The Long Arm Of The Law – Anti-Texting Edition

LONDON - FEBRUARY 27:  A sign on the M25 orbit...
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Makes perfect sense when you are behind the wheel – make sure that your fingers are not doing the talking. Not everyone shares this sentiment, however. It behooves lawyers to have the lowdown on the laws regarding driving while texting – to protect themselves when they are tempted and to be prepared for those clients who may have gotten their fingers burnt, so to speak.

Jalopnik offers quick and easy visual maps for determining how states are handling legislation regarding texting, which may not expressly or explicitly fall under cell phone driving laws or driver distraction laws. This is a barebones color-coded series of maps, which does not give offer links to relevant legislation. Furthermore, these maps are going to change radically as time (and laws) pass. But I was able to determine quickly from the maps that, while there is nothing yet on the books in Massachusetts, there is legislation pending. Enough to set me on the path to legislative research on the question.

The bigger point to be made here is that even though technology affords us the ability to singletask or multitask in new and exciting ways it does not grant us the license to do so at all times. We, the “drivers” of technology, need to engage it responsibly at all times. Sometimes, that means we need to “drop out of the fast lane” and, if necessary, hold off until tomorrow what should not be done today while driving on a car trip. That includes shaving, putting on makeup, and reading the paper too. Sheesh!

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Massachusetts Authority

I am here in Massachusetts and, therefore, have a predisposition for an interest in Massachusetts authority and general information. Fortunately, the Massachusetts courts and agencies have not been sitting idly by while the Internet revolution explodes around them. Here are a few information gems:

  1. The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries include information from 17 public law libraries across Massachusetts. There are subject entries on such over 100 topics, including the more popular entries of auto insurance, foreclosure, health insurance, landlord-tenant, potholes, same-sex marriage, smoking and a blog about Massachusetts law. There are Massachusetts and Federal forms provided, at no charge. There are links to podcasts of interest, including one on Massachusetts DUI news. Various statutes and regulations are included, such as Massachusetts laws, Federal laws, links for laws from other states and links for foreign and international laws. Cases can also be found via links: for cases 1972-1996, the cite includes information by citation, name, or through a Google site search. Although not complete collection, the site also includes hundreds of often-cited earlier cases. There is a blog featuring updates on Massachusetts law. You can even chat with a law librarian!
  2. The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly includes links for free full text opinions from the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court cases from 1997 to current. Summaries are available from 1993. There are other resources available on the site for non-subscribers and it is well worth perusing the pages and links.
  3. Beginning in September, 2007, the Massachusetts Appellate court site began making available briefs filed in most cases scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Judicial Court shortly before the sitting. Hyperlinks to the briefs may be found on the Case Docket pages, just above the Docket Entries.
  4. The Board of Bar Overseers and Office of the Bar Counsel also maintain a site full of helpful information. There is a list of upcoming public hearings. You can search for an attorney by name or city and see his or her status. There is a link to relevant rules including the Rules of Professional Conduct, Canon of Ethics, procedural rules of the Supreme Judicial Court, and rules of the Board of Bar Overseers.
  5. Interested in a case before the Supreme Judicial Court, but cannot make the date for oral argument? Suffolk University Law School, in conjunction with the Court, has made available webcasts of oral arguments. The archives go back to September, 2005. There are minimum system requirements, as well as the need for Windows Media Player, which are outlined on the page.
  6. Here is a handy organizational chart for the Massachusetts court system.
  7. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue very kindly provides on-line access to forms and other information at its own website. There are also news and reports provided on various public information under the auspices of the DOR, including DOR press releases. The DOR also publishes tax guides as general resources regarding Massachusetts law, policies and procedures.
  8. The Massachusetts Legislature maintains a website which lists the legislators, legislation, the laws, the committees, the journals and the calendars of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives. There is a great outline of lawmaking in Massachusetts, complete with a glossary of terms.
  9. This is a great listing of all Massachusetts state agencies, arranged alphabetically.
  10. All you ever wanted to know about the Massachusetts economy can be found at MassBenchmarks, a quarterly journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and managed by the Institute’s Economic and Public Policy Research unit. Based on census data, the site includes information concerning the performance of and prospects for the Massachusetts economy, including periodic economic analyses of major geographic regions within the Commonwealth and an array of key industries that make up the economic base of the state. The journal also provides commentary and interpretation of economic data aimed at business and labor leaders, public policy makers and the general public.

As the reader can probably imagine, this is not an exhaustive list. For the researcher or general information junkie, however, this should provide many hours of entertainment. Enjoy!