Thursday, February 28, 2013

Real Assault on Our Rights

For all the palaver about assaults on our Constitutional rights with regard to the Second Amendment, let's take a moment to consider a recent decision affecting our Fourth Amendment rights. During his administration, President Bush appointed two justices to the Supreme Court. One of those appointees, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by the other four Conservative appointees, just issued the ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International. For those who claim to be concerned about threats to our Constitutional rights, this is a real and actual matter of concern.

In a nutshell, Justice Alito, joined by C.J. Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, has placed warrentless wiretapping in a nifty (for the Government) Catch-22 - in order to bring a suit for damages arising from an unconstitutional search and seizure with respect to a warrentless wiretap of your communications, you have to prove first that you are in fact one of the individuals the government has wiretapped and are in their database. The rub is that the government holds no requirement to disclose the individuals who are the targets of the wiretapping.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, "a law without a remedy is worthless," as he quoted Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 15 - "It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation." This shameful tactic of removing standing to shield the law from Judicial review is one that President Bush used with FISA; it's doubly shameful that President Obama has continued the tack.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Advice for Spring 2013 Texas State Bar Exam takers

Reposted from June, 2008, but still pertinent.

It's almost July; the exam is coming up in about a month. Some of y'all may be getting stressed, particularly about practice exam/simulated MBE scores. First off - the simulated MBE is to give you an idea of what the exam is like and to kind of remind you that this is coming up. Keep studying your rules of law, and you will be fine.

Remember, the exam is there to test how well you can spot issues, state the rule and apply it (this is your IRAC in action). You have to be able to keep your thoughts organized - take your time and let the answer come out. Don't panic. So long as you've studied, you should be fine. The exam is designed to be difficult, but passable. The idea is that you need to put in the effort to prepare for it. Remember that, and remember that you already learned most of this in law school and you're just refreshing your mind while studying for the bar, and you should be fine. You still need to actually study, though. That part is tough to pass by...

I can't tell anyone "how" to study for the bar exam. Everybody learns their own way. I can tell you what worked for me, if that gives you a launching point for your own preparation after BarBri ends.

Photog and I studied together. We went to BarBri together, then went to the school and studied together. One thing that helped us was that we were able to find a room where we could speak to each other without worrying about disturbing others. This way, we could go over practice questions and exams and discuss the answers to reinforce what we were learning. We actually chose the International Law Society office at STCL because we knew we would be able to study and still have things to take the focus off our stress.

We would start the day by doing about 30-50 multiple choice questions, either from the Barbri software or questions from other exam sources. We would read 10 questions, we would both come up with answers individually, then we'd share our answer. If the answers did not match, then we would "sell" our answer to the other before we checked the answer (on the software we usually did this one question at a time). After we checked our answer, we made sure we understood the reasoning for the answer, particularly if we got it wrong, or if we got it right but only because we guessed the correct letter. Attention to detail counts here. Read each word in the question and answer. Then we'd take lunch.

After the MC questions, we would start on the essays (should be the yellow book). Again, we'd read a question, come up with an answer, explain the rule of law, and support our position. For these, we usually were pretty close with our answers, but our reasoning might differ slightly, except in the situations where we simply had no idea about the topic of the question (this will happen - make sure you make note of it and keep going - don't get bogged down). We would do this for 3-5 hours, usually getting through 3-6 essays (don't worry about speed, which will come, worry about getting the rules down). Then it was time for coffee and coca-cola breaks.

Then, depending on our energy level, we would consider going over the Procedure and Evidence questions - you want to do these a couple times, just to make sure you're comfortable with the questions - there's a limited number of questions that they can ask, so you should have little trouble getting these in your head.

One of the things that we had to do was keep something around to occupy ourselves - we had toy swords and a Nerf ball that we would bat around, and a yardstick we would balance from time to time. I find that I need to keep active while I'm studying, it helps me focus. This is certainly not for everyone and if you are studying with anyone, make sure that your study partner is of similar activity requirement.

Finally, keep your sense of humor, don't get discouraged.  Should you find yourself flailing or feeling like you don't know anything, just recite the common law standard for burglary (the unlawful breaking and entering of a dwelling house of another at night with the intent to commit a felony therein).  This helps you refocus and get the ball rolling again - it can galvanize you.  You know the information, you just need to practice getting it out. Like I said before - the exam is there to challenge you, not to try to fail you. If you ever need any bad jokes to ease the stress, I may know one or two.

Lightweight Blogging

Just wanted to take a moment to share the fact that we're going on a cruise in a few weeks.  You are not.  Be jealous!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Super Bowl

A couple things... first of all, I thought the commercials this year were by and large listless.  Nothing terribly water-cooler quality to speak of.  I did not care for the hot girl and nerd guy making out commercial, which I thought was wrong-headed, but it's not a surprise given the company it was made for.

I thought the game turned out to be quite good.  I'm not suggesting that it would have changed the outcome, but I did think the officiating was markedly one-sided, to the point that I right now cannot recall one penalty Baltimore got called for during the game.  Moreover, I do recall seeing at least 3 very blatant non-calls in the 4th quarter, one of which did have some impact on the outcome of the game (not saying it changed it, but it limited the potential for the game to end differently). 

I'm happy for the Ravens, though I found myself pulling for San Francisco in the game. 

Now for bed, then back to work.