Legal Research Blog


Fastcase? There’s an App for That!

We at Fastcase,  are delighted to announce the launch of Fastcase for the iPhone our official iPhone Application, which is now available for download in the iTunes App Store. Fastcase for the iPhone is the first of its kind and a breakthrough for two of our biggest passions, legal tech and open access to law. While we are not calling everyone together for a glitzy unveiling, we are excited to confirm that Fastcase for the iPhone is the largest law database available on the iPhone.

What’s more, it’s completely free to download and use as much as you’d like.  It harnesses the full power, functionality, and extensive database of the Web-based Fastcase platform that our users depend on (click here for more information about our Web-based platform).   Full functionality means searching cases and statutes with Fastcase’s smarter tools and intuitive interface.

When searching cases, you can specify the jurisdiction, narrow the date range, limit the number of results, and choose to sort your results by relevance, date, short name, or by the number of times a case has been cited by others.  In addition to sorting results, you’ll also be able to choose how your results appear with three options—display ‘Title’ only for quick browsing, ‘Title + First Paragraph’ to see the beginning of the case, or ‘Title + Most Relevant Paragraph’ to see the portion of the case that refers to your keywords most often.

Other features include the ability to browse statutes, pull up a list of later citing cases with Authority Check, save a case for later, view recent searches, and change a document’s font size to small, medium, or large.

We’re proud to offer Fastcase for the iPhone with no strings attached.  If you are already a Fastcase subscriber or have signed up for a free trial with us in the past, then you are already registered to use Fastcase for iPhone.  Just click here to download the App from the App Store.  If you have forgotten your password, click here to retrieve it and have it sent to the e-mail address you used to register with Fastcase.

We are also proud to report that so far, the reviews have been very positive.  But we are eager to hear your impressions.  So check out Fastcase for the iPhone today and send us your comments via Twitter or e-mail.

Driving Under the Influence of Texting

Warning: if you’re driving right now, you may be breaking the law.  On Tuesday, following the growing trend of State driving-while-texting bans, the U.S. Department of Transportation has immediately banned bus and commercial truck drivers from texting while behind the wheel (click here for an up-to-date, interactive map of state-by-state texting laws from the IIHS).

Texting while driving by indyplanets, on Flickr

CC by indyplanets

And if you’re reading this post on the road–bookmark it and read it later, because some States ban data-entry in general, not just texting (good thing there are no free, robust legal research iPhone apps out there—that would be really tempting).

According to the DOT, research shows that folks who drive and text are some 20 times more likely to get in an accident.  Despite clear signs from research (and lots of anecdotal evidence) that multi-tasking while driving is downright dangerous, it’s one bad habit that’s harder to drop than…well, a phone call.

Know the law and be safe—the last thing you want is a wake-up call in the form of an accident.

California Supreme Court Authorizes DNA Warrants

In a groundbreaking 5-2 ruling, the California Supreme Court ruled this week that an arrest warrant can be issued for an unknown suspect on the basis of DNA evidence. The ruling, written by Justice Ming. W. Chin, enables law enforcement to beat filing deadlines in criminal cases with the suspect’s DNA profile as their unique qualifier.

The court held that DNA profiles describe the suspect sufficiently for identification. “A warrant or complaint is an accusation against a person, and not against a name, and [w]hen the name is unknown, the person may be identified with the best description available. … A genetic code describes a person with far greater precision than a physical description or a name.”

Dissenting Judge Carols Moreno, questioned the authenticity of “John Doe” warrants, stating that document was “a clever artifice intended solely to satisfy the statute of limitations until the identity of the perpetrator could be discovered.”

The court’s ruling upheld the conviction of Paul Robinson on sexual charges. Evidence linking Robinson to the crime was discovered when his DNA was mistakenly collected and entered into the state’s DNA database, which matched his profile with that of the suspect profile in the “John Doe” warrant.

Conan to part with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog? Say it ain’t so!

Does it bring you to tears to imagine Conan O’Brien’s comedy skits without characters like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the Pimbot 5000? Does the pain strike you like a 1,000 bricks when flirting with the thought that you could never see Conan perform sketches about the Year 3000? Unfortunately for Conan, many of his memorable characters and sketches are now legal property of NBC.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by BobbyProm

[More after the jump]

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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: