Lawyer Jokes

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First, pop culture lawyers were heroes. Then, pop culture lawyers were devils. These two extremes capture most of what the world sees of lawyers—they are either pursuers or destroyers of justice based on the angle of perception or bias. However both of these extremes leave out a major aspect of every real American lawyer: their humanity.

Let’s face it; most real lawyers are not as serious or somber as they have been portrayed for years across pop cultural mediums. Real lawyers like every other human being have their moments of weakness and self doubt, of romantic uplift and heartache, and of senseless comedic revelry. The development of the jester lawyer began with shows at the turn of the millennium such as “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.” Both television shows featured large metropolitan law firms with a slew of jester lawyers for a cast. The humor however was based not in their humanity, but their quirks. The shows were just extended lawyer jokes featuring lawyers who were old and senile, neurotic and paranoid, or just plain weird, with catty women and dogs of men. In this era of television, while lawyers were beginning to demonstrate some depth through the moral issues they faced both in and outside their cases, and through their personal and romantic lives, the laughter was still aimed at the lawyer.

Two more recent lawyer comedy shows have hit the airwaves in the last few years and both, I would argue, feature jester lawyers as main characters who you laugh with more so than you laugh at. These two shows, “Drop Dead Diva” and “Franklin & Bash” feature young attorneys who often tap into their humanity to find creative and persuasive ways of winning their cases. These young attorneys both recognize and understand the things they are doing are both outlandish and likely unprofessional—but they invite the audience to laugh with them as they continue to seek justice in an often confusing legal system. Continue reading “Lawyer Jokes”

Technology Has Enhanced Legal Education Significantly, But Its Essential Components Remain the Same

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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 is the fifth in the series.]

As I finish my twenty-second year as a law professor, I marvel at how technological advances and the proliferation of specialty courses have changed (and, in most instances, improved) legal education since I began my academic career in 1990.  Yet I am mindful that the essential components of a high-quality legal education remain unchanged (e.g., an interactive and engaging academic environment that stimulates critical thinking, reasoned legal analysis, creative problem solving, an understanding of legal doctrine and policy, and the development of effective verbal and written communication skills).

There were no laptops in the classroom when I begin teaching twenty-two years ago, and handwritten exam answers were the norm. Now it’s rare to see any student without his or her PC during class.   Continue reading “Technology Has Enhanced Legal Education Significantly, But Its Essential Components Remain the Same”

Evolution and the Constitution

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on Evolution and the Constitution

Recent news reports make much of the fact that, with one exception, none of the current Republican candidates for President has been willing to embrace the theory of evolution as the commonly accepted explanation of how the multiple forms of life currently existing on our planet came to be.  Instead, several of the Republican hopefuls have argued pointedly that creationism (the belief that all life was created by God in its current form) is an equally legitimate scientific theory on a par with evolution.  For example, Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared that evolution is “just one theory” among several that might explain the current state of biodiversity on the earth. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is the only Republican candidate willing to take a strong position supporting the theory of evolution as a scientifically proven fact.

According to a December, 2010 Gallup Poll, a combined 54% of Americans believe that human beings evolved from less advanced life forms, either under God’s guidance or without any participation from God.  Meanwhile, 40% of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form.  The survey results also indicate that the relative percentage of Americans who believe in some form of evolution (as opposed to creationism) rises as education levels rise.

Why then, do the Republican presidential hopefuls almost uniformly reject a scientific theory that is accepted by the majority of Americans? Continue reading “Evolution and the Constitution”

“Reality-Challenged Theories of Punishment”: Weisberg Lecture on Oct. 6

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I’m looking forward to Robert Weisberg’s talk here next week. He is delivering this year’s George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law. I think we can expect a pungent critique of retributive theories of punishment. Here is the description:

The theme of “American exceptionalism” has found perverse corroboration in the size of the prison population, according to Weisberg. At the same time, discourse about the “purposes of punishment” is thriving, with a recent revival of highly abstract theorizing about the nature and legitimacy of retribution, he says. In this lecture, Weisberg will describe the disconnection and recommend ways of overcoming it, stressing that the abstract theorizing must be more sensitive to what punishment means and what effects it has in modern America.

The lecture will be at 12:15 on October 6. For more information and to register, see the lecture website.

Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Popular Culture & Law, Poverty & Law, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence

As Milwaukee County Children’s Court Judge Joe Donald put it, “We do a very good job of trailing, nailing, and jailing.” But can Milwaukee do more when it comes to dealing with crime so that it can be prevented and the lives of those on the path to committing crimes turn out better?

The good news, participants in an “On the Issues” discussion Monday at Eckstein Hall generally agreed, is that the large majority of young people in the community are not involved in crime, that there are existing constructive programs involving thousands of youths , and those who went on highly-publicized sprees in the Riverwest neighborhood on July 3 and in and around the State Fair grounds on Aug. 4 are not typical.

The bad news is that it doesn’t take very many crimes to cause great harm, not only to the victims but to neighborhoods and the city as a whole, panel members agreed. Furthermore, criminals are getting younger and more violent, and the poverty which is so often the environment for criminals is getting broader and deeper in the city.  

The panel discussion, hosted by Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, before an audience of about 200, followed the showing Sunday night at the Milwaukee Film Festival of a documentary, “The Interrupters,” about efforts to reduce youth violence in Chicago. Continue reading “Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence”

Generalist Versus Specialist Judges

Posted on Categories Judges & Judicial Process, Legal Scholarship, Public1 Comment on Generalist Versus Specialist Judges

The Federal Circuit and a few other counterexamples notwithstanding, American courts are not substantively specialized.  By and large, the American judge is thus a generalist.  For better or worse, our judiciary seems to be holding out against the  pressures toward specialization that have so marked the contemporary legal and medical professions. 

Is this a good thing?  In the law review literature, there are plenty of calls for the creation of this or that new specialized court.  Certainly, specialization leads to quicker and more efficient decisionmaking.  But should we expect the specialized judge also to render decisions that are substantively better?

This is the question that lies at the heart of Chad Oldfather’s new article, “Judging, Expertise, and the Rule of Law.”  Continue reading “Generalist Versus Specialist Judges”

The Supreme Court and the Fate of the Ministerial Exception

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Education & Law, First Amendment, Public, Religion & Law, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on The Supreme Court and the Fate of the Ministerial Exception

In 1999, Cheryl Perich began service as a lay teacher at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan.  A year later, she became a “called teacher,” selected by the congregation to serve as a commissioned minister and charged with duties of a more pastoral nature, such as teaching religion classes, leading the students in devotional exercises, and participating in weekly chapel functions, though continuing to teach predominantly secular subjects.

In June 2004, however, Perich developed symptoms of a medical disorder, eventually diagnosed as narcolepsy. Despite obtaining in February 2005 a doctor’s certification of her ability to return to work, the school had already made alternative arrangements and proposed that she resign her call. After she threatened legal action for alleged disability discrimination, the congregation then rescinded her call and she was duly terminated from her teaching position at the school. Continue reading “The Supreme Court and the Fate of the Ministerial Exception”

New Report Shows Big Increase in Arrests for Simple Possession Since 1980

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Public, Race & LawLeave a comment» on New Report Shows Big Increase in Arrests for Simple Possession Since 1980

Last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released an interesting new report, Arrest in the United States, 1980-2009.  I was particularly interested in the data on arrests for simple drug possession or use, which accounted for about ten percent of all arrests in 2009.  This seems a little high (so to speak), especially in comparison to where we were three decades ago with drug arrests.  Between 1980 and 2009, the number of possession/use arrests more than doubled from 200 per 100,000 people to about 450 per 100,000.  The 2009 number actually represents a downturn from a thirty-year high in 2006 (more than 500 per 100,000).

The arrest rates for simple possession and trafficking have not moved in sync, suggesting shifting patterns of enforcement in the War on Drugs.

Continue reading “New Report Shows Big Increase in Arrests for Simple Possession Since 1980”

An Update on Federal Judicial Vacancies

Posted on Categories Federal Law & Legal System, Judges & Judicial Process, PublicLeave a comment» on An Update on Federal Judicial Vacancies

The maintenance of an effective appointment process for federal judges is important because adequate staffing is critical to the function of the judiciary. Appointment delays and prolonged vacancies create a shortage of judges. A shortage of judges in turn contributes to case backlogs that make it extremely difficult for courts to administer justice in a timely manner. By many accounts, however, the appointment system does not work well. Because of the power of federal judges to decide important constitutional questions in particular, presidents and congressional leaders spar over the “qualifications” of judicial nominees, with the Senate frequently refusing to confirm even remarkably well-qualified candidates entirely because of perceived ideological differences.

The present is a particularly important time for filling judicial vacancies because the 2012 presidential election is only about a year away, and the appointment process slows down considerably during election season. So, how are the President and the Senate doing? Continue reading “An Update on Federal Judicial Vacancies”

Seventh Circuit Clarifies Sentencing of Wholesale Drug Traffickers, Encourages Dose-Based Approach

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Federal Sentencing, Public, Seventh CircuitLeave a comment» on Seventh Circuit Clarifies Sentencing of Wholesale Drug Traffickers, Encourages Dose-Based Approach

Wholesalers often sell drugs in relatively pure form, with the knowledge that retailers will dilute the drugs before reselling them on the street. Indeed, some powerful drugs, like the painkiller fentanyl, must be substantially diluted before they can be safely consumed. For that reason, wholesalers may end up selling much smaller quantities than retailers, at least as measured simply by weight. This presents a dilemma for sentencing, especially in the federal system, where weight drives sentences: should a wholesaler’s sentence be determined by the weight he sold, or by the weight of the diluted form of his product sold on the street?

The question has particular importance in fentanyl cases, as illustrated by the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in United States v. Alvarado-Tizoc (No. 10-1613). In sentencing the wholesaler-defendants, the district court chose to attribute to them the full retail quantities, which were 11 to 16 times greater than the wholesale quantities.

This was improper, the Seventh Circuit held.   Continue reading “Seventh Circuit Clarifies Sentencing of Wholesale Drug Traffickers, Encourages Dose-Based Approach”

The Rise of Interdisciplinary Legal Education

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Public1 Comment on The Rise of Interdisciplinary Legal Education

[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 is the fourth in the series.]

Since 1995, when I first joined Marquette’s law faculty, one of the most obvious changes I have witnessed has been an increase in the interdisciplinary nature of legal scholarship and, not uncoincidentally I believe, the number of interdisciplinary (“law and”) courses that law schools, including Marquette, offer their students.  Certainly these trends were on the rise before 1995, but their present pervasiveness across law school faculties and curricula seems to me to mark a cumulatively significant change.

This development likely has multiple causes.  The influx into law faculties of those holding doctoral degrees in other fields, noted recently by Professor Hylton, is certainly one, although the ready susceptibility of law or legal topics to analysis by these other disciplines suggests that other factors are at work.  One haunting explanation, of course, is that law is perhaps not a genuinely autonomous discipline after all, but rather little more than the procedure-laden application of independent fields of knowledge to the prevention and resolution of conflict.

Whatever its causes, this development likely has also generated multiple consequences, some of which might be seen as benefits, others as costs.  Continue reading “The Rise of Interdisciplinary Legal Education”

Legal Writing Presentations at Central States

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This past weekend our legal writing faculty attended the 7th Biennial Central States Legal Writing Conference in Chicago. The theme of this year’s conference was “Practice-Ready”: Preparing Students and Assessing Progress. In keeping with this practice-oriented theme, our legal writing faculty presented on three topics: using live critique feedback on student drafts, crafting persuasive word choice through attention to text, subtext, and context, and developing an argument for a new rule of law in an appellate brief.

Continue reading “Legal Writing Presentations at Central States”