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Untangled Web: Trial provides perspective on legal industry

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The cicadas are coming!

Photo credit: GARY RIEGEL - STOCK.ADOBE.COM

When we were kids, my grandparents taught us how to tie strings to cicadas during the summers. The insects flying around like hand-held bug kites was prime entertainment back then, as was finding their shells left behind on trees. It was a simpler time, by which I mean to say the internet hadn’t really popped off yet.

I was reminded of these memories when news started circulating recently of a once-in-a-lifetime event involving cicadas.

Two broods of the insects this year are set to rise from the ground in the Midwest for the first time together since 1803, according to a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The two broods emerge on different cycles of 13 and 17 years, so their paths rarely cross.

What that means for us is there will likely be a huge number of cicadas in the spring and summer and the ambient noises they bring with them.

As a noted cicada fan, I personally hope that steady hum of bug noises gets started as soon as summer comes around. It’s comforting to me.

Get your string ready for the double-brood event!

Trial provides perspective on legal industry

(EDS NOTE: LEAD PHOTO - IT’S ALL UP TO ANKROM NOW).Judge Derek Ankrom (CQ) has his arms full as he carries a stack of evidence books from his bench at the conclusion of a one day civil suit between residents of the University Height neighborhood and developers BK & M on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. The judge is not expected to rule on the suit until sometime in February..Photo by Jym Wilson ..01/18/2024 — Springfield, MO — Civil law suit one day trial against B, K &M developers over deed restrictions. Held in Greene County Circuit Court in front of Judge Derek Ankrom in Springfield on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024..© Photo by Jym Wilson for Springfield Daily Citizen, 2024..EXIF  , NIKON Z 6_2 #3053642; 1/18/24 @6:17:39 PM; 58mm, 1/500@f3.5; 3600asa; Manual;AUTO2
(EDS NOTE: LEAD PHOTO - IT’S ALL UP TO ANKROM NOW).Judge Derek Ankrom (CQ) has his arms full as he carries a stack of evidence books from his bench …
Plaintiff’s attorney Bryan Wade, left, and BK&M attorney Bryan Fisher spar during the civil suit trial..Photo by Jym Wilson ..01/18/2024 — Springfield, MO — Civil law suit one day trial against B, K &M developers over deed restrictions. Held in Greene County Circuit Court in front of Judge Derek Ankrom in Springfield on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024..© Photo by Jym Wilson for Springfield Daily Citizen, 2024..EXIF  , NIKON Z 8 #3001543; 1/18/24 @2:42:28 PM; 105mm, 1/320@f4.5; 4500asa; Manual;AUTO2
Plaintiff’s attorney Bryan Wade, left, and BK&M attorney Bryan Fisher spar during the civil suit trial..Photo by Jym Wilson ..01/18/2024 — …

At left, Judge Derek Ankrom has several hundred pages of evidence to consider in the case. At right, attorneys Bryan Wade and Bryan Fisher represent their clients in the Jan. 18 trial. | photos provided by JYM WILSON FOR SPRINGFIELD DAILY CITIZEN

I recently had the opportunity to report on the trial involving the University Heights neighborhood and developer BK&M LLC.

An account of the Jan. 18 trial – which awaits a verdict – was published in the Jan. 29 edition of Springfield Business Journal, but in this piece I’m focusing on insights gleaned about the legal profession. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve covered courtroom proceedings, so the opportunity to learn something new about an industry SBJ often reports on was not lost on me. And I’ve never been called for jury duty.

In some ways, court is just like how it’s presented on television.

Words like objection, hearsay, overruled and sustained are fired off with gusto, and witness testimony and cross-examinations can be exciting for the viewers.

The real-life trial showed me attorneys for the defendants and plaintiffs that clearly care about their profession and clients, as well as a judge who has the ability to examine the rule of law at a moment’s notice.

What’s different from TV is how exhaustive everything can be.

I don’t mean exhausting, though there was an element of exhaustion with the trial lasting the entire day. I mean the extent to which details are meticulously presented. In this case, we’re talking sometimes minute details about property deeds from a century ago, and the attorneys and judge were not shy about getting into the weeds.

There were a couple examples in which the attorney and witness confirmed details from photos taken in the neighborhood, and the attorney-witness narrative shifted to a photo-by-photo confirmation of specific details. There were several binders full of hundreds of pages of evidence, and the trial often involved the witnesses being asked to turn to specific pages to verify a point of fact brought up by the attorneys or judge.

Another point of interest arose during testimony involving the deed restrictions that were set up when University Heights was created. Murney Associates, Realtors agent Richard Crabtree, called as an expert witness in the trial, described restrictions 100 years ago that excluded single women and minorities from owning homes in University Heights.

It was stated that legal changes since that time have rendered those restrictions moot, so it will be interesting to see if those dated deed restrictions are ruled moot as well.

Greene County Circuit Court Judge Derek Ankrom has his work cut out for him, to say the least, but having viewed the trial, it feels like all involved did their best to present a thorough accounting of the issue.

A new way for artists to protect their work from AI

In the discourse surrounding artificial intelligence, a fascinating discussion involves artists’ work and the ability of companies in the AI space to scrape the web to train its algorithms on artwork.

Often, artists do not give permission for their work to be used in this way, and that has led to issues, both legal and otherwise, as AI develops.

The University of Chicago has a burgeoning solution for artists whose works are getting used without permission by AI.

A project called Nightshade is designed to disrupt AI training by “poisoning” the artwork, according to the university’s website. The tool tricks AI by placing effects on artwork that can show something totally different to the bot while making the image look largely unchanged for human viewers.

Ben Zhao, a computer science professor who led the project, told TechCrunch that Nightshade is comparable to “putting hot sauce in your lunch so it doesn’t get stolen from the workplace fridge.”

Interesting!

Expect to see more tools like this as the AI industry continues to evolve.

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