Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two Down, 3 To Go

For those curious about the status of my semester, I have now completed two classes: Professional Responsibility and Evidence. YAY. Now I have one more class period for three classes on Tuesday and then I am finished.

Some reflections from this last semester:
1. The saying the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death; absolutely true. The reading load has been a monster to manage. Throw in raising a child and working a part time job----I am one really tired girl right now. The good thing is that I front loaded my classes, so next semester should be somewhat easier.
2. Three mornings a week that have 8:00 am class starts---suck! Don't ever, ever do it! Truthfully, courts in most jurisdictions don't start until 9:30 a.m. and for good reasons: our brains do not function in logical manners until the caffeine has rolled properly through the system. Especially when you are in a challenging class like Evidence, where the Professor is there bright and early and in your face challenging.
3. 2nd year students final know what we are doing. Exams are old news. We know when we have to read, and when we can slack. We can figure out what we need to know often times be skimming a case. We know how to get our hands on cheap study aids. We know the study habits that work best for us. We know how to prioritize our time. We know how to handle the stress and calm our nerves [ignore the inevitable in other words].
4. And finally, it just hit me that after these finals I am half-way through my law school journey. Whoo-hoo! Seemed like it was going to take forever when I started this journey. In reality, it is flying right on by.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Historic Hero: Alice Paul

"This world crisis came about without women having anything to do with it. If the women of the world had not been excluded from world affairs, things today might have been different." -- Alice Paul.

Alice Paul is a name that we do not hear about often enough in our history classes. Our daughters probably will not learn about her courage or her strength, but they should. Alice Paul was one of the leaders of the suffrage movement. She was an educated women in 1907, when most women barely finished high school. She held what would be the equivalent today of an MBA in Economics, having studied in London. After returning to the states, she began fighting vigilantly for the women's right to vote. In November of 1917, she lead a silent picket at the White House. For her efforts, her whole group of women were arrested. These women were brutally beat by the guards at the prison. Alice responded by going on a hunger strike. The prison then inserted a tube town her throat and force fed her raw eggs to keep her alive.

Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, attempted to silence her by having a psychiatrist find her insane. The psychiatrist refused saying that courage sometimes looks like insanity. [Note that Mr. Wilson is NOT my favorite President]. Alice's drive and determination led to the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting the women the right to vote. A right that democrats and the President viciously fought, even to the point of imprisoning many women.

Alice saw the war at the time, and the depression that followed as things that happened because one-half of the population had no right to political process. Men, and more often than not, white European men, owned the wealth and controlled the power. In the US, as in many other countries, while women could vote, they could not own property or direct any political process.

As I ran across the quote above, I realized how little times have changed. Women disproportionately represent our nation. The power still lies within a few hands, of the few powerful, of the few wealthy. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating socialism. I just find it interesting that like history before, the black man received the right to vote before the woman. The black man received a civil rights act [equal protection act] before the woman. A black man obtained the most powerful office in the world, before a woman.

In reflecting, I realized just how far women have to go. An equal rights amendment for gender has NEVER passed. And this year, a woman ran for both the President and the Vice-Presidency. Both women were brutally scrutinized in ways that men [black or white] never are. They were asked intrusive questions, people commented on their wardrobe, and the "shrill" of their voices were often made fun of. And the saddest part of all of this, was it was not men alone making these comments, but women as well.

Things may be better in this country. I can vote. I can get an education. But the statistics show that I will not be offered the same jobs as a man of equal age and qualifications. I can be a mom. I can be a successful lawyer. But some in the legal community tell me that I will have to seek "non-traditional" roles because I cannot be both. I guess I am mourning the loss of a lady that I had never heard of before, Alice Paul. And I am wondering, when another Alice will rise up? A lady of principal. A lady that pushed the envelope of her times. A lady that in her 30's obtained a law degree. A lady that valiantly fought for her cause: Equal protection for all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What would make you a GREAT defense attorney?

This week I competed in the Don Turner Criminal Trial Competition. In all honesty, due to several mitigating circumstances, my team did not do as well as we hoped. But we will be ready next year! Anyway, the moot court judge for the evening asked us each what we wanted to do. I said I definately wanted to litigate and be a prosecutor. To which this attorney responded, "What would make you a GREAT defense attorney?" I sat there stunned. He went on to explain that I needed to figure that out because part of being a great attorney was to know how to play the game of prosecutor, defense, and judge.

Interesting perspective for sure. And it definately got me thinking. Why do I despise the thought of criminal defense. I instinctively go "Ew." Which makes it hard for me to think about how I would do that job, play that role. If it is just because I don't want to deal with "icky" people---this makes no sense. I will deal with icky people in prosecution to, often times as witnesses.

So, I have been thinking about it alot. No matter what role I play, I have a great abiding love and respect for the law and the constitution. I believe that it applies to all people, no matter whether guilty or innocent. I am great, and I mean great, of picking apart arguments and seeing the other side. I can instinctively anticipate where the other person is going. When I analysis a case at work, I often find myself thinking about what I would do if I were defending the parent, rather than working to terminate the parental rights. I think hard about what the defense attorney is doing, and what I would do differently (one thing I have learned is I would NEVER surf the web, bidding on Ebay for bicycle wheels). I look hard at the weaknesses of our arguments and work hard at gathering evidence. After thinking this all through, I came to the conclusion that I could do defense work. Legal defense is not always about getting your client off, it is about making sure that their constitutional rights are not denied. That does not mean that I would ever represent a sex offender---NEVER. But I could see myself doing other defense work.

To sum it up, I guess the key is flexibility. Don't box yourself into something. Instead be willing to review, change, adapt, and attack again. This should be about life in general, but should also be about the practice of law.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Budgeting and the single parent

Budgeting is the hardest thing about being a law student and having a child. Because your graduate expenses are all loans, budgeting is very, very important. There is very little wiggle room. Children of law students already make a lot of sacrifices due to time restrictions on the single parent. To top it off, they also make financial sacrifices. Sometimes these sacrifices seem painful even for the parent.

My daughter has had the same bike for about 4 years now. I was hoping that it would make it to spring time, and I would buy her one that was a bit bigger. But this week, the front brakes blew out and then today she wrecked it and flattened both tires. Her little friend down the street had the same thing happen. Her friend's mom took the girls to WalMart and bought the little girl a new bike. When I came home, there was my daughter crying away because she no longer has a bike.

Now the logical side of me realizes that giving a child everything they want, when they want it---well, that's never a good thing. I said to her that I understood her frustration, but that I did not have the money for it right now, and Christmas was around the corner. "But she got one and her mom is a single mom and her mom did not have the money either." The lessons of life are sometimes painful. But my daughter hears more often then not, "Not now honey, maybe next month. I don't have the money right now." Money and budgeting is the hardest part. We live in a nice place, we have nice things, we have food in the refrigerator, and we are blessed with wonderful family and friends. We have more than most. However, a child constantly measures herself against others, and it is hard when they see what appears to be easy acquisitions for others and do not understand why they cannot get the same.

Book Review: Twilight

So, I bought into the hype and bought the book......Great premise, great character tension, but oh boy, what tripe. I was not expecting Pride & Prejudice. I don't know what I was expecting. The plots for the next couple of books is laid out for us. So in a one word sum: predictable.

Will I see the movie? Yes, but not because the book was so great. More because it was shot around here and I always see movies shot in my backyard. Also, I am wondering if Hollywood can improve on the story.


The world's economy is tottering on the brink, wars are breaking out, Russia is flexing her muscle, jobless claims have risen domestically, and the stock market is like a bi-polar without medication AND.....the story from O's news conference yesterday was.....................So, what type of dog are you bringing to the White House?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Working across the aisle...right!

In an event that I should have seen coming but did not, Senate Majority Leader Reid called Senator Lieberman into his office today for a meeting. While neither man is talking about what was said, I am betting the conversation went something like this:
Reid: Joe, you are a backstabbing, ungrateful dude, whom we can no longer trust. So here is the deal, considering you threw our guy under the bus, we are going to strip you of your powerful committe seat and send you to count the tiles in the foyer UNLESS you promise to always vote with the Dems. No more embarrassing us Joe.
Lieberman: [Silent but fuming] You have given me alot to think about.

So, why bother? Here is why....the Dems are close, and I mean very close to being able to write whatever piece of legislation they want to give it to their boy, O. What stands in thier was? That's right, the fillabuster. If R's can organize enough, they could bring the Senate floor to a standstill. Now, even if that can't stop the fillabuster, watch the Dems threaten the nuclear option anyway, even if the would have been livid had the R's done it 4 years ago when they could not get their judicial nominees on the floor for a vote.

So, as the count stood last, there were 57 Dems and 2 independents who vote with Dems usually. 1 Senate Seat in MN undergoing a recount, but it looks like the seat will go to an R. 1 Seat in AK, which if Stevens can hang on there with the absentee ballots, it will go to an R. And a run-off in Georgia that is anybody's guess. In order for the Dems to block a R led fillibuster, they must have 60 votes lined up to send a bill to a full vote. Even if they pick up GA, they would be dependent upon the 2 independents voting with them.

Where does this leave Joe? Arguably one of the most powerful men in the Senate. See, he could pick what goes through and is signed into legislation, and what is stymied on the floor of the Senate. The Justice Kennedy of the Senate, so to speak.

Joe's a bit of a wild card. Why would he owe alliegence to the party that sold him out and wanted his seat to go to someone else? I mean really, I would seriously think about thumbing my nose at Mr. Reid, committee chair or no. Joe also had the kaputz to support a man from the other party. Why? Because whether you agree with Joe's politics or not, the man stands by his convictions and is a true statesman. He is not afraid to tell it like he thinks it. He is not afraid to make unpopular decisions. And he is not afraid to rock the boat. He is also a fighter. I don't agree with his politics, but I have one heck of amount of respect for Senator Lieberman.

Not that you would read this Senator, but I say, tell the smuck this: You call this reaching across the aisle? You call this uniting America? Take your thug tactics and shove them. I stand by my convictions and no one is going to bully me into being anyone's patsy.

The Fight Begins.....

Today, a writ of petition was filed in order to challenge California's Prop 8, which just passed on Tuesday. I asked today in my Con Law class what the implications were for gay and lesbians in California. Here is why this is going to be fought out in the courts: The drafters, in retaliation to what the California Supreme Court decided in May, placed thier provision within the Equal Protection Clause. Here is why this is important to watch: Equal protection applies to all people. By placing words that limited equal protection, the question becomes will this effect equal protection as it applies to discrimination protections for sexual orientation. The unanswered question with this insertion of language applies to whether employers can discrimate based on sexual orientation or can landlords refuse to rent to gay and lesbian people. Implicitly attacking the equal protection clause is dangerous in that the attack opens the door for the ability to discriminate to anyone who is not heterosexual. Whether you are for or against same sex marriages, this should alarm you.

November = CRAZY

November for the law student, equates to craziness. This is true. November is the month were we students start thinking, "Oh by golly, there are only 3 more weeks of classes! Holy Cow!" As a second year student, we start wondering how are we going to balance everything: work, school, life, and if you are like me, the moot court competition that needs to be squeezed in.

The student [that would be me] loses sleep. We become grumpy. Our family starts wondering where we are, and why we have not been in touch. If you have kids [I have one], they start thinking that some crazy person has taken over mom's body. This person has less patience than normal, her eyes look wild, and she yells at little provocation.

Then to top it all of, our school district, in all of it's infinate wisdom, also gives a total of 6 days off during this month. So, now I am juggling where my child is going to go while I am at school or work. More stress = more craziness!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Advice to the R's.......

You all better get organized. Last night was a sound spanking from the American people. You want to know why you have experienced failure? You want to know why we the people are disgusted? Let me tell you...........

You lost your identity. You lost what made you great in 1996. You breeched your contract with America. You spent like a drunk democrat, you expanded government to unprecedented levels, and you allowed the President to expand his powers beyond belief. And then, as if that was not disgraceful enough, you turned on each other like jackels fighting over a carcus. Absolutely disgusting.

What happened to personal responsibility? What happened to small government? What happened to reducing spending? What happened to deregulation? What happaned to helping business? What happened?

And don't get me started on how you jumped ship on Bush. You could not distance yourself faster......NONE of you stood by him, fought the press, and spoke the truth. You allowed the Media (if you can call them that) to define him and to define you. In the end, it was your arrogance that destroyed you.

My advice: regroup. Stop listening to the media--they want to see the destruction of your party. Remember that the Constitution was written to protect the insular and discrete minority. Organize. Redefine. And go back to the roots. Let the young, new voices guide you. Stop compromising. STICK TOGETHER.

Advice to the Dems......

Do you want to remain in power? Let me share with you some advice: the average American person is moderate. Unless you do not want history to repeat itself, you better rein in the liberals in your party and "center" your agenda. We the people are tired of the divisive, dirty politics, that have racked the last 8 years........As much as the President was to blame, you all take part of that blame as well. So you better have a plan, and it better be center.

Think I am joking? Let me remind you. The last time the Dems enjoyed this kind of control was in 1992, when Clinton took office. That lasted exactly two years---and then the people were disgusted and elected a Republican controlled Congress. This was the beginning of the problems. Do not, by any means, believe that this election was a mandate for progressive, liberal ideas. What it was a mandate for was "Change" and honestly, I don't know what that really means, no one has explained it to me yet. We in the legal world call this an ambiguous term.

So here's the deal: As a registered independant, I am willing to give you all the benefit of the doubt. So go get to work, but realize that we the people are watching you...................

Nationwide Initiative Results

Last night I wrote about the initiatives that I was keeping tabs on......All the initiatives dealing with abortion failed. The one that surprised me the most was the parental notification one in California----the final count was close, very close indeed. I expected a resounding no to this one, but it appears that the voters are moving closer to requiring the 48 hour notice. The Colorado initiative that would have defined a person as beginning at fertilization was soundly defeated. The South Dakota ban on abortions except in the case of rape and incest was very close but failed. Neither of these surprise me too much because empirical evidence shows that most Americans believe in the right to choose within the first 3 months. If the right to life organizers want to launch serious attacks, they should focus on the 2nd semester ban and then work downward.

California Proposition 8 was surprising to me. I guess I assume that California is composed of fairly liberal individuals and my assumption was wrong. Which begs the question: Was this a slap at the California Supreme Court or a referendum on the meaning of marriage? AND, what remedy in the law do same-sex couples have in order to change the wording put in by the people? Can the legislature override this? Does the Supreme Court have to abide by this? (The answer of course is yes). And finally, what happens to the some 16,000 marriages that have been preformed since June 17, 2008? All matters the court is going to have to deal with in the coming months and years ahead.

Finally with this issue, Prop 8 effected the equal protection section of the law of California to NOT apply to same sex couples. Equal protection has always referred to a person, but in the SC or California extending this to couples, they opened a thorny issue that could actually errode civil rights for those who would want to protect the classification of sexual orientation. Perhaps the court did more harm then good with their May ruling.

Also, Florida voters approved an amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On the whole, results last night were interesting as to what will effect the legal community.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More impressions......

My daughter cried, "We're going to die." Somehow, someone convinced her that Obama meant the end of the world and we are all going to die. Now, it was not me....honestly. I did not speak ill of Obama to her. I did not reveal who I voted for because honestly, until I sat down to vote, I remained undecided. She gave me a good laugh and then we sat down to watch his acceptance speech.

I was moved. The man is a great orator. Do I believe every promise? No. But I don't believe that of any politician. But the strangest thing moved me.........I elluded to it in an earlier post: the making of history.

I watched Jesse Jackson as tears rolled down his face, watch Obama speak. And I thought that this is the man that walked along side Martin Luther King Jr. and fought long and hard for equal protection under the law---what was he feeling knowing that because of the work he had done, Obama was making that speech? Now, this was strange for me. I am not a big fan of Jackson politically. But to be a part of a generation that watched that moment....I paused. I told my daughter, "You watch this. This is an important moment being made in history. Remember this."

In the span of Obama's 47 years, he was born to a world which did not recognize him as equal. He experienced discrimination and racism. Yet, in the span of his lifetime, he has fulfilled his dream. And in doing so, fulfilled the dreams of those who toiled the fields of racism for years before him. If for no other reason, our nation should be proud of the fact that today is the day that the nation decided based on political message, not the color of one man's skin.....

Now I just wait for the day that this applies to women.......

O elected as President

So the news is out: Barak Obama is the president elect and will take office in January. For what it is worth, here are my thoughts:

1. The ability for a black man to win this office would have been unheard of 40 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago. This is proof that the walls of opportunity for a black man have clearly been torn down. Tonight marks an important historical moment in consideration of the history of this nation. Tonight is proof that a nation can turn it's back on bigotry and hate to promote equality and justice to all regardless of race.

2. Change was the best coin word, PR work of the decade. We don't even know what change was promised to us, we only know that "change" is a coming. The coming year will be interesting to what the defination of change means.

3. What do I think "change" meant? Honestly, I think that people hungered for a change from the current administration, meaning Bush. The people, overwhelmingly, are tired of the approach of secrecy and unilateral decisions made by the Bush Administration.

4. I am going to hold out hope that Obama moves center and remembers that we are a moderate country. But I will make the following predictions for the next four years:

  • Taxes will increase. Sorry wealthy people who make more than 250,000 a year, you are going to be looking at paying 5-7% more in taxes.
  • Justice Stevens will retire from the Supreme Court and therefore, O will nominate a justice. Look for it to happen in the next two years because then there will be no fight in the Senate for confirmation (plus Justice Stevens is 86 years old).
  • There will NOT be an immediate pullout in Iraq. I remain convinced that once O sees the intelligence reports and is briefed, his tune is going to change a bit there.
  • Major layoffs by corporations who will fear the policy changes being made that effect the bottom line of their profits.
  • Energy prices will skyrocket.
  • Uncontrolled spending because there are no checks and balances between the Congress and President. You and I will pay---and then our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
  • The fairness doctrine will be attacked--watch out Rush, Sean, and Glen. They will be gunning for you.

Don't get me wrong: I remain optimistic the Barak Obama will work with diplomacy and grace. I also think he has a shot at working across the aisle and pulling down a consensus. What frightens me is the fact that two branches of the government will be controlled by one political party----the government was not set up to work this way.

The good news: We always swing to the right, then center, then left. We are in that cycle.

Ballot initiatives take on major social issues

Ballot initiatives this season involve some very controversial issues that will provoke hot feelings on either side. The state of Colorado will basically outlaw abortion if the initiative passes in this state. The proposed ballot would add to the Colorado state constitution defining a person to "include any human being from the moment of fertilization." This would effectively knock the wind out of Roe v. Wade or the language of the predecessor, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. South Dakota has an initiative on the ballot which would outlaw all abortions unless the woman was subject to rape or incest. Even liberal California is stepping in with a proposition to require 48 hour parental notification (which by the way is allowed due to the reasoning of Casey). Finally, California again with prop 8 would overturn the California State Supreme Court’s decision, which overturned the will of the people, which would define marriage between a man and a woman.

All of these are hot-topic buttons. While the same-sex marriage argument is nothing new in recent years, the abortion initiatives are. Why? What are these states, or people who propose ballots up to? In an answer: challenging Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade can only be overturned completely by the United States Supreme Court. With the resignation of O’Connor, and the appointments of Roberts and Alito, the court is posed to overturn this 1973 decision. In order for the court to do so, there must be a case to adjudicate.

The one to watch will be the Colorado statute defining a person. The Supreme Court has never definitively defined when personhood begins. And the Supreme Court would not have the power to direct whether a state constitution is constitutional. This is a major violation of federal powers.

I will be watching with great interest to see where the people through the voters stand. Rather than the courts, or Congress.