Splitting Hairs Department. One thing that being a lawyer teaches you is an appreciation for the nuances of language. There's a difference between "prior calculation and design," for example, and "premeditation." Contract lawyers get paid lots and lots of money to pore over contracts to ensure that every last phrase has been drained of any possible ambiguity.
Well, divorce lawyers are going to get paid lots and lots and lots of money to decide whether there's a difference between a "sequel" and a "spinoff." Back in 1987, Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gekko in the film "Wall Street." The movie "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," scheduled for release in September, will feature Douglas reprising his role as Gekko, starting from his release from prison for his insider trading conviction that was the climactic point of the first movie.
So what's the problem? When Douglas divorced his first Diandra in 1999 so that he could upgrade to Catherine Zeta-Jones, the $45 million settlement included a provision that Diandra would get one-half of whatever he made in the future on "spinoffs" of whatever he'd done in the past, so she wants one-half of whatever Douglas is going to get from the new movie. Aha! claim Douglas' lawyers: it's a sequel, not a spinoff. According to them, a sequel is where you pick up the story about a certain character after a period of time, while a spinoff is where you take a character from a particular movie or TV show and move him into a different setting. (The difference is linguistic, not artistic, otherwise we could have a protracted debate about which was worse: Police Academy IV or the typical Jason Alexander post-Seinfeld starring vehicle.)
I guess Diandra would have a slam-dunk if Douglas started showing up as the pitch-animal for Geico.
Bullshit Law Suit of the Week™, International Edition. Colin Dunstan of Australia is our hands-down winner. Colin, married at the time, began an office romance which ended badly in 1994, and spent the next three years complaining that his ex-lover was harassing him at work. His employer rejected his claims and eventually canned him, pushing him over the edge. He sent 28 letter bombs to various colleagues and superiors at the company, earning the sobriquet of "Australia's worst letter bomber." (Aside: we don't even keep track of that sort of thing here in America. If you're not in the running for "worst serial rapist" or "biggest mass murderer," you're a nobody in the pantheon of crime. If you're batshit crazy, you get a trophy inscribed "The Unabomber" to put on your mantle, but that's about it.)
Dunstan did eight years in prison for that, but his claim for workers compensation was reopened, and on Monday, an administrative appeals tribunal awarded him a year's pay, deciding that while the ex-lover's harassment wasn't work-related, the company's handling of his complaint aggravated an existing chronic depressive disorder was. (H/t to Overlawyered.)
Ideas for law review articles I've never had. Writing one about which is the most-sued mascot in the major leagues, as Professor of Sports Law Bob Jarvis did for the 2002 Cardozo Law Review. I have no idea how he did it, but he concluded that the dubious distinction belonged to the Phillie Phanatic. However many times the Phanatic has been sued, that number has been increased by one: last week a 75-year-old woman filed suit, claiming that "the massive, green, bird-anteater hybrid" had climbed onto her legs, causing a serious flareup of her arthritis.
A #$!$%^ rose by any other name. So I'm surfing the web when I come across this story in Legal Blogwatch about the MoFo2Go iPhone App. It's a story about an application for the iPhone developed by Morrison & Foerster, which can be downloaded by their clients and used to more easily communicate with the firm. Morrison & Foerster is one of the largest law firms in the world, with offices in ten US cities, as well as in Beijing, Brussels, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. In fact, I wound up checking out the firm's web site, which tells us that "MoFo" is synonymous with imagination, innovation, expertise, and commitment. And all I can think is that I'm pretty sure Morrison and Foerster has a very limited "urban" practice, because it's synonymous with something else, too.