Monthly Archives: June 2015

Attorneys Fleeing Desktops?

high angle view of smiling attorney showing cell phone with white background

high angle view of smiling attorney showing cell phone with white background

Right now on eBay and Amazon you can pick up the newest Apple iPad, loaded with memory or perhaps with a detachable keyboard for on the go typing. Its long battery life and wifi accessibility have led some to abandon their desktops and laptops entirely. Should lawyers and paralegals get rid of their trusted Macs, Dells, and HPs for these easily portable app machines?

Generally, the answer depends on the manner in which it will be used. Some are calling the tablet revolution the end of the PC while recent numbers seem to show the PC market hanging in there. Tablets may finally pass PCs this year, but even so their sales numbers will likely be almost equal.

Realistically, there are limits to both the heavy PC and the nimble iPad. However, for many attorneys the iPad has a set of distinct advantages. With such a tablet, the iPad can easily be stored in a vehicle or suitcase and brought wherever needed. Its light weight and size makes it an easier companion than even the lightest laptops. Its ease and use of microphones for recording important testimony makes it almost indispensable when having that first consultation with a client.

Furthermore, as a repository of information, it is often second to none. Vital parts of law codes and case study can be transformed into ebooks and PDF files for easy transport. It’s much easier to pull up a file and glide your finger across the screen to get to a certain page. Beyond that, it is very simple to use the search function to find relevant names or phrases. It’s also a great device to keep all of your contacts and enables you to make Skype or Google talk calls wherever there is wifi or if you have a tethering plan on your cell phone.

The use in the courtroom is second to none. You will be able to use it to show important documents and spreadsheets. You can project an important medical bill on a screen for the jury to see. There are also methods to sign important documents and then immediately email them. The use of the iPad for conference calls or video chat is also second to none.

The future is moving into a high-tech era where those in the law field that adapt the best and the quickest will excel. Those that rely on hundreds of pages of documents and that cannot easily transmit vital documents will be using valuable time on obsolete technology. Which side are you going to land on?

Maintenance Worker Injured in Escalator Accident

A business man commuting in  suit

A business man commuting in suit

Escalators are one technology that can really cause serious damages to kids and adults alike. A prime example of the devastation a faulty or even properly functioning machine like this can befall someone is digit injuries and amputations. Just a few days back, early Tuesday at the Rossyln Station, a 23 year-old maintenance worker was injured in an escalator mishap.

According to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Sarah Marchegiani the accident occurred at approximately 1:49 a.m. when the maintenance worker got his foot caught between the escalator frame and the heavy steel plate.

The spokeswoman said the worker was seriously injured, but the harm was not life threatening. Morgan Dye Metro spokeswoman stated the maintenance worker was employed by KONE a company hired for Metro escalator maintenance.  This is just one of the many cases that highlights why riders of these conveyors must use caution, and keep their body parts out and away from the crevices and alleyways that make up the working and moving part of the belt system and conveyor devices.

AAA Distracted Driving Study Highlights Big Problems On The Road

cropped-logo_tpl_black.pngGiven all the recent media attention such as April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the passage of state laws intended to curb driver distractions behind the wheel, one might think that the number of drivers engaged in texting and other distracting behaviors would be on the decline. However, a new AAA study found the exact opposite: the problem is getting much, much worse — especially among younger motorists.

According to the AAA Foundations for Traffic Safety study of 16-19 year old drivers:

  • Six in 10 accidents were caused by teens distracted by cell phones or passengers.
  • Drivers were inattentive or engaged in a non-driving activity in 58% of crashes.
  • Traffic accidents are the #1 killer of young people, with 11 teens dying every day as a result of distracted driving.
  • 60% of teen drivers say they’ve seen their parents texting and driving.
  • Teen drivers were involved in some type of distracting behavior almost 25% of the time they were driving.
  • Cellphone-using drivers looked away from the road for 1 out of 6 seconds before crashing.

What are the biggest distractions while driving?

According to AAA, drivers were impaired by distractions such as:

  • Adjusting controls inside the vehicle
  • Eating or drinking
  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • Reading
  • Turning around to reach for an object
  • Use of electronic devices (texting, emailing and downloading music)
  • Communicating with someone outside the vehicle.

What happens when drivers are distracted?

  • Tickets: A Las Vegas driver was recently fined $200 for applying lip balm while stopped at a red light, but penalties for texting while driving are as high as $10,000 plus a mandatory year in jail in states like Alaska!
  • Driving Errors: Failure to yield right-of-way, speeding and running stop signs were involved in 66% of crashes.
  • Eyes off the Road: The 4.6 seconds a texting driver takes his or her eyes off the road is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blind.
  • Crashes: Distracted driving was implicated in 89% of road-departure crashes, 76% of rear-end crashes, 51% of angle crashes, and 44% of loss-of-control crashes.
  • Injuries: Distracted teen drivers were responsible for 383,000 injuries in 2013.
  • Deaths: Distracted teen drivers also caused 2,865 deaths that same year.
  • Lawsuits: Attorneys nationwide say the number of distracted driving lawsuits are also on the rise – and the settlements are huge. In New York, a mother and her three children were struck by a texting motorist, causing finger fractures, chest and arm injuries, lacerations that required stitches, and neck/back injuries. The matter was settled in mediation for $600,000.

Distracted driving: not just a teen problem

In recent years, increased attention has focused on employer liability in texting and driving cases:

  • In a highly-publicized 2008 California train accident killing 25 people and injuring 135, the texting engineer and Metrolink rail service paid $200 million to the victims and families.
  • In another case, lumber wholesaler Dyke Industries settled for over $16 million after one of its workers was talking on a cell phone when he hit and disabled an elderly woman.
  • International Paper Co. agreed to a $5.2 million settlement when one of its employees talking on a company cell phone plowed into a Georgia woman’s car in December 2007.

The message bears repeating: distracted driving is a danger to everyone on the road. Drivers are well advised to put their cell phones, their lunch, their make-up, and whatever else they have in their hands besides their steer wheel down until they’ve arrived safely at their destination.


Racing Drones Might Become The Future Sport

Drones Invasion Isolated on White Background 3D Illustration.

Drones Invasion Isolated on White Background 3D Illustration.

Drones are getting more and more attention with the passage of time. There was a time when people would think that drones were only meant to spy on other countries and to land bombs on the terrorist hideouts. However, the concept has changed in the recent years and drones are becoming more common with time. The concept about them is also shifting more to entertainment side. Those who own drones are trying their best to change the concept of the world about drones and also make people realize how fun and entertaining the sport of racing drones is.

Just recently a small event took place in East Grinstead where drone owners and some spectators gathered to be a part of first person drone racing. This is the new form of racing where drones race and the spectators watch the small quadcopters flying through the trees and steep turns. The people who participated in this race were wearing some weird goggles. These goggles were designed to allow them to see their drone flying. People without goggles wouldn’t understand the applauding and cheering of the people because they could not see anything but the goggles that these people were wearing were showing them something different.

These goggles are specially designed to allow the wearer to see the action of drone racing from drone’s perspective. There is a camera or multiple cameras mounted on a drone and the person with the goggle can see the world from the eyes of the flying drone. Drone racing is not much popular in the world but people are recognizing this amazing hobby as a great way to pass their time, involve in technology and do some engineering. This is why there are more and more leagues on the scene in different countries that are interested in drone racing.

You can take your drones anywhere you want and fly them with the help of a remote control. However, this particular race that took place in Grinstead was more focused on checking the skills of the remote pilots. The track prepared in the area consisted of a cordoned off area with a very narrow path on which the drones were allowed to fly. There were trees all around the path so at times the pilots had to manage to pass their drones from very small spaces among trees and manage some really deep turns. Not all the pilots were able to finish the race.

Every pilot that took part in the race had to pay a small fee to be a part of it. Since the track was very narrow the pilots could not manage to fly their drones all at once. Instead the organizers chose the way of letting drones fly one by one on the track. Each participant was given multiple chances to fly his drone. All the pilots present at the scene were males and even in the spectators there was only one female. A gorge was designed by the organizers and the whole setup indicated a great test for the pilots.

Thomas Greer, who happens to be a network engineer, was responsible for holding the event. Greer is only 25 years of age but is good with his management skills. When he was communicated he told that all the racers were not able to complete the course. Only a quarter of the racers were able to complete the course and the rest fell. Some fell down right after taking the flight, some fell down by hitting a tree and others became the prey for branches that gave them brutal clotheslines. Only a few of the racers that came were professional drone pilots.

Greer who was ahead of everyone in organizing this event thought that the number of pilots that were able to complete the course was huge compared to what he had imagined in his mind. Even the professional drone pilots had a tough time in flying their drones due to the difficulties of the track. The racing with the goggles on is completely different from handling other types of planes with a remote control. In this particular race you are looking through the camera mounted on your drone and this is the reason this type of racing has been named as first person drone racing.

Most of the guys who came for racing were young and were wearing t-shirts and jeans or cargos. All the participants had built their own drones. The small carbon fiber frame that most users used for building their drones had a size of only 25 centimeter. The frame was in the shape of an “X” because all the drones were in the shape of quadcopters. We generally like to call them drones but the racers in the field were only interested in calling their gadgets quadcopters and didn’t use the term drone very often.

Racers thought that their racing was more like virtual racing but the biggest difference was when they crashed. They said that in a video game you would reload the game as soon as you would crash but the reality is different in the field of first person drone racing. Here, if your drone crashes you have to lift yourself up and go and pick up the drone. You have to perform the fixes and make sure that your drone is ready to launch again and race against other drones on the track. They said that you have nearly a thousand dollars invested in your drone and you are constantly worried about that investment.

There is a competition among drones on how they crash too. The more stylish your crash is the more chances you have of becoming the headline for the crash of the day. It is not that easy to digest the idea of seeing your drone fall to pieces on the ground after hitting into a tree but when there is a reward for this you can always find some joy in that too. In this particular race that took place on the twisting and twirling track the winner of the crash of the day was the drone that got stuck in between two trees.

The drone could not pass from between the trees and became the source of pictures and flashes for spectators there. When asked about his drone the pilot who was flying this drone said that he built his drone with special parts that he bought from China. A place near the track is fixed for pilots to give a try to their drones before participating live in the race. In fact, most of the time you will see the pilots doing fixes, repairs and test drives on their drones. This area where the pilots try out their drones once used to be a big house.

The environment in the area was quite loose and casual. Pilots and spectators did not hold themselves from poking jokes at each other. Some pilots thought that the idea of holding drone racing Olympics would be great. While this was only cracked as a joke it seemed that the pilots were really serious about having an Olympics dedicated to drone racing. The pilots told that the drone along with all the accessories such as batteries, goggles, transmitters etc. cost them around $1000. However, this cost was only for one drone and the pilots could not hold back from owning more drones than one.

The winner of the race on the field was a drone that looked more like a cyclops. This drone was very tightly and neatly built with wires looking very organized and stowed. The owner of this particular quadcopter is Dominic Clifton. Everything was very casual only until the moment when Dominic Clifton was prized his award for winning. As soon as he received his award there were people with cameras who started taking photographs. There were people applauding and among all that Clifton also gave a winning speech, which made everything look very formal and official.

Greer says that he is not sure of where the drone racing will head in future because he is only doing this as a hobby. He gave himself credit for organizing things in a good manner and said that he manages things well and that’s why he was able to arrange this racing event. He further said that the drones and goggles that were used in the league by pilots will be picked and taken to model shows in the future. The purpose of taking them to model shows is to give people an experience of drone racing and proving to them that drones are not only bad weapons.

Future of drone racing is a controversial and a very popular topic among many online news websites and magazines. Drone racing is more like one-wheeling on a motorbike. Some people would call it sport and adventurous whereas others will say that it is only a way to satisfy the teens and immature people’s desires. However, we can definitely say that people will easily change their perspective about drones when they experience drone racing once with goggles.  The bottom line is that these drones also present an appreciable risk to bystanders, and it appears that these machines are an accident waiting to happen, unless the situation is highly controlled.

Congress—Civil Liberties and Drones Topic of Heated Discussion this Week

cropped-logo_tpl_black.pngBy Attorney Michael Ehline – As a personal injury attorney, I love it when I can subpoena video tapes of nearby stores and other areas near the accident or injury scene, so I can view and understand the nexus of how the event took place. I am always seeking out those areas that are monitored with open, or closed circuit monitors/camera systems when I go to ground zero for a physical and visual inspection with my expert witnesses.

Obtaining copies of tapes, gives us lawyers a chance to test the accuracy, honesty and reliability of our clients, as well as to find evidence to impeach the affirmative defenses of the insurance company that is ultimately defending the evil-doer through its proxy lawyer or law firm. Of course, when I seek this information, the defense will oppose sometimes, arguing the 5th Amendment, or that if they answer certain questions at a civil deposition, that the answer could be used against them in a later criminal proceeding, etc.

A typical example of this would be a hit and run by an automobile case, since it is a crime to leave the scene of a wreck without exchanging basic identifying info and proof of insurance. If I asked a question about this at a deposition, I may get the defense telling his client not to answer, etc., since the client is under a pending criminal investigation.

So why does all of this matter? Well, above you saw the reverse role of the parties, me the Plaintiff’s lawyer in a civil case, whereas the role of government is to act as the plaintiff in a typical criminal case. Substitute me for the prosecutor. Pretend the prosecutor is now seeking the surveillance tapes of the surrounding area, or that he is trying to get your client’s computer records, or he did video surveillance on your client, without getting a warrant. Right away, we know he needed to get a warrant for the computer records, right?

Well, the lines are becoming blurry, and he may not even bother trying to get a warrant, or get your clients record from your client, when he can get them from third parties, or can he?

What Me “Warrant?,” I Don’t Even Care

The prosecutor may not need to get a warrant if he simply orders copies of your server activity from the ISP. This is because some courts actually argue that our founders never intended third party data kept on you and me to be a “paper” or “personal effect,” and thus, it is free game. The argument goes that computer data is not a “paper or personal effect.” Of course civil libertarians like myself think this is an absurd back door to allow the government to violate your rights.

It is almost as silly as saying the Second Amendment only allows private citizens to own muskets and Kentucky Long Rifles, instead of allowing them the same types of weapons as the tyrannical government has that they may be forced to fight in case of a usurpation by a domestic enemy, as our founders had intended. But modern Progressive judges are slowly eroding and rewriting our history in order to uphold more and more of these Orwellian types of edicts against our liberty.

Enter Private Informants

Snitches, or “private informants” allow the police to obviate the need for a warrant, such as a phone tap, by using a private person who is not a sworn law enforcement officer, to gather intelligence about you, directly from you. If you are in an area that has no reasonable expectation of privacy, then the informant could video tape you, record you, and the cops cold probably use this evidence to gain a warrant, and as evidence to prosecute you. Many civil libertarians claim this is an erosion of our intended civil liberties. Police would argue that the courts have spoken and that voters ultimately can change it.

Enter Private Drones

So wow, now the police and the law enforcement apparatus really have an ally in their war against civil liberties in favor of convictions at any cost. Imagine the police tapping into an Amazon Drone video feed and using it to surveil you? Think it won’t happen? Really? We know the police are already using private drones to fly around places like Staples Center. In fact, attendees of a game recently knocked an LAPD drone out of the sky (See video, infra.)

Published on Jun 14, 2014
LA Kings fans knock a drone out of the sky then smash it with a skateboard after the LA Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup at the Staples Center. After numerous attempts to knock the DJI Phantom 2 drone down, an LA Kings t-shirt knocked it out of the sky, plummeting to the ground then a fan smashes it with a skateboard.

In the above video, it is clear that rioters do not like being spied upon. But what about law abiding citizens, how do we knock a drone down without being charged with a crime? We are forced to rely upon judges and bureaucrats who are licensed by, paid by, retired by, hired by, and trained by …. THE STATE.

Wednesday the Federal Aviation Administration, and privacy activists had heated debates in front of Congress. The House committee overseeing the hearings is concerned with the future of U.S. airspace and unmanned aircraft systems. They voiced concerns about filming of things like football games, but not about law enforcement’s use of drones.

One privacy expert warned the committee it could become a issue for civil liberties with the few laws that would avoid claims. The full House committee on oversight and government Reform hearings were due to FAA proposed rule that would permit commercial drone use with issued licenses and at the discretion of the agency. Law enforcement drone use was not discussed.

The FAA showed concern about the unauthorized drown filming of football games and bought up their No Drone Zone PSA campaign they claimed was successful. The rules the FAA proposed was to keep drones below 500 feet and away from airports, which appeared to be reasonable restrictions.

According to Amazon’s vice president of global public policy Paul Misner, the limitations of licenses would hurt Amazon. He told congress the company is actively working to make delivery by drones a reality. Misener said the disagreement with the FAA is that Amazon believes they could consider using the drones now and that operating them out of the sight of the user’s line of sight would slow down their progress.

Maryland’s representative Elijah Cummings questioned whether drones could really work. Misener answered by joking they were delivering a basket of fruit headed for delivery to the representative right now. Eleanor Holmes Norton questioned Misener about the drone use and he assured her that they would work fine by the rime the rule was passed. He said currently the self piloting tech was not ready to deploy today, but the technology would be ready.

Most of the questions by the committee were directed at Amazon’s Misener and the FAA’s deputy administrator Michael Whitaker. Whitaker said the rule would be passed within a year and most questions by the FAA were logistical, because with the tech recalls drones lose their way. He said as the technology is tested they will need to develop standards for operation and radio communication.

Washington D.C. representative Tammy Duckworth voiced concerns about crowding of the sky and said as an aviator in a small plane even a small bird can take down her aircraft. Center for Democracy and Technology, Harley Geiger said before making the sky free for drones legislators need to be concerned with privacy. He went on to say “here is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties” and went with a scenario if a law informant unnamed aircraft systems (UAS) had sensors capable of identifying and tracking individuals in populated outdoor areas on a constant basis for general public safety.
At the same time commercial UAS platforms record footage of anyone that is outdoors even if the person is on private property. Greirger said it may seem unlikely, but the few established laws would stand in the way and the pubic does not trust the UAS industry to prevent this becoming a reality or the government.

Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky questioned Geiger about whether there was an appropriate floor for drones. Meaning a sky distance before they would be trespassing on private property. He said if there was floor it would probably be lowered and as case law worked out it would get even lower.

Massie said the committee was talking about 500 feet and then he said what about the floor, does a person own an inch above their lawn. Grieger said from a personal property side the person probably owns an inch above their lawn. Does the property owner own thirty feet above their property he said they aren’t sure. Geiger said what is reasonable now may not be reasonable in coming decades with the sky filled with tens or hundreds of thousands of UAV’s.

Imagine now the police tapping into each drone, and you have the the Orwellian nightmare that courts seem to be willing to uphold. Only time will tell, but the sacrifice of liberty for safety seems to be moving towards just that.