Storm clouds

Global warming and/or climate change are not the staple of this blog. That is not about to change but I have to say that what others call the extremes of climate (and we in the UK just call “the weather”) has been much in my mind recently.

I suppose it all started with what by any standards has been the almost continuously poor weather throughout what passes for summer in these islands, made all the worse by the spectacular spring when the sun shone almost unceasingly and the temperature over Easter was in the 80s, with the promise of more to come. It was around then that people started saying they feared for the harvest because of the lack of rain. As I was not trying to grow anything organic, I felt that the doomsayers ought to be careful what they wished for and sure enough once the rain and cool weather arrived no one seemed to know how to turn it off! And, surprise, surprise, the harvest has not been all that bad overall. We have just had yet another disappointing summer.

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I told you so

Readers of this blog will be familiar with McMillan v Hummingbird Speedway.

It was a case in the US  last year where a court ordered a claimant to release his user name and password to a Facebook site where it was thought he had posted comments about injuries sustained in an accident for which he was now claiming damages.

In various posts referring to the Hummingbird case [for example, Judge, please be my friend, 18th Jan, 2011] I predicted that this decision would be followed elsewhere.

A court in Pennsylvania has now followed this judgement in Zimmermann v Weis:

Zimmerman v. Weis Markets, Inc., No. CV-09-1535, 2011 WL 2065410 (Pa. Comm. Pl. May 19, 2011)

I wonder how long it will be before the courts in England and Wales follow suit?

John Wayne never had to put up with this

Two Red Indian braves are pictured standing on a rocky outcrop looking over a scrubby cactus strewn expanse of desert towards the horizon where four puffs of smoke rise steadily in procession towards the sky. One brave turns to the other and says: “It says that someone has hacked into my emails!”

Matt’s cartoons for The Daily Telegraph have for a long time been favourites of mine so I was particularly amused to see this apposite offering a few days ago as I settled into my seat on the BA flight to New York where I was to attend Legal Tech 2011. As a Legal Tech virgin I was determined to make the most of what is probably the pre-eminent gathering of the Legal Technology industry each year. And I did!

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Judge, please be my friend

Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace are increasingly in the news. I wrote recently about such sites and some of their less well known brethren in a piece entitled A duck’s a duck” [28th Oct, 2010]. My concern at the time was to point out that the courts may take the view that a party should disclose details of log-ins and passwords to such sites in certain circumstance (and in the particular instance in Pennsylvania actually so ordered).

If it can happen there (see the case of McMillan v Hummingbird Speedway Inc. then why not here?

Now I see that the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee of the Florida Supreme Court has published a formal opinion to the effect that judges may not be Facebook “friends” with attorneys who may appear before them on the grounds that it may give rise to the appearance of bias and suggest that such attorneys are in a position to influence the judges in question.

The full judgment can be seen here and you will see that a minority of the committee disagreed while noting that the use of the word “friend” on such sites may merely describe acquaintances.

While it is always said that you cannot choose your relations but you can choose your friends, the Florida Supreme Court Ethics Committee disagrees.

Personally I have yet to ask a judge to be my “friend” and will probably now refrain from doing so for fear that I am disappointed! For all my readers, you have been warned that use of networking sites may lead not only to social minefields but may also have more serious repercussions.

I am indebted to the vigilance of Nicola Haye, Practice Support Lawyer at Withers for pointing me to this veritable nugget of internet etiquette.

Tips and tweets and wikileaks

In two recent blog posts at the tail end of last year Vox Stellarum and Waking the Dead and in case notes in our resources section I highlighted the US case of McMillen v Hummingbird Speedway Inc.

To refresh your memory the case decided that log ins and passwords to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace were discoverable in appropriate circumstances and the claimant in that case was ordered to disclose the information to the defendants within 14 days and had to undertake not to alter or delete material on the site(s) for a defined period.

The world of litigation and e-disclosure has not taken long to follow this up at least in the United States. I see from recent press reports that the US Government is suing the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and as part of its case has applied for an order that he and others disclose their Twitter passwords and log ins. I do not know the result of the application but I suspect it may well be successful.

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