This week in legal news
- For the first time, legal papers were served using the blockchain
- Legal scammers are increasingly exploiting public Zoom hearings
- The Illinois Supreme Court rules that it’s illegal to kayak past your neighbor’s house
- In a pun-filled decision, a federal judge allows Texas brewers to continue to-go beer sales
Lawyers in New York serve the first legal papers using a NFT
When a defendant is unreachable by traditional process serving methods, the court may approve an alternative approach. That’s what happened recently in New York when a suspected hacker was served an Order to Show Cause via a NFT placed in their crypto wallet.
After a hack of almost $8,000,000 of its funds, Liechtenstein-based cryptocurrency exchange LCX AG allegedly traced some of its stolen digital assets to different digital wallets. LCX AG was able to freeze the funds, but with no name stitched into the digital wallet, it still lacked a name and place to pursue legal action. At least, it lacked a physical place. But if LCX AG knew the location of the wallet, then perhaps it could serve the virtual place. (Via The National Law Review)
The NFT was a service token that included a link to the court’s Order of Show Cause and other legal documents. It was served to the digital wallet Because the token was on the blockchain, the court was able to see and record that the link had been clicked.
Service was apparently successful — lawyers for the defendant have filed notices of appearance.
Scammers target families of criminal defendants by gathering information in Zoom hearings
Multiple families of criminal defendants have reported being victimized by con artists. These scammers attend public Zoom hearings and use the information to reach out to victims asking for money.
In one example, a scammer sent a chat message to a woman during her husband’s appellate hearing. The husband’s lawyer did not show up. The message claimed to be from the state attorney’s office and gave the victim a phone number, claiming that it was for the lawyer who was stepping in for her husband. When she called the number, the person asked for $6,000 to get her husband released from prison. She sent the $6,000 via Zelle, and found out later that it was a scam.
CBS Chicago reported on another person scammed in a May story. The woman, Laura Valadez of Berwyn, Illinois, also got a chatroom message while watching a bond hearing for her husband on Zoom after his arrest for driving without a license. The message gave Valadez a number to call to post bond. Valadez sent nearly $500 using Zelle. She waited at the jail for her husband’s release until 3 a.m. When she called the number again, it sounded like a party was going on in the background. (Via ABA Journal)
Similar scams have been reported as con artists get phone numbers that are read aloud in court.
Some courts have issued statements warning against sending any money via Cash App or Zelle.
Illinois Supreme Court rules that people with waterfront property are not entitled to kayak through neighboring properties
In a unanimous opinion, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that personal watercraft are subject to non-trespassing laws, even if the owner is moving from one piece of their property to another. This case came from a dispute between riverfront property owners in Grundy County.
The Holm family sued in December 2018, claiming its ownership of some land along the Mazon grants them the right to kayak along any portion of that river, even if it passes through private property. Their neighbors, however, argued the law gives them the right to enforce trespassing rules, and block access to the portion of the river that flows through their land. (Via Cook County Record)
Part of the reason for the hot dispute is that the river in question contains many rich fossil deposits. The complainant states that they cannot access their property without using the river, and this impedes their ability to run their seasonal fossil-hunting business.
The defendants, who operate a competing fossil-hunting business, posted “no trespassing” signs along the portion of the river that flows through their property. At one point, the complainants were arrested for trespassing, but no criminal charges were filed.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the defendants have a right to enforce their trespassing rules.
Federal judge issues a pun-filled decision regarding to-go beer from small breweries
After the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) stopped CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective from offering to-go sales, the brewery filed suit and argued that the barrel threshold didn’t apply to it because its Texas locations are leased, not owned. “This is a case about beer. It turns on the meaning of the word ‘owned,’ a pint-sized word with stout implications for craft brewers in Texas,” Judge Cory T. Wilson, a Trump-appointee, wrote for the panel. He was joined by Judges James Dennis and Leslie Southwick. (Via Law.com)
This beer case hinged on a Texas statute that allows beer manufacturers to sell their product off-site as long as they make no more than 225,000 barrels. The sticking point is the language of the statute: those barrels must be made at premises that are “whole or partly owned” by the manufacturer.
Since the brewer leases their premises, they legally do not own anything that would make the statute apply.
Some people feel that the judge’s pun-laden opinion shows a sense of disrespect for the decision, but the humor doesn’t make the decision any less legal or fair. A few people have even stated the opinion that because the judge is poking fun at bureaucracy, not at business, the jokes are especially appropriate.