The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), never the most popular of federal agencies, is now facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for an incident involving a jar of gourmet peanut butter. Frank Hannibal says that he was trying to take a jar of Crazy Richard’s peanut butter through airport security when a TSA worker objected to the layer of oil on top of the peanut butter and pulled him out of line.

Privacy advocates seized this lawsuit as a call for stricter privacy controls, citing advances in cloud computing. Not clear was the linkage between cloud computing and peanut butter, but privacy experts increasingly view everything as a threat. “It’s hard to be responsible with consumer products when TSA officials keep trying to get access to them,” claimed on advocate who wished to keep his name private.

So the Obama administration is doing what it can to move forward without legislation. In February, the president signed an executive order, which will create a framework allowing the government to share information. Regardless, keep in mind that the Obama administration is pushing a self-regulatory approach that could enhance protection without legislation through voluntary standards. Subsequent to the release of the framework and voluntary guidelines, White House officials plan on providing some context on what the heck they are talking about.

These changes are impacting the career moves of in-house counsel. Taking a value-based approach to address these challenges, Cocoa Industries promoted Will Sean to the general counsel spot. Sean previously was a shareholder at a now-defunct law firm, where his practice dealt primarily with employment-related matters, but nothing on peanut butter. Sean credits his career success to basing his legal approach on his TV hero, Perry Mason. Perry Mason wasn’t originally a TV lawyer; he had his origins in a series of novels and short stories. But it was Raymond Burr’s on-screen portrayal that truly launched a million legal careers and still endures as an exemplar of the profession more than 45 years after he left the air. Who could blame fans of the show for their devotion? After all, thanks to his skilled questioning and flair for courtroom confrontations, Mason reportedly lost just three cases in more than a decade on the air. Sean is taking a more modest approach in his new role by just trying to stay focused without straying off topic.

With e-discovery costs still skyrocketing, both judges and litigants have sought ways to reduce expenses. Some have turned to predictive coding, an advanced form of technology- or computer-assisted review (TAR or CAR), which is gaining acceptance in the courts. Predictive coding enables a computer to predict whether electronic documents should be classified as responsive or nonresponsive to a discovery request, relying on input by attorney reviewers. In a 2012 survey across vendors, 54 percent believe that Perry Mason would have used predictive coding if he were fictionally alive today. In a separate survey 78 percent of in-house counsel said they believe that vendors would insert themselves into a survey on any random topic as an opportunity to start an endless discussion on predictive coding.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t bring peanut butter through airport security
  • It’s uncertain whether the Obama administration’s framework will address anything, including peanut butter, but self-regulation may require enhanced protection through voluntary standards
  • It’s still fun to watch Perry Mason reruns, especially as a way to procrastinate while providing a façade of legal research
  • Despite claims from vendors, predictive coding has little or nothing in common with either peanut butter of Perry Mason


Legal Information Is Not Legal Advice, especially on April 1st.

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