Anything related to any aspect of law other than Crimlaw.

LAPD officers kill unarmed man, decry “rush to judgment”

It seems like almost every day we hear a new report of the police killing an unarmed person. The latest to come to my attention was last week in LA, where two officers shot and killed a homeless man. After viewing video of the shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said:

“Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that. I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances.”

And, of course, the police union has slammed Beck for “rushing to judgment.” This was the same response in Baltimore after six officers were charged with homicide and other crimes in the death of Freddie Gray. There, an attorney for the officers accused the state’s attorney of an “egregious rush to judgement“.

I have to admit to a little bit of schadenfreude when I see these officers getting a view of our justice system from behind bars. Maybe if a few of them are actually prosecuted for these killings their colleagues everywhere might think a little more carefully before pulling that trigger in the future.

Silence is golden, even at passport control

I haven’t had the pleasure of travelling outside the U.S. since all this “border security” and TSA madness, but Paul Lukacs has, and he has a great story about being detained by the feds for not answering questions:

I was detained last night by federal authorities at San Francisco International Airport for refusing to answer questions about why I had travelled outside the United States.

The end result is that, after waiting for about half an hour and refusing to answer further questions, I was released – because U.S. citizens who have produced proof of citizenship and a written customs declaration are not obligated to answer questions.

Check out the followup post as well. Rights, like muscles, must be exercised or they will atrophy and, eventually, disappear.

iPhone law

Browsing around the iPhone app store I noticed one of the “hot” apps is BarMax MPRE, a free MPRE prep course for your iphone. With lectures, flashcards, and multiple choice questions, it claims “you get everything you need to pass the MPRE for free. No strings attached.” According to the reviews in the app store, that’s true — at least for some people. Of course, it’s also a good advertisement for the BarMax California bar prep course for iPhone, which costs a cool $999.00. Wow. Eleven people have given that app 5 stars and one said he/she passed the bar exam using the program. Really?

You might be reluctant to trust your preparation for the bar exam to an iPhone app, but there are many other great apps out there for law school and lawyers. iPhoneJ.D. has reviewed many of them; in fact, it appears Jeff has reviewed 163 apps and counting. Some of the best I’ve found are Fastcase and Lawstack, two legal research apps, and the FRE on your phone. Recently I also found Illinois Statutes, which is exactly what it suggests — IL law in your pocket. It’s awesome to have the whole code at your fingertips, except, well, judges and bailiffs often don’t like it when you’re playing with your phone in court. Also, my phone is just too slow for “quick” searches. It’s great to have it there if you get in a pinch, but its actual utility value is kind of low.

What we all need is fast access to legal databases in the courtroom. Will it ever happen?

Don’t call it schadenfreude…

Call it a nightmare of the bureaucratic state. Call it capitalism gone bad. Call it the “law bubble” (a la the “housing bubble”) that has popped. Whatever you call it, this story about skilled, highly accomplished attorneys having trouble finding work says a lot about our economy, or at least the legal economy. Things are bad.

But what makes this truly postworthy is the 2nd paragraph of the third comment:

All joking aside, when I worked at a certain federal agency that collects money from taxpayers many years ago, the fax machine for incoming resumes was in a locked closet on the fourth floor of an old building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Once a week, a part-time secretary would take all of the accumulated faxes, and put about four of them on someone’s desk, and the rest went into the recycling bin. Often, there was not enough paper in the fax machine to last a day or two.

Can there be a better image of bureaucratic dystopia? If so, I have never seen it. Schwarzschild wormholes, indeed!

Keeping On Top of the Collapse

I gotta hand it to the ABA for keeping me up to date on the magnitude of the collapse of the legal job market with a constant stream of information about layoffs, layoffs, and more layoffs. Apparently, last Monday was another record-setting day for legal layoffs with more than 730 lawyers and staffers losing their jobs. This follows two other record-setting days on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12, with more than 600 lawyers and staffers laid off on those days.


People keep telling me that these people being laid off are not really competition for me; they are biglaw lawyers and I’m looking for a public defender position and these are totally different things. I see that point, but when these people can’t even give their time away I am certain there are public defenders out there who are looking at this and thinking, “Yeah, I was going to look for some other kind of work but I think I’ll keep my job for now until things look better.” This means fewer openings for me. There’s also likely some small fraction of the biglaw layoffs who are deciding that now is the time to change careers and become public defenders (or, possibly more likely, prosecutors). If so, that means more competition for what few positions do open.

I’m not whining, I’m just saying. I’m lucky enough to actually have an interview today, so things may be looking up… at least for me. Fingers crossed.

Panic at the legal unemployment line

Last Thursday somewhere over 800 associates and staff were laid off from Biglaw. Scott Greenfield thinks it’s inevitable that some number of them will be hanging shingles as criminal defense lawyers. I definitely agree. And while it’s unlikely that a very large number of them will want to become public defenders, the fact that they will be flooding the legal markets can only mean fewer jobs for all of us. If nothing else, with more competition in private practice, fewer current PDs are going to decide now is a good time to leave their jobs and strike out on their own, which means fewer PD positions for people like me.

This is just not good. Not good at all.

Magic 8-Ball Says: Are you freaking insane!?

One of the “benefits” of being a member of the ABA (I’m pretty sure my membership has expired, but whatever) is their weekly email of legal news headlines. Today’s email brought great news about the legal job market. For example, Jenner & Block asked 10 partners to leave, a PR firm is advising law firms on how to write layoff memos, another firm is rumored to have laid off 80 associates in the last nine months, some talking head says the legal economy is going to be twice as bad as the most extreme predictions, and law students are being advised to have backup plans (and backup backup plans) b/c they are heading into “a grim hiring market.”


So this is the context in which I just quit my job and am now looking for a law job in a state where I do not yet have a license to practice. If you always suspected I was utterly brilliant, wonder no more! I am obviously a genius!

The good news is that I’ve never found that the “news” or advice from the ABA has been very relevant to me as law student or lawyer. Like the law school I attended, the ABA is focused largely on BigLaw, and BigLaw is not where I have any interest in being. I’m going to be fine.

Oops! Gotta run! I’m late for my shift at Starbucks!

Richie Ramone was Robbed!

Richie Ramone, one of the drummers for The Ramones, lost his fight to get paid for 6 songs he wrote because a judge said that digital files are not “manufactured or sold” but are instead transmitted and licensed.

Wha? So when I pay someone (e.g., Apple) to “buy” a song, and I download the song and do whatever I want with it (listen to it, share it, give it someone as a gift, etc.), I did not “buy” it? Apple did not “sell” the digital file to me? Sure, music from iTunes and other online music retailers has restrictions, but they are easy to circumvent and hardly change the fact that the digital file is “sold” in an online music transaction. Except, apparently, according to this judge, that’s not true.

See why I don’t practice copyright law?

Nothing to do w/anything

Big firm associates are apparently “lost” and “unhappy.” Don’t you feel sorry for them? Things sort of sound especially bad at Jenner & Block, which does make me sad, actually. ((Apologies to my friends at big firms; I know it sucks. Might I suggest a career in public interest law? No money, but lots more satisfaction! Maybe…)) All of us unhappy lawyers could become teachers, concrete artists, or rappers. Concrete really does offer endless possibilities.

Tip: Don’t lie to judges.

Tip2: Macs are so much better than PCs it’s amazing people even have to keep asking this silly question. Macs can even let you take law school exams these days!

Don’t you think a lot can be explained by the fact that there are drugs in our water?

The Disassociate: All new!

I’ve been reading the daily humor at The Disassociate for some time now, but in the busyness of recent weeks I’d fallen a little behind. Now, better late than never, I was delighted to find The Disassociate has moved into a brand new home with a stellar redesign and a store where you can buy greeting cards featuring some of The Disassociate’s greatest hits. I’m particularly fond of “pose,” “grad,” and “lexis,” but they’re all excellent, depending on your audience. Definitely check them out.

Also, if you’ve got what it takes to make a short video, The Disassociate has a challenge for you:

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! THE DISASSOCIATE IS STARTING A VIDEO SERIES ON FRIDAYS WITH THE FIRST ONE ON OCTOBER 13TH. WE WILL PAY $50 for the best (as determined by us) 1 minute (or so) short and post it in lieu of a comic on Friday. You keep all rights, Yada-yada. The only requirements – it cannot be offensive and it must involve The Bluebook.

Here’s hoping we finally get to see a few examples of what the bluebook is really good for! [tags]humor[/tags]