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Who’s afraid of a moody poet? The California Supreme Court�in a ruling that liberally cited a herd of amici curiae, including Nobel winner J.M. Coetzee and Pulitzer recipient Michael Chabon�ruled that violent poetry written by a San Jose high school student in 2001 did not constitute a criminal threat. “While the protagonist in ‘Faces’ declares that he has the potential or capacity to kill students given his dark and hidden feelings, he does not actually threaten to do so,” Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for a unanimous court. “[I]n this unique context this disclosure simply does not constitute an actual threat.” In re George T., No. 04 C.D.O.S. 6524. Web liability at stake Ebay Inc.’s savvy-user agreement protects it from liability for defamatory postings on its Web site, an appeals court has ruled. But the court’s decision left vulnerable other online content providers. A California intermediate court, the 2d District Court of Appeal, ruled last week that a release provision in eBay’s user agreement relieved the company of liability for the comments one user of its auctioneer site made against another. But the court said that a law routinely invoked as a shield by content providers does not immunize eBay against liability for distributing information it knew or had reason to believe was false. The law in question, a provision of the California Decency Act of 1996, has been a first line of defense for content providers. Grace v. eBay, No. B168765l. U.S. judge threatens to oversee California prisons Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who once ruled that Pelican Bay State Prison’s harsh conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment, is now taking aim at California’s entire prison system. In a scathing letter last week to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henderson threatened to put the state Department of Corrections in receivership. Henderson was concerned that a recent prison guard contract would undermine the court’s efforts to reform the troubled system. The judge wrote that a special master can’t fix the problems if Department of Corrections “officials continue business as usual, including entering into a [memorandum of understanding] that transfers management authority to the union,” Henderson said. Schwarzenegger wants to slash the budget by renegotiating the prison guards’ contract. New GC at Intel Intel Corp., the world’s largest chip maker, announced last week that it has a new general counsel, D. Bruce Sewell, effective on Nov. 1, when F. Thomas Dunlap retires. Sewell, currently deputy counsel, joined Intel in 1995. Previously, he was a litigation partner at Phoenix-based Brown & Bain. Dunlap, 53, is a 30-year veteran of Intel. He was hired as a product engineer, but he has served as the company’s chief legal officer since 1983. UBS Warburg sanctioned A federal judge in New York ordered sanctions last week against UBS Warburg for allegedly destroying backup e-mail messages sought in an employment discrimination case. Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin said the financial firm, not its lawyers, was to blame. The destruction was the result of a failure to communicate between UBS and its counsel, the New York law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, she said. Scheindlin said she was addressing long-running discovery problems in what she characterized as a “relatively routine” discrimination suit. She ordered UBS Warburg to pay expenses and attorney fees incurred by the plaintiff, Laura Zubulake, in pursuing missing e-mails and other data. The judge said she would also give a negative jury instruction on the missing evidence in the case, Zubulake v. UBS Warburg, No. 02 Civ. 1243. 9th Circuit launches sentencing review U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will head a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals committee to explore federal sentencing reforms in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Blakely v. Washington. Mary Schroeder, the 9th Circuit’s chief judge, announced Breyer’s appointment last week. “Sentencing reform is now essential, and complete restructuring may well be the theme,” Schroeder said. Schroeder quoted Breyer as saying that the high court decision in Blakely, 124 S. Ct. 2531, which held that juries, rather than judges, must decide factors leading to upward departures, “knocked our ideas about sentencing into a cocked hat.”

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