opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, November 30, 2002
The Delaware Supreme Court is accepting comments on a proposed rule change that would allow jurors to be questioned by attorneys (and perhaps pro-se litigants) after the case is over, in a supervised setting. Today's News Journal's article portrays several attorneys' views on the subject. Here is another.
I am not convinced that this would be a good idea. I think that when we balance the good that allegedly would come from this as against the appeals chaos that it will inspire, the balance comes out in favor of leaving jurors alone. Furthermore, I think that our system of justice depends heavily upon the privacy of the jury deliberation chamber, and the freedom that the jurors have to express their respective points of view, and share their frank opinions. When we put these jurors in a situation where their deliberations now become part of a public circus, I can smell only disaster.
are you ready for e-stamps?
The United States Postal Service and Microsoft are teaming up to bring us a new service that allows confirmation of the delivery of emails with a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a sender. The news was announced at the Fall Comdex. (link via UnderReported.com) AuthentiDate is the company that would provide the confirmation and authentification services.
Friday, November 29, 2002
privatizing the moon
An Alternet article called The Men Who Sold the Moon looks at private attempts to get into orbit, and onto the moon. Last month, TransOrbital, Inc. became the first private business to be granted permission from the US government to explore, photograph and land on the moon. Their site gives more details on their first three commercial missions -- TrailBlazer, Electra, and Electra II. Sending a message to the moon seems pretty affordable.
guarding the coast
Once upon a time, there were five federal agencies known by the following names: the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service. At different periods in time, these agencies all became part of the US Coast Guard. Seaford Delaware's branch of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary includes a History of the US Coast Guard on their site which explains how these different agencies were united. I learned quite a bit about the history of the nation from this report from the US Coast Guard Historian's Office. The Auxiliary's site also has a lot of information about boating, regulations, and safety on their pages. The Coast Guard is just as busy today as ever. Maybe busier.
who's watching the henhouse?, no, who's on first
New Castle County's ethics soap opera continues. As seen in today's News Journal, the County is attempting to recreate their failed attempt at maintaining an Ethics Commision without correcting the problem that caused it to fail. In short, they either didn't want to adequately fund it or they didn't want it to have sufficient funds to operate effectively. You pick.
A token watchdog is worse than no watchdog at all, at least for our citizens. It would give us the false sense of security of thinking that someone is overseeing the ethics of our county government. So let us think about it. Who would be served by a token Ethics Commission, that is ineffective? The article in the News Journal said that the County Commissioners said that the constituents want to keep the Ethics issues local, rather than turning the process over to the State. Is this true? Are ethics better dealt with by an underfunded body under the direct control and pay of the people they are policing? Remember, time after time we have seen in the news how our county government has been misused and corrupted. Would the State oversight option not be cheaper and more nuetral? Yeah, I can see how we, the constituents opt out of the cheaper better plan and choose the ineffective and more expensive plan. That's just like us.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
We will be spending today, and possibly tomorrow, with our friends and families celebrating all of the positive things that have happened over the past year, so posting here will probably be light. A large part of what we have to give thanks for are the many people who have visited this site, and the Law Office, and whom we have had the good fortune to meet, to work with, to exchange ideas with, and to learn from. Thank you.
We look forward to the coming year, and hope that it brings us all plenty to be thankful for.
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a paralegal in a law firm specializing in plaintiff?s personal injury cases. Our client was involved in a collision on the Delaware Memorial Bridge as she passed through the toll booth. The defendant, in this case, is a New Jersey resident. He was taken into custody by the Delaware River Bay Authority Police immediately after the police officer checked his license.
How do I find out more information about the defendant?
Answer: Start with the drivers license number. A New Jersey drivers license number is 15 digits. A letter, followed by 14 numbers. There are three sets of five digits each, and each set is separated by a single space.
The letter digit is the first letter of the licensee?s last name. The next four digits represent the next four letters in the licensee?s last name. They are in an unpublished DMV code. Every person with the same last name will have the same first five digit set in New Jersey.
The next five-digit set is an unpublished DMV code representing the middle initial and other DMV administrative data. The first two digits of the last five-digit set indicate the licensee?s month and year of birth. Hence, the first two digits will always be 01 through 12, if the licensee is a male, and 51 through 62 if the licensee is female.
NJ DMV adds 50 to the birth months to represent a female gender. The third, and fourth, digits of the final five-digit set represent the year of birth (the same for both gender). The final digit is eye color. 2 is brown, 4 is blue, 5 is hazel, and 6 is green.
Contact NJ DMV in Trenton, N.J. and obtain a certified copy of the defendant?s driving history, and vehicles by name. Also obtain vehicle registration information on the vehicle the defendant was operating at the time of loss.
The driving history will reveal a last known address, and date of birth. The vehicle information will provide you ownership information and the name of the insurance company.
You now have the names, and addresses of all defendants -- the driver, the vehicle owner (negligent entrustment), and the insurance company.
Use your favorite investigative resource (you can call me) to verify the addresses, and obtain other materials relevant to your case. It will be especially interesting to conduct an inquiry regarding criminal records involving the defendant.
Why did the Police Officer take the defendant into custody? Review the Uniform Traffic Collision Report.
Was there a DUI involved? Was the defendant charged with a moving violation? Any witnesses listed on the Report by the Police Officer?
If the accident was especially severe, the fatal accident reconstruction team will also provide a report. This report is conducted on some non-fatal accidents.
Secure recorded statements of all witnesses (driver, passengers, toll collectors, police officer, EMT?s, Fire/Rescue personnel) for future use.
Was either of the vehicles towed? Don?t forget to contact the tow operator. You can?t imagine the things said to a tow truck driver.
Obtain photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles involved in the collision.
Ask the investigator to provide asset/liability information with their report. This will help the attorney decide if they should go after policy limits in extreme cases, or in an asset rich environment, take another approach.
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. He is also a Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA. Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street,
Suite 425, P.O. Box 368,
Or you may e-mail him at DeIrish5@aol.com.
Previous Tricks of the Trade from Michael T. O'Rourke:
October 20, 2002
September 16, 2002
August 25, 2002
May 28, 2002
March 25, 2002
February 25, 2002
January 17, 2002
November 26, 2001
October 23, 2001
September 25, 2001
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
blacklists and the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the agency leading the battle against unwanted and unsolicited commercial emails in the U.S. Washington is interested in the problem. We even have lobbyists joining together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss how to lessen those emails.
News that the FTC has become the first federal agency to turn to email blacklists has a number of people concerned that their rights to access to the government are being infringed. Some companies filtering emails based upon blacklists that they compile from spam reports have been described as overzealous in their attempts to thwart unsolicited commercial email. I appreciate the efforts that many of these companies are making, but there are signs that some of the criticism leveled their way might be warranted. The irony is that a number of messages sent by email to the FTC either reporting spam, or on methods and ideas to fight spam, have been blocked [according to the news reports] by at least one of the blacklists which the FTC is using. This is a technology in its infancy, and it needs time to grow and develop. But, in the mean time, the mail may not be getting through.
I've watched it a couple of times. Will Farrell's life after Saturday Night Live seems to be filled with commercial art. Or, should I say, commercials. His latest is an Apple Switch parody brought to us by Apple (does it count as a parody, if they target themselves?). Anyway, I'm trying to decide if the Santa and Lawyers ad (requires quicktime) is funny. I snickered when I saw it. But, I've always thought that a parody should bring belly laughs. Or at least a ho ho ho.
total information briefing
We've been trying to following the different aspects of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Total Information Awareness project, but it seems to be growing quickly beyond our means. It's a good thing we're able to turn to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). They held a press briefing yesterday at the National Press Club, providing some interesting information to the media. Their Total Information Awareness page also shows a number of other updates on the status of the project from the last couple of days. If we keep on writing about this topic, I may have to start posting all of my entries here anonymously. Otherwise, I fear someone will pay me a visit asking me to get with the program, and keep my mouth shut.
posted by anonymous
A domain name versus trademark dispute has Norweigan company SMSfun, selling sunglasses at Google.no, squared off against American search engine Google over the use of the domain name. The Berkman Center's Greplaw is covering the story, which is mostly in Norweigan. It appears that the Norweigan business has won the first round.
Monday, November 25, 2002
the digital millennium copyright act (dmca) in court
Software that gives people the ability to make copies of ebooks inspite of copyright protections will be examined closely next week, in a federal court in San Jose, California. The Copyright Act became law in 1998, and now, four years later, it faces a challenge. At a hearing today, issues such as an interpretation of the criminal provisions of the DMCA for a jury were discussed.
budgets and bottles
Just how bad is the budget crisis that many states are experiencing? Reuters says that they are "sunk in the worst financial doldrums since World War II." But, those aren't their words. The wire service is repeating the statement made by the National Governor's Association in their Fiscal Survey of States (pdf). It may be time to look for some creative ways to decrease projected budget deficits. Delaware is reviewing one solution that Massachusetts followed in 1990 -- having unclaimed bottle deposits turned over to the State. I'm not keen on the idea of the State benefitting at a cost to the environment, and I've written a little on the subject before. I appreciate the State's consideration of ways to lessen the bleak financial picture we've seen painted in the media. Hopefully, we'll also consider some other ideas that don't rely upon me throwing a bottle away, rather than having it recycled, to benefit the State's finances.
state court jurisdiction over the net?
When I read the headline Court blocks state DVD-cracking suit, I knew right away that I had to turn to the pages of Denise Howell's Bag and Baggage for the full story. Denise doesn't disappoint. She sat in on the oral arguments before the California Supreme Court in September, and provided a great amount of insight as to what happened during those proceedings. Thanks, Denise!
computer geeks and politics
Slate is running an article called Why Computer Geeks Should give Up on Politics. It covers a variety of subjects, including Digital Rights Management, government sanctioned computer intrusion to "protect" copyrights, the GeekPAC, blogging politicians, and what Slate calls the highest stakes issue of all -- the Total Information Awareness (TIA) research project. DARPA, which is in charge of the TIA project, may have been instrumental in starting the internet. But the net's success so far is because it's something that people wanted, often despite the the protests of bureacracy. People may not be quite as euthusiastic about supporting the TIA.
[November 27, 2002 -- Contrast that article to Declan McCullagh's Is it time for a GeekPAC?.]
a bit of cinema noir about it
I almost picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood a couple of weekends ago, and upon reflection I should have. I really loved Wind-up Bird Chronicles by the same author. After reading Bill Altreuter's thoughts about the book over at Outside Counsel in his November 12th and 14th posts, I want to go back to the bookstore that I found it at and buy it. Unfortunately, I'll have to travel to the other end of Delaware to do that. I saw it down at a bookstore in Dewey Beach, which is Sneaking Suspicions territory. Raymond Chandler is another favorite author of mine, and I think that Bill captures the connection between the two pretty well. I was thinking about Chandler when I read about the Hollywood gumshoe who had weapons charges filed against him earlier today. The story seems to have all the makings of a Chandler plot.
I've written here about cameras in courtrooms before, but the thought of a judge allowing a crew to film jurors' deliberations comes as a bit of a surprise. A Texas judge is allowing video recording to take place during the decision-making of a jury in a capital murder case.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
when art becomes crime
Is it against the law to incorporate popular cultural figures and symbols into art? Our newest intellectual property laws are having an effect upon artists and their works. They are possibly making those creators criminals. We've pointed to illegalart.org here before (make sure that you read the pop-up disclaimer for full effect). The Newark Star Ledger writes about the organization's exhibit to be held in New York City through January (the illegal art web site indicates that the show will close on December 6th, so if you plan to go, check the dates carefully). The Star Ledger's article explains how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Bono Copyright Extension are chilling artistic endeavors. The exhibit will also be shown in Chicago. There are some nice links to copyright resources on the illegal art site's pages.
library runs into filtering problem
The problem is that they used their name as part of the domain name for their web site. The Flesh Library (named after Leo Flesh, who donated the money for the library's present location, 70 years ago) also installed filtering software on their computers. When they officially unveiled their new web site, to their chagrin, it was blocked. (via slashdot)
computers in classrooms
Good idea or bad idea? I came across a link on Arts & Letters Daily, in their list of "Classics" to an article called The Computer Delusion. Though it's five years old, it makes for some interesting reading, and it has sparkled a great amount of debate since its publication.. I'm not sure that I agree with a number of the arguments that it makes, but the main one is spot on right. Computers are just a tool. Without good teachers, a healthy cirriculum, and other resources, the goal of having computers in classrooms is a short sighted solution, focusing more upon the tools than the objectives of education. I just wonder, five years later, what author Todd Oppenheimer might think of computers in classrooms. His article from 1999, describing educational methods in Waldorf Schools, shows a healthy education system in the absence of computers. A Red Herring article called Is our children learning? also examines the question. They make a good point, that I'm happy to see:
The new law, called No Child Left Behind, also requires that 25 percent of technology funding be allocated for training teachers to use the new tools.I think that's the key to realizing a benefit in having computers in classrooms -- enabling teachers to learn to use the technology as just another available tool to achieve educational objectives.
[November 25, 2002 -- Today's Wilmington News Journal has a look at computer in classrooms in Delaware, in an article called Students test online exams.]
"I just want to say one word to you -- just one word -- 'plastics.' "
That's the line whispered to a young Benjamin Braddock in the movie The Graduate 35 years ago. Some interesting essays have been written on the meaning of that line in the time since the movie's release (for instance, see "Just One World ...'PLASTICS'": Suburban Malaise, Masculinity, and Oedipal Drive in The Graduate), but it looks like the word "plastics" is going to spawn a whole new set of meanings. That's my observation after reading the news that Food scraps make perfect plastic. Biodegradable, too.
a new classic
Hu's on first.