Blog Ipsa Loquitur

A very nice piece written about retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. He gave a long disquisition on Constitutional interpretation. It doesn’t quote him nearly enough:

A choice may have to be made, not because language is vague, but because the Constitution embodies the desire of the American people, like most people, to have things both ways. We want order and security, and we want liberty. And we want not only liberty but equality as well.

These paired desires of ours can clash, and when they do a court is forced to choose between them, between one constitutional good and another one. The court has to decide which of our approved desires has the better claim, right here, right now, and a court has to do more than read fairly when it makes this kind of choice.

Do yourself a favor and read The New York Times Article, or go straight to the text of the speech itself.

Filed on under The News

So there’s this kid. This nerdy kid. This nerdy kid who likes to pretend he’s got a lightsaber, and do all sorts of awesome jedi moves. Seriously, when you’re a kid, you don’t even care that nothing in The Phantom Menace makes sense, you just want to do the cool lightsaber stuff. So this nerdy kid borrows a camera from his high school library and tapes himself doing all sorts of crazy spin moves. Ah, good times.

But when he returns the camera to the library, he forgets to erase the tape. Classmates see it, upload it to the internet, and The Star Wars Kid is born.

The ridicule and harassment become unbearable quickly: the kid drops out of school, has a nervous breakdown, and vanishes from the public eye. Presumably, he spends much of his time in hiding wishing he had never entered the public eye, but, y’know. If wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steaks. So what can a social pariah do? What castigated caste of castaways (My legal writing professor would have an aneurysm of red ink over that.) would accept such a lowly creature as this Star Wars Kid? Where do you go when no one takes you seriously?

Why, law school, of course.

Yes, the viral video that predates YouTube, the epic lulz that predates even the mighty 4chan, the Star Wars Kid is a lawyer. I’m not even sure I could come up with an angle for this; do I go with snark, ironic detachment, satire, or do some sort of bizarre bildungsroman parody of the Star Wars prequels?

Apparently, I go back to studying for the Bar Exam. Because I’ll be damned if Darth Type II Diabetes is going to make me look bad at anything.

Filed on under The News

Today, I was walking to the library to study after a class in which we finished discussing the Statute of Limitations. A man in front of me on the sidewalk rushed across the street to greet some friends waving to him, but as he darted through one lane stopped traffic, he emerged into very much not-stopped traffic. He was nearly hit by a taxi, but managed to avoid being struck.

I take some solace in the fact that my second thought (after “holy cow, that guy almost got hit by a car!”) was “the Statute of Limitations on a personal injury like that is only one year, unless the driver was negligent.” You know, because if it were my first thought, I’d have worried that being a lawyer was dehumanizing my worldview.

Filed on under A Day in the Life

My sixth and final semester of law school a distant memory, my eight-subjects-in-four-hours exam a fleeting nightmare, my commencement ceremony come and gone, I return to my adopted homeland: the internet. Oh, how I missed you.

Most everyone is aware that a legal education does not, of itself, permit a person to practice law. (You’re probably not aware that New York was among a number of states that allowed lawyers holding J.D.s to title themselves “Doctor,” which I find hilarious, as there is an actual doctorate degree in the legal field, called the S.J.D. But I digress.) It varies by state, but folks with a J.D. in New York are merely qualified to take the dreaded Bar Exam, a two day test of nearly thirty subjects all at once. Being tested on one subject in law school is bad enough, I can assure you.

Of course, the law school model of education doesn’t really encourage long-term retention of much of these thirty subjects, and none of us have studied all thirty in school, anyway. That’s where Bar Review classes come in: supplementary private education that’s the de facto way for almost-lawyers to become barely-lawyers. I’ve been in that for the last couple of days, learning about the driest bits of civil procedure law New York has to offer, and there I shall remain until early July, when I’m sent off to study on my own for the two-day Exampocalypse in the last week of July.

Today in my class, we covered the Statute of Limitations. The name itself is about as helpful as a sign in the middle lane of the highway reading “Beware of Signpost.” Statutes usually involve all kind of limitations: they limit what the government can do, they limit what you can do, they limit what other people can do to you, and so on. The name needs some creative imagineering; some zing, zork, or kapowza.

Decades-old Simpsons references aside, the specific limitation in this specific statute is a blanket prohibition on your ability to sue or be sued — there’s a time limit on how long you can wait before commencing a lawsuit. Conversely, if you do something bad and you don’t get sued in X number of years, you’re immune to that lawsuit for the rest of your life. This sounds straightforward, until the professor explains that there are different time limits for different kind of lawsuits before the SoL will leave you SOL. (Do not LOL. Puns should never be encouraged.)

By way of some horrifically oversimplified examples, if someone takes up residence on your land, you have ten years to kick them out, after which you lose your right to sue them for trespass, and now the trespasser can actually take legal ownership of that bit of land. Do try to visit your beach houses at least once a decade, old bean. Similarly, if you borrow money from someone, and you never agree (or mention) a time to pay your generous friend back, after six years, the lender will lose the legal right to sue you for their money back.

These seem hilariously backwards. Rights shouldn’t just disappear, right? If someone’s wronged you, your ability to sue should be able to wait until you can afford top notch lawyers, or until you realize how much it’s going to cost to actually buy all those beach houses upon which trespassers will encamp. Well, if you think about all the people you’ve ever wronged, you don’t want to be sitting at home with the grandkids in sixty years when armed robo-cops kick down your door and tell you that you’re being sued for saying something mean to someone in high school. ((Even if that guy Blake totally deserved it.)) It’d suck to keep having to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life.

Also, in Ye Ancient Times, apparently the internet took forever to look up records for things like loans, and peoples’ lifespans were like fifty years shorter, so ten years was actually approximately eight or nine generations of humans. Back then, when people died or moved or died of Polio or something, there were no good witnesses to loans and rightful owners; it was just case of he-said/ye-said (what did I tell you about encouraging the reckless commission of puns?) that wasted the court’s time. And since the judge was decrepit at the age of twenty-six back then, he was like two weeks away from retiring and in no mood to have his time wasted. The solution? The Statute of Limitations, the “you snooze you lose” law. As we all know, the strongest laws are the ones that rhyme. ((See Banana v. Fanana-fo-fanna-fe-fi-fo-fanna.))

Now, not all laws date back to the prehistoric days of yore; some were passed in the prehistoric 1980’s. I’m downright awful at remembering silly little things like “when did this law come into effect oh god I’m going to fail this stupid class and I’ll never get a date to law prom now.” However, today in class, we discussed the SoL time limit for suing for child support: it’s now 20 years, but it used to be 6 years. The law changing the SoL from 6 years to 20 years took effect on August 7, 1987. Where do I know that date from? Why, it’s the birthday of Sidney Crosby, the most hated man in US Olympic hockey! He wears number 87, and signed a contract for $8.7 million a year, because his birthday is 8/7/87. He scored the gold medal goal in overtime, and now I have this horrible Gollum/Bilbo thing going on with him. Except for that part where I try to kill his nephew and his gardener while they try to save the world. (Spoiler Alert!)

I’ll remember the significance of the date, because Crosby’s nickname is “Sid the Kid” — the mnemonic refers to child support payments, which take significantly longer to expire since Sid the Kid was born. Easy as pie. My resentment towards Crosby finally pays off in a constructive way!

Filed on under Legal Theory

The MPRE is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam: (the head proctor definitely called it the Multiple Professional Responsibility Exam) it’s the yin to the Bar Exam’s yang. The Shaq to the Bar Exam’s Kobe (in that you can’t possibly consent to what the Bar Exam will do to you, but it’ll buy you really nice things afterward if you promise not to tell anyone). The MPRE tests your knowledge of what is permissible, proper, and legal for lawyers and judges to do.

For instance, did you know that a lawyer is not permitted to accept payment of his fees in sexual favors? Actually, you probably did. That seems pretty self-evident, actually. I don’t know why my professor bothered to- oh. Okay.. Well then. Moving on.

So there I was, in a basement exhibition hall in the J. Jonah Jameson, Jr. Convention Center, located in the middle of scenic construction sites on the Hudson River, with more than a thousand almost-lawyers. I was located next to the bathroom, with about four dozen folks queuing to relieve themselves after pounding what I can only assume is Starbucks’ latest concoction – the sort that’s probably regulated as a controlled stimulant in the EU. A constant stream (no pun! no pun!) of students meandered in and out of the bathrooms for the duration of the test, which wouldn’t have been terribly distracted, except half of them chose to wear hard-soled shoes.

My favorite part of the exam was actually before we even had answer sheets to bubble in our name, address, social security number (really? In 2010?), favorite food, name of our first pet, and who would win a showdown between a Terminator Model T-1000 and the Incredible Hulk piloting the Exoskeleton from Alien. (It takes absolutely forever to bubble in the word “exoskeleton”) As the JJJJCC was meant for conventions, not exams, there’s a huge honking doorway into the exhibition hall. The doorway is closed by a massive steel curtain which rolls down from the ceiling, slowly and ominously. All I could think of was one last almost-lawyer making a mad dash for the door, sliding underneath it at the last moment, and reaching back for his hat. Alternatively: maybe someone could have pulled an Echo Base. No such luck; maybe at the Bar.

Anyway, it apparently takes five weeks for the test results to come back, but I look forward to whether a room full of lawyers think I’m ethical or not. Here’s hoping it’s not a conflict of interest to sue yourself for sexual assault for tax purposes!

Filed on under A Day in the Life

For the second year in a row, classes have been canceled due to snow. Best of all, most of the snow is coming during the day, when I’ll be awake to enjoy it. In the meantime, please review my scientific proof explaining how awesome snow days are.

In what scientists will doubtlessly (and breathlessly) refer to as Dominic’s Icy Precipitate Postulate of ‘09, I postulate the following.

The awesomeness of a snow day [UPDATED FOR 2010] is directly proportional to how much you expect it to happen. For instance, as a wee child, you expect the heavens to issue a salvo of powdery white “Get Out of Doing Homework Free” cards upon command. I mean, you begged and pleaded for those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, and that worked, right? It has to work for some snow: snow is free!

As you get older, this phenomenon eventually tapers off, as you’ve realized how badly you want something has little to no bearing on whether it happens: at least with regard to snowman DNA. Eventually, you get to college in Buffalo, only to find out it doesn’t snow there nearly as much as you’d heard.

But here I am in New York City, which apparently gets about two feet of snow per winter. I’m way more excited than I thought I would be for a snow day, mostly because I was convinced I’d never get another snow day in my life. Which is what led me to create Dominic’s Icy Precipitate Postulate of ‘09. Observe its elegant simplicity in chart form:

oh god how did this get here i am not good with bars

Look upon my works, ye employed, and despair! I am nerd of nerds!

Filed on under A Day in the Life