Iowa Supreme Court Rules “Irresistible Attraction” Permissible for Employment Termination

The all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled today that a dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage. The unanimous court held that 53 year-old dentist James Knight did not discriminate against 32 year-old Melissa Nelson, his exemplary employee of  10 years, when he fired her because he viewed her as an  “irresistible attraction,” even though she did not engage in flirtatious behavior or had otherwise done anything wrong.

Though Knight admitted that he feared he would pursue a relationship with Nelson, despite the fact that both were married with children, if she continued working for him, the Court ruled that Knight’s infatuation with Nelson broke no part of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and did not constitute discrimination. This after Knight’s wife found that Mr. Knight had been carrying on conversations with Nelson via text messages.

Read the opinion here.

Via the Chicago Sun-Times.

Joe Jamail, Richest Practicing Lawyer in America

Self-made billionaire, 87 year old Joe Jamail.

Self-made billionaire, 87 year-old Joe Jamail.

When asked about his latest win on behalf of the Museum of Fine Arts in a will contest, Jamail told Forbes:

“The jurors came back in 37 minutes. A TV reporter asked me, ‘How come they took so long?’ I said they had to unwrap their goddamn sandwiches.”

Via the ABA Journal.

Unilateral Contracts with Teeth

Looks like I won't be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!

Looks like I won’t be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!

Nolan Daniels, pictured above, posted this photo and caption to Facebook last Thursday and earned himself the designation of most shared Facebook photo ever. While Daniels lottery win was later revealed to be a hoax, 2 million people shared the photo in the hopes of cashing in on his offer.

A little primer on the law of contracts: a contract is an agreement based on valuable consideration. Consideration is a promise to do something, such as pay a sum of money, or refrain from doing something, like not breaking the terms of an  agreement.

Contracts come in two flavors: bilateral and unilateral. Bilateral contracts are those which exchange a promise for a promise. Unilateral contracts are those where one party exchanges her promise for another’s performance. The lost dog poster is a classic unilateral contract. Pete puts up a poster that promises a reward for the return of his dog. Dave, with a keen eye for returning lost dogs and collecting rewards, does not need to go to Pete to accept the offer; rather he merely needs to return the dog in order to collect the reward. Pete’s promise to pay a reward for Dave’s performance of returning the lost dog.

Daniels’ Facebook photo posting operates as a unilateral contract: he promised to give away $1 million to one person, selected at random, who shares the picture of the winning ticket with his grinning mug beside it. Though Daniels revealed his offer to be a joke, under the common law he has likely made an enforceable agreement so long as a reasonable person believed that he made the offer in earnest. Whether Daniels made the offer in earnest is really a factual matter for a jury to consider. And you could only get to a jury if you had the chutzpah to bring a lawsuit to enforce that unilateral contract. And recently someone did something just like it!

Hip hop/R&B artist Ryan Leslie lost his laptop while on tour in Germany. He then posted a YouTube video offering $20,000 for the return of his laptop. He noted that the laptop contained music and videos that he wanted back. He later posted another video with a message that read: “In the interest of retrieving invaluable intellectual property contained on his laptop and hard drive, Mr. Leslie has increased the reward offer from $20,000 USD to $1,000,000 USD.” He also tweeted the same info directly, saying: “I raised the reward for my intellectual property to $1mm.”

Long story short, a man named Armin Augstein found the laptop, returned it to Leslie, and sought the reward. Leslie, unable to recover the media from his damaged computer, refused to turn over the promised reward. Augstein took Leslie to court for the reward where Leslie argued that his offer of a reward was not a unilateral contract but an advertisement: an invitation to negotiate. With that the judge opined:

A reasonable person viewing the video would understand that Leslie was seeking the return of his property and that by returning it, the bargain would be concluded.

After deliberating for a short while, the jury found for the good Samaritan,  leaving Augstein with $1 million and Leslie with a broken hard drive. It’s just a matter of time before Daniels gets hauled into court and, with the right jury, joins Leslie as another victim of unilateral contracts with teeth.

Read the opinion here.

Two-Headed Snake!

For the last three weeks, the Stewart family in Greenwood County, South Carolina have been caring for a harmless rough earth snake with two heads. An interesting find indeed. But this snake is unlike more common conjoined snakes in that the two heads bookend the body, rather than diverging from the same neck. Each head has two eyes and a fast moving tongue.

The children’s mother, Tina Stewart, told reporters, “One head’s is bigger and more dominant than the other, but they both seem to control the body.”

She added, ‘The main head will do one thing and then the other part’s trying to go in the opposite direction.”

The reporter contrasted this find with the yellow-lipped sea krait, see below, a snake whose tail resembles its head both in look and behavior.

Whether circus officials will ask the snakes to enter one contract or two is still up for debate.

Via Yahoo!.

See also ouroboros.

Law Review Articles Worth Reading: A Legal Analysis of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems

Professor Caleb Mason wrote the Law Review article we’ve all been waiting for: a line-by-line analysis of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. As every attorney who graduated since 2004 will recall, at some point during Criminal Procedure everyone left class thinking Jay-Z got it all wrong.  That day’s lesson on the 4th Amendment provides a powerful wake up call that, no, the cops do not need a warrant to get in your glovebox or trunk despite Jay-Z’s advice otherwise in 99 Problems.

Prof. Mason gets to the crux of the matter in his piece, writing:

The fact that the trunk and glove compartments are locked is completely irrelevant. Now, Jay-Z may have just altered the lyrics for dramatic effect, but that would be unfortunate insofar as the song is going to reach many more people than any criminal procedure lecture, and everyone should really know the outline of the law in this area. What the line should say is: “You’ll need some p.c. for that.”

Every Street Law teacher should review this article and spend a day with their students on this song.

Read the article here.

That is a Lewis Vatawn

Last week, a Federal District Judge Andrew Carter ruled that this joke does not infringe Louis Vuitton’s trademark as it enjoys protection under the doctrine of fair use. Louis Vuitton brought its lawsuit last year contending that Warner Brothers impermissibly used a third-party’s knock-off bag that allegedly infringes on the LVM Marks, seeking monetary damages. You can tell the Court had fun with this one from this bit of analysis of the offending joke.

Warner Bros.’ use of the Diophy bag meets this low threshold. Alan’s terse remark to Teddy to “[be] [c]areful” because his bag “is a Lewis Vuitton” comes across as snobbish only because the public signifies Louis Vuitton—to which the Diophy bag looks confusingly similar—with luxury and a high society lifestyle. (See Compl. ¶ 20.) His remark also comes across as funny because he mispronounces the French “Louis” like the English “Lewis,” and ironic because he cannot correctly pronounce the brand name of one of his expensive possessions, adding to the image of Alan as a socially inept and comically misinformed character. (fn 10)

(fn 10) For example, while at the wedding rehearsal dinner in Thailand, Alan unexpectedly decides to give a toast to Stu, ostensibly to restore his buddy’s good image after the bride’s father relentlessly mocked Stu in front of all the guests by likening him to, among other things, “soft white rice in lukewarm water.” In a complete non sequitur, Alan begins his toast by offering a few “fun facts” about the population and chief exports of Thailand, which he naturally pronounces as “Thigh-land.”

It’s a safe bet that the Court enjoyed the movie.

Read the opinion here.

Appellate Court Affirms: Sidewalk a Deadly Weapon

“[W]hether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it will be bad for the pitcher.” Cervantes, Don Quixote

The Second Appellate District upheld the conviction of J.L., a 14-year-old boy charged with assault with a deadly weapon after he stomped on another boy laying on the sidewalk. J.L. appealed his trial court conviction on the grounds that just as hands and feet cannot be deadly weapons (the California Supreme Court has said a deadly weapon must be extrinsic of the body), because he did not “use” the sidewalk to assault his victim, the court could not convict him of assault with a deadly weapon.

“Not so!” affirmed the Appellate court. As in People v. Russell, where the Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon when he pushed his victim in front of a moving car, a defendant need not wield the deadly weapon in order to use it. The key is that the assailant takes advantage of a stationary object’s intrinsic qualities in way to cause a victim great bodily harm.

Via FindLaw.

Read the opinion.