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Best Day Ever?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 30, 2010 in The 2L Life

I’ve had some pretty good weeks before, but can’t recall the last time so much good news happened in the same 24 hour timespan:

  • Got up on time for a scheduled visit to the federal courthouse down in Raleigh (I’m thankful for small miracles :beatup: )
  • On the drive down, checked my bank account to see if I had money for breakfast and discovered Summer Session II refunds hit our bank accounts today — over a week ahead of schedule, and right in time for my upcoming mini-vacation :D
  • Spent the morning observing criminal proceedings in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina,1 had lunch with judicial staff in the afternoon, and in the process got to see some of my favorite Legal Eagle colleagues who I hadn’t seen all summer
  • As I left the courthouse, found out that grades for my ADR Practices class had been posted… and I earned my very first, bona fide, no-minus-after-it A grade in my time at NCCU Law! :spin:
  • Knocked out compiling a comprehensive inventory of every piece of paraphernalia the SBA has in stock so I can get an accurate bead on our finances as we start the new fiscal year… and got it done in far less time than I expected
  • And the state legislature gave final approval to their 2010-11 budget, solidifying the repeal of the 8% student tax that I’ve worked on with other student leaders for the past 2 years :D

I decided to treat myself to a celebratory dinner afterward ;) Hoping y’all had a great day too! :D

  1. Where I learned the Feds don’t play around: 25-year sentences were getting handed out like Skittles… []

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UNCASG Wins Student Tax Repeal!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 29, 2010 in Student Government

Hey everybody! :D

Earlier today the North Carolina General Assembly gave preliminary approval to the state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year — and included among the provisions is a repeal of the 8% student tax that I’ve mentioned in several entries here at law:/dev/null.

With the repeal soon to be final (a 2nd vote happens tomorrow), I wrote up a Facebook note with a chart in it. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to check out the original entry here. You should be able to access it even if we’re not Facebook friends… and if in the process you get the sudden urge to become an FB friend, you’re more than welcome to do so ;)

The note appears below in its entirety:

[Note: by default I’m tagging the ASG President and senior leadership, the NCSU SBOs, and a few extra people on the side. If you don’t want to be tagged in future editions of T Greg’s Tomes, just shoot me a Facebook message :) -TGD]

====================
Past Editions of T Greg’s Tomes:

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T Greg’s Tomes: UNCASG saves students $8.6M+ (a 4,019% return on investment!)

Folks who regularly read T Greg’s Tomes know I don’t exactly get along with student media, particularly the perpetual (and perpetually sophomoric) foolishness-disguised-as-punditry that emanates from the conservative-leaning Editorial Board at the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B and Exhibit C and Exhibit D and Exhibit E and Exhibit F and Exhibit G).

I’m eagerly awaiting whatever backwards spin will get applied to this story now that UNCASG has saved students millions of dollars for the 2nd year in a row…

Earlier today the NC General Assembly gave preliminary approval to the 2010-11 state budget, which includes a repeal of the 8% student tax that was adopted in August 2009 (see line 32 on page 47 of the budget bill) — a repeal the delegates and officers of UNCASG spent most of our last session successfully getting enacted through in-person lobbying, phone calls, emails, and a Tuition Petition signed by over 22,000+ students.

Now even if we just count in-state undergraduates (since anything more complex wouldn’t fit into the graphic below), our work saved University students over $8,642,722.64. Compared to the $1/student fee that funds UNCASG’s budget, that’s a 4,019% return on students’ investment — meaning UNCASG could do absolutely nothing at all for the next 40 years, and students would still be better off financially than they would have been without the group’s work.

Or, put another way, the $1 fee could have been implemented on the very day UNCASG was created on September 22, 1972 and students would still be saving money.

I took the liberty of putting together the table below for everyone’s information and usage, compiling the tuition increase rates from the General Assembly, the Board of Governors alternative rates, and the FTE UG resident enrollment at each institution.

UNCASG wins $8.6M+ in savings

And remember the savings are actually more than this, because 100% of the tuition being paid will now go back to the universities where it belongs instead of going to the state’s General Fund.

For folks who question why I’ve dedicated the past 4 years to UNCASG and the NCSU Student Senate, this is why: in just the past 2 years alone — last year we helped repeal a similar student tax slated for 2009-10 — Student Government leaders have saved UNC system students over $25,730,590.64.

Overall, not a bad deal for the $2 apiece we each paid in. Remember that next time someone complains about your student leaders — and seriously think about becoming one of those leaders yourself ;)

And since I’m a big fan of data and tables, I also made another table showing those added-up savings over the past 2 years as a result of UNCASG’s work. Here are the results:

Savings over 2 years: $25.7M+

Now this isn’t a total victory of course. The authorization for an additional $750/student tuition increase I mentioned to y’all was included in the final budget bill, and odds are roughly 100% that every University in the system will jump on the chance to hike tuition under that authorization. So I don’t expect any UNCCH students, for example, to be grateful for paying $950 instead of $990.

But there are precious few total victories in life, and if that $40 (or $259.60 @ ECU) enables someone to stay in school who otherwise might have to drop out, I’ll consider it a success.

Especially when a budget of $215K saved students over $25.7M ;)

Have a great night y’all! :)

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Things TDot Likes: Apple, Inc.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 28, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Hey everybody! :D

I took the weekend off so I could focus on the presentation I told y’all about Friday along with wrapping up my final exam for ADR Practices & Process. In between I went through the laptop to free up space, including shrinking my Bootcamp partition that contains Windows Vista.

Each of those experiences in some way reminded me how appreciative I am to have access to Apple products.

Some of Apple's Products

Yes folks: appreciative ;)

And I’m not talking about the new-fangled iStuff either. I can’t get an iPhone unless/until they come to Verizon Wireless,1 and although the iPads are flying off the shelves they’re not really my thing. I’m talking about good ol’-fashioned Macs running MacOS X.

I’ve been an Apple fan most of my life. Back when I was in elementary school, Apple IIs were all over the place. Then the Mac line came out and they were everywhere too — I still remember going to the library in middle school to type my papers on a Macintosh LC II, because I preferred ClarisWorks and seeing when I bolded or italicized or underlined my text rather than having to decipher what different highlighting meant in WordPerfect on a PC :beatup:

But by the time I hit high school Windows 95 was out and school systems were deploying PCs everywhere to save money. My parents bought a PC and that’s what I had to use at home, where BSoDs2 became a part of life and I screwed up the Registry on more than one occasion trying to use the uninstall scripts that came with most programs (Macs, by contrast, use packages that you can just drag to the trash bin). Apple was in its own death spiral back then, as CEO after CEO found ever more innovative ways to piss away millions of dollars.

Then Steve Jobs came back and knocked some sense into folks ;)

I didn’t have a computer when I started college at NC State, and one day in the spring I flipped through the Classifieds in the Technician (our school newspaper) looking for someone selling a PC that I could buy. It turned out that was the only day Apple ran an advertisement looking to hire a campus representative as part of a new Jobs-approved outreach program. I applied on a whim, got an interview, and for reasons I still don’t understand I was given the job. In exchange for being a general Apple enthusiast, salesperson, and IT support guy for the campus, I was loaned a 333MHz G3 iMac (Bondi Blue), was paid $200/week, flown out to California each summer for “Campus Rep Boot Camp”, and hooked up with all the latest software.

And I haven’t looked back :spin:

I had to quit being a Campus Rep when I dropped out, but since then QuietStorm and I bought another Rev. D iMac, then upgraded to an eMac, then when I came back to NC State I snagged a Mac mini and then got my trusty MacBook Pro. I’m now running MacOS X “Snow Leopard”3 and looking forward to upgrading my laptop to the latest technology.4

I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows and various Linux distributions as well, so I’ll sidestep the quasi-religious war some Comp Sci folks believe in. But for anyone planning on going to law school, I strongly recommend getting a Mac. Here’s why:

  • High-quality hardware. It took 4 years for the circuit board on my MacBook Pro to die, and that was after using it a solid 8+ hours/day nearly every day for that entire time. Most of my colleagues had to buy 2 (or even 3) laptops during that same timespan due to failing parts. Apple’s computers are solidly built and include a ton of high-end technology, making them cost-competitive to a similarly-configured PC.
  • It just works. I’ve got a partition on my laptop running Windows Vista that I use solely for taking law school exams with ExamSoft. When I loaded up Vista last night, it began downloading the dozens upon dozens of software updates that Microsoft spews out on a near-daily basis… and during the installation of some of those updates I got a Blue Screen of Death and had to restart the computer :crack: Something is awry when the total system failures I learned to accept in 1995 are still happening in 2010. I haven’t had a “kernel panic” — the Mac/Linux equivalent of a BSoD — on any machine since MacOS X Panther came out 6 years ago. MacOS X is built on top of crash-resistant Unix (dubbed “Darwin”), which also gives you the perk of virus resistance as well. Plus its Quartz graphic engine uses PDF internally, so it not only looks amazing but you can print anything to a PDF file — great for sharing papers, essays, projects and so on. With MacOS X you don’t get a feeling like the operating system is standing in between you and your productivity; it’s more like a partner helping you get things done.
  • The iApps are amazing. Apple has an expansive slate of software products, including its iCal calendar program, its Mail app, its Safari web browser, its iLife suite (iTunes / iPhoto / iMovie), its iWork suite (Keynote / Pages / Numbers), and on and on and on.5 These are some of the slickest and most user-friendly applications on the market, and for many of them there simply is nothing comparable on Windows or Linux. I’m a particularly huge huge huge fan of Keynote, Apple’s competitor to PowerPoint. Keynote was in-house software Apple developed for Steve Jobs’s use in preparing his keynote presentations at MacWorld Expo (hence the name). The features built into this thing make it trivially simple to put together excellent presentations. I’ve been using it regularly since 2006 — for English class, my Senior Design project in Computer Science, UNCASG presentations, the list goes on — and the hours of time it saved me between Saturday’s plea bargaining piece and my group’s two presentations for Race & the Law make it more than worth the price.
  • The other apps are amazing too. Run a website? Panic’s Transmit is one of the best FTP programs I’ve used on any platform. How about instant messaging protocols? Adium combines over a dozen chat protocols into one refined interface. And although you might not be able to tell from this post, I’m actually a big Microsoft fan: their 2008 Office for Mac is far more intuitive than the Windows counterpart, and makes using Microsoft Word and Excel a lot less tedious. There are thousands of other really cool apps out there, far more than I can highlight in this already lengthy post. There’s a website dedicated to tracking these applications over at versiontracker.com — head over there and poke around :)
  • And, for the switchers, Windows is only a few clicks away. I mentioned up at the top that I’ve got a partition for Windows Vista. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve also got Windows XP, Windows 7, and Ubuntu Linux on here as well — a side effect of the Computer Science education :beatup:

    Windows running inside MacOS X with VMWare Fusion

    If you’re a PC user switching to a Mac, you can ease into it by having Windows only a click away. Apple includes a program called Bootcamp that helps you add a full Windows installation alongside MacOS X, enabling you to boot your computer directly into Windows.

    But the really cool stuff happens when you use virtualization. A company called VMWare has a product called VMWare Fusion that let’s you run “virtual OSs” at native speed inside MacOS X. I’ve included a screenshot of my Windows XP installation running (along with my terminal running the Unix top program). You can share files between the operating systems, connecting to the internet “just works”, the list goes on. Although virtualization has long been the refuge of technophiles like me, it’s great to ease the transition from one OS to another.

I could go on even more about some of the other features, applications and perks6 but you get the idea ;)

Thanks for letting me preach a bit :) If any pre-Ls out there have technology questions, let me know! Until then have a great night!!

  1. Soon, I hope :D []
  2. The Blue Screen of Death, basically what happens when Windows crashes. []
  3. Also known as MacOS X 10.6.4… roughly 7 full OS revisions from MacOS 8.5.1 that was released the day after I started as a Campus Rep :beatup: []
  4. Which currently includes multi-core chips clocking well over 3GHz+… well over 10x faster than my first iMac :crack: []
  5. As a highlight of how long ago it was when I worked for Apple, iTunes v1.0 was really just a reengineered SoundJam MP — a program that I’ve still got on an installation CD! []
  6. Like using IPP to successfully print for free on a Windows-centric network :angel: []

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America: Land of the… Guilty?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 25, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening y’all! :)

While most folks are out enjoying their Friday nights, I’m dutifully poring over my laptop analyzing data I’ve gathered for tomorrow’s class presentation on plea bargaining. And I’m actually kind of enjoying it :beatup:

One of my research findings that’s really blowing my mind right now is the sheer volume of criminal cases that were filed in my adopted home state of North Carolina just during the 2008-09 fiscal year:  2,594,634 — roughly 1 for every 4 North Carolina residents :eek: About half of these are for criminal motor vehicle offenses (1,048,447) and for quasi-criminal “infractions” (768,922), but that still means roughly 1 in 8 North Carolinians are being charged with a non-traffic criminal offense every year.

Now the Old North State hasn’t exactly been known as a low-crime area, at least in the 12 years I’ve lived here. But it’s not exactly a high-crime state either: according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports, North Carolina was 18th in the nation in terms of crimes per 100,000 residents in 2008-09. That effectively puts us right in the middle of the country’s bell curve, since there’s a thicket of about a half-dozen states with very close per-capita crime rates occupying the median.

And if we’re essentially at the national median it means, assuming there’s a good correlation between crimes committed and criminal charges filed, that a huge proportion of this country is getting charged with a criminal offense each and every year (and if NC’s data is any guide, about 97% will be resolved without a trial).

Sometimes I’m amazed our judicial system is able to function effectively with that caseload. Can you imagine the mess it would cause if we didn’t have plea bargains at all?? :crack:

Those are my random musings for the night, I’m heading back to presentation prep :) Have a great night y’all! :D

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It’s like Spring finals. But worse.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 24, 2010 in The 2L Life

Last night’s mini-rant on exam essays was just part of my general discontent with the end of my first summer session here at the N.C. Central University School of Law. I knew going into it that things would be fast-paced — after all we’re compressing 15 weeks’ worth of material into just 5 — but given the fewer credit hours I’m taking (7 now vs 15 in the Spring) my expectation was that things couldn’t be quite that bad.

And for the past month they haven’t been. Until now. When everything wants to happen in the span of 5ish days. :mad:

The Race & the Law final was due today; 2 essays with 3 issues apiece on constitutional law-related issues (bear in mind I don’t take ConLaw until the Fall).  Tomorrow at noon I’m mediating a case for my ADR Clinic requirements. Saturday I have class from 9am-3pm, in which I’ll be giving a 10-minute research presentation on plea bargaining — most of the “in-person” research for which hasn’t been done because the folks I hoped to interview haven’t been available except when I was in class. Once that’s wrapped I need to knock out my final exam for ADR Processes & Practices (another 2 essays) that’s due Monday at noon, so I can pivot and complete a portfolio project for the ADR Clinic later the same day.

I don’t mind hard work at all; it’s the best way to keep me out of trouble :beatup: But it would have been nice if this intensity was spread out throughout the summer session instead of compressed into only a few days…

Sorry for the griping y’all, just need to get it off my chest — thank you for indulging me :)  Heading to bed so I can get back on the grind tomorrow. Have a good night! :D

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I truly, deeply, passionately *hate*…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 23, 2010 in The 2L Life

…essays on final exams.

Especially when I feel like I don’t have the slightest clue wtf I’m doing.

That is all :beatup:

[P.S.: law:/dev/null hit the quarter-million pageview mark today! *Thank you* to everyone for your support! :D ]

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In support of the strict C

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 22, 2010 in The 2L Life

Tonight’s post is another one of those cut-and-paste “Don’t have time to provide you with any incisive analysis” type entries :beatup:

The writers up at the New York Times seem to have finally realized that grade inflation is rampant in law schools, a problem noted regularly by the good folks over at Above the Law. The piece, titled “In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That”, highlights the retroactive inflation taking place at Loyola Law and other law schools to “make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market” — since employment is a significant factor in the US News’s law school rankings.1

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, given the modern push toward this “Everyone’s a winner! Let’s all hold hands and sing kumbayah!” mentality, but I’m personally a big fan of the strict-C curve we use at NCCU Law. Setting the middle grade in the middle of the grading scale (cue the :eek: faces) provides law professors with a full range of options to give you — and gives you the student a full range of feedback so you know where you’re weak and need to improve.

Consider my grades from the Spring semester. Clearly, Contracts is not my thing (at all). CrimLaw, on the other hand, might be.

Yet if we used the B+ median common among T1 institutions, my grades for both classes would be pretty close. There’s certainly more of a “you suck at this” signal sent when you’ve got a C in one class compared to an A- in the other, versus an inflated B+ compared to an inflated A.

It doesn’t look like grade deflation will ever happen if the data is any guide. And God knows my non-inflated grades won’t be netting me any NLJ250 jobs any time soon. But my lingering 1L naïveté tells me I’m going to be better off being given the brutally honest assessment of my deficiencies rather than being deigned competent by the retroactive stroke of a Dean’s pen.

Read the article at your leisure, and feel free to share your thoughts :) Until then have a good night! :D

==> New York Times: In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That

  1. The rankings are, in my opinion at least, worthless bullsh*t. []

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Fastest. Mediation. Evah.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 21, 2010 in The 2L Life

If you want to see a mediation go quickly, sit in on one where a Plaintiff’s demands are orders of magnitude less costly than what the Defendant expects ;)

That happened earlier today. On one side was counsel for the Plaintiff, a 76-year-old retired elementary school teacher. On the other was counsel for the Defendant, a research hospital.

The Plaintiff is the epitome of a “sweet old lady” who does a lot of civic and charitable work in her retirement, and she agreed to participate in a medical study administered by the Defendant on depression among the elderly. The nurse who saw her to administer an MRI was incompetent, didn’t situate the ear plugs correctly despite Plaintiff telling her repeatedly that they weren’t blocking out any sound, and due to the loud noise of the MRI the Plaintiff ended up with permanent chronic tinnitus.1

The Plaintiff has 10.6 years to live based on a standard mortality table, and was in otherwise perfect health for her age. The initial letter from Plaintiff’s counsel to the Defendant essentially laid out all of the details but apparently didn’t make a demand, instead suggesting mediation to resolve the case without a lawsuit being filed.

Now even though no litigation had started yet, as I’m sitting there I’m figuring the initial demand will be well in excess of a million dollars and this mediation is destined for an impasse.

Assuming the Plaintiff’s got 10.6 years to live — roughly ~3,869 days — and she’s awake 16 hours a day, that’s 61,904 hours of having to deal with a constant ringing in her ears. The university paid her $100 for a 4-hour test, so they considered her time worth $25/hr. To me that calculates out to an initial demand of $1,547,600.00 without any further justification.

Apparently the Defendant’s attorneys were expecting the same thing, because they looked like deer caught in the headlights after what happened next.

The lead attorney for the Plaintiff provides an opening statement detailing the facts of the case, offers the rationale for the Plaintiff’s impending demands, then starts rattling those demands off: disciplining the nurse responsible, notifying the NIH of the incident to ensure an independent review of hospital procedure is conducted, providing a training workshop for all nursing personnel, contacting all the previous patients placed under this nurse’s care to ensure they’re OK medically, providing written verification to the Plaintiff that procedural changes have been made to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and a cash settlement of…

…wait for it…

…only $50,000 :surprised:

That was it. Medical expenses. Pain and suffering. Attorney’s fees. All of it.

Defendant’s counsel were so caught off-guard that the 3 of them were talking amongst themselves for a solid minute before giving an opening statement of their own. And that statement wasn’t even really a typical opening in a mediation: they started by apologizing for the incident, then accepted all of the demands in exchange for a release and a nondisclosure agreement.

Fifteen minutes later everything was done. It’s actually taken longer for me to write this entry than the mediation itself :beatup:

Given how many people see lawsuits as a way to get rich nowadays, it was refreshing to have a Plaintiff who was really just ticked off and put a higher value on non-monetary demands to make sure procedural deficiencies were fixed. And it was entertaining to see a demand catch people off-guard because it was so *low*.

All in all it was a fun experience :) That’s it from me tonight y’all, have a great evening! :D

  1. Tinnitus is a persistent ringing / whistling / humming sound in the ears. []

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Happy Father’s Day!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 20, 2010 in Randomness

Not sure if we have any fathers who read law:/dev/null, but if there are a happy Father’s Day to you! :)

This is a weird holiday for me, has been for awhile. I’m a father in the definitional sense — Son of TDot turns 12 years old next month — and because of that some of my friends will send me text messages or give me a call with well wishes. But I also don’t play any meaningful role in his life1 so today isn’t really meant for people like me.

It does remind me, though, how traditional the “nontraditional” has gotten. I’ve never met my biological father, and was adopted by my dad when my parents got married… but spent a majority of my life growing up living with Nan & Pops. Even though Son of TDot knows who I am in an abstract way, he was adopted when his mom got married too. I know a number of colleagues with two fathers, both in the “my mom got divorced and remarried” sense and the “my parents are gay” sense. I know a larger number with no father in the picture at all, raised by single moms filling both the mother and father roles. And I know folks who were/are foster children, and others raised by their grandparents. The list goes on.

It’s those folks who are supposed to get recognized today. So if you’re a father, a grandfather, a stepfather, an adoptive father, a single mom filling in as a father, or anyone else holding that role in a family, I hope you have a very happy Father’s Day! :D

And to the rest of you, have a great night :)

  1. I’ll spare you the details and attendant documentation; suffice to say I acceded to what I was told would be best for him despite regretting doing so most of the 10 years since. []

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O Motivation, Where Art Thou?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 19, 2010 in The 2L Life

Last Friday I mentioned looming Saturday classes from 9am-3pm every weekend until the end of June, as part of our ADR Clinic at the NC Central University School of Law. Today was supposed to be spent volunteering as a mediator in a mock MSC for our Mediation Advocacy class, where my colleagues are learning the advocate side of the mediation process.

Mine got cancelled so no class for me B-)

And what did I do with my unexpected free time? Hit the pool? Hit the gym? Hit the road?

None of the above :beatup:

Maybe it’s just a recurring experience at the end of a semester — final exam week starts Monday! — but lately I’ve had roughly -0- motivation to do anything even remotely productive. Today I woke up on time (for a change) and cooked breakfast, spent the morning reading the news and catching up on the law blogs, ate lunch with Q.T., then came home and did everything possible to avoid doing something useful. Played Wii. Watched Lockup reruns on TV. Upgraded my BlackBerry’s OS. Randomly started cooking food around 10pm. Etc.

Meanwhile I’ve got clothes strewn around the bedroom in need of laundering, dishes around the kitchen in need of washing… and the law school stuff in need of reading/writing that I’ve been avoiding like the plague :beatup:

I’m gonna try to will myself into productivity tomorrow though :) Fingers crossed. Hopefully all of you are having a bit more success in that endeavor than I am ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

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