Courts struggle to sort out meanings of emoticons and emoji

Courts struggle to sort out meanings of emoticons and emoji by ABA Senior Writer, Debra Cassens Weiss 

Keyboard-crafted emoticons and digital emoji are becoming an issue in court cases, where judges are asked to decide whether the symbols affect the meaning of texts and emails.

Emoticons such as “;-P” denoting a stuck-out tongue and “;)” denoting a wink are particularly tricky for courts, Slate reports in a story noted by Above the Law. Slate summarizes several cases, including these:

  • A University of Michigan law student sued a female classmate who reported he was stalking and harassing her, along with the school and police for launching an investigation. No charges were ever brought. He argued his texts to a friend saying he wanted to make the classmate “feel crappy” and experience depression shouldn’t have been taken seriously, in part because he used an emoticon indicating a stuck-out tongue. A federal judge in Michigan found the emoticon didn’t materially alter the meaning of the text.
  • In August, a Delaware judge interpreted a winking emoticon used in a text in which a man boasted about surprising a woman by purchasing a plane ticket so he could be seated next to her on a flight to Paris. The man said the wink showed he was joking; the judge said the emoticon showed he was amused by the opportunity to harass the woman.
  • A Michigan appeals court ruled last year that a post to an online message board about corruption wasn’t defamatory because it included a tongue-out emoji, indicating the post was a joke.

Read the entire article here.

Expand your horizons with the World Digital Library!

The World Digital Library is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the United States Library Congress.

The World Digital Library promotes international and intercultural understanding, expands the volume and variety of cultural content on the internet, provides resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and builds capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and among countries.

Check it out here.

Election 2015 Highlights: Who Won? Who Lost?

With no presidential election or congressional seats on the line, Tuesday’s election watchers were focused on some high-profile ballot initiatives, a governor race in Kentucky and a handful of other races. Here are some of the highlights, compiled from the Journal’s reports across the country:

San Francisco Defeats ‘Airbnb Initiative’

San Francisco voters rejected a ballot measure that would have limited short-term housing rentals to 75 nights a year, a victory for Airbnb Inc., which waged a sophisticated political campaign to defeat it. Proposition F, dubbed the “Airbnb Initiative,” underscored the class tensions roiling San Francisco as a technology boom contributes to rising housing prices in the city. Airbnb, based in San Francisco, deployed veteran field organizers and hundreds of volunteers to defeat the measure, outraising backers 18-1 with an $8 million effort, according to campaign filings.

Bevin Wins Kentucky Governor Race

Republican Matt Bevin won a bitterly fought race for Kentucky governor Tuesday, handing the GOP a coveted seat that extends its hold on the South and imperiling the state’s closely watched implementation of the federal health law. The race between Mr. Bevin, a 48-year-old businessman, and Democrat Jack Conway, the 46-year-old state attorney general, was the most high-profile of three gubernatorial contests this year. The candidates were vying to succeed Gov. Steve Beshear, a popular Democrat who was barred by law from running for a third term. In another race, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi easily won re-election against Democrat Robert Gray, a little-known truck driver.

Houston Gay Rights Vote

In a victory for social conservatives, voters in Houston overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to extend nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender people. Known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, the measure would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race and a dozen other categories. It was backed heavily by Houston Mayor Annise Parker and a cadre of national Democratic political figures, and proponents poured more than $3 million into the push to pass it.

Ohio Rejects Marijuana Measure

Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical uses, dealing a blow to pot industry investors looking to build on a series of ballot victories across the country. The Ohio marijuana measure has been controversial from the start, and not just because it was trying to legalize marijuana in the Midwest. Local investors in the pot industry were behind the ballot initiative, spending more than $20 million to collect signatures to force a statewide vote and then funding the campaign to try to win its passage.

Comeback in Bridgeport, Conn.

Former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, who spent seven years in prison after he was convicted on corruption charges, was returned to office Tuesday, completing a stunning political comeback in the state’s most populous city. The 56-year old Democrat beat six opponents. He was the front-runner in the mayoral race, having secured the endorsement of the local Democratic Party and winning a a three-way primary in September.

Read the full articles here.

California becomes fifth state to legalize assisted suicide

California becomes 5th state to legalize assisted suicide by Legal Affairs Writer, Victor Li

California Gov. Jerry Brown ended weeks of speculation by signing a controversial assisted suicide bill into law.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported Brown had officially signed the bill, which allows patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs. The bill had passed Sept. 11, but Brown, a devout Catholic and former seminary student, had given no indication whether he would sign it. California is now the fifth state in the country to allow assisted suicide, joining Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown stated. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

According to the Times, California’s law was modeled after Oregon’s and allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and told they will die in less than six months. The law would take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to run into early 2016.

Read the entire article here.

The “Intern Case”: Intern Protection Laws May Be Hurting Interns

Intern Protection Laws May Be Hurting Interns by third year law student at UCLA School of Law, Harrison Thorne. 

Employees are entitled to many benefits, including minimum wage, overtime wage, social security tax contributions, insurance (disability, unemployment), Family and Medical Leave and workers’ compensation. Interns generally do not receive benefits, nor are they paid. Accordingly, some businesses have relied on interns as a source of free labor. The businesses exploiting interns typically claim that they are providing the interns with intangible benefits such as access to high-level professionals, practical experience and resume value. The interns respond that they are performing tasks for which they should receive compensation. Interns have generally lost this battle.

All that could change, based on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., also known as the “intern case”. The plaintiffs were college graduates working as interns for Fox Searchlight. Several worked well over 40 hours per week, and all of them performed tasks typically associated with entry-level paid positions. They argued that they were “employees” under the Fair Labor and Standards Act (the “FLSA”), and must be compensated for the work they performed.

The FLSA itself was of little assistance in the case, as it defines employees as, “individual[s] employed by an employer”, and “employ” as “to suffer or permit to work.”  29 U.S.C. § 203. Rather, the plaintiffs relied on the Department of Labor’s six-factor test to determine whether a worker is an intern or employee. Applying the DOL’s six-factor test, the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, finding that they had been improperly classified as unpaid interns rather than employees. Fox Searchlight appealed, and the Second Circuit granted its petition for leave to file an interlocutory appeal from the district court’s order.

Read the entire article here.

Staying Sane, Before and After Graduation

Law Schools Special Report: Staying Sane, Before and After Graduation by the National Law Journal 

This week, we present a “how-to” for students and for lawyers starting their careers. Amid a tight job market and the high cost of legal education, entering the profession is not a decision to make lightly. But success, as you’ll read, is not just getting good grades and nailing the interview. It’s about finding balance, enjoying the learning process and setting in motion a career that will cultivate a sense of purpose and professional fulfillment. It really is possible.

How to Clinch That ‘A’ and Not Lose Your Mind

Avoid procrastination, staying organized, and balancing courses are keys to success.

Before Going to Law School, Live Your Life

Gaining experience prior to pursuing a Juris Doctor degree made a KPMG executive a better student.

‘Soft Skills’ Are What Make Good Lawyers Great

The vast majority of job candidates know the law. Those who shine know themselves even better.

Stressing Out in Law School Is A Matter of Choice

You can decide whether to merely survive the experience or thrive by refusing to “compare and despair”.

Click here to read the entire article.

The Importance of Getting a Mentor

Navigating the Mentor-Mentee Relationship by Director for Career Planning at Marquette University Law School, Erin Binns 

Depending on the relationship and the moment, they may serve as your cheerleader, coach, reality check, therapist, and/or teacher – and who doesn’t need one or all of those from time to time?

I find four compelling reasons, among many others, that make it particularly important for you to establish mentor-mentee relationships:

The legal market. Getting and keeping legal positions is a competitive business. You need direction, connections and endorsements throughout your job search and career. Having go-to people who know your strengths and potential and who are invested in your well-being and successes gives you an advantage. This is particularly true when you consider the number of graduates each year citing “referrals” as their job source.

The other stuff lawyers do. You’ll leave law school equipped to tackle nearly any set of facts a client delivers, but practicing involves a lot more than finding answers to legal matters. Client development and marketing, supervising staff, managing your calendar, traversing office politics, and handling client payments are examples among myriad other tasks and responsibilities that may befall you early in your career. Mentors can model for you and guide you through the how-tos of managing and running your practice.

Lack of perspective. All of us lack perspective as we approach new experiences. This is definitely true as a law student and young lawyer. It’s easy to misinterpret an assignment or misjudge a professor’s or partner’s expectations. You need someone to talk you off the proverbial ledge the first ten times you convince yourself you committed malpractice or made a career-ending mistake. Having a trusted adviser providing context to your missteps and successes can alleviate or keep in check anxiety and stress. A mentor who is willing to be an honest assessor of your work and professional development is a gift.

Read the entire article here.