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No, I’m not dead. But thanks for asking :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 24, 2010 in Randomness

Hey y’all! :)

Earlier today I got a message in my Facebook inbox from a reader wondering if I’d met an untimely demise, given the week-long absence of anything here at law:/dev/null.

Rest assured I’m still alive and kicking, my immune system and I have just been working overtime to fight off some seasonal unpleasantness that hit me right around the same time last year.1 Treatment has included getting a full 8+ hours of sleep a night, but since my classes haven’t gotten pushed back that means going to bed earlier at night — which is typically when I’m writing the day’s entry here :beatup:

I’ve got a sextet of posts on my desktop that I’ll hopefully get posted today. I can’t guarantee they’ll be any good, of course, but it’ll (hopefully) be better than a week-old post of me complaining about campus media ;)

Thanks for checking up on me, and have a great day!2 :D

  1. Right before/during 1L midterms :( []
  2. And on a more-festive side note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Co-Counsel! :spin: []

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“So sue me”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 24, 2010 in Student Government

Folks, I know y’all get sick of me complaining about a certain campus newspaper, but the effort it expends to manufacture controversy about the UNC Association of Student Governments really perplexes me at times — and unfortunately it’s one of the few publications regularly read by folks at UNC General Administration.

Yet another example comes to us in today’s paper (original story available here at dailytarheel.com):

ASG actions may be illegal
Lobbying may violate state law
By ISABELLA COCHRANE | The Daily Tar Heel

The body that voices the students’ views to administrators and elected officials could be carrying out its top priority — lobbying legislators — illegally.

The UNC Association of Student Governments, which includes delegates from 17 UNC system institutions, has been meeting with legislators and presenting them with petitions to keep tuition low for students.

But association President Atul Bhula was unaware of a N.C. law requiring organizations that fulfill certain criteria to register with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office before lobbying.

Bhula received a notice from the office Wednesday reminding him of the law. The department has not yet determined whether the association fits the definition of a lobbyist group.

If the organization fits the definition of a lobbyist group and does not register, it could be banned from lobbying for up to two years as well as face a $5,000 fine, spokeswoman for the office Liz Proctor said.

State statutes define a lobbyist as someone who is paid to engage in lobbying for a governmental purpose.According to the statutes, a lobbyist must spend more than 5 percent of his or her time per month actively trying to influence legislative or executive decisions.

If lobbying is the association’s top priority, they could fall under that category.

Bhula’s stipend as ASG president is $7,000 per year, which is paid for by student fees — a $1 fee from every student in the UNC system. Other officers in the organization are paid $1,000 to $5,500.

Christy Tillery, a paralegal with the N.C. Ethics Commission, said true unregistered lobbyists violate state law.

“If you’re a true lobbyist in regards to the definition you should be registered,” Tillery said. The state law requiring organizations to register went into effect in 2007.

Continued lobbying without being registered in North Carolina is a misdemeanor offense.

“I never registered, and I’d be skeptical of anyone saying they have to do so,” said former ASG President Greg Doucette.

Doucette said he doubts that ASG members fit the definition of a lobbyist because they don’t spend that much time persuading legislators.

“Right now the legislation isn’t even in session until January,” Doucette said. “Basically we’ll only have a couple of months to lobby.”

Doucette said an argument could be made that because ASG officers receive compensation, they need to be registered.

“Everyone who does not receive a stipend doesn’t even meet the definition of a lobbyist because no money is changing hands,” Doucette said.

Bhula said he had not looked into registering with the state earlier because he was unaware that the organization fit the criteria of a lobbyist.

“Regardless, we’re going to lobby this year. We’re going to get that taken care of as soon as possible,” Bhula said.

The organization plans to have someone lobbying in Washington, D.C., but focus for this year will be state legislators, he said.

“At the federal level we’d be looking at Pell Grants to ensure we have more money,” Bhula said. “The federal stimulus money is going to run out so it’s a hard battle to fight there.”

Bhula said he plans to discuss the registration process at the organization’s next meeting Saturday so ASG can lobby legislators in the future.

“We hope to more effectively use our dollar for internal investments,” Bhula said.

“Lobbying in North Carolina is our main concern.”

Proctor said that despite the group’s past lobbying actions, the state department was unaware of the association’s actions with legislators.

“This is the first time that we have heard anything about it,” she said.

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

Published September 23, 2010 in Association of Student Governments, News, State

Now I know the news reporters don’t usually write their own headlines so I can’t be too upset about that part, but weasel words are generally bad form for something purporting to be news. Just about anything “may” be illegal.

Then there’s the mischaracterization of what the law actually says (something I’ve suspected may be common with most media outlets). You can read the current lobbying laws in North Carolina for yourself, but the synopsis is that they just don’t apply to the UNC Association of Student Governments.

The main reason is that we’re a unit of government under the UNC umbrella. We don’t get to manage our own budget; a $1/student fee is paid to UNCGA who handles all the accounting and places numerous (onerous) restrictions on what UNCASG can do as a result. The group’s President is an ex-officio member of the University system’s policy-making Board of Governors. The group’s office manager, employed by UNCASG, is a state employee.1 I could happily list other criteria explaining why we’re a government entity — and thus exempt from the lobbyist registration law — but you get the idea.

Let’s assume though, for the sake of argument, UNCASG isn’t a government agency and is in fact a private non-profit: the lobbying law still wouldn’t apply because none of the UNCASG personnel meet the criteria of a “lobbyist.”

Under the relevant subsection that would apply to UNCASG, the statute’s two elements required to be a “lobbyist” include being an employee who “a significant part of [his/her] duties include lobbying” and “in no 30‑day period less than five percent (5%) of that employee’s actual duties include engaging in lobbying”. None of the UNCASG personnel meet both elements.

First, contrary to the article’s claim, lobbying the N.C. General Assembly isn’t UNCASG’s “top priority” and lobbying simply doesn’t constitute a “significant part” of anyone’s duties — something the DTH already knew.

How did they know? Because their substandard Editorial Board attacked me in one of their hit pieces last year2 for my “piggybacking” strategy with the Legislature, where UNCASG relied on the professional (and registered) lobbyists of UNCGA to do the bulk of the lobbying work, then have student leaders dropping in when it would be politically effective for us to do so.

UNCASG’s top priority is keeping in touch with the 215,000+ students it represents. It’s second priority is representing those voices on the UNC Board of Governors. Lobbying state legislators is quite a bit further down the totem pole, if it’s even on there at all.

Assuming arguendo that lobbying was a “significant part” of anyone’s duties in UNCASG, they still wouldn’t meet the second element required to be “lobbyists.”

Even at the height of my lobbying activity during my two terms in office — when we were successfully saving students over $25+ million dollars — I doubt I spent more than a few hours in an entire month at the N.C. General Assembly. That’s just how the political game gets played. You don’t talk to everyone in the Legislature; you talk to the key leaders who can pull votes, and since everyone else is doing the same thing you’re usually only going to get 10-15 minutes of their time.

If you assume the UNCASG Presidency is a 40-hour-a-week job,3 the President has up to 8 hours a month to lobby without becoming a “lobbyist” under this statute.

And if any President is spending more time than that on lobbying, they’re doing it wrong.

One final point before I wrap up:  I was working for a lobbyist when the lobbying laws were drafted. I know who they were intended to affect, and I know who they did affect. Student-run student advocacy groups weren’t in either of those categories.

So if the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office or the Ethics Commission or anyone else is seriously concerned about UNCASG’s past lobbying efforts, I encourage them to file a claim against me. They’re going to be exceptionally hard-pressed to find anything even vaguely resembling the slightest scintilla of evidence that I or anyone on my staff was ever a “lobbyist” within the letter, the meaning, or the spirit of this statute.

And given the DTH Editorial Board’s lingering bitterness over my “aggressive character attacks” and their almost-comical efforts to rebuke me after-the-fact for them, I give them a week or so at most before they write an op/ed saying I was wrong and UNCASG should waste spend $100/person of student fee money to register their people as lobbyists…

  1. I’m unaware of any non-government entity whose full-time staff are considered state employees protected under the State Personnel Act. []
  2. Conspicuously absent from their online archives… []
  3. A number that is far too low if the job is being done properly. []

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Dear Fall+Winter: F*ck off

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 22, 2010 in Randomness

September 22 marks the first day of Fall this year.

And if I ever created an inverse of the Things TDot Likes category, the entire Fall+Winter seasons would be the inaugural entry :beatup:

Let’s review some of the great qualities of this half of the year at this particular latitude and longitude:

  • Cold weather
  • Allergies induced by cold weather
  • Pretty much every form of life around you is sleeping or dying1
  • Rain that’s cold enough to freeze but not cold enough to be snow
  • Exams
  • Higher electricity bills just to avoid the cold weather
  • It gets dark absurdly early
  • And did I mention the cold weather?

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Someone wake me up in March…

  1. You: “But the leaves are so pretty!” Me: “And dead.” []

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The caffeine made me do it…

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

Every now and then you come across something in the legal news that makes you stop and go “wtf? Really??”

This is one of those (original story here at Yahoo! News):

Caffeine consumption an issue in Ky. murder trial
By BRETT BARROUQUERE, Associated Press Writer – Mon Sep 20, 7:23 pm ET

NEWPORT, Ky. – The lawyer for a Kentucky man accused of strangling his wife argued at trial Monday that excessive caffeine from sodas, energy drinks and diet pills left the defendant so sleep-deprived and mentally unstable that he falsely confessed to the killing.

Attorney Shannon Sexton said in opening statements at the murder trial of Woody Will Smith, 33, that he did not kill his 28-year-old wife, Amanda Hornsby-Smith, on May 4, 2009. The lawyer also told jurors that the man’s statements to police were made under high stress prompted by large amounts of caffeine and a lack of sleep.

“As a result of his altered state, Woody Smith provided a false confession,” Sexton said.

The argument was a twist on Sexton’s previously stated defense as outlined in earlier court documents — that a high intake of caffeine rendered Smith temporarily insane and unable to form the intent to kill his wife.

In arguments Monday, Sexton said DNA evidence taken from the victim’s fingernails points away from his client, whom she described as lethargic, “in a zone” and “not himself” when he spoke with police.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, portrayed Smith as an angry man who attacked his wife during a fight, then strangled her with an extension cord.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Vanita Fleckinger told jurors that paramedics, hospital personnel and police officers saw Smith after the killing.

“Not one of them will tell you they saw any signs of insanity,” Fleckinger added.

If convicted of murder, Smith could be sentenced to life in prison.

A legal strategy invoking caffeine intoxication is unusual but has succeeded at least once before, in a case involving a man cleared in 2009 of charges of running down and injuring two people with a car in Washington state.

Dr. Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University has noted in an unrelated study that there is a diagnosis for “caffeine intoxication,” which includes nervousness, excitement, insomnia and possibly rambling speech.

Smith told Dr. Robert Noelker, a psychologist from Williamstown hired by the defendant, he remembers taking his children to school that morning. But Noelker reported that Smith remembers little else about the ensuing hours.

In the weeks preceding May 4, 2009, Woody Smith told Noelker, he hadn’t been sleeping, in part out of fear his wife would take their two children and leave him.

Fleckinger said Smith found out his wife was having an affair with a co-worker. Sexton said knowledge of the affair led Smith to rely on caffeine and not sleep out of fear his wife would take the children and leave.

“The next several hours of Mr. Smith’s life, were described to me as if he were in a daze,” Noelker wrote in his report.

After sleeping intermittently, Smith had nap with one child he picked up from school at midday at a school near their home in Dayton, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. After picking up the second child later that day, Smith said he went to his mother and stepfather’s house.

He described feeling “out of control,” weeping to the point of being unable to communicate. Smith eventually confided in his stepfather, Noelker wrote, “I think my wife is dead.”

Reports and case records say at that time that he was drinking five or six soft drinks and energy drinks a day, along with taking diet pills; it all added up to more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — published by the American Psychiatric Association showing standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders — defines overdose as more than 300 milligrams. That’s about three cups of coffee.

Noelker said in his report that he determined Smith was open to “brief psychosis” brought on by sleep deprivation, which was caused by the heavy ingestion of diet pills and caffeine in the weeks before his wife’s death.

The defense strategy recalls the case of Daniel Noble. The 31-year-old budget analyst at the University of Idaho Foundation awoke Dec. 7, 2009, after a restless night and weeks of hard work on the foundation’s budget to head to a Starbucks shop, downing two large cups of coffee.

A judge concluded the caffeine-ingesting budget analyst was unable to form the mental intent to commit a crime, after authorities accused him of injuring two pedestrians with a car.

Now I’m all for creative defenses and making sure the government can meet its burden of proof, but based on the details provided in this story I down about as much caffeine as this guy on a daily basis just to stay awake through class :beatup:

Last I checked I haven’t killed anyone. Maybe he can enroll in my ZombieLaw course if he needs a cure for his purported insomnia.

But I guess that’s just my prosecutorial instincts kicking in ::shrug::

If any of you have the urge to keep up with this trial, let me know how it goes. I hope he gets convicted, otherwise there’s no telling how many law school students might claim caffeine made them do something stupid if they get hauled into court…

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Scaling the wall, redux

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

Hey everybody :)

Remember that old post from the summer about how the wall between 2L and 3L had pretty much disappeared during my summer school classes?

Apparently that applies to trial advocacy competitions too ;)

I served as the bailiff/timekeeper for the annual 3L Willie Gary Closing Argument competition for the Trial Advocacy Board, and my goodness were the 3Ls nervous.

There were folks who forgot the basic opening protocol (things like saying “May it please the court” or recognizing opposing counsel). The person who I thought gave the best presentation paced back and forth the entire time in front of the jury box. The one who I thought gave the second-best presentation did most of it from in front of the defense table (as a prosecutor) about a dozen feet from the jury box.

Two even sat at the wrong tables :surprised:

And it wasn’t just new 3Ls who hadn’t done this stuff before getting affected by bad nerves. One of them had won the Mary Wright 1L Closing Argument competition during his 1L year. Two others were part of the T.A.B. leadership. Another spent his post-2L summer in a courthouse practicing via the 3rd year practice rule.

I saw flaws in everybody.1 But the worst part? In a schadenfreudian sort of way it made me feel better to know it’s not just us 2Ls who get nervous :beatup:

  1. Though take all this with the requisite grain(s) of salt, since I’ve been told I’m “overly critical” as a judge. []

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And litigators do this everyday??

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 18, 2010 in The 2L Life

Ugh.

That’s how I felt after today’s (9:00am) 2L Opening Statement Competition for the Trial Advocacy Board. This annual event is similar to the competition the T.A.B. used for determining who made the 1L Trial Team, and is held in tandem with the 3L Closing Argument Competition for figuring out which lucky folks get to represent NCCU Law for the law school’s official TYLA and AAJ teams.

The facts for the 2L competition were total garbage. It was an old TYLA civil case, as opposed to the criminal cases usually done in the past. It had a dead judge (the victim), his money-grubbing whore of a wife (the Plaintiff / my client :beatup: ), an equally money-grubbing incompetent of a doctor (the Defendant), the list goes on.

Oh, and my client’s claim? She’s suing for wrongful death, since her husband died from taking nitrates and Viagra at the same time because the doctor spent a whopping 6 minutes with him when he sought medical help (just enough time to diagnose the judge… with a cold).

The Defendant’s defense? My client’s lawyer-boyfriend killed the judge by beating him over the head with a trophy :crack:   Or in the alternative that the judge was contributorily negligent for taking nitrates and Viagra simultaneously.

Needless to say I’m not happy with a case I’m not convinced I could win if it were a real trial.

Then on top of it I let myself get sidetracked with other stuff (CLE, Constitution Day, poker night, etc) so I don’t actually write the opening until around 2am this morning.1 After we got the facts over a week ago.

Stupid of me, I know.

But I get it done and think it’s pretty good, so I’m happy-ish. Then I grab a reasonable amount of sleep under the circumstances and even eat a full breakfast before the competition, so all is right with the world.

Until I actually get to school :beatup:

I’m the last competitor to go, and the 1.5ish hours spent waiting is just enough time for my nerves to go into full-blown panic mode. My hands are freezing. I’m sweating profusely.2 And I have a splitting headache.

Compounding the anxiety: the best of the best 2Ls are in this competition. There are my friends Top Gun3 and Luca,4 who both edged me out in the 1L Closing competition.5 There’s Co-Counsel, among the 4 people who beat me in the 1L opening competition. Most of the 1L trial team is here. Even Madame Prosecutor is making her first T.A.B. competition debut, as well as my friend EIC.

I pace the halls for about 20 minutes and manage to relax a bit, and when it’s actually my turn things go fairly well…

…until about 3 minutes in, when I completely forget one of those key bullet points I was supposed to bring up…

…and since it’s not vital to the opening, no one notices it was missing…

…including me.

The problem? About a minute later, one of the bullet points (that I remember) makes sense only if mentioned in reference to that earlier bullet point (that I forgot). So my eyes bulge out of my head around the 4-minute mark as it dawns on me that I forgot, and I completely screw up the flow of the ending to wedge it in, at which point I start talking a-mile-a-minute because I just know I’m going to end up losing points for running over the 5-minute time limit…

I talk so fast, in fact, that I finish right around 4:20. With a whole 40 seconds left on the clock :beatup:

It was rough.

And I still have a headache.

After last year’s two performances, I was looking for some vindication this time around. We have to wait all the way until the end of March to find out where we finish so it’ll be awhile until I know if I got it, but at this point I’m just glad it’s over :)  I’ll post the video for y’all as soon as we’re allowed to see them :D

Until then have a great night!

  1. “Write” is a bit of a misnomer. I write the first sentence and the last sentence (ideally something pithy for both), then just jot down key bullet points that I can talk about extemporaneously on trial day. Remember that, because it’s an important point in a couple paragraphs… []
  2. While in a suit :sick: []
  3. First in our 1L class []
  4. “The only man Vito Corleone feared. And vice versa.” []
  5. Interesting side note: all 3 of the finalists for the 1L Mary Wright Closing Argument competition are alumni of N.C. State University, with our respective majors in chemistry, philosophy, and computer science. At least we all got our money’s worth :D []

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Happy Constitution Day!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 17, 2010 in The 2L Life

Happy Constitution Day everybody! :D

I didn’t realize there even was such as a thing as Constitution Day until I came to law school. But I also didn’t realize so many aspiring attorneys knew so little about the Constitution’s history1 — probably explains why so many of my colleagues dislike Constitutional Law ;)

My morning started with a drive out to Greenville, to sit in on a Continuing Legal Education course on detecting deception from the good folks at QVerity, Inc. The seminar included watching 5 suspects interviewed in a corporate fraud case, and evaluating (both before and after the class) whether their body language indicated deceptiveness.

The whole thing was definitely more interesting than your typical lecture-style CLE, and included solid information on strategic behavioral analysis. I was also glad to be one of the handful of attendees who picked the right suspect in the beginning2 :)

After the CLE wrapped, I sped back to NCCU Law for the various festivities taking place for Constitution Day.

I got there in the middle of a panel discussion on due process and the impact of North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation. That would be the crime lab prosecutors turn to for analysis of forensic evidence. The crime lab they rely on for testimony in court.

And the crime lab which last month was discovered to have essentially been fabricating evidence wholesale for a few decades now.

The whole discussion left me speechless, not because I agreed with all the proposals being suggested (I didn’t) but because I didn’t think this level of incompetence was possible. Yes I’m an aspiring prosecutor, but I have a hard time thinking of any greater breach of the public’s trust than basically faking forensics just to secure a conviction…

There was a second panel on the economic cost of North Carolina’s “4-strike” habitual felon law, that honestly I didn’t pay much attention to due to my own political biases. My $.02 is that if you’ve already gotten 3 separate shots in the criminal justice system and you’re still committing crimes, you deserve to go away for life without parole3 — and the economic cost of your imprisonment is paid for by the economic growth enabled by removing a source of destruction and instability from the marketplace ;)

Following the second panel we all trekked upstairs for the day’s highlight, an unveiling of a hand-painted mural of portions of the Constitution now adorning one of the walls in the law school.

The unveiling was prefaced with a keynote address by Professor Randall Kennedy, a gentleman I know very little about beyond the fact he’s clearly smarter than I am: a graduate of Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School; a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; and now a professor at Harvard Law School.

His address focused on the “failures” and “shortcomings” of the Constitution — a discordant theme that was kinda disappointing to me. I’d never claim that the Constitution in its current form is absolute perfection but I also don’t see that many flaws in it.

For example, one of the complaints noted by Professor Kennedy was the disproportionate amount of political influence sparsely-populated states have in the Senate. The criticism itself is fair — I’m sure a similar complaint was made at the Constitutional Convention itself. But what’s the alternative?

  • Increase the number of Senators to enable more proportional representation? More politicians to me translates to more corruption.
  • Have the current 100 Senators represent equally-sized districts? I can only imagine the fights that would result from Senator representation crossing state lines (the old Virginia-North Carolina dispute over Lake Gaston comes to mind). And that’s not even getting into deciphering which Legislature would draw the district lines.
  • Abolish the Senate entirely? Do so and you fundamentally alter the nature of the legislative process, completely upending the Founders’ (brilliant) idea to limit how quickly federal legislation can be adopted by requiring the concurrence of two separate chambers.

Maybe there are other options I’ve missed, but for all the criticism of the Senate’s quirks I don’t see any alternatives that bring more good than harm.

My new favorite wall at school :)

My misgivings about the speech aside, the mural unveiling that followed was fun — this is now my favorite wall of the law school :)

It features an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s Preamble, Article III (creating the Judiciary), the Bill of Rights, the Civil War amendments, and the 19th Amendment. These were all hand-painted by local muralist Michael Brown, and the whole thing just looks really snazzy :D

It also brought something to my attention I never noticed before: turns out each line in the original 13th Amendment is written in a different person’s handwriting. I’m guessing there were a bunch of Congressional scriveners excited about the historic ending of slavery, and each wanted to make the mark on history? Very cool stuff.

Anyhow, that’s how I spent my Constitution Day at NCCU Law — now getting the apartment set up for my bi-weekly poker nights :)

I hope all of you enjoyed it as well, and have a great weekend! :D

  1. I actually had a conversation with a student at a neighboring law school about Constitution Day, who went “Why is it in September? Wasn’t the Constitution signed on July 4th back in 1770-something?” :beatup: []
  2. Some of the training dove-tailed with stuff I’ve learned professionally in politics and other arenas. []
  3. I’m willing to consider a few narrow exceptions to this general rule, like the (exceptionally small) number of poor folks who get hooked on drugs through no fault of their own and can’t afford any kind of drug treatment, then turn to theft and related crimes to finance their addiction. These people need treatment instead of jail. But I’m not convinced there are that many of them… []

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So *this* is what Rodney Dangerfield meant…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 16, 2010 in Student Government

I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that you’ve successfully gotten under someone’s skin when they insist on talking about you half a year after you’re gone ;)

That’s apparently the case with those wacky aspiring-pundits-in-training over at the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board, who randomly decided to give me some free publicity earlier today. You can read the whole editorial here, but I’ve copied/pasted below1 to emphasize a part that just really hurt my soul all the way down to the core:

The Interview: New ASG president Atul Bhula is still lacking some substance to his proposals. But he’s got the right idea.
By EDITORIAL BOARD | The Daily Tar Heel
Updated: 12:45 AM

The Interview is a new opinion page feature. We’ll have extended interviews with people who affect our community, written by members of the editorial board. Today, Mark Laichena writes about Atul Bhula.

Listening to Atul Bhula, 2010-2011 president for the University of North Carolina’s Association of Student Governments, one gets the feeling that the association is on solid ground.

It certainly needs it. ASG has underperformed through much of its recent existence.

Never really working out how to make the most of the $1 it has collected annually since 2002 from each of the more than 200,000 students in the UNC system, ASG suffered humiliation as its president was charged with assault in 2007. Ignominy continued as some UNC campuses sidelined ASG and others withdrew their delegations.

Greg Doucette, the next and most recent former president, brought stability by serving enthusiastically from 2008-2010, though the results were hardly worthy of the hundreds of thousands of dollars the organization cost students.

So Bhula hasn’t exactly taken on the most popular job in town.

No matter: For the next seven months, he represents the entire UNC-system student body — even if not all students support his role.

Bhula launches into a discussion on tuition when asked about his top priorities, echoing practically all his predecessors by talking about keeping it “as low as possible.”

Reaching what he thinks ASG can actually do takes a little more prodding. He refuses to be tied to any targets quite yet: The organization “is still waiting for output from ASG’s research division” on the potential effect of tuition raises on UNC students, and a tuition subcommittee has just been formed.

It seems that Bhula, an MBA student at Appalachian State University, has embraced bureaucratic organization as the way to carry ASG forward. He says that he could have an action plan by October — so we’ll have to reserve judgement for now.

The ASG president’s main role is representing students to the UNC-system Board of Governors, but “hitting the legislature is a main priority.”

Bhula highlights contingency planning as a challenge ahead. The $750 tuition raise that came from the legislature over the summer blindsided the ASG, which had led a successful but comparatively insignificant tuition petition in the spring.

“So it really shows the power of the state government, and the importance of engaging them.”

There’s a frankness to Bhula’s outlook that is refreshing — particularly compared with his immediate predecessor, who engaged in aggressive character attacks through regular blog posts, called “T. Greg’s Tomes”.

Bhula sees a core part of his job as “selling the university.”

It’s a reminder of how big the job is: The UNC system comprises 16 universities and the N.C. School of Science and Math; more than 170,000 full-time students and almost 50,000 part-time students.

“The legislators aren’t hearing enough from students,” he says. “They love talking to students, especially those from the constituencies they represent.”

“ASG can get students there, and make sure they are informed.”

The ASG president is keeping his cards to his chest on the big ideas for connecting students to the state government, but it’s not hard to imagine the options on the table. For Student Day at the Capitol last May, around 30 students went to the legislature: A significantly larger presence during the General Assembly’s long session in the spring might send a strong message.

Bhula indicates he is looking to past projects for ideas. He mentions the Personal Stories project, a book that aimed to put faces on UNC-system students, which was produced during president Amanda Devore’s term in 2004-05.
“You still see it in legislators’ offices,” he said.

Thinking about projects leads us to the $260,000 question: How ASG spends its budget. Many have been critical of officers’ stipends, which range from the $7,000 for Bhula down to $1,000 for the secretary.
Bhula thinks the figures are fair.

“Students working for ASG could be working or interning, so if we don’t compensate them, ASG will only be open to elites who don’t have to work.

“And if officers don’t do their jobs, I’ll fire them,” he adds.

He’s quick to suggest other ways to save money, such as returning to one- or two-day meetings to cut hotel expenses.

And what to do with the saved money? “It’s all about returning value to students by funding for projects that benefit UNC-system students. That’s where the Personal Stories book might come in, and I’m not going to give up on working for campus innovation grants.”

Bhula has answers for the standard criticisms of the ASG, but he doesn’t have an answer for everything.

The ASG president admits that he doesn’t know what similar student associations in other states are doing.

“But that’s a great idea.”

I ignored the logical incoherence of citing UNCASG’s “successful… tuition petition in the spring” — saving students millions of dollars two years in a row — while still insisting “the results were hardly worthy of the hundreds of thousands of dollars the organization cost students.” UNCCH is a liberal arts University, and the bitter troglodytes running their student newspaper’s op/ed page can be forgiven if they never learned basic math (e.g. that “million” is a larger unit of measurement than “thousand” or even “hundreds of thousands”).

And I  even ignored the characterization that pointing out an organization’s ineptitude is tantamount to “aggressive character attacks.” This is the same Editorial Board, after all, whose conservative editor decided to contact me via Facebook half a year ago to express his outrage (outrage!) that I had dared to exercise the same First Amendment rights to highlight the Board’s incompetence that the Board used to pen the incompetence in the first place. Feel free to read through the transcript if you need a chuckle.2

No, folks, neither of those issues gave me even the slightest pause; I’d grown accustomed to this level of mediocrity from these folks.3 You know what did get me? You know what kept me awake at night, and even moved me to the verge of tears?4

Characterizing T. Greg’s Tomes as mere “regular blog posts” :beatup:

Never mind that over a third of the Tomes were written before law:/dev/null was even created — only 3 of the 19 have ever been posted on this blog in the first place!5 It’s almost like the Editorial Board members intentionally ignored the fact my 8 separate entries providing blow-by-blow dissections of their inadequacies were composed and promulgated via Facebook to ensure a higher readership than the traffic we were getting here at the time.

Or, in the words of Mr. Dangerfield, “I get no respect. No respect at all.” :cry:

LMAO :spin:

Have a great night y’all! I promise I’ll have some law-related content tomorrow in celebration of Constitution Day!! :D

  1. In line with the Fair Use Doctrine of course, should any of the DTHers feel the urge to claim copyright infringement :* []
  2. It’s worth a laugh, and begs the question: could “Don’t patronize me [bro]” ever take off as an internet meme alongside its “Don’t Tase Me Bro!” cousin? []
  3. Like willfully ignoring their (endorsed) supposedly-not-a-candidate Rick Ingram’s unauthorized use of multiple university listservs to not-really-campaign for the office-he’s-not-really-seeking. Feel free to re-read the transcript if you don’t understand my amusement. ;) []
  4. Just in case your built-in melodrama detector isn’t working, I’m not being serious here :D  I don’t think I’ve ever lost sleep over a DTH editorial… []
  5. In March, in April, and in June. Feel free to read through those entries and decide for yourself if they’re “aggressive character attacks” — they also contain links to the entries on Facebook if you want to read those too :) []

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4

A “hotchpot”? Really??

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 15, 2010 in The 2L Life

Only in ZombieLaw would something called a “hotchpot” be a real and legally significant thing.1

For all the vaunted education of all the property attorneys in the world over however many centuries, you’d think they could come up with a better word… :crack:

  1. For you aspiring law students: the “hotchpot” is apparently what you call a zombie’s net estate plus any advancements that have already been made to his/her kids, and that total $$ amount (estate + advancements) is what gets distributed to however many heirs exist. []

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In case you missed it (Round III)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 14, 2010 in In Case You Missed It

Yes, I disappeared again :beatup:

The 2L life has turned out to be ever-so-slightly more stressful than anticipated, largely due to me falling behind on classwork to focus on the SBA appropriations process and now hustling to get caught up. Entries still got written, they just didn’t get edited — until tonight.

So now everything is online for your viewing pleasure, and is hopefully typo-free :)

In chronological order:

Hopefully this not-a-habit won’t get so bad that I have to create a separate category for these types of entries

Have a great night y’all! :D

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