Welcome to Law.com’s Midweek Recess, in which we round up some tasty tidbits from the week’s legal news cycle. We’ll be here every Wednesday, so grab a cup of coffee and take a little break. It’s all downhill to the weekend from here.
One Popular Lady - Pop quiz: Which Supreme Court justice is the focus of a flowering, unofficial national fan club, complete with theme songs and merch? Sorry Justice Alito, but we haven’t seen any nail art with your picture on it. No, it’s Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who’s got so many superfans that it’s becoming, well, kind of a thing. While the so-called “Notorious R.B.G.” has had a Tumblr devoted to her for some time, the razor-sharp octogenarian’s status as Internet cult heroine was enhanced by her lengthy and forceful dissent in the high court’s blockbuster Hobby Lobby ruling last month.
Since then, the t-shirts and slogans have multiplied, with choices including: “What Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg Do,” “RBG, y’all,” and (our favorite) “Fear the Frill.” The justice has also made some memorable cameo appearances on the recent “Beyonce Voters” Tumblr. The New Republic’s Rebecca Traister cites the Ginsburg groupie phenomenon as evidence that young people “are creating a new vocabulary, a library of visual and aural iconography that warmly appreciates female power in not just its nubile, but also its senior, its brainy, its furious, and its professionally brawny forms.” One member of Team Ruth was so impressed by the dissent that he chose to turn it into a song (which went viral). We know the justice is partial to opera, but we think that even she would admit that the tune is pretty catchy.
Because New York - Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law that restrained protesters outside abortion clinics, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave law enforcement in the Empire State the clear message that buffer zones around clinics in 22 New York counties will remain intact. In an open letter to state police, Schneiderman said anti-abortion demonstrators can’t use “a narrowly targeted” court decision to justify breaching the borders at New York clinics. The letter came in response to an earlier incident, in which a longtime anti-abortion protester who believed the high court’s decision applied in all states crossed into a zone surrounding a Planned Parenthood clinic in Rochester.
Dept. of Big Brother - The ACLU has filed a lawsuit over the federal government’s National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative on behalf of five individuals, including a professional photographer who became the subject of a “Suspicious Activity Report” after attempting to photograph the famous “Rainbow Swash” artwork on a natural gas storage tank in Boston. James Prigoff, now 86, is known for his extensive body of work focusing on public art, including graffiti and murals. Prigoff was stopped by private security guards while trying to take photos of the water tank, and then was visited in California several months later by an agent from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The complaint states that Prigoff “is very upset that he was tracked cross-country from Boston to Sacramento, and contacted by law enforcement agents at his home over his effort to engage in photography from a public location.”
The other plaintiffs in the suit allege that they they became the subject of SARs for equally innocent conduct. Aaron Conklin, a college student and photographer, was told that he would be placed on an ‘NSA watch list’ after he was stopped while taking pictures of refineries for his portfolio. Other subjects of SARs included: a U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent who, in the course of his duties as a buyer for Nordix Computer Corporation, tried to purchase a large number of computers from Best Buy; and Tariq Razak, who was described in a report as “a Male of Middle Eastern decent [sic] observed surveying entry/exit points” at a train depot, who left the station with a woman wearing a headscarf. The complaint states that Razak had an appointment at an employment office at the station — and the woman accompanying him was his mother.
The plaintiffs argue that while “the SARs process has not proven effective in combating terrorism, it has been extremely effective in sweeping up innocent Americans and recording their lawful activity in federal counterterrorism databases.”
A couple of photographers, a guy buying computers because that’s what he gets paid to do, and a guy going to an appointment with his mom. Scary stuff, man. Scary stuff.
Raise a Glass, or Not - Oregon brewery Full Sail Brewing has filed a trademark suit against The Sessions Law Firm in Georgia, which markets its legal services with a suspiciously similar logo to that found on Full Sail’s Sessions Lager (a few bottles of which we may have enjoyed over the recent holiday weekend). Both the law firm and the brewery use “a distinctive shield logo, using a distinctive font, often with a red background and a gray outline,” according to the complaint.
But why does a brewery care if a law firm’s logo is similar? What could be the connection, you ask? Well, it turns out that Sessions Law Firm specializes in DUI cases. They also advertise by printing their logo and contact information on paper bags that the complaint alleges are “designed and distributed for the express purpose of holding a can or bottle of beer.”
With due respect to the creativity of Sessions’ marketing, we get why Full Sail isn’t exactly flattered or pleased with the association it creates. The law firm’s campaign, Full Sail says, “creates a direct and malicious connection between FULL SAIL’s goods, namely beer, and DUI (Driving Under the Influence).”
Full Sail’s CEO said the brewery hopes to come to a settlement with the law firm and described the whole situation as “a bummer,”
Which, well… word.