Thursday, April 24, 2014

The law school student loan mess

The government has done it again.  It all began innocently enough when the government got into the student loan business.  But the educational industrial complex knew a sucker when it saw one, so schools started raising tuition to get more of that guaranteed government cheese.  And law schools were the worst offenders.  Even though the study of law requires only a casebook (or an internet connection), a pencil, and a notepad -- the Socratic method hasn’t changed much since the days of Socrates -- law schools still raised tuition quite dramatically each year.  In fact, they raised it faster than inflation, faster than college-level tuition, and even faster than medical school tuition -- even though colleges and medical schools require expensive equipment and other facilities that law schools do not.  But the government asked no questions.  It could have asked, for example, “Why, law school, do you need a double-digit annual tuition increase when technology is driving costs down and your professors are already being paid triple of what college professors earn, even though they teach fewer classes?” 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sex offender registries: They’re not just for sex offenders anymore (Part 2)

In one of The Dog’s first posts back in 2010, I wrote about our ridiculous Wisconsin Supreme Court that upheld the law requiring mandatory sex offender reporting when the defendant was never even accused, let alone convicted, of a sex crime.  And now, as ridiculous as that case was, our legislature is proving that it might be even crazier than the squabbling and tussling jurists on our state’s high court.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Drugs, plea deals, snitches, trials, and hung juries

Photo by Leo Martin
Defense attorney Terry Rose (pictured on right) just conducted some sharp cross-examination and delivered a cut-to-the-chase closing argument to get a hung jury in a drug delivery case. His trial raises several points. First, our legislature is crazy. (More on that below.) Second, a substance that is allegedly delivered to an undercover snitch should not increase in weight after the government uses up a portion of it for chemical testing. And third, government witnesses who hope to work off their own charges by testifying and burying the defendant are motivated to lie, much like a salesman is motivated to sell. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Introducing Peter Morici

Whenever I come across great authors, I like to share them with The Dog’s readers. (I consider this a form of public service.) In the past I’ve doled out praise for:

Matthew Stewart (on business, history, and philosophy);
Paul Campos (on legal education);
The Popehat (on free speech);
The Irreverent Lawyer (on state bars and the legal profession);
Michael O’Hear (on sentencing law and policy); and, of course
Christopher Hitchens (on religion and, well, nearly everything).

And now it’s time to introduce an absolute gem named Peter Morici, a straight-talking, pull-no-punches, tell-it-as-it-is author, economist, and political commentator. I came across Morici in a podcast called Business Matters from the BBC. Here is a summary of some of his arguments that ring true louder than a church bell, and also debunk some often unquestioned conventional wisdom:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

State Bar Associations: Everything to Everyone?

I wrote in an earlier post how I never really gave much thought to our state’s mandatory bar association. All I really knew was that I had to cut them a pretty big check each year in order to keep my law license. Sure, I realized that I wasn’t getting anything of value for the payout, but I really didn’t care enough to give it a second thought—until I started reading The Irreverent Lawyer, a blog that places state bar associations, mandatory CLEs, and related topics squarely within its crosshairs of criticism. And because of this, I’m now far more sensitive to the absurdity that is our state bar association.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The dogs have their day

Knightly (pictured) wears his Husky hat while watching Monday night's NCAA championship game. Knightly's dogs (the UConn Huskies) beat Kentucky's Wild Cats in an exciting, fairly well-officiated game. Congrats to the Huskies on another championship -- a championship won largely because their fast, aggressive, and undersized guards controlled the game. Guard Shabazz Napier, who won the tourney MVP in Kemba-Walker fashion, then stuck it to the NCAA in post-game comments. Fight the man!

In related news, the only thing certain about the now-famous $1 billion dollar bracket challenge from Warren Buffet was that no one would win it. However, there were still several $100,000 prizes given out to the top brackets. (You don't have to run faster than the bear; you just have to run faster than the other guy who is also running from the bear.) I entered a bracket, but didn't come close to winning one of those prizes. But when I filled out my bracket, I distinctly remember thinking: "This is odd. Did my bracket 'take'? Why is the program not confirming whether my bracket is complete?" And now, one Husky fan might have missed out on a $100,000 prize for this very reason: he allegedly didn't complete his bracket, and left the championship game undecided after picking the Final 4 and then the final two.  He could very well have run into the same problem I ran into. (It didn't matter for me, as I was never close to a prize.)  If Buffet is wise, he'll use this as a marketing opportunity for his company and add an extra $100,000 prize for this guy. The advertising and goodwill it would generate would pay for the extra $100,000 in mere seconds.    

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The “public service” mantra

I try to remain ignorant about local politics, happenings, goings on, news, and events of every kind.  Normally, this is easily accomplished by substituting a national newspaper for the local rag.  But despite my modest efforts, I’ve been subjected to a lot of chatter recently about who is going to be running for Kenosha circuit court judge when one of the sitting judges retires.  And when election time rolls around – actually, I suspect that it’s always election time for those with a political bent – the voters will be hearing a lot of talk about why the candidates want the job.  I can predict that every candidate’s answer will be that he or she wants the job to “serve the public,” or “serve the community,” or some variation of that phrase.  My advice to the voters: don’t buy it.  Most (if not all) candidates want the job for the huge pay raise that comes with it.  Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The State of Legal Education: Are Law Profs Really to Blame?

I enjoy a good professor-bashing blog post as much as the next guy—especially when the targeted profs have said, done, or written silly things.  But today, many people like to blame law profs for the abysmal state of legal education—especially graduates’ staggering debt loads and inability to perform even basic legal tasks.  This blame comes in many forms, but a common criticism is that profs earn way too much money for publishing useless law review articles and, to compound the problem, their schools spend even more money shipping them to pricey, tuition-funded conferences to present their articles to other profs.  This, in turn, drives up the price of legal education and, worse yet, marginalizes (or displaces) real training in legal practice and legal theory.  As it turns out, however, the current state of affairs in legal academia is exactly what students have (unwittingly) asked for. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Observations on March Madness

Marquette could have used me this year.
The month-long celebration of college basketball is here.  Conference regular season champions have been crowned, conference tourneys are wrapping up, and tomorrow is Selection Sunday for the NCAA tourney.  It’s the time of year where Big East giants are humbled (sorry Nova), where 5-seeds come out of nowhere to become Horizon League champs and crash the Big Dance (congrats Milwaukee Panthers), and where Bill Raftery yells things like “organize the puppies – nylon delivery!”  But even the most wonderful time of the year can be improved.  Below are some thoughts for fans, coaches, players, and especially the zebras. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NCAA disbands selection committee, defers to Joe Lunardi

For its 2014 men’s college basketball tournament, also known as “March Madness,” the NCAA has announced a major change in its selection and seeding process.  Philip Timmerman, the NCAA’s Director of Tournament Seeding, stated that this year “the selection committee will be disbanded, and the NCAA will simply defer to the selection, seeding, and placement decisions of Joe Lunardi.”

Joe Lunardi is an ESPN analyst who, in recent years, has predicted the tournament field with surprising accuracy.  “In most years, Lunardi was already predicting 63 or 64 teams of the then 65-team field, and was also amazingly accurate on both seeding and geographic placement of those teams,” Timmerman stated.  “It doesn’t make sense for the selection committee to continue to meet in a small conference room year after year, just to keep reinventing the wheel.  We always end up doing what Lunardi recommends anyway.  Or maybe it was like he was reading our minds and just beating us to the punch.  Regardless, this change will streamline the entire selection and seeding process.”

Law schools implement the mirror test

In the early 2000s, the real estate industry was booming and money was cheap and easy.  In some cases, a prospective buyer could even qualify for a “no doc loan” without giving proof of stable employment.  During these boom years the mortgage brokers joked (as they raked in their commissions and led us to a housing bubble) that a buyer only had to pass the mirror test: if they stuck a mirror in your face and you could fog it up, then you would get the mortgage.  And now it looks like the mirror test has jumped industries and made its way to law school admissions offices across the country. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

French-poetry reading pig seeks employment in large, national law firm

Most law school courses test only two things: a student’s ability to spot legal issues and then apply the relevant law. Granted, the “relevant law” in law school is usually fictional, i.e., an impractical mishmash of case law drawn from numerous states and collected in overpriced casebooks. But at least students are tested on spotting real legal issues and then applying a body of law. And what law schools are really good at is ranking students according to their ability to do this. In addition to a GPA, schools also give out class ranks. And when students apply for law firm jobs this information is placed front and center on the resume. Are you first, second, or third in your class? Are you in the top ten percent? How about the top quarter?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Big 12 Update

In my previous post I discussed Oklahoma State’s star player Marcus Smart who went into the stands to shove a Texas Tech fan during a basketball game in Lubbock.  After way too much discussion among the talking heads—only Missouri’s Michael Sam has garnered more coverage recently—and probably way too much effort in the actual “investigation,” witness interviews and an audio recording revealed what triggered Smart’s outburst.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Big 12 Conference: Put your money where your mouth is

I really hate the college and conference commercials played during televised college basketball games.  These commercials try to convince viewers that a particular school, or a particular conference, is somehow different and better.  The Big 12, for example, stresses “sportsmanship” (see here and here) as something that sets it and its member schools apart from the rest.  Even a moderately skeptical viewer realizes that these commercials are pure nonsense—at best, they are empty advertising slogans.  But if the conferences and the schools want to at least pretend that their commercial messages mean something, then the Big 12 and Oklahoma State need to take some sort of disciplinary action against basketball player Marcus Smart. 

The sequel is better than the original: Lower court overturns higher court so it can affirm conviction (again)

Back in July, 2013 I wrote about State v. Copeland, a case where, due to a United States Supreme Court decision, the Wisconsin appellate court had no choice but to admit that the police did, in fact, violate the defendant’s rights when they attached a GPS device to his car without a warrant.  But despite this, the defendant in Copeland was still out of luck.  The Wisconsin court relied on the so-called “good faith exception" and held that the police who attached the GPS device were relying on the law at that time, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision (holding that GPS searches required a warrant) was decided later.  But there was one major problem with the Wisconsin court’s reasoning excuse-making.