Monday, January 26, 2009

July 2008 California Bar Exam Results for Loyola Law School

Of the members of the Class of 2008 from Loyola Law School that took the California Bar Exam, 87% (or about 323 students) passed. This represents a 9% increase over July 2007. However, that still puts LLS behind Pepperdine Law School, which had a pass rate of 89%. Passage rates were up statewide, according to the California State Bar.

While LLS has definitely improved its bar passage rate, it still has some work cut out. The Stud hopes the Class of 2009 will keep LLS bar passage numbers strong.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Law School an "Education Hoax"?

Those of you who have been following the exploits of Loyola 2L are familiar with his refrain that law school is a scam. In this economy, that's getting ever more exposed, and according to a recent article in the ABA Journal, people are starting to get it (emphasis mine):

Many educators tout the statistic that college graduates will earn $1 million more than high school grads. The magazine examines the claim and says the statistic doesn’t account for some facts.

First, the higher salary figure may reflect the fact that college graduates are smarter and work harder—characteristics that could boost salaries for such people even if they don’t attend college. Second, the cost of a college degree has risen at twice the rate of inflation, coming to nearly $100,000 for a private school. Third, college students give up about $125,000 in pay for the four years they are in school.

The story cites a College Board study that found one in four college grads earns considerably less than the top quartile of high school grads.

One law school dean, Richard Matasar of New York Law School, says law schools are "exploiting" students who don't succeed in life, according to an account of his remarks at a recent program by TaxProf Blog.

Matasar said registrations for the law school admissions test are flat or below the norm for this year. “That's never happened in a downturn in the economy before,” he said. “They're catching on. Maybe this thing they are doing is not so valuable. Maybe the chance at being in the top 10 percent [helpful in landing a good job] is not a good enough lottery shot in order to effectively spend $120,000 and see it blow up at the end of three years of law school.”

Exactly. The Stud has heard that legal careers are a bubble. If so, this recession is bursting that bubble.

On the plus side, if you can hang on for a few years, there will be fewer competitors from the dwindling class of 2012.

(Hat-tip: The Lene Machine)

Criminalizing Speech in the Netherlands

The open, accommodating Netherlands of renown is gone. Now, not only can you expect to be murdered for creating a controversial documentary questioning aspects of "Islamic culture" (RIP Theo van Gogh); now, calling for a ban on the Koran can expose you to criminal prosecution:

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders made headlines around the world in March 2008 with his film "Fitna," which juxtaposed Koranic verses against a background of violent film clips and images of terrorism by Islamic radicals.

In 2007, Wilders called for a ban on the Koran "the same way we ban 'Mein Kampf."' He said both Adolf Hitler's work and the Muslim holy book contain passages that contradict Western values.

The Amsterdam Appeals Court called Wilders' statements in his film, newspaper articles and media interviews "one-sided generalizations ... which can amount to inciting hatred."


The three judges said they had weighed Wilders' anti-Islamic rhetoric against his right to free speech, and ruled he had even gone beyond the normal leeway given to politicians.

Because Wilders has not yet been charged, it is not clear what maximum penalty he could face if convicted.

While judges in the Netherlands generally are loathe to become involved in public debate, the court said it was making an exception in the case of Wilders' comments about Islam.

"The court considers this so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute Wilders," a summary of the court's decision said.

Gerard Spong, a prominent lawyer who joined Islamic groups in pushing for Wilders' prosecution, welcomed the decision.

"This is a happy day for all followers of Islam who do not want to be tossed on the garbage dump of Naziism," Spong told reporters in Amsterdam.

First of all, banning Mein Kampf is problematic in and of itself. It is this very book-banning which lends support to calls for any other books to be banned. If Mein Kampf is bannable because it promotes intolerance, why not ban religious books? For example, the Old Testament clearly promotes intolerance of non-Hebrews; why not ban the Old Testament? If Mein Kampf is bannable because it advocates a purportedly universal ideology, why not ban the Koran, which advocates a world united in Islam? Why exactly is Mein Kampf bannable, and who decides what the grounds are for a ban?

Second, all that Geert Wilders has done is call for a ban. This is far more peaceful than strident street demonstrations calling for the sacking or killing of editors who publish "sacrilegious" cartoons. Where are the calls for criminal prosecution of those people?

In our view, freedom of expression gives us the transparency by which we can identify stupidity, ignorance, intolerance, and hatred. It takes much, indeed, for an expression to amount to "incitement", and "inciting hatred" is nowhere near imminent enough to be a "clear and present danger." We are reminded of the wisdom of Justice Brandeis' concurrance in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 at 377 (1927):

To courageous, selfreliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

If a person is so easily incited to act on his hatred that he would take action "so imminent it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion", Law Law Stud believes such a person is not reasonable at all. The fact that Islamic groups have taken the time to protest Geert Wilders' provocative suggestions is clear evidence that they are not so unreasonable as to be incited to imminent action by such insults.

Is the Amsterdam Appeals Court really suggesting, then, that Muslims are not reasonable? In a society that prides itself on tolerance, such low expectations are nothing if not soft bigotry most intolerant.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Scarlet Letter Law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came down against the scarlet letter yesterday its opinion in the case of Humphries v. County of Los Angeles:

California's maintenance of Child Abuse Central Index, a database of known or suspected child abusers, violates procedural due process under Fourteenth Amendment because stigma of being listed, "plus" various statutory consequences, constitutes a liberty interest; index lacks meaningful, guaranteed procedural safeguards before initial placement of names on it; and index does not afford identified individuals a fair opportunity to challenge allegations against them.

(emphases mine) Seems like another win for the precept of "innocent until proven guilty".

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Exclusionary Rule Under Attack?

Those of you who have taken Criminal Procedure know about the exclusionary rule. The point of the rule was to prevent law enforcement and prosecution from getting the benefit of fruit of unlawful conduct. One of the major points is that law enforcement officers must be able to develop probable cause (of the type that would be sufficient for a warrant) before they can arrest an individual. Absent such probable cause, the arrest is unlawful, and evidence obtained as a result of that arrest, such as by a search, is thereby tainted, and cannot be used against the suspect at trial. Because the focus is on balancing prevention of unlawful conduct on the part of police on the one hand with justice on the other, one exception to the rule requiring the existence of probable cause, as developed over the years, is reasonable error on the part of judicial staff, e.g., a court clerk pulling the wrong arrest record or criminal record because of an input error in the computer record retrieval system.

In its just-announced opinion in the case of Herring v. United States, the United States Supreme Court held that reasonable error in police record keeping triggers an exception to the exclusionary rule. The New York Times reports on the underlying facts:

The case began when methamphetamines and a gun were found after Bennie D. Herring, an Alabama man, was arrested based on police officers’ mistaken belief that he was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant.

That belief was based on incorrect information in the computer files of a neighboring county’s police department. The warrant had been withdrawn, but the database had not been updated.

Calling the error “isolated negligence attenuated from the arrest,” Chief Justice Roberts said the lower courts had been correct in allowing the jury in Mr. Herring’s case to consider the evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

The ruling itself is relatively narrow and is arguably merely a logical extension of a 1995 decision, Arizona v. Evans, which recognized an exception to the exclusionary rule for arrests resulting from erroneous computer records kept by court employees (as opposed to the police).

Tom Goldstein, one of Mr. Herrings defense lawyers, gave a more fleshed-out analysis at SCOTUSblog:

On its facts, the case is about the application of the exclusionary rule to errors in police recordkeeping. Narrowly framed, the question was whether the Court’s prior ruling that errors by judicial clerks do not trigger the exclusionary rule should be applied to police clerks. The Court holds that a negligent error by the police clerk does not give rise to exclusion. The dissents dispute the majority’s reasoning within that frame of reference - i.e., they treat the case as if it were only about police clerks and police recordkeeping.

But in fact the majority’s reasoning is broader - much, much broader. Today, the Supreme Court holds that negligent errors by the police generally do not trigger the exclusionary rule. “As laid out in our cases, the exclusionary rule serves to deter deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring or systemic negligence.” Slip Op. at 9. “[W]e conclude that when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements,” the exclusionary rule does not apply. Id. at 12.

The opinion has nothing to do with the fact that the error here is one of recordkeeping. It applies fully to negligence by police officers in their day-to-day determination whether there is probable cause to conduct a search. If the officer makes an objectively reasonable mistake - i.e., he is merely negligent - the exclusionary rule does not apply to whatever evidence he finds. Put another way, the Supreme Court today extended the good faith exception to ordinary police conduct.

The facts of the case, as described in these two articles, does not seem to suggest that there was bad faith on the part of Alabama police. However, one potential problem with extending the exception to police is that an agency, or some of its personnel, may become less careful, secure in the knowledge that good faith alone is sufficient to sustain use of evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible. That would seriously impede the development and professionalism of our law enforcement agencies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Think Your Job Hunt Is Tough?

In New York, one person was so fed up that he posted up this satirical post on Craigslist:

Fast-paced 20-attorney law firm looking for an eager associate to join our growing practice. We understand that you may be a newly-admitted attorney looking for their first job. We also know that the economy is harsh right now. However, we are willing to give you a chance. Here are the details of this spectacular opportunity:

* Your salary will be $30,000 per year. We understand that this may be on the low end(since you probably are six figures in debt), but we will be able to give you unlimited opportunities for experience and you'll be making six-figures soon enough. On the other hand, we will bill our clients $300 for every hour of your work; at least you will know your work is valued by us in several ways.
* There is no health insurance, but we have an on-site 2nd year medical student who will abide by the upmost professional standards take care of any illnesses or injuries that occur, both on-site and off-site.
* You will be expected to work 12 hour days, six (6) days of week. You will be afforded 1 week of vacation time, and three (3) sick days. Your vacation time is limited to the months of January and February, as we will need you to be in the office while the partners are taking their time off in the summer. The good news is that you will earn vacation and sick pay as soon as you start. The only holidays that the Firm observes are Christmas and Thanksgiving, but you must work a half-day, as we are a busy and important firm who adheres to our clients' needs.
* Your bonus, if earned (by billing 2100 hours per year), will consist of a one-year membership to a "food-of-the-mouth" club of your choice. In 2008, every associate took advantage of this valuable program and has benefited greatly for their hard work and dedication.

Please email resume, cover letter, salary history, law school and college transcripts to the address above. We will also need to you take a drug test, done at YOUR expense. We also charge a $50 processing fee for your employment application, payable later. All resumes and credentials will be held in strictest confidence.

  • Compensation: $30,000/year, plus GREAT BENEFITS
  • OK for recruiters to contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

It wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so realistic!

(Hat-tip: Krista)

Update: (2009.01.15.16:00 PST) Above the Law has a followup, including confirmation that the job posting is, in fact, a joke. The original author has posed his own followup:

I have received MANY applications regarding the $30k per year associate attorney position. I thought it would be clear that it is a fake. Even if it wasn't fake, who in their right mind would apply to such a position that retains a second year med student in lieu of health insurance? Anyway, below are some of the responses. Of course, I cannot reply to the numerous emails asking if this was a serious job posting, as my name would show up. Please note that anyone who sent a resume, cover letter, or any other credential had their email deleted in order to protect their privacy

As the author said to Above the Law: "Applicants need to have faith in themselves. Anyone who went to law school is better than this [fictitious] job."

Friday, January 09, 2009

France Eliminates Investigating Magistrates

France is making a move to eliminate the function of investigating magistrates, a move which BBC reports is likely to result in closer alignment with Anglo-style adversarial systems:

President Sarkozy said he wanted to abolish investigating magistrates, who currently act as independent judges - a system brought in by Napoleon.

The changes would allow state prosecutors and the police to take the lead in investigations instead.

Critics say the move would leave the system open to political interference.

At present the investigating magistrate plays a powerful and independent role in certain cases, overseeing investigations by police and prosecutors, examining the evidence, and deciding if a case should go to trial.

It might be nice to end a system in which some judges serve essentially as grand jury and/or prosecutor.

Inside the District Attorney's Office

Vault has an article about the hard life that awaits for those who want to become prosecutors. Here's a sobering statistic:

For many lawyers one of the largest obstacles to becoming an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) is the low pay compared to big law firms. "It's a great profession but you're never going to get rich." says Michael Conroy, an ADA at the Staten Island District Attorney's office. Beginning Assistant District Attorneys in smaller offices start off with salaries in the low 30s, according to Jim Polley, the Director of Government Affairs at the National District Attorney Association. Of course ADAs make more in larger cities. For example, a lawyer starting in the LA District Attorney's Office will pull in around $49,000 and then get bumped up to $57,000 for their second year. In contrast, some firms in LA are paying first year associates $125,000.

The information is slightly outdated. The current position description for an entry level Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County comes to about $60,000 a year, which is still not that high for Southern California, but almost enough to live modestly on and pay back some student loans. The prize, however, goes to Santa Clara County, where rumor has it an entry level Deputy District Attorney could stand to earn about 50% more, or close to $90,000. Naturally, competition was intense, and Santa Clara County has already filled their two open requisitions.

But don't worry. DDAs don't have billable hours. And, if the gmail/gchat status of one of my friends is any indication, Big Law life sucks anyway. In any case, it's not for everyone, and similar, the life of a DDA isn't going to be for everybody, either.

(Hat-tip: Krista)