Saturday, August 24, 2013

“This is getting more and more out of control the more we find out about it.”

The title of this post is a quote from Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado, who was weighing in on the NSA and its spying on American citizens. We now know that the NSA’s spy programs covered 75 percent of all domestic internet traffic, and included a special program that targeted love interests—a program the NSA cutely dubbed LOVEINT, for “love intelligence.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The non-recommendation recommendation (and other government bullshit)

When some prosecutors argue in court, the things they sometimes say are so absurd (and often factually wrong) that I wish the trial judges had some inner Professor Kingsfield and could muster the courage to call bullshit, i.e., tell the prosecutors that they’re offending the concepts of logic, reason, and truth.  The recent case of State v. Locke perfectly illustrates this all too common problem.  In Locke, the prosecutor induced the defendant to plead guilty to some serious felonies, thus saving the prosecutor and the court several days in trial, and taking away all risk that a jury could find the defendant not guilty.  In exchange for the pleas, the prosecutor agreed not to make a specific sentence recommendation.  That is, the prosecutor retained the right to talk about the offenses and say negative things about the defendant, but he promised to leave the specific sentence up to the judge.  So what happened at the sentencing hearing?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why judges should read The Legal Watchdog

Back in 2011 I wrote a post titled Hearsay 101, and begged trial judges to take the time to learn the rules on hearsay.  I reasoned that trial judges wouldn’t want to have surgery at the hand of a surgeon who doesn’t know basic human anatomy, and defendants don’t want to have their freedom ripped from them because a trial judge doesn’t understand basic rules of evidence.  Unfortunately, after reading the recent decision of United States v. Stern, it is painfully obvious that at least one federal trial judge missed my earlier post.     

Back to the 80s?

I would love to go back to the 80s.  We had Al Bundy and Married with Children, style like LA Gear, movies like Back to School, and actual music videos like Rio on MTV.  Oh, yeah, and most importantly, our government used to spy on the Soviets, instead of spying on its own citizens. Of course we can't really go back to the 80s, but maybe the 80s will be coming back to us. Now that Russia ironically gave shelter to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, I hear that even the Cold War is coming back into fashion.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why law schools should line up to pay LST for honesty certification

Not many people like lawyers.  By extension, not many people care for the law schools that produce the law graduates that become lawyers.  To make matters worse, the last few years have been exceptionally tough on the law school industry.  For example:

  • Numerous law schools have been sued for false advertising about their graduates’ employment outcomes.  And even when those lawsuits are dismissed, judges sometimes do so because the reported numbers were so obviously false, it wasn’t reasonable for prospective students to rely on them—not exactly a “win” for law schools in the court of public opinion. 

  • Worse yet, several mainstream media outlets (for example, here and here), and even several current law school professors (for example, here, here, and here) have been highly critical of law schools, especially with regard to the cost of earning the degree and the limited employment opportunities that are really available for graduates.       

  • These events are at least partly responsible for the dramatic decline in law school applicants.  And with demand for product way down, many law schools have now moved to a near open enrollment policy to try to keep revenues up. 

Even if you disagree with the claims in the lawsuits, and feel that the law degree is still well worth its price, and think that the drop in applications is just a temporary glitch, there is no denying that it has been rough going for the law school industry.  Further, with schools just starting to feel the hit of lower enrollments, it is undisputed that revenues will be down and times will be tough for at least a couple of years.  So, given that, what can a law school dean do to improve his school’s fortunes?