Friday Links

We here at Abnormal Use are nostalgic persons, and we must commend the dear YouTube user who posted a video of a 1996 drive through the City of Austin, Texas (which our editor once called home). It’s a trip back in time, and you can watch the video here.

Country music singer David Allan Coe now finds himself in legal trouble with the IRS.

Don’t forget that HeroesCon takes place in Charlotte, North Carolina this very weekend.

Our favorite legal tweet of late comes from Judge Dillard, and you can find it below.

Why Lawyers Should Be on Twitter – And Who You Should Be Following

Like Utah’s federal court opinion explaining Facebook, I will begin by explaining what Twitter is. Twitter is “an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called ‘tweets’. Registered users can read and post tweets, but those who are unregistered can only read them.” People use Twitter for different things. They use it to communicate and keep in touch with others. They use it to keep up with breaking news. They use it to promote their businesses. And, unfortunately, people use it to ruin their careers.

There are many reasons that lawyers should be on Twitter, but the main reason is that it is a great news filter. If you still only get the news from the morning paper, you will likely be the last to find out about almost every important event. Twitter allows news outlets such as The New York Times (@NYTimes) and CNN (@CNN) to break news literally the second it happens and to send the news directly to people’s phones instantaneously. No paper or TV necessary. The Twitter user has the opportunity to select which news outlets he or she wants to follow, and you can even follow your favorite individual journalists. If you lean to the left, and you only want to follow left-leaning news outlets, you can. If you lean to the right, and you only want to follow right-leaning news outlets, you can. Or, if you want to follow the opposite side to get your blood pressure going, you can do that too!

For lawyers, the best thing about Twitter as a news feed is that you can keep up to date on developments all over the country, and all over the world, as they happen. Judicial opinions and jury verdicts neglected by mainstream news agencies will be covered by legal news outlets such as Law360 (@Law360). Other lawyers are also great sources of information. Lawyers from around the country share information and commentary that you would miss if you were not on Twitter.

The best part about Twitter as a news outlet is that Twitter forces the person tweeting to limit the tweet to 144 characters. So, instead of having to read a long, drawn out article on a subject, you can get the gist of a story in a matter of seconds. You can then dig deeper if you want to, but the short tweet at least makes you quickly aware of the story or issue.

We also promised a list of who you should be following. The following is a nonexclusive list of who we think you should be following, but there are other lists out there such as this one and this one. Without further ado, we recommend the following accounts.

Above the Law (@ATLBlog)

Lawyerist (@Lawyerist)

Lowering the Bar (@LoweringTheBar)

Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. (@GWBLawFirm)

Jim Dedman (@JimDedman)

Jeena Cho (@Jeena_Cho)

Stacy Linn Moon (@StacyMoon02)

Kyle White (@Kyle_J_White)

Nick Farr (@NAFarr)

Judge Dillard (@JudgeDillard)

John E. Cuttino (@SCLitigator)

Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly)

Gray Culbreath (@GrayCulbreath)

Marc Williams (@MarcWVA)

DRI (@DRICommunity)

Walter Olson (@WalterOlson)

Ron Tate (@SCCounsel)

Stuart Mauney (@StuartMauney)

This list is in no particular order and is by no means complete, but it is a good start!

 

“Stairway to Heaven” Plagiarism Suit Set For Trial

A while back, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Led Zeppelin. The suit, filed by the estate of Randy California of the band Spirit, alleges that Led Zeppelin lifted the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” from the Spirit’s song “Taurus.”  Now, some two years later, that case is on the eve of trial.  Jury selection is set to begin this very morning. Trial is is expected to last less than a week, with each side allotted 10 hours to present testimony. In case you are wondering, the great Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are expected to be in attendance at trial.

We will be curious to see how this one plays out at trial. If the plaintiff prevails, it would mean that a jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that one of history’s most prolific songs was partially plagiarized from Spirit of all bands. While we appreciate the classic California band and, in particular the song, “I Got a Line on You,” it is hard for our minds to grapple with notion that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t conceive the majestic opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven.” We get that many bands (including Led Zeppelin) are no strangers to “musical inspiration” in creating their own hits, but it still pains us to think that our favorite songs are anything less than original.  Of course, we are also the same folks who questioned whether Tyson intentionally bit off Holyfield’s ear or whether Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. So take it for what it is worth.

The plaintiff alleges that Jimmy Page got his musical inspiration for “Stairway” when Led Zeppelin was the undercard for Spirit during a 1968 U.S. Tour and heard the band play “Taurus.” According to Page, the band apparently was paying that much attention. In a 6-page declaration filed with the court, Page stated the he never heard nor was he aware of “Taurus” until a couple of years ago. We will wait and see which way the jury wants to go.

Friday Links

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Enough said: Please consider the arguments set forth in “Why you Need to Stop Typing and Start Dictating” from the Tips for Lawyers website. Very important lessons here, folks. We’ve run into a lot of younger lawyers who believe that their savviness with computers prompt an aversion to dictation. As the article suggests, though, there’s nothing more efficient than using the dictation process to place your thoughts onto the written page (unless your Superman, depicted above on the cover of Superman #27, published way, way back in 1944).

Of course you know that many of our Abnormal Use bloggers also use Twitter. Today, we direct you to the Twitter account of longtime Twitter user Stuart Mauney whose tweets you can follow here. (In fact, it was Stuart who directed us to the dictation article referenced in the preceding paragraph!). Enjoy his tweets!

Don’t forget that the new Band of Horses album arrived today.

After the nonsensical insurance claim subplot in Now You See Me, we have no interest in seeing the new sequel.

There is, apparently, a 1993 issue of Fantastic Four entitled “Chaos in the Courtroom.” You’ve been warned.

Brewery Law CLE In Charlotte on June 9

If you find yourself in Charlotte, North Carolina this Thursday, June 9, please join the Mecklenburg County Bar for an upcoming brewery law seminar. The bar’s Continuing Legal Education Committee plans a number of very interesting events, including programs on the Salem witch trials (featuring colonial historian and novelist Katherine Howe), the fascinating tort of alienation of affection (for a Halloween event at which presenters also explored the legal implications of the Ashley Madison hack), and of course, the regulation of North Carolina breweries.

Its next program is the “What’s Brewing with Regional Alcohol Laws?” event, which takes place this coming Thursday, June 9 starting at 5:15 p.m. The program will explore the laws governing the interstate shipment of alcohol, trademark issues, and other craft brewery legislation in both North and South Carolina. The roster of speakers is impressive; it includes lawyer and South Carolina Brewers Guild executive director Brook Bristow of Bristow Beverage Law, Raleigh beverage industry attorney Laura Collier of Strike & Techel Beverage Law Group LLP, and Carrboro trademark law guru Ed Timberlake of Timberlake Law, PLLC. Both Laura Collier and Ed Timberlake have spoken at past brewery law events in North Carolina, and they are not to be missed. This event will be Brook Bristow’s first speaking event at a brewery law program in North Carolina. The event will be held at the Birdsong Brewing Company on North Davidson Street in Charlotte. Known for its famed Jalapeño Pale Ale, Birdsong also brews a seasonal wheat ale called Fake Plastic Trees, named for the sublime 1995 Radiohead single.

The general public is welcome to register for the event. If you’re an attorney desiring CLE credit, it can be yours, but if you’re not and/or you don’t, there are other pricing options (including a $25 general public rate). Registration information, speaker biographies, and more specific program information can be found here.

The event was planned by our editor, Jim Dedman.

First Wrongful Death Lawsuit Hits Marijuana Industry

Since its recent legalization in certain states, marijuana has found itself in the middle of several product liability lawsuits. A new lawsuit filed in Colorado has just upped the ante. According to a report from the L.A. Times, a new suit has been filed accusing marijuana of being the culprit for a homicide. In the first wrongful-death suit against a recreational marijuana company, the children of Kristine Kirk, murdered by her husband, Richard Kirk, back on April 14, 2014, have filed suit against Gaia’s Garden, LLC, claiming that the company’s Kandy Orange Ginger chew candy triggered the shooting. The plaintiffs allege that Gaia’s failed to warn customer that marijuana edibles could lead to paranoia, psychosis and hallucinations.

According to Kristine Kirk’s 911 call, the shooting happened after Richard burst into their home ranting about the end of the world. Thereafter, he laid on the floor and asked for someone to kill him. Richard then retrieved a pistol and shot Kristine. Richard has been charged with first-degree murder. He initially pleaded not guilty, but has since changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

We here at Abnormal Use will be interested to follow this suit as the facts develop. Reading the reports of the incident make it sound more like those involving bath salts than recreational marijuana. It is so outside-the-box that we almost wonder whether marijuana was the culprit at all. Interestingly, toxicology reports showed that the amount of THC in Richard’s blood was less than half the legal limit. Prosecutors actually contend that the murder is the result of increasing marital stress.

In any event, we see this as a case akin to suing Anheuser-Busch for a driving under the influence accident. Gaia’s apparently complied with all state labeling requirements regarding the potential adverse health effects. With legal marijuana being so new to the marketplace, we suppose this lawsuit is an attempt to test the waters with marijuana litigation. We assume that the same legal principles applied to similarly situated products will continue to apply.

Friday Links

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You may have heard the troubling news that Marvel Comics has unveiled a new storyline in which it is revealed that Captain America was a double agent, secretly serving Hydra all of these years. Outrage ensued. (We would direct your attention to “The Character Assassination of Captain America,” a post by Josh Gilliland of The Legal Geeks). We’re not quite certain what to think about this new narrative, but we thought it was a good opportunity to post the cover to What If #26, published way, way back in 1981. Back then, there was a storyline involving Captain America becoming president. In this issue of What If, the writers imagine what would have happened had Cap been elected. Interesting thoughts during this election year, no?

Not long ago, we once again stumbled across “Me and Chuck E. Cheese,” a 2009 blog post detailing the perils of working for the chain. To be certain, it’s worth your time to peruse.

You know, we still haven’t seen X-Men: Apocalypse. We’re working on it.

We here at Abnormal Use are pleased to announce that our firm, Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A., has been selected for inclusion in the 2016 edition of Chambers USA, Leading Lawyers for Business as a Leading Law Firm in Commercial Litigation. Additionally, firm attorneys Daniel B. White, Gray T. Culbreath, and John T. Lay, Jr. were chosen as leading business attorneys in the field of Commercial Litigation.

McDonald’s Accused Of Not Making Drive-Thrus Accessible to the Blind

Be it hot coffee or greasy french fries, McDonald’s often finds itself as a defendant in some intriguing litigation. A new lawsuit filed in an Illinois federal court against the fast food giant might just take the crown as the most interesting. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, a Louisiana man has sued McDonald’s because its drive-thrus are not accessible to the blind. Specifically, the man has challenged McDonald’s policy of not serving individuals who walk up to the drive-thru window without a car. During the normal operating hours, the prohibition is hardly a problem as customers without cars can simply walk inside the restaurant. However, after hours, the restaurant only serves customers through the drive-thru and, thus, people who do not have cars or otherwise cannot drive, such as blind persons, cannot order from McDonalds, the suit alleges. According to the suit, such failure to accommodate constitutes a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We here at Abnormal Use are not certain as to how this McDonald’s policy will be construed under the ADA. We do have some questions, however, as to certain statements the plaintiff’s lawyer made about the litigation. In commenting on the suit, attorney Roberto Luis Costales stated that the late-night snacks are a “quintessentially American activity that should not be denied to someone because of their disability.” Moreover, he indicated, “This is something simple that can cause a lot of hurt to disabled people, especially if, like [Plaintiff], they cannot cook for themselves.” We must admit that we, too, have been known to take a late night food run, particularly during our college days. But, we question whether it is a “quintessential American activity,” so ingrained in our nation’s DNA that it cannot be denied. Maybe if we were talking about a more critical issue like healthcare, we could take this rhetoric seriously.

Costales claims that McDonald’s could remedy the situation by installing a phone to allow customers to call in orders from outside and have the orders brought out to the customers. However, this proposal ignores the primary purpose of the late night drive-thru-only policy in the first place – security. If McDonald’s is going to be bringing orders out to customers, it might as well just open the restaurant in the first place. Or, maybe that is the end goal of the master plan and the lawsuit is just the mechanism of delivery.

 

Memorial Day

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We here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. hope you had a safe and fine Memorial Day weekend. As we do each year, today, we pause to reflect upon all of the sacrifices made by American servicemen and women and all they have done for the country, both in present times and years past. Above, you’ll find the cover of War Comics #34, published way, way back in 1955.

We’ll resume with regular posting tomorrow.

Friday Links

We here at Abnormal Use had, of course, hoped to see X-Men: Apocalypse at the theatre late last night, but as it does, life got in the way. We plan to see it this weekend (or, if that plan fails, catch up on episodes of “The Americans.”) That sounds like a wonderfully lazy agenda. (And, no, we’re not planning on attending tonight’s Dave Matthews Band concert in Charlotte, North Carolina).

Friend of the blog Jeena Cho’s new book, The Anxious Lawyer, arrives in stores next week!

We hope everyone has a safe Memorial Day weekend! Try not to do any billable work this weekend, as you’ve earned a break.

Don’t forget that you can follow Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. on Twitter by visiting here!