Law and Legal
Via LLRX – You’re Bad at Legal Research, and Your Judge Knows It. – Jack Heller reviews recent research conducted by Casetext identifying a major concern on the part of judges concerning the rigor and accuracy of current legal research by litigators. Judges believe attorneys miss important cases often, and when they do, it has real consequences in the course of a litigation.
“School districts across the U.S. are beginning to close their doors for summer vacation, giving students a respite from classes and exams. But for millions of young people from food-insecure households, there’s less to celebrate—because summer break puts an end to the free and reduced-price lunches they’re eligible for during the school year. Since 2011, in California, young people have found sustenance and assistance in an unlikely place: the public library. That’s the year the Oakland Public Library in Northern California started serving free lunches of sandwiches, fruit, and milk to local children at three of its branches. “We were seeing hungry kids coming in and staying the whole day,” says Derrick DeMay, Oakland’s supervising branch librarian. “Hungry kids act in ways that are unproductive. One solution is to say, ‘You’re out for not following the rules.’ But that doesn’t help anybody.” The library’s decision to feed kids instead of ejecting them was quiet testament to the long, lingering shadow of food insecurity, which, despite some fluctuations, has remained consistent at around 12 percent of the nation’s households since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began tracking it in 1995. (That figure is 14.4 percent in Alameda County, which encompasses Oakland.) “A very basic need was not being met and we realized, these kids just need to be fed,” says DeMay. At the California Library Association (CLA), program director Natalie Cole watched Oakland’s summer lunch experiment with interest, while amassing reports from librarians in other parts of the state about encounters with ravenous kids acting up and asking for snacks. In 2013, she and Patrice Chamberlain, director of the California Summer Meal Coalition, received a private grant to follow Oakland’s lead and pilot a summer lunch program at 17 California library branches…”
In all likelihood, regardless of how careful you are and how many email addresses you employ, all of them have been compromised many times over as a result of a multitude of breaches of sites and services that range from Tickefly to Adobe. You may want to check in with Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) on a regular basis and follow the site owner’s expert advise on steps to secure your email accounts.
Lawyer Exchange: “Market disruptors have become an economical sleeping giant – just ask taxi companies how they feel about ride sharing services! When it comes to the legal industry, though, innovation has had trouble gaining traction due to rigid business models and hiring practices. Now, legal project work is quickly changing how legal work is conducted. And the best part? It’s working! Accordingly, I have some good news and then some bad news. The bad news?: law graduate unemployment is still a problem and finding a traditional legal job continues to be impractical and unsustainable for many. The good news?: legal project work is creating an environment for law graduates and emerging lawyers to obtain opportunities for legal employment, experience, and mentorship through legal project work…”
Washington Post: “Type “Russia collusion” into a Google search, and the search engine will try to guess the next word you’ll type. The first of those is “delusion…Accept the suggestion, and you’ll find yourself in a conservative rabbit hole. The first result is a New York Post opinion piece with the headline, “Democrats, get set to lose your ‘collusion’ delusions.” The next result, from the conservative site “American Greatness,” reads “Meowing Media Fuel Mass Delusion of Russian Collusion.” Several other results on the first page — including one from a bodybuilding forum — come from other conservative outlets approvingly quoting an apparent catalyst of the phrase’s popularity: Roger Stone, speaking on Fox News.
Google auto-completes search terms based on popularity, so it’s likely that “Russia collusion delusion” is driven by people turning to Google to learn more about Stone’s phrase.
For Francesca Tripodi, a postdoctoral scholar at Data & Society and assistant professor in sociology at James Madison University, the search results are a powerful tell of a phenomenon she set out to document. The “collusion delusion” results are seeking a conservative audience — which is exactly the demographic that would be more likely to search for the phrase in the first place. “No one in the mainstream media has said ‘collusion delusion,’” she said, “but that phrase has been used [by] Tucker Carlson.” Her study [Searching for Alternative Facts] was published in a Data & Society report last week…” [Searching for Alternative Facts is an ethnographic account drawn directly from Dr. Francesca Tripodi’s research within upper-middle class conservative Christian* communities in Virginia in 2017. Dr. Tripodi uses Christian practices of Biblical interpretation as a lens for understanding the relationship between so-called “alternative” or “fake news” sources and contemporary conservative political thought.]
Pew – “If you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up, you are not alone. A sizable portion of Americans are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of news there is, though the sentiment is more common on the right side of the political spectrum, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from Feb. 22 to March 4, 2018. Almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-ten who say they like the amount of news they get. The portion expressing feelings of information overload is in line with how Americans felt during the 2016 presidential election, when a majority expressed feelings of exhaustion from election coverage…”
American Libraries: “Backlash was swift when it was publicized in January that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) had begun requiring that packages to prisoners come from a handful of state-approved vendors only. While the package contents were not limited to books, the proposed change hampered books-to-prisoners organizations in their mission to provide reading material to the incarcerated. A large part of the controversy stemmed from the initial five vendors’ limited selection of fewer than 100 books, many of which were coloring or puzzle books. Stories in The New York Times and elsewhere exposed the decision, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reverse the policy. That rapid change in response to public scrutiny mirrored one that took place in New Jersey a few days prior to Cuomo’s decision. The New Jersey Department of Corrections had banned prisoners from reading Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which explores the US prison system and the incarceration of African Americans. The decision to lift the book ban came within hours of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sending a letter to the department of corrections demanding it remove the restriction. On May 3 the US Bureau of Prisons made a similar move when it rescinded a policy that banned direct delivery of books from publishers, book clubs, and bookstores to inmates in federal prisons.
Ben Schatz, a public defender in New York City who runs a program called Books Beyond Bars, says efforts to block books-to-prisons groups is “enormously frustrating.” “This is not an attempt to get The Anarchist Cookbook to prisoners,” he says. “It’s largely people who want to learn a skill or trade.”
CityLab: “…The tragedy of the leaf blower is that it makes assholes of us all, users and neighbors alike. The aggressively un-civil nature of these devices is the stuff of legend, especially here at Atlantic Media, where The Atlantic’s esteemed national correspondent, James Fallows, has led an epic campaign against the Leafblower Menace. Those who want to explore all the moral and environmental arguments should consult his deep body of advocacy first. But the short version goes like this:
- The crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs. “Simplest benchmark: running a leafblower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a F-150 pickup truck 3800 miles,” Fallows writes. “About one-third of the gasoline that goes into this sort of engine is spewed out, unburned, in an aerosol mixed with oil in the exhaust.”
- Those emissions—plus all the other fine-particulate crap that the blowers kick up—constitute a public health hazard for anyone in the vicinity, but especially for the poor bastard running the thing. In most cities and suburbs, those most afflicted are low-wage employees of landscaping companies, not residents or homeowners.
- THE NOISE GAAH MAKE IT STOP. A gas blower at full cry can exceed a 100 decibels for the operator (OSHA requires hearing protections at 85), as these Sacramento blower foes explain, and it carries for hundreds of feet in every direction, irritating all who dwell therein…”
“The Medicare Program is the second-largest social insurance program in the U.S., with 58.4 million beneficiaries and total expenditures of $710 billion in 2017. The Boards of Trustees for Medicare (also Boards) report annually to the Congress on the financial operations and actuarial status of the program. Beginning in 2002, there is one combined report discussing both the Hospital Insurance program (Medicare Part A) and the Supplementary Medical Insurance program (Medicare Part B and Prescription Drug Coverage). The Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) prepares the report under the direction of the Boards. The Boards of Trustees issued their most recent report on June 5, 2018. (Download the Report and the Data/ZIP file.) The Trustees Report is a detailed, lengthy document, containing a substantial amount of information on the past and estimated future financial operations of the Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds (see the links in the Downloads section below). We recommend that readers begin with the “Overview” section of the report. This section is fairly short, is written in “plain English,” and summarizes all the key information concerning the expected financial outlook for Medicare. Substantial additional material is available in the later sections for those wishing to delve more deeply into the actuarial projections…”
Medicare has two Trust Funds: the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund and the Supplementary Medical (SMI) Insurance Trust Fund. The Trustees project that the HI Trust Fund will pay full scheduled benefits until 2026…
“The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time. The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in late 2034, as compared to last year’s estimate of early 2035, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2032, extended from last year’s estimate of 2028, with 96 percent of benefits still payable. In the 2018 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $44 billion in 2017 to a total of $2.89 trillion.
- The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income in 2018 for the first time since 1982, and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. As a result, asset reserves are expected to decline during 2018. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.
- The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits…
Via LLRX – Popular Face-to-Face Conferencing Software – Brandon Wright Adler reviews free and fee based meeting/conferencing software that meets the requirements to support effective communications with team and/or group members in disparate locations.
Via LLRX – Correcting The Legal Industry’s Bad Turn On Lean Thinking – Ken Grady’s commentary focuses on the challenges to successfully operationalizing “lean” in the legal sector. He states – “to understand why lean thinking is struggling in the legal industry, we need to understand who is teaching lean. Most of the people who “teach” lean in the legal industry have little experience implementing lean. They have read books, consulted, taught, and advised, but they haven’t been on the front lines doing thousands of hours of lean.”
Molly McKew, Center for International Governance Innovation: “Social media giants are under intense scrutiny for — at best — turning a blind eye to the proliferation of information operations on their platforms and — at worst — knowingly profiteering from and facilitating the use of their platforms for these kinds of campaigns. As a result, a number of social media companies are implementing voluntary measures to show they can self-police before the 2018 US mid-term elections. Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube have instituted new transparency and verification measures for advertising, designed to limit the ability of foreign actors, such as Russia, to run campaigns during national elections. Twitter is taking down malicious botnets that contribute to disinformation campaigns. YouTube, Google and Facebook are looking at how their algorithms trend, sort and promote content, after criticism that disinformation outperforms real news in their news feeds. Facebook is allowing access to data for research (with an emphasis on looking ahead, not behind), and partnering with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to “identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world.” Most of these measures are viewed as important steps forward, if not enough to deter or disrupt hostile information campaigns, which are constantly evolving to evade detection measures. In private conversations, journalists and researchers have also voiced concerns that Facebook’s new partnerships are another effort to “buy up” talent and expertise that had previously provided outside review, even as Facebook retains greater control of the data. Additionally, some of the algorithmic tweaks are having unintended consequences, including making the problem of “siloing” worse. The focus has been on ads, bots and Russians. But ads aren’t really the issue. Bots aren’t the only, or even the primary, means of amplification. The Kremlin prefers to use proxies and deniability — and their disinformation tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are being cloned by a range of state and non-state actors around the world. Focusing on these areas does nothing to alter the fundamental nature of the business model of social media, which creates echo chambers by design…”
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: “Federal criminal prosecutions of individuals apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southwest border with Mexico jumped 30 percent in April 2018 over March figures. Since January, criminal prosecutions were up 60 percent, rising from 5,191 in January to 8,298 in April. This increase followed rising border apprehensions and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April 6, 2018 announcement of a “zero-tolerance policy” calling for the criminal prosecution of those who illegally cross over our southwest border. Southwest border apprehensions still dwarf the number of criminal prosecutions. In April 2018 preliminary estimates indicate that criminal prosecutions totaled 22 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions that month, up slightly from 20 percent of BP apprehensions in January 2018. Criminal prosecutions of referrals from Customs and Border Protection increased in April in all five federal judicial districts along the southwest border. Prosecutions were highest in the Western District of Texas where prosecutions doubled between January and April. However, April numbers even for border areas that historically have experienced particularly prosecution levels were still significantly lower than in the past when previous administrations also implemented “zero-tolerance” and called for the criminal prosecution of all illegal southwest border crossers. To read the full report, including detailed figures on criminal prosecutions for each of the five southwest border districts over the last decade along with recent trends for border areas within each district, go to: http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/515/“
IFLA Library Advocacy and Literacy Blog: “eBooks are often portrayed as being in conflict with physical books – the modern versus the traditional, function versus experience, and (more or less openly) Amazon versus bookstores and established publishers. Sales figures are regularly analysed for the relative trends. Partisans of physical books cite numbers from the big publishers, which tend to show increased sales of hardcopies making up for a fall in eBook sales Amazon’s tax practices, and recent stories about fake eBooks on the site potentially being used for money laundering have provided further ammunition for those who seek to paint eBooks as a ‘bad thing’. Others point out that once independent eBook publishing (much of which runs through Amazon) is included, the eBook market looks a lot healthier (see also this Quartz piece). A recent study (paywalled) from the University of Arizona, based on focus group studies, provides interesting insights looks at user experiences and attitudes towards eBooks, aiming to establish at the micro level (rather than the macro, whole-of-market level) what may underpin consumers’ behaviour…”
A key finding from the article concerns the difference in people’s feelings about owning digital and physical books, or rather that there is a much stronger sense of ownership of physical objects. It underlines that reading an eBook feels more like ‘renting’ than buying, more like a service than a good.
BEABlog: “The Bureau of Economic Analysis for the first time released statistics that provide information on how much Americans spend to treat more than 200 specific medical conditions, such as acute myocardial infarctions, chronic kidney disease, and osteoarthritis. The new statistics, which cover the years 2000 through 2014, are part of BEA’s Health Care Satellite Account created in 2015. The project offers a new way of analyzing health care spending by breaking out spending by the treatment of disease, rather than by place of service such as a hospital or doctor’s office. What’s new with the more detailed release is information for 261 detailed medical conditions as well as 63 broader medical groupings such as heart conditions and hypertension. This infographic lays this out for you. Until now, spending information was available only for 18 much more expansive categories, such circulatory, musculoskeletal, and respiratory conditions. The newly available detailed statistics provide researchers and other data users a fresh tool to gain deeper insights into spending patterns to treat different medical conditions. No other official data source regularly produces such statistics at this level of detail. Here are some findings:
- Much of the growth in inflation-adjusted health care spending (using the overall PCE price index) is driven by a small number of conditions. Roughly, 30 of the 261 medical conditions accounted for 42 percent of inflation adjusted growth in per capita spending over the 15-year period. Those 30 conditions include hepatitis, diabetes, and osteoarthritis.
- Aging and obesity, spending on innovative technology, and seeking preventative services played a role in the spending growth for many of the 30 conditions.
More information and analysis is available in a newly published article in the June issue of Health Affairs, a health care journal.“
Vox – Sean Illing: “Can presidents pardon themselves? The answer, surprisingly enough, is not that clear. But since President Trump just tweeted that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself, the question is suddenly relevant. Trump’s lawyers have previously explored the potential uses of presidential pardons — including whether the president can pardon himself — as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to a Washington Post report last July. And just this weekend, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuiliani said that the president has the power to pardon himself, although he insisted that doing so would be “unthinkable.” I reached out to 15 legal experts and asked them if the president has the constitutional authority to pardon himself. As it turns out, this is something of a legal gray area. The overwhelming consensus was that Trump could make a plausible legal argument that his pardoning powers extend to himself, mostly because the Constitution isn’t clear about this — and, frankly, because this is just not a situation the framers expected. All the experts agreed about one other fact: Even if Trump does pardon himself, that would not shield him from impeachment hearings. And most believe if he did make a move like this, it would be both an admission of guilt and a potential constitutional crisis. You can read their full responses [in this article.].” I chose one of the responses to share in full – as follows:
Julie O’Sullivan, law professor, Georgetown University – The text of the Constitution says that the president has no pardon power over impeachment. If the president were to pardon himself to preempt a legitimate investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing, it would have no effect on congressional investigations. In the debates surrounding the framing of the Constitution, the framers were very clear: No one, least of all the president, can be above the law. If President Trump does this, and it does not immediately provoke an impeachment inquiry — that is, if the Republican majority can excuse such a blatant disregard for the rule of law — then we are in a full-blown constitutional crisis. The Saturday Night Massacre pales by comparison. That was a stupid burglary. This is potential collusion with a foreign power over the most important electoral contest in the United States.
CRS report via FAS – U.S. Department of State Personnel: Background and Selected Issues for Congress. Cory R. Gill, Analyst in Foreign Affairs. May 18, 2018.
“Shortly after his confirmation as Secretary of State in April 2018, Secretary Mike Pompeo lifted the hiring freeze that former Secretary Rex Tillerson left in place for over a year. Guidance issued after Secretary Pompeo’s action indicates that the department intends to increase Foreign and Civil Service personnel levels in a manner consistent with the language and funding Congress included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The Trump Administration has taken additional actions affecting Department of State personnel, including designing “keystone modernization projects” within its Leadership and Modernization Impact Initiative. These projects seek to strengthen workforce readiness and enhance performance management and employee accountability, among other goals. The State Department is also prioritizing efforts to address long-standing concerns regarding the perceived lack of diversity in the Foreign Service. The Trump Administration has moved more slowly than previous Administrations in transmitting nominations for senior Department of State positions to the Senate for advice and consent; meanwhile, the Senate has taken longer than it has in the past to provide advice and consent for many of those nominations that have been transmitted.Some Members of Congress and other observers have expressed varying levels of concern with some of these developments, with some arguing that the Trump Administration (especially under former Secretary Tillerson) had been purposefully attempting to weaken the Department of State and diminish its influence in developing and implementing U.S. foreign policy. Secretary Pompeo pledged that he will work to enable the Department of State to play a central role in implementing President Trump’s agenda and protecting the national security of the United States, while empowering the department’s personnel in their roles..”