Monday, April 30, 2007

My fingers are bleeding

My International Environmental Law final is due today.

As of Friday, I had successfully selected a topic, but that is all.
I spent Friday evening outlining, and then I scrapped the topics I'd originally decided on and chose two new topics. I started the first one Friday night, getting about a page and a half done before hitting the hay and getting up Saturday Morning, where I went back to work. After taking a break to take the kids on a picnic, take a nap, and then watching the last period of the RedWings game, I finished my first problem at about seven pm - 9 pages, not bad for a 5 page minimum/10 page maximum. I'm notorious for writing just over the minimum required, but there was too much to discuss in this one for brevity. I then took a few minutes respite before starting to write my second problem. I successfully got half a page done on it before I realized I was just plumb tuckered out. I woke up at 3 in the morning unable to think about anything but the London Convention, UNCLOS, and environmental law with respect to the oceans and seas. So I went back downstairs and got back to work. I finished another 2.5 pages before I was able to finally go back to bed. I then spent Sunday finishing up my paper, which I finally completed at about Seven - I got about halfway through my tenth page with that one. Again, there was just so much to discuss.

Then, I got to get back to work on my Guaranty agreement for my Transactional Skills class. I had been on page 3 of that Agreement when I started. By the time I went to bed at 1, I was up to page 17, and then I spent 3 hours this morning finishing the final seven pages of the first draft to send in for review.

So in the course of about 48 hours, I've basically typed 40 pages. That's pretty good for me. And to celebrate, I get on the blogger and write a whole bunch more.

In other news, Friday was my last day at my internship, at least until after the Bar, or until I get a job that pays, whichever comes first. I'm going to really miss that job. It was one of the first jobs I've had in years where I actually looked forward to going to work every day, which I think is one of the best compliments you can give to a workplace. The people were outstanding, the job was challenging, but not overly stressful (even I got used to client contact), though I know it gets more stressful the more you are there. I understand they are looking to do an internship program in the fall, as well, and I encourage them to do so. It's one of my best legal education experiences. Thanks, guys.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My day in court

Picture from my witness, Officer L. O. Jones.

I'm definitely cut out for this lawyering stuff. This is me collecting the bill from my client!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First Amendment issue?

The first state to make Christmas a state holiday was Alabama, in the 1830s. Interesting, considering the current argument that the Founders intended America to be a Christian government, that they did not determine one of the holiest Christian dates to be important enough to include as a holiday.

James K. Polk was the first president to put a Christmas tree up in the White House. See above.

I'm tired, halfway done with my International Environmental Law final, and ready for bed. I needed a break.

Friday, April 27, 2007

They're so anxious for me in Court

They couldn't even wait for me to graduate. I received my first Texas jury summons today. I am to report on May 17th. I graduate May 19th. Is it really so important for the County that I start appearing in court before I actually have my law degree?

I have no problem with serving on a jury generally, but I'm right in the middle of bar prep that week and I have family in town.

I am pretty sure that since I will have not yet graduated, I technically will still be a student, which should qualify me to get out of jury duty. Still, the timing really couldn't have been more apt.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Anecdote time

I went to high school at Lakes High School in Washington State (Go Lancers!). While in high school, I played baseball; I'd actually played most of my life up until then. But, in high school, I wasn't that good. My fielding was ok, nothing that would win any gold gloves, but good enough to get me on the team. I couldn't bat, though. I mean, I really couldn't hit. I couldn't hit a lake if I was standing on the bottom. I couldn't hit the floor if I tripped and fell. I just was not a batter. I blame lots of things, but what it all really boils down to is that I just didn't get over my anxiety at the plate. And our team was bad. We lost our first ten games my sophomore season, including one where we were ahead by four in the last inning.

But we didn't lose every game that year. I still remember our first win. The day was clear, it looked and smelled just like that first really good, clear spring day of tenth grade. We were playing Clover Park high school (they of the John Deere colors), our rival school and the other high school in our school district. I started the game on the pine, as I often did (I was the guy good enough to not get cut), and enjoyed cheering my friends on. The innings went by, scoreless first, they scored one in the second, we responded with two in the third, but they put a bit of a hurt on us in the top of the fifth, the inning I entered the game, where they scored three runs on a gamut of small ball. A single here, a missed pickoff throw, a blooper just over the shortstop's head, a walk, a sharp hit to the gap between the right fielder and myself in center that brought in two, a sacrifice that brought home the third of the inning before we chased them from the bats. We were held at bay in the bottom of the fifth, and the sixth inning brought Clover Park a goose egg; I even recorded one of the outs on a routine fly just to my left and about ten steps in front of me. The scoreboard showed Clover Park 4, Lakes 2. We had a smattering of hits, about nine, but few actually strung together.

John McKinney was the first batter, and he grounded out to short after punching a foul ball about 300 feet deep but too far left. Lief batted next, and he popped out to left. This put me on the plate for my first at-bat of the day. For the season up to this point I was 0 for everything, and part of me was really just expecting to stand up there and either walk or strike out again. But then something happened, something that I didn't really have happen before. I'd always had people root me on, "C'mon Steve, go get 'em," and jingoistic things like that, but this time, as I left the on deck circle, my friend Pete Chiarelli (not the U.S. Army General) called me over to the dugout. He looked me in the eyes and said "Steve, you can hit this guy. Pick a pitch and nail it." And I don't know what it was about the way he said it, but I believed him, and I wanted to show him he was right. And I went to the plate not really feeling different, but knowing differently than I had the other times I'd gone to the plate.

I took my time setting up in the batter's box. I got a really good plant on my foot, spit out the sunflower seeds I'd been chewing on. I swung the bat around a couple times, because that's what the pros did, so that's what I did. I looked at the pitcher, and whereas before I'd see a guy in that spot who was intimidating, this time, I saw a high school kid, just like me. I still had some hesitation as he threw the first pitch. Ball one, low. I wouldn't have swung anyway, it was my first at-bat and we were to wait until the first called strike before we could look to hit - make the pitcher earn it. I stepped out of the batter's box and took a practice swing. Looked at my teammates, my friends and heard them cheering me on, real cheering, not just lip service. I went back to the plate and readied myself for the second pitch. A nicely placed pitch, just about thigh level, closer to the outside corner, strike one. I have the green light now.

I shake my head. I step out of the box again and pace a little, not much, but enough to get my nervous energy under control. I look up and Pete is looking at me, "You got him!" I step back in the box and look the kid on the mound down. He winds up and delivers. Outside, Ball two. And I realize something. He's got to throw a good pitch next. I decide I'm swinging on the next pitch. The ball goes back to the pitcher. I stay in the box, digging a little with my back foot. I check my grip, hands in the right spot. I'm ready. I look at the pitcher, right in his eyes. He knows I'm ready. He winds up, full windup. I get a look at the ball as it leaves his glove with his pitching hand. I see it as his arm winds back, and I see the fingers release from the ball. It's coming right at me, just a little bit lower than my waist and right down the pipe. My arms are moving on their own right now, going into the swing. My hips open up as my weight shifts to my front leg, the bat gaining speed in my arms. I watch as the ball begins to cross the plate when its path is interrupted by 36 ounces of aluminum. I made contact and the ball starts moving away. It's going right back up the middle, so hard the pitcher doesn't have time to move to defend himself from the object heading toward his shins. He has that look you get when you think you're about to be hit by something you really don't want to get hit by as the ball bounces just to his left and heads out into center field. I have my first hit of the season. Marc Thomas is coaching first, and he congratulates me on my achievement, and I'm jumping up and down on the inside, but I know my job isn't over - the game is still going on.

Tony is up next, and he walks. Then Mike singles to load the bases. Binh is next, and he rips a double that sends myself and Tony home - Tony beating out the throw. John Cook is next up, and his single brings in Mike and gives us the lead, 5-4. Shannon grounds out to second to end the rally, but the damage is done, and insurmountable, as we hold off a late Clover Park threat in the top of the seventh, leaving them with two on and our first win of the season. After the game, my teammates decided who was going to get thrown in the shower to celebrate our victory, when Shannon yelled "Let's get Steve!" Now, I was a relatively quick guy in high school, but cleats on tile don't run so well, and it's impossible to get past 9 guys celebrating their first victory, so while I made a valiant effort to dash for the door, I was grabbed in full uniform, ceremoniously dropped on the shower room floor while the cold water was turned on full blast. My reward for starting the game-winning, two out rally.

Experiences like this are what prep sports ought to be about.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don't Trash America

The U.S. House yesterday voted unanimously to ban the importation of trash from Canada, despite protestations from the president that this would hurt U.S. business. At least, that's basically what the first paragraph of the Detroit Free Press article linked above says.

What it doesn't say, however, is the effect of NAFTA on the proposed bill. You see, under NAFTA, the importation of products derived from the NAFTA nations are subject to national treatment, or the same treatment as that offered to nations with Most Favored Nation status. Since there is no ban on intrastate or interstate transportation of garbage, the bill would run afoul of NAFTA, and would probably be improper.

There's a lot more to that, but I'm busy drafting a bunch of stuff for class. This is probably not interesting to anyone but a NAFTA lawyer or someone trying to buy the garbage, but it's interesting to see international agreements (treaties) in play against domestic law.

Doctor My Eyes

I was driving the daughter to school today, as I do every day. We pulled into the school parking lot where I drop her off with the staff that picks up the students. While waiting for the cars in front of me, my daughter said to me, "Daddy, I'm not a human."

Naturally, I asked why my five year old was not a human. She replied "Because I'm blind."

I asked her how she knew she was blind. "Because I can't see my eyes."

How does one argue with that logic?

And how many people do you know that this definition of blind applies to?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Problem With Photo-Op Moments

Is that eventually, more of the story comes out.

In the case of Jessica Lynch, the West Virginia POW, it turned out what happened, in her own words, isn't what was reported (i.e. wasn't what the military allowed to be seen as the "Jessica Lynch Story" made-for-TV movie). Did you know that the Iraqi nurses tried to return her to the US forces, but were shot upon?

Much like the Pat Tillman situation, things weren't what the administration and the DoD wanted us to believe.

They took a story that had the possibility for a feel-good vibe and exploited it for political gain. In both cases, the military took what happened, changed the facts around, invented some, deleted others, and spun it into a story that would make the military look great. Lynch did not fight back, her humvee was hit by an RPG and crashed into the vehicle in front of them. The military knew almost immediately that Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but they also knew that he was a football player who gave up millions to support his country, and that his valiant, heroic death would embolden countless others to volunteer as well. So they shut everyone up, hid the records, changed the facts around, returned him as a hero (which he was), making the most of the political opportunity that presented itself. Even now, four years later, new details keep getting leaked, little by little, which makes it much less evident the scope of subterfuge put in place, but which is undeniably heinous.

This country needs to rally around a cause. We have for every war - against tyranny in the revolution, to keep the nation together in the Civil War, to stop the threat of a Nazi or Communist world, etc.. Heroes help to do that. But those heroes need to be authentic, not manufactured out of what chance doles out. Jessica Lynch served with distinction. She was a Prisoner of War, a status I have never suffered, nor would I wish upon anyone else. Pat Tillman WAS a hero, but not because of his death or his funeral, and certainly not because of the military cover-up. When you try to make up heroes, it's more likely going to fail than succeed, and it will end up hurting more in the long run than it helped in the short.

Monday, April 23, 2007

True Colors

I've spent three years at law school, a private law school in Texas. Not only is it a private school, but it's a specialty school - it is a law school, and nothing else. This means that what you know about school is pretty much tied to your activity at school, and what you aren't told, you don't find out. For example, I did not find out until today, 24 days before graduation, that we have school colors. Yeah. Crimson and Gold. Now, you would have little to tell you that based on what you see around the school, but there are actual school colors for our law school.

I think it might not have been a bad idea for us to learn that at some point while we were in school, not just at graduation.

For the Greater Good

I had my blood donation appointment today. It was the second time I've gone in this year, which matches the total number of times I went in last year. I need to get one more trip in, at least, so I can say I gave more than last time. If I go three more times, then I will hit the wondrous one gallon mark (I went once in 2005).

I like giving blood. It's relatively painless, doesn't take too long, and it does people good.

Today wasn't the best donation day, though. The assistant who helped me chose a different vein than I usually use, and it ended up drying up on us just over halfway through, which means I ended up not giving a whole pint. I feel bad, especially for the girl, who kept apologizing for giving me a big bruise (she had to keep digging around with the needle to try to get the blood going again and ended up getting blood around my arm, which will leave a pretty groovy bruise, I figure.

I got a couple job applications out today as well; I don't know whether they will lead to any employment, but at least it's up to them to tell me no now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Final Frontier

We took the kids to NASA yesterday. It was the day after the shooting/suicide at Johnson space center (we were at Space Center Houston, same zip code, but different part of the place). The kids had a great time. They got to play on this giant jungle gym, had styrofoam balls dropped on their heads, got to see what the astronauts have to live in in outer space, looked at tons of bones, sat in a mock-up of the space shuttle, looked at some exhibits, bought some freeze-dried ice cream, and wore me out.

It was a good Saturday.

When they're a little older, we can go on the tram ride. I look forward to those days.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Almost there

I graduate in 4 weeks. Where does the time go?


I made manicotti for dinner last night. It turned out pretty good.

I also got a treat for the children. They got to have Sarsparilla for the first time. I'd never had it before, either. It's like a mild root beer - not bad at all. The kids loved it, and the wife seemed to enjoy it as well.

Every now and then it's good to give the kids a treat. And Vernor's isn't always the answer (though it often is).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I don't like it, but I don't disagree with it

The Supreme Court upheld the ban on what is known as partial-birth abortions today in a 5-4 decision. While I agree that the government has the right to restrict in this manner, I would hope that the people use the power of their vote to change this law (i.e. petition your congresspeople).

The law seems to be pretty narrow in scope (the violation comes after the following steps: 1. person performing must vaginally deliver a living fetus, 2. must deliver it so the full head is delivered of, if breach, then up to the navel, 3. perform an overt act that kills the living fetus, which must be done separate from delivery, and 4. it must be done "deliberately and intentionally."

Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, and he appears to have interpreted the Act very narrowly, especially with regard to the scienter ("deliberately and intentionally") requirement. The State would have to prove the intentional delivery to the requisite point AND the overt act were both done intentionally, a heavy burden.

Finally, Justice Kennedy cites Casey, in that the Act, in order to be unconstitutional, would have to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a person trying to get an abortion. Substantial is a key word here, one of those magic words that has an imprecise meaning. Justice Kennedy and the majority, however, held that there was not proof by Planned Parenthood to show that there was a substantial obstacle. I dislike Justice Kennedy's choice of words in Casey, but I understand what he was trying to say, "respondents have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases." Applied broadly, this goes to ALL abortions, not the limited scope of people trying to secure a D&E (this type) abortion.

I may or may not like the law, but I have a hard time disagreeing with the majority opinion that the law is Constitutional. The right to have an abortion does not imply the right to have the abortion method of your choice. I think the best recourse for those who oppose this law is to appeal to your congressperson.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An oldie, but a goodie

The following sentence is true. The preceding sentence is false.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Unique Opportunity

Kofi Annan is in town tonight, and I was one of the lucky students to get a ticket to see him speak. I look forward to the chance to hear him. I've not had an opportunity to hear a leader of the UN to speak before. I'm excited. I'll write about it later, unless I don't, in which case RHM might, since she's got a ticket as well.


When I was eight years old, I had a bicycle. It was a nice, early 1980's style bicycle with a banana seat. One day, my friends and I were having races around Gingko Drive on McChord AFB. I went first, and got around fairly quickly. My friend went second, and he beat me. Not being one to like being beaten on my own bicycle, I went around a second time.

Things were going great. The sun was shining, just a couple clouds out, there was a slight tailwind, which helped me on the first leg, and I had managed to really get my bike around the first corner without losing much speed. I knew I had a chance at beating my friend, I just had to really nail the corners (he had bigger legs than I, so he could beat me on straightaways, I needed cornering speed to remain competitive). So as I came up to the second corner, I noticed a little dip on the side of the road where the sewer is slightly indented for the water to flow in. Now, I didn't know much about physics, still don't, but I knew that things tended to go faster around raised curves, and I knew that I could turn faster at a lower angle by using the dip in the street.

So that's what I aimed to do, and I hit the dip perfectly, I started my right turn, leaned my bike all the way down so that I could really use the centrifugal force, and I happened to notice that my right pedal was down, instead of my left. I thought to myself, "I should probably have my other pedal down, because my turn is so low, my pedal might hit the pavement." Actually, I didn't so much think that to myself as realize it about a nanosecond before it happened.

I don't remember how I got home. I don't, really, remember the visit to the doctor that day, but I do remember my parents having to ask me every two hours who I was and where I lived. I got the answers right.

Perhaps I should have started wearing a helmet after that.

Not a bad showing, but not the strongest

Governor Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico, a man some of my republican friends have said they'd vote for and who I think is the best option out there as of right now, raised 6.2 million dollars in the first three months of the year.

After six+ years of some of the most polarizing politics in the history of America, it would be nice to have a candidate with crossover appeal, someone who can mend the rifts that have come about from hyperpartisan politicking. Bill Richardson seems to be the most qualified candidate among those who can appeal not just to the center, but to those on the other side of the aisle. He needs more attention and support, though.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The cure is as bad as the venom

I have never had rattlesnake meat, though I'm not adverse to trying it someday. I know there's a city in west Texas, I think it's Sweetwater, that has a rattlesnake cookoff every year. Apparently, people use this powder made from rattlesnake meat to cure ailments, which can be bad. It can cause salmonella, which is something I wouldn't be excited about catching. Hopefully it doesn't show up on the rattlesnake steaks, especially if I dare try one (I've had gator, which was OK, kinda gamey).

I don't care much for snakes, mostly because so many of them can kill me, and I was attacked by a cottonmouth when I was 11. However, this is more disconcerting for me, because I would normally hope that a snake can't kill me after it's dead, especially if it's trying to make me better.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


While again using the troops as leverage for political purposes, president Bush reiterated that a democratic timeline leads to a victory for the enemy. I somehow think there are several both here and there that are saying "at least the democrats have a plan that leads to victory for someone."

The country is in a civil war, the administration is accusing Iran of meddling in Iraqi politics (because we would never do something like that). The most recent signs of progress, according to the administration, is the protest with thousands of Iraqis demanding the US forces out - a freedom Iraq did not have four years ago. Other things Iraq couldn't do four years ago: Bomb parliament or destroy historic bridges.

The president insists that the surge is going to work, though violence is up, deaths are up, public support is down, the president still has no exit strategy, other than to wait until he's out of office and let the next guy (it'll be a guy; Hillary is too polarizing to win) deal with it.

Perhaps a timetable is what the war needs; perhaps it will galvanize the Iraqis to stand up for themselves, and perhaps it will force the president to listen. He hasn't listened to the people; will he listen to the law (provided it's passed over veto)? If not, then the impeachment option is clearly available. I don't like the "I" word, but I hate the black eye our president's incompetence has given this nation even more.

Did people actually believe them?

North Korea recently said that it would disarm its nuclear program if we unfroze 25 million in assets.

Of course, this is the same nuclear program that they had agreed to not pursue under Clinton's administration.

This is, of course, the same North Korea that has "agreed" to many things over the past few decades in exchange for other considerations, such as food and fuel.

So, is it any surprise that North Korea did not meet its deadline, that it did not disarm its nuclear program?

I have heard talk that we should launch preemptive strikes against Iran since they are developing a nuclear program and they are a member of the axis of evil. North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, they have a program, and they have one of the worst human rights records of the past half-century.

We've invaded for less than this. Perhaps a regime change to stabilize the region and spread western-style democracy would be in order here? Of course, North Korea is a little different than Iraq or Iran, in that they have a republic-style government with millions of their brethren waiting to welcome them with open arms, making the transition arguably much smoother. Oh yeah, and North Korea has no oil, though they do have the USS Pueblo...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Update

It was a busy couple of days at work this week. The staff has a pretty serious report due and an audit coming up, so they were all a little busier than usual. So when I came in yesterday, they had four contracts that needed doing, that had been in the queue longer than they should have been. None of them were huge contracts, but they were contracts that needed to be started and finished. Enter me. I walk in and have the four contracts on my desk, with instructions to get through them before I do anything else. Understand, I've worked on contracts while I've been there, but I've never done a contract alone, let alone four. I was a little anxious, but they're not going to get out of my to do pile if I just look at them.

So I get ready to get to work on the contracts. But before I do, my supervisor calls me in and tells me to knock "this" contract out real quick, because it's got to get out this morning for the guy to sign, since it lapsed and he was on vacation and helping us out by taking the work while he was in a different state than he lives. As I was walking out of the office, my mentor (I guess, I don't ever care for the term "mentor" because of the way it's been buzzworded, but it seems the best term here), stops me and asks me to get a couple things knocked out on *this* contract which needs to be done asap, and could I check on the status of these other two contracts, since it'll just take a minute? So, to recap, I have four contracts that I have to do before anything else, but I have two contracts I have to knock out and two more I have to status check on, and I'm flying solo.

Good news is I made great headway on the contracts, I have final drafts out on two for review by the other party, I have one contract killed (the vendor is no longer in that business), and the fourth is ready for the addendum's first draft. I knocked out the terms and service files for my mentor's contract, which is ready to go, and I got the agreement done on my supervisor's contract.

This afternoon, my supervisor told me she was extremely proud of me and she was kicking herself a little for not dumping so much on me at once sooner. I assured her that I would not have been able to do this two months ago, and that I needed to be able to see the parts of the contract process individually before I could approach it collectively. But it's great to know that I'm already at a point where I can go this alone if need be.

Now I just need to convince them to pay me for this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Public Education

I was driving home from school today listening to ESPN radio (Seriously, how old am I that I willingly listen to talk radio?) and the guys on the program were discussing a plan by a TX state representative to put forward a bill that would require public schools in Texas to randomly test high school athletes for steroids.

One of the radio guys mentioned how he thought it was an idiotic idea, in part because the sponsor of the bill did not know how many students were taking steroids, and whether or not they were a problem. I think the other guy was less opposed to it, but did not support the idea, but I want to comment on the former opinion now.

I think it's monumentally silly to argue against a bill like this because we "don't know if it's a problem." That's arguing against the issue. The issue here is not "we need to find out who is using steroids," the issue is "we want to put the students on notice that we are testing, and if they use steroids and get caught, it's their ass." It's a preventive measure (Jamie, you may recognize this approach from class today), where the idea is to discourage kids from doing steroids in the first place.

Personally, I think this concept could be expanded. I think there is a strong argument in favor of mandating random drug tests among all students in Texas schools (or any other state). I think it comports with the school's responsibility to protect the students, it polices the students in advance, it's facially neutral (if done right, say you have two drawings of 9 digits, the first is the location on the social security number 123-45-6789 and the second is the actual number that appears in that location, then have all students whose social has that number in that place take the test), it matches the current curriculum of resisting drug use, and it is in keeping with public policy.

Public education is a privilege, and that privilege should come with responsibility. Teaching kids to avoid drugs in junior high and high school can help set a drug-free pattern after high school, and having fewer people using drugs results in fewer people being arrested for using drugs, and that leads to fewer people in jail, which leads to fewer government (read: tax) dollars going to house people.

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Four classes to go
Only two finals, then grad,
I'm dreading the bar.

As always, I look forward to your submissions.

Where it all comes in to play

"Trust us."

Because THIS time, we're telling you the truth. Never mind that we were wrong before. Never mind that we told half truths before. Never mind that we said Mission Accomplished with a banner that the WHITE HOUSE made and the PRESIDENT stood behind. Never mind that the stability we were so quick to display with purple thumbs and a torn down statue has degraded into sectarian civil war. Never mind that we continue to cling to the false notion that Iraq supported Al Qaeda on the same day that information directly contradicting that assertion comes to light. Never mind that we didn't mean stay the course when we said stay the course.

This time, we're serious. We wouldn't lie to you. Unless we had plausible cover.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Post Mortem

The minitrial is over.

The state's case was that the defendant entered a U-Totem, robbed the store, took the clerk's watch, hit him in the head, and shut him in the cooler, with a second witness who came in after.

The defense's case was that the defendant was at a bar a mile and change away from the store, playing a shuffleboard tournament at the time of the robbery.

After all was said and done, the verdict was returned as a hung jury.

I thought we had a pretty good case, but we had worthy opponents who know how to dig and cross and examine. In the end, I'm happy with a hung jury, because that means we convinced at least some members of the jury of guilt (actually, of the 8 jurymembers, 4 wanted to convict and one was on the fence, so it was essentially 4.5 - 3.5).

It was tough. There are so many things to consider when it comes to arguing a case, rules of evidence, rules of procedure, hearsay rules. Then there are witness problems - some witnesses are helpful, some are not so helpful, some who should be good witnesses turn out to be harmful witnesses - for example, it got to a point with one of my witnesses on redirect where I had to flat out tell him the facts, which I normally would not have gotten away with. Then you have the testimony you are unsure about - the stuff from the defense. We did not get to hear from the defense, no theory as to their case, no exculpatory evidence, heck, we didn't even see the defendant until the trial. We had to anticipate not just what the defense's story was but what their witnesses were going to say and then adjust to what they really said on the fly. Trial lawyers need a quick mind and the ability to focus on several things at once. This is multitasking for people's freedom, sometimes lives. It's fun, but I think it was fun for me more because it was a rare occurrance.

I have plenty of room to improve. I need to do a better job understanding the rules of evidence, understanding the rules of procedure, and especially not leading the witnesses, but the important thing for me is the knowledge that if I have to make a living, I could be a criminal trial lawyer.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I'm tired from preparing for minitrial, it's been a long day. I had to deal with inanity, which I may or may not get in to later.

Anyway, for a quick break, here's some trivia for you:

Charles Babbage was the inventor of the skeleton key and the cow catcher.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I'll see you in court!

Tuesday is the big day.

That's the day of me and RHM's minitrial. This is the final, so to speak, for our advocacy class. It's what we've spent all semester preparing for, the chance to show off our litigation skills in front of the rest of the class, and put on video for posterity. RHM is more relaxed than I, though I am not as stressed as before. The charge is robbery, dropped from Armed Robbery. We're going against two of the top students in class, one is a Marine entering the JAG while the other has been hired to the DA's office. It's going to be interesting. We've got a tough row to hoe, but we have a decent shot.

I'll post more regularly after this is done - I'll have more free time. Talk to y'all then!

On Intelligent Design, Part 3

This is a continuation of the paper I began earlier this week. You can find Part 2 here.

i. Balanced Treatment

The Court’s ruling in Epperson led to a change in the approach of Creationist instruction. The next step state legislatures took was to adopt a “balanced treatment” standard. One example of this type of statute was Tennessee’s 1973 Public Acts chapter 377. Section 1 of the Act amended Tennessee’s Code to require, inter alia, that any textbooks that proffer any theory on the creation and origin of man first must state that such theory is a theory and not a fact and second give an equal amount of time to the theories involved in the Book of Genesis in the Bible and other sources.[i] Additionally, this section stated that “[t]he teaching of all occult or satanical beliefs of human origin is expressly excluded from this Act.”[ii] Section 2 of the Act granted an exemption for the Bible.[iii] This Act was challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. In Daniel v. Waters, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tennessee’s Statute unconstitutional:

First, the statute requires that any textbook which expresses an opinion about the origin of man "shall be prohibited from being used" unless the book specifically states that the opinion is "a theory" and "is not represented to be scientific fact." The statute also requires that the Biblical account of creation (and other theories of creation) be printed at the same time, with commensurate attention and equal emphasis. As to all such theories, except only the Genesis theory, the textbook must print the disclaimer quoted above. But the proviso in Section 2 would allow the printing of the Biblical account of creation as set forth in Genesis without any such disclaimer. The result of this legislation is a clearly defined preferential position for the Biblical version of creation as opposed to any account of the development of man based on scientific research and reasoning. For a state to seek to enforce such a preference by law is to seek to accomplish the very establishment of religion which the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States squarely forbids.[iv]

The court also found that the reference to “the occult or satanical beliefs” problematic:

Throughout human history the God of some men has frequently been regarded as the Devil incarnate by men of other religious persuasions. It would be utterly impossible for the Tennessee Textbook Commission to determine which religious theories were "occult" or "satanical" without seeking to resolve the theological arguments which have embroiled and frustrated theologians through the ages. …

The requirement that some religious concepts of creation, adhered to presumably by some Tennessee citizens, be excluded on such grounds in favor of the Bible of the Jews and the Christians represents still another method of preferential treatment of particular faiths by state law and, of course, is forbidden by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[v]

And as such, the court found balanced treatment unconstitutional.

[i] See 1973 Tenn. Pub. Acts 377.

[ii] Id.

[iii] See Id.

[iv] Daniel v. Waters, 515 f.2d 485, 489 (6th Cir. 1975)

[v] Id at 491.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Intelligent Design, Part 2

This is a continuation of the paper I began posting yesterday:

a. History

i. Evolution in School

This country was founded on the principal of religious freedom. For most of our country’s history, Americans interpreted that rule to mean that they could worship God and the Bible as they pleased. So important was the right to religious freedom that the Founding Fathers took care to address it foremost in the Bill of Rights, as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof….”[i] For years, however, religious “creationism” instruction was commonplace in public schools, and the idea that any other theory on the origin of man existed did not exist. This changed with Charles Darwin’s book “On Origin of Species,” which proposed that evolution may account for how people have come to be.

At first, this new theory made little headway into the public education systems across the country. However, as the theory persisted, states resisted by passing laws forbidding schools and teachers from teaching evolutionary theory in public schools. Tennessee passed its Anti-evolution statute which read:

An ACT prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.

Section 2. Be it further enacted, That any teacher found guilty of the violation of this Act, Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be fined not less than One Hundred $ (100.00) Dollars nor more than Five Hundred ($ 500.00) Dollars for each offense.

Section 3. Be it further enacted, That this Act take effect from and after its passage, the public welfare requiring it.[ii]

This led to a challenge of the statute by way of high school coach and part-time biology teacher John Scopes, who had been teaching evolution in a state-approved text. He became the defendant in a challenge of the statute that went up to the Tennessee Supreme Court, where the statute was upheld but the decision reversed because the trial judge issued the fine, not the jury.[iii] Ultimately the case was dismissed, but the result of the trial was felt across the country, as only two of the fifteen states that were considering anti-evolution statutes passed them.

One of those two states was Arkansas, which passed its Arkansas statutes §§80-1627 and 1628 in 1929. These statutes, like Tennessee’s statute, made it unlawful to teach evolution in any public school or university.[iv] (SEE endnote). In Epperson et al. v. Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of banning evolution. The Court struck down the Arkansas statute and criticized Tennessee’s statute, ruling

In the present case, there can be no doubt that Arkansas has sought to prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution because it is contrary to the belief of some that the Book of Genesis must be the exclusive source of doctrine as to the origin of man. No suggestion has been made that Arkansas' law may be justified by considerations of state policy other than the religious views of some of its citizens. It is clear that fundamentalist sectarian conviction was and is the law's reason for existence. Its antecedent, Tennessee's "monkey law," candidly stated its purpose: to make it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." Perhaps the sensational publicity attendant upon the Scopes trial induced Arkansas to adopt less explicit language. It eliminated Tennessee's reference to "the story of the Divine Creation of man" as taught in the Bible, but there is no doubt that the motivation for the law was the same: to suppress the teaching of a theory which, it was thought, "denied" the divine creation of man.[v]

Additionally, the Court stated:

It is of no moment whether the law is deemed to prohibit mention of Darwin's theory, or to forbid any or all of the infinite varieties of communication embraced within the term "teaching." Under either interpretation, the law must be stricken because of its conflict with the constitutional prohibition of state laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The overriding fact is that Arkansas' law selects from the body of knowledge a particular segment which it proscribes for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine; that is, with a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis by a particular religious group.[vi]

This ruling effectively established the theory of evolution as standard instruction in the public school systems of this country, and struck a blow against the instruction of Creationism in those same schools.

[i] U. S. Const. amend. I.

[ii] 1925 Tenn. Pub. Acts 27.

[iii] See Scopes, 289 S. W. at 367.

[iv] Ark. Stat. Ann. §§ 80-1627, 80-1628 (1960 Repl. Vol.).

[v] Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U. S. 97, 108 (1968).

[vi] Id at 103.

Iran's PR victory?

After 9-11, the United States declared war. We didn't declare war on an enemy state; we declared war on a concept - terrorism. The president entered us into this war under his Constitutional warmaking authority pursuant to an AUMF signed by Congress. Our goal is to eliminate terror, specifically, Al Qaeda, who was deemed (and later corroborated) to be responsible for the attacks on September 11. One aspect of war is capturing enemy combatants. We captured a lot of people we declared were Al Qaeda members or Al Qaeda supporters, and we held them in, among other places, Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba. There, the detainees have been held without the right to challenge their detention, without the right to see the evidence against them, without the right to see the witnesses against them, they are subject to harsh treatment (at one time torture, perhaps, as well), and are subject to coerced confessions, which can be used against them in trial - trials that will be for their lives, for losing their case almost inevitably will result in death. Winning just means they get to go back to Guantanamo Bay, but that's for a different time.

The United States has sent the message to the world that this is how it treats those it captures pursuant to the laws of war. Common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions apply here; the president can't invoke the law of war for the capture and prosecution of enemy combatants and then claim a loophole that allows him to not offer the protections granted by the laws of war (gotta take the bitter with the sweet - one of the major holdings in Hamdan). We have told the world, as the superpower, that we consider this treatment to be acceptable.

A short time ago, 15 british Marines were captured by Iran. They were detained without access to international aid, they were subject to coerced confessions, and they were paraded over the airwaves. Iran had the confessions from the sailors, that they were violating Iranian waters. Iran had a violation of the laws of war, they had a confession, and we really were not in a position to forcefully say "you can't execute them," because that is what we hope to do with the few (I think 10?) detainees currently awaiting trial using coerced confessions as a principal piece of evidence. Yet, they didn't do so. They released the sailors - and there was much rejoicing.

People will argue that Iran had to do this, that it had no other viable choice, because executing the sailors would have invited retaliation, and perhaps that's true, but who would have been the aggressor? Per our actions in the war on terror, said executions would arguably have been justified. The western nations that attacked Iran would be punishing Iran for following the United States' lead.

While one could argue releasing the sailors was the "only" choice, it certainly was the best choice for Iran and the rest of the world. And for all the hateful rhetoric that Ahmedinejad spews, in this instance, he set the proper example.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On Intelligent Design

Last year, I took a seminar class called "education law." I loved that class, so much, in fact, that part of me wanted to become an education law lawyer. Maybe I still want to, I don't know.

Anyway, my paper earned me a B+ in the class, which may have been a little higher than I deserved; I wish I'd have put in a little more time to make a stronger paper. Being that I think many people don't understand the idea of Intelligent Design, or why people are opposed to its teachings, I thought I would do a piece by piece posting on my blog. So, without further ado, here is the introduction, and I apologize in advance for the cites:

In 1927, John Thomas Scopes went on trial for teaching that humans evolved from monkeys. In what was a very controversial issue, the Supreme Court decided that the state was not wrong by refusing to allow the instruction of evolution in public schools. Though Tennessee’s Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts upholding the statute, it did so the on grounds that the Judge levied the fine, not the jury, and the Court declared a nolle prosequi on the famed “Monkey” trial.[i] The past eighty years have seen jurisprudence on this matter nearly stand on its head. Today evolution is a part of virtually every public school’s curriculum while creationism has been all but shut out of the schoolhouse. Some have praised this reversal while some have fought it tooth and nail. Some have even parodied the fight to teach alternative theories[ii].

This paper will discuss the history of Intelligent Design in schools, from its roots in creationism through creative science up to intelligent design. It will explain the tests used to determine whether or not an Intelligent Design program violates the Establishment Clause, how the country reached the position it has regarding intelligent design, as well as where Intelligent Design might stand in Texas. Finally, it will offer a proposed curriculum that incorporates intelligent design into public education while surviving First Amendment muster. First, we will discuss the Constitutionality of teaching evolution.

[i] See Scopes v. State, 289 S. W. 363, 367 (Tenn. 1927).


Monday, April 02, 2007

So honored

My good friend GTL at Gun Toting Liberal did me quite the honor yesterday. He placed me on his list of five bloggers who make him think. My thanks go to Papamoka, who directed me to the site, where I've had the opportunity to take part in many a great debate.

One of the responsibilities I have as a result of this award, though (much like a chain letter), I have to name five people who make me think. I like this, because it gives me the chance to point people to blogs I read. To be fair, though, I will not include family members (they make me think, but I don't believe in nepotism).

First, I'm going to breach etiquette a little, and point right back to the GTL - I have been the part of a great many discussions on that site and look forward to many more.

Then, in alphabetical order, I offer the following:
2. Bookworm
3. Good Enough Mom
4. Vim and Vinegar
5. War Professor - who has been a bit of an absenteeist for the last several months, but is an excellent poster when she can find the time.

I enjoy everyone on my blogroll, otherwise I would not link to you. It's rather difficult to find a way to narrow the list down, and this list, like GTL's, could easily be different 6 months from now, as it most certainly would have been different 6 months ago. Every one of the blogs above provide well-written positions and unique perspectives that I enjoy reading. They are all courteous, cogent, and congenial, even in disagreement, and many bloggers could take a lesson on rational discourse from any of them.

Objection, Hearsay

Hearsay is: any out of court statement, made by a declarant (person), which is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

Essentially, this means that the person made the statement to prove that the statement he is making is true.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Great, just great

As if we didn't have enough going on with graduation, and bar review and bar exam and trips to Pennsylvania for training and getting the daughter ready for kindergarten and the Boy going to an advanced program at a different school next year and the little boy potty training...

The rabbit's dead.