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Warrior Cops Gone Wild

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 6, 2014 in Unsolicited Commentary

One of the things I’ve been dabbling with during my most-recent extended absence from law:/dev/null has been the near-daily stream of news stories about police going totally bonkers while carrying out their once-upon-a-time mission to “serve and protect.”

It started out with a one-off rant on Facebook two Septembers ago, about Jonathan Farrell getting gunned down by Charlotte Police while going to them for help after a car accident.

Then, before the day was even out, there was a different news story about the NYPD shooting innocent bystanders while trying to take down a mentally ill man. I added as a joke (because a number of my FB friends are flaming liberals) that we needed cop control more than gun control.

That was it. Two news stories that happened to be on the same day, followed by some banter about whether or not I should be allowed to own my Smith & Wesson M&P9 with three fully loaded 17-round clips.

But then there was a toddler in Georgia.

And a professor in Arizona.

And a photographer in Texas.

Before I really noticed it I’d posted 72 of these stories, adopting a “Warrior Cops Gone Wild!” motif similar to the late-night ads for the college girl videos. Somehow on top of those 72 posts I’d still amassed a queue of 69 unposted entries, and kept getting new material all. the. time.

(See, e.g., the non-indictment of Mike Brown’s killer in Missouri, the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s killer in New York, or the LAPD gunning down a man last night amid dozens of tourists just two days after their own police chief admitted they like to use excessive force.)

It’s some disturbing sh*t that just gets more disturbing as time goes on.

And I’m not really sure what to do about it. I’m certainly not the first person to document that police brutality exists. I don’t have any special influence with any decision-makers who could change anything. I’m also not really the protest type.1

But I am an attorney, and a constitutionalist, and a small government conservative who isn’t that big a fan of the police state we’re becoming — and damn sure not a fan of a police state freed of the shackles of due process.2

I feel like I need to do something.

I’m open to suggestions. Because something has to change.

  1. I think I’ve attended maybe three protests in my life just to see what the fuss was about, and engineered one to cause trouble for a certain Student Body President. []
  2. I’m sorry, selling untaxed cigarettes is not a crime that should ever be punishable by the death penalty. No matter what I may think about it. []

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You can’t make this stuff up…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 22, 2011 in Randomness

I used to think my 1L professors had disturbed minds to come up with the tortuously crazy hypos that routinely populated our exams.

Then I read the paper and wonder if maybe these were just actual news stories… :crack:

From this news story over in Taylorsville, Utah:

Man shoots at mouse, hits roommate; another roommate arrested for rape
By Pat Reavy
December 21st, 2011 @ 12:48pm

TAYLORSVILLE — A 34-year-old man has been arrested for investigation of multiple counts of sex abuse against a 13-year-old girl.

The four-month relationship was discovered after a bizarre incident at the man’s house in which one of his housemates was shot by a third housemate who was reportedly trying to shoot a mouse in his kitchen with a 9mm handgun, according to investigators.

Paul Daniel Kunzler was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of two counts of rape of a child, three counts of sodomy of a child and three counts of sexual abuse of a child.

The string of events began to unfold about 2 a.m. Tuesday when police were called to a house, 2584 W. Brucemont Dr. (5450 South), on a report of an accidental shooting. Officers arrived to discover that a man who was in the bathroom had accidentally been shot in the chest by his 27-year-old housemate who was shooting at a mouse in the kitchen with a handgun, said Taylorsville Police Sgt. Tracy Wyant.

The bullet went through a wall and struck the 28-year- old man while he was in the bathroom.

“After the gun was fired, both the roommate and Paul heard a scream,” Wyant said.

The victim was taken to a local hospital in serious condition. He was later upgraded to stable condition. Alcohol was involved in the incident, Wyant said.

During an ensuing search of the house, officers found a 13-year-old girl hiding in a basement closet, Wyant said. The girl told police she had sneaked out of her house without her father’s knowledge to see Kunzler, according to a jail report.

After further questioning, investigators learned Kunzler and the 13-year-old had been having a relationship for four months. The two had met through a common friend, Wyant said.

It was not known Wednesday whether any of Kunzler’s three housemates were aware of the relationship.

Doesn’t this story sounds almost like a CrimLaw hypo?

“Larry, Curly and Moe share an apartment. The apartment has a mouse. Larry decides to try out a new mousetrap to kill the mouse: his .22 Ruger. He shoots at the mouse and in the process hits Curly, who screams in pain. Curly is taken to the hospital while police investigate. The police go into the basement and discover Moe fondling a 13-year-old girl. Discuss all relevant issues.”

Maybe my professors weren’t crazy after all… :crack:

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Tradeoffs

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 19, 2011 in The 2L Life

Good evening folks! :D

I’m already falling behind (again) on keeping law:/dev/null up-to-date, but seriously hope to get back in the swing of things once the semester is finished.

Turns out it’ll be stretching a little bit longer than planned for me. My first final is Business Associations on Friday April 29th @ 2:00pm, with Criminal Procedure following @ 2:00pm the very next day. (Un?)fortunately one of my Legal Eagle colleagues has protested and gotten the CrimPro exam pushed back a few days for us 2Ls — apparently NCCU Law‘s exam conflict policy, intended to apply only to exams with start times within 24 hours of each other, is written in a sufficiently broad manner that it could be read to include exams where any portion of the whole start-to-finish exam window overlaps with another in the same 24 hour time period.

The upside is that I’ll get an extra 4 days to try and actually learn this material… but the catch is that I’m burned out and want this semester to be over with already :beatup:

That’s all I’ve got for tonight’s super-brief entry — have my last CrimLaw tutorial tomorrow, followed by my first meeting with the faculty as SBA President-elect, followed by an SBA transition meeting, followed by frantically writing my last paper of 2L year so I can finally be done with my Scientific Evidence class :)

Hope all of you have a great night!

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Revisiting 1L Spring Grades

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 14, 2011 in NotFail

Good evening y’all :)

As law:/dev/null exhibited the occasional sign of life over the past couple weeks, I had a trio of people ask me the same question: aside from my obvious elation at the ending GPA, how did my individual classes turn out during 2L Fall?

I’ve been meaning to post an entry explaining exactly that… but then realized I never gave y’all a final update on 1L Spring, or any update at all on 1L Summer :beatup:

So to properly bolster my reputation of being totally open about my law school grades, I’ve copy/pasted my previous Spring grades entry and revised it with the exam info :D The textual updates are [bracketed], bolded, and preceded by “Update:” for readability.

I’ll post a separate entry on summer school grades some time this week, and then 2L Fall grades after that — I thought about rolling all that info into this one entry, but considering I haven’t managed to string 3 consecutive entries together for awhile now I wanted to make sure I’ve got easily-editable stuff in the queue ;)

Without further ado…

********************
1L SPRING REVISITED
********************

[Everything below is a copy/paste from this entry except for the updates and the final exam grades. You’ve been forewarned, so any resulting confusion is your own fault! :P ]

====================
CIVIL PROCEDURE II
====================

MDG switched things up from the usual final, giving us a set of multiples but then providing documents from a mock court case to review for the essay. Our objective was to review the documents and craft a letter to the client discussing the numerous FRCP-related concerns that existed.

It was during that portion of the exam that I stopped watching the clock and had time called before I got anywhere near finishing it :beatup:

CivPro II Final Exam Grades

The multiples were a challenge, with MDG describing them as “nuanced” and mentioning that even a fellow CivPro instructor missed a couple. The highest correct was 15 out of 20 multiples (75%) with the class average at 12 (60%) — high enough to pass the Bar, which is definitely a good thing given the difficulty.

The chart to the right shows how the final exam grades broke down. There was a +19-point curve.

My final grade for the course turned out slightly higher than anticipated, so my guess is I did well on the multiples. But I’m kicking myself for choosing a UNC Board of Governors meeting over an extra credit assignment we were given shortly after midterms though — the extra 5 points would have bumped the final grade to a B, bumping my 1L GPA above a 2.7 (eligible for some NCCU Law merit scholarships).

Lesson learned :headdesk:

[Update: I found out from MDG that I tied for top score on the multiple choice, which let me know I completely bombed the essay — so I didn’t bother picking it up :beatup: ]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C+
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: Worse performance than last semester, but given how gratuitously I choked on the essay I’m satisfied with how it turned out. And now I know to do all available extra credit in the future :beatup:

====================
CONTRACTS II
====================

Not a whole lot to say here: Contracts clearly isn’t my thing.

The downside is that I now have to explain to future employers how I barely passed a core class two semesters in a row.

The upside? I never have to take Contracts again until the bar exam ;)

[Update: This was the first (and thus far only) exam where I’ve underperformed on the multiples compared to the essay. According to Prof Ks, I got 33 of 50 possible essay points and was comfortably above the class median. But I somehow had the 3rd lowest score on the multiple choice :crack:  Still glad the class is over…]

Midterm exam grade: C-
Final exam grade: C
Expected final grade for class: C-
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: I passed :surprised:

====================
CRIMINAL LAW
====================

If my perpetual flailing in Ks killed any briefly-nurtured dreams I had of going the intellectual property route, CrimLaw coupled with 1L Trial Team have convinced me to follow my heart and go the criminal prosecution route professionally. It’s something I had wanted to do for years, but never seriously considered since public employees don’t make much salary-wise.

But based on my grades it seems like the only thing I’ll be qualified to do :beatup:

The really crazy part? This was my best grade all year, and it was in the one class where I didn’t study for the final exam because I had a UNCASG meeting that weekend :crack:

Professor CrimLaw sent me an email making sure I knew that (i) I earned the grade I got but (ii) I shouldn’t make any professional decisions based on one course. He’s got a valid point but I don’t feel like I’m doing that here — I really, truly, and deeply hate Contracts too so technically it’s based on three courses :spin:

[Update: I missed a trio of the multiple choice, and had a few points taken off on the essay. For an ever-so-brief period of time I thought about arguing with Prof CrimLaw over some of the missed points — including a section where he wrote that I misread the fact pattern, even though myself and every other classmate I spoke to “misread” the same thing — but I was sufficiently happy/stunned to have at least 1 A-range grade that I didn’t bother contesting it.]

Midterm exam grade: A-
Final exam grade: A-
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A-

Synopsis: I’m 90% sure Professor CrimLaw isn’t a TDot fan, but I still enjoyed the course. And I’m glad I finally have something other than B’s and C’s populating my transcript ;)

====================
LEGAL RESEARCH & PERSUASION
====================

Along with not watching the clock in the CivPro final, this was my other instance of taking a strong starting grade and pissing it away through truly stunning incompetence.

Note to the pre-Ls: read directions!

Then when you’re done: re-read directions!

Then after that: re-re-read directions!

Trust me :beatup:

[Update: The professor said my final memo was excellent and would have earned me an A- had it not been days late. Le sigh. #kanyeshrug]

Cumulative grade after midterm: A-
Final memo grade: C-
Expected final grade for class: C
Actual final grade for class: C

Synopsis: It could have been worse I guess. At least the research skills we learned actually turned out to be useful. ::headdesk::

====================
PROPERTY II
====================

This was the only final exam where I didn’t have a gut feeling one way or the other on how it turned out. I’m not sure if it was from the stress of the looming Contracts final two days later or what.

My performance was worse than the midterm, but high enough that I ended up with the exact same grade I got in the Fall.

And I don’t remember any of it already :beatup:

[Update: The final for Property II was “meh” all around. Lost a few points on the multiples. Lost a few points on the fill-in-the-blanks covering future interests. Lost a few points on the essay. If anyone has any particularly compelling insights to glean from that performance, let me know :) ]

Midterm exam grade: A- (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: B
Expected final grade for class: B+
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: At least I’m consistent :beatup:

====================
TORTS II
====================

Professor Torts is currently in Costa Rica with our Study Abroad folks, so I won’t know how the final exam turned out for a long while.

But I know enough to know I blew it :(

Back on the midterms I ended up with the #1 score out of the class on the multiples-only exam, so to end up with a final grade below even last semester’s I must have quite thoroughly FUBAR’d the final. And I feel fairly certain I did well on the essay, meaning I can only assume I botched the multiples.

Meh. Was never a fan of this class either…

[Update: Didn’t do as well on the essay as I thought, completing missing 1 of the issues and losing a point or two on a pair of others. Also didn’t do as bad as I thought on the multiples… but someone nailed everything so there was no boost at all in the typical curving of grades :surprised: ]

Midterm exam grade: A (and in Top 3)
Final exam grade: C+
Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: B-

Synopsis: This was the only bona fide disappointment for the semester, but at least it’s over. I will most definitely not be taking Advanced Torts ;)

====================
FINAL SCORE: SPRING 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Semester GPA: 2.756
Actual End-of-Semester GPA: 2.733

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.678 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

So that’s the final word on 1L Spring.  Info on 1L Summer coming soon (really! ;) )

Have a great night! :D

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

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“I think I got him Chief.”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 18, 2010 in Randomness

Qualified for my concealed carry permit today :spin:

One of the things I enjoyed growing up in a military-heavy city and living in the South is that firearms have been a normal part of life. They’re not regarded as these mythical creatures with minds of their own to be avoided at all costs. They’re machines that serve a purpose — and should be respected accordingly — but just like automobiles and other tools they’re totally harmless without a human user behind them.

During the summer, the kids in my neighborhood would even gather up all the water guns we could find,1  split off into teams, and roam the neighborhood playing a game that was a cross of hide-and-seek and capture-the-flag. My first “real” water gun was even molded to look/function like a single-action Beretta (though painted bright orange so law enforcement wouldn’t confuse it for a real gun ;) ).

I don't think he's getting up :smoke:

But since moving to North Carolina I’ve eschewed firearms, since state law requires educational institutions to be Easy Target Zones and up until last year I lived on campus.2

Until, in a bit of serendipity, I discovered one of the 1Ls at NCCU Law is a former Chief of Police and firearms instructor. He mentioned he was running a concealed carry handgun training course out in Maiden so I signed up.

Though I didn’t realize at the time I’d have to leave around 4:30am to be there when it started :beatup:

After several hours of reliving through CrimLaw to get re-educated about when the use of deadly force in self-defense is justified under NC law, we headed out to the open-air shooting range. The actual qualification routine requires shooting 40 rounds from 7/5/3 yards in a certain timeframe, with at least 28 rounds hitting the target.

I was a little nervous since it was my first time firing a real handgun (in my case a .22 Ruger Mk I) instead of the fake Beretta from my youth… but it turned out pretty well.  Sufficiently so that I asked to try from 25 yards against one of their metal knockdown targets about half the width of the paper — and hit it 8-for-8 :surprised:

Where was this precision when I tried winning stuff at the State Fair? :mad:

Anyhow, now I’m back in Durham and get to go fill out a bunch of paperwork with the Durham County Sheriff’s Department before waiting a few months for my permit to come through. It was a fun day :D

I hope all of you have a great night — and check back tomorrow for a surprise :angel:

  1. This was before the abominations known as Super Soakers. You actually had to be a good shot in those days, not just have a parent willing to shell out $$$ to buy you a mobile aquarium you could strap on your back :roll: []
  2. Except for the years I was a dropout, when I couldn’t afford buying a gun anyway :beatup: []

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Assorted Miscellany

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 14, 2010 in Weekend Roundup

Good evening folks! :)

I’m trying to make my way through the 2nd book for my internship (Six Thinking Hats) so I don’t have time to write much, but I did have a few bullet points to toss your way:1

  • Had to go pick up registration materials for the MPRE today. For some reason, knowing I’ve got this exam looming in the near-term future kinda makes the whole “omg I’m gonna be an attorney. Who let that happen?!” thing ever-so-slightly more tangible… and prompting me to freak out accordingly :beatup:
  • Speaking of exams, I discovered that I’m a compulsive snacker when I study for finals. I’ve somehow managed to pack on +15lbs in between Thanksgiving and now despite -0- change in my activity level :crack:
  • Lots of stuff going on in the blawgosphere here recently. A quartet of tidbits for you to check out:
    • The weekly Law School Roundup — a years-old gathering of posts from law students around the interwebz that used to alternate between Evan Schaeffer’s Beyond the Underground and ImNobody’s Thanks, But No Thanks — has found a new home over at KatieLuper.com. Katie’s a graduate of SMU Law out in Dallas and getting ready to knock out the TX bar exam herself, which is presumably so monotonous that she reads blawgs for the occasional sanity check ;) If you’re new to the blawgosphere, the Law School Roundup and ClearAdmit’s Fridays from the Frontline are both an excellent source for discovering new law students!
    • One of those newcomers is Jose, a 1L at Ave Maria Law who has been actively engaging us blawgers on Twitter for awhile now. His new blog is online over at Law of Jose — definitely swing by when you get a spare minute or two :)
    • Madame Prosecutor also posted her first update in months, giving folks a breakdown on how her semester turned out. We’ll see if she ends up disappearing again :P
    • And another brand new blawg, but from a lawyer this time, is Peter Romary’s foray into the blawgosphere over at The True Verdict. Peter’s done a lot of work on behalf of students here in North Carolina and I consider him a friend, but (just in case that’s not enough reason to go read his blawg) he’s good at strongly wording his strongly-held opinions. Plus he’s from the UK, that’s gotta be worth something right? :beatup:
  • Peter’s most recent entry is on Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who’s been all over the news for awhile now. The issue of Assange being a sexual predator notwithstanding…2 am I the only one disappointed with WikiLeaks in general? The libertarian in me loves the concept, because I’m fairly certain all governments are doing things they have no business doing — and if someone happens to leak that fact, it’s more-than-slightly dishonorable on the part of the government to complain when its own hands aren’t clean. But for the all the value of the concept, and the “cool factor” of the various technologies used in its implementation, the near-exclusive/obsessive focus on the United States really robs the website of its moral virtue (at least in my feeble mind). Despite histrionics to the contrary, the U.S. is still a mostly-open society with a mostly-open government. If our government’s documents get leaked, sure feel free to post them. But where are the documents on Iran, which has a tendency to execute dissenters? Or China, which prefers jailing them instead? Or any of dozens of other countries that people flee by the thousands every year… to come to the United States? :roll:  The whole enterprise is a disappointment, and it saddens me as a tech guy to see hacktivisits across the globe rally to Assange’s defense. </rant>
  • Now that I’ve gotten that particular rant out of my system, I’ve made some more blog tweaks here at law:/dev/null too:
    • On the anti-spam front I’ve started closing old entries to comments if they kept getting spammed. This isn’t a site-wide policy yet (and hopefully it won’t become one) but I figure the odds of an uncommented entry from [#] months ago suddenly getting legitimate interest is pretty slim ;)  In any event, if for some reason you happen to venture to an old entry that you want to comment on but don’t see the comment box, shoot me an email and I’ll re-open the entry to comments. Trackbacks and pingbacks should still work, so you’re also free to blast me from your own blawg too :*
    • You should also see the <title> of each page now reversed, listing the post title and then the blog title. They used to be the other way around, but it got really @#$%ing annoying having to constantly expand the textbox in Google Analytics to see which posts were getting traffic since all I kept seeing was “law:/dev/null – Blog Archive – …”. So I flipped them :beatup:
  • I just found out yesterday that I’m using a different book in CrimPro next semester than what I used in CrimLaw… which means, since I’m taking one class and tutoring the other, I’ll have to bring both to school every day :mad:
  • And I’m still waiting on grades :mad: :mad: :mad:
  • But other than that life is going pretty well :)  I’ve got a lot of friends with birthdays coming up, 雅雅 is coming to visit, I’m heading out west this weekend for firearms training, and the internship is pretty cool. I’m definitely blessed — and actually looking forward to the upcoming semester! :spin:

That’s it for tonight y’all! Hope all of you have a great rest-of-the-week! :D

  1. And yes, I realize it’s not the weekend and putting this entry in the Weekend Roundup category is technically inappropriate. But since I usually post things late — and I can pretty much rename the categories willy-nilly whenever I want anyhow — I’m just gonna put it here and let y’all pretend it was posted 2 days ago ;) []
  2. Reminds of a L&O:SVU episode… []

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Straddling the fence

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

Hey everybody! :D

Way back during my (first-of-two) sophomore year at N.C. State, I had a classmate who was a transplant from England.1

He took great joy in coming up with as many bad puns, double entendres, and various other efforts at groan-inducing wordplay as he could, as a way of highlighting the differences between the way we talk here in the States and what he considered “proper” (read: British) English :roll:

Then one day I was carping about not knowing what to do with my slowly-imploding academic life, and without missing a beat he shot back:

“You can’t ride two asses with just one, T. Greg.”

His other weak attempts at witticism notwithstanding, that particular comment has stuck with me in the decade since he uttered it :beatup:

You’ve probably heard other formulations of it — “there’s no decision worse than indecision”, “if you can’t do everything at least do something”, “moving backwards is still moving”, etc etc etc — but the underlying point is still the same. We live in an increasingly risk-averse society (highlighted by our ever-expanding government “safety net”), people avoid making tough choices, and in the process our problems perpetuate themselves… and usually get worse over time.

Food for thought (I promise that's the last pun in this entry! :beatup: )

I got reminded of his remark this past week reading Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese?, a book I was given at my new internship doing legal work with the tech folks I mentioned last month. The book’s a quick read at a svelte 74 pages and the story is a bit (pardon the pun) cheesy.  But it packs a lot in those few short pages. Definitely read it if you get a chance.

Anyhow, the point of that belabored windup to this blog entry is that the book got me thinking about my classmate’s comment, which in turn got me thinking about my own future career plans…

…which in turn led me to discover I have no effing clue wtf I’m going to do with my life after getting this J.D. in 2012 :crack:

This time last year I just knew I was going into the USMC JAG Corps.  Then I ended up on crutches and went on to fail my Physical Fitness Test.  My heart still wants to do it, but I don’t think I’m willing to give up enough time in my other activities (SBA, trial team, potentially making Dean’s List) to really focus on getting in shape.

Even so, I figured it wasn’t a big deal because I just knew I was developing an affinity for CrimLaw and could make a decent living as an Assistant District Attorney.

And of course if that didn’t pan out I just knew there was academia and my “one of these days” goal of teaching2 something like Constitutional Law and/or Criminal Law and/or Evidence at some indeterminate point in the future, a prospect that got reinforced when I locked up a CrimLaw tutoring gig for next semester.

But then out of the blue this internship with I-Cubed opened up, giving me a chance to delve into technology-related law too. The people I’ve met and the company in general both seem pretty doggone cool so far… even though I feel like I’m already behind schedule on my deliverables despite steadily grinding since I started last Thursday3 :surprised:

Completely different areas of law, completely different sets of pros and cons, completely different pay scales — and that’s not even including any other options I haven’t been exposed to yet since I’ve still got 1.5 years of law school left to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s a good predicament to have. I’m just flummoxed trying to figure out what I want to do, so I can (as Johnson puts it in the book) head out into the proverbial maze in search of my own cheese.

Anyhow, I think that’s quite enough angst for one entry :)  If anyone’s got any compelling insights feel free to share them — and if not, I hope all of you have an amazing week! :D

  1. The same guy who always called me a “queer bird” whenever we talked politics. []
  2. Scroll down to Item #23 on that link []
  3. Though I’m sure a chunk of that is from time spent in the law library trying to not f*ck up on real-world work involving my worst 1L subject :beatup: []

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The final lap (of Fall 2010 at least)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 29, 2010 in The 2L Life

The Fall 2010 semester at NCCU Law is now officially over! :D

9 days and 3 final exams — in ConLaw, ZombieLaw, and Evidence — are all that stand between yours truly and a solid month of not having to read casebooks every day…

…at least until the Spring semester starts :beatup:

On an unrelated side note, I also found out that I will officially be tutoring the §103 1Ls in CrimLaw next semester B-)  And on top of it should have a 2nd telephone interview with these folks on Wednesday.

If it goes well, I will firmly be in the “embarrassment of riches” category as far as jobs go — they won’t be paying much, but anything is greater than $0 ;)

End of the semester. One job in hand. Another (hopefully) en route. All in all not a bad day.

Off to go straighten up the living room in anticipation of studying for finals. *GOOD LUCK* to all of you with exams! :)

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Dear NC DMV: #dobetter

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 18, 2010 in Fail

Having all-but-decided to go down the criminal prosecution path after I graduate from NCCU Law, you can imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I’ve apparently been a criminal myself for the past 4-5 months :eek:

First, three items of background:

(1) Back in undergrad at N.C. State I had a PO Box that I used for all of my mail, so nothing got lost while I changed residence halls over the last four years. Then in August when I moved to Durham I got a new license with my new address, and submitted a forwarding order to the postal service to forward my mail. The USPS has done so without incident since I moved.

(2) I have no criminal record at all, and my driving record is almost spotless. My last motor vehicle infraction was five years ago, when (during a 3am McDonald’s run while studying for a Calculus III exam) I ran a stop sign at a 3-way intersection that had been installed only moments before.1

(3) Back in February I had a 4-day lapse in my auto insurance coverage. The catalyst was innocuous enough — amid mailing off about a dozen things, I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope to the Farm Bureau :beatup:  The letter got returned to me, I realized what happened, then called the insurance office and had them do a payment via phone. With the premium paid my insurance was back in effect, but still had a lapse spanning that weekend through the morning following my phone call.

Like most states North Carolina requires drivers to maintain liability insurance in order to operate a motor vehicle. If insurance coverage lapses at any time, the insurance company is obligated to notify the Division of Motor Vehicles. I’ve since learned that the DMV then (purportedly) notifies the driver that a lapse was reported and the driver is required to pay a fine or have their registration revoked.

That notification is where things start to tick me off… because I got none :mad:

I had no clue there was even an issue with my vehicle registration until I went online to renew my tags before my mini-vacation to Virginia Beach. After clicking the submit button to renew, I got an error notice that renewal wasn’t possible. But the error had no mention of revoked plates: instead it said I couldn’t renew until my car was re-inspected, part of a law change last year where car inspections now take place the same month as registration renewals.

So I went and got the car inspected the day before I left, enjoyed myself on the break, and came back on Monday. I waited the week to make sure the mechanic had plenty of time to update whatever database the state uses to monitor inspections. Then the following Sunday — a week ago today — I went online to again try and renew my registration.

This time I got a second error notifying me that renewal was not possible, but this time the error noted it was not possible because my plates had been revoked… the very first indication I got that I’d basically been illegally driving around for 4 months on a revoked registration :crack:

It particularly frosted my Wheaties because I had just done a boatload of legal research on driving privileges for one of my final exam questions in my Race and the Law class a couple weeks ago. Although driving is a privilege and not a fundamental right, once something like a vehicle registration is conferred it creates a property interest that can’t be taken away without due process.  The due process standard is fairly low nationwide but always includes some level of notice prior to the revocation. And here I was being “notified” by an error generated by an automated registration renewal system, with no opportunity to contest the revocation before it happened. :roll:

The particular section of the law I had allegedly violated, N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-311, reads as follows:

(a) Action. – When the Division receives evidence, by a notice of termination of a motor vehicle liability policy or otherwise, that the owner of a motor vehicle registered or required to be registered in this State does not have financial responsibility for the operation of the vehicle, the Division shall send the owner a letter. The letter shall notify the owner of the evidence and inform the owner that the owner shall respond to the letter within 10 days of the date on the letter and explain how the owner has met the duty to have continuous financial responsibility for the vehicle. Based on the owner’s response, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed:
     (1) Division correction. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes that the owner has not had a lapse in financial responsibility, the Division shall correct its records.
     (2) Penalty only. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes all of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility, but the owner now has financial responsibility.
          b. The vehicle was not involved in an accident during the lapse in financial responsibility.
          c. The owner did not operate the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle.
     (3) Penalty and revocation. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes any of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section and revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility and still does not have financial responsibility.
          b. The owner now has financial responsibility even though the owner had a lapse, but the vehicle was involved in an accident during the lapse, the owner operated the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle, or both.
     (4) Revocation pending response. – If the owner does not respond within the required time, the Division shall revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section. When the owner responds, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed in subdivisions (1) through (3) of this subsection as if the response had been timely.
(b) Penalty Amount.  [… table outlining penalty amounts …]
(c) Revocation Period. – The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes that a vehicle owner does not have financial responsibility is indefinite and ends when the owner obtains financial responsibility or transfers the vehicle to an owner who has financial responsibility. The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes the occurrence of an accident during a lapse in financial responsibility or the knowing operation of a vehicle without financial responsibility is 30 days. The revocation period for a revocation based on failure of a vehicle owner to respond is indefinite and ends when the owner responds.

Various emphases added by me.

With the statutory language in front of me, I called the DMV on Monday as soon as the office opened. The lady I spoke to told me the DMV had sent me notice. Five notices, in fact: she claimed the DMV mailed four separate letters, and a postcard to boot.

When I told her I hadn’t received any of them, she asked for my address which I provided. She then told me the DMV had been sending notices to my old PO Box in Raleigh, and that the confusion was my fault for not updating my mailing address.

The situation and her attitude made me want to reach through the phone and strangle someone. I figured my mailing address would have been updated when I got my new license back in August. But, even assuming the DMV didn’t use my new residence as my new mailing address and it was my fault for not updating them accordingly, that means the USPS would have had to not forward five separate mailings spanning over a month… even though they’ve successfully forwarded all of my other correspondence without a problem.

Even if I thought the USPS was the single most incompetent government enterprise to exist (I don’t), the idea that they selectively didn’t forward material from one particular correspondent on five separate occasions is just preposterous in its implausibility. The far more likely scenario, to my enfeebled mind at least, is that the NC DMV never actually sent the notices or has “Do Not Forward” printed across the front of the envelopes.

Anyhow, trying to contain my total disbelief and figure out how to get my registration renewed, I’m told by the bureaucrat that I’d have to contact my insurance company, have them send a Form FS-1 to the DMV notifying them I had active insurance (bear in mind I’ve been regularly paying my premiums since the 4-day lapse 5 months ago), then call back 2-3 days later to request a hearing on the revocation. I mention the statutory language to her, and she repeats that I need to have the Form FS-1 sent in and call back to demand an administrative hearing.

I contact my insurance agent and the Form FS-1 is faxed to the DMV less than an hour later. I call the DMV back the next morning en route to my Medicaid mediation, talk to a different bureaucrat who verifies the FS-1 has been received, and again mention the plain language of the N.C. General Statutes that my revocation should end and I be allowed to pay my civil penalty and move on with my life. The second bureaucrat asks if I’d like to demand a hearing (I do) and then tells me I’ll receive a notice in 2-3 weeks scheduling a hearing date 2-3 weeks after that. She then tells me that if I need to operate the motor vehicle I should go buy a temporary 30-day tag.

"Dear TDot: You were right. Oops. Sincerely, NCDMV"

Terrified something could happen and I get pulled over in an unlicensed vehicle, I go to the DMV in between the two Medicaid hearings and drop $63 on a 30-day tag as instructed. I then spend the rest of the week waiting for a letter telling me when my hearing will take place.

I got the letter on Saturday, which I took the liberty of scanning in for y’all to read if you’re interested.

Essentially the DMV agrees that the statutory language I pointed out to them was right, and in fact I don’t need a hearing at all. I just have to pay the civil penalty and move on with my life… the exact same thing I was trying to do on the phone with the apparently-less-than-competent DMV personnel. :mad:

Now I have no objection at all to being required to pay a civil penalty for the insurance lapse. We live in a society where people get penalized for their carelessness to teach them a lesson; I was careless in not putting a stamp on the envelope, I’m fine being penalized for it, and it won’t happen again.

But I’ve got serious reservations with:

  • Not getting an indication about the plate revocation the first time I attempted to renew my plates online, instead only being notified that I needed to get my car inspected. Solely because of the DMV’s negligently-coded website I drove in a vehicle with revoked plates across two separate states spanning five separate days; had I known the plates were revoked, 雅雅 and I could have just taken her car. It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t get pulled over or in a car accident that would have had far broader repercussions.
  • My registration being revoked in the first place without any kind of notice at all whatsoever from the DMV. The notion that the USPS selectively failed to forward 4 separate letters and a postcard spanning several weeks — when they’ve forwarded all of my other bills and other correspondence without an issue — is simply too implausible to be believed.
  • The DMV arguing the lack of notice is my own fault for not updating them with my new mailing address… when they got my new mailing address on my new license I obtained in August. If a driver with a mostly-unblemished record hasn’t responded to numerous notices purportedly sent to a (older) mailing address, doesn’t it make sense to send at least one of the notices to the person’s (newer) address on their license?
  • Being told by two separate bureaucrats that I’d need to demand a hearing to review the revocation, despite the plain language of the statute I provided to them indicating no such hearing was needed.
  • Being given a series of hoops to jump through before I could even demand the hearing I didn’t need.
  • Having to spend $60+ on a 30-day temporary tag that I only had to buy because the NC DMV apparently doesn’t know the laws it operates under. Had I gotten a notification in the mail before the revocation, or a notice on the website when I attempted to renew my registration on July 1, or an acknowledgement that the revocation was temporary when I talked to a live bureaucrat on July 12, or even gotten the letter they sent on or before July 15, I would have had enough time to renew my registration without the wasted money and time spent buying the temporary tag.

Unfortunately the N.C. General Assembly has already adjourned for the year, because otherwise I’d be in downtown Raleigh raising hell that this level of pervasive, multi-faceted incompetence is allowed to take place in a government agency. This isn’t like a private marketplace where I can switch vendors if the one I’m using turns out to be incompetent — I have no choice but to register my vehicle with the NC DMV if I want to live and drive in North Carolina. So I expect better of a monopolistic enterprise funded by my tax dollars.

With service like this, it’s no wonder so many North Carolinians end up in court

Do better, N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Do better.

  1. The infraction was sufficiently comedic that the judge laughed when I appeared in court for the offense a few weeks later :beatup: []

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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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