitor's keystrokes.


 
slots in maryland
A statement made in Maryland during their pending political debate over slot machines that Delawareans should consider:
If Maryland approves slots, it would likely control the machines and keep the lion's share of the proceeds, predicts state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee.

"We won't do what they did in Delaware. I'll tell you that," she said.
I'm certain that many difficult decisions were made when slot machines were brought to Delaware. They are providing much needed revenue to the State. And a private/public partnership seems like a good idea. Chances are also good that slot machines saved the horseracing industry in Delaware. But, is it time to think again about that relationship in light of statements made by politicians from our neighbor state to the south?


 
elcomsoft
The last of the motions to dismiss filed by Russian software manufacturer ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., were denied on Wednesday by the District Court Judge in the case. The company has built software that enables a person to make a copy of an ebook, even though the ebook has technology built into it to stop people from making copies. Such software is illegal in the United States under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The motions argued that the DMCA
was overly vague, violated free speech rights and infringed on the established right to "fair use" of copyrighted material.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a copy of Judge Whyte's 35 page long opinion online. The decision in this case, and in any appeals that may follow it, may be very important when it comes to the balance between a creator's protection under copyright, and the freedom to share ideas under the first amendment.


Wednesday, May 08, 2002

 
unsafe surfing
The scenerio painted in a Salon article entitled The pop-up ad campaign from hell lives up to its name. Malicious spyware, hijacked web surfers, and an internet business with questionable practices, and it all begins from a "family entertainment portal."


 
special domain for doctors, lawyers, and accountants
The .pro domain may become a reality soon. The price for the new domain will be approximately 10 times what most other top-level domains costs. In addition to the name, some additional security features will be available to the holders of .pro domains. These would include encrypted email and a security certificate for the site.
"The bundling of a domain name with a digital security product is a tremendous development in Internet security," Stephen Wu, co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the American Bar Association, said in a statement. "The .pro system will provide a means for professionals to conduct electronic transactions and communications that satisfy electronic signature laws and provide assurances of identity and confidentiality."
After trademark holders, then doctors, lawyers, and accountants get their chance to take domain names. Eventually, architects and other professionals will be allowed to use the suffix.


Tuesday, May 07, 2002

 
appealing red lights
Wilmington's red light camera's have some enforcement problems it seems, from a story in today's Wilmington News Journal. Since 10 cameras were turned on in June of last year, 25,155 tickets were issued. Nearly 14,000 people have paid. A very few people appealed. All 214 people who have appealed their citations have now had their cases dropped. A number of problems came up that caused the hearings of the appeals to be delayed for an extended period of time. In response to the delay, the City has decided to drop the cases against those people.

The article details many of the implementation problems, and some objections to the program overall. It also includes the locations of the cameras. When it comes to traffic control devices like stoplights, safety should be the sole concern. Not revenues. That's an issue that the News Journal raises which I'm glad to see in print. For more on the subject, see House Majority Leader Dick Armey's page on The Truth About Red Light Cameras.


 
point-to-point or walkathon?
This last Sunday, Delaware was host to two different events. One was the Point-to-Point equestrian showcase held on a Dupont estate, drawing 22,000 people to a day of fun in the sun, and the other was a 14,000 person charity walkathon organized by an MBNA charitable foundation. Fortune Magazine has a feature on the timing of the events called Who's the King of Delaware?
Not since Beverly Hills was stormed by hillbillies has the world seen such a clash between the old gentry and the new. Yes, it would be easy to dismiss it as a tempest in a gilded teapot, a mere triviality in a world riven by bloody conflict on three continents. That view would be correct, of course. But then, who can resist the spectacle of a collision between what may be America's original corporate culture--Du Pont--and an upstart, mildly messianic cadre of executives with money and ambition to spare? From the invasion of blue-blood redoubts to the changing face of Wilmington's downtown; from MBNA's growing political brawn to its, well, distinctive sartorial philosophy, the credit card company is shaking the old order in the first state of corporate America.
I missed both events. Delaware really needs something like the sxsw as a counter point to such corporate sponsored events. Anyone interested in working towards one for next year?


 
another look at national id cards
Eric Peters, an automotive columnist for the Washingtom Times weighs in with his perspective on a new piece of legislation introduced into the House of Representatives last week. Why a writer on automobiles? Well, the law doesn't call itself a national identification system. It goes to some ends to distinquish itself from such a system.

What it calls for is biometric information being included on driver's licenses. And a means by which any transaction requiring the use of a driver's license be able to verify the identity of the person involved. This means financial transactions. The information would be kept in a database.
Though they hotly deny that their bill (and companion legislation in the Senate) would create a national-I.D. card that could be used to monitor and track the doings and affairs of every adult American, that's nonetheless exactly what Reps. Moran and Davis have set in motion. Their bill would give the federal government and its minions unprecedented access to information about our daily lives.

Every financial transaction, every trip, each time we produce a driver's license to conduct business would be noted and recorded in a government database. The encrypted microchip would also be used for voter-registration purposes ? perhaps even keeping overt track of our political preferences. Our lives would become an open book for any government snoop or busybody who wants a look-see.

And with the national-ID "smart card" almost certainly being linked-at first, or after Americans get used to the idea ? to our financial lives in every critical respect, there will be very little the government, its myriad agencies (including the IRS), and even "authorized" private-sector contractors won't know about us, or be able to find out.
I'm hardpressed to say how this wouldn't be a national ID system either.


 
u.s. to meet value added taxes
The European Union has passed a law adding a new net tax to be imposed upon US sellers of digitally delivered products such as games, ebooks, subscription-based and pay-per-view radio and television, when these things are consumed by members of the 15 nation block. The law will go into effect in July of 2003. European sellers of such goods and services are already paying the value added taxes (VAT) on sales within the EU. The US government is taking this issue to the World Trade Organization.


 
anti-shoplifting devices more common
Radio-Frequency Identification tags (RFID) are making their way into more products in an effort to cut down on shoplifting. We've seen this type of technology used on cds in music stores for a few years. The tags are being hidden in new places, like the soles of shoes, or the lining of clothes. There's a pretty good section describing "source-tagging" and other anti-shoppinglifting devices on the Howstuffworks pages.


Monday, May 06, 2002

 
pure poetry
The crime logs in the Arcata, California newspaper are a little unique. The news reporter covering them for the last 16 years has a distinct style. For instance, when a number of residents of the city decided to go out for Halloween one year without costumes, or any clothing at all, and were stopped by the police, this is what appeared in the paper:

A half-dozen near-naked dudes
Were out trick-or-treating all nude.
A cop found the lads
Somewhat scantily clad
And sent them away freshly clued.

More, from the Arcata Eye.


Sunday, May 05, 2002

 
law on the large and small screens
Interested in finding out how attorneys feel about the way the legal system is portrayed on TV and in the cinema? If so, visit Picturing Justice, the Online Journal of Law and Popular Culture for articles written by lawyers, law students and teachers, and others. I'll be returning to the site on a regular basis.


 
not happy
Who's bright idea was this, anyway?!


 
washington likes delaware beaches
It should come to no surprise to people from Delaware, who are used to meeting visitors from the nation's capitol, but the Washington Post's coverage of beaches has a lot of people pointing to the sands of the First State. An admittedly unscientific survey asked people from the Washington area which beaches they liked, and why. Delaware showed up well in the results for a number of reasons.

One of them, of course, was that there's no sales tax in the State. Other people pointed to the comparitively undeveloped nature of Delaware's shoreline. Places like Bethany Beach received praise for its small town atmosphere. And, surprisingly, when it comes to food at the beach, Delaware seemed to be an overwhelming favorite place to go to for a meal.


 
taking/giving responsibility
Dogs, guns, driving, and children. Almost everywhere we look in society there is a critical need for adults to take responsibility, and to use it. This morning's article by Al Mascitti is right on. We need to hold people responsible for their actions. Whether it be for loosing a vicious dog on the community or by leaving a firearm unsecured, people must be accountable for the things that they do. We have allowed our society to develop to the point that teachers are afraid to fail children, and children are not afraid to fail. We have fallen down on the job of instilling within our young citizens the need to develop their sense of responsibility, and we have let each of the rest of us down in the process. I am not exactly sure where Al stands on gun control, but I think guns should be controlled by their owners. And irresponsible gun owners (just like irresponsible parents, irresponsible pet owners, and irresponsible drivers) should be held accountable in our courts.








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