Why I Use Google Scholar In My Blog Posts

The more I use Google Scholar, the more I like it.  I think you will, too.  I always use Google Scholar, for example, to hyperlink cases or statutes or law review articles in blog posts because:

1.  it's free;
2.  it's easy for readers to access (no subscription hurdle);
3.  it's reliable;
4.  (best of all) within the document, Google Scholar hyperlinks citations for ready reference; and
5.  there's a Shepardizing of sorts provided, too.

For example, click here to check out New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) on Google Scholar.  Nice, huh?


Can Book Reviewers Be Sued for Bad Reviews? Yes. Amazon Reviewer Sued by Self-Pub Author for Libel under British Law After French Award for Criminal Libel, and U.S. Precedent

The New Yorker's Book Bench is spreading the news about a lawsuit filed across the pond against an Amazon reviewer as well as Amazon.com and Richard Dawkins by the self-published author of a book entitled, "The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need to Know."

It's filed under British libel law and the first hurdle appears to be something akin to a Rule 12(b) motion under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure -- and it will be interesting to see what Great Britian does with this attempt to get money damages out of someone who wrote a thumbs down review of a self-published book uploaded for sale on Amazon. 

Laura Owen has written a nice summary piece on this reviewer libel suit over at PaidContent, entitled "Self-Published British Author Sues For Libel Over Bad Amazon Review.."

Book Reviewer Found Guilty of Libel in France for Bad Review

Think this is nuts?  Well, if this plaintiff had been following the news out of France, then maybe he is being crazy like a fox.  Seems that a plaintiff suing  for "criminal libel" under French law for a bad online review won -- got a nice chunk of change in an award, too.

Among the defendants:  the editor of the European Journal of International Law, New York University Law Professor Joseph Weiler.  Notice that an American book reviewer and noted law professor is being sued for damages in France, and he's posting about his courtroom experiences online. 


Could this happen in the United States? Should American Book Reviewers Worry About Being Sued for Damages by an Author for a Bad Book Review?

In the United States, authors have already sued reviewers for allegedly destroying their writing careers by giving bad reviews of their work.  I haven't done extensive legal research on this, but I am aware of  a landmark case where the New York Times got sued by an author named Dan E. Moldea for a review it published by NYT sports writer Gerald Eskenazi. 

That case, really cases, sets a standard for review - there are two relevant opinions here:

Moldea 1:  Moldea v. New York Times Co., 15 F3d 1137 (D.C. Cir. 1994)

Moldea 2:  Moldea v. New York Times Co., 22 F3d 310 (D.C. Cir. 1994)

Interesting thing about Moldea:  upon appeal from a district court dismissal of the case as being without merit, the appellate court initially recognized a cause of action for damages based upon a bad book review -- then, the court changed its mind ... finding that the book reviewer cannot be sued as long as the review is (Moldea, 22 F3d at 315) :

rationally supportable by reference to the actual text he or she is evaluating

From the Moldea 2 opinion (22 F3d 311-312, 315-316):
After careful consideration of the Times' petition for rehearing and Moldea's response to that petition, we are persuaded to amend our earlier decision. The original majority opinion was generally correct in its statement of the law of defamation. Unfortunately, that opinion failed to take sufficient account of the fact


Google Offers Google ThinkInsights: Here's an Infographic Example

Google tweeted about "Think Insights With Google" today and I went to investigate. There's a lot of stuff there, you might want to go surf around there for awhile. This infographic, for example (zoom to enlarge):


Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Spiral 16: Tracking Topics and Trends on the Web

Hopefully, you are aware of Google Alerts, a tool provided by Google, for free (as always) that notifies you when your name, your product, or just about anything under the sun is being discussed online. Google Alerts will let you know if your name has made the local news, for example, or if your daughter's soccer team got mentioned for winning regionals.

There are other sites that can help you keep track of things, too - Google isn't alone out there. Here are two for you to try:

1. Spiral 16

2. Social Mention.

Both of these services provide similar information to Google Alerts, but they target social media and they give more info to you than just links. Check them out, they are useful tools for you.

How?  Names are just one thing to search.  I have alerts set up, for example, under the phrase "death penalty" because I co-author a blog on capital punishment. (FYI, I also have an alert set up for that topic at Google Scholar, it's proven to be very helpful, too.)


Freelance Writer Who Blogged While Sitting on Illinois Wrongful Death Jury Found Not to Have Compromised Jury Integrity and $4.75 Million Award Stands. For Now.

It should not come as a surprise to many that the juror who blogged about her experiences while on an Illinois jury gave defense counsel a solid basis for appealling the $4.75 million verdict that came down against a commuter railway in a wrongful death case brought by the widow of a blind man who died, she alleged, as a result of the railroad's negligence.

Some, however, may be surprised to find that the juror's blogging about her days on the jury, for a total of six posts, did not result in a reversal: on September 30, 2011, the Illinois appellate court ruled that her actions didn't sway the jury or compromise the integrity of their deliberations.  (Read the opinion here.)

Who was this blogger?  Eve Bradshaw is a self-described freelance writer based in Chicago, 50 years old and a mother of three, who sat on an Illinois jury and wrote about it, in a series of posts for her Blogger blog The Green Room, which she has been publishing for several years.

Read the posts in question, or read Mrs. Bradshaw's blog in general, and you'll find a nice person.  Her posts about what was going on during the trial aren't smoking guns of jury tampering or jury evildoing; there is nothing sinister here, which was important to the appellate court. 

Nevertheless on appeal, the defendants argued that jurors should have been interrogated to determine whether or not the blog posts had impacted their deliberations, especially since the posts contained descriptions of communications between the jurors themselves.  It wasn't a winning argument -- however, part of that result springs from the content of the posts themselves (see, e.g., paragraph 63 of the opinion).

It's not over: the appellate court decision could get taken up to the Illinois Supreme Court, and with almost $5 million on the line, I'm betting the defendants will do so. (There are other points of error here as well; a subsequent appeal seems pretty much a given.)

Now, here's what I'm thinking:  first of all, what the heck?  As a lawyer, no I don't think that jurors should be blogging about what is going on -- no more than they should tweet about it, chat over coffee at Starbucks about it, or discuss anything with a member of the media.  At most, I might be willing to consider the posts being saved as drafts ... but to publish them while the trial is in process?  Scary stuff for a lawyer, juror blogging.

I don't think any communication by a juror about the trial process should be condoned, period.  It's a slippery slope to find blogging different than, say, chatting with a reporter, no matter the content of the posts themselves. If Mrs. Bradshaw had voiced these communications to a reporter who then published them in the local newspaper, would we have the same result?

That being said, it also makes me wonder about the additional responsibilities this places upon trial attorneys because if I were still litigating, you can bet your bottom dollar I would have a paralegal assigned to monitor every juror to insure there was no web chatter - be it Twitter, Facebook, or now, personal blogs.  

Seems to me that some will argue that okaying this blogger's posting means that lawyers now have a duty to monitor juror blogging (and to discern that they are or may be blogging) since the blogging itself has been found acceptable.  That's probably true even if there's a jury instruction not to blog (or tweet, etc.).

Taking off the lawyer hat and putting on the writer one, I have to wonder about the risks here.  First, to blogging itself.  Blogging is such a stepchild; a journalist reporting the day's events in the courtroom is one thing.  Posting about jury experiences while you're on the jury and sworn to protect its integrity doesn't do much to uplift the reputation of bloggers in the eyes of the traditional media.

Second, to the blogger.  Consider the potential personal risk of ciivil liability here -- what happens to the blind man's widow if the Illinois Supreme Court goes the other way and reverses that $4.65 million award because of six blog posts? What happens to the blogger then? 

Scary situation up in Illinois.