Growing Pains

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Practice, Marquette Law School, Public2 Comments on Growing Pains

I recently had the opportunity to re-read the personal statement I submitted with my Marquette Law School application, now almost three years ago, for one of my current classes.  While many things had changed—for example I am now far less idealistic, definitely less “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” and no longer have a passion for criminal law—the opening and closing statements still ring true and effectively capture the development as a person and future lawyer I have experienced during my law school career at Marquette.  As the new class of future Marquette attorneys has only recently began this journey at Eckstein Hall, I wanted to write a blog post to them explaining what I think the most influential and important aspects of my almost-complete legal education have been.

“When a butterfly struggles to free itself from its cocoon, it causes fluid to be pumped back into its wings. This independent act of vigilance, determination, and extreme effort is what allows the butterfly to take flight. This fact has inspired me as I enter the next phase of my life, and has shaped my perception of law school’s purpose. I enter the ‘cocoon’ of law school well-prepared and with the knowledge that with conviction and a lot of hard work, after three years I too will take flight.”

The above paragraph, while admittedly a bit hokey, was the opening to my personal statement.  It reminds me of a fact that Father O’Meara shares with the entering 1L class each year: it is common knowledge in biology “that growth occurs along places where there is tension, stimulation, or irritation.”  His point is that tension is necessary for both development and learning. These statements illustrate the personal growth I, and I’m assuming most other students, experience during law school.  Continue reading “Growing Pains”

What Has Changed the Most in Legal Education Since You Became a Law Professor?

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[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors.  This post is the first in the series.]

I became a law professor in 1970, my first year on the Georgetown law faculty. I believe that one of the most changed aspects of legal education in the past forty-one years is the care and feeding of law students. By that, I refer to the remarkable proliferation of in-house extra-curricular activities. Innumerable law societies shedding light on the various interests of students and weekly opportunities to hear great speakers are but the tip of the iceberg. Not to be overlooked is the availability of frequent free lunches at these noon events. So much for the “feeding.” As to the “care,” the heightened interaction between faculty and students represents a fundamental change in legal education. I do not believe that I ever spoke to one of my professors outside of class. Contrast this with the expectations of today’s students. To conclude, I almost wish I were a law student now instead of then.

The 100th Anniversary of the Law School’s First Real Graduation

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Although the fact went largely unnoticed, the May 2011 Law School Commencement marked the centennial anniversary of the first real law degrees awarded by Marquette University.  In June of 1911, nine students who had entered the initial full-time law program offered by Marquette University in the fall of 1908 received their bachelor of laws diplomas at the annual Marquette Commencement ceremony.

The subject of early Marquette law degrees is complicated by the decision of the University to award Marquette Law degrees to all the former students of the Milwaukee Law School (which Marquette acquired in 1908) who had passed the Wisconsin bar examination.  The decision was apparently made at the last minute, and few documents pertaining to the decision survive.  (It is, for example, hardly mentioned in the Trustee minutes.)  Apparently the decision was also intended to apply to former Milwaukee Law School students who were enrolled at the time of the “merger” and who continued on in the new night program at Marquette.

As a consequence, more than 80 law degrees were awarded in 1908, before the new law school actually began operations, and additional degrees to former Milwaukee Law School students were awarded at the next several commencements.  This decision later came back to haunt the law school, as critics (especially faculty members of the University of Wisconsin Law School) later accused the school of “selling diplomas.”  (Degrees were not automatically awarded to former Milwaukee Law School students who passed the bar examination; they first had to apply to Marquette for a degree and pay a $5 diploma fee.)  In response, the degrees awarded to the Milwaukee Law School students were soon re-labeled “honorary degrees.”

Continue reading “The 100th Anniversary of the Law School’s First Real Graduation”

A Child Remembers 9/11

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I was driving to work on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, talking on my cell phone with my mother.  Suddenly, she interrupted our conversation to say that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings.  My first thought was probably like the thoughts of many others who heard the news second-hand:  it must have been a small plane, a Cessna maybe, an inexperienced pilot or some mechanical error.  Surely an accident.  A few minutes later, my mother exclaimed, “Oh my God, another plane hit the other tower!” Then she hung up.

It wasn’t until I got to work and huddled around a TV with my colleagues that I fully understood what had happened. In a hushed room with several others, I watched in horror, my mouth agape, as the Towers crumbled, as people ran through the streets of Manhattan, thick smoke filling the streets behind them.  It looked like a scene you’d see from somewhere else, somewhere across the world.  But not here.

Those of us with young children at home struggled with what to tell them, what to let them see and hear. What do you say to a child who has hardly seen or experienced much of the world outside his home, his community, his state, that allows him to understand the magnitude of 9/11?  What do you say to let him know the larger world can be unpredictable and scary and dangerous, but so that you don’t scare him into never experiencing that larger world? Continue reading “A Child Remembers 9/11”

Can Intellectual Property Be a Source of Repression?

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law, Public1 Comment on Can Intellectual Property Be a Source of Repression?

Concerned with the current direction of world intellectual property law, an international group of intellectual property and information policy experts has issued the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest. The Declaration calls for a re-articulation of the “public interest dimension in intellectual property law and policy” and expresses concern for the “unprecedented expansion of the concentrated legal authority exercised by intellect property rights holders.”

The document’s primary assertions are that national and international “intellectual property policy affects a broad range of interest within society, not just those of rights holders,” and that “markets alone cannot be relied upon to achieve a just allocation of information goods—that is, one that promotes the full range of human values at stake in intellectual property systems.” Continue reading “Can Intellectual Property Be a Source of Repression?”

International Law as a Tool for Ascertaining Gaddafi’s Whereabouts

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In a prior post, I explained that the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) has jurisdiction to prosecute Muammar Gaddafi because the Security Council passed a resolution to that effect in February 2011. Utilizing that jurisdiction, the Court issued arrest warrants against Gaddafi, his son, and his military intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in connection with their suppression of an uprising in eastern Libya several months ago. With Gaddafi effectively out of power and in hiding, news media have begun to speculate on his whereabouts. The latest reports suggest that he may have headed by land into Niger, which shares part of Libya’s southern border. It is unclear whether Niger would be Gaddafi’s final destination, or whether he has even left Libya.

Wherever Gaddafi is headed, international law provides an intriguing tool for prediction. Under the Rome Statute—the ICC’s founding treaty—a state-party is generally obligated to comply with ICC requests for arrest and surrender. Of the states bordering Libya, Chad, Niger, and Tunisia are all party to the Rome State, and thus seem to be obligated to turn Gaddafi over to the Court if they find him within their borders. If international law is effective, we should anticipate that Gaddafi will avoid these states out of fear of arrest. Continue reading “International Law as a Tool for Ascertaining Gaddafi’s Whereabouts”

What Should Be the Prerequisites for Becoming a Law Professor?

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Unlike the situation in most academic disciplines, law professors typically do not possess a true doctoral degree.  The J.D. degree, the basic law degree in the United States, is the highest educational level attained by most law professors.  There was a time in the past when advanced law degrees, the LL.M. and the S.J.D., would viewed as desirable prerequisites for would-be law teachers, but that day has clearly passed.  The S.J.D. degree is nearly extinct, and the LL.M. has been reduced to a kind of specialization certificate that implies concentrated, but not necessarily advanced, law study.

New law professors have traditionally been hired to law school faculties on the basis of their impressive level of performance in law school.  High grades and law review membership have usually been equated with potential for teaching, particularly if they are supplemented with a prestigious clerkship and some, but not too much, experience as a practicing lawyer. Professors hired solely for their practical expertise in law are relatively rare.

A recently published study by Joni Hersch and W. Kip Viscusi, two law professors at Vanderbilt University, reveals that this situation maybe slowly changing.  Continue reading “What Should Be the Prerequisites for Becoming a Law Professor?”

Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute Does Not Count as PLRA Strike, Seventh Circuit Rules

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Choosing form over substance, the Seventh Circuit ruled earlier this week that dismissals of a prison inmate’s repeated “unintelligible” complaints do not count as strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, even though the cases should have been dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Paul v. Marberry (No. 10-3670). The PLRA requires prepayment of all filing and docket fees by inmate-plaintiffs who have three strikes — a requirement that may effectively doom lawsuits by indigent inmates. The PLRA specifies that a strike should be assigned for each action brought by an inmate that was dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Paul filed a series of complaints, each of which was initially dismissed without prejudice under FRCP 8(a)(2) for failure to provide a “short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In none of the cases did Paul take advantage of the opportunity to file a new complaint in compliance with the rule. The district court then dimissed each case for failure to prosecute. Paul finally obtained the assistance of a fellow inmate who had better drafting skills and managed to file a complaint that did state a claim. However, the district court dismissed the new complaint based on the PLRA three-strikes rule and Paul’s failure to prepay his fees.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit indicated that the earlier cases should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim instead failure to prosecute (5). But, given that the dismissal orders nowhere used strike-triggering language, the court held that they should not be counted against Paul:

[W]e think the plaintiff was entitled to take the previous dismissals at face value, and since none of them was based on any of the grounds specified in section 1915(g), to infer that he was not incurring strikes by the repeated dismissals. The statute is explicit, and the case law confirms, . . . that classifying a dismissal as a strike depends on the grounds given for it; since most prisoners litigate their civil claims pro se, they should not be required to speculate on the grounds the judge could or even should have based the dismissal on. (7-8)

Cross posted at Life Sentences Blog.

You Are Not Leaving on a Jet Plane–Not Dressed Like That

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Public6 Comments on You Are Not Leaving on a Jet Plane–Not Dressed Like That

On September 1, Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because his pants were too saggy.  Two months ago a football player from the University of New Mexico was also removed from a flight, this time by US Airways.  With these events taking place in relatively rapid succession, the blogosphere lit up with complaints about the airlines.  There are even online petitions and calls for both men to sue their respective airlines.

I view this no differently than the signs I saw as a kid walking into restaurants: “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.”  A private company has a right to enforce a dress code on patrons.

Those calling for a lawsuit may have their trigger fingers a bit too itchy.  This was by no means a restriction based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  This was a company seeking to enforce a public dress code.

Perhaps this is a potential market opening for any of you with millions just looking for something to do with it – open an airline that allows passengers to wear their pants sagging.

Finding the Positive Amid a Family’s Searing 9/11 Tragedy

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It was several years before Andrea Haberman’s purse was returned to her family. It took a few more years before her father, Gordon, was willing to go through what was in the purse inside an evidence bag he was given by the New York City police department. He described his reaction to the purse as “very visceral.”

On the other hand, for weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Haberman kept calling his daughter’s cell phone number. No one answered. “You’re asking me why I would call that,” Haberman said to Mike Gousha during an intense, somber “On the Issues” program in Eckstein Hall’s Appellate Courtroom on Tuesday. “It was a connection to her.”

As the tenth anniversary of the death of Andrea Haberman and nearly 3,000 other people in the attacks of Sept. 11 arrives, Andrea’s family and friends remain deeply committed to keeping alive their connection to the 25-year-old daughter, sister, fiancé, and friend who was just hours into her first trip to New York.

Continue reading “Finding the Positive Amid a Family’s Searing 9/11 Tragedy”

Your Children’s Ultimate Weapon: Suing You for Emotional Distress?

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In what surely must be one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories comes the news that two siblings, one 20 and one 23, sued their mother for intentional infliction of emotional distress from “bad mothering.”

In 2009, Steven Miner II and his sister Kathryn Miner sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity, for emotional distress due to her alleged bad parenting and requested $50,000 in damages.

Although the Miner children grew up in Barrington Hills, Illinois, in a $1.5 million home, they apparently felt deprived of a proper mother.  Continue reading “Your Children’s Ultimate Weapon: Suing You for Emotional Distress?”

Ambivalent Angst Over College Football’s De Jure Inequality

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Like many, I am profoundly excited for tomorrow—the first Saturday of college football season. I’m excited to watch my favorite team and daydream about the possibility of a BCS bowl game, to trash-talk with other fans, to order stadium food when I make it out to games, and to order pizza when I watch from home. I’m excited to be entertained by the playful senility of Lee Corso as he picks winners and dons mascot headgear. I’m excited to hear the percussion sections of the marching bands. With a hand at my heart and dewy eyes, I echo the sentiment that this is America’s great blood sport, our answer to the Roman gladiators, glorious in a primal and tribal way. Continue reading “Ambivalent Angst Over College Football’s De Jure Inequality”