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Monday, January 31, 2005

Retitled: "Blame Canada"

Today we are being visited by a professor from George Mason School of Law. (A school from which I was offered a small scholarship). The topic of discussion:

"Lawrence v. Texas: Worst Supreme Court Decision in History?"

For those who don't know what Lawrence v. Texas is, well, uh . . . it was a Supreme Court decision. (To state the obvious) It decriminalized sodomy. Well, it actually did more than that. It overturned two centuries of Supreme Court precedent. It expanded some pretty "iffy" substantive rights.

I'm not really all that interested in what goes on between two people in the privacy of their bedroom. For that matter, the State isn't either. This guy Lawrence, he wasn't even prosecuted. Unfortunately, though, this decision could be taken much farther.

What really worries me is giving carte blanche to the Court to determine these things. As Jefferson once wrote, the Judiciary is the one branch with the power to undue our Republican Democracy.

Fortunately, most judges are responsible and hold case precedent (stare decisis) in such high regard that it borders on a religion. A judicial religion. It is just that several judges are losing their faith.

Where we ought to be concerned is when a panel of judges, on the basis of a 5-4 slim majority, completely overturn precedent. They create new law without so much as attempting to, perhaps, use traditional reasoning to do it.

In Massachusetts, that is what their supreme court did when they legalized same-sex marriage. I studied the decision over the summer. On a slim 5-4 majority, they turned the entire nation on its ear.

To do it, they completely disregarded prior Massachusetts law, prior U.S. law even. At one point the majority says (obviously paraphrasing):

"Okay, so we don't know how we can do this or what to do 'cause it ain't never been done before; well, 'least in the U.S. But we want to do it. And we can, y'know, since we're the Supreme Court. So, uh, because of this we're going to use Canadian law. Yeah, that's the ticket. We'll borrow some wisdom from the 'mounties' to our north. Therefore, a Canada court has said it -- in Massachusetts so shall it be written, so shall it be done. Just do it! No arguing. 'Nuff said. Thank you. Goodbye."

And they got away with it. Why? Because they are the Court . . . and they can do anything.

That is yet another reason to hate Canada.

'Nuff said. Thank you.

And Goodbye.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Law School Ethics

That is an oxymoron.

Law School is more like high school than college.

In college you have your group of friends and then there is a larger group of aquaintances. Your friends, however, only occasionally share classes with you. In college, you go to class; you go home. You might sometime do some homework.

In high school, you spend all day long in the same building with the same people going to the same classes all together. The odds that drama will occur, that group politics will rage are absolutely certain.

Law School is more like high school than college. Only worse.

In high school, you aren't competing with your friends to graduate. In high school, how well you do when school is over isn't dependant on how bad your friends do now.

That is why I say the phrase "law school ethics" is an oxymoron.

I have only realized this as of late.

Your fellow students hide materials others need to complete assignments.

Your fellow students are constantly on the look-out for short cuts, hand-me-downs, and any secret information they can find. . . So that they can keep it from others.

Your fellow students will purposefully attempt to chip away at the self-confidence of their fellow students (their competitors) . . . In the hopes that they will score higher next semester.

Backstabbing. Underhanded. Conniving.

Law Students.

Two separate people recently pointed this out to me . . . and it took them to point this out to me because I had no clue that there was material I wasn't getting and secrets I hadn't been privy to. I have been completely oblivious until now.

That is why I say, for any future law students, keep your LSAT scores hidden and play dumb.

Does anyone wonder why Lawyers have developed such a bad reputation?

It is because they are hatched from Law Students.

(General Disclaimer: I do not agree that the legal profession or lawyers are bad. Not all law students are backstabbing, underhanding and conniving. There are some real good people studying the law, yours truly included. However, there are enough to warrant the present angry entry you read now.)

Monday, January 24, 2005

True Quote of the Day

"Of course I've got lawyers. They are like nuclear weapons. I've got 'em 'cause everyone else has."

-- Danny de Vito from Other People's Money

"What's my name?"
"Denny Crane."
"What's my name?"
"Denny Crane"

"I am Denny Crane."

Friday, January 21, 2005

Murder, 10 Years Later

This week it will have been 10 years -- a decade -- since one of my best childhood friends was arrested for murder.

He was 15 at the time and the first juvenile automatically tried as an adult in Oklahoma.

For this interested, I have included his story below:

Nathan is 15 years old. He is charged with 1st degree murder in the shooting death of a convenience store clerk. In the late night hours of MLK day he is seen on tape walking into a 7-11 and strikes up a conversation with the lone clerk who is mopping the floor of the bathrooms and stockroom. Both know each other well as Nathan has been in the same store at the same hour many times before. After about 20 minutes of hearing a conversation out of the view of the security camera, the camera’s recording is stopped. Sometime later the clerk turns to ring out the mop and Nathan shoots her in the back of the head, killing her instantly. The victim was both a wife and a mother of 2 grown children. Before exiting the store Nathan takes a couple packs of cigarettes and the store security tape with him. He hides the tape under a bridge on his way home and places his parent’s gun back in their dresser.

Later the next day, the girlfriend of a known gang member calls the police to report that her boyfriend and three of his friends have told her they killed the clerk. The police immediately arrest the gang member but, after questioning, release him. The suspect and his friends then call Nathan and tell him to meet them at the top of his street. He does and they pull him into a van where they proceed to beat him for five hours and threaten to kill his family if he does not confess to the murder. They then drop Nathan off at the police station, bruised and with a broken arm, and make a claim for the Crime Stoppers reward.

Nathan is questioned by the police and makes a videotaped, written and signed confession. His parents are then called. Sometime in the next two days, Nathan changes his mind and rescinds the confession. He pleads not guilty. He testifies at trial that he was an accomplice and that he was to both keep the clerk occupied and remove the video tape while the original suspect shot the clerk. He testifies it was done in order to join the suspect’s gang. He claims they threatened to kill him if he backed out.

Despite the testimony of Nathan and the girlfriend of the original suspect, Nathan is convicted on all counts. The prosecution argued that Nathan acted alone and, despite the evidence that the gang members had some involvement, he was convicted under the facts that he was entirely alone. No motive was presented by the prosecution—other than the theft of the cigarettes. At his sentencing hearing, the prosecution presents the only evidence of a prior criminal record Nathan has: one curfew violation for visiting that 7-11 months before. The defense attorney for Nathan declines to present any witnesses that have volunteered to speak on his behalf.

It is known, but not presented at the hearing, that Nathan was raised in the typical middle-class neighborhood. His parents, however, both had prior felony convictions for tax-evasion and were severe alcoholics. His mother was once known as "Madame Butterfly" for operating the largest prostitution ring in Oklahoma before her conviction. Nathan himself was an average student, getting B’s and C’s, and (as presented by the prosecution) had only been in trouble once for fighting with a member of the gang he would later attempt to join. For this he had received the minimum 3 day suspension. This occurred about 6 months prior to the murder. After this, however, Nathan became despondent, paranoid and fearful of his safety. Though never reported to police, about a month prior to the murder Nathan took a gun from the dresser of his best-friend’s parents. The gun was retrieved two days later after it was found missing. Nathan told his friend it was for protection against some guys that were after him.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole when he is, I believe, 51 or 52 years old.

Nathan's lawyer was some big-shot attorney from the state capital that took the case pro bono. He, I assumed, was looking for the publicity that would come with trying the first case under Oklahoma’s new “Reverse-Certification” law. It was a rather infamous case at the time. The attorney only met with Nathan once before trial began. He only met with Nathan’s parents twice prior to the trial. He declined to speak to anyone offering to testify as a character witness on Nathan’s behalf. In short, I don’t think he cared.

The original suspect – we came to find out in the news 5,6 years later that he had been a paid informant for the police for several years. That all ended when he and a buddy forced their way into the house of a prominent businessman in town, then shot him, his wife and their son all execution style (in the back of the head). He then robbed the place. He was convicted and given life. It was then that the news found out he’d been a paid informant. He had committed several other burglaries and batteries over the years but had been let go.

When I was in high school, just 2 years after the murder, the FBI released a report stating that from which I come had, per capita, the most violent crime in the nation.

Three years ago the federal government recognized this city and the artillery base nearby as a single entity. Shortly thereafter they imposed federal oversight upon the police department as the PD would now share jurisdiction over the base. Several of the department’s detectives were forced to take early retirement. The detectives investigating Nathan’s case were among them.

This, in no way, is meant to be a sob story. I believe that Nathan probably did commit the crime.

However, this calls into question the problems which plague our system.

Incompetent investigators. Zealous prosecutors. Lazy defenses. Prisons meant for nothing more than creating better criminals.

At the age of 15, could a murderer be rehabilitated? I think so.

10 years later, at the age of 25, there is probably not much left to rehabilitate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sex Crimes & Bad Times

I have really begun to wander about the authors of our Criminal Law casebook.

The first day of class Prof. CrimLaw warned us that we will be discussing subjects that may be a bit uncomfortable to some. To alleviate the discomfort, he suggested, we could come talk to him outside of class and, perhaps, miss those class days. I believed he was talking about the bitter disputes we might have over some social issues.

I think I was wrong.

In the first substantive section of our Criminal Law casebook, the authors delve into a discussion of the Common Law tradition and how it has impacted modern criminal law.

In order to illustrate this point, however, they have chosen a series of cases dealing with sodomy.

Yes. Sodomy.

Well . . . almost. Actually, they deal with other sexual acts, "carnal copulations," and "the most detestable and abonimable crimes against nature" (or what have you) that prosecutors throughout the past two centuries have wanted to squeeze into the anti-sodomy statutes.

Sodomy, according to the common law tradition, is limited to those acts which are "the most common forms of crimes against nature," otherwise called by these learned judicial minds as "sodomy per anum". The debate rages over whether these various and sundry criminal defendants can be convicted of sodomy if what they did to their victims was something other than that "most common form" of sodomy.

The whole discussion, I agree, seems quite absurd. At a point, one court even says: "Whoa, wait a bloody minute here! If *that* type of sodomy is the most common and yet is a detestable crime against nature . . . then shouldn't the least common be even more detestable and, therefore, just as criminal????"

Hmmm. Fancy the reasoning, eh?

Well, with Lawrence v. Texas now decided by the Supreme Court . . . it really is a moot argument anymore. They say none of it can be illegal.

But spending hours yesterday reading these arguments . . . it went from just plain silly, to absurd, to downright disturbing.

The most disturbing thought, however, was this:

These opinions seemed totally oblivious to the BIG picture.

Very little was said about the fact that one pervert forced a SIX YEAR OLD BOY to perform, uh, well . . . you get the point.

Another guy forced his way into his neighbor's apartment with a butcher knife and RAPED HER. (He just didn't use his penis.) Rape, people, ITS . . CALLED . . . RAPE!!

These were not consenting adults. Where were the rape laws in 1973???

It seems so bloody absurd that we are having an academic discussion NOT about WHAT these guys did but about HOW they did it. As if that could make it any less a crime.

Ah well, all I am supposed to take from it is how we use the Common Law to define modern criminal statutes.

But I'm still not leaving this chapter without wondering, just a little, about the authors.

This may be a weird semester.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Forget the LSAT, Go to the Gym

A short open letter to Future Law Students:

Forget the LSAT & go to the gym.

I am dead serious. Beyond getting you into a particular school, your LSAT score means absolutely nothing.

O sure, it could mean bragging rights to say you were in the top 5% . . . or so you think now. But once you get here, if you are real smart you'll just keep quiet about your score. Y

ou don't want anyone to know what your LSAT score was. I promise. It will just bite you back the next January when the first grades come in.

So, just keep it to yourself . . . and, most importantly, don't sweat it now.

Instead: Go to the gym.

That is the key to success in Law School.

You see, I stopped going to the gym my last year & a half of college. That was not a smart move. I lost some strength, lost some muscle.

That was strength I needed, muscle I needed . . .to carry my books home.

Not kidding, kids. These books are HUGE. HUGE. Between them, your computer, your research, your notebooks, your supplements . . . etc, etc, etc . . .

Real success in Law School, it has nothing to do with your LSAT score-- it comes from having gone to the gym

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Alas, We Begin Anew

Today is the first day of the Spring '05 semester here at TTU Law.

I have arrived early, as usual, and-- as in December-- it is still dark outside and windy. Unlike December, however, the building is much quieter without so many frantic law students here finishing memos or briefs or articles while studying furiously for finals.

Speaking of Finals: I survived. I have very little to say beyond that. On the final I complained about the most-- I am happy to report-- I did receive an "A". As for the rest of my grades, they were decent. Not quite what I'd expected. Not quite what I'd hoped. But decent. Hey, I have an "A" average.

As for my class rank: It all depends upon how brilliant, or how . . . unbrilliant, my classmates were. I absolutely HATE this curved grading system.

I will be trudging through Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Property this spring along with my second installment of Legal Practice. I am enough of a Law & Order fanatic that CrimLaw ought to be interesting. (Speaking of which, RIP Jerry Orbach). I have my own interest in ConLaw. I am not so sure about Property, however.

I am tired. It is 7:30, the first day of class, 12 days into the new year. And this is an utterly boring blog entry. But, hey, I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things. So cut me some slack.
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