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Hurricane Irene - Credit: NOAAAs Hurricane Irene moves up the East Coast, we thought it might be useful to pull some resources for those folks living in the projected path of the storm. To all our Justia friends & family in Irene’s way, we hope she weakens, veers off “to the right” and that all you’ll be doing at most during the storm is mixing up a batch of these. Best of luck and batten down the hatches!

Federal Resources

Hurricane Resource Center– from FEMA

The National Flood Insurance Program

Ready.gov — Resources and steps to take to protect yourself, your family and property.

NOAA – National Hurricane Center

U.S. Coast Guard
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ocial Media crime lawsSome government authorities in the United States and abroad want to criminalize the use of social media, concluding that by taking a blunderbuss approach to outlawing conduct, more crimes will be prevented. The problem with this strategy is that it appears to be largely based upon an unfounded fear of the unknown.

Recently, when a ‘flash mob’ allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven in Maryland, one report concluded, without any proof, that the crime was committed by “a large group of people coordinated by Twitter or other social media.” CNN quickly joined in and repeated a Maryland policeman’s unsubstantiated allegation that although investigators still “‘can’t confirm how this (robbery) was organized’, [they] believe the Internet was involved.”
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In the next few weeks, children throughout the Golden State will bid farewell to the unstructured freedom that summer affords as they head back to rule the corridors and classrooms of their local schools. For public school teachers, the new school year offers a respite from this summer of discontent. The continuing recession has thinned their ranks a bit, leaving many feeling beleaguered by layoffs and budget cuts. Additionally, the effort to identify underperforming teachers by parsing standardized testing data seems to assign all of the blame for failing students on the teachers alone.

Of course, the teachers, who serve on the instructional front line, are the most visible faces in the educational system. But, we should not forget the men (and women) behind the curtain: the members of the state senate and assembly.

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The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported last month that a class action suit against legal forms provider Legal Zoom survived a motion for summary judgement and will proceed to trial in a Missouri federal court. In rejecting the defendant’s motion, Judge Laughrey allowed the plaintiffs to move forward with their complaint that consumers have been harmed by the company’s unauthorized practice of law in the state.

For an overview of the litigation and the recent order, see Venkat’s post on Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog. We’ve pulled the filings on Justia Dockets, and you can follow the case there.
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Jury Box (c) Jim KrugerLast Friday, Governor Brown signed California Assembly Bill 141 into law. AB 141 formalizes long-standing informal rules banning the use of social media and electronic devices (including smart phones) by jurors to discuss or research cases. As well, the bill forbids jurors from using electronic or wireless devices to contact court officials. While existing laws require a court to remind and admonish jurors to refrain from conversing about a case during trial, the bill:

[W]ould require the court, when admonishing the jury against conversation, research, or dissemination of information pursuant to these provisions, to clearly explain, as part of the admonishment, that the prohibition applies to all forms of electronic and wireless communication. The bill would require the officer in charge of a jury to prevent any form of electronic or wireless communication.

Beginning in January, if a juror disobeys such an admonishment, he or she will face contempt of court charges.
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All Aboard the Hogwarts Express

While Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 is the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter Series, its theatrical release does not signal the end of Pottermania. Instead, fans can continue enjoying the magical world of Harry Potter through Pottermore, an online interactive reading experience by J.K. Rowling.

Last week, Potter fans, such as myself, scrambled at all hours of the night to get one of the coveted 1 million early access slots to the new site, which is due to open in October.

Last November, I wrote Introduction to Wizarding Law to celebrate the arrival of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 1. I had fun writing the article and received some great comments (including some from a professor teaching a college class on the very topic), so I decided to write a follow-up now as the movie series winds down and Pottermore begins.

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS. If you are waiting to read the book or see the movie, don’t read on.

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It’s a bad week for government documents. OMB Watch recently reported that the House voted to cut funding to the Government Printing Office. This comes as no surprise, given the recent budget drama, and it’s not likely to get a lot of mainstream attention with looming cuts to entitlement programs and the military funding.

It’s important for those of us that advocate for government transparency and open access to take note, however. The GPO is the office tasked with preserving and disseminating federal documents. Cuts to its budget means less access to the law for people who can least afford to pay for it.
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Considering the amount of attention that our dear Congress devotes to children, I am quite surprised by the average academic performance delivered by our sweet angels when compared to their peers in other countries. Lest you think Congress is too focused on earmarks for their donors constituents, I must point out that even the rancorous debt ceiling debate during the past few weeks was all about the children. In face of the spending cuts called for in the debt ceiling bill, Senator Durbin urged his colleagues to consider its impact on the children:

Durbin, speaking from the Senate floor, said fewer poor children will be enrolled in early childhood education programs, working families and children will face more college debt and medical research dollars stand to be cut.

So, how else does Congress look out for the future of America? Let’s take a look.

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Here is a rundown of July’s highest scoring lawyers on Justia Legal Answers, along with a look at which Onward blog and Facebook posts readers viewed the most.

Justia Legal Answers’ Top 10 Legal Answerers for July 2011

  1. Mark A. Siesel, 11,600 points, 232 answers
  2. Burton A. Padove, 10,195 points, 215 answers
  3. Terrence Rubino, 2,805 oints, 72 answers
  4. Robert Neal Katz, 1,545 points, 33 answers
  5. David Philip Shapiro, 1,020 points,22 answers
  6. Cedulie Renee Laumann, 850 points, 17 answers
  7. Andrew Bresalier, 650 points, 13 answers
  8. Stephen J. Plog, 552 points, 11 answers
  9. Gojko Kasich, 510 points, 13 answers
  10. Christopher Gilreath, 500 points, 10 answers

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Update: In a post  I wrote on collaborative democracy back in April, I mentioned that our friend Mary Minow had recently traveled to Sacramento to voice her support for California Senate Bill (“SB”) 445. The Bill, which increases privacy protections for library patrons by amending the California Public Records Act, was Mary’s idea and one which she submitted as a part of a “There Oughta be a Law” contest.  As a contest winner, Mary’s bill was introduced by California State Senator Joe Simitian in Feburary, 2011. I’m happy to report that SB 445 was signed into law by Governor Brown a few weeks ago.

Way to go Mary!