Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Defense Approporation Act Contains Restriction on Arbitration

Section 8116 of PL 111-118, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 will prevent military contractors from enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses in some employment contracts. Section 8116 provides that no funds may be expended for military contracts unless the contractor agrees not to enter into or enforce any employment contract “that requires, as a condition of employment, that the employee or independent contractor agree to resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.”

The provision was, in part, an attempt to ensure that future military contractor employees do not find themselves in situations similar to that of Jamie Jones. Jones, a former employee of defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root, reported being raped by her coworkers in Iraq. KBR, along with its former owner Haliburton, sought to handle her case in arbitration, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that some of the claims were not subject to arbitration. Minnesota Senator Al Franken, sponsor of the provision, spoke about Jones’ case on the Senate floor.

Hat tip to BLT: the Blog of the Legal Times

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Holiday Break for the Cobell Case Attorneys

While many of us have taken a holiday break, the attorneys in the Cobell Indian trust case have been hard at work preparing and filing a petition for certiorari. The petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court challenges the July ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The filing of the petition may seem unusual given that the parties recently announced a $1.41 billion dollar settlement of the case. However, because the settlement is contingent on Congress passing legislation authorizing and implementing the settlement by December 31st, the attorneys for Cobell are keeping their options open.

Hat tip to the BLT: Blog of Legal Times

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mistake by Law Prof on Exam leads to Student Headaches

At the University of Oregon, Professor John Bonine accidently posted one of his law exams on a listserv. According to Above the Law and ABA Journal, when he discovered his mistake, he asked the students to delete the exam and report how much of the exam that they viewed. Bonine holds that students are bound to the honor code of the school and the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct to report their behavior.

Nevertheless, this did not keep Bonine from administrating a different law exam on the day of the exam. Above the Law author, Elie Mystal, writes a skeptical post on this situation and argues from the students’ perspective. She writes, “They did nothing wrong!”

Read the following articles to find out more on the subject.



Hat Tip to Darla Jackson for alerting me to the topic.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Listening for the Legally Minded

Finals are almost over, and professors and students alike are looking forward to a well-deserved break.

However, if you want to exercise your mind this vacation, try listening to some political classics. Steven D. Schwinn on Constitutional Law Prof Blog suggests listening to our constitution this holiday or perhaps Plato's Republic or a little Rousseau. All of these are available for free on LibriVox, a website with audio recordings of books in the public domain. They are available in mp3 or ogg. There is also a podcast option.

Ah... nothing like 11 hours of John Locke on the way to Grandma's house.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Courts Cutting the Gordian Knot of Technology and Privacy

Just when you think the law is complicated enough… technological advances lead to new dilemmas. The problem is most evident in legal issues related to text messaging and social networking. Here are a few examples.

1. In November, the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee decided that judges may not “friend” attorneys on Facebook who may appear in their court. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct allows judges to “friend” law enforcement officers and employees as long as the judge does not communicate things concerning his position. (See article on Legal Blog Watch.)

2. Last week, two cases were dismissed in Maryland because jurors were using Wikipedia and Facebook. In one case, the jurors were trying to look up scientific terms on Wikipedia. In the other, five jurors became Facebook friends. The lawyers complained that they created a clique and changed the jury dynamic. (See the article in ABA Journal.)

3. Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to listen to a case concerning text messaging and the police from Ontario, California. Police Chief, Jeff Quon, sued three officers for sending sexually explicit messages on city-owned devices. However, the officers are complaining that their boss read their text messages. The officers argue that the Ontario Police Department verbally assured its employees that their messages would not be reviewed unless there were charges beyond the service contract. Meanwhile, the police department’s written policy had no such protections. Read these articles from NPR.org and the Los Angeles Times for more information.

These issues will continue to grow. Keep an eye out for new developments.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Death Penalty in the News

On December 2, the issue of the death penalty came before the Supreme Court, and they refused to listen to the appeal of death row inmate Cecil Johnson. In the dissent, Justice Stevens made the argument that execution after a lengthy delay was unconstitutional because it was “unacceptably cruel.” Meanwhile, Justice Thomas responded against Stevens saying there was no support for his argument and that the state would never be able to please Stevens’ conditions for justice because of Stevens’ previously-held opinions against the death penalty.

Meanwhile on December 7, Franklin E. Zimring of the National Law Journal reported that the American Law Institute (ALI) had withdrawn its approval of the its own standards for capital punishment. The Supreme Court adopted this standard from the ALI’s Model Penal Code §210.6 during the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia. However, Zimring states that this standard was weak because the categories of “death-eligible” crimes were too broad, and juries were often left to their own discretion in making the judgment. Nevertheless, the precedent remains, and it is unsure how this withdrawn approval will affect the current legal situation.

Hat tip to Darla Jackson for alerting me to these articles from The BLT: Blog of the Legal Times and the National Law Journal.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

American Indian Trust Suit Settled

For 13 years, Elouise Cobell and 500,000 American Indians have fought to win a class action law suit against the U.S. Government. The plaintiff accused the U.S. Department of Interior of mismanaging tribal trust funds that received money from the leasing of Native American lands. On December 8th, the parties settled on an agreement worth 3.4 billion dollars. 1.4 billion will be immediately distributed to the class members. 2 billion will be placed in another trust fund to buy family land parcels and consolidate them into tribal properties. In one situation, a 40-acre plot has over 400 owners from one family. The trust will try to buy the land from the family members and place the land under tribal stewardship for easier management. Finally, 6 million will go to youth education funds.

To learn more, visit articles in the New York Times, the WSJ LawBlog, and the Jurist.

To see government documents, visit the U.S. Department of the Interior online. There you can find the settlement, the press release, and other documents.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chief Judge Robert Henry of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to Become OCU President

Chief Judge Robert Henry of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has announced that he will step down from the bench in 2010 to become the President of Oklahoma City University.

OCU's press release regarding Henry's selection details his past affiliation with OCU, including his service as the Dean of OCU Law School from 1991-1994.

Additional coverage is available from How Appealing, NewsOK, and National Law Journal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tiger Woods and Exams?!

Have you heard enough about Tiger Woods? Well, maybe you should keep listening.

Eric Turkewitz of the New York Personal Injury Law Blog writes that Tiger Woods is a “One Man Bar Exam” because of the breadth of his legal difficulty. Click here to see Turkewitz’s list of Tiger’s legal troubles, exam topics, and a terribly photoshopped image of Tiger Woods.

(Article found on Above the Law.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

OCU Law School Wins with Maps 3

According to the Daily Oklahoma, Maps 3 passed yesterday with a vote 40,956 yes, 34,465 no. This continuation of a one cent sales tax over the next seven years is slated to improve the downtown area. It includes the construction of a new convention center, a 70-acre park, and aquatic health centers for senior adults. It also provides for repairs and improvements for sidewalks, walking trails, the fairgrounds, and facilities on the Oklahoma River.

OCU Law School also possibly benefits from Maps 3 passing. The passing of Maps 3 is one the primary conditions for moving the Law School downtown. In fact, the introduction of public transit to the downtown area including streetcars and a possible commuter rail will make it possible for law students to travel to a downtown law school without exorbitant cost in parking.

Click on the following links to read the news coverage on this issue:





Monday, December 7, 2009

A Little Less Bah-HumBug: Good News on Student Loan Payment and Forgiveness

It is a good thing to hear good news during the holidays… especially good news about money.

As summarized here, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act helps in regard to student loan payment in three ways: (1) It will bring down loan interest rates down to 3.4% in 2011. (2) Beginning July 2009, borrowers can repay their loans with an income based repayment plan. (3) If the borrower has a Federal Direct Loan, they can participate in Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Under these stipulations, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program will forgive the loans of those who work with “public interest legal services” for over ten years. This includes “prosecutors, public defenders and legal advocacy on behalf of low-income communities at a nonprofit organization” Visit http://edlabor.house.gov/college-cost-reduction-and-access-act/index.shtml and http://www.finaid.org/loans/publicservice.phtml for additional information regarding public service loan forgiveness.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Social Networking (Facebook) Helps Exonerate Teen

Evidence collected from social networks has been increasingly used to obtain convictions. Recently, however, evidence collected from Facebook resulted in the dismissal of robbery charges against a New York teen. According to the a posting on eWeek.com, defense attorneys were excited to hear of "a Brooklyn teenager's acquittal over robbery charges when it was learned the teen had posted a status update on Facebook from his home computer during the crime. " While the facts related in a New York Post story vary slightly, it does appear that Facebook was used to support the teen's "alibi".

As the eWeek.com posting indicates. Location features of social networking services, such as Google Latitude, may be utilized as "legal tool[s]" in the future. However, members of organizations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation have cautioned about the privacy risk of location features, particularly those that have a location history function.

Hat tip to Equal Justice Works E-Clips

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Books: November 2009

Each month, the OCU Law Library's website features the new books added to the collection. You can use the library catalog to search for new books or review the list on the website. Check out the new books acquired in November 2009.

Finals Time is Here!

Studying for final can be a daunting experience, but the OCU Law Library is here to help.

#1 We provide you with the ability to reserve a study room for your next big study session. We are now booking rooms up to a week in advance. Come by the circulation desk. Available times are quickly disappearing. When you come, bring a list of those you are sharing the room with. We need to add them to the list as well.

#2 OCU Law Library also has longer hours beginning Thursday, December 3. We will be open from 7:30am-1am weekdays until December 17th. On the weekends, we will be open 9:00am-1:00am on Saturday and 1:00pm-1:00am on Sunday.
However, on December 18th, we close at 6pm, and our hours will be limited through December 22. Then, our doors will be closed December 20th and December 23rd through January 2nd. So if you are graduating, return all of your books early!

#3 The Law Library posts many practice exams online. Find them on StarNet- http://starnet.okcu.edu/Academics/OCULaw/LawLib/Practice. Check this website often. Just recently, librarians have uploaded new exams from several professors. If you have difficulty logging on, remember to use “ocu\username.stu” and then your password.

#4 Coffee!! This tradition lives on. The Law Library provides coffee for finals-weary students on December 5th, 9th, 13th, and 16th. We’ll keep it piping hot for you.

Best wishes on your studying and exams.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fantasy League for the Legally-Inclined

FantasySCOTUS.net is a new fantasy league that allows those of us who are legally inclined (as to perhaps sports inclined) to compete to determine who has the greatest ability to predict the outcome of Supreme Court cases.

The site, a brainchild of Josh Blackman -a George Mason law grad, explains the rules of the leagues as follows:

For each case the Supreme Court grants cert, predict:

-The Outcome of the Case (Affirm or Reverse the lower Court)

-The Split (9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, 5-4, 4-1-4, or fragmented)

- The Justices in the Majority, and the Justices in the Dissent

At the end of the Term, the Associate Justice who predicts the most cases correctly will be confirmed as the Chief Justice of the Fantasy Supreme Court League, and win a to-be-determined prize.

The League is intended to allow those who compete "to play like the Tenth Justice."

Source: WisBlawg - From the Univ. of Wisconsin Law Library