Legal Tech N.Y. Jams, Dallas Buzzes about 'Links'
By Monica Bay
LET'S SETTLE one thing right now. Christopher Kruse and the gang at casecentral.com are the undisputed kings of the legal trade show party circuit.
Boy, can those dudes put on an event. Their "Roaring '20s" casino-night transformed the Halcyon Restaurant of New York's Rihga Royal Hotel into a "speak-easy." It was just the right combo of elegant and unpretentious, complete with gaming tables, great food, and a you've-got-to-see-it- to-believe-it "Martini Luge" ice sculpture, from which Absolut martinis were, well, I guess the only word is poured, but that doesn't quite describe it.
On a much more substantive note, my personal thanks to Chris and to ELF's Don Murray and Neil Aresty, of Legal Computer Solutions Inc., for joining me on the Legal Tech panel on application service providers in the legal milieu. It was a fascinating and provocative hour.
The pending merger of CourtLink Inc., (which offers court docket access services) and JusticeLink Inc., (which provides e-filing services to courts and attorneys) was the subject of no small amount of buzz at the Law Practice Management section sessions at the ABA's midyear meeting in Dallas, our spies report. The rumor mill predicted, correctly, that Henry Givray, current CEO of JusticeLink, will become the new chairman of the board; and that Matthew Schlitz, current president and CEO of CourtLink, will emerge as CEO. The combined company will be headquartered in Bellevue, Wash.
No decision has been made yet as to the name for the new combined company, but the two companies do intend to retain both the CourtLink and JusticeLink monikers and both companies' operations across the country, including the JusticeLink headquarters in Dallas.
Givray, reached for comment on Feb. 15, just as we were going to press, confirmed that a letter of intent was signed by both companies in early February, but said that due to legal requirements, he cannot comment on any terms of the pending deal. The merger has been approved by both companies' boards of directors; is subject to approval by each company's shareholders; and is expected to be completed by the end of March, he said.
"We believe that the two companies offer complementary services to our mutual customers who share a common requirement in the need to have electronic connectivity into the nation's courts," he said. "The combined company will be the electronic gateway to our nation's court."
This marriage could be seen coming down Broadway, as the saying goes. CourtLink just went "dot.com," announcing plans for an online version offering real-time Internet access to federal, state and local court systems. It received $15 million in financing from Internet Capital Group (and others).
The same outfit also invested $21 million in JusticeLink, which recently upgraded its e-filing service and announced an alliance with LEXIS-NEXIS Group (which took an equity stake and a board seat).
JusticeLink also added some powerhouse players to its staff roster, including Arthur Ahalt, vice president, chief industry adviser; Gary Davis, court implementation director; and James Keane, vice president, legal and government relations, and chief legal officer. Martindale Hubbell president Louis Andreozzi also recently joined the board.
You've Got Law Suits
America Online Inc. has been slapped with class action suits on both coasts, alleging that the latest edition (version 5.0) of its popular proprietary software makes it difficult to access other Internet Service Providers.
Lead plaintiff Farhad Khazai alleges interference with contractual relations, fraudulent suppression, violation of the Virginia Protection Act, and violation of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, in the suit, filed Jan. 31, Khazai v. America Online, E.D. Va., No. CA 00-145-A, reports E-Commerce Law Weekly, a sister publication of Law Technology News. Plaintiffs are represented by Yates and Schneider of Gaithersburg, Md.
The suit seeks damages of up to $1,000 each for the 8 million people who have installed AOL's latest software, details The Washington Post Online.
In California, plaintiff Michael Muzio made similar allegations in Muzio v. America Online, Calif. Superior Court, Alameda County, No. 822571-9, filed Feb. 3. His lawyers: San Francisco's Girard & Green, E-Commerce reports.
Three Washington, D.C.-area ISPs also went to court, filing CapuNet LLC v. America Online, Md. Cir. Ct., Baltimore City, No. 24 C 00000549, the next day.
AOL spokesman Rich D'Amato says such suits have "no basis in merit or fact," because the software asks customers if they want to set AOL as their default ISP and it's easy to change the settings. About 8.3 percent of AOL users have an additional ISP account, he notes.
eBay Under DOJ Probe
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating eBay, the popular online auction service. The probe is looking at eBay's attempts to stop smaller Web companies from listing items being auctioned by eBay's customers, says E-Commerce Law Weekly. DOJ has reportedly interviewed eBay competitors, including AuctionWatch.com and Bidder's Edge, whom eBay has sued for infringement and trespass in the reuse of content.
Microsoft Venue Battle
Microsoft Corp. lost a first round in its efforts to move a proposed class action suit out of San Francisco. S.F. Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak ruled that coordination of 25 pending cases, which allege unfair business practices, should stay in the city, despite arguments by Microsoft lawyers that San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley (home of many Microsoft competitors) could prejudice a jury pool, reports The Recorder (a sister publication of LTN). Pollak rejected a proposed move to San Diego. "I have a little trouble following that. I don't think there's been any factual showing that there would be more prejudice in this area than in San Diego."
Stephen Bomse, of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, is lead local defense counsel. Eugene Crew, of Townsend and Townsend and Crew is lead plaintiffs' counsel in the litigation.