Monday, November 21, 2016

Judge for Yourself

Data analytics are a rapidly-growing feature in legal research services. From the intellectual property predictive analysis in Lex Machina (now owned by LexisNexis) to the recently-unveiled Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, many legal research services are offering their users charts, tables, and other information about the connections between court opinions and orders, lawyers, judges, and companies.

Judges are a particularly interesting use case. Most research services provide a basic biographical profile of current judges, along with links to their full-text opinions and orders. However, some research services provide a bit more analysis and examination of individual judges.

The Judge Analytics module of  Ravel Law, featured in Forbes earlier this year, is one example of the possibilities. Duke Law students, faculty, and staff may request an Educational Account. Judge Analytics' coverage includes current and historical federal judges, as well as current state appellate court judges. Type a judge's name into the main Ravel search box and select their name from the "Judges" auto-suggest in order to view a dashboard. The "Opinions" tab provides quick access to the judge’s authored opinions. The "Analytics" tab includes lists of their most-cited opinions, judges, and courts. The "About" tab links to biographical information and available news articles.

Westlaw Profiler and Lexis Advance Litigation Profile Suite both include basic biographical information for state and federal judges, as well as links to opinions, court filings, and secondary sources, such as news. Westlaw and Lexis also include selected charts and tables, where available, of topics like ruling history and judicial reversal rates.

Bloomberg Law's Litigation Analytics module is currently limited to U.S. District Court judges, but includes profiles and analysis of opinions and orders, such as frequently-cited opinions, motion and appeal outcomes, and average length of case.

For more sources of information about judges, including access for the always-illuminating anonymous lawyer survey comments in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, visit the Goodson Law Library research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Indecent Exposure

This weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live sounded a little different to viewers in the Raleigh-Durham market served by NBC affiliate WRAL-TV. Host Dave Chappelle's monologue featured several ten-second audio drops, omitting entire sentences and joke punchlines. The periodic audio interruptions continued into several SNL sketches. (Twitter user Nathania Johnson compared her local DVR recording to video clips from the national broadcast on Hulu. The WRAL interruptions are described in detail at her Medium post, 10 times NBC affiliate WRAL censored Dave Chappelle-hosted SNL last night.)

Raleigh's News & Observer confirmed that the local network affiliate had elected to provide additional local censorship of language, even though several pre-taped sketches already featured bleeping from the national broadcast feed. In an official statement released on Sunday, WRAL said,
"WRAL-TV has a station obscenity, decency and profanity policy that outlines 10 specific words that will not be broadcast on our air. This policy is based on our own standards in combination with FCC guidelines. Our broadcast operators have a 10-second delay button they can choose to use. During Saturday Night Live on NBC, guest host Dave Chappell [sic] used 2 of those words on 9 different occasions and they were silenced. Obviously, SNL is a live show so we had no prior indication about what would be said during the broadcast. We understand this caused disruption during the program. We wanted our audience to know this was a station decision, not the network's, and why we made that choice."

Later, in response to viewer complaints and increasing press coverage, WRAL apologized "for impeding the full flow and message of Dave Chappelle's monologue. It was not our intention to censor his message. We followed policies and procedures that have been in place for many years for programming of any kind," and pledged to review the internal policy while considering viewer input. Variety noted that the station had heard "from many viewers" about the local language censorship, and also had a history of refusing to air certain national programs during its time as a CBS affiliate.

In its statement about the local obscenity, decency and profanity station policy, WRAL mentions national "FCC guidelines" as well. The Federal Communications Commission regulates broadcast television and radio, and does indeed provide guidelines about obscene, indecent, and profane content. Obscene content falls outside First Amendment protection and is prohibited at all times; indecent and profane content is prohibited between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., "when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." Saturday Night Live airs from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

In the 1970s, the decade when Saturday Night Live debuted, comedian George Carlin’s famous "Seven Dirty Words" routine landed before the U.S. Supreme Court, which considered FCC indecency and profanity standards in the case of Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978). In the Pacifica case, a 5-4 Court upheld the FCC's finding that a radio broadcast of Carlin's routine constituted indecent speech.

The current federal standard for what constitutes indecent or profane content is discussed in the FCC's "Golden Globes order" of 2004, 19 FCC Rcd. 4975, available on the FCC's website. In the "Golden Globes order" (so named for the awards ceremony where singer Bono uttered a "fleeting expletive" in the live broadcast), the Commission cited an earlier internal policy document, Industry Guidance on the Commission's Case Law Interpreting 18 U.S.C. §1464 and Enforcement Policies Regarding Broadcast Indecency ("Indecency Policy Statement"), 16 FCC Rcd 7999. This policy statement outlined more clearly what factors the Commission weighs in determine whether content is indecent.

For more information on broadcast standards and the FCC, try a search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Broadcasting -- Law and legislation -- United States." You’ll find titles like Rodney Smolla's treatise Rights and Liabilities in Media Content: Internet, Broadcast, and Print (KF2750 .M472 & online in Westlaw) as well as historical works on broadcast regulation and indecency. For more information about the FCC's operations, check out the agency directories listed in the Goodson Law Library guide to Federal Administrative Law or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers and Law Students

It's that time of year again! Since 2009, the Goodson Blogson has compiled holiday gift ideas for the law students or lawyers in your life. We are proud to stand alongside long-time lawyer gift guide authors like Reid Trautz of Reid My Blog (which, sadly, seems to have ceased updating after its 2015 gift guide) and the ABA Journal. This year, we are getting a head start on our holiday shopping plans, with our earliest gift guide ever.

The gift shops of federal museums and other D.C.-area tourist attractions remain a great place to locate unique law-themed items. If you can't make it to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (where advanced tickets quickly sold out until 2017), you can browse some of its souvenirs available in the Smithsonian Store, including books on African-American and civil rights history, t-shirts, and jewelry. The Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop and White House Gift Shop are also perennial favorites for legal and political-themed knickknacks, jewelry, and even jigsaw puzzles.

Since last year's gift guide, the National Archives and Records Administration store has expanded its inventory. Patent Prints now include a number of sports-themed patent artwork (e.g., basketball nets, golf ball cores, and soccer shoes) as well as musical instruments, toys, and vehicle parts. The Bill of Rights comes emblazoned on lunch bags, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. The Kitchen collection includes dishware and glassware featuring the Declaration of Independence, D.C. government landmarks, and a 1974 "cocktail construction chart" drawn by a former employee of the U.S. Forest Service.

Private museums and attractions are another great source for unusual law gifts. Ralph Nader's American Museum of Tort Law in Connecticut also hosts a small online shop, featuring t-shirts depicting the Brown v. Kendall "reasonable person" case, the exploding Pinto automobile which inspired Nader's classic book Unsafe at Any Speed, and the famous flaming rat (don't ask).

Online retailer Uncommon Goods offers The Devil's Dictionary Law Glasses, a pair of tumblers featuring humorous definitions of "proof" and "justice" straight from Ambrose Bierce's 1906 satirical Devil's Dictionary. (Similar glassware pairs are available for finance and medicine.) For less-sarcastic drinkers, the site also offers glasses featuring the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

In September, Florida became the first state to require a minimum number of continuing legal education hours in technology, a change which will take effect on January 1. Florida's recent rule change also made them the 25th state to adopt an ethical duty for lawyers to stay current with technology. With technology's importance to the law profession increasing by the day, gadgets make great gifts for law students and lawyers alike! Some ideas at various price points include:
  • Electronic organizers like Grid-It offer affordable options for safely storing cables, chargers, headphones, and other tech accessories.
  • Speaking of chargers, ThinkGeek's Electronics section includes several whimsical charging devices, such as Star Wars-themed USB chargers, and a Back to the Future flux capacitor car charger.
  • Noise-canceling headphones are a higher-end purchase, but can vastly improve study time in the law library as well as air travel. CNET recommends The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2016 at prices ranging from $165 to $440.
  • Tablets are a great option for the mobile lawyer or law student. Consumer Reports offers a Tablet Buying Guide to help users navigate the growing amount of choices on the market.
  • Virtual reality headsets don't come cheap, with the exception of Google Cardboard's introductory offering. But for gamers and budding geeks, virtual reality is undeniably appealing. CNET rounds up available options, including Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift. Be warned, though – Microsoft has just announced plans to develop a new $299 VR headset in 2017, meaning this year's gift might need an upgrade in the not-too-distant future.

When shopping online, be mindful to calculate the cost of sales tax (if applicable) and shipping to your purchase. Free shipping may be available from retailers with a specific purchase amount. There's also Free Shipping Day, in which online retailers offer no-minimum free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Free Shipping Day isn't until December 16, when desired items might be out of stock – so keep an eye out for shipping deals between now and then, such as "Cyber Monday" (the Monday following Thanksgiving).

Finally, don't forget to stop in at your local independent retailers. Yes, prices may be slightly lower at online giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but shipping costs can often even that score, or even cost more in the long run. Local retailers may also carry unique merchandise not available on other sites, such as Runaway Clothes' popular "Durm Bull" t-shirts. Sustain-a-Bull is Durham's alliance of more than 175 independent local businesses, many of which are retail stores offering unique local items.

All of us at Goodson Blogson HQ wish our readers a happy and safe holiday season.