Legal Research Blog


Conan v. NBC, Google v. China, and Citizens United v. FEC

Happy Friday Dear Readers:

Although this was a short week for most, there was certainly no dearth in legal news. Some of the highlights in legal news this week include:

Conan O’Brien and NBC finally resolved their public dispute over the broadcasting giant’s plans to push “The Tonight Show” time slot back to 12:05 a.m. so that Jay Leno’s late night show could air at 11:35 pm. The resolution came in the form of a deal that, as the Wall Street Journal reported, includes a $32.5 million payout for O’Brien, approximately $12 million for his staff, and a release allowing O’Brien to pursue other opportunities starting September 1, 2010.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by chrisdlugosz

Tensions between Google and China continued to rise as Google threatened to stop censoring search results and pull its operations out of China following an attack on its servers there. So far, the Chinese government is not backing down from its censorship requirements and has rebuffed international criticism of its policies. For a helpful timeline of Google/China relations check out this PC World .

But the biggest story of all is surely the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205 handed down on Thursday. In this decision, the Supreme Court struck down existing limits on corporate and union spending in elections declaring these limits a violation of the corporate entities’ First Amendment rights.

The reason this decision has garnered so much attention is that it represents a serious departure from the Court’s past precedents. Specifically, the Supreme Court overruled two prior decisions: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“McCain-Feingold”) that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court was bitterly divided on the issue and the 5:4 vote ultimately tracked the ideological split between the 9 justices.

For media coverage of the decision, check out The New York Times, The WSJ Law Blog, ScotusBlog, and Slate.

The full text of the opinion is available here:

Murder, Twins, and the Law

Are you one of those people who actually enjoyed the logic puzzles on the LSAT? If you are, then chances are that you are going to get a kick out of a particularly bizarre legal riddle that was recently crowned Slate’s “Explainer 2009 Question of the Year.”

Here it is: How would the law punish Siamese twins if one of the twins committed murder without the other being involved?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by brain_blogger

Not surprisingly, the caselaw on this fact pattern is relatively thin. Explainer unearthed only one case in which Siamese twins were ever prosecuted. In that case, one twin was arrested for “graz[ing] a caraboa cart” with his car. Both men were set free when the other twin “appealed the case on the grounds that as an innocent man, he could not be legally incarcerated.”

Go to for Explainer’s thoughtful and witty analysis of the subject.

There’s an App for That…much money?

The most expensive iPhone app in the App Store helps law students prepare for the California bar exam.

Though BarMax is marketing its new iPhone application as the inexpensive alternative to typical California bar prep packages, the buzz surrounding the App is focused on its $1,000 price tag, the highest in the App Store. Yes, the App costs several times the price of the phone itself. Yes, this might sound crazy at first; however, it is likely that many students will find BarMax CA to be a sound alternative compared to other bar preparation courses.

With outlines, lectures, 1500 questions, 1000 flashcards, and 18 real CA practice tests (taking up over a gig of space!) the App provides a lot of content. The real variable, of course, is functionality. Time—and reviews—will tell whether or not the App is overpriced.

BarMax CA can be found here in the Education category of the iTunes store, but we’re hoping the growing number of attorneys using iPhones and law-related Apps will encourage Apple to finally create a legal category of its own.

At a quarter of the price of competitors’ packages (which typically include live classroom instruction), BarMax is marketing the innovative app as a way to “enable bar prep at a much better price.” While $1000 is still a lot to pay for an iPhone App, we’re all for lowering the “bar” to access in the legal industry with tech-savvy alternatives.

Cheers to BarMax…and stay tuned.

Welcome to our **brand spanking new** corporate website!

Fastcase celebrated its 10th anniversary on December 1, 2009, and so it is only fitting that we begin the next decade with a new and improved corporate website. We hope that visitors will find the new corporate site informative and easy to navigate. Here are some of the improvements that we are most excited about:

Subscribing to Fastcase is now even easier with our streamlined Subscription page.

Learn about the caselaw, statutes, regulations, court rules, and constitutions that we offer on our enhanced Scope of Coverage page.

Bar Association Subscribers can access their bar association’s login portal directly from our Bar Association Subscribers page.

Also: The Fastcase blog is now integrated with our corporate site and you can view our webinar schedule and register for webinars directly from our new Webinars page.

Note to Current Subscribers: The changes to our corporate website will not affect our legal research application (other than the color scheme). Also please note that it can take some time for these changes to propagate through different internet service providers and during that time, you may continue to be directed to our existing corporate site. But again, this will not affect your access to Fastcase.

Happy MLK Day from Fastcase

We will be closed on Monday January 18, 2010 in observance of Martin Luther King Day.