Monday, August 24, 2015

How stupid is “the market”?

Few things are as annoying as a business analyst talking about the stock market like it’s a human being.  “The market reacted to this,” or “the market doesn’t like that.”  In reality, such statements are just after-the-fact attempts to make sense of irrational price movements.  But let’s play along.  Let’s assume that the stock market’s movements do have rational explanations.  And today, after a week of price declines totaling about ten percent of market value, almost all of the talking heads agree: the cause is the ongoing collapse of China’s economy, which hurts even U.S. stocks in our “interconnected world.”  Okay, good enough.  But this explanation, in turn, leads to another question: How stupid is the market?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seneca on judges (and a 2,000 year-old practice tip for defense lawyers)

I’ve written numerous times how judges often fail to grasp even the most basic legal principles — including, for example, the concept of hearsay.  (See here, here, and here for just a few of those posts.)  This is incredibly frustrating for defense lawyers who go to trial intending to put on evidence in defense of their clients.  But there’s good news.  A Stoic philosopher named Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 bc – 65 ad) offers some advice for the criminal defense lawyer.  This advice will certainly help us keep our composure in court, and might even increase our odds of successfully educating the judge — though educating the prosecutor, who typically raises the inappropriate objection to our evidence in the first place, may be beyond hope.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tom Brady, Deflate-Gate, and the Criminal Justice System

Photo by Jeffrey Beall
One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Campos, recently studied the transcript of deflate-gate and concluded that “The NFL’s case against Brady is a joke.”  I don’t doubt his claim for a minute; in fact, it’s what I suspected from the get-go.  (Who the hell would want to play with an under-inflated football anyway?  Not Tom Brady.  See p. 50 of the transcript.)  But that’s not the point of this post.  Rather, my point is that Campos’s observations about due process in the Brady case are also relevant to defendants charged with crimes.  For example:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

“I think I’m dead, therefore I exist”

Some blogs get a lot of praise and even make a lot of money by simply linking to -- and, despite copyright laws, sometimes actually reprinting -- the writing of other blogs and websites.  The Legal Watchdog, on the other hand, consists nearly entirely of original work.  But every once in a while I come across a flurry of other articles, blog posts, and podcasts that I simply must share with The Dog’s readers.  Let’s begin out west, and the state of their state bars.  As the Irreverent Lawyer tells us, there is evidence that Cal Bar is a “bloated, arrogant, oblivious and unresponsive” bureaucracy.  (I’ve previously written about the Golden State here and here.)  So when the AZ Bar wanted to remake itself, where did it look for guidance?  You guessed it: Goin’ back to Cali.  Read the Irreverent One’s sharp, biting, entertaining, and comically illustrated post, “State auditor slams the Cal Bar . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Podcast: Episode 12: Three Rules for Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers

Welcome to our twelfth episode of The Legal Watchdog podcast.

Today we discuss legal education reform and, more specifically, my recently published essay Three Rules for Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.  These rules are so simple that even law professors could implement them!  First, professors should teach a real body of law, instead of the useless mishmash of cases found in the typical casebook.  Second, professors should teach all of the topics within a given subject area, rather than just the topics they find interesting.  And third, professors should publish law review articles that are useful to lawyers and judges.  Matt, of course, disagrees with many of my ideas; surprisingly, though, so does Amy.  (Knightly would have agreed with me, but he was off on a wine tasting tour of northern Wisconsin.)  

Here are additional links to some of the things we referenced in the podcast:

My other law review articles are available here.

The law review article (not mine) simply titled Fuck can be found here.  (Hat tip to my favorite law blog, the Irreverent Lawyer, for alerting me to that one.)

A discussion of the Texas law profs raking in huge salaries, bonuses, and even “forgivable loans” can be found here.

We also mentioned the scam blog movement — a group of blogs that exposed, well, the law school scam.  This movement is probably chiefly responsible for the huge decline in law school enrollment.  (The practicing lawyers of the country thank you, scam bloggers!)  Some of my favorite scam blogs include OTLSS, LSTCITLSS, 3TR, JDD, LSTB, and ATL.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Would-be lawyers, beware!

About forty percent of all lawyers are solo practitioners.  Another large percentage of all lawyers find themselves in very small partnerships, e.g., two or three lawyers, which is essentially the same thing as being a solo practitioner.  So if you go to law school, the odds are great that this is where you’ll end up.  Therefore, before you take the plunge and spend all that money on tuition, and yet another three years sitting in a classroom, you should take a look at what kind of money you can expect to earn.  Now, I’ve written several times about the incredibly embarrassingly low pay for solo lawyers, including here and here.  But, as the law professors like to say, that was just “anecdotal.”  So here’s some better salary data. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fixing Law Schools

Any reader of The Legal Watchdog -- or of ATL, LGM, OTLSS, LSTC, or 3TR, among others -- knows that law schools are desperately in need of reform.  But the problem is that most ideas for reform are pie-in-the-sky.  Why?  Because law schools are typically run by deans and professors and even clinical instructors who have never (or barely) practiced law, thus making serious reform a practical impossibility.  But reform, to some extent, can still happen.  And that's what I've written about in my latest essay, Three Rules for Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers.  Stay tuned for an upcoming podcast episode on the same topic; in the meantime, enjoy the essay!  And for those short on time, read the abstract after the jump:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Swim with the Sharks

I don’t mind admitting that Shark Tank is flat-out addictive.  Essentially, five “sharks” — billionaires or multimillionaires looking to invest money — listen to pitches from entrepreneurs seeking capital for their businesses.  Sometimes the entrepreneurs’ ideas are so bad that the sharks will ridicule these people to the point of making them cry.  Other times, the business ideas have such profit potential that the sharks will fight each other for an ownership stake in the entrepreneur’s company.  Yes, I love Shark Tank, but probably not for the reason I’m supposed to. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Podcast: Episode 11: The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel

Welcome to episode eleven of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In this episode we discuss the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the case of State v. Delebreau.  Essentially, this constitutional right has been wiped from Wisconsin's history and has been merged with the Fifth Amendment right to counsel.  We discuss this unfortunate development, as well as how difficult it is to actually invoke your right to silence or your right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment.  (For more on that see pp. 922 - 925 of this article.)

Amy and Matt also do intense battle over an innocent Game of Thrones disclosure.  Don't worry, there are no actual spoilers involved, so fans of that show -- I actually thought it was a video game -- can still listen freely.  

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Podcast: Episode 10: The Preliminary Hearing: To Waive or Not to Waive?

Welcome to our tenth episode of The Legal Watchdog podcast.

In today's podcast we discuss the preliminary hearing in criminal cases in Wisconsin.  While the decision whether to waive or have the preliminary hearing rests with the defendant, we discuss the thought process that goes into the defense lawyer's recommendations on this point.  We also consider the limited benefits of having the hearing, as well as two serious but often overlooked risks of having the hearing.  The case that gave us the idea for this episode is State v. Hull, where the state was allowed to use hearsay at the defendant's prelim, and the defendant was prevented from calling a witness in his own defense.  During the podcast we also discuss the problematic case of State v. Stuart.

Toward the end of the episode when Matt gets out of line, as is his custom, Amy is forced once again to threaten both the stun belt and the restraint chair.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

“I spent $134,918 and I don’t even get a lousy law degree?”

I hate it when lawyers mindlessly jabber about "public service" or "giving back" or our alleged duty to "serve the community," as if we have some moral obligation above that of medical doctors, corporate managers, accountants, or truck drivers.  As I’ve written here, this nonsensical blather often comes from highly paid bureaucrats at state bar associations who are trying to put a good face on the legal profession.  And as I’ve written here, other times it comes from judicial candidates who are vying for incredibly high paying judgeships, but need to offer up a more palatable reason for why they want the gig.  But now it’s graduation time, and the law school industrial complex is minting thousands of new JDs.  And along with the graduation ceremonies comes commencement speakers who spew out creative new twists on this worn out public service mantra.  The most creative twist this year goes to the Northeastern University commencement speaker who told the graduates that their degree doesn’t really belong to them; instead, it “belongs to our whole community.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Podcast: Episode 9: "I didn't do it, but I know who did"

Welcome to episode nine of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

So you're charged with a crime and you didn't do it, but you know who did -- and you can't wait to tell the jury about it.  Not so fast.  In this podcast, we discuss State v. General Grant Wilson, where the court shut down the defendant's "wrong person defense," a/k/a "third party defense."  We discuss how difficult it is for a defendant to introduce evidence that another party committed the crime -- after all, police and prosecutors always get the right guy -- and in the second half of the podcast we discuss my article, An Alternative to the Wrong-Person Defense.  

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Friday, May 8, 2015

ABA and Wisconsin Bar combine efforts to solve lawyers’ problems (but not really)

Many new law grads are saddled with staggering debt loads and have limited job prospects.  While six-figure debt is now commonplace, just over half of new law grads have been able to land full-time, long-term employment as lawyers.  And, thanks to the bimodal salary distribution, most of those “lucky” new lawyers aren’t even paid enough to make a dent in their student loans.  On the other hand, for established, practicing lawyers, things aren’t much better: fees have been stagnant or even falling — not only in real dollars, but often in nominal dollars as well.  But don’t worry.  A grinning bureaucrat from the ABA teamed up with the Wisconsin Bar to discuss the “great opportunities facing lawyers today.”  That’s funny; I thought we “faced” obstacles but were “presented with” opportunities.  But I’m not writing this to nitpick word choice, so let’s get to the real question: what exactly are these “great opportunities”?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Podcast: Episode 8: Reversed and Remanded?

In today's podcast we discuss two cases, State v. Harrison, Jr., and State v. Coleman.  In both cases, a child accused the defendant of sexual assault.  In both cases, there was no physical evidence.  In both cases, there were no eyewitnesses.  In both cases, the child couldn't keep the story straight.  In both cases, the defense lawyer didn't thoroughly cross-examine the child-accuser.  And in both cases, the jury convicted the defendant.

But that's where the similarities end.  In Harrison, the District III Court of Appeals simply dispensed with the defendant's appeal via a conclusory, four-page decision that barely discussed any of the facts or cited any law.  It's probably the thinnest appellate court decision in the history of appellate court decisions.  But in Coleman, the District I Court of Appeals issued a detailed and thorough twenty-page majority decision that reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.  We try to figure out why these two defendants got such dramatically different treatment from the courts.

Also, there's some new stuff in the podcast.  First, we have new intermission music, again courtesy of David Pizarro (see below).  And second, in her ongoing effort to keep Matt in line, Amy abandons the traditional "stun belt" and instead implements the use of a "restraint chair."  Listen to the podcast to see if it works.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Redd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies: Community and the Law (Part 2)

I realize that law school deans need to “sell” their product and industry to a variety of groups, including would-be students.  But sometimes, dean-speak is so bizarre you have to wonder if the dean gave even minimal thought before spinning a particular yarn.  To continue with my new field of interdisciplinary study, Community and the Law, let’s begin with our baseline dean: Community’s Craig Pelton, Dean of the fictional Greendale Community College.  Dean Pelton recently bragged that his school is “now ranked fifth . . . on Colorado’s alphabetical listing of community colleges.”  That claim pretty much speaks for itself.  And unfortunately, some real-life law school deans appear to be using Dean Pelton as their role model.