Current event paper

Project description

The purpose of the paper is to encourage you to read legal articles in current newspapers, and to reinforce your understanding of the issues that you have read in the text and discussed in class. This course is intended as an introduction to very real, practical issues. The more you read current newspapers, the more you will see how our classroom topics play a role in every day life. When you talk about current events with friends, your law training will enable you to bring a unique perspective to the discussions. You will probably begin to make more discriminating judgments about many issues, from consumer to business to political.

You should include three articles on different subjects.


AIDed on 24.11.2014 08:43

Find 3 articles(from good/reliable source) and write in the format that is clearly stated in instructions.

Goal:  The purpose of the paper is to encourage you to read legal articles in current newspapers, and to reinforce your understanding of the issues that you have read in the text and discussed in class.  This course is intended as an introduction to very real, practical issues.  The more you read current newspapers, the more you will see how our classroom topics play a role in every day life.  When you talk about current events with friends, your law training will enable you to bring a unique perspective to the discussions.  You will probably begin to make more discriminating judgments about many issues, from consumer to business to political.

Due:  The date/time/location of drop off to be announced €“ please consult your syllabus. Please submit a hard copy of your paper.


€¢    Typewritten.

€¢    Double-spaced.

€¢    Pages numbered.

€¢    Bound (stapled or bound some other way)

€¢    Names, I.D. numbers on cover

The paper should be divided into three sections:

Discussion, Grade Form, and Appendix.

Section I: Discussion.  This is the more important part of the paper, in which you discuss the articles.  You should include from three to six articles on different subjects.  Please choose articles from current newspapers or magazines (they may be online articles €“ but must be reputable sources) €“ no more than a year old, as opposed to back articles available on the Internet.  The goal is to be current.  As to each article, provide:

€¢    The article’s title

€¢    Citation, that is, the newspaper, the date, and the page

€¢    Facts.  In your own words, briefly summarize the most important points.  Do not plagiarize.  Do not simply quote from the article.  The goal is for you to think about these issues and put them in your language.  If I wanted to give a typing test, I would.

€¢    Law.  Explain the legal issue raised, and summarize the law on that point.  You should be able to get this information from the textbook, but, again, put it in your own words.  You may include legal issues that are in our syllabus, such as crime, torts, contracts, agency law and so on; and you may also include legal issues that we do not discuss this semester, such as environmental law, insurance law, and so forth.  If you choose a topic we do not deal with in class, that will put extra pressure on you to learn the law from the appropriate chapter in the text.  Site your sources.  If you are taking the law from the text, you may simply site it Beatty, p. xxx.  If you are relying on other sources, which is fine, site them.  Use a footnote and put the citation in the footnote at the bottom of the page.

€¢    Comment.  Your comment may take any form you wish.  You may predict the outcome of a case; discuss ethical problems raised; contrast this story with some other story that you have read about; explain why the law on this subject is good or bad; or make any other points that you consider significant.  One word of caution: avoid confusing criminal cases with civil.  If the article discusses a criminal assault and battery, do not discuss it as though it were a civil lawsuit.  Of course there is overlap, as we learn in the section on torts, but a prosecution is not the same thing as a tort action.

Section II:  Grade Form.  Please copy the following grade form into your paper.  I will use this to indicate your grade.


Poor     Fair    Good    Very Good     Excellent

Articles €“ interest, variety, complexity

Facts €“ clarity, coherence

Law €“ accuracy, completeness

Comments €“ comprehension, insight, originality


Section III: Appendix.  In this section you simply include a photocopy of each article.  Do not include the article itself, pasted onto paper €“ that will make the paper too bulky.  You can cut and paste the article to fit onto relatively few pages.  Cite the article.  An example follows, showing a discussion from Section I, and the article from Section II.



CITE:  New York Times, Jan. 16, 1998, page B8.

FACTS:  John Cerasini sued the producers of the movie Donnie Brasco, claiming defamation.  Cerasini, whose nickname is Boobie, is a convicted racketeer.  He sued because he claims that an early version of the film portrayed him committing a murder for which he was, in fact, acquitted.

The early version of the movie, shown to preview audiences only, included a character named John (Boobie) Cerasini.  Cerasini is depicted participating in a gruesome murder.  When the movie was released to the general public, the character’s name has been changed to Paulie.

Cerasini has in fact been convicted of racketeering, bank robber, drug dealing and being a Mafia associate.  But when he was tried in 1982 for crimes that are portrayed in the film, he was acquitted.  Based on the acquittal, he claimed that the film’s producers have defamed him.  However, Judge Chin dismissed the case, ruling that Cerasini was libel-proof.  The judge ruled that Cerasini’s reputation [is] sufficiently tarnished that at most he could collect nominal damages.  The judge mentioned in his ruling that the murder originally shown in the film was consistent with FBI testimony at the trial, a book, and widespread media coverage, even though Cerasini was acquitted.

LAW:  Defamation can be either oral (slander) or written (libel).  Under the common law rules of defamation a plaintiff must prove all of these elements:

1.    Defamatory statement.  The statement must be one that would harm the plaintiff’s reputation.

2.    Falseness.  If the statement is untrue, defendant wins.

3.    Communicated.  The defendant must have communicated the statement to a third party.

4.    Injury.  Generally, the plaintiff must show that the defamatory statement injured him.

There are three main defenses to a defamation lawsuit:

1.    Opinion.  An opinion is not defamation because it cannot be proven true or false.

2.    Public Personalities.  Generally, a plaintiff who is a public personality must prove all of the above elements and must also show actual malice.  This means that the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant either knew the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard of the truth.

3.    Privilege.  In certain cases, it is in the public interest for the defendant to speak up.  For example, in court proceedings, or certain other government proceedings, witnesses need to be able to speak without worrying that they will be sued for defamation.  As long as they act in good faith, they are probably protected.

COMMENT:  Defamation laws are designed to protect people from having their reputation ruined.  It is undoubtedly true that a convicted Mafia associate has a poor reputation, and would generally make a poor defamation plaintiff.  But the judge may have gone too far in concluding that past convictions should permanently prevent a Mafia member from suing in defamation.

First, Cerasini’s convictions are all in the past, and he has served whatever penalty society and the courts deem appropriate.  Should he suffer aIDitional penalty because a film producer got its story wrong?  Isn’t the change in the movie an indication that the producers know they defamed Cerasini?  Why should the rules automatically be different for a Mafia associate?

Second, if a Mafia member cannot sue in defamation, how far does the doctrine go?  For example, suppose a bank robber who was not involved in organized crime served his sentence, started a new life, and established himself in a good job only to find himself falsely shown as a murderer.  He might get fired, or his wife and friends could dessert him.

A related point is that murder is far graver than any of the crimes (admittedly serious) of which Cerasini was convicted.  What if a Mafia member convicted only of possession of marijuana was falsely portrayed as a murderer.  Surely the gross difference between his conviction and the false statement should permit a defamation suit.

Third, the article quotes the judge as pointing out that the film’s depiction matched trial testimony, a book, and widespread media coverage.  But none of that indicates that Cerasini committed the murder.  Why is it even relevant?  If he participated in the killing, then the film’s depiction is true, and that is the end of any defamation case.  There is a difference between proof that someone committed a murder, and widely covered allegations.  Can anyone be prevented from recovering defamation damages based on mere testimony, as opposed to proof?

The laws of defamation are designed to balance the competing interests of protecting personal reputations and permitting the free exchange of ideas, but this judge may not have got that balance quite right.

Keystone XL: Texas High Court Gives Hope to Landowners in Eminent Domain


CITE:  InsideClimate News, January 13, 2014.

FACTS:  Julia Trigg Crawford filed a lawsuit against TransCanada in 2012 to prevent TransCanada from taking part of her property for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline southern leg, which runs from Oklahoma to Houston.  Crawford claimed that TransCanada did not have the right to use eminent domain in this case.  Crawford appealed the decision by a lower court that sided with TransCanada, and in January 2014 the Texas Supreme Court requested that TransCanada submit information on its use of eminent domain as it decided whether or not it would hear the case.  If the Supreme Court did decide to hear the case, it would have been promising news for Crawford, as historically, the Texas Supreme Court reverses about 70% of the cases it decides to hear, according to the article.

While Crawford appealed the prior decisions, TransCanada went ahead and dug up her property to construct the pipeline, which has already began transporting oil.  If the lower court’s decision was reversed, TransCanada would have had to dig up and re-route the pipeline.  The Texas Railroad Commission, which has jurisdiction over the oil and gas industry, granted eminent domain to TransCanada and allowed them to dig up a 50 foot wide parcel of Crawford’s 650 acre plot of land, which spurred her decision to file suit.  This decision from the Railroad Commission is significant because it deemed the Keystone XL as a common carrier, meaning that the project is good for the Texas public, and it served as precedent that other land may be acquired by TransCanada using eminent domain.

LAW:  The major force at play here of course is the eminent domain law, which grants government entities the power to take private land for public use.  There is only one condition for governments that use eminent domain powers, which is that they must pay a fair price in doing so.  The exact wording in the United States Constitution is that governmental entities cannot take private land without just compensation (Beatty, 663).  The eminent domain law is quite simple and in this case, the Railroad Commission had to decide if the pipeline being built by TransCanada is being built for the good of the Texas public.  The counter argument Crawford tried to make here is that the pipeline did not directly benefit Texas companies.

COMMENT:  This issue can become pretty controversial as it comes up numerous times any large scale infrastructure project is being considered.  In the United States, citizens have many more constitutional rights to fight these large scale projects than they do in other countries.  There have been many cases where a large infrastructure project which would have undoubtedly served a great benefit to an entire region was sidetracked, delayed or even shelved due to the protests of a measly few residents who happen to live nearby the project and have good connections in the court systems.  These people are commonly referred to as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), as they would otherwise not be concerned with such a project if it was not happening further away from their locale.

That being said, Crawford might have had a valid argument here, which is probably why the Texas Supreme Court was at least considering hearing the case.  She argues that there was a significant risk that a leak in the pipeline could pollute the water she uses to irrigate her farmland, and that her insurance company refused to compensate her for any tar damage on her property.  On the other hand, TransCanada did increase their initial offer from $7,000 to $21,000 for her small parcel of land used for the pipeline, and large scale leaks that would impact her farmland are quite rare.  I feel that in the end, the Texas Railroad Commission does have a right to grant TransCanada eminent domain, and unfortunately for Crawford, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.  I agreed with this decision.