Around the Blawgosphere

SCOTUSblog gets press credentials; eBay defamation case is dropped after bloggers turn up the heat

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Last month, SCOTUSblog won a Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media–the first blog to ever do so. On Thursday, it announced that it had at long last, the Senate Press Gallery has granted its reporter Lyle Denniston a press credential. “The Supreme Court’s general practice, which we expect to apply in this case, is to recognize Senate credentials,” founder Tom Goldstein wrote at SCOTUSblog. “We are very grateful for the thoughtful consideration we received from everyone involved.”

Answering the call

For the second time in six months, blogger Ken has put up the “Popehat Signal” in a quest for representation for an defendant who he considers to be a victim of a SLAPP suit in Ohio, which does not have an anti-SLAPP law.

He shares the details at Popehat–as well as the complaint (PDF) from plaintiff Med Express Inc.

The Valley City, Ohio-based company sells its wares on eBay exclusively. Defendant Amy Nicholls paid for the item and shipping via PayPal, but it arrived with $1.44 postage due. So she noted this in negative feedback about the company on eBay. The company reimbursed her the $1.44, but she didn’t change her review. So Med Express sued Nicholls for damages and sought an injunction forcing her feedback to be removed.

“This is the ugly truth of the legal system: litigants and lawyers can manipulate it to impose huge expense on defendants no matter what the merits of their complaint. Censors can abuse the system to make true speech so expensive and risky that citizens will be silenced,” Ken wrote. “If you are an attorney practicing in Medina County, Ohio, please consider offering pro bono assistance.”

TechDirt and Ars Technica’s Law & Disorder blog also took note. And soon enough, two lawyers answered the call and offered to help Nicholls pro bono. Cincinnati lawyer Jeffrey M. Nye and Cleveland lawyer Thomas G. Haren have already filed a counterclaim (PDF) seeking sanctions and punitive damages. (Those two lawyers also answered Popehat’s call in November seeking defenders for a woman who blogged about the Steubenville High School rape case.)

However, on Thursday, Paul Alan Levy from Public Citizen’s litigation group–who actually was the first to ask for help for Nicholls at Consumer Law & Policy Blog on Monday–noted at Consumer Law & Policy Blog that right after the counterclaim was served, Med Express’ president, Richard Radey, apologized in a comment on the Monday post and said he had just instructed his attorney to drop the lawsuit.

But Levy doubts Radey’s sincerity. “The main reason why I find Radey’s apology and explanation incredible is that the lawsuit against Nicholls is just one of several cases that Med Express has filed in Medina, Ohio, against its eBay critics.”

Capturing the iron throne

Washington, D.C., solo Carolyn Elefant attended Wednesday’s Iron Tech Lawyer Competition at Georgetown University Law Center. In the competition, students work in small teams for a legal service organization to develop a tech application that either increases access to justice or increases the effectiveness of legal representation.

The winning app, Elefant wrote at My Shingle, was a tool that tested for bankruptcy eligibility.

Elefant wrote that she was “blown away” by the entries. “The students had modest aspirations for these tools. Most expected that they would be used in a pro bono context. When I mentioned to one or two students that big box law firms would pay big bucks to use these tools as lead generators, they were genuinely horrified.”

What did she also find interesting? That the male / female ratio of participants was about equal. “Even though both the technology industry and the upper echelons of law practice are dominated by men…somehow, there’s equality at the intersection.”

Better call Saul

Click for full screenshot.

When firm marketing consultant Gyi Tsakalakis is asked which law firm has the best website, what does he say?

The website of fictional lawyer Saul Goodman from the AMC TV series Breaking Bad, Tsakalakis writes at Lawyerist. He asserts in the tongue-in-cheek post that the spoof website could be an effective one.

“Anyone familiar with Plutchik’s wheel of emotions will immediately recognize the intentional use of oranges (vigilance), yellows (ecstasy) and reds (rage),” Tsakalakis wrote. “These are the emotions that Saul’s potential clients are feeling, and his mastery of color theory is clear.”

Some drawbacks? There are no disclaimers. And while Tsakalakis said that while Goodman “appropriately uses real photographs, I would suggest that his use of popular legal stock images was a mistake.”

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