China, China Law Blog and International Lawyers Development Course at IDLO

Via China Law Blog we refer to an international lawyers development course at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

China Law Blog’s Steve Dickinson will be lecturing in Rome, Italy in English on May 18-19, 2006 “on international contract law, with an emphasis on China“. Read here for more.

Given the rising importance of Chinese international trade, this looks like a course of importance for decision-makers and attorneys involved in business with China, if you can make it to Rome in May.

Note: This is not a paid or sponsored ad, but is simply our passing along of information which we consider potentially useful to some of our readers.

Crossposted to EU Pundit.

Justices Opinions Law Clerks Chess and Appellate Delay

Numerous years ago (1973-1974), I worked together with the late Prof. Jim Lake (Harvard Law) of the University of Nebraska Law School on a project to alleviate appellate court delay. The project is referred to here and the results of the project were published as Lake, James A. “The Appellate Process and Staff Research Attorneys in the Supreme Court of Nebraska: A Report of the Appellate Justice Project of the National Center for State Courts, 1973-1974” Denver, 1974.

Our direct partner for this project was the Nebraska Supreme Court for whom our project “central staff” of “research attorneys” functioned as fact-finding “super clerks”. The Supreme Court wanted to know if appellate delay could be reduced by such a “central staff” which drew up preliminary memoranda on “clear cases” before the Supreme Court. Such memoranda could then be used (or not) or edited by the Supreme Court Justices when drafting their opinions of law, thus reducing their workload and speeding up the judicial process.

Although it proved nearly impossible to draw up memoranda which the opinion-writing judge would adopt without amendment (the conservative Nebraska judges were sceptical of delegating any of their judicial role), the project demonstrated that the availability of “more” clerks or “staff attorneys” could in fact reduce judges’ workloads and reduce appellate delay, presuming that judges were amenable to this solution, which was not always the case.

We note in this regard that the number of clerks for many judges around the country have increased since that time to help accommodate increasing caseloads.

Indeed, Bradley Best in his book, Law Clerks, Support Personnel, and the Decline of Consensual Norms on the United States Supreme Court, 1935-1995, as reviewed by Scott A. Comparato, came to the conclusion that the increase in the number of separate opinions written by U.S. Supreme Court Justices has been enabled by the continuous increase in the number of law clerks and support personnel for each Justice.

This assessment was supported ten years later by Michael Barone’s August 2, 2005 article, “Clerk dependency“, in the Washington Times, where Barone concludes that “a proliferation of law clerks has proliferated opinions”.

We do not doubt that this is true. However, there is another side to the law clerk equation which must be counterbalanced against that development, and this is the increasingly litigious nature of modern society (see here generally, Overlawyered) and the general problem of overloaded courts (see e.g. Sunblog for the situation in Florida, as also the problem of statistics at the DOJ).

One solution to overloaded courts is surely arbitration but another – proven and very effective solution – is surely more law clerks for overloaded judges. Indeed, as the National Center for State Courts writes:

Research has demonstrated that the number of law clerks per judge is a very good predictor of an intermediate appellate court’s timeliness. Expeditious courts tend to have more law clerks per judge than the least expeditious courts. (See Roger Hanson, “Resources: The Key to Determining Time on Appeal,” and Stephen J. McEwen, “On the Effective Use of Resources in Pennsylvania,” Court Review 35, no. 3 (1998).” [emphasis added]

That was also the impression that yours truly had as a central staff research attorney for the Nebraska Supreme Court thirty years ago. When faced with work overload – delegate.

A hat tip for suggesting this topic goes to the Boylston Chess Club Weblog and their recent posting “A novel use for chess clocks“, where they cite to the Newark Star Ledger report:

In a bid to limit New Jersey’s next Vioxx trial to just three weeks, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee will use a pair of chess clocks to closely track the amount of time each side has to make its case.”

We thought that such a novel approach to court delay deserved a more in-depth treatment.

Law RSS and Atom

RSS and Atom syndication are increasingly defining the way that news and information is and will be distributed in the future on the internet.

Hence, we need to know something about them.

The main difference between the RSS and Atom syndication standards is that, as written by John Palfrey, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is now the owner and trustee of the RSS specification, whereas the Atom standard is open source.

A short, somewhat dated but understandable history of the development of both standards was written by Glyn Moody at Netcraft.

Other explanatory articles about RSS are found at Radio Userland, RSS Specifications, and Web RRS History.

For current RSS politics, see Sam Ruby’s Intertwingly and Dave Winer’s WordPress Blog.

For developments regarding the Atom feed format see the IETF, where Sam Ruby is the secretary for the IETF’s atompub (see the Atom publishing protocol).

Dave Winer entertained the idea of merging both formats some time ago, but nothing has come of that.

Flickr Archaeology Travel Photos

Speaking of travel, more than a year ago we created a Flickr group called “Archaeology Travel Photos“, a photography site which now has 80 members who have submitted 500 photographs from around the world, many of them of exceptional quality. Take a look, or add new or old photos of your own from your culturally-related business, law or private travel journeys.

Archaeology Travel Photos are accessible through RSS and Atom feeds, as well as through a My Yahoo feed: Here are the feeds:

  • RSS – we ourselves use the RSS feed on pageflakes to see what new photos on archaeology travel have been posted recently.
  • Atom – see our next post for the difference between RSS and Atom syndication
  • My Yahoo! – in My Yahoo, after installing the feed, one must manually adjust the feed (click “edit”) at the My Yahoo page so that it does not point to “Headlines” but rather to “Media”

Top Hotels for Law and Business Travelers

Professionals in law and business generally do a lot of traveling. Accordingly, the quality of hotels at business destinations is important. Most of the well-known lists of the world’s top hotels are produced by travel experts. has now published its “Top 100 Best Luxury Hotels [Four and Five Star Hotels]” (World, USA, Europe, Asia, Caribbean), based on travelers’ choices. There are thus many surprise selections.

TripAdvisor has also published its “Top 10” lists of “Best Hidden Gems [Hotels not in the 4 or 5 star category]” (World, USA, Europe, Asia, Caribbean), “Best Bargains [Affordable Hotels, Good Value Hotels]” (World, USA, Europe, Caribbean), “Best Hotels for Families [for travelers with small children]” (USA only) and “Best Pools” (USA, Caribbean).

In addition, TripAdvisor has a list of travelers’ choices of the top three hotels for each of the following destinations.

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Hawaii
  • Las Vegas
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • Paris
  • Philadelphia
  • Rome
  • San Francisco
  • Washington D.C.

The TripAdvisor Top 10 list of the world’s luxury hotels gives an idea of the selection:

1. Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
2. Mina A’ Salam at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
3. Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai
4. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest
5. Hotel Gault, Montreal
6. The Peninsula Bangkok
7. Pompano Beach Club, Bermuda
8. Fairmont Vancouver Airport
9. JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa
10. French Quarter Inn, Charleston, S.C.

All of these lists can be requested gratis at the site.

Please note that this is NOT an ad but merely passes on information that we find to be useful to others, as we not only subscribe to the TripAdvisor travel newsletter, but occasionally also evaluate the hotels at which we have stayed.

Studies have shown that the best way to obtain accurate information about a place is to ask someone who has been there, even if that person is a complete stranger, and TripAdvisor applies this principle to hotel selection by travelers.

Google Pages, Pageflakes and Reddit ("read it")

Google Pages, Pageflakes and Reddit (“read it”) are three new tech developments which represent new directions.

Google Pages is a free website page maker and hoster. We have given Google Pages a quick test go at Andis Island and Andisleben. The technology is still very simple and will have to be be improved to be competititve. But it is a free form of webhosting which is bound to find some adherents.

Pageflakes, a name which we do not particularly care for, is an AJAX application which has some impressive features. Our main reservation is that the page loading is simply too slow.

Reddit is a headline lister similar to digg but in its present form reddit is no competition for digg, whose headline feed is featured on LawPundit (lower left column).

A Clueless USPTO Continues its Absurd Practices and the Legal Community Stands Idly By

This past Valentine’s Day
(see Information Week via Aviran’s Place in his posting on “U.S. Grants Patent For AJAX”)
the USPTO issued Patent No. 7,000,180 for “Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet”.

The Abstract of that patent reads as follows:

Rich-media applications are designed and created via the Internet. A host computer system, containing processes for creating rich-media applications, is accessed from a remote user computer system via an Internet connection. User account information and rich-media component specifications are uploaded via the established Internet connection for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account via the established Internet connection. Rich-media components are added to, modified in, or deleted from scenes of a rich-media application based on information contained in user requests. After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system via the established Internet connection. In addition, the host process monitors the available computer and network resources and determines the particular component, scene, and application versions, if multiple versions exist, that most closely match the available resources.”

When one reads the extent of the patent claim, the only conclusion that one can reach about the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for granting this ridiculously broad patent is that the USPTO must be staffed in part by absolute incompetents. To these we can add the mass of backward Congressional legislators who are unable to draft modern and sensible patent legislation suitable for the internet age. Lastly, we find an ineffectual legal community which spends inordinate amounts of its time playing politician and e.g. browbeating Supreme Court nominees or the President of the United States, rather than directing their professional attention to urgent matters of law, which should be their job.

Our comment to all concerned is: WAKE UP!

Is it really possible that the clueless people at the USPTO, legislators in Congress and the legal community as a whole can be so stupid as to allow these kinds of patents to be granted as a matter of prevailing law? It is simply unbelievable. We do not understand it. Eolas, NTP and now the similarly obscure Balthaser Online, Inc.

Based on the Eolas and NTP patent cases as well as this newly granted patent, we think that the U.S. Patent Laws should be renamed “Scam Enablement Laws”.

AJAX and the use of rich media on the internet are technologies which have slowly developed over time through the work of thousands of people around the world. An internet-based patent for any such technology is a contradiction in terms. It is the global state of the art in the internet community which drives innovation and not individuals “inventing things” for that community. The latter puts the cart before the horse. All major internet innovations such as rich media are obvious to any professional in the field – there is nothing “inventive” about them on the part of any so-called patent inventors – what a scam. Rather, the trick is to implement clearly obvious “next step developments” by writing code that is workable and can be commercially exploited, which is a completely different matter.

Writing workable code is in turn dependent on the state of the art of computer technology. We can think of many new applications that we would like to see enabled on our computer screen, but no home computer or graphic card thus far has the ability to implement them because of speed and memory limitations. For example, we want all of our interfaces to be instant 3-D WYSIWYG applications, without any noticeable intervening programs. AJAX is heading in that direction, but “invention” is limited by the state of the art of hardware. Indeed, our Windows installation freezes regularly simply because we push it to the limits. Innovation is thus greatly dependent on hardware improvements. The richer the text, the greater the burden on resources. Innovation on the internet is inextricably intertwined with developments in all of the ancillary industries.

Many patents being granted today can be compared to a Neolithic man who claims to have invented the automobile, but was only hindered to produce it because of the lack of invention in his day of steel and the wheel, not to mention combustible fuel motors and glass.

That some company now claims to be the patent owner for rich media applications on the internet is beyond the pale. It is a modern Alice in Wonderland tale, more Kafkaesque than Kafka.

Worse, it is an anathema to the human spirit. All of that idle chatter everywhere about God and religion, caricatures of prophets, evolution and creation, intelligent design, and what not. No field of human activity proves better our humble primate origins than the state of patents and patent law in the United States. We are right in the middle of a global crowd of baboons, and the baboons are us.