EDVA’s Tasteful New ECF Color Scheme

The website for the Eastern District of Virginia’s ECF system is having some issues. It has unexpectedly acquired the following color scheme:

And so, when I logged into ECF earlier, I was suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with a screen entirely filled with the most horrifying shade of green-gold the world has ever known. The color has been variously identified by attorneys viewing it as “aggressively cat diarrhea green”, “baby poop green”, and “ebola-infested olive.”

A quick look at the source code for the page shows what it wrong — and reveals that, thankfully, EDVA is not intentionally inflicting that color scheme on its users. Apparently, whoever handles the website was trying to go for the much more predictably bland #999966 for the background shade. Unfortunately for them, they accidentally set the color with the following: <BODY BGCOLOR=#999966″>. And, as I am reliably informed by someone who knows a lot more about such things than I do, that little extra ” has somehow managed to convert the website’s background from the staid #999966 into the cringe-inducing #999600 instead.

Now let’s see just how long it takes for them to fix it.


Update: As of July 27, the website is still not fixed. Damn, EDVA needs to look into hiring some new, more diligent tech people.

Asset Partitioning, Legal Personhood, and its Implications for Corporate Civil Liability

What entities can be liable under the alien tort statute? At a minimum, it has been established that natural persons and foreign sovereigns can be successfully sued under the ATS. Beyond that, there is, to put it mildly, quite a bit of disagreement, most of it centered around whether or not a juridical person can be a validly named defendant alongside humans and nations.

The legal historians’ amicus brief [PDF] in support of the cert petition in Kiobel addresses this question in the context of the common law’s historical approach to questions of liability, arguing that “the Second Circuit erred in concluding that ‘who is liable for what’ is a matter of customary international law,” and that, in the United States, entities are liable for their agents’ torts without regard to the source of the substantive norm of conduct, and this applies to the ATS no less than it would any other tort statute. Although I largely agree with the brief, I wanted to expand upon some of its arguments here, and, in particular, to challenge the claims that, under international law, a “corporation” is a distinct and insular category that can or ought to be afforded its own set of rules. Questions of corporate personality — and for that matter, natural personhood — were not cognizable on the international plane at the time of the ATS’s enactment, as distinctions between sub-state entities could only be made through a state’s domestic law. Accordingly, the question of whether a non-state actor has committed a violation of international law is entirely independent of how a state’s domestic law assigns legal personhood to its subjects.

Continue reading

Another Step Forward

I got back home tonight just in time to hear that it really had gone through: New York has legislatively authorized same sex marriages.

Forty years from now, everyone is going to claim that, on this date, they were “not against” gay marriage. Some might still claim they were “against the way it was done,” but that they “weren’t against it in principle” — because obviously the only philosophically valid piece of legislation is one done by popular referendum — but very few will acknowledge that they believed that marriage equality would be a contributing cause to the destruction of America, or that they thought today would be a day to be mourned.

And that’s fine. Letting people forget that they disagreed with Brown v. Board was the best way to proceed, and it is the same here.

But tonight, freedom scored another victory. By a small amount — albeit a very large amount for those whom it directly affects — there has been an increase in the ability of Americans to order their lives as they see fit, in accordance with their own beliefs and convictions.

And to, most importantly, live their own lives however they goddamned want to. That is worth celebrating.


The Alien Tort Statute, the Blackstone Three, and the Historical Basis of Judge Williams’ Concurrence In Shafi v. Palestinian Authority

Judge Williams’ concurring opinion in Ali Shafi v. the Palestinian Authority, affirming the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims against the Palestinian Authority, is a long overdue attempt to create a new theoretical framework for the recognition of causes of action under Alien Tort Statute — or, more properly speaking, attempts to revive a very old one. His concurrence is an original attempt to link the ATS’ alleged origins in Blackstone’s Commentaries with the statute’s modern revival in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain. Ultimately, it proposes a new standard all together for judges struggling to vigilantly police the ATS threshold: that the causes of action recognized under the ATS’s jurisdictional grant ought to be those which “protect[] and facilitate[] the system of international relations arising out of the Westphalian view of national sovereignty, particularly with respect to the avoidance and termination of war.”

While I disagree with Judge Williams’ conclusion — that, in considering whether a plaintiff has stated a claim under the ATS, courts should look to “whether the defendant’s alleged behavior might provoke war if the United States occupied no more than an average position in global power rankings” — his concurrence attempts to inject some much needed ideological coherency into the federal courts’ constant invocations of the “Blackstone Three,” which, thanks to Sosa, are now an ubiquitous feature of modern ATS jurisprudence. Despite its prominent role in ATS litigation, however, most courts fail to understand the true significance of the Blackstone Three, and do not understand what unifies these three disparate norms of international law or why they have been chosen to be the paradigmatic causes of action under the ATS.

Continue reading

The Greater D.C. Area’s Worst Named Company

This D.C. area contractor clearly did not do much marketing research before choosing a company name:

I had to check the company out to make sure this was not some kind of prank, but yes, RA Hyman Restoration, Inc. is indeed a real business:

RA Hyman Restoration, Inc. helps people and businesses that are in need of emergency restoration services for damages caused by flood and fire due to accidents or natural disasters.

Whatever marketing research they did plainly failed to include the 13 year old boy test — an important stage of concept testing where, before unveiling any new marketing strategy or company name, you run it by a panel of 13 year old boys first. (Or, apparently, a panel of sufficiently immature 25 year old lawyers.) If their first reaction is to giggle, ditch the name.

I did wonder at first if perhaps this is an old, established company that was saddled with an unfortunate name in a previous, more innocent era. But alas, no, the company was created in 2007. They have no excuse.


One if By Land, Two if By Extremely Misleading Headline

The only redeeming part of the whole Palin nontroversy — “Reveregate,” or whatever we are calling it these days — is that at least people are learning a bit of interesting history about Paul Revere beyond the the traditional American mythology. Palin did not give an entirely coherent recount of the tale, but big whoop — I thought we were beyond stopping the presses every time Palin was less that perfectly clear about something.

For instance, in one article, a historian is quoted giving the following evaluation of the accuracy of Palin’s re-telling of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere:But the nonsensical “defenses” of Palin’s version of history are written in such bad faith that they are far more troubling than any irrelevant misstatement Palin may have initially made. All too often, The Word of Palin is treated something like the Bible or other mystical text; her proclamations are often vague enough or contain enough non sequiturs that defenders are able to read great mystical truths into her rambling sound bites. Palin only sounds vague and confused, they claims, but in reality she is a deep and worldly historical scholar!

Boston University history professor Brendan McConville said, “Basically when Paul Revere was stopped by the British, he did say to them, ‘Look, there is a mobilization going on that you’ll be confronting,’ and the British are aware as they’re marching down the countryside, they hear church bells ringing — she was right about that — and warning shots being fired. That’s accurate.”

Patrick Leehey of the Paul Revere House said Revere was probably bluffing his British captors, but reluctantly conceded that it could be construed as Revere warning the British.

“I suppose you could say that,” Leehey said. “But I don’t know if that’s really what Mrs. Palin was referring to.”

McConville said he also is not convinced that Palin’s remarks reflect scholarship.

“I would call her lucky in her comments,” McConville said.

And, yet, what was the headline for the article containing this quote?

Experts back Sarah Palin’s historical account

You betcha she was right!