Drunk driver outed by pet parrot

Hey parrot, why you snitchin’?

“Police in Mexico City said a drunken driving suspect stopped at an alcohol checkpoint was betrayed by his pet parrot, which told police “he’s drunk.”

Had this occurred in the U.S., odds are a competent criminal defense attorney could successfully challenge the sobriety test. As for the parrot’s remarks, it’s all hearsay and would never make it to the jury unless a D.A. could convince the court that such remarks were more like a tape recorder playing back words spoken by the Defendant (“estoy borracho”) and less like a sentient creature capable of speech (“está borracho”).

Via Gawker.

Don’t Get Caught Being a New Lawyer in Mississippi


Everyone will agree there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs. But what states are suffering the worst? Matt Leichter, author of Law School Tuition Bubble, compiled lawyer job projections for 2010-2020 with anticipated graduates from ABA-accredited law schools to determine who’s the worst off. This list comes hot on the tail of news that law school applications declined for a third straight year:

• Mississippi (10.53 law grads for each job opening, according to initial numbers)

• Michigan (6.48 law grads for each job opening)

• Delaware (4.20 law grads for each job opening)

• Nebraska (4.04 law grads for each job opening)

• Vermont (3.50 law grads for each job opening)

• Massachusetts (3.27 law grads for each job opening)

• Indiana (3.03 law grads for each job opening)

• Oregon (2.98 law grads for each job opening)

• Louisiana (2.95 law grads for each job opening)

• New York (2.92 law grads for each job opening)

And way down at #26: California (1.99 law grads for each job opening). Rounding out the list, Alaska was ranked as one of the best because it had no grads from ABA-accredited law schools (0.00 law grad for each job opening). Running these numbers based on new bar admittees, Alaska, like all other states, suffers from an oversupply of lawyers.

Via The Atlantic.

Non-Conjoined Twins As Legal Actors


However, DNA matches have connected identical twins to the crime, but criminal charges cannot be pursued against them because their DNA is exactly the same and the victims cannot identify which of the twins may have committed the crime.

Via The Merc.

See also, Summers v. Tice and the case of the lawyer too clever by half.

Urban Dictionary Finds Place in Official Court Opinions


What once was restricted to Wikipedia, the scholarly source, has now extended to a research tool with potentially less integrity. In a recent piece, the New York Times reports on the growing use of urbandictionary.com as a dictionary of slang and colloquialisms legitimate enough for reference in official court opinions. As official, print dictionaries like Websters and the OED lag behind the parlance of our times, Urban Dictionary maintains an up to date, peer-reviewed list of common words.

Uses of Urban Dictionary, started in 1999 by founder Aaron Peckham from his college dorm, include last month’s Wisconsin opinion where the court sought to determine what was meant by two suspected robbers who referred to themselves as the “jack boys.” A court in Tennessee sought to define what a manager accused of sexual harassment by an employee meant when using the phrase “to nut.”

Prior to the inception of Urban Dictionary, courts would hire linguists to conduct surveys of the population to determine what was meant by a slang term, not found in any traditional dictionary. Now, anyone can provide a definition for a word, whether original or not, which must be approved by five other site users before appearing on the site.

While Rutgers law professor Greg Lastowka anticipates that the use of Urban Dictionary will become more prevalent, Peckham points to the inherent problem with using his site as a traditional dictionary:

[P]rivate analyses the site has conducted show that “funny” is the No. 1 reason people give for voting for posts.

Whether courts will take into account the demographics of the users of the site or that anyone and four of their friends can skew results remains to be seen. YOLO.

Via NYTimes.

Stream of Slurs, Threats Not Protected Under Constitution


The SF Chronicle reported this weekend on a decision by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego affirming that loud, angry, aggressive, and disruptive language is not constitutionally protected speech.

The case, In re Curtis S. (2013) Cal. Super. Ct. No. JCM230237, came on appeal after a conviction in juvenile court of three counts:  1) petty theft (Pen. Code,  § 484); 2) assault (§ 240); and 3) disturbing another person by loud and unreasonable noise (§ 415, subd. (2)). Testimony revealed that Curtis S., a minor, stole a cell phone from another student and was pursued by a good Samaritan who stopped her car in front of Curtis S., preventing him from getting away. He threw the phone into a construction site and then began yelling obscenities and threatening language at the woman. When she attempted to grab his arm to detain him, he swung at her with a closed fist. According to testimony, Curtis S. called someone on his own cell phone during the altercation and said, “you better get this lady, because I’m about to.” Police arrived and arrested Curtis S. for the theft and for threatening the woman.

On appeal, Curtis S. argued that the purpose of his speech was to communicate and that such speech was protected by the First Amendment. Section 415, subdivision (2) makes it a crime for any person to “maliciously and willfully disturb[] another person by loud and unreasonable noise.” The appellate court relying on In re Brown (1973) 9 Cal.3d 612, 621, found that creating a disturbance by making loud noises, shouting obscenities, and making threats verbally is not protected speech.

Further, the Supreme Court has recognized, “the protections afforded by the First Amendment, however, are not absolute, and . . . the government may regulate certain categories of expression consistent with the Constitution.”  (Virginia v. Black (2003) 538 U.S. 343, 358.)  Words may be restricted under the First Amendment where they are ” ‘ “of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.” ‘ ”  (Id. at pp. 358-359, citing R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992) 505 U.S. 377, 382-383.)

In California, when is speech not protected? When it communicates nothing!

“The loud shouting of obscenities and threats was disruptive, rather than communicative in nature.”

Via SF Chronicle.

Read the opinion.

Lawyers: Hated Since the Fifth Century (give or take a few hundred years)


Sylvester Shyster, Disney’s 1930s crooked lawyer who schemed with Peg-Leg Pete to deprive Minnie Mouse of her inheritance

Thanks to a lawsuit alleging over-billing against DLA Piper, an internal email surfaced between attorneys at the firm who joked, “churn that bill, baby!” In order to quell some of the outrage over the untoward comment, this week editors at Slate’s Explainer column delve into the history of attorney billing and present a fascinating story.

According to columnist Forrest Wickman, attorneys were not always so reviled as they are today. In fact, lawyers practicing under the Roman empire enjoyed a kind of respect unheard of since the Middle Ages. Lawyers came from high class families and worked for the public good, collecting modest legal fees and were paid based on their gift of gab rather than encyclopedic knowledge of statutory law.

By the Dark Ages, the Catholic church had developed a tortured code of society. So difficult was the system to crack, specialized interpreters were required to interpret the code. However, attorneys were criticized for charging competitive rates for their trade. So loathsome was this practice that some compared lawyers to Judas, explaining that “he who sells the truth for money sells Christ, who is Truth.

See the rest of the column for more.

Via Slate.