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Surveillance roundup

by Walter Olson on December 12, 2013

  • “That Thing They Said They’re Not Doing? They’re Totally Doing.” [Daily Show with Jon Stewart] “Exactly What the State Says to Deceive You About Surveillance” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • “Warrantless Cellphone ‘Tower Dumps’ Becoming Go-To Tool For Law Enforcement” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; David Kravets, Wired; USA Today (local law enforcement using, not just federal)]
  • Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn, but telecoms absent: “U.S. Tech Industry Calls for Surveillance Reform” [Corporate Counsel, EFF, Marvin Ammori/USA Today]
  • New Federalist Society symposium on NSA/FISA surveillance and bulk data collection includes names like Randy Barnett, Jim Harper, Jeremy Rabkin, Stewart Baker, Grover Joseph Rees [Engage, Randy Barnett]
  • Nowadays “law enforcement can feel free to admit their traffic stops are pretextual” Thanks, Drug War! [Popehat] “Sobriety Checkpoints Paved Path to NSA Email Spying” [Wired]
  • FATCA, the intrusive overseas tax enforcement law, isn’t couched in public controversy as a federal data-snooping issue, but it should be [Radley Balko, McClatchy]

September 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 15, 2013

  • Falling tree limb injures woman, jury orders city of Savannah to pay $12 million [Insurance Journal]
  • Dept. of Interior mulls lowering threshold for federal recognition of Indian tribes [AP]
  • Section 230: “The Law that Gave Us the Modern Internet, and the Campaign to Kill It” [Derek Khanna, The Atlantic]
  • Interview with false-memory expert Elizabeth Loftus [Slate]
  • “No meaningful costs or downsides” to the Microsoft antitrust case? Really? [Tom Bowden]
  • NSA covertly intervened in standards making process to weaken encryption standards [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] After being rebuffed by public opinion in quest for dragnet surveillance programs, NSA quietly put programs in place through other channels [Jack Shafer; related, Ken at Popehat]
  • Given the limitations of litigation, better not to lament the shortcomings of the NFL concussion settlement [Howard Wasserman]


Bad enough to be an established software firm and get hit with lawsuits from competitors or patent trolls. But even companies at the early startup stage now face legal attack, and patent law (unlike copyright) assigns liability even if there has been no knowing act of imitation or appropriation, which complicates the task of defense. “Merely asking a patent lawyer to evaluate the case and advise a company on whether it was guilty of infringement could cost a firm tens of thousands of dollars. And a full-blown patent lawsuit could easily carry a price tag in the millions of dollars, with no guarantee of recovering attorney’s fees even if the defendant prevailed.” In practice, some firms like Microsoft whose portfolios amount to “patent thickets” can establish themselves as gatekeepers to the industry. [Timothy Lee, Slate]

And: “New Patent Regs May Inspire More Litigation, Not Less” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]


Says the Arkansas man who has sued Microsoft for $500 billion over his XBox Live contract. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


August 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 11, 2011

  • Seattle’s best? Class action lawyer suing Apple, e-publishers has represented Microsoft [Seattle Times, earlier]
  • “Disabled” NYC firefighter/martial arts enthusiast can go on getting checks for life [NYPost; compare]
  • After the FDA enforcement action on drug manufacturing lapses come the tagalong liability claims by uninjured plaintiffs [Beck]
  • “What If Lower Court Judges Weren’t Bound by Supreme Court Precedent?” [Orin Kerr]
  • settles a patent suit for $0 (rough language);
  • Canadian law society to pay $100K for asking prospective lawyers about mental illness [ABA Journal]
  • Self-help eviction? “Chinese Developers Accused Of Putting Scorpions In Apartments To Force Out Residents” [Business Insider]

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The actual content of the complaint isn’t quite as reported, per Siouxsie Law (earlier).


November 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 10, 2009

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October 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 22, 2009

  • Unsafe at any read: new Ralph Nader novel panned by Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation [Barnes and Noble Review via Suderman, Reason]
  • Microsoft says “most, if not all” customer data from T-Mobile Sidekick smartphones has been recovered, but class action lawyers say they’re undeterred [Seattle P-I]
  • Sue them all and sort things out later? Lawsuit over Air France Airbus crash off coast of Brazil names long list of aerospace suppliers as defendants [Reuters]
  • “No cash for this clunker”: opposition mounts to proposal for Massachusetts public law school [Boston Herald editorial via Legal Blog Watch, earlier link roundup at Point of Law]
  • Ralph Lauren experiences Streisand Effect over skinny-model nastygram [Althouse, earlier]
  • High-profile L.A. plaintiff’s lawyer Walter Lack speaks under questioning about role in Nicaraguan banana-worker suit against Dole [Recorder, earlier, background] And: “Dole on a Roll: Court Declines to Enforce $97M Judgment” [WSJ Law Blog, Bloomberg]
  • Miller-Jenkins lesbian custody case, much meddled in by conservative religious groups, recalls the ways divorced dads get cut out of their kids’ lives [Glenn Sacks/Ned Holstein via Amy Alkon, background]
  • Daniel Kalder speculates on why the New York Times editorially “purred with approval” of the new FTC blogger regulations in such an “impressively superficial” way [Guardian Books Blog]. More on FTC’s semi-backtracking on the controversy: Media Bistro “Galleycat”, Publisher’s Weekly, Galleysmith. And having been hoping for ages to get a link some day from blogging legend Jason Kottke, this one will go in the souvenir file []


U.S. District Judge William Smith in Providence vacated a $388 million award to Uniloc, a Singapore-based company, ruling that the jury “lacked a grasp of the issues before it and reached a finding without a legally sufficient basis.” [Bloomberg]


September 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 9, 2009


The Eastern District of Texas strikes again. [DailyTech, Concurring Opinions, Legal BlogWatch, WSJ Law Blog, earlier]


Or so readers infer from a $200 million patent infringement verdict against Microsoft [TechDirt, Slashdot]

February 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 27, 2009

  • Long Island man fails badly in bid to make his estranged wife compensate him for kidney he gave her [NYLJ, earlier]
  • McDonald’s denies negligence in case of nude photos on customer’s left-behind cellphone [Heller/OnPoint News, earlier]
  • Role of union corruption in NYC crane collapses. Best tidbit: strippers offered apprenticeships [New York Times]
  • Because the Big Three need another millstone around their necks: states moving to entrench auto dealers’ nontermination/buyout rights yet further [Detroit Free Press via Mataconis, background]
  • Microsoft claims former employee “applied for a job at the company under false pretenses and then used his role at Microsoft to gain access to confidential data related to patent litigation he is now waging” [Seattle P-I, Andrew Nusca/ZDNet]
  • Settlement ends lawsuit by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. against Mississippi’s Farese law firm and Ocala, Fla. attorney Bruce Kaster arising from leak of disparaging employee affidavit to press [Patsy Brumfield, NEMDJ, ABA Journal]
  • Mule drivers at historic tourism park must register for antiterror biometrics as transportation workers [Ken @ Popehat]
  • Lawyers advise defendant on trial for murder to go off his antipsychotic medication so he’ll come off as madder to the jury [nine years ago on Overlawyered]


A Prediction For 2009

by SSFC on December 31, 2008

Not quite gone yet.

Which firm will be the first to file a class action against Microsoft over the New Year’s Eve Zune crash? Apparently every 30 gigabyte Zune in America is stuck on a loading screen, refusing to play music due to some bizarre Y2K-like programming error.

This would be a posterchild case of the sort that many advocates say is the merit of the class action.  Millions (well, perhaps thousands – the Zune is also a good illustration of Microsoft’s inability to get things right the first time, or the second) of people have been injured, or at least inconvenienced, in some small fashion, all suffering the same injury, none of them able to obtain legal assistance due to small damages in each individual case, against a heavily lawyered, deep pocket defendant.

A settlement, if such an action is filed, would also illustrate the problems inherent in the form, with a few lawyers and an individual named class representative getting a bonanza of millions spread among a few people, while class “members” receive coupons good for one free download, assuming they’re willing to take the time to fill out a form and mail it to a Post Office box in Oregon.

All of this assumes that the problem, reported this morning, hasn’t already been fixed.  Personally, if I owned a Zune, and Microsoft irrevocably “bricked” it, I would emulate my hero Mitchell Berns and get a default judgment in small claims court over my lunch hour, when Microsoft inevitably failed to appear.

Still, whether the inconvenience is permanent, or just one day’s duration, the Zune case is a perfect class action.  I predict that in some plaintiffs’ firm, somewhere, an associate attorney’s New Year’s has already been ruined.  Maybe I should upset my wife and do it myself tomorrow.  Does anyone here own a 30 gigabyte Zune, and are you willing to be a class representative?

Thanks to Kip Esquire for the notion.


Class-actioneers Michael Hausfeld and Stanley Chesley, already in line to collect $10.5 million in fees under Microsoft’s settlement of one of its antitrust cases filed in federal court, “say they are entitled to share in $50 million for helping lay the groundwork for the state claims [filed by other law firms].” Hausfeld and Chesley say many lawyers who filed state claims were happy to rely on the work they did in advancing the federal case, but “‘Memories are short and gratitude fleeting when attorneys’ fees are at issue.’ … In a reply brief, the law firms of Milberg, Weiss and Lieff, Cabraser, and Kirby, McInerney & Squire argue that assistance provided by Hausfeld and Chesley ‘was spotty and sometimes non-existent.’ ‘To put it most charitably, rather than being a resource to various state court counsel throughout these proceedings, Hausfeld-Chesley looked out for their own clients (and fees) in their own cases, which of course is completely proper,’ the lawyers in the state cases replied. ‘Such behavior, however, does not give rise to an entitlement for fees for other plaintiffs in other cases.'” (James Rowley, “Legal-fee fight erupts over Microsoft case”, Bloomberg/Seattle Times, Jan. 7)