Should Criminal Law Be Used to Enforce Family Responsibilities?

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Family Law, Legal ScholarshipLeave a comment» on Should Criminal Law Be Used to Enforce Family Responsibilities?

This important question is explored in a forthcoming mini-symposium in the Boston University Law Review. The lead article, written by Professors Jennifer Collins, Ethan Leib, and Dan Markel, argues that if criminal law is going to be used to enforce the responsibilities of family members to one another, then there also ought to be ways for people in other types of caregiving relationships to make their responsibilities criminally enforceable. Continue reading “Should Criminal Law Be Used to Enforce Family Responsibilities?”

A Whistleblower Wins! A Whistleblower Wins!

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment LawLeave a comment» on A Whistleblower Wins! A Whistleblower Wins!

Whistle In an unsual case (as far as the success rates of these cases (and here) go), and one that might still be overturned by an appellate court, the DOL’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) finds in favor of a mine cleanup whistleblower.

In Dixon v. Dept. of the Interior, No. 06-147 (8/28/08), the ARB found that a federal employee of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engaged in protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of several environmental statutes. Consequently, he properly received back pay and compensatory damages. Continue reading “A Whistleblower Wins! A Whistleblower Wins!”

Did You Learn About IRAC in Law School? How Did IRAC Become Such an Important Part of Legal Writing Teaching? And Should it Be?

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Writing3 Comments on Did You Learn About IRAC in Law School? How Did IRAC Become Such an Important Part of Legal Writing Teaching? And Should it Be?

When I became a legal writing professor, one of the first and most surprising things I learned was how important the “IRAC” (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion) formula has become in most legal writing teaching nowadays.  Almost every legal writing textbook relies on some version of the formula.  In fact, so many legal writing professors have developed their own personalized version of the formula that the variations of the acronym form a dizzying alphabet soup:  CREAC, CRuPAC,  RAFADAC, IRLAFARC, etc., etc., etc.  

The rise of IRAC seems to have gone hand in hand with the increasing professionalization of legal writing teaching.  At the same time, legal writing teachers have long debated the uses and misuses of IRAC in legal writing and in legal writing teaching. For example, almost the entire November 1995 issue of The Second Draft (bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute) was devoted to the question of “The Value of IRAC.” Continue reading “Did You Learn About IRAC in Law School? How Did IRAC Become Such an Important Part of Legal Writing Teaching? And Should it Be?”

Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap

The federal money-laundering statute prohibits both the concealment of proceeds from crime and the use of such proceeds to promote illegal activities.  While designed primarily with drug kingpins in mind, the statute’s broad language can easily become a trap for low-level criminals doing fairly routine things.  (I posted recently on a good example of an aggressive use of the money-laundering statute.)  Expansive readings of the statute mean that the penalties attached by Congress to many predicate offenses become meaningless, as nearly everyone becomes subject to the twenty-year maximum prison term triggered by a money-laundering conviction.  Responding to this concern, the Supreme Court recently adopted narrow constructions of the money-laundering statute in two cases, United States v. Santos, 128 S.Ct. 2020 (2008), and Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008).  The cases may point the way towards a more discriminating money-laundering jurisprudence that attempts to reserve the harsh penalties of the statute for the most deserving defendants. Continue reading “Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap”

Centennial Symposium: Origins of Marquette Law School

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Centennial Symposium: Origins of Marquette Law School

This afternoon in Eisenberg Hall, three distinguished scholars kicked off the first installment of the Centennial Symposia celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marquette University’s acquisition of the Milwaukee Law School and the Milwaukee University Law School.  (A podcast is here.) This session, entitled “The Origins of Marquette University Law School,” featured Joseph A. Ranney, a legal historian, shareholder in DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., and adjunct professor at the Law School; Professor J. Gordon Hylton of the Law School (who is organizing the symposia); and Dr. Thomas J. Jablonsky, the Harry G. John Professor of Urban Studies at Marquette. 

Continue reading “Centennial Symposium: Origins of Marquette Law School”

Your Reputation Bank Account

Posted on Categories Legal Practice4 Comments on Your Reputation Bank Account

I am linking here to an interesting article from the ABA Journal last week pointing out that a lawyer’s reputation is much like your savings account-add a little to it each year and it can make you rich over time.  I like this framework of reputation for two reasons:  One, it suggests that a good reputation is worth money in the bank.  We know anecdotally and from laboratory studies that this is true.  Second, the idea of savings in a bank account is a great analogy in terms of reminding lawyers that every little thing they do can help or hurt that reputation.  It’s not just the end of year bonuses that add to your savings, it’s the monthly deposits as well.  Similarly, it’s not just the grand gestures in large negotiations that make your reputation, it’s how you act on a daily basis with your counterparts  Although the book referred to in the ABA Journal is for young lawyers, I think this provides good advice all around!

Cross posted on Indisputably.

Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette3 Comments on Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker laid out their visions for the future of mass transportation in Milwaukee at today’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha program at the Law School. (A podcast is here.) The transportation issue invites vision statements in part because $91.5 million in federal funds are set aside for mass transit in Milwaukee and in part because Milwaukee’s once prized transit system is badly broken. Without an agreement between Barrett and Walker, the federal funds are unlikely to be released. But an agreement between those leaders will be hard to come by: the mayor looks to cities that are growing and thriving and sees rail service as a key component of the local transportation strategy; the county exec looks at Milwaukee’s deteriorating bus system and wants those federal funds to shore up and improve county bus transportation.

Where Barrett sees local rail service as a critical economic development tool that can invigorate the region, Walker sees inflexible routes and minimal practical benefit. Where Walker sees improved bus service as a reliable system for moving workers and students, Barrett sees a county bus system that is in a “death spiral” which cannot be fixed just with more buses. Continue reading “Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee”

Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment LawLeave a comment» on Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled

Mlblogo That’s the idea about this campaign by the U.S. Department of Labor and Major League Baseball.

Together, they are launching the ‘PITCH’ campaign to encourage businesses to hire people with disabilities. Former Major Leaguer Jim Abbott, famous in baseball history for being the first pitcher to make it to the majors pitching with only one hand, will be serving as campaign spokesman. Continue reading “Using the Power of Baseball to Help Inspire the Disabled”

Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

Posted on Categories Popular Culture & Law, Religion & LawLeave a comment» on Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!”

One of my guilty pleasures – and the guilt is substantial – is the animated series “South Park.” I fully admit that the show is occasionally offensive and often tacky, but the laughs are worth it.

Everyone doesn’t agree. Via the indispensable Religion Clause Blog, we learn that authorities in the Basammy region of Russia want to ban the show, citing an episode called “Mr. Hanky’s Christmas Classics,” which contains some faux Christmas carols (on which I will not elaborate) that certainly might offend certain religious sensibilities (although it is hardly the most offensive bit of the South Park library). The effort apparently rests upon a 2006 law that prohibits “the abasement of national dignity” and “inciting religious and national hatred.” Continue reading “Russian Officials to South Park: “Respect My Authoritah!””

Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Tort Law, Wisconsin Civil LitigationLeave a comment» on Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law

My colleague Ralph Anzivino has a helpful new article that explores the fine line between contract law and tort law: The Economic Loss Doctrine: Distinguishing Economic Loss from Non-Economic Loss, 91 Marq. L. Rev. 1081 (2008). As developed by Wisconsin and many other states, the economic loss doctrine indicates that purely economic losses are recoverable in contract, while non-economic losses are recoverable in tort. The difficulty lies in distinguishing economic from non-economic, particularly with respect to property damage resulting from product failure. (Imagine, for instance, a defective garage door opener that causes a garage door to close on the owner’s car.) Continue reading “Economic Loss: Learning From Insurance Law”

Breaking News: Harry Potter Lexicon Found Infringing

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law1 Comment on Breaking News: Harry Potter Lexicon Found Infringing

Judge Patterson in the Southern District of New York issued his opinion today in the Harry Potter Lexicon case, which involved an attempt by the defendants to convert their very popular website into print form and sell it. J.K. Rowling and the studio behind the Harry Potter films sued, and the court held that the Lexicon was not protected by fair use.

I’ve only had time to skim the decision, but my quick take is that a district court in the same circuit that decided the Seinfeld Aptitude Test case (Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publishing Group, 150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998)) would have had a hard time finding fair use here. If multiple choice questions based on “Seinfeld” infringe on the show, then encyclopedia entries based on Harry Potter probably do, too. That’s not an endorsement, just a syllogism.

How Does One Punish a Fiction?

Posted on Categories Tort Law3 Comments on How Does One Punish a Fiction?

Having spent a good deal of time over the past several years studying all the various nuances of punitive damages law [John J. Kircher & Christine M. Wiseman, Punitive Damages: Law & Practice (2000 & Supp 2008)], questions still remain unanswered: How can a legal fiction like a corporation engage in egregious conduct so as to justify imposition of punitive damages against it? How does one punish and deter a corporate entity.

Most jurisdictions do allow punitive damages to be awarded against business entities for the wrongful conduct of their employees or agents. Some are very liberal, allowing punitives to be awarded against the business simply if the agent’s conduct was sufficient to make the business liable for the compensatory damages occasioned by the act. In others additional proof is required. The principal must direct the agent to perform the egregious act; the principal must subsequently approve that act; or, the agent who performed the act must have been in a “managerial capacity” at the time that act was performed. Obviously, with a corporation, the one doing any of those three things must be a human being.

Imposing punitive damages upon a corporation does not punish or deter the human being who engaged in the egregious conduct, it merely renders such a person anonymous. It is akin to requiring a liability insurer to pay the punitive damages resulting from the wrongful conduct of its insured. But some jurisdictions allow that as well. The life of the law is certainly not logic!