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Friday Roundup

Tune in to next year's episode of CSI.  I was talking to a prosecutor last week about the new open discovery proposal here, which would require the state to provide the defense with a "discovery packet" within one week of the first pretrial.  That packet's supposed to contain all the state's evidence, including medical records where applicable.  Good luck with that, he said; it takes an average of six weeks to get medical records from a hospital around here.  And that's with a prosecutor's subpoena.

Well, it could be worse.  As this story tell us, in Los Angeles they have 7,000 rape kits they haven't gotten around to testing for DNA yet.  The problem?

Ask any of the more than two dozen criminalists who work in the lab what the holdup is, and you'll get variations on the same answer: It's a lot harder to analyze DNA than it looks on TV.

"The public's perception of it is based on what they see in television or on the news," Blanton said last week. "That is not going to give you a full understanding of the complexity of it, of the legal requirements you have to follow, of the guidelines and protocols."

Guess they don't do the "discovery packet" out there.

I'm not a lawyer, but I play one in court.  It's time for my annual meeting with my marketing guru about my next advertising pitch.  I don't think that last year's "Will sue for food" ever connected, but I think this coming year's slogan --  "Reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee" -- has some promise.

Good thing I'm not in Louisiana, because that state's bar has come up with some of the most restrictive rules on lawyer advertising in the country.  They're scheduled to go into effect on December 1, and, as this article demonstrates, they bar a wide variety of conduct, including using catchy slogans, such as calling your firm the "cash machine legal clinic." 

Whether these rules will stand up in court is another story.  Standards for legal advertising were considerably relaxed by the Supreme Court decision back in 1977 which held that such advertising was a form of commercial speech, and the Federal Trade Commission has already written a letter to the Louisiana State Bar Association expressing their concern that "the Proposed Rules unnecessarily restrict truthful advertising and may adversely affect prices paid and services received by consumers."

I've got mixed feelings on this.  On the one hand, some lawyer advertising has gone a long way in convincing the general public that we're a bunch of whores who'll do anything for money.  On the other hand, advertising has done a lot in making consumers aware of our services, and made fees more competitive. 

The bottom line is, we're a profession.  You can advertise responsibly.  But if you're going to advertise like you're selling used cars, don't be surprised if people regard you like they regard used car salesmen.

Trick or Treat.  I've blogged about residency restrictions for sex offenders in the past, but this ups the ante:

A federal judge in Missouri on Monday temporarily blocked parts of a new state law that requires sexual offenders to remain in their homes on Halloween evening and to avoid any contact with children related to the holiday.

The judge, Carol E. Jackson, of United States District Court in St. Louis, said the law was unclear, questioning language that prohibits “all Halloween-related contact with children” and allows sexual offenders to leave their homes from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. only if they have “just cause.”

See you on Monday.

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