Around the Blawgosphere: Journalists, Watch Your Language, Prof Says; 'Groupons' for Lawyers?

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Reporting on Sex Abuse Cases

At The Crime Report, ex-prosecutor and adjunct prof Wendy Murphy writes that the language used in media coverage of the Penn State child sex abuse case has been “universally inappropriate.” Murphy runs New England Law | Boston’s Judicial Language Project, which “aims to identify language in judicial opinions that inappropriately implies that the victim of the violence sought out the violence, participated willingly in the violence, or otherwise was in some way responsible for the violence.”

Murphy objects to describing acts of sexual violence against children in “erotic terms” which can blur lines between sexual pleasure and criminal violence and imply consent on a child’s part; she urges reporters (as she has urged judges, in their opinions) to use different phrasing.

“For example, rather than ‘anal sex,’ a reporter could say, ‘the offender penetrated the child’s anus with his penis,’ ” Murphy wrote. “Instead of ‘the child performed oral sex,’ a reporter could say, the offender pushed his penis into the child’s mouth.’ This accurate, if blunt, use of language makes it clear that the victim suffered harm and bears no responsibility for the criminal acts of the offender.”

Daily Deals

Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites took note of a relatively new feature of MyLegal.com—a page full of Groupon-like offers ” on products and services targeted to lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and legal administrators.”

Ambrogi writes that this feature of the site launched in October. One deal on the site Ambrogi cited was $2,000 off trial technician services (50-hour minimum); another was $25 off a $75 order of office supplies.

“To view these deals, there is no cost or registration required,” Ambrogi writes. “For that reason, you have nothing to lose by checking this site before purchasing goods or services for your law office. Who knows—you might just save a few bucks.”

Code Red

At the Unwashed Advocate, Kansas solo Eric Mayer has come up with a Law Office Potential Client Alert System based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s advisory system.

Per Mayer, an “Alert Level Blue” client is “sane, well-funded, and understands their need for a lawyer. They are patient and understand the necessity to cooperate and assist in their case. They understand that lawyers cost money and only work for free in special situations. … Proceed with a high degree of confidence.”

Four steps below this client is an “Alert Level Red” client. He or she will “demand that you take their criminal matter on a contingency fee basis. … When you explain how / why their case may lack merit, they become angry, accuse you of working for ‘the feds,’ and their ‘other personality’ occasionally takes the phone to cuss at you. … Do not proceed. Refer this case to someone you don’t like.”

The Descendants from a Trust Lawyer’s Perspective

Paul E. Trudelle, a partner at Hull & Hull in Toronto, wrote at Toronto Estate Law Blog that while he thinks that George Clooney’s new film, The Descendants, is a great movie in its own right, it’s “also a great movie from the perspective of an estates and trusts lawyer.” Trusteeship, powers of attorney, living wills, and the threat of estate litigation all come up, he says, as does the rule against perpetuities. “I don’t expect that ‘rule against perpetuities’ movies will be a new film genre. However, it is an interesting concept and significantly moves the story in The Descendants forward.”

Truedelle doesn’t indicate that he saw any inaccuracies in The Descendants’ rule-against-perpetuities plotline. Though we know that in 1981’s Body Heat, another well-known rule-against-perpetuities movie, Florida law didn’t jibe with the plot of that Florida-set film. According to a 1998 article by Michael Asimow, co-author of Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies, “presumably the trust for [the niece in the plot] included a contingent remainder, where the contingency could not vest during the period of lives-in-being-plus-21-years. Under the traditional version of the rule against perpetuities, the presence of such a contingency (however unlikely to materialize) invalidates the gift (unless the will contained a “savings clause” which obviously it didn’t). … Trouble is, before the film was shot, Florida had abolished this form of the rule against perpetuities.”

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