A daily look at legal news and the business of law:
Drive Carefully in the Buckeye State
According to Ohio's Supreme Court, cops in Ohio don't need radar to pull speeders over anymore -- they just need to believe the drivers are speeding. Giving police officers the authority to subjectively assess whether a driver is speeding invites racial profiling and other abuses of police discretion: Officers can always say they believed the person they pulled over was speeding, and without any objective evidence, how could their statements be challenged? Two Ohio legislators are trying to pass a law that overturns the decision. Until they succeed, be very careful driving through Ohio.
Perjury Evidence Against Barry Bonds Suppressed
In 2003, slugger Barry Bonds testified to a federal grand jury that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs. Since then, test results and statements from his personal trainer have contradicted Bonds, so he was charged with perjury. Luckily for Bonds (and every other defendant), the validity of evidence used against him at trial must be established during the trial, and now that his trainer has decided to stop talking, prosecutors can't use some of their most damning evidence because the trainer was the only one who could validate it.
Specifically, prosecutors wanted to use statements the trainer had made before he clammed up, but those were excluded as hearsay. Prosecutors also wanted to use log sheets and test results from the lab that tested Bonds, but without the trainer, they couldn't prove that the log sheets and test results, which were not labeled by name, related to Bonds. Bloomberg notes that prosecutors have other witnesses and evidence of Bonds' alleged perjury, but it's not clear it'll be enough to convict him. Of course, in the court of public opinion, Bonds has already been convicted of juicing.
Florida Gets Special Help with BP Litigation
In defending itself, BP (BP) has the deep coffers to hire as many expensive attorneys and firms as it wants. The state of Florida -- not so much. Luckily for Florida, one of the state's high-flying attorneys has volunteered to help the state pro bono and is in the process of lining up an all-star team to help. Why is C. Steven Yerrid helping Florida for free? According to Am Law Litigation Daily, it's personal. Yerrid has a strong connection to the affected waters and people.
Ludicrous Warning Labels
One side effect of Americans' litigiousness is absurd warning labels. For 13 years, the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice has held its annual Wacky Warning Labels contest, and the 2010 finalists are in. My favorite: "Never operate your speakerphone while driving!" What makes that warning label wacky, given that distracted driving, including cell phone use, hands-free or not, can be deadly? It's printed on a product called Drive 'N' Talk, a device whose sole purpose is enabling the user to talk and drive.
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