Thursday, December 13, 2007

Exam 4: Done!

Subject: Criminal Law.

First impression: Wow, I'm really, really tired of taking tests.

Distinguishing feature of fact pattern: How the Model Penal Code invariably leads to death.

Next move: Party party sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep.

That's it! One semester down, only 5 more to go... well, it's something, I guess.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Exam 3: Done.

Subject: Civil Procedure I.

First impression: I think I did this once already, and it was called the LSAT. Damn I hate multiple choice tests.

Distinguishing feature of fact pattern: Corruption in Russia? How far-fetched!

Next move: Okay, three down. Now I'm sick, underslept, woefully unprepared from Crim, and wishing with all my little heart that Thursday come sooner. Or, in other words, "wah wah wah!"

Friday, December 7, 2007

Exam 2: Done.

Subject: Contracts I.

First impression: Why doesn't anyone have a real name?

Distinguishing feature of fact pattern: the amount of math needed to calculate damages. If I wanted to be tested on long division, I'd have stayed in engineering...

Next move: Now that I've seen Team America for the first time, I'll just say dirka dirka and leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Exam 1: Done.

Subject: Torts.

First impression of test: "Damn this is long."

Distinguishing feature of fact pattern: Fred Thompson building a catapult and launching himself into a wall.

Next move: Contracts contracts contracts...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reveling in the random

Today is the last day of class! That means that finals are rapidly approaching and I am woefully short on time for all the things I need to be doing. But in the past couple days I've come across a few headlines that sparked my interest; here they are for anyone else looking to waste some of the time they don't have.

Investing in death
Tuesday's WP had an article about rich people selling their life insurance policies to investors for cash. I had no idea you could do that, but I guess the glory of capitalism is that you can do pretty much anything you want to make a profit. Basically, you can buy life insurance as you'd normally do, and then you can sell that policy to a settlement firm for a lump sum. The sum will be less than what you'd get if you died, but more than what you'd get if you settled with the insurance company. The firm takes over the premium payments and gets the benefits when you die. The firm has investors who get paid some percentage of the annual return of the death benefit. It seems like a good situation for everyone except the life insurance company: because more than 80% of life insurance policies lapse, insurance companies set lower rates. If more people sell their policies to investors likely to hold on to them and collect, the theory goes, insurance costs will go up for everyone. This isn't a new thing: people with HIV have been selling their life insurance (called viatical settlements) since the '80s, and BusinessWeek reported on this issue in 2005. even has a FAQ page on the process. For better or worse, the WP article is stacked with quotes from the life insurance industry. (Hat tip: the guy sitting in front of me on the metro, over whose shoulder I was covertly reading.)

Barry Bonds Watch continues
Three links over at How Appealing.

I am not alone...
The ABA Journal selected the 100 best websites by lawyers for lawyers, and has a category for JDs in training. Obviously I am not on that list. But the five blogs are worth checking out:
Nuts & Boalts
Overheard in Law School
The Frugal Law Student
There's No Competition in Law School
Transnational Law Blog
You can vote for your favorites in any category, so head on over and make your voice heard! (Hat tip: Concurring Opinions.)

I'll try to be posterrific during my moments of procrastination over the next couple of weeks, so check back often.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fair warning for unsuspecting first-years

There's been a fair amount of discussion in the law blog world recently about jobs that law school grads get. Some of it is terrifying for someone in my position - a 1L at a school that's not Harvard, Yale, or Stanford - but also, some of it is just plain dumb. Simple Justice on criminal law careers here; WSJ post and comments here.

The biggest thing I noticed is a complete and total preoccupation with what they call BigLaw jobs. I can't really blame them, either, since these are the famous jobs - the ones that pay the oft-quoted $160K/year. Above the Law had an ongoing feature, Associate Bonus Watch 2007, with some absurd-sounding bonus figures from the big NYC firms. The NYT had an article about perks available at these firms, including someone to pick up dry cleaning and guaranteeing the first $100K of associates' mortgages. These things sound great. Like, really great. But nothing in this world is free: in exchange for in-house nail salons and yoga classes, these firms will keep associates at their desks for a minimum of 1900 billable hours a year, working over Thanksgiving and other holidays, never giving them a chance to spend all the dough accumulating in their bank accounts. (I think, actually, that the in-the-office perks are and have always been a way to keep people from going home.) Why are people obsessed with these jobs and this life? The way I understand it, the work isn't even really interesting for the first couple of years; maybe they'll let you out of the document review warehouse for a memo or two at some point.

Along these same lines is a (long) post by Paul Gowder at Law and Letters arguing why you shouldn't go to law school. His titles sort of speak for themselves: (1) the jobs suck; (2) lawyers are unhappy; (3) you'll be surrounded by jerks; (4) have I mentioned the debt? (5) the law will make you the worst kind of person. It's clear that the post is stacked on the "con" side of law school and lawyering (in an attempt to "balance the scales," since so much of the information we get from schools about being a lawyer is stacked on the positives). But still, reading all of that from a lawyer - as opposed to an irate poster on the WSJ law blog - was a little rattling.

So, what's someone like me to do? The thing is, I love what I'm doing right now. I enjoy my classes, I am really interested in the material, I love solving legal puzzles, and I seem to be doing okay at it all. What are the prospects for someone who loves the law, wants to be a moral and ethical person, and doesn't want to be in debt for the rest of her life? I'll be honest: I like money, I like being comfortable, I like being able to live alone and save and go on trips. I've lived in New York on $30K a year, and those things are not possible at that kind of salary. I don't want to have to choose between a job I like and a job that affords me a life I like. This is a plea to the (two?) people who read this blog: help me out, y'all! What should I do?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Barry Bonds hullaballoo explained

So Barry Bonds got indicted. For something. Having to do with steroids.

That was the state of my understanding about the whole fiasco... until I read this pretty hilarious post that cleared things up. For results-oriented folks like me, here's the final answer:

Count one: Perjury. Barry Bonds knowingly took steroids and lied about it.
Count two: Perjury. Barry Bonds received injectable drugs from a BALCO associate, and lied about it.
Count three: Perjury. Barry Bonds knowingly took HGH, and lied about it.
Count four: Perjury. Bonds received various other illegal substances from BALCO and Greg Anderson before 2003, and lied about it.
Count five: Obstruction of justice. All of Bonds’ lies in the grand jury testimony were an intentional effort to impede the administration of justice.

How serious are these allegations?
Each of the counts of perjury carries a maximum of 5 years, and the obstruction of justice carries a maximum of 10 years, so it’s possible that Bonds could go to prison for 30 years.

Will he?
Of course not. Each of the charges also says that Bonds could be fined, or imprisoned, or both. There is a chance that Bonds will be found guilty (or plead guilty) to all of the charges and get off with a $25,000 fine: chump change to Barry Lamar Bonds, Inc.

Wait, if they can prove that Bonds lied about doing all these illegal things, that means that they can charge him with taking steroids, right?!
Wrong. Bonds received immunity from all charges except those related to perjury and his false testimony, so the charges against him will end here.

Check out the post for more details. And Barry Bonds Watch continues...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Belgium: Who Knew?

As it turns out, Belgium has been functioning for the last 161 days with no government. I have no idea what's going on. This article (hat tip: The Morning News) does its best to explain the state of things, but I'm still pretty confused. Check back for updates as things become clearer...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bad day for DC traffic lawyers

The word on the street is that DC (along with a couple of other cities in the Northeast) is phasing out in-person hearings to contest parking tickets. Instead, poor souls who want to contest their tickets will have to settle for mail or email adjudication. I'm sure it's more convenient to be able to send in your complaint by email instead of having to wait for hours in line for an in-person hearing; maybe, given both in-person and mail options, some people would choose to contest unfair tickets not worth the trip to the DMV. But what DC is doing is phasing out the hearings (by December 2008), removing that option completely. And it's probably not entirely for the sake of customer service, either: in 2004, more than a third of those who contested tickets won their cases, which cuts into the revenue the city makes from the tickets. Simple Justice has an interesting comment on the due process implications of the policy - something to watch out for as the change takes effect.

You can read the DMV's FY2008 plan, including this and other changes, here.
For the (limited) news coverage of the change, see here and here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apparently, civil procedure matters

We went over venue rules in Civil Procedure today. They're pretty boring. But apparently they actually do matter: just ask Wesley Snipes, who just filed a Change of Venue motion in his upcoming tax-fraud case. (He's the defendant, in case you were confused.) The WSJ Law Blog has details here.

In a nutshell, Snipes is being sued in federal court in Ocala, FL. He contends that the venue will be biased towards him because he is black, and he would rather have the trial in the Southern District of New York (AKA Manhattan). He is backing up his claim with a phone survey that asks, among other things, what percentage of people believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of "pride, not prejudice." Unsurprisingly, that percentage is much higher in Ocala (63% agree) than in NYC (22% agree).

It's always funny when I'm sitting in class learning about something and reading about it online at the same time...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Top 10 Law Blogs

Apparently the 2007 Weblog Awards have a category for Best Law Blog. (Who knew? Obviously I'm still new to this.) If you care, you can see the list and vote here. I figured I'd reproduce it in this space for my own and others' reference. I haven't looked at all of them, but so far I think I like the WSJ law blog the best. Volokh is #1 in the voting by a clear margin so far.

1. Volokh Conspiracy
2. Above the Law
3. SCOTUS Blog
4. Balkinization
5. How Appealing
6. Ms. JD
7. WSJ Law Blog
8. Sui Generis
9. Simple Justice
10. Likelihood of Confusion

I must have missed the deadline, but next year I'm sure my legions of fans will be voting me into the Top 10... Right.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Go read Amy Hempel

I don't know exactly why I love Amy Hempel's writing, but I do. I love it. It's beautiful and funny and sad and true. Her books are full of short stories in the truest sense. It's not a novel condensed into ten pages. It's a slice of life, one scene, a few moments, deliberately chosen details that break your heart without really ever letting you know why. Even now, having read her stories seven times over, they still give me chills.

I managed to find "The Harvest" online. Read it. You can spare the minutes.

In her collected works, Hempel thanks Gordon Lish, her teacher of minimalism and her first editor. Slate has a piece (sort of) about Lish on their front page today that was a fun read.

I've had urges to explore the other minimalist writers whose work Lish has guided. But part of me knows that, if I do, I may never be able to read a normal novel again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Do NOT mess with subject matter jurisdiction.

For those of you lucky enough not to be in law school, subject matter jurisdiction describes the authority of a court ("jurisdiction") to hear a particular kind of case ("subject matter"). Federal courts (as opposed to State courts) have very limited subject matter jurisdiction, so they can only hear certain kinds of cases - for example, controversies between citizens of different states, or cases that deal with a question of federal law. This is the interesting stuff I get to learn in Civil Procedure I. Yippee!

Anyway, subject matter jurisdiction is a peculiar jurisdictional question because it involves the court policing itself. Even if both parties in a case decide they really, really, really want to be in Federal court instead of State court, the federal court can give them the hand and kick them out of the system if the type of case doesn't give the court subject matter jurisdiction. Apparently, this is a Very Big Deal to judges - at least, to the judges I had to read for class tomorrow.

In Randazzo v. Eagle-Pitcher Industries (117 F.R.D. 557), apparently the plaintiff's lawyer didn't bother to precisely say where the defendant was incorporated. The Federal court needed this information to decide whether there was diversity of citizenship (aka, whether the plaintiff and defendant were from separate states) so it could ensure that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the case. The court gave the plaintiff's lawyer a 10-day do-over, and he apparently didn't fix his mistake. Judge Lord (don't you love these judges' names!) went a little nutso.

Plaintiff's counsel, apparently laboring under the impression that I am not dealing with a full deck and that my knowledge of diversity requirements is about equal to that of a low-grade moron, chose to disregard the directional signals posted in my memorandum. Counsel brazenly, discourteously, defiantly, arrogantly, insultingly and under the circumstances rather obtusely threw back into my face the very allegations I had held insufficient by reiterating and incorporating those same crippled paragraphs. The so-called "amended complaint" itself cheekily informs me that these paragraphs allege the states of incorporation OR (emphasis added) principal places of business of the defendant corporations. Of course, any law school student [hey, that's me! -sj] knows that both the state of incorporation and principal place of business must be diverse, but I suppose I can hardly expect any more from counsel whose familiarity with [the law] could be no more than a friendly wave from a distance visible only through a powerful telescope.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Plagiarism? Think not.

You might have heard about the plagiarism controversy surrounding Jessica Seinfeld's new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. Basically, Missy Chase Lapine, another cookbook writer, is claiming that Seinfeld plagiarized from Lapine's book, The Sneaky Chef. Both cookbooks are based on the unoriginal idea that you can hide good-for-you foods in bad-for-you foods to fool your kids into eating vegetables and fruits when they think they're just eating chocolatey brownies. Anyway, Slate has a good piece that actually compares the recipes in the two books and concludes that the plagiarism accusation is pretty much a joke. I found Lapine's whine of "Why is Seinfeld on Oprah instead of meeeee?" particularly annoying. The article also has a nice explanation of how copyright differs from plagiarism, which is more a question of dishonesty as opposed to theft.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Even textbook writers can joke occasionally

From my criminal law textbook, defenses section:

An elderly woman completed her shopping and returned to her car. She found four men inside. She dropped her shopping bags, drew a handgun, yelled at them at the top of her lungs that she would use the gun unless they got out of the car. The men "didn't wait around for a second invitation, but got out and ran like mad." Our elderly hero loaded her shopping bags into the car, and got into the driver's seat. Oops. Her key would not fit the ignition. No wonder. It was not her car. Her car was identical looking, but parked four spaces down. She embarrassedly loaded her bags (this time, into her own car) and drove to the police station. There, a police sergeant broke into laughter after she reported what had happened. He pointed to the other end of the room where four men, pale faced, were reporting a carjacking by a mad elderly woman.

(Lisa Denton, Laugh Lines, Chattanooga Times, Feb. 25, 2000, at 23.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Judges can be cool, too

The case I had to present in my Torts class earlier this semester was Andrews v. United Airlines [24 F.3d 39 (9th Cir. 1994)], which introduced me to the hilarious opinions of Judge Alex Kozinski. The WSJ law blog did a fun spot on Judge Kozinski recently, linking to a profile of him in the National Law Journal. I have a huge soft spot for funny guys, and he is really just an excellent writer (despite his views, which I don't always agree with). After reading half-Latin opinions from the 1800's, his works bring a very nice breath of fresh air.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Did you know porn is illegal? I didn't.

On Slate, Tim Wu has an interesting jurisprudence series on American lawbreaking, with two features up now: one on how the pharmaceutical industry can be seen as a drug legalization movement; and the other on how laws die through unenforcement. I think it's a particularly interesting read if you have 10 minutes.

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to get to posting at least once a week, but between midterm and memo and the generally ginormous reading load, I seem not to be doing so hot. I'll keep at it, though. Don't give up on me.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

This week's must-read: Art is a poor imitation of life

In a fantastic interview from The Morning News, Sarah Hepola listens to New Orleans Police Lieutenant Brian Wininger vent about the new show K-ville, cops that deserted after the hurricane, political corruption, and other things unique to being a cop in a city still far from rebuilt.

"I think [K-Ville] would be too slow if they showed how it really is. How you gotta work in a trailer with mold in it. How, after two years, stations aren’t even done yet. Half the time the toilets don’t work. Men are paying to have port-o-lets cleaned out....

"[After the storm,] all the news showed was rampant looting. First off, we had no jail. Secondly, we never knew if officers in the next district were alive. What we had was controlled chaos, the biggest national disaster to ever hit a city in this country and there weren’t many people shot or stabbed. Looters weren’t fighting among themselves. We were more concerned with saving people. Life first, property second, always. The city leaders and chiefs should be praising the men and women who stayed to this day because we did it on our own. No help from above. I think the city gave us about 96 bottles of water. If it hadn’t been for small groups of police, fire, National Guard, and citizens there would have been 5,000 people dead. A lot of New York City cops told me 9/11 was easy compared to what we went through.

These [police] stations, I could have had them done by now. I could have gone to Lowe’s and picked up a bunch of Spanish-speaking guys and had them sheetrock the place. It’s been two years. How come nobody’s screaming?"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's Up To You!

The LA Times reports (via Today's Papers) that Radiohead is letting fans choose how much to pay for an electronic version - downloaded off their website - of their new album, In Rainbows. No joke! If you go to the Radiohead website and pre-order the download of their album, you are allowed to enter the price you want to pay. You can choose to pay nothing. If you click the ? icon for help, you get a very simple and direct message: IT'S UP TO YOU.

To compare, the discbox (which contains CD, vinyl, and download versions of the album, plus eight bonus songs and a hardcover book with lyrics) will cost you 40 pounds, or about $82.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The downsides of plastic

I'm generally of the view that credit cards are good things, especially if you're young and financially responsible. They help build credit history and allow you to earn interest on your money by deferring payment until the last day of your billing cycle. Unfortunately, the little consumer is always going to be at a disadvantage when going up against the big credit card company in any conflict. Plus, credit card contracts are notoriously difficult to decipher, like when they spend four pages talking about how they will calculate your interest rate, only to end with "and we can change our minds whenever we feel like it and we don't need your permission either and by the way neener neener neener!" To top it off, most credit card agreements require the consumer to submit to arbitration, and a new report from Public Citizen details how arbiters overwhelmingly favor credit card companies over consumers. (Hat tip: Simple Justice).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No Taxation Without Representation

Being a legal resident of the great swing state of Florida, I decided against registering as a DC resident because I hated the idea of giving up a valuable vote for a nonexistent one. (I guess every vote is supposed to count, but let's be honest - our electoral system means a Florida vote in an election that could go either way is worth way, way more than a vote in DC, which is heavily Democratic. Plus, Florida actually has Senators and Representatives. Anyway.)

The issue of whether to give the nation's capital the vote is a big, big deal around these parts. The slogan on the license plates is "no taxation without representation," people. Apparently people have very strong feelings about the issue. Well, apparently DC voting rights activists have figured out a way to try to get some movement: trade the DC (shoe-in Democratic) vote for a new district ( = new Representative = new vote) in Utah. That would bring the grand total of reps in the House to 437 without fundamentally changing the balance of power between the parties.

Someone in the Senate (Lieberman maybe? I need to check on that) put in a bill to do exactly that, and the Senate is debating it today. DCist is doing live updates on the debate, which you can follow here if you're at all interested. The educated guess is that there will be a filibuster, so they'll need 60 votes to pass the bill. I think it's pretty great to hear Sen. Hatch from Utah stressing the need to give the DC residents the vote - 'cause you know that's what he really cares about, and not the fact that his state will get one more voice in the House. Anyway, it's an interesting issue that's not going to go away anytime soon.

NB: I'm pretty sure the US Constitution established the seat of government as neutral territory, while giving Congress the power to change the number of representatives in the house pretty easily. So even if the bill passes, you can bet on a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court, which, given its makeup, would probably take the conservative stance and require the government to go about the (very long and onerous) process of actually amending the Constitution itself before DC gets the vote.

You can read more about the campaign to get DC the vote here. (If anyone knows of a website with a decent argument against DC voting rights, please pass it along.)

UPDATE: Taxation without representation continues, as the Senate votes 57-42 in favor of closing the debate on the DC voting rights bill (aka, not enough votes, so no pass). For DCist's take on what this really means, click here.

(For added ridiculosity, note the line about how Congress has passed a law that forbids DC from using its own funds to lobby for voting rights.)

Nothing To Do With Law

This is easy for even me to forget, but I was actually trained as some sort of scientist. (We'll withhold jugment about the quality of that training for the present.) In an effort to keep that part of my brain alive during the next three years, I read some dorky science-y things, the best of which is the Human Nature column on (The columnist, William Saletan, has some personal views that tend not to fall into an easy political box, which makes for interesting reading. Besides, he's a local guy.) It made me laugh today, so I thought I'd share. Click here for the full column.

Breast-cancer gene carriers are debating preemptive mastectomy. A quarter-million U.S. women have the gene, which gives you a 60 to 90 percent chance of getting the cancer. Self-invented name: "previvors." Mastectomy arguments: 1) You're lucky to be the first generation that knows what's coming. You'd be a fool not to take advantage of the knowledge. 2) If you do it, you'll never feel like a real woman again. 3) If you don't, you'll worry about cancer all the time. 4) If you delay it a few years, science may find a cure. 5) Science might find a cure in time for your daughters, not for you. Do it now so you'll live long enough to have them. 6) If you do it too early, no man will marry you, so you'll never have kids anyway. 7) Get married fast so you can have the kids and get the surgery early. 8) Rushing your boyfriend will just drive him away. 9) You can still get a man, by replacing your real boobs with fake ones. 10) No, fake ones look fake. 10) Yeah, but they're getting better. 11) Yeah, but to keep your nipples, you have to slightly increase your risk of cancer. 12) OK, then here's the deal: Lose the breast, keep the nipples.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

This week's must-read: Why is Tony Snow broke?

This Slate article takes an interesting angle on Tony Snow's resignation as press secretary, asking questions like: (1) Is Snow really broke? (2) Did he save for retirement during his corporate years? (3) How is he paying for his chemotherapy? And (4) How does this all square with the bullshit he's been feeding us as press secretary about the "ownership society" and how "health savings accounts" are the answer to our health care crisis?

For the US Treasury's FAQ on health savings accounts, click here.
For a critique of health savings accounts by the Center for American Progress, click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

At Last, A Beginning.

I've been unsure about how to start this blog. I can't seem to decide what this space should actually do. Should I talk about my life? Should I write for other law students? Should I write like a magazine, making it interesting for everyone and anyone? I suppose I could think myself to death. Instead, I'm just going to start writing, see what comes out, and then make my theory to suit my practice. And soooo... hello!