A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Archive for January, 2011

Oy Vey! Flying Rabbi’s Claim against Kimmel Kaput?

Rabbi

By Matthew Catania

A case of mistaken rabbi identity is causing tsuris and legal trouble for a late night talk show host and his network.

THR Esq.’s Eriq Gardner reports that Dovid Sondik, aka “The Flying Rabbi” and “The 13th Ave Rabbi” is suing over a sketch that appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. On August 10, 2010, Mr. Kimmel riffed on LeBron James getting business advice from Miami’s Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto. In the sketch, Mr. Kimmel claimed that he too had sought the counsel of Rabbi Pinto and showed footage of his fictitious meeting. This mock interview was created by splicing Mr. Kimmel in to a  YouTube video. But the Hassidic man in the YouTube portions of the fictional meeting was not Rabbi Pinto at all, but The Flying Rabbi. (Note: Despite his nicknames, Mr. Sondik is not an ordained rabbi.)

Because Jimmy Kimmel Live’s producers didn’t get permission to broadcast the clips, Mr. Sondik is suing Jimmy Kimmel and his network in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The press account listed the causes of action in Mr. Sondik’s complaint but didn’t evaluate them.  We will. (more…)

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Naked, Former College Football Player Killed by Police

[Picture] Reggie Doucet Jr

By Paul Irlando

At 3:30 a.m. on January 14, after a long night of drinking and partying at a number of Hollywood, California clubs, Reginald Doucet, Jr., a 25-year-old former college football player at Middle Tennessee State University, and current personal trainer and part-time model, took a taxi to his apartment in Playa Vista, California.  What happened next is as strange as it is tragic.

The taxi driver told police that after he drove his fare, Mr. Doucet, to his destination, Mr. Doucet informed him that he had no money to pay for his ride.  An argument ensued and Mr. Doucet proceeded to remove all of his clothes.  Naked, Mr. Doucet then started jumping up and down on nearby cars and yelling; the driver and neighbors, alarmed by the disturbance, called the police.  Two officers arrived on the scene, one of whom, the eventual shooter, had only been on the force for 17 months.  They attempted to calm Mr. Doucet down and were able to get him to put his undergarments back on.  The trio ended up in an alcove near the entrance to Mr. Doucet’s apartment where Mr. Doucet allegedly attacked both officers and reached for one of their guns.  That’s when he was shot twice.  Both officers on the scene were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.  Mr. Doucet died from his wounds.

The LA Weekly and various other news outlets (see here and here) did an excellent job reporting the bizarre facts surrounding the shooting, but didn’t discuss the legal standard used for determining whether the incident was justifiable homicide, or whether Mr. Doucet’s family has a potential claim against the LAPD for wrongful death – a claim often brought after such shootings.  We’ve done some research on California’s justifiable homicide law; here’s what we think: (more…)

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Why Is Jermaine Jackson Stuck In Africa?

Jermaine Jackson - Celebrity Big Brother 5 Final Night

By Nadia-Elysse Harris

It was the running joke on entertainment news blogs for about a week.  “Jermaine Jackson cannot come back to the United States of America… because he owes a fortune in back child support, “ TMZ reported earlier this month.  The King of Pop’s older brother was abroad in Burkina Faso, West Africa when his passport expired, and when he tried to renew it, he found he wasn’t able to due to past due child support payments totaling $91,921.  Unless he is issued temporary papers by the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso or clears up this very large debt, he will have to remain in Africa indefinitely.

Passport denial was not the first measure taken by the state of California to get Mr. Jackson’s attention.  A California court ordered Mr. Jackson to pay $3,000 a month in child support to his ex-wife for their three sons together.  Though Mr. Jackson claimed that he could not afford to pay that much, the court found that he was not forthcoming about his income sources.  As a result, as reported by entertainment news blogs in December, Mr. Jackson’s driver’s license was taken away until he satisfied the unpaid debt.

This got us thinking about whether, as a public figure, Mr. Jackson is being made an example or if he’s just a more public representation of measures that are taken against ordinary American citizens who owe child support. (more…)

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I Spy…a Camera in the Bathroom?

http://www.old-wizard.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/toilet_485.jpg

By Sarah Berent

We can all agree that when using a public restroom, we expect a certain level of privacy. So spotting a camera aimed straight at a toilet will be disturbing. Even more so if you first discover the camera on your way out of the bathroom.

According to a recent news article, patrons of a California convenience store, Circle K, found themselves in this very situation when they noticed a camera with an “electronic eye pointed straight at the sink and toilet area” of the single stall-men’s bathroom. Store employees insist the camera is not functional, but after gang letters and symbols were carved into the restroom’s walls, management installed the camera as a decoy to discourage vandalism.

Unsurprisingly, the camera prompted complaints from customers who were disturbed by the camera’s presence. The press account quotes a particular man fearing his bathroom activities might wind up on YouTube, and after the release of the now-viral security camera footage of a woman walking into a mall water fountain with security personnel snickering in the background, I’d say his fear may be valid.

The legality of the situation is not clear from the article. The article cites “legal experts” who say the store is “not technically breaking any laws” but fails to mention or explain the laws at issue. The experts also cite the possibility of “legal challenges” from customers who don’t realize that the camera is not recording but fail to state what these challenges actually are.

Our own research suggests that while the camera might not be “on”, there’s still a possibility of a successful civil lawsuit for anyone who used this bathroom. (more…)

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A Constitutional Defense of Violent Rhetoric

US Map with Target

By Trevor Timm

Last month’s tragic event in Tucson, where Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others were shot by a madman, have led to an increased focus on inflammatory rhetoric in the media and political sphere, with much of the attention centered around Sarah Palin and some of her past, controversial actions. Most notably, she has been intensely criticized for a campaign map on her website that placed cross-hairs over twenty Congressional districts across the United States, including Rep. Giffords’. This, along with other gun-tinged phrases she has used, such as “Don’t Retreat, Reload,” have led many to assign blame to her and others who traffic in overheated political speech. Some critics have gone further and questioned whether what Ms. Palin has said is illegal incitement of violence, or if it’s not, whether it should be.

In the days following the attack, Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) announced he would introduce a bill to Congress “making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.”

“You can’t put bulls-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,” Rep. Brady said. “I understand this web site that had it on there is no longer in existence. Someone is feeling a little guilty.”

Asked about popular support for his bill, Rep. Brady said, “Why would you be against it?”

Well, for one reason, it would almost certainly violate the Constitution. (more…)

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