Legal Research Blog


How to (Not) Win the Lottery

As I was perusing the interwebs today, I came across this interesting case of two women in Arkansas named Sharon vying for the same lottery winnings.

We’ll call them Sharon 1 and Sharon 2 (yes, that is a reference to Arrested Development).  Sharon 1 purchased the ticket and checked it using a convenience store computer. The computer indicated she was not a winner so she threw it in a trash can. Along comes Sharon 2 who has an apparent hobby of double-checking discarded lottery tickets, and good thing she does!

She stumbles upon Sharon 1’s lottery ticket and it turns out the computer was wrong and the ticket actually had a $1 million prize. Sharon 2 cashes in the ticket and proceeds to purchase a new truck and give some cash gifts to her kids.

The manager of the convenience store decided to stake a claim to the ticket given that it was her garbage can, and Sharon 1 catching wind of this joins the bandwagon. The store manager loses the case but the judge suggests that Sharon 1 might be the rightful owner. So Sharon 1 sues and wins the case on the grounds that the burden of abandonment was not proved. The author of the article seems to suggest that Sharon 1 simply had a better attorney (who we think probably uses Fastcase). Needless to say, Sharon 2 plans to appeal.

Around the Fastcase office this has been a hotly debated case as each of us have scoured the database for cases and information on “abandonment,” “garbage,” “trash,” etc.  We’re also thinking of starting a Fastcase Abandoned Lottery Ticket Club.

We’d love to know what you think. If we like your answer we’ll cut you in on a share of any winning discarded lottery tickets we find. Check Twitter May 3 at noon to see the results of our poll.

No Courts. No Freedom. No Justice.

All of us at Fastcase wish you a Happy National Law Day!

Today the White House issued a proclamation re-affirming President Eisenhower’s declaration of National Law Day in 1958. In Obama’s proclamation, he announced the theme of this year’s Law Day which is “No Courts. No Freedom. No Justice” which is meant to

“recall(s) the historic role our courts have played in protecting the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans. Our courts are the guarantors of civil justice, social order, and public safety, and we must do everything we can to enable their critical work. The courthouse doors must be open and the necessary services must be in place to allow all litigants, judges, and juries to operate efficiently. Likewise, we must ensure that access to justice is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment that delivers the promise of counsel and assistance for all who seek it.”

Fastcase’s own President Phil Rosenthal, had this to say as a reflection on the theme of this Law Day:

“We should recognize the amazing work being done by bar leaders around the country to preserve an independent judiciary and fight for equal access to justice.  Without their tremendous work we may actually face a reality of ‘No Courts. No Freedom. No Justice.’

Today’s legal scene is a never-ending uphill battle.  Fine judges are facing recall because they “did not follow the law.”  Many state judicial branches face horrendous budget cuts.  For example, the California judiciary lost 30% of its budget in four years and more cuts are coming.  IOLTA funds have shriveled and government funding of legal aid and legal services is never enough. And that is just the beginning…

Fortunately, there is hope because of the valiant battle being fought by Bar leaders.  Bars do so much work to inform legislators, fill the gap in civic education left by our school systems, fight for funding for the judiciary and for legal services for the poor, and oppose radical referenda.  Without them the slogan ‘No courts; No Freedom; No Justice’ would not be a warning, but a prediction for our future.”

At Fastcase we are privileged to be partnered with numerous Bar Associations around the country and this Law Day we would like to send our deepest gratitude for the work they do and their commitment to the spirit of this year’s Law Day theme.

Searching Titanic the Smart Way

Every decade or so there seems to be a resurgence of Titanic-fever. With the 100th anniversary of its notorious trip it seems like it is back! In addition to seeing Kate and Leo in 3-D, I have also used this opportunity to take a look at some of the court cases involving the Titanic in the Fastcase database.

At the top of my Quick Caselaw Search was 742 F.Supp.2d 784 which is a filing for rights to the wreckage from 2010, my favorite part of this case is that despite its national broadcast, the only petitioner to stake a claim was the insurance company that covered the luggage on the ship. I really wonder how that insurance claim went…

I wanted to see if there were any juicy cases from around the time of the Titanic so I used our timeline feature to look at the cases mapped in 4-D (take that James Cameron!). This graphs cases according to relevance, cites in the search, and cites in the database, all over time. The timeline had some pretty interesting results.  (Click here to learn more about Timeline).

One of them was the circles furthest to the left which are for 233 U.S. 718 (34 S.Ct. 754, 58 L.Ed. 1171). This case touches on some pretty meaty international law issues regarding liability for foreign owned vessels and which jurisdiction’s laws apply. I’m not going to ruin the surprise ending for you though, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself here.

Finally, I wanted to see how 233 U.S. 718 (34 S.Ct. 754, 58 L.Ed. 1171) is cited so I ran an Authority Check on the case. It looks like this case has had a lot of action since 1914. The most recent of these adds to the question of international jurisdiction/liability in a case involving two ships from different countries. Oh the Drama!

So there you have it, using the innovative tools available with Fastcase I was able to follow 100 years of litigation related to the sinking of the Titanic. Now I just wonder if I should try to stake my claim on some of the precious jewelry that was rumored to be on there…

Learn to use Timeline and Authority Check with our video tutorials found here. Also, be sure to check out our webinars for more information on our innovative tools for smarter legal research. As always, for the latest information on what’s happening at Fastcase be sure to visit our website at

Brush up on your keyword search skills

Got an hour?  Today, April 30, at 10am Eastern Fastcase is hosting Boolean (Keyword) Search for Lawyers – a webinar about how to maximize your time spent researching.

To join us, click here.

Gaming the First Amendment at the Smithsonian

On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected under the First Amendment because they “like protected books, plays, and movies, [they] communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech … do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium.” 131 S.Ct. 2729. Essentially, Pac Man, Super Mario Brothers, Halo, and of course Angry Birds are all considered art and are protected under the First Amendment.

The Smithsonian has embraced this concept in their exhibition “The Art of Video Games” curated by Chris Melissinos. From March 16, 2012-September 30, 2012, the exhibition presents a gamer’s paradise which showcases video games as an unprecedented form of storytelling. The exhibition is accompanied by several events including the “Gaming Symphony Orchestra” being held on April 29, 2012. And don’t worry if you can’t make it up to DC for the exhibition, it’s going on tour after it has wrapped up in DC. All of this gushing is to say it’s a definite must-see, just be sure to check their website (where we got all of this lovely information) and read their FAQ including costume etiquette beforehand.

Though I doubt Justice Scalia is taking much time out of his busy schedule to play Angry Birds (or maybe he is?), the Smithsonian has beautifully  brought to life the Supreme Court’s fine decision.

Click here to find other video game relevant cases in the Fastcase database and here to learn more about Fastcase and our innovative tools for smarter legal research.