Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blackbook Weekend Links

1. Anaheim Ducks hit with anti-semitism lawsuit.

2. Donald Verrilli tapped as new Solictor General.

3. Where's all that BCS money going? Only to a very select few places.

4. Taco Bell products contain only 35% beef? "No," company officials say, it's more like 88%. I don't know whether to feel better or worse about all those late night meals during college.

5. "Glass-gate" -- Apple's new headache.

6. Rahm can run.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Law School in America v. Canada, Eh?

From the McGill Tribune:
The situation in Canada is drastically different, and certainly more promising for prospective students. Much of what ails the American market has been preempted in Canada by an entirely distinct system in which there are both fewer schools and less divergence in terms of academic quality.

"The situation's a lot better in Canada because we have far fewer law schools," says Leeann Beggs, director of career services in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. "The likelihood that you're going to get into your profession is very good."

While there are almost 200 American law schools, there are only 20 in Canada, all of which are highly competitive and prestigious. Because they are essentially "all tier one schools," Beggs says, it is very difficult to be admitted, but students can also be assured they will receive a high-quality legal education once they are there. Before passing the bar, law students are expected to article, or work and learn at a law firm in some sort of legal apprenticeship. Furthermore, there seems to be no sort of legal outsourcing being practised in Canada.

"It's pretty tightly controlled who gets access to legal work here," Beggs says.

This is in direct contrast to the hundreds of American law schools, not all of which are accredited—some of which are online—that graduate thousands of new lawyers each year who must then fight for a diminishing number of entry-level jobs. As a result of the Canadian system, recent graduates in this country have a much better chance of gaining the employment they desire. They have already been singled out as the best and the brightest and are competing against a much smaller pool. Some expectations may have to be lowered in terms of starting salaries, says Beggs, but new lawyers should have no problem getting a foot in the door.
Some things are just better in Canada, I guess.

Monday, January 24, 2011

SCOTUS: No Post-Trial Appeal of Summary Judgment Denial

Per Justice Ginsburg today in Ortiz v. Jordan. Logical enough...but will this encourage courts to deny summary judgment in order to avoid appellate review?

Friday, January 21, 2011

iPads for Teachers (and Students)

Monterey College of Law gives iPads to all faculty and students. And all I got for my 160K was a piece of paper with my name on it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blackbook Weekend Links

1. More talk on the constitutionality of the Health Care bill. The House will vote this week on whether to repeal it. [WSJ]

2. Natural alternative to no jobs: clerking. [Youngstown News]

3. Bending it. Beckham sues prostitute who claims that he paid her for her services. [MTV UK]

4. More jobs. Just not legal jobs. [Market Watch]

5. Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn, Chicago post record number of applications. [Bloomberg]

6. Arent Fox representing Boise State and the Mountain West Conference in helping the DOJ along in its BCS antitrust inquiry. We've been down this road before. [ABA Journal]

7. No Jeb Bush on the Republican ticket for 2012. [Yahoo]

8. Penn Law professor reuses exam questions. The heat falls on the professor, but wasn't it the students who actively sought the questions out? [Above the Law]

Friday, January 14, 2011

More on True Grit

I recently wrote about the move True Grit and some themes the movie touched on about the rule of law. Other legal commentators have been doing the same. Here's a round-up:
If there are any others out there, let me know and I'll add them here.

More Law Schools, Please

Another law school in Texas? Guess Texas lawmakers didn't get the memo.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

True Grit, Orestia, and the Rule of Law

The number-one movie in America last week was True Grit, a movie starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon that is a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic. The plot of the movie is simple: a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld) sets out to find Tom Chaney (played by Josh Brolin), her father's killer. Ross enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) a hard-drinking U.S. Marshal, and La Boeuf (Damon), a Texas Ranger. The story follows the Ross, Cogburn, and La Boeuf as they chase Chaney through Choctaw Indian country. On one level, the story is straightforward, telling the age-old story of a family member's quest for revenge. But the movie also contains important themes about the rule of law, themes that are almost as old as the familiar revenge story.

[Spoiler alert: plot details follow!]

But first, a digression, to a time long before the Wild West: in the Orestia Trilogy, Aeschylus tells the story of the House of Atreus and the curse that had befallen that family. The trilogy begins when Agamemnon is returning from the Trojan War. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, is planning to murder him upon his return, because Agamemnon had sacrificed their daughter so that the ships could sail at the start of the war. To exact revenge, Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon (and Cassandra, Agamemnon's war-prize) and takes up with her lover Aegisthus. In the second part of the trilogy, Orestes, Agamemnon's son, plans to avenge his father's death. He arrives at the palace, kills Aegisthus and (after some soul-searching), kills his mother as well.

But the saga is not over for Orestes. He has, by "the rules", done exactly what is supposed to in avenging his father's death-- but doing so required him to kill his own mother. The Furies torment Orestes and he is unable to find solace. Finally, Orestes appeals to Athena. Athena convenes a jury (eleven Athenians plus the goddess) and hears Orestes's case. Ultimately, the jury is split 6-6 and Orestes is acquitted.

The Orestia trilogy is generally thought of as symbolizing the transition from primitive self-help justice to the rule of law. For generations, the House of Atreus was cursed because each person sought to avenge a prior wrong by murdering the offender (Orestes killed Clytemnestra who killed Agamemnon who killed his daughter Iphignia, etc.). The gruesome chain only comes to an end when Orestes is subject, not to death, but to trial by jury.

And so back to True Grit. Mattie's quest initially seems analogous to that of Orestes: "You killed my father so I seek revenge." But it isn't that simple. Throughout the movie, it is clear that Mattie is well-versed in the law. (In negotiating a deal for some horses, she threatens to seek a "writ of replevin". Probably 95% of the audience had no idea what she meant.) She has a keen sense for the binding power of contracts -- she repeatedly tells Cogburn that he has to help her, because they have an agreement -- and fundamentally, she wants Chaney to stand trial for killing her father. Mattie asks why no one is searching for Chaney, and she is told that the crime is relatively minor so the government won't devote resources to a manhunt. But Mattie's manhunt is initially intended to bring Chaney to justice, not to simply kill him.

[again: spoiler alert!]

But that is ultimately what happens. In the movie's climax, Mattie shoots Chaney, sending him over a cliff to his death. In an earlier scene, she had shot at Chaney but not killed him; when she tried, her gun misfired. The point is, despite Mattie's general fidelity to the law, she had no compunctions about shooting and killing Chaney.

We don't know what Chaney's family thinks of this. Perhaps they planned to get at Mattie but just failed. (The movie's epilogue shows her as an adult, so presumably she survived at least for a few more decades.) We also don't know how Mattie could have brought Chaney "to justice"; carrying him through Choctaw territory back to town was probably prohibitively difficult. To me, the most interesting thing was that Mattie, who seemed like she did not intend take the law into her own hands (though she was willing to take on responsibility for the manhunt) ultimately had no problem doing so.

A few thousand years ago, Aeschylus wrestled with the same themes. The rule of law, he taught, can bring an end to generations of vengeance, as society gives a single, final verdict as to the propriety of one's actions. But outside the bounds of that society, as Mattie Ross learned, one sometimes has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.

[True Grit images copyright Paramount Pictures. "The Murder of Agamemnon" by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (ca. 1815).]

* * *

And now something totally unrelated: I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus recently, but I do hope to pick up the pace in the coming weeks. Sorry for the absence!

More Facebook Litigation: This Time to Set Aside Winklevoss Settlement

Unlikely to succeed, but still interesting. Especially in the wake of The Social Network.

California Bar Exam Statistics

Detailed statistics for the July 2010 California Bar Exam are finally out. The overall pass rate for all takers was 54.8%. The overall pass rate for first-time takers was 67.7%. Out-of-state ABA-approved first-time takers posted a 68.1% pass rate. California ABA-approved first-time takers' pass rate was slightly higher at 75.2%.

The pass rates for first-time takers from top 20 law schools:

Yale -- 100%
Harvard -- 94%
Stanford -- 98%
Columbia -- 93%
Chicago -- 100%
NYU -- 87%
Penn -- 85%
Berkeley -- 91%
Michigan -- 86%
Virginia -- 96%
Cornell -- 67%
Northwestern -- 83%
Duke -- 89%
Georgetown -- 75%
Texas -- 76%
UCLA -- 83%
USC -- 90%
Vanderbilt -- 81%
Wash. U. -- 64%
George Washington -- 85%


Keep in mind that many of these individual pass rates reflect an overall percentage of a relatively few number of students who actually took the bar. For example, only 17 students from Chicago sat for the bar, compared to 41 for Northwestern.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't Mess With Texas

Tom DeLay gets 3 years...

F. Lee Bailey on Why O.J. Was Innocent

In a 46-page document, the former member of the legal "dream team" details his case for Simpson's innocence.

Briefly, from the manuscript:
This is intended to be an outline - a deliberately detailed outline supporting the proposition that the jury reached the correct verdict in the California case of People v. Orenthal James Simpson. But the outline - and the book which will someday follow - is planned to go further. When all of the facts in the case are assimilated and viewed in proper perspective, it should be clear that Simpson was not simply the beneficiary of a reasonable doubt, but in fact totally innocent of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

We have no judicial machinery capable of establishing factual innocence, or what forensic investigators might term ground truth innocence. More than half a century ago, before the infamous military Courts & Boards were abolished by the much enlightened Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951, a court had two optional verdicts in the case of an accused who was not going to be convicted: “Not Guilty”, often said to be the equivalent of the famous Scottish Verdict “Not Proven”, or “A Complete and Honorable Acquittal”, a formal stamp of approval that said in essence, that the accused had done nothing wrong. An officer who was court martialed, and did not receive the latter form of verdict, was pretty much at the end of his career.
Check out the article for more.

Fuzzy Employment Statistics for Attorneys

Law schools cooking employment numbers to attract unwary law students for 40K+ per year in tuition. In other news, the sky is blue.

Time for a College Football Playoff?

It'll take a collective antitrust lawsuit for that. Haven't we been down this road before?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blackbook Weekend Links

1. U.S. officials have subpoenaed information from Twitter on WikiLeaks officials. [CNN]

2. All kinds of outgoing Senators want to be law professors--it is, after all, a sweet gig. I guess Russ Feingold is no exception. [Washington Post]

3. A legal education too expensive? No. . . . []

4. 18-year-old files lawsuit against HHH, The Rock, and WWE for injuries sustained during a 2000 pay-per-view event. I suppose its only fitting that the event was "Judgment Day." []

5. Saddam Hussein's pistol on display at George W. Bush's presidential library. [ABC News]

6. Justice Roberts pleads with Congress to stop blocking judicial confirmations. He's not the only one who takes issue with nominee stalls. [The Lipman Times]

7. Rep. Bachmann invites liberals to Constitutional discussion series. Charles Krauthammer discusses the debate. [L.A. Times]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Meditation (Not Mediation) for Lawyers

Highly recommended from the California Bar Journal.

Brooklyn Law Dorm to be Converted to Condos

Everyone in New York wants a piece of that sweet, sweet real estate market.

Michigan A.G. to Continue Health Care Opposition

From Bloomberg:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will continue the state's role in a legal challenge to the federal health care overhaul. Schuette is in his first week as Michigan's attorney general. He said Wednesday he will add his name to the lawsuit challenging the law. That continues a legal strategy from former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Both Schuette and Cox are Republicans.

Attorneys for 20 states are challenging the new federal health care law in a case before a federal court in Florida. The states argue the law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Changes at BBL

BBL Faithful,

In a follow-up to my recent post, I am proud to announce a new direction for the blog. As most of our prior contributors--including me--have moved on to the working world, we've sought resumes from new writers. Resumes have been forthcoming, and as of today, we've added one new contributor. While we will continue our search, our new contributor (the "Aviator" as he wishes to be called) will join us in periodically posting short news links to articles of legal interest to students, professors, and practitioners. Of course, we'll certainly make all attempts to post substantively from time to time.

On that note, we continue to encourage those who are interested to send your resumes to:


Rhode Island Debates Same-Sex Marriage

Is it coming?

More Claims for Mayweather to Parry

Not a fun 2011 for Floyd Mayweather. What's the legal analogue to a clinch?

Merriman v. Laettner

Christian Laettner's real estate endeavors have turned out more like his NBA career; not this.

Courtney Love Twitter Lawsuit

"She'll say anything."

GOP to Read Constitution on House Floor

From CNN:
Republicans will have the Constitution read on the House floor Thursday morning in a nod to the conservative Tea Party freshmen that helped put them back in the majority. The reading will start at 10:30 a.m., with members taking turns until they complete the document -- a process that could take up to a couple of hours.
Story time here.