Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another gem from the state bar

The state bar has been serving up a lot of softballs.  Its most recent came in the form of an email, asking me to donate thirty minutes of my time for its latest dues-funded project: a survey on how to improve law schools.  “This survey,” the bar promises me, will “undoubtedly advance the profession.”  That’s a bold claim, and one that I seriously doubt.  But I might have participated were it not for an even bolder claim: the bar tells me to donate my time because “educating tomorrow’s lawyers is a shared responsibility.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not true.  Instead, I’m pretty sure that law professors are responsible for “educating tomorrow’s lawyers.”  Let’s take a look at some numbers to support my novel claim: 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Podcast: Episode 2: Your home is your castle (unless you rent)

Welcome to episode two of The Legal Watchdog Podcast!

In part one of the podcast we discuss the fourth amendment and your right to privacy in your own home and its attached garage.  Spoiler alert: if you live in an apartment or condo, the news is not good!  If you want to read the case before listening to the podcast, you can find it here: State v. Dumstrey.

In part two of the podcast we discuss the community caretaker exception to the fourth amendment.  If you want to read that case, you can find it here: State v. Matalonis.

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.

This podcast is not legal advice.  Read our full disclaimer to the right, or above (click here).

Finally, here is the podcast:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

False confessions

Dr. Larry White, my coauthor on two articles and a psychology professor at Beloit College, recently gave a great presentation on false confessions.  The presentation should appear below; if it doesn't, you can find it on Youtube by clicking here.  You can also click these links for our article on Miranda and our article on false confessions.  (Click this link for my solo article on Miranda.)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Podcast: Episode 1: "Ignorance of the Law"

Welcome to the first episode of The Legal Watchdog Podcast!  In the first half of the podcast we discuss two Fourth Amendment cases.  If you want to read up (so you know what we're talking about and can post comments correcting or criticizing us), you can find the cases at these links:

Heien v. North Carolina  and

State v. Cobbs.

And here's an article (as promised in the podcast) that makes the distinction between the Fourth Amendment (the right) and the exclusion of evidence (the remedy):  An Economics Perspective on the Exclusionary Rule and Deterrence.

In part two of the podcast, we discuss 2014's two Wisconsin expunction cases.  You can find the cases at these links:

State v. Hemp (Hemp I) and

State v. Hemp (Hemp II).

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our hip-hoppy intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  You can find all of David's music at SoundCloud.

And finally, here is the podcast:


Monday, January 5, 2015

Expunction junction, what’s your function?

There were two Wisconsin cases this past year – Hemp I and Hemp II – on expunction of criminal records for young people convicted of relatively minor crimes.  Aside from the substance of those cases, Hemp II may have put to bed a debate that my colleague Terry Rose and I were having against the director of state courts back in 2010.  In a nutshell, the director put out a pamphlet stating that, even after expunction, “If you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, such as on a job application, you must answer ‘Yes.’ ”  We disagreed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Invisible airwaves crackle with life"

Coming soon, to an air wave near you: The Legal Watchdog podcast!  We hope to have our first episode posted on the blog sometime on January 6th (barring technological issues beyond my already limited capabilities and control).  To learn more about the podcast, go to the "about the podcast" page, above.  To learn about your podcast hosts, go to the "about your hosts" page, also above.  And then check back here on January 6th!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wisconsin state bar discourages free speech

I was just thinking that I haven’t written a judge-bashing blog post in quite a while.  And then, out of the blue, I got a call from criminal defense lawyer and free speech advocate Terry W. Rose, telling me about an outrageous opinion piece in the November issue of Wisconsin’s state bar magazine.  This piece, subtitled “never provide information in blog posts . . . that criticizes judges,” is especially alarming because it was written by a lawyer and, worse yet, the vice chair of our state bar professional ethics committee.  Essentially, the piece makes two claims.  Its first claim pertains to lawyers discussing cases in which they are, or have been, involved as counsel.  (I’ve already written about that tandem of bizarre ethics rules in an earlier blog post and in a forthcoming law review article.)  And its second claim — the claim I want to address in this post — is that ethics rules 20:8.2 and 20:8.4(c) “make it very clear that a lawyer may not criticize a judge in most circumstances and doing so could result in significant sanctions.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Wisconsin saved the Big Ten (and more college football madness)

By losing 59-0 to Ohio State, the Badgers made the Buckeyes look so good that “the committee” leapfrogged them over TCU and into college football’s field of four “playoff” teams.  Meanwhile, both TCU and Baylor — the so-called “co-champs” of the Big 12 — got left out of college football’s “little dance.”  In some sense this is unjust, given that the Big 12 is a stronger conference than both the Big 10 and the ACC.  But in addition to blaming Wisconsin, the two Texas teams from the Big 12 can also blame their own conference. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vampires and cops

In my second book I asked: What’s the difference between a vampire and a cop?  Answer: A vampire has to be invited into your home before entering; a cop only has to say he was invited in and the judge will believe him.  And now, it turns out that cops don’t even have to do that much.  In State v. Parisi the cops had “probable cause” to believe that Ms. Parisi was smoking some weed inside her home.  Probable cause is an incredibly low level of proof, but it allows the cops to do a lot of things — except enter her home.  For that, the general rule is that they need an invitation or a judicially-signed search warrant.  (Admittedly, warrants are nearly always rubber-stamped and are nothing more than Fourth Amendment symbolism; worse yet, they sometimes fail to serve even that limited purpose.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lawyers, throw away your computers!

I just read an article that annoyed me more than listening to a podcast where the guest starts every sentence with the word “so.”  Apparently there is a group of “young lawyers” who are trying to “shake up [the] legal profession with mobile apps.”  (I hated the expression “apps” when restaurants were using it, and it’s even more annoying when techies use it.  Aren’t the words “appetizers” and “applications” short enough?)  According to the article, this entrepreneurial group may have developed some new software programs that sound potentially useful for certain legal practice areas — kudos if that is, in fact, the case.  But the gist of the article is that the legal profession’s goal should be “to remove computers from the equation and build complex legal documents through mobile devices.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The problem with continuing legal education (and how to fix it)

I recently attended a day-long continuing legal education (CLE) program as part of my 30 CLE hours that are required every two-year reporting period. It may have been the "longest" eight hours I've experienced since becoming a lawyer — although one speaker’s informative, dynamic, and even inspiring presentation on defending domestic violence cases salvaged the day from complete and utter disaster. Many of the remaining presentations, however, fell into one of the following categories:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The lawyer job market (revisited)

I recently wrote about an advertisement for a Racine County advocate counsel position.  Essentially, the job would require the victim newly hired attorney to handle as many as 80 case appointments, including the defense of serious felonies, for $25,000 per year without benefits or even expense reimbursement.  I suppose that I knew this was outrageous, or I wouldn’t have written about it in the first place.  But as a criminal defense lawyer for the last twelve years, I’ve kind of become immune to governmental and bureaucratic outrageousness, so I didn’t expect that the post would garner such national attention. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The lawyer job market

The scam blog and law school transparency movements have exposed the JD as a flat-out bad decision for many (if not most) would-be law students.  That is, many graduates won’t find lawyer jobs, and those who do might not be able to pay back the debt they had to incur to graduate.  That will lead many new law grads to consider hanging out their own shingle, i.e., self-employment.  And most of these new solo practitioners will have to take whatever work that comes through the door, which typically includes criminal defense, juvenile, and traffic cases.  (Sorry, new solos: maritime law, sports law, space law, and international law will be nothing more than fond law school memories.)  But how lucrative is this bread-and-butter type of work?  To answer that question, I will quote an email I recently received advertising an “advocate counsel” position in Racine County, Wisconsin (located between Milwaukee and Chicago and just north of where I practice).  Here’s the scoop:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Improving law school without changing it (too much)

Knightly reads his case law
With very few lawyer jobs available for their armies of graduates, many law schools are trying to “innovate” and make their curriculum “practice ready” to give their new grads a leg up in the job market. Aside from whether today’s law schools are capable of such genuine curriculum redesign, one prof recently wrote that law schools should simply stop such efforts, and instead “change the conversation.” This prof argues that attempts to innovate are essentially admissions that the traditional law school approach — reading case law — is no longer valuable. Instead, he argues, law schools should market / sell / discuss what they’re good at: “teaching students how to read cases with the requisite degree of care.” Now, while I suspect that many of today’s practice-ready reform efforts are just marketing campaigns designed to compete for a shrinking number of law school applicants, the prof’s defense of the status quo also has some flaws — though they could easily be corrected.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Giles was right

One day in the fall of 1997 during my first semester of law school, I was standing in my parents’ kitchen while taking a break from reading casebooks. I was channel surfing on a small television that my mom kept in the cabinet above the refrigerator, and stumbled upon the show that Entertainment Weekly would soon label the best on television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (DVDs available here.) Back in 1997, the internet was just coming into its own, and the episode’s subtext was a debate between the stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways school librarian Mr. Giles, and the hip, sexy computer science teacher Ms. Calendar. Ms. Calendar was trying to convince Giles that books were a thing of the distant past and that information shouldn’t be bound-up, but instead should be virtual. Giles disagreed.