Metrobus Drivecam Systems

I've previously remarked that litigation arising from Metrobus accidents is now starting to feature video from drivecam systems on the buses.  WTOP has recently posted more detail about Metrobus drivecam systems, including sample videos that they have obtained from Metro.  The video from the drivecam system is clearly something that has to be pursued in discovery in any collision involving a bus, and further, the existence of such evidence should be pursued in any litigation involving a commercial vehicle.  (Hat tip to Christopher Mitchell.)

Online public records available from Recorder of Deeds, Washington D.C.

Here's another online resource that may be useful to defense lawyers in D.C.:  The Recorder of Deeds' website gives access to Online Public Records.

Registration is required, but it is free.  Imaged documents can be purchased.

Thanks to Deborah D. Boddie, Esq., a probate attorney who gave me this tip yesterday at the Judicial and Bar Conference for 40th Anniversary of the DC Bar.

Steve Jobs and the business case for quality

Steve Job's passing was very sad; not because it was unexpected, as he was obviously ill, but because maybe we've lost his values.  Jobs really believed in delivering quality; he wanted to make great products and did.  Apple products typically cost more, but the extra cost was reflected in the quality of manufacturing and the quality and simplicity of the controls.

It is interesting to recall that Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985, and returned around 1996.  I seem to recall reading articles in the financial press around that time that Apple was finished.   I purchased an Apple computer for home use in the early 1990's, from Apple without Steve Jobs; I still have it in the basement.  It was a PowerPC, and while it was good, it was not great.  In fact, when it had a problem, it took a lot of time and trouble to fix the problem.  I recall some long sessions on weekends doing this.  A couple of times, I could only get it working again by upgrading the operating system.  I remember having to buy a special utility program that would sort out conflicts among program extensions.

When Jobs returned, it wasn't long before he ditched that operating system, and had a new OS built on Linux. That was a gutsy move, as it risked alienating their user base.  At about that point, I myself switched to Windows computers for home use, for compatibility with the Windows software I used at the office.  But I had found the Mac OS troublesome, the software for Macs was way more expensive than Windows versions, and I was unwilling to pay the premium to follow the Mac upgrade path.

The success of Apple since Jobs returned speaks for itself.  That's what delivering quality can do. Quality of course includes a simple and intuitive interface, to reduce time needed for learning and relearning the system.  Quality includes reliability.

In the legal field, it comes down to the fact that the main expense of office computing is not the cost of the hardware, or the cost of the software; it's the cost of training and retraining your people, plus the cost of fixing problems - whatever they are.

I can draw on the example of Ubuntu to illustrate this.  I like Ubuntu.  Ubuntu is one of the free versions of Linux, and it comes with a free office suite called Libre office, which is a variant of Openoffice.  So you can do pretty much everything on Libre office that you can do on Miscrosoft Office.  Ubuntu also is reliable and stable, and is not targeted as much by malware as Windows.  Ubuntu will run fine on older machines.  Ubuntu can run a number of the major web browsers, including Firefox and Chrome.  So for a firm doing cloud computing, you could run Ubuntu on your office machine and use Google Apps ($60 per seat per year) or (presumably) use Microsoft's web-based product.   Likewise for cloud-based practice management software.  Ubuntu has a fairly simple graphical interface, just like Windows.  I even felt comfortable installing Ubuntu on my 93 year old mother's home computer, when her Windows system became hopelessly corrupted.

If you were starting a law firm from scratch you might use Ubuntu for all these reasons.  For an established practice, most still wouldn't switch to Ubuntu despite all these advantages, because all personnel are trained and comfortable with Windows and Microsoft Office.  Partners are not going to want to learn Ubuntu, or want to force all their secretaries to learn it, to save a couple hundred bucks per machine.  (OK, a thousand bucks per machine, but don't tell them!)  And who would know how to solve any problems with Ubuntu?

On the other hand, Macs -- which share many of the advantages of Ubuntu except for low cost, but which have a far more refined and elegant user interface -- are winning over increasing numbers of law offices, even with a cost disadvantage compared to Windows.

That's the business case for quality, right there.







D.C. Bar Association finally offers online legal research, through Fastcase

The D.C. Bar is now offering Fastcase accounts as an included benefit of bar membership, i.e., at no extra cost.  The District of Columbia databases that are included are the D.C. Court of Appeals decisions, and the federal courts in the D.C. Circuit.  Fastcase does not appear to have the Superior Court decisions, nor D.C. workers compensation opinions -- yet.   Having access to the local workers compensation opinions is critical, at least for us. 

I like the Fastcase interface, and I am glad to see the D.C. Bar adopt it.  The D.C. Bar was years late on that decision, however, and the fact is, they started to offer Fastcase as a benefit of bar membership several months after Google rolled out Google Scholar's search of legal opinions by jurisdiction. 

I hope that Fastcase can run fast enough to avoid being steamrolled by Google Scholar and to give some head-to-head competition to Lexis and Westlaw.   


Search engine makes Recap database more valuable

The Recap archive is now more useful to litigators, since there is a search engine to access the downloaded pleadings.  I had previously complained about the lack of a search engine, so now that they have one, it's only fair that I point that out.   (Recap is that Firefox plug-in that comes alive when you use Pacer, and sends a copy of any filing you download to the Internet Archive to improve public access.)

Now, if you wish to view the pleadings in an important precedent because you are working on a similar matter, the Recap search engine should be a useful tool.  Chances are good that if you want to look at the pleadings, someone else has had the same thought.


Discovery and social networking sites

DRI's online newsletter, E-Discovery Connection, vol 5, issue 3, has a number of worthwhile articles on discovery of information on social networking sites.  I like the case where a federal judge offered to do an in camera review of a party's Facebook account by "friending" the party.  Think about whether you would want a federal judge reviewing all of your Facebook pages, which would include things you didn't even write.

The following cases are among those discussed in that newsletter:

EEOC v. Simply Storage Mgmt. (courtesy of Indiana Law Blog)

O'Grady v. Superior Court

Romano v. Steelcase

Barnes v. CUS Nashville

McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway

 Dexter v. Dexter

Moreno v. Handford Sentinel

Rehberg v. Paulk

McCann v. Harleysville

Crispin v. Audigier



Fourth Circuit rejects attempt to find error in trial court's refusal to investigate a Twitter posting

From the Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog: The Fourth Circuit has rejected an argument in a bankruptcy fraud appeal that a Tweet represented juror misconduct, and that the trial court erred by not investigating it.  The Court's response to this was that:

Forde's string of possibilities about the origin of the Twitter posting — that the foreperson possibly talked to her husband, who possibly talked to his friend, who possibly took to Twitter in response to what the husband possibly told him — is nothing but speculation and thus falls far short of establishing reasonable grounds for investigation. The district court therefore did not err by denying Forde's request for an evidentiary hearing to investigate his claim. 

What surprised me is that the defense even came up with an argument linking a Twitter posting back to the jury foreperson through several degrees of separation, kind of like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.  You need more than that to establish juror misconduct.  Most likely the defendant, who had an online tutoring business, came up with this argument and the defense attorneys felt compelled to raise it on appeal.