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In support of the strict C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spreading the (Law School) Gospel

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 17, 2010 in The 1L Life

NCCU Law has a “Law Student for a Day” program going on this week, where 1Ls who volunteer get paired up with an undergrad student thinking about law school, and let them be a “shadow” in classes and other activities throughout the day.

As you can imagine, I’m a big fan of better promotion for the law school so I volunteered for the program :)

My shadow (we’ll call him Shadow for this entry) was a junior pursuing a dual major in poli sci and business, solid GPA, aspiring corporate attorney, and taking the LSAT this June.  Compare that to my degree in Computer Science, a GPA that looked like it was shot repeatedly and left to die, with no interest in corporate law and who took the LSAT in February :beatup:

But what I lack in academic credentials I more than make up for in zeal ;)

After an impromptu tour of the law school, Shadow joined us for Property where we’re discussing leaseholds, privities of contract and estate, etc. The material was/is a bit boring but the class provided him an opportunity to see the Socratic method in action — definitely A Good Thing™ for an ambitious pre-L :D

CrimLaw was far more engaging and easier for a non-law student to grasp since we’re going over the elements of homicide.

Trying to put myself in Shadow’s shoes reminded me of how utterly clueless I was when law school started seven months ago. Makes me almost wish I had done something like this when I was in undergrad. Almost.

Wrapping up CivPro reading then heading to bed — get back my first quiz from Legal Research tomorrow morning so need to make sure I don’t oversleep and miss class :beatup:  Night folks!

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Drifting towards CrimLaw

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 10, 2010 in The 1L Life

It was only a couple weeks into law school when I first wrote that CivPro had become my favorite class, an opinion that endured throughout the semester.

CrimLaw has quickly displaced Torts at #2 on my list… and as the semester continues I’m pretty sure this is where I want to spend my career :)

I fumbled at the start of class today when Professor CrimLaw asked me to detail the 4 types of homicide under the common law — totally forgot about involuntary manslaughter :beatup: — but later in the class we got into Justice Blackmun’s dissent in Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994).

Prof. CrimLaw asked what I took out of the dissent, which I characterized as Blackmun “whining” about the death penalty. That opened the door for a class-wide discussion on capital punishment… where I ended up being the only one to openly support executing murderers :crack:

My once-hostile philosophy on the death penalty notwithstanding,1 the debate itself was engaging. Even in CivPro I’m rarely more than half-certain on my opinions in class discussion; that percentage is far lower in something like Ks. But CrimLaw seems intuitive and comes naturally (at least thus far).

I was already planning on going the public service route in the Marine Corps, and had developed a growing interest in being a litigator from the Kilpatrick-Stockton competition last month. The downside of course is that it doesn’t pay much, but it’s one of the most direct ways for me to help improve my community. I’d argue that’s well worth the pay differential :)

My opinion might change after taking Evidence, but for now I think this is what I’ll be doing for a living :D I’ll keep you posted over the next couple years ;)

  1. Personally, I found Scalia’s concurrence in Callins persuasive on the legal justification for the death penalty, and the 4 men who raped an 11-year-old girl and killed her by stuffing her panties down her throat persuasive on the moral justification. See the fact background in State v. McCollum, 334 N.C. 208 (1993). []

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Dying a not-so-slow death…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 27, 2010 in The 1L Life

After classes today, I’m starting to wonder if that’s what is happening to my faith in people since starting law school :beatup:

But before rehashing today’s material, I have to confess it’s not an entirely recent phenomenon.

When I first moved to North Carolina over a decade ago, I was a doe-eyed teenager who knew some individuals could be a bit unsavory but firmly believed that most people were good, upstanding folks — and the bad ones probably just had bad parents or something. I was a strident opponent of the death penalty back then too, not because of any amorality to state-sanctioned killing (I was also a big “separation of church/state” kid), but because no crime could be sufficiently heinous to merit the ultimate punishment in light of the non-zero chance the person being executed was actually innocent. And so on and so forth.

Then reality smacked me around a little bit.

Back in 2003 I started working for the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court in Wake County as its first “Director of Special Projects” — code for having carte blanche to work on various Courthouse problems with minimal red tape.

One of those problems was figuring out a way to consolidate 3 separate Courthouse evidence rooms.  I’ll forgo mentioning the actual floors since I’m not sure if they’re considered confidential anymore, but for the sake of description the bottom room held seized cash and small drugs, the middle room was for small weapons and miscellany, and the top room held everything relating to the major felonies: dozens of weapons (including some wrapped in biohazard tape with dried blood still on them), luggage full of weed, various exotic implements of death… and the tri-fold picture displays frequently used by prosecutors to make a point with the jury.

One afternoon I walked through the top evidence room with a deputy from the Sheriff’s Department, just to get an idea of the scope of the storage problem I was working on. I pulled out one of the tri-fold displays and nearly puked at the crime scene photos: this particular victim was lying facedown in a pool of blood, and after reading the text I learned it was the mother of the accused… a mother who had been beaten, raped and sodomized by her own son before he slit her throat and left her to die.

There were a string of displays featuring dead prostitutes, dead drug dealers, dead gang members, and various other dead people participating in illegal activities.

But then it went back to the totally innocent victims. One particular display that got seared into my brain was a two-fold instead of a three-fold, on the left side containing a photo of an attractive Hispanic female in her early 20s smiling for the camera. The right side? That same woman, on the floor, no longer smiling, brutally shot 43 times by her then-boyfriend who claimed she was cheating on him.

43 shots. Now I’m no expert, but I do know my way around the occasional firearm enough to know the Glock 21’s standard magazine is only 13 rounds. Try pulling an imaginary trigger as quickly as you can 13 times. Then pause to reload. Then do it 13 times again. Then pause to reload. Then do it 13 times again. Then pause to reload. Then do it 4 more times.

I timed how long it would take in my head, and started crying in the middle of the evidence room. I took the rest of the day off.

You can pretty much pinpoint that day as the one where I stopped caring quite so much about the Eighth Amendment.

Fast forward back to today in class.

We’re having an engaging discussion in CrimLaw about Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), and the fairness of Cali’s “three strikes” habitual felon statute. And I tell you folks, I didn’t care. At all. A guy stole $1K+ worth of golf clubs to add to his burgeoning criminal record, he was going to prison for the rest of his natural life… and I felt no sympathy. “Don’t want to get sentenced to life in prison as a habitual felon? STOP BREAKING THE @#$%ING LAW.” That was pretty much the only thing that went through my mind.

Then there was Contracts, discussing the doctrine of unconscionability and Higgins v. Superior Court, 140 Cal. App. 4th 1238 (2006). Essentially 5 siblings lost both of their parents, moved in with a family they knew through church, got approached by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to build a new 9-bedroom house for all of them (the siblings plus the family they moved in with)… and then once the house was built, the quasi-foster family threw out the siblings.

Since this was a Ks case it centered on an arbitration clause when the Higgins brothers pursued ABC, but what really got me was the family that ejected them. Kids lose their parents, move in with you after meeting you at church, you exploit them to get a new mini-mansion… then throw them out to enjoy the gains you unjustly got at their expense. We need to throw these people in prison with the golf club thief.

I was accustomed to the crazy @#$% we’ve already seen in Torts, but stuff like today caught me off-guard. And makes me dislike people. Grrr.

Sorry for the rambling-ish post tonight everybody, it was just one of those days. I hope all of you have an amazing night, and I’ll try to post something more chipper tomorrow :)

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CrimLaw looks like fun

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 12, 2010 in The 1L Life

Just got my CrimLaw book today courtesy of a friend-of-a-friend who happened to be a 2L selling hers for dirt cheap1, and started thumbing through it right before bed.  Looks like interesting stuff, I’m hoping this course will be fun :D

Sorry that’s the extent of today’s musings, gotta head to bed — meeting in Kannapolis @ 9am to hear the Governor talk about education stuff :)  Good night folks!

  1. Note to pre-Ls: find 2Ls early in your academic career and make them your friends. Trust me. []

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