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I TALKED TO ANTONIN SCALIA!!! :D

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 4, 2012 in The 3L Life

You guys!

I talked to Antonin Scalia! :D   :D   :D

Well, “talked to” as in “asked a question that he answered” — but that’s close enough for this 3L :spin:

I was hoping to snap a better shot, but right as I took this they announced no pictures or recording devices were allowed... :|

Today was Day 2 for EIC and I at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting 2012. Neither of us found any other law students in the morning (again), so we hit two different CLEs1 and then headed to an afternoon Q&A session where Justice Scalia was the featured guest.

We got there über-early, so we got prime seats on the 3rd row along the center aisle. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen a Supreme Court Justice live in-person so I wanted a decent view :beatup:

Regardless of one’s opinion on his opinions, Scalia was/is hilarious and had the audience laughing on a fairly regular basis — even more impressive when you consider that these were law-oriented jokes and not your typical comedy fare. He had a number of anecdotes interwoven into his substantive commentary to keep things interesting.

After talking for not-quite-an-hour on the state of the courts, how the Supreme Court works, his past opinions and such, the floor was opened for audience questions. So I decided to raise my hand and got to be one of the five questions he answered.2 :D

It was a pretty snazzy experience :spin:

A Pat O'Brien's Hurricane: highly recommended for a reason

Once the Scalia talk wrapped it was dinner time, so we headed over to Pat O’Brien’s for food and drinks. Their Cajun Shephard’s Pie was great, incredibly delicious. We each also tried one of their Hurricanes (at the request of, literally, almost a dozen friends) and now understand why they were so highly recommended.3

After that we hit Cafe du Monde again for more beignets, explored the French Market area, did a smidge of souvenir shopping and headed back to the hotel.

I feel lame for being back in the room by 8pm on a Saturday night in New Orleans, but I’m doggone tired  :beatup:

Hope all of you have an amazing weekend! I’m getting up early again tomorrow so I can start packing up for the trip home. It’s been a great time in NOLA but I’m looking forward to being back in the Bull City :)

Have a good night!

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From the law:/dev/null 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting-related archives:

  1. Hers on indigent defense, mine on computer security, privacy rights and the law. []
  2. Though it was a softball: I asked if he stood by his opinion that we have too many lawyers and if he ever envisioned it changing, just to see what he’d say to a room full of lawyers :angel: []
  3. And as an ego boost — witnessed by EIC — one of the waiters (not ours) saw me in my campaign t-shirt and goes “I LOVE that t-shirt man! That T. on it is hot!B-) []

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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

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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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The law in the media

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2010 in Randomness

Even before I decided to go to law school, I enjoyed reading about the latest opinions issued by the Supreme Court. It’s something I still enjoy — particularly now that I have at least a vague understanding of what’s going on ;)

Earlier today I saw this story in the Washington Post about the Court’s opinion yesterday in Lewis v. Chicago, shared on several friends’ Facebook profiles with various commentary relating to then-Judge Sotomayor’s opinion (along with the rest of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals) in Ricci v. DeStefano.  The headline: “Justices say employers may not use discriminatory testing practices”.

It seemed a little strange to me that the Supreme Court would issue a unanimous opinion on job-related testing less than a year after another opinion on job-related testing was decided in a 5-4 split. So I decided to read the opinion for myself…

…and unless I’m misunderstanding the case, it had nothing to do with equal protection / disparate impact issues :beatup:

From my reading of it, the City of Chicago’s test for prospective firefighters was found to have a disparate negative impact on minority applicants. The City conceded the point on appeal. The case at the time it reached the Supreme Court seems to be just a basic civil procedure issue: for statute of limitations purposes, did the minority firefighters’ cause of action accrue (i) when the testing policy was announced, (ii) until the policy was repealed (e.g. as though it were a single-but-ongoing discriminatory act), or (iii) each time the discriminatory results were used?

To the 3Ls and attorneys out there, am I missing something?

If I’m right in my understanding of the case, it’s less of a surprise (to me at least) that the Court issued a unanimous ruling. Deciding a separate cause of action accrued with each use of the results makes sense and doesn’t even seem all that controversial.

Any insight from folks with more legal training is appreciated, just so I know for sure whether or not I’m clueless here1 :) Until then, have a great night y’all! :D

  1. And if I’m not clueless, is the media usually this bad at trying to report on the nature of these Court decisions? []

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Supremes uphold common sense

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 22, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary

New 1L trend I never experienced before: having your Facebook mini-feed loaded with status updates from your peers griping about a Supreme Court decision :beatup:

I’m assuming by now all of you have heard about the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the free speech case involving a group wanting to run an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary on cable TV during the ’08 presidential primary.  If you’ve been on vacation or living under a rock or something similar, you can download a copy of the slip opinion at the Supreme Court’s website.

Despite the risk of being accused of lacking a social life, I’ll confess two things up front: (i) I’ve been reading Supreme Court opinions just for the fun of it since high school, and (ii) I spent most of yesterday and today reading through all 180ish pages of the Citizens United case instead of studying (although it’s really only like 80 pages of text since the Court uses pages margins that would get a law student a failing grade :crack: ).

I agreed with the Court’s decision, and thought the dissent was particularly unpersuasive — both points that are probably not surprising given my political leanings. The concurrence from Justice Scalia provided an appreciated historical context, and the concurrence from Justice Thomas provided an interesting perspective on disclosure (even though I’m not convinced of his viewpoint).

But what really blew my mind were the Facebook status updates.

“omg this is the end of democracy in America! MONEY IS NOT SPEECH!” was one of them, with the caps added for dramatic flair. “[N]ow corporations can give unlimited $$ to candidates while the common man is getting screwed” was another. And so on it went almost universally among my 1L colleagues at NCCU Law, UNCCH Law and Duke Law.

So in typical TDot fashion I updated my own status to declare my love for the Supremes and this decision in particular ;)

A flame war ensued. At one point my mother — who’s politically about as polar opposite to me as one can get — decided to join the debate, so I figured I needed to take the discussion here to the blog where she’s less likely to read it and blow up everyone’s mini-feed with her responses :beatup:

Some gratuitous thoughts on this particular case:

  1. McCain-Feingold was shamelessly unconstitutional from Day 1. Anyone who wasn’t alarmed by its prohibition against running ads 30/60 days before an election should surrender their voter registration card immediately. Every single incumbent who voted for it knew they were doing so to insulate themselves from outside criticism, not to “reform the system.” It plainly violated the First Amendment, which the Court was kind enough to lay bare for those who still didn’t know.
  2. Money is speech. This really shouldn’t even be debatable because it reeks of common sense, but freedom of expression doesn’t count for much if it’s limited to you standing on a soapbox at the street corner — a point recognized by well over a majority of the country. For an analysis provided by the Supreme Court on the issue, go read the various opinions in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  3. “Corporate” restrictions were arbitrary and predictably unconstitutional. Much consternation and gnashing of teeth has taken place by the left-wing denizens of the blogosphere because the Court upended limitations on corporations directly running their own “express advocacy” ads for/against a given candidate.  Yet media organizations like newspapers (themselves almost all incorporated) have always been excluded from these restrictions solely because of the fact the product they sell is labeled “the press” (e.g. separately protected by the First Amendment). This arbitrary distinction between one corporation type from another made little sense on its own, and even less so when it applied to incorporated associations like labor unions, the Sierra Club, etc — why should I have more rights as an individual than I would if I can successfully convince other individuals to agree with me?
  4. The decision’s practical impact will be negligible. Contributing money or buying ads for a political campaign is fundamentally an economic decision — the contributor/purchaser decides the value of potentially influencing the election is worth more than the cash contributed/paid. In other words, a corporation is going to give the exact same dollar amount, regardless of the mechanics, if it decides that’s the money it wants to invest in a race.  We saw this after McCain-Feingold was adopted with the sudden proliferation of 527s and their issue ads.  The Supreme Court’s decision isn’t going to suddenly open a flood of corporate spending, it’s just going to make the spending more direct instead of forcing it to be routed through fake groups set up solely for campaigning purposes. This fundamental reality was highlighted in this piece at Politico.
  5. Want less $$ in elections? Abolish contribution limits… Following the campaign-contribution-as-economic-choice point, the fact contribution limits are in place at all artificially increases the amount of money in campaigns. Think of it like a garden hose: as you’re watering your garden, the water (campaign $$) flows out in a straight path. But put your thumb (contribution limits) over the nozzle, and the water splashes in all directions. That’s functionally what happens with the current system — Joe Citizen decides he’s willing to part with $12,000 for a given race, but instead of giving all $12K to his candidate, he gives only $4K to the candidate, then $4K to a 527 supporting his candidate, and then $4K to his candidate’s party.  So now he’s got 3 agents in the political process instead of 1, and all 3 of whom will now be bidding for the same media space… artificially inflating demand, leading to higher prices, leading to the need to raise more money, and on in a spiral it goes.
  6. …or shrink the government. I know this will never happen, but the main reason so much money gets spent on political races is because the government has its hands in every cookie jar in the country. When new regulations would cost a given industry tens of millions of dollars, of course the players in that industry will spend a couple million apiece to avoid the regulations — it’s a huge economic incentive for them and their employees. Stop trying to regulate everything into nonexistence and suddenly you take away the incentive for amassing über-huge campaign war chests.

That’s my abridged rant on Citizens United v. FEC. My apologies to those of you who come to law:/dev/null for the normal chronicling of my 1L life instead of a political diatribe — hopefully you’ll still come back tomorrow :*

Have a good night folks!! :D

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Things TDot Likes: Scalia’s writing

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 18, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Say what you want about the man and his views on American jurisprudence, but the further I get in CivPro the more I consider Antonin Scalia a damn good author.

We’re currently going through the whole Erie lineage of cases, and I just finished reading Scalia’s dissent in Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415 (1996).  I’ll stipulate that I’m not yet competent enough in the law to have an opinion on whether I think his reasoning is persuasive.  But his writing style? The words practically jump off the page.

Compare the majority opinion to the dissent.  The former is bland and matter-of-fact-ish, but for the dissent I can practically envision Justice Scalia saying it aloud as I read.1 It’s not quite as incendiary as the Burnham v. Superior Court case that amused me last semester, but it’s still good stuff :)

Off to read about concurrent estates in Property before heading to bed. Have a great night folks!

  1. It’s actually kind of like one of those badly-dubbed kung fu movies, where the voice is based off snippets of interviews he’s given and the text itself is a subtitle on the screen :beatup: []

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Tweet-sized Tuesdays #10

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 3, 2009 in Tweet-sized Tuesdays

Enjoying the Scalia-vs-Brennan cases in CivPro :D Future interests in Property? Not so much. btw, not a fan of darkness @ 5pm. EST ftl… :mad:

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Too many lawyers?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 5, 2009 in Randomness

I know it’s old news by new, but last Thursday I jumped in on this discussion over at Fight The Hypo and wanted to pass the referenced article along to my readers here.

Essentially, Justice Antonin Scalia — and I preface this comment by noting I have an immense amount of respect for the man and his work on the Supreme Court — is complaining for the sake of complaining, and using totally fallacious economic assumptions to bolster his argument.

The relevant passage from the WSJ story:

Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

The argument the Justice presents bothers me on multiple levels — as someone who (i) minored in Economics, (ii) graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science, and (iii) is currently attending law school — but I’ll refer you to the ensuing discussion at Fight The Hypo for my reasons why :)

Have a great night everybody :D

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Friday Drive-by #3

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 2, 2009 in Friday Drive-by

Maybe it’s because I like my alma mater, maybe it’s because I was born and raised in the South, or maybe it’s just because I’m a guy — while most of my classmates love Fridays because it means the academic week is over, I love Fridays because it means college football tomorrow :D

So with another week behind us and my brain switched into football mode, here’s a handful of links to stuff I used to kill time in LRA ;)

  • Sherpa on Scalia — I’m amused so many people who dislike the Justice’s opinions agree with him on this issue, and I generally like the guy’s opinions but think he’s completely, totally, and irrefutably wrong here (Fight the Hypo)
  • Jansen offering up some excellent tips on making it through 1L year (No634)
  • John dovetails with some of his own, especially #1 (Fearfully Optimistic)
  • And Mariel reminding everyone to keep their head up (HATE is easy…love takes COURAGE)
  • One of Huma’s Business Casual Superstar selections — linked not because I could ever actually pull off this outfit, but because of the XKCD comic at the bottom ;) (The Reasonably Prudent Law Student)
  • Some of Soleil’s thoughts on men1 (The Divine Details)
  • The Bitter Lawyer likes lists — this is one you probably shouldn’t read near classmates (The Bitter Lawyer)
  • Finally, from the selection of non-law time diversions, for some reason I’m just now hearing Eminem’s response track re Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. Hilarious. (YouTube)

Have a great weekend folks! :D

  1. Most of us aren’t that bad, you ladies just tend to fall for the crazy ones :P []

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