Legal Research Blog
This month, The American Lawyer is covering a multitude of inspiring cases that involve some of the country’s largest law firms contributing their time and talent to pro bono work. Pro bono, taken from the Latin, “for the public good” may be looked upon as an unattractive alternative for philanthropic work, in part because of the amount of time that must be devoted to it, and with the knowledge that many lawyers have the ability to bring in hundreds of dollars an hour for their work. In spite of the facts, a number of top ranked firms have proved their dedication to the public through their impressive work in the past.
A recent pro bono headliner involved the defense of two Mexican nationals found guilty of murder in the United States and sentenced to a lifetime in jail. The problem? The men were charged and sentenced with nothing more than a blurry photo and “an unreliable witness”. Before the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program stepped in, it looked as if the two would spend the rest of their lives in prison, not much of the American dream. Haynes and Boone, a firm based out of Dallas took the case over from the MCLAP and has been working to clear the names of Alberto Sifuentes and Jesus Ramirez. After putting in hours totaling nearly 80 days of work annually for almost 7 years, Haynes and Boone have been successful in their quest to free the innocent Sifuentes and Ramirez. The firm’s size and vast resources allowed them to do for free what a public defender could only dream of for their client. Bringing in private investigators to uncover evidence missed the first time around translated into a much easier trial than Sifuentes and Ramirez originally faced.
Haynes and Boone acknowledge the incredible amount of resources that must go into a pro bono case but that the end result is worth it. So is the law firm done representing at no cost for a while? Not at all. In fact, the Sifuentes, Ramirez case is still not closed in their eyes. Not only will they continue representing the men at no charge but now they are looking for a little positive retribution.
Source: The American Lawyer
Bluesprings Water Company challenged Coca-Cola one too many times it seems. The water bottlers, based out of Chicago, have all but vanished from the beverage industry but have not given up their claim that Coke is infringing on a nonexistent trademark. Bluesprings created Naturally Zero Canadian Natural Spring Water in 1997, offered it to the Coke brand in 2002 then found the opportunity for legal action too great to pass up when Coca-Cola created its own “Zero” line of products in 2004. Since then, Bluesprings has presented Coke with 6 different threats ranging from contesting trademark registration to demanding millions of dollars in damages as well as intentional defamation of the Coca-Cola name. Despite repeated contact from their legal counsel, the Coca-Cola Company has yet to see any threats unfold from Bluesprings leading them to follow through on the water company’s empty promises.
Coke is seeking an official statement that they are in no way infringing on any trademark, considering Bluesprings’ application with the US Patent and Trademark Office was never completed, and even in the case of a previously obtained trademark, their products are distinctive enough that they will not interfere with the other’s competition. While it was admirable for a small company to try to take on one of today’s corporate giants, Bluesprings should probably count their blessings that this is the only action Coke is taking. Some are suggesting that perhaps they took the new Coke Zero marketing campaign just a tad too seriously. Considering the company appears to be absent from the industry already, it is most likely in their best interest to stay that way, or at least out of Coke’s way.
Baking cookies for police officers appeared to be a noble deed, but adding illegal drugs to the mix is not exactly what the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization had in mind when they chose to assist Christian Phillips complete his community service hours. Someone probably should have questioned the troubled teen’s motives when he volunteered to bake for the same officers that charged him with assault last summer after striking an officer reporting to a noise violation. Phillips seemed innocent enough making sure to tell all the stations he visited he was representing MADD, but it wasn’t long before the officers realized all was not right with their baskets of treats. MADD was alerted immediately and warnings were sent out to other stations in the area after some suspected Phillips had laced the cookies with marijuana. Upon arriving at his next stop, eighteen year old Phillips was arrested and tests instead identified traces of LSD in the basket.
Though no one fell ill as a result of the tainted treats, officers still feel uneasy about how simple it was for the teen to expose so many to this dangerous drug. Needless to say, all departments in the area are rethinking their policies on allowing baked goods to be delivered at random, although they will be missed. As for Phillips, instead of fulfilling more community service hours, he will face anywhere from 2 to 20 years in prison in addition to up to $10,000 in fines. Apparently karate chopping an officer in the arm is a much wiser move than the second degree felony offense of tampering with cookies.
This week we are showcasing Free Culture by Larry Lessig. Professor Lessig has made this work, as well as his other books available for free download under a creative commons license. This allows for distribution under non commercial purposes. Check out a brief summary of Free Culture and download his book below:
All creative works—books, movies, records, software, and so on—are a compromise between what can be imagined and what is possible—technologically and legally. For more than two hundred years, laws in America have sought a balance between rewarding creativity and allowing the borrowing from which new creativity springs. The original term of copyright set by the First Congress in 1790 was 14 years, renewable once. Now it is closer to two hundred. Thomas Jefferson considered protecting the public against overly long monopolies on creative works an essential government role. What did he know that we’ve forgotten?
Lawrence Lessig shows us that while new technologies always lead to new laws, never before have the big cultural monopolists used the fear created by new technologies, specifically the Internet, to shrink the public domain of ideas, even as the same corporations use the same technologies to control more and more what we can and can’t do with culture. As more and more culture becomes digitized, more and more becomes controllable, even as laws are being toughened at the behest of the big media groups. What’s at stake is our freedom—freedom to create, freedom to build, and ultimately, freedom to imagine.
(Summary taken from: http://www.free-culture.cc/about/)
Click Here to download Free Culture.