Law Day

May 1 is Law Day. This year’s theme for law day is the Magna Carta. The “Great Charter” is 800 years old this year. As the American Bar Association says: “Perhaps more than any other document in human history, Magna Carta has come to embody a simple but enduring truth: No one, no matter how powerful, is above the law.” The ABA site also has a tool kit and coloring pages for the enjoyment of people of all ages.


Justice Scalia Immortalized on Stage

Justice Scalia is the subject of the new play “The Originalist.” “The play is set in the Supreme Court term that ended in June 2013 with a major victory for gay rights. In the play, Justice Scalia debates that case and others with a liberal law clerk, and their odd-couple relationship, with antagonism shading into affection, gives the play its shape. ‘This is a boxing match,’ said Ms. Smith, the director. ‘What the play does is what any good play does: It humanizes the combatants.'”


Methow Valley Cabin Fight Brings Property Rights Issues Into Focus

Seattle architect Tom Kundig built a cabin on a ridge near Mazama, causing a groundswell of outrage among valley property owners. While other Methow Valley areas have the controversial “Ridge Buster” homes, Mazama prides itself on preserving and respecting the natural landscape. Residents have called the cabin “an extended third finger,” a “boil,” a “blight” and a “wart” to a Mazama area. A week long trial was held in August. “Fans of property law can peruse 180 pages of trial documents about who has standing in the lawsuit, and what the wording in the covenant actually meant.”



Justice Scalia Gets His Facts Wrong??

OB-ZE637_scalia_D_20131007110802In what Berkley law professor Daniel Farber termed a “cringeworthy mistake” Justice Scalia attributed the position of the trucking industry to the EPA is his dissent in the EPA v. EME Homer City Generation L.P. case.

From the Volohk Conspiracy website: “Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan H. Adler notes the irony.

“The worst part of it is that Scalia should know this because the author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Whitman v. American Trucking Assns was none other than Scalia,” he said.”

To read more see the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.


Families of Inmates Now Can Have Free Video Visits via the Public Law Library of King County

From the King County Law Library’s Press Release:

Inmates with family support during incarceration are less likely to reoffend, according to the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). One of the family support programs offered through the DOC allows for video visits with inmates at most facilities, at a cost of $12.95 for a thirty-minute visit.

The Public Law Library of King County is now offering free video conferencing between inmates housed in a DOC facility and their friends or family members who are on an approved visitors list.  The Law Library was awarded funds from a class action settlement regarding inmate collect calls. The settlement funds are generally limited to projects that directly benefit inmates and their families. The Law Library has used a portion of these funds to purchase video conference equipment at both library locations (at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent). Each private video visit meeting room is equipped with a large flat-screen television, web camera with audio, and computer.

In addition, the settlement funds will be used to reimburse video visits participants for the cost of the visit. To qualify for reimbursement, the video visit must be scheduled in advance and take place at one of the Law Library locations. A participant will first schedule and pay for his or her appointment through the third party vendor’s website and then contact the Law Library to schedule a video visit appointment.  At the end of the visit, the participant will receive a cash payment of $12.95 as provided by the settlement funds.

For more information, visit, email or call 206-477-1305


Do Comedians Have Legal Recourse for Joke Stealing?

Photo of a gun by Tanjala Gica/Thinkstock, photo illustration byApparently not.  Slate has an interesting discussion of the long history of joke stealing going back to the oldest known humor book, Philogelos from the 4th century. Two law professors even managed to get a scholarly piece out of the topic.  See Dotan Oliar and Christopher Spirgman, There’s No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy, 94 Va L. Rev. 1787 (2008). Interestingly enough there does seem to be effective self policing among stand up comedians.  Whoever tells the joke on television first get to claim it.  If two comedians are collaborating and one develops the set-up and the other the punch line, the punch line creator gets to claim the joke.



Debate Map: Russia’s Use of Force in Ukraine

Oxford University Press is hosting a webpage that looks at the arguments surrounding the use of force in both the international and domestic context.ukraine-russia


SCOTUS Ruling a Blow for Rails to Trails


The US Supreme Court’s 8-1 ruling in favor of a Wyoming land owner fight the conversion of an abandoned rail track into part of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.  Justice Sotomayor, lone dissenter in Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, said: “By changing course today, the Court undermines the legality of thousands of miles of former rights of way that the public now enjoys as means of transportation and recreation. And lawsuits challenging the conversion of former rails to recreational trails alone may well cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”



Should Rap Lyrics Be Allowed As Evidence?

LYRICS-master675With the increasing reliance of police detectives and prosecutors on boastful rap lyrics to arrest and prosecute suspects, courts are having to determine how these lyrics should be treated in court.  Prosecutors argue that the lyrics are essentially confessions but others say that the lyrics use creative license to describe life in ridden areas.  As an ACLU brief put it, “That a rap artist wrote lyrics seemingly embracing the world of violence is no more reason to ascribe to him a motive and intent to commit violent acts than to … indict Johnny Cash for having ‘shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.’”  To read the full story, click here.


New RPC on Unethical Use of Immigration Status in Civil Matters

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.20.41 PMWashington has a new rule of professional conduct that prohibits harassment, intimidation or coercion of litigants based on immigration status. To read more about the background and the inception of RPC 4.4(a) see the Northwest Lawyer article.