Legal Research Blog


Libel Lawsuit Rules Facebook Is Not A Joke

Facebook is making headlines this week as it introduces the latest version of its social networking platform but today we’re focusing on the gavel that has fallen on a libel case just across the pond. Mathew Firsht and Grant Raphael faced off in court just outside London recently on the grounds that Raphael had created a Facebook page in Firsht’s name in order to damage his reputation. Former school mates, and coworkers at one point, Raphael knew enough about Firsht to create the believable profile and add a few fallacies after a business disagreement. Firsht, who depends heavily on his reputation in his work as a production coordinator of tv audiences, claimed such a profile could severely damage his business and sought monetary compensation for the profile he considered libel. The judge in the case sided with Firsht and chose to overlook Raphael’s rather weak plea that the profile was created by visitors to his apartment without his knowledge. Considering the pairs history, the judge quickly ruled in favor of Mr. Firsht determining he was entitled to close to $35,000 in damages.

False profiles have become common on many social networks and with a rising prevalence of identity theft, the public is faced with the scary thought that you can become whoever you want on the internet with relatively no questions asked. The introduction of the new Facebook means that the many critics of social networks are temporarily appeased. Top executives for the company convinced their audiences that new controls will make the service more user friendly and less likely to leak unwanted information throughout the world wide web. Additional features include opt-in programs for connecting your Facebook profile to outside web pages allowing you to share with friends just what you’re getting into, as well as improved applications through increased regulations on who gets to publish them. For a more detailed look at the Facebook upgrades, check out the New York Times article covering the latest F8 conference.

Taking this case into consideration, it seems that the only feature Facebook is leaving out is a new user screening process to ensure you’re really who you say you are. On the other hand, invasive background checks for a social network? That doesn’t sound too appealing. Then again, neither does a court date.

Source: Times Online, New York Times

ABA’s Greatest Legal Movies of All Time

This month, the American Bar Association Journal published a list of its top 25 Greatest Legal Movies, a diverse mix of comedy, drama, and cinematic masterpieces. Picks include some good laughs from My Cousin Vinny and Chicago, as well as some predictable choices like A Few Good Men and Erin Brokovich. Surprise winners included Amistad and Miracle on 34th Street, at number 25. And of course, at Number 1, was the touching legal classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The ABA Journal’s panel of judges included 12 lawyers and law professors who specialize in film and entertainment. Also worth taking a look at is the ABA’s article, “How I Learned to Litigate at the Movies.”

Did the ABA miss any crucial legal films? Let us know what flicks would make your list in the comments below.

Selected Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Public Domian Mp3s

Our spotlight on public domain music this week is focused on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 and Romeo and Juliet overtures. These works are hosted by Musopen, a website dedicated to distributing works that are in the public domain.

(To download the mp3s, right click and select save target as)

1812 Overture

Romeo and Juliet Overture

For more free music visit Musopen and to support their efforts to distributing works in the public domain, click here.

Care for a visual stimulus as well? Watch the Romeo and Juliet Overture below:

Flat Stanley Enters a Whole New Realm

A world-renowned jet-setter, pen-pal to school children, friend of foreign dignitaries and celebrities, a well-trodden fellow; all appropriate descriptions for the infamous character Flat Stanley created by…well, that seems to be the problem. Flat Stanley’s likeness was introduced in a series of books written by Jeff Brown about Stanley Lambchop, a young boy who gets flattened by the fallen bulletin board. The character inspired third grade teacher Dan Hubert of London to start a grade school craze. Dan Hubert brought Flat Stanley to the classroom in 1995 thinking it would be an educational experience for the kids to reach out to pen pals across the globe and see where the paper doll could end up. With Flat Stanley touching down on just about every place known to man, the popularity of the books began to rise, but the story of Stanley Lambchop started changing to reflect Hubert’s more well-known interpretation.

With Broadway and movie deals, not to mention all the Flat Stanley swag in the works, one would think Hubert would demand some of the profits that the late Brown’s estate is raking in. Think again. Instead, members of Brown’s family are insisting that Hubert surrender his website,, to the estate without the slightest compensation. The Brown estate believes that those wishing to buy the books, movies and memorabilia are accidentally ending up on Hubert’s site which carries the logical domain name for the project. Hubert’s site offers advice on how to start the project at your school and gives examples of past Flat Stanleys who have already completed their journeys around the globe.

In spite of Hubert’s good-natured intentions, the Brown estate plans to take him to court if he will not give up the site. Hubert is hoping the court will show some mercy considering he is a teacher and makes no profit from the site. Still, he tells supporters that the biggest loss of all in this case would be the inability to continue passing the project on.

Source: CNEWS

Persistent Paralegal Fights to Shed Light on Kennedy Assassination

Angela Clemente, a New Jersey paralegal who has dedicated much of her career to investigating government corruption, filed suit against the FBI this week for failing to comply with her FIA request for the classified file of Gregory Scarpa Sr., a man who may be tied to the assassination of President Kennedy. Clemente officially requested Scarpa’s file in April, the FBI confirmed in June that the documents would be located and sent to her. Clemente never heard back. Federal law states that one can file suit if the information requested under the Freedom of Information Act is still unavailable 20 days after receipt of the confirmation letter. And thats just what she did.

The withheld file of Gregory Scarpa, a mobster who worked as an informant for the FBI and had ties to the Kennedy assassination suspect Carlos Marcello, the “Godfather” of New Orleans, has been requested in the past. A Congressional investigation led by G. Robert Blakey, now a law professor at Notre Dame, had also indicated that the FBI was less than forthcoming with information about both Marcello and Scarpa. Today, Blakey lauds the efforts of Ms. Clemente, questioning why the FBI documents used in his investigation in the 1970s were so heavily redacted and expressing frustration with the FBI’s secrecy.

For several years, Angela Clemente worked on a case tackling corruption and informants for the Brooklyn D.A., which required her to conduct an in depth investigation of Scarpa’s relationship with a former FBI agent accused of murder. When the case fell apart, Clemente reviewed her research on Scarpa, and became suspicious when she recalled the difficulty of obtaining information on him for her former trial. Her curiousity about the FBI’s hesitance to divulge his file ultimately drove her to pursue the Scarpa-Marcello-Kennedy link, and to file her lawsuit this week.

Source: The New York Times