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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oracle v Google

"Trials are so sensational."  "Jury duty is a drag."  "Famous people pay their way to justice."  

Our complaints demonstrate how we take our open system for granted.  Not without reason, unfortunately: Participation in the legal system is demanding, not well compensated ($15/day!) and disruptive.  I would not want, could not afford to and would be completely stressed out by sitting on a jury for eight weeks. 

However, it wasn’t me in the jury box so, along with my close litigator friend who advised me on the finer points,  I sat back to enjoy Day 2 of Oracle v. Google.  The Peninsula giants faced off in the United States District Court for Northern California and conducted a very well executed trial.

Very well executed.  Excuse my pop culture references but if you've never seen a trial, you're apt to imagine courtroom scenes from shows like Law & Order.  This trial dwarfed any set from that show.  Where the TV attorneys are seated at a picnic tables before the judge, the cliques of Oracle and Google attorneys sat at tables from  Harry Potter's  dining hall scenes.  

A bank of technology experts orchestrated evidence so that, at the mere mention of a line from a deposition, the corresponding video footage appeared on a monitor positioned for each juror and on large screens provided for the room. 

The attorneys were prepared and poised.  Judge Alsup ran an efficient courtroom, moving the proceedings along briskly but also with very gentle conversations with the jury, making sure they kept up.

And so on and so on.  As members of the public, we don't have to pay an admission fee to observe these proceedings.  As litigants, we don't have to pay the system to participate and, unlike our European counterparts, each side almost always pay their own legal bills.  (For better or worse, anyone can file a claim.)

The fact that we all have access to trials every day in every county, even for a dispute of this scale, motivated me to write this blog post, to encourage visiting once in a while.  See your tax dollars at work.

On the other hand, the fact that we pluck strangers out of their lives, hand them expert level information that they previously held no inclination to research on their own, have them make decisions on it, to then potentially and very possibly significantly impact the lives of other people . . ..  It’s mad.

It might have worked better in simpler times, over disputes involving relateable subject matter like wayward chicken and property lines.    

I know.  This is a technology case; I'm an IP attorney.  Wayward chicken???  

The details are clear enough in the news reports.  As interesting as this case is from legal and technological perspectives, it also illustrates our wider struggle to keep up with Life, which, as ever, outpaces our processes. 

Everyone in that room, even the Oracle attorneys, has used Google.  This case exemplifies how we can have familiarity of a subject matter, yet not the expertise to judge it.  In a world of ever-expanding knowledge, this is going to continue as information grows specialized.  We have learned from the unprecedented transparency encouraged in every sector of our economy.  As consumers, we are already more sophisticated than we were a mere five years ago but jury duty is a very important pop quiz with high stakes.

Can we keep up with the challenge?  

In any case, from what I’ve read of the trial so far, the jury verdicts are confusing.  Given what we know of our system, though, it’s not that surprising.

Monday, April 30, 2012

What Does Motion to Dismiss Cancer Mean?

I joined Roger Royse in his efforts to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)!  The organization raises money and awareness about the cancers that occur in our blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes.  As part of its fundraising campaign, LLS sponsors a contest for Man or Woman of the Year where people earn the title by raising the most funds.  Win or lose, all the proceeds go towards LLS.

Roger's campaign offers many different types of events so there's bound to be something you will find interesting: 

https://www.facebook.com/MotionToDismissCancer/events

This small contribution will be to organize the 5k Run/Walk to take place on May 26, 2012 at 9:00 am in Palo Alto.  It will be a fun event for a good cause (and good for your health!) so please register at the link below.  And spread the word!


Working on this race every day, I consider the many non-attorney volunteers and participants who generously donate their time, so here follows an explanation of the legal parlance in "Motion to Dismiss Cancer" -- our campaign title.

Most sense that the title is part pun or double entendre.  At one level, everyone appreciates that "Motion" refers to the forward momentum for this worthy cause.  Also, for this event, it connotes running or walking.

What may not be so apparent to non-litigators is how a motion functions in its legal setting.  And what does it mean to ask for something to be "dismissed"?

Unlike the fast paced film and television dramas, a case moves toward trial in stages, by way of legal briefs or motions written and argued by the lawyers.  By then, the parties have delegated communications to their attorneys and they, in turn, churn the case through the legal process by communicating with the judge.  These communications are formal, written and carefully researched.  

Often, the first motion a court decides is a motion to dismiss.  This is how the defendant formally asks the judge to dismiss the complain.  If this happens, the case and all its complications and costs disappear.

So Motion to Dismiss Cancer is the playful notion that cancer can be similarly tossed out.  Except, we aren't asking a judge; we're asking each other.  A motion requires work and constant effort in both of its meanings but collectively, in numbers that are bigger and more powerful than the biggest and most powerful law firms, we can do it.  Together, we can move forward the research and development required to eliminate these ailments.  In our campaign, we'll have fun along the way too.