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How to Successfully Lose Half Your Readers (and Gain 10 Pounds)

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

Good evening folks! :D

With the first summer session here at NCCU Law getting underway tomorrow, today got spent tying up loose ends before the back-to-school grind resumes. And in the process I re-discovered some of the effects of final exam season: over the last 3 weeks of my 2L Spring semester, we lost about half of our regular readers as law:/dev/null has gone un-updated… and I managed to pack on another 10lbs around my waistline.1 :beatup:

So while all the cool kids make New Year’s Resolutions about getting in shape and other worthwhile endeavors, in honor of my procrastinating tendencies I’m making those resolutions 5 months late instead: effective today I’m improving my diet, exercising more, and finally posting an update to the blog ;)

My predecessor Preston Mitchum and I transitioned over the NCCU Law SBA this month

Here’s a quick rundown of where I’ve been the past few weeks:

  • I finally became a 3L
  • …then un-became a 3L, as my Scientific Evidence professor unexpectedly gave the entire class 3 days to turn in an extra assignment — and I proceeded to sequester myself in my apartment like a hermit until it was finished
  • Re-became a 3L again, for real this time :spin:
  • Took over as President of our Student Bar Association
  • Amped up my work schedule at I-Cubed to 40hrs a week… right before realizing I probably can’t continue at that pace when summer school starts ::headdesk::
  • Watched the Class of 2011 graduate
  • Watched the law school end up in a minor scandal after graduation :beatup:
  • Tallied up the private $$$ the SBA raised last year — an all-time record in law school history — and how much the 2011-12 SBA has raised in the past few weeks2
  • Penned my 2nd guest column for the Beyond Hearsay blog (publication date TBD)
  • Spent $350 on books for summer school :surprised:
  • Spent hours reading ~150 pages for tomorrow’s first day of class
  • Finally got around to updating law:/dev/null, including tweaking our About page to reflect my now-3L status :D

That’s the rundown. Nothing particularly exciting… which makes me wonder how exactly time has flown by so fast :crack:

I’d be lying to you if I said I expected to resume regular blog updates, simply because my summer school schedule leans toward the crazy side this year (10 credit hours total) when it’s coupled with my internship. But my hope is I’ll work my way into a routine and can get back to posting somewhat regular content.

That’s it from me for tonight, I’m off to bed so I can get up for work + class tomorrow. Have a great night everybody! :)

  1. A repeat of the end of my 2L Fall semester, but this time without Thanksgiving as an excuse :beatup: []
  2. A +32% year-over-year increase, positioning us to beat last year’s record :spin: []

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2L Year: 1 more exam to go…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 3, 2011 in The 2L Life

Hey y’all!

I’m currently on my lunch break here at my internship1 and figured I’d use the opportunity to finally post something here on the blog :)

The past couple weeks have been crazy with exams and other end-of-semester festivities. That Scientific Evidence paper I mentioned in my last entry took up the better part of the week, with my routine basically following a “Shower. Eat. Paper. Eat. Paper. Eat. Paper. Sleep.” cycle for days on end. Turns out I went a wee bit overboard in terms of research, and rather than take out huge chunks of stuff I had written about other stuff I had already spent hours reading, I decided to just throw almost all of it in the final memo :beatup:

On the upside, if you have any interest at all in either the underlying science or current case law regarding the admissibility of expert witness testimony on the behavioral impact of violent video games, you are more than welcome to read my finished memo and let me know what you think / point out the inevitable BlueBook errors.2 :D

The latter part of last week was spent furiously studying for my Business Associations final… which proceeded to thoroughly pummel the daylights out of me on Friday. No clue how the grade on that one will turn out, but for now I’m just ecstatic I’ll never have to take the class again.3 ;)

Since then I’ve essentially been dividing my time between working and studying for my Criminal Procedure exam coming up on Thursday. I’m even further behind in CrimPro than I was in BA (if such a thing is possible to imagine) so there will be a whole lot of prayers said between now and exam time…

So that’s life in my neck of the world :) Congratulations in advance to all the 3Ls who are done or who will be done shortly, and *good luck* to everyone else still in the middle of final exams! :D

  1. One of the “missing entries” from the past month was about me going back to I-Cubed as of last week. Not sure if this will be a full summer gig, but I’ll stick with it while it’s still fun/interesting :) []
  2. Be gentle, and bear in mind my patience with doing a solid+thorough writing job waned after Day 3 of reading/writing :beatup: []
  3. End-of-semester grade expectations / synopses will be coming in a later entry. []

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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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Not quite according to plan…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 15, 2011 in Fail

Hey everybody :)

I just realized it’s been a week now since I posted that I’d be trying to catch up on old law:/dev/null entries “in the coming day or two”. And in the 7 days since then I’ve only managed to get two of those entries posted, one on my summer school schedule and the other on my 3L Fall schedule :beatup:

As you can probably guess, I completely overestimated the degree of “done”-ness of my semester. On the academic side of things, even with liberally skipping my Business Associations and Criminal Procedure classes to catch up elsewhere, my Fridays have been eaten up with trials for Trial Practice and my paper for Scientific Evidence has turned out to be a bigger deal than I originally thought.

Outside of that, on a personal note the issues with my family have flared up again, and one of my (formerly close) “friends” has essentially decided I’m not worth the time of day now that she no longer needs me around for moral support. And of course the state budget is shaping up to be a disaster for the UNC system and UNCASG continues to be MIA, so I’ve been diving in to start some advocacy work from my vantage point here within the law school.1

One day I’ll get back to updating the blog regularly. Seriously. Until then I’d recommend using our RSS feed so you can get updated whenever new entries get posted instead of waiting for me to get my life together ;)

Thanks for still reading, and have a great weekend! :D

  1. I’ve got a separate entry on it in the works, but I won the Presidency of our Student Bar Association for next year. []

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Judges == Old Law Students

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 16, 2011 in The 2L Life

The main reason I signed up for NCCU Law‘s Scientific Evidence course this semester was because it’s being taught by Professor DVLaw, a challenging professor but one who focuses on making sure students know the material and how to apply it. She invited the class to sit in on a national conference for judges titled “Developmental Forensics of Children Adjudicated by Courts” where she is one of the attorneys moderating today’s panel on genetic testing of minors.

I decided to head over there after I was done tutoring the 1Ls in CrimLaw.1 And let’s just say I wasn’t impressed.  :roll:

On the positive side, the place was packed wall-to-wall with a wide variety of people from all over the place. I got to meet judges from North Carolina, New York, Texas, California, Maryland, and several places in between.

But on the negative side, I came to the realization that judges are really just old law students :beatup:

One session debated a hypothetical involving a 16-year-old who was pregnant with a fetus potentially carrying a fatal gene, with the issue being how the judge would rule on a request to have the fetus tested against the mother’s will based on a variety of variables. You had the “gunner” types who felt the need to raise their hands and talk at every single opportunity. There were the judges who gave long-winded answers that didn’t actually address the question. The ones who were too timid to actually say anything publicly, but would lean over and comment to the people on either side of them. The political ones who always gave the same answer no matter the change in underlying facts and case law. The list goes on.

The panel discussion focused on a child with a predilection for pyromania, committing arson occasionally, frying a cat in a microwave, and so on, and asking how the judge would rule on a prosecutor’s motion to have the child tested for a “violence” gene or some similar genetic marker.2 Here there wasn’t even that much discussion of the law — one of the judges turned to one of the science experts on hand to ask if such a gene existed, asking “I just need you to give me the science and then I can make a ruling.” The scientist goes “for the sake of argument, assume there is”… at which point every single judge in the room said they’d order the testing.  :surprised:

Maybe it’s because I come from a science-oriented background at N.C. State, but that kind of reflexive judicial fealty to experts makes me apprehensive. Science isn’t law; while we might have “settled law” on some issues, we rarely ever have “settled science”.3 You don’t just have to take my word for it either: you can read the 352-page indictment of forensic sciences issued by the National Academy of Sciences a couple years ago. My hope was that the folks in the black robes would be more circumspect in their decision-making.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly thankful for the opportunity to go4 and it’s probably important for me to know how judges look at experts if I’m going to be practicing in a courtroom. But about all it did was shatter any misconception I had about judicial competence — judges are just law students like us, aged a couple decades ;)

  1. In what I sheepishly confess is now the 3rd day in a row I’ve voluntarily set foot in Chapel Hill… (pun intended) []
  2. With the objective of having him civilly committed permanently, instead of being charged with a crime, serving a sentence, and being released. []
  3. Otherwise scientists in a “settled” field would all be out of a job. []
  4. Especially gratis :beatup: []

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Über-huge mini-update on life

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 7, 2011 in The 2L Life

Evening y’all! :D

I’ve been gone from the blawgosphere for what seems like an eternity — I looked at the little calendar thing on the right for January, and for the first time since I started law:/dev/null there were more days without entries posted than with them :beatup:

As you can probably guess, I had totally overcommitted myself this semester. But I’ve started paring back and hope to get back into the swing of things here starting now ::fingers crossed::

Here’s a quick update on my life, which encompasses most of the dozen-ish entries I had queued up but never got around to posting:

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I. ACADEMICS
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The academic vibe this semester is totally different from last semester. Thus far I’ve got no real interest in any of my classes… plus I’m behind in pretty much all of them :(

Trial Practice is boring because all the stuff we’re going over — openings / closings / directs / crosses / objections — has already been beaten into my brain from trial team practice (see Part II below). Business Associations would probably be a fun class, if not for the fact I’m about 4 lectures behind in the reading.

Same deal with Scientific Evidence; I’ve got high hopes for enjoying it as the semester progresses, but between falling behind in the reading and class being at 8:30am, I’ve been very “blah” every day. As for Criminal Procedure, I finally managed to get caught up last week just to fall behind again by the next class.

I’ve basically been keeping my head down in all of my classes praying I don’t get called on :beatup: God willing I’ll be able to get everything caught up tomorrow and Tuesday…

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II. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M IN
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Trial team has essentially consumed my life. Back in early January during our first practice I was worried I’d be blown out by my teammates in our draft closing arguments, so I did a lot of prep on mine… and ended up giving the best one :surprised:

That netted me the team captain spot for the 2Ls with the designation as “swing” counsel. Since TYLA teams are either 2 or 3 people, in our case we’ve got 1 person solely doing prosecution, 1 solely doing defense, and the “swing” (me) doing both :crack:

So there have been multi-hour practices 4-5 days a week for a month now. On the off days I’m tweaking things and updating my trial binder and thinking about possible curveballs that could be tossed at us by the competition. Add in the fact I’d never actually questioned a witness before — abjectly failing on the first couple attempts as a result — and you get what’s been an awful loooong month.

For several days I’d get to the law school at 8am and not leave until 10pm, a scenario I assiduously avoided during 1L year and now can’t escape :beatup:

On the SBA end, Treasury work has been a mess too. All NCCU Law school students pay a fee to the main campus student union, which goes into a programming fund to which different organizations can submit requests for event funding. At some point years and years ago, the administrators on main campus decided it would be more efficient to just give the SBA that $$$ paid by law school students and letting us distribute it (since our folks almost never use main campus facilities) instead of having the law school groups submit a boatload of requests to main campus.

Turns out this was all a totally unofficial arrangement. With catastrophic budget cuts looming, the folks on NCCU’s main campus decided a few weeks ago they’re not going to give the SBA that money — months after the fiscal year started and we had adopted a budget including it. So I got to spend a good chunk of late January working with the SBA Exec Board and law school administrators to fill a ~$90K budget hole with only a few months left in our terms.

Fortunately we wrote a very austere budget back in September so we were able to pull it off, but at the cost of having to cancel our Spring appropriations process and trim back a bunch of other expenditures.

My campaign logo+slogan for SBA President

The whole situation’s roots in budget cuts has also persuaded me to run for SBA President in March. The impending cuts being handed down by the state legislature are truly mind-boggling in their enormity. Consider, for example, that for every $1 in state funding that’s eliminated from North Carolina’s university system, tuition has to be raised by $3 to make up the difference. The NCGA is currently talking about cutting $400,000,000.00+ from the UNC system. That means we’re facing $1.2B+ (yes, “billion” with a “b”) in tuition increases just to stay where we are — increases of roughly $5,600 per student.

Those kind of increases lead to mass dropouts like we had back in the early part of this millennium — including your humble author — and it makes for horrible public policy. Our SBA this year had to focus on rebuilding its internal credibility with the Student Body and faculty, and now it’s time for us to focus our sights elsewhere. I think (hope?) my experiences can make me a solid advocate for this university and law school in the year ahead.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes :)

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III. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M NOT IN
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Speaking of student advocates, UNCASG has been in the news quite a bit lately — and it seems for all the wrong reasons.

My successor and his administration pushed me out of the group and ran as far away from my way of doing things as quickly as his legs could carry him. I can’t really complain because that’s how politics goes and I certainly did the same thing when I took over.  The difference between then and now, though, is that I discarded things that didn’t work and found ways that did.

On the other hand, the new kids on the block have basically taken a timewarp back to 2006-07 :crack:

First there was a controversy over the President threatening Executive Officers who support local SG candidates who “disagree with the ‘ASG vision'”. This kind of institutional arrogance is precisely what alienated campuses from UNCASG in the past and led to the withdrawals in the year before I was elected. How anyone thought it was a good idea is beyond my limited mental faculties to comprehend; in my world, if you’re going to have to fire someone… you just don’t hire them in the first place.

The UNCCH Carolina Review decided to make hay from the issue with a piece of their own of course. You might recall the folks at the Carolina Review are the self-proclaimed conservatives cited by the Pope Center in the Center’s hit piece on my tuition views last March.1

I can’t blame the Carolina Review for trying to boost their readership with a timely article on a manufactured controversy, but pegging it as a conservative issue struck me as amusing — once upon a time conservatives opposed non-local people getting involved in local affairs. Instead the Review encourages it, as long as the involvement coincides with their own political views.

The whole situation is a mess, and one that should have been avoided. When I originally wrote UNCASG’s Ethics Act 2.5 years ago, I included this provision:

§1-2.5. Electioneering Prohibited.
(a) No Executive Officer receiving compensation funded by student fees shall knowingly engage in election-related advocacy or other campaign activities on behalf of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(b) No Executive Officer shall allow his or her name and/or official title to be used to further the candidacy of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(c) This section shall not be construed to prevent an Executive Officer from filing for elective office at a constituent member of the Association and from campaigning on his or her own behalf.

The section was removed in committee, at the urging of students from… UNCCH.2

The folks at the Carolina Review have also been circulating a petition to have a referendum on UNCCH’s participation in ASG put on their Student Government ballot in an effort to have the University remove itself. As the guy who created N.C. State’s student fee referenda from scratch back when I was Student Senate President, I’m actually in total support of having this particular referendum… but (unsurprisingly) they haven’t yet collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot. If they did, it would deprive them of an issue to carp about :roll:

“But TDot,” you say, “all of the stuff you’re talking about is small potatoes. None of this matters when a group is doing meaningful work and making a difference.” And you’d be right — but that’s not what’s actually going on.

Instead of focusing on the impending tuition battle I mentioned in Part I above, the leadership of UNCASG has focused instead on getting the President a vote on the university system’s Board of Governors — an utterly useless power on a Board where almost all votes are unanimous, and doubly useless when reaching out to the 215,000+ students the ASG President represents can carry more power than any vote. The last ASG meeting produced a total lack of consensus on a legislative agenda, leading to a factually-inaccurate DTH editorial touting a student vote as a good thing to try and fix the total dysfunction currently gripping the group.

The DTH (unsurprisingly) is wrong. Unfortunately the ASG leadership is wrong too.

Then there are the upcoming campus elections which will produce the next salvo of anti-ASG fireworks when new SBPs take office in a few months. Among the amusing candidacies is Rick Ingram, the odds-on favorite to become Student Body President at UNCCH. You might remember Ingram as the Kerry-esque flip-flopper who voted in favor of the UNCASG budget before he decided it would be more beneficial politically to oppose it. He’s been aggressively courting students for their votes — apparently so much so that the campus’s Board of Elections has already fined him for violating campaign rules and is now debating having him disqualified.3

Ingram also proclaimed on his website that “The simple truth is this — the days of fighting against tuition increases are over.”… an odd proclamation from a student and aspiring student leader in light of $1.2B+ in upcoming tuition hikes, and one which (1) the media (unsurprisingly) never covered and (2) promptly disappeared from his website when it became a political liability. Ingram’s victory would speak volumes about the UNCCH electorate, but more ominously it would ensure UNCASG wastes all of next year fighting pointless internal battles instead of serving students.

With all of this drama going on, for some unknown reason I made the mistake of heading to the NC General Assembly to catch up with some old colleagues and ask a few legislators of their thoughts on the situation. To say UNCASG has lost nearly all the credibility we built for it over two years would be putting it mildly :mad:  If I had any doubt that things were really as bad as they seemed, I actually got calls from several campuses asking me to come back and run for the organization’s Senior Vice President position.4 It’s disheartening that I’m actually considering it…

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IV. PERSONAL LIFE
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The saying “when it rains, it pours” was a pretty good epitaph for January 2011.

I was sick for the first week. My sister was committed to a mental institution the second week. QT’s dad unexpectedly died of a heart attack the week after. That very same day in trial team practice I found out a friend of mine was killed in a car accident.

At some point around that portion of the month I discovered both of my parents are either currently having or recently had affairs (I was sufficiently disappointed in both of them that I didn’t bother to inquire further) and the situation with my sister has them contemplating divorce. My dad was laid off from his job. My sister got released from the mental hospital and within the week was off her meds and smoking weed like she had nothing better to do with her time. At which point my parents discovered she had been stealing my mom’s jewelry to sell in an effort to finance her drug habit. Etc etc etc ad nauseum.

I’m pretty sure there was other crazy sh*t going on last month too but I did my best to forget as much of it as possible :beatup:  I’m trying to be a supportive friend to QT and her brother as best I can, trying to avoid the quagmire that is my family and their attendant refusal to make the tough decisions necessary to actually improve their lives, and otherwise trying to avoid having my generally sunshine-y disposition rained out on a near-daily basis like it did last month.

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V. PROFESSIONAL STUFF
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Things are at least marginally better on the professional side. I’ve started my tutoring sessions with the 1Ls in Criminal Law, and so far I’ve got the highest-attended tutorial and office hours out of the 15 different 1L classes (3 each in CrimLaw, CivPro, Torts, Property, and Ks). It’s too early to tell if that trend’s going to continue, but the feedback has been very positive and it really boosts my spirits :spin:

My internship with I-Cubed was also going really well. The people are great, the company culture is cool, the issues are interesting, and I was turning in sterling work product (even earning the praise of an attorney at another tech company). I was also getting addicted to the four-figure paychecks…

…but I walked away :surprised:

Between trial team consuming my time, my personal life being a crucible, and trying to keep up with academics, I just wasn’t able to give the company the 20 hours a week they needed. So I met with the CEO last week (my boss) and basically quit for now. I’m still part of the company and available for non-time-sensitive ad hoc projects as needed, but I’ve otherwise wound down to -0- hours a week until summer when the company will re-assess if I’m still useful to them.

It was the first time I’ve left a job since 2002, when I quit the State Bar to go take a leadership spot in the Wake County Clerk’s Office. There’s a part of me that’s terrified I made the wrong choice, especially with all the doom and gloom about the economy and law school employment stats and etc. But honestly I’d rather put everything out on the table and take my chances down the road than either (1) being miserable every day as I’m stretched too far in too many directions, or (2) start failing at things, turning in below-par work, and ending up getting fired anyway ;)

It was an awesome opportunity and I’m thankful for it, and I’ve got faith everything will work out exactly how it’s supposed to work out :)

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VI. BLAWG LIFE
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Spam combat on the backend of this blog has been continuing apace. My edition of the (badly-delayed) Law School Roundup will be coming up this week so I can punt the ball back over to Katie Luper :)

And oddly enough we had a real explosion in Google searches last month, so even though I had almost no entries in January we still had fairly decent traffic :crack:

I’ve also got a piece on tap for Beyond Hearsay that should be going live some time over the next couple weeks, and one for The True Verdict that I’m working on in my spare time — hopefully you’ll like them both ;)

—===—

That’s it for this entry y’all! I’m sorry for being gone as long as I was, but I’m gonna make a serious effort to get back in the game.

Until next time, have a great week! :D

  1. Views they fabricated from whole cloth despite five years’ worth of publicly-available commentary to the contrary. []
  2. Conservative UNCCH students at that, who saw an opportunity to back one of their own SBP candidates with ASG EOs. []
  3. Ingram’s response to the potentially-disqualifying allegations is quite entertaining. Anyone who’s taken the “Detection of Deception” CLE should be able to spot several items where he’s being dishonest with the Board; see if you can find them :) []
  4. I wrote term limits into the ASG Constitution so I’m ineligible to serve as President ever again. []

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