Blogs > The Law Blogger

The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Saturday, May 21, 2016

East Lansing Riot Ordinance Ruled Unconstitutional

This one got our attention. A district court judge in East Lansing struck down a township ordinance making it a crime to to stand within 300-feet of a fire and not report it to police.

The so-called "riot" ordinance was designed to curb the swell of unruly crowds during the occasional but persistent student riots in and around the Cedar Village neighborhoods.

Our law firm routinely represents students from Oakland County that attend Michigan State University. On a few of those occasions, our clients have been charged with East Lansing's ordinance in the wake of a significant Spartan victory.

On both occasions, at the pretrials, we challenged the ordinance on constitutional grounds. Our argument was that the wording of the ordinance was vague and over broad, including within its scope legal conduct under our First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.

When we made that argument, we were offered plea reductions to trespass or disturbing the peace on both occasions, with the tickets being dismissed following a brief period of non-reporting probation. This, of course, removed the opportunity to further challenge the ordinance.

Now that at least one judge has ruled this ordinance unconstitutional, we shall see whether the township appeals the ruling. If they do, the matter will proceed to the Ingham County Circuit Court and, from there, to the Michigan Court of Appeals by application for leave.

East Lansing Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows stated that the township would either amend the ordinance to remove its unconstitutional bent, or appeal 54-B District Judge Andrea Larkin's order. The local police chief criticized Judge Larkin's order, saying the ordinance was an effective way of controlling large crowds and fires.

In a free society, however, the more a law chills free speech and freedom of assembly -despite its utility as a law enforcement tool- the closer it comes to violating of our fundamental rights. Unfortunately, one of the hallmarks of our free society is that Spartyville erupts following their big victories.

Post #540

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Regulation Crowdfunding

StartEngine Co-Founder Ron Miller
Yesterday a new set of SEC rules took effect that could be a game-changer in the way start-up projects obtain venture capital. The new rules, known as Regulation Crowdfunding, are the culmination of a bi-partisan act signed by President Obama nearly 4-years ago.

The Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act introduces a series of technical changes that streamlines the process of raising capital for small businesses. The Act and the SEC regulations that went live yesterday will make it easier for companies to raise venture capital; now the little guy can swim with the sharks.

Many companies hoping to take advantage of the new rules have been gearing-up over the past several years.

StartEngine Crowdfunding is one such company, based in Santa Monica, California, and co-founded by our good friend Ron Miller, a 1987 graduate of the University of Detroit School of Law. StartEngine helps Los Angeles-based start-ups obtain venture capital quickly [90-days] and supports the companies with corporate mentoring and other business-related services.

One example of a successful crowdfunding project recently completed with assistance from StartEngine is the Elio Motors project. This unusual car company harnessed an innovative design to manufacturer vehicles that sell for $6800 get over 84 miles per gallon.

Another recent example of crowdfunding is the Big Apple Circus. A proudly local affair parked in Cunningham Park at the east end of Queens for the past 38 years, this circus is broke. So broke, it turned to crowdfunding to stay alive this season. The SEC's new regs came just in time to stave off scrapping this NYC mainstay.

While there is excitement in the air among hopeful start-ups and entrepreneurs, the SEC took great pains in promulgating their rules because they did not want to see smaller investors lose their money. Most start-ups have a rough go of it, going belly-up in 5-years or less.

Some folks are not above running scams, and of course, everyone wants a piece of the next Snapchat, Instagram or Tinder. But when you put your money into venture capital, getting it out is not as easy as calling your broker and selling shares of stock.

In the years to come, we will see how these new rules operate on this new investment platform.

Post #539

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Friday, May 13, 2016

The Artificially Intelligent Lawyer

Baker Hostetler, a large law firm with offices in cities across the country, has announced it will harness technology in IBM's "Watson" to assist its lawyers with bankruptcy research. The Big Law firm has partnered with Ross Intelligence to tap into Watson's computing powers.

The partnership was announced in mid-April at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee during a conference on artificial intelligence and the law. Ross Intelligence founder Andrew Arruda claims to have developed the world's first artificially intelligent lawyer.

Apparently, Ross is built atop Watson's cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities. Ross is given a legal assignment; it then researches the relevant law and outputs a series of highly fact-specific evidenced based responses.

One of the innovative features of this artificially intelligent lawyer is that it learns from its users assignments, allowing it to bring back better results with each assignment. Ross also continually monitors the law, alerting the lawyers who have tasked out the machine to any changes.

The stated goal at Ross is to provide every law firm and lawyer with an artificial intelligence unit to assist in the delivery of legal services to clients.

Of course, this all gives rise to concerns of technology control, ownership, professional liability, and legal ethics. First comes the machine, then the laws follow.

We here at the Law Blogger will enjoy witnessing the dawn of the artificially intelligent attorney. We cannot wait to purchase our own law droid.

Post #538

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