Law blog roundup

Welcome to the first Monday in a month of madness. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Wrongful foreclosures on military members exceed estimates.

– Do the opponents of Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in California, have standing?

– Red-light camera company faces storm of corruption allegations in the Windy City.

– Michelob maker mounts media campaign amid lawsuits alleging the company waters down its beer.

Justice decayed, answers to questions of feasbility delayed

Everyone agrees the Baltimore City Circuit Court buildings are “absolutely terrible” and that a new courthouse is in order, the city’s administrative judge declared at a meeting of city and state criminal justice officials last fall.

To this end, the city and its circuit court ponied up between $600,000 and $700,000 for a Maryland Stadium Authority-picked consultant to study the upgrade possibilities.

At that same September 2009 Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting, the representative from Los Angeles-based consultancy AECOM Inc. promised a final report with recommendations by this past spring.

In January, MSA spokeswoman Jan Hardesty offered assurances of that schedule.

“It’s on course, it’s on schedule,” Hardesty said. “It should be out in early spring.”

When nothing came out by June, I spoke with Judge Marcella Holland, the city’s administrative judge, who told me the study’s publication date was more likely to be late summer. When it still wasn’t out by late September, I asked again after its progress. The latest update came Friday from MSA Project Executive Gary A. McGuigan, who acknowledged the delay but said such an important matter should not be rushed.

“It’s still going to be a little bit,” he said. “My best guess right now is it’s probably going to be the end of the year.

“It’s very complicated. It’s a very large report, and we want to make sure we get this thing right,” McGuigan explained. “It’s taken longer than I had hoped, but like I said, we want to get this thing right.”

So, given that it’s already been several years that litigants, lawyers, judges, courthouse employees and members of the public have had to deal with a decaying — if still stately in some ways — pair of courthouses, and it won’t be several more years (or, God forbid, decades) until the problem is properly solved, what’s another year or so (and a half million dollars) more spent putting a plan together?

Law blog roundup: Patent geeks rejoice

Paul Allen

Happy Monday! While Danielle tries not to be a hurricane, finding those delicious legal tidbits is up to me. Here we go:

Late-night fight a contract tussle

The mess at NBC involving “The Tonight Show”, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien has already launched a thousand monologue jokes.

But the high-profile kerfuffle might ultimately boil down to something more mundane: contract law, specifically Conan’s deal with the network. Concurring Opinions broke down the case and gives the slight edge to NBC based on the information that has been made public.

The most interesting point to me is that NBC never stated in Conan’s contract when “The Tonight Show” would air, only that he would host something called “The Tonight Show.” That fact, as Lawrence Cunningham on Concurring Opinions and others have noted, might explain why Conan has been arguing his case to the “People of Earth” in the court of public opinion – and winning in the view of many.

HT: Howard Kurtz’s Media Notes.

(Full disclosure: I’m a Letterman guy. I’ve never liked Leno. These days, I flip back and forth between Dave and Conan.)

U.S. Olympic delegation to pass on Chinese food

Apparently the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” doesn’t apply to the U.S. Olympic Committee. According to an article on, the more than 1,000-member delegation of athletes, coaches, trainers and other personnel will be bringing their own food supply to China this August for the 2008 Olympics.


It’s got the Beijing officials understandably disappointed, although the article also points out that food safety in China has become a major issue for the Olympics. Tainted products and reported use of drugs and insecticides in food production could trigger a positive drug test, ruin an athlete’s career and be a public relations disaster for China, the article said.

While the U.S.’s 600-plus athletes will still be dining in the Olympic Village, the rest of the delegation (which isn’t eligible for meals at the village) will fill up at a training camp at Beijing Normal University, where the committee plans to ship “tons of meat and other foods.”

OK, I understand the drug-testing thing. But if the athletes are eating at the Olympic Village anyway and the U.S. food will be consumed primarily by non-competitors, why the concern?

I’ve never been to China, but I lived in rural Mexico and not once did I get sick off the food. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the water there should not touch your lips or your dishes unless it comes from a bottle.

So what gives? Does anyone think this undermines the spirit of the games and the privilege of being the host country? Or in this day and age is it better to play it safe?

LIZ FARMER, Business Writer

Word play

As one who reads and writes news stories for a living, I am continually amazed and revolted at the bastardization of the English language by PR people who write news releases for a living. My pet peeves are the overuse of the words “leading” and “solution.”

According to Merriam-Webster, the “leading” definition of “leading” is “coming or ranking first.” The definition of “solution” is “(a) an action or process of solving a problem,” or “(b) an answer to a problem.”

The fallacy of using “leading” to describe a company is obvious: Not every company is a leader. And a “solution” frequently causes more problems than it solves.

Here is a sample of offenders, taken from one day’s perusal of releases carried on the PRNewswire and Business Wire.

“Stratos Global Corp. (TSX: SGB), the leading global provider of advanced mobile and fixed-site remote communications solutions, today announced …”

“GetWellNetwork, Inc., a leading provider of Interactive Patient Care solutions, today announced …”

“I4 Commerce [helps] to connect leading merchants with high value customers. … I4 Commerce’s payment and marketing technology solutions help establish and maintain …”

“CDW Government, Inc. (CDW-G), a … leading source of Information Technology (IT) solutions to governments and educators, and Discovery Education, the leader in digital video and multimedia-based learning …”

My “solution” for this problem is simple: Just eliminate these two words from the public relations vocabulary.

Imagine what that would do for the quality of business writing.

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor