Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Free Coffee for Finals

Following a long tradition, the LLS Alumni Association and the Student Bar Association have joined forces to provide free coffee for students during finals season. The following is the schedule:

Mon-Thu: 7:30am - 10:00pm
Fri: 7:30am - 9:00pm
Sat: 9:30am - 4:00pm
Sun: N/A

Good luck to everyone!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Advanced Trial Advocacy

The Stud was one of the students in the Advanced Trial Advocacy who had to present the final case. It was a criminal case based on a civil case, but with a different issue. There were overlaps, of course, and because the standard of proof is higher in criminal cases than in civil cases, the prosecution, of which the Stud was a member, did not obtain a conviction. But neither did the defense win. The "jury" (other class members) hung, with only one person voting to convict.

Afterwards, Judge O'Connell and the visiting judge posed with the prosecution and defense teams.

And now for the regular finals!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Alice!

Alice's birthday is always a big occasion. This year's version descended on J Lounge in downtown LA for drinks.

A good time was had by all. The really good times were either not captured on film, or too risqué to post. Happy Birthday!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bar Review: Brass Monkey

The last bar review of the school year was held at Brass Monkey. Unlike last year's final bar review, this year's was a bit more quiet. Part of that was because Brass Monkey was a hangout more for the Class of '07 than the Class of '08, and because the entire finals schedule was pushed up this year.

The good thing, though, was that there was a lot more room:

Now, on to finals!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

RIP Major Wolfer '02

In an e-mail to the student body today, Dean Gold informed us that one of our alumni had died in service to our country this week. US Army Major Stuart Wolfer, Class of '02, died while working out in the gym in the Green Zone on Sunday 7 April 2008:

U.S. Army Maj. Stuart Wolfer died Sunday while working out in a gym in the Green Zone in Baghdad. He was one of two to die in the rocket attack and one of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers to have died in Iraq.

Wolfer, assigned to the 11th Battalion, 104th Division, Boise, Idaho, would have turned 37 on April 23.

He was the only son of Esther and Len Wolfer of Boca Raton, who are now grieving with family and friends, trying to make sense of it all.

Knowing that a soldier is in the Green Zone often comforts loved ones because many consider that section of Baghdad a safe place to be. It's heavily guarded. It's where U.S. officials live and work.

But it's a reminder that in a war zone, no place is safe.

Thus was the life of Major Wolfer. Requiescat in pacem.

Oral Arguments, Two Years Later

As I was in the library today writing the previous post, some first years I knew passed by. All the first years had a sort of tired look in their eyes, as they headed off to their oral arguments. That took me back to my own first year oral arguments. I was especially struck by this:

Craig and Carolyn were now quite sure that litigation is the path they would want to go. While I wouldn't say that I had quite that experience, I would say that I now at least am willing to consider litigation, where before I had been dead set on doing more transactional work.

Two years on, I've externed with both a Superior Court Judge and at the District Attorney's Office. I've taken Trial Advocacy and am currently preparing for my final trial for Advanced Trial Advocacy. In fact, oral arguments did get me psyched; I even tried out for the Byrne Trial Advocacy Team at the beginning of second year. My failure to make it to the second round certainly had something to do with changing my mind again about litigation; but my experiences beginning in June of last year have brought me back, and past, such that I am now pretty darn sure I'll be doing litigation.

Now, I just need to find a job.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Prelims: Qualifying Police Expertise as to Narcotics

In the Office of the District Attorney of the County of Los Angeles, in the preliminary hearings unit, most of the preliminary hearings that will be assigned to certified law clerks will be drug cases, dealing with possession, possession for sale, and transportation. An important element of such charges is the identification of the drugs.

Most times, with experienced public defenders and private defense attorneys, there will be a stipulation as to lab receipts which identify evidence as drugs. However, there has been a trend for "baby PDs" not to stipulate to anything. In such situations, a testifying police officer may nevertheless be qualified as to his "scientific" qualifications for identifying the narcotics. The elements required for establishing such expertise is generally laid out in People v. Wesley, 224 Cal. App. 3d 1130, 1146 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990):

Officer Qualls was properly qualified as an expert in the field of narcotics, specifically cocaine; thereafter, when he testified that he examined the "item" given to him by Sergeant Kirkpatrick (subsequently, the identity of the rock was traced in Qualls's testimony from Kirkpatrick to him, to defendant, to Carter, to Alaniz, then to exhibit 1) and, based upon his training and experience, it was his opinion it was rock cocaine, the objection imposed was not that Qualls was not qualified to give an expert opinion but that there was "insufficient foundation for a scientific conclusion," which was overruled. Later the rock of cocaine was received in evidence without objection. On his motion to dismiss before the magistrate, defense counsel argued only that Qualls was never asked "the identity of the rock before the court so there is no indication of that rock's even suspected nature." Of course, he was in error and the magistrate had the record read. But the nature of the substance was neither argued nor mentioned by defense counsel on his motion to set aside information. Nevertheless, Judge Alston commented he did not think the rock was analyzed, and found "There is no competent testimony here as to what the substance was that is involved." Belatedly, respondent here argues that Qualls's expert testimony that the "item" was rock cocaine is not sufficient without chemical analysis testimony. The magistrate was satisfied with the expertise and the opinion of Officer Qualls, and for the purpose of holding defendant to answer, we are satisfied the evidence is sufficient.

For purposes of preliminary hearings, the typical prosecution script runs like this:

  • Officer, how many times have you testified in Superior Court as to ?
  • How many times have you made arrests or been involved in a investigation?
  • Of that number, how many times have you booked evidence or been present for booking?
  • Did you have an opportunity to see lab results after booking?
  • What percentage of times has the lab receipt corroborated your initial belief?
  • What did you believe the evidenced booked under as item number to be?

Defense intransigence isn't always the reason to go through Wesley qualification, however. Sometimes, the lab does not test all of the evidence. Thus, even if the defense attorney is willing to stipulate to the lab receipts, you still cannot account for all of the evidence recovered. In such a case, too, it is better to go through Wesley qualification.

The Stud had a chance to do this for what turned out to be his final preliminary hearing as a volunteer at the DA's office. (The Stud wrapped up on volunteering last Friday.) The PD was a friend from Loyola, so he was willing to stipulate; however, one of the items was not in fact analyzed in a lab, so the Stud qualified the testifying officer under Wesley, and got the testimony in.

In fact, the court was quite busy that day, so the judge had been rather short with the attorneys. However, when the end of the day came, the judge did bid the Stud farewell with praise: "Good job on the prelim today." Thank you, Your Honor!

Track record: 5-0.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Happy Birthday James!

Big Game James finally hit the quarter century mark this weekend. To celebrate, we started off at a Brazilian BBQ. We then proceeded, after some debate, to Silk Lounge in Monterey Park.

Happy Quarter Century Birthday, buddy!