On the Radar
Back on the Bench
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear its first arguments of the 2019 Term this month.
Among its early cases, the Court will hear arguments on whether the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense, and whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict.
The Court will also consider whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination and whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on their status as transgender.
In November, the Court will hear a copyright case to determine whether North Carolina can be sued for posting videos belonging to an underwater videographer who captured images of Blackbeard’s sunken pirate ship.
Source: SCOTUSBlog; New York Times
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Online Forms: Check Out Documate
A technology tool called Documate “permits attorneys to create their own online forms that guide users through the process of completing them,” according to an ABA Journal article. Dorna Moini, who developed the technology, was named one of the ABA Journal’s 2019 Legal Rebels, which recognizes legal innovators.
Moini worked with a software engineer to develop Documate for civil legal aid groups, which can use the software for free. Monthly subscriptions are now open to private firms and nonlegal organizations.
The software “can be used for filling out any kind of legal form – name changes, business formation, even intake of new clients – that doesn’t require a lot of analysis or carry a lot of risk,” the ABA Journal notes. “The goal is to free up lawyers for the tasks that require human supervision.”
Want more on legal innovation? The November Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the 2019 Wisconsin Legal Innovators.
Not a Golden Ticket, a Golden Toilet
In September, a fully functioning 18-carat-gold toilet was stolen from an art exhibition in the United Kingdom. The golden toilet, valued at about $1.25 million, is the work of Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan and was installed at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
According to the exhibit guide, visitors were invited to use the toilet by booking time slots.
“As an extravagant object made to fulfill the most mundane of purposes, the work highlights how we all share the same bodily needs and functions, regardless of economic or social difference,” the exhibition guide explains.
The founder of the Blenheim Art Foundation, Edward Spencer-Churchill, half-brother to the Duke of Marlborough, previously told reporters that the golden toilet would not be guarded.
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
Source: The Art Newspaper; Blenheim Palace.com
By the Numbers
– The amount of money that litigation finance start-up Legalist has raised to fund plaintiffs in commercial cases over the next two years, according to Bob Ambrogi at LawSites.
“Legalist scrapes federal and state court records and then uses algorithms to predict case outcomes and determine the best cases in which to invest. It invests exclusively in mid-market cases that require less than $1 million in funding,” Ambrogi wrote.
Legalist previously raised $10 million in 2017 to fund 38 cases.
Two Harvard University dropouts started Legalist. Richard Posner, retired judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is serving as an advisor to the company.
Legalist CEO Eva Shang said artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will allow the company to fund “David versus Goliath” cases brought by small businesses.
“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
– Mr. Fred Rogers
Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day, intended to raise awareness of mental health issues.
The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) provides free confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, and their families in coping with any substance abuse or dependence, mental health challenges, or other stressors that negatively affect the quality of life and the practice of law.
WisLAP 24-hour helpline: (800) 543-2625
Did You Know
Follow the Candy Corn
In 1978, spilled candy corn broke the case against two Georgia men accused of armed robbery. Prosecutors contended the men robbed a convenience store nine days after Halloween.
They used a borrowed getaway car. While fleeing the store, they grabbed a bag of candy corn. But the bag split open, causing some candy corn to spill. Then the men robbed another store.
According to a 1980 appeals court decision, bloodhounds led police officers down the street where spilled candy corn was found. The bloodhounds then led police to a residence where one of the men was lying on a sofa. Police found money, a gun, a knit cap, and marked loose coins.
“Candycorn of the type taken earlier from the other convenience store was found in the borrowed automobile later the same morning of the robbery,” noted the judge, affirming the convictions.
Source: Belleville.net; Newkirk v. State, 155 Ga. App. 470 (Ga. Ct. App. 1980).