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So tomorrow’s exam day…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 13, 2010 in The 2L Life

… and the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms (for the first time in weeks) :beatup:

Coincidence?

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I love ConLaw. I do…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 12, 2010 in The 2L Life

but even I could happily do without a midterm exam review session at…

wait for it…

wait…

…8:00am :beatup:

The earliest 2L class this semester starts at 8:30am. The Durham County court system doesn’t even do anything before 9:00am. And Wednesdays are usually my days to sleep in :cry:

I’m irked having to not only be awake, but having to be bathed, clothed, at the law school and coherent enough to understand what I’m reviewing :mad:

Heading to bed early so I can get up on time. Good night y’all! :)

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It’s that time of year again

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2010 in The 2L Life

Good evening folks! :)

Don’t have time to write anything substantive tonight because I spent longer than expected trying to get caught up in the reading for ConLaw. It’s midterms time again at the N.C. Central University School of Law, meaning any 2Ls enrolled in ConLaw or Business Associations are frantically trying to get caught up on readings and refining outlines and such.

Myself included :beatup:

Personally I’m just glad I’m not a 1L anymore, having to go through the gauntlet they’ve got coming up. At some point this week I’ll hopefully post some midterm-related info for those 1L colleagues, along with a general rundown of my semester so far in the classes where I don’t have midterms.

Given the recent proliferation of the “In Case You Missed It” posts though, consider yourself forewarned now that I have no clue when those entries will actually get posted ;)

Until then, have a great night!

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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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TIME machine

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 12, 2010 in The 2L Life

Back on Thursday I posted a TDot’s Tips entry on highlighting the headnotes when you’re reading your casebook. The example photo I used for that entry was the LexisNexis headnotes from Baker v. Carr (369 U.S. 186 (1962)) that we were currently reading in ConLaw.

"Where are the rivals to Apple's iPad?" Not born at the time this article was written...

The textbook provided a reminder that the whole “one man, one vote” apportionment philosophy that most of us take for granted is actually a fairly new “innovation” that’s only existed for 50ish years in this country :beatup:

So I randomly decided to go Googling for more info on the doctrine’s origins.

Apparently TIME Magazine must have put all of their old articles online, because what I found was a 1968 article on Avery v. Midland County (390 US 474 (1968)) — surrounded by the rest of their 2010 website, including the ability to tweet the story or submit it to Digg :surprised:

Maybe I’m a nerd for being fascinated by this, but it felt pretty doggone cool reading the story like this, almost like being transported back 50 years ago and reading it as it happened.

Except for the whole reading-it-on-an-internet-that-didn’t-exist-back-then thing of course :beatup:

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TDot’s Tips: Highlight the headnotes

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 9, 2010 in TDot's Tips

Greetings from ConLaw! :D

Now some of our longer-term readers might be wondering “What on earth is TDot doing writing a blog entry during his self-professed favoritest class evah?” — to which I’d reply “That’s a very good question!”

The truth is… I’m not :beatup: This was/is the almost-finished TDot’s Tips entry I mentioned yesterday, but given how ConLaw has gone today I figured it was a serendipitous time to post the post ;)

Specifically, I’m surprised by how many of my classmates at NCCU Law — and law students I’ve talked with at other schools too — deeply and truly hate Constitutional Law!1 :surprised:  The most common complaint I’ve heard is that it’s tough to wade through the SCOTUS-ese to find “the law” when reading cases in our (newly-issued and highlight-free) books, particularly the opinions from the Court’s early years.

It’d be a legit complaint… if “the law” wasn’t already spelled out for us :P

Maybe it’s a 2L version of “getting stuck on the dot“, but folks seem to forget that LexisNexis and WestLaw make everything easy by providing headnotes for each case. This is “the law”2  — and should be one of the things you highlight any time you’re reading an unhighlighted law school text :)

For me, studying for a class where I’ve been assigned casebook readings is a 4-part process:

1) Read the case. This one (hopefully) is obvious, but you need to actually read a case to get a real understanding of it. It’s easy to grab a LegaLines supplement or pre-cooked case brief and go from there, but odds are good the summaries you read will miss some of the important nuance in every opinion. Besides, some of the facts are just plain crazy and worth reading on their own :D

Some headnotes from LexisNexis

2) Highlight the law, a.k.a. the Wexis headnotes. WestLaw and LexisNexis both make oodles and oodles of money off law firms that use their services, so they use an oodle or two to make attorney life easier by extracting the main parts of the holding and throwing them into the headnotes. After you’ve read the case, pull it up online using your unlimited-access law student account, and go through each headnote and highlight it in the book. Now if a professor ever asks “What’s the take-home point in this opinion?” your eyes will naturally spot the highlighted section(s) of the opinion.

3) Highlight the loopholes, a.k.a. the legally significant facts. There’s an old lawyer’s adage that if the law is on your side you argue the law, and if the facts are on your side you argue the facts.3 Every court opinion is issued in response to an underlying case, and every underlying case is composed of key facts that led the court to its conclusions. You need to recognize what those key facts are so you can either harmonize or distinguish your case’s facts with those a court has already considered.

4) Put the holding in “normal people” terms. Judges aren’t normal people. Period. It’s like folks who voluntary spend their professional lives doing taxes — sure it might be an important job, but let’s not pretend like it’s a “normal” interest.4 And since judges aren’t normal people, they don’t write like normal people. And since they don’t write like normal people, it’s easy to get lost in the thicket of legalese that comprises judicial opinions. Fix that problem by writing a few notes to yourself about the court’s holding in regular terms.

For example, there’s a lot of talk about “nexuses” in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968). This is the rhetorical description the Supreme Court decided to use in explaining its opinion, and if you focus on that (obtuse) language you may end up missing the point of the holding — that generally taxpayers can’t file suit in their capacity as taxpayers to challenge Congressional spending (nexus #1) , except in the narrow exception where it involves a purported violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (nexus #2).

***

My process for reading a case probably isn’t the most efficient or even the best use of your time, so take this with the normal disclaimer that your mileage may very. It’s worked out phenomenally for me though, so hopefully you might get some use out of it too :)

Have a great night y’all! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. This is the foundational cornerstone stuff to our entire legal system here in the U.S., how can any aspiring lawyer not like it?? :crack: []
  2. Disclaimer: it’s actually an ever-so-slightly generalized version of the law — never quote a headnote directly in a brief, and instead quote the court’s own language ;) []
  3. The adage continues: And if neither is on your side, you malign the opposition :beatup: []
  4. When was the last time you heard a 3rd grader say he wanted to become a tax attorney when he grew up? Exactly ;) []

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This isn’t becoming a habit…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 4, 2010 in The 2L Life

…the whole “not updating the blog on a timely basis” thing. I promise. I’ve just noticed that I tend to slack on the blog on the same days I slack on the schoolwork. :beatup:

This past Tuesday, the day after the last post I managed to get online here at law:/dev/null, was spent helping to run what we called the SBA Student Stimulus Sale — a 9am-9pm event where all the NCCU Law paraphernalia sold by the Student Bar Association was discounted by 15% to raise money for student groups. The other SBA officers and I wanted to do some kind of promotional event close to when financial aid refunds went out, so folks would be more willing to part with their cash.

Let’s just say the plan was a success ;)

But that success also meant skipping all of my classes for the day1 to run the SBA’s store, prompting Co-Counsel to complain about my priorities.2 Then the next day Prof ZombieLaw wasn’t feeling well and cancelled class, meaning I got the day off. Then on Thursday most of the NCCU campus endured a day-long power outage so all those classes were cancelled too. And of course I have no classes on Fridays, then today was the first real day of the college football season :spin:

So overall I’ve barely thought about law for almost a week now, and that meant barely doing anything with the blog aside from cleaning out the spam comments :beatup:

It all comes at a price: in between games today I cleaned up the apartment a bit, so tomorrow and the Labor Day holiday can both be devoted to catching up on all the reading I’ve missed. Hopefully the academic work will remind to keep things updated here though ;)

Hope all of you had a great week last week, and have an equally great holiday weekend ahead! :D

  1. Except ConLaw :) []
  2. I put a high priority on honoring my obligations, including running the store I was elected to run during a sale I convinced the ExecBoard to hold on the day I asked them to hold it. Is that bad? :P []

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Well *that* sure didn’t take long…

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

Good evening y’all :)

Sorry for never finishing another entry from this weekend! As a super-quick recap: Friday night’s post-meeting festivities lasted until about 5:30am, I woke up at 7:30am, and was not only coherent but surprisingly non-exhausted — I made it to the UNCASG meeting 30 minutes early and was the first one to arrive, the first time either of those things has happened in the 4 years I’ve been involved with the organization :crack:

My presentation that morning went well, and I used the rest of the afternoon trying to catch up on ConLaw from last week. The post-meeting dinner was good in terms of company1 but the service and food were both abominable.2 The obligatory carousing afterwards made up for it, until folks were a bit too loud for my comfort at 2am and I convinced them it was time to leave my hotel room and venture somewhere else. At which point I promptly fell asleep :beatup:

Then of course Sunday was the drive back, being reminded how tedious it is unpacking from a mini-vacation, and reading for class.

Which — coincidence! — is the subject of tonight’s post.

If you ever want to quite thoroughly jinx yourself when it comes to law school, start a blog (like this one) and write in an entry (like this one) that you’re 2 days ahead on the reading. Tempting fate is definitely a Recipe. For. Disaster.

I just spent pretty much my entire night tonight doing absolutely nothing but grinding away on ConLaw to get caught up. My figuring is if that’s the class with material I’m already kinda comfortable with, and it’s worth 4 credit hours, I need to go full-tilt for a solid grade. And I can successfully say I’m back ahead on the ConLaw readings so that’s a mini-sigh of relief.

However…

Catching up on ConLaw meant not touching Evidence, for which I’m now at least 1 full class behind. I’m also totally lost in ZombieLaw, not so much because the material is difficult (it’s not) but because it’s SO F*CKING BORING.3 :beatup:  Legal Letters is at equilibrium, and I’m ever-so-slightly ahead on DV Law.

Not bad, but it’s thrown me that I’m already behind in 2 classes… when just last week I was safely and substantially ahead of schedule.

Hope your respective academic years are proceeding apace and you’re still on top of your readings ;)  I’ll be using the Labor Day weekend to get fully caught up myself. Have a great night y’all!! :D

  1. About 15 of us from 6 different universities :) []
  2. Avoid King Neptune’s on Lumina Drive in Wilmington. Trust me. Let me know if you want details :sick: []
  3. And we’re doing fractions, divvying up equal shares of a net estate to an arbitary number of offspring and collaterals. Fractions. 3 semesters of Calculus? Done. Linear Algebra? Finished. Statistics? Yep, that too. Took all this high-end math for my Computer Science degree, and I’m going to be done in by fractions that I hated all the way back when I learned them in elementary school… :mad: []

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T.G.I.T.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 26, 2010 in The 2L Life

Way back in March I mentioned one of the benefits of 2L status: my weekend starts on Thursday at 4pm.

Didn’t realize how much more appreciative I’d be of that perk after a rough week :beatup:

On the personal life front, 雅雅 is in Tennessee for optometry school and (understandably) homesick. The problem is she’s been there for 3 weeks now and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. Fully two-thirds of the text messages she sent me over the past couple days have been full of :( faces and references to missing me, missing her family, missing North Carolina, and so on. I try to cheer her up as best I can, but truth be told the whole situation sucks for me too… and constantly being reminded I can’t do anything about it just depresses the f*ck out of me. Not sure how to deal with it going forward but need to come up with something soon…

I figured out a solution fairly quick for Q.T. on the other hand, who over the past week has really gone out of her way to prove she has a maturity level roughly comparable to her height with a moral compass (to the extent it can even be called that) rivaling the most ignoble of politicians. And this is on top of her inconsiderate (footnoted) foolishness back on Monday.  So I blocked her on Facebook. And Twitter. And Gchat. And BBM. And Skype. I’d remove her contact entry from my phone entirely, but I needed it for archiving the text messages in case I ever develop a vengeful streak one day.

To all you disloyal immature jumpoffs out there: deuces

It’s a crushing change for someone who was a friend for 2 years, attended my graduation, even made my shortlist back at Thanksgiving :cry: But with some people sometimes you just need to chuck the deuces.1

Law school hasn’t been my typical 2L lollipops and rainbows either. The guy who recruited me for the VLAAC had some serious personal issues come up so he’s out of the competition, and me with him. Then there was yesterday’s workshop debacle. And with everything else going on I didn’t finish all the law school reading that had to get done for today, meaning I’ll need to shelve my plans to party this weekend so I can get caught up — I did, however, make sure to volunteer early and often in ConLaw when we were still covering the 3 pages I finished out of the 20 we were supposed to read :beatup:

Sorry for the downbeat opening y’all, just needed to vent a bit. I’m done now :)

A huge bright spot of the week: finally getting my $$$ for the semester. So I lifted my spirits earlier today by paying off all my credit cards, restocking the apartment with about $300 in groceries, and buying a new electric razor (I officially now :heart:  the Norelco Arcitec line). Now I’m packing to head down to Wilmington tomorrow to help with training for this year’s UNCASG delegates, which will at least give me an opportunity to be at the oceanfront tomorrow night — one of the very best forms of therapy ever created :spin:

I hope all of you have a great weekend, and I’ll do my best to keep things updated while I’m in Wilmington! :D

  1. I just kinda wish we had resolved everything yesterday, so the dates of us interacting with each other could have been a palindrome (10/25/08 to 08/26/10) #nerdfootnote []

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Things TDot Likes: Flattery

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 24, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Just kidding!

Sort of :beatup:

OK let me at least try to explain with a quick prefatory note before continuing: despite assiduously projecting an ego more-than-once described as “outrageously oversized,” underneath the cocksure exterior I’m essentially the total opposite. And because of that I never really learned how to take a compliment gracefully; most of the time I just get embarrassed, my face turns red, and I quickly change the subject.

Yes, I’m socially awkward. </surprise>

But like a well-trained puppy, I still like knowing when I’ve done something good / positive / cool / etc. I’m not talking about the gratuitous puffery over trivial stuff that passes for complimenting folks nowadays — “You color-coordinated your attire today! Here’s a cookie!” — but the comments made when folks genuinely appreciate something for whatever reason.

For example, back during 1L Orientation two weeks ago I was selling NCCU Law paraphernalia for the SBA and met a 1L student in the evening program who was browsing the merchandise. We talked for a bit about what SBA did, what 1L year was going to be like, and so on… and then she asks “Do you happen to know who it is who does the blog? He did computer science or something like that before law school? I love reading it, it’s so funny!”

Absolutely nothing could have erased the smile I had on my face for days after that remark :spin:

That’s the type of stuff I’m talking about. So now that that’s clear, </prefatory note>. Moving on…

We’re in ConLaw today, which as of Week 1.5 is still my favorite class. We’ve finished the core basics on judicial review, including a quick discussion on Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. 264 (1821) and a corresponding mention that only a government/state actor can violate someone’s constitutionally-enumerated rights.

So Prof ConLaw pitches an open question to the class: if one person can’t violate another person’s constitutional rights, how is the federal government able to regulate such huge swaths of private conduct?

For folks who follow politics — or who just happen to enjoy ConLaw :beatup:  — answers that jump out might include Congressional authority under the “necessary and proper” clause. Or maybe Congress’s taxing and spending powers. Or the 800-lb gorilla in the Constitution, the power to regulate interstate commerce.

But instead we had like 5-6 folks in a row who offered up answers that… well… weren’t correct, let’s put it that way. So I raise my hand and bring up the Commerce clause, then go back to surfing the web. I check out my Facebook wall and see this from a classmate:

Totally made my day :D And definitely a better specialty than being Mr. Tech Support ;)

Have a great night y’all! :)

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