Monday, November 30, 2009

Sometimes Research is Depressing

One of my paper topics is deals with the inherent racism involved in the formation of welfare policy and reform.  For the most part I am proud of my country, but there are times where I do research and I feel absolute shame.  Not necessarily for the decisions of my forefathers--though many decisions they made were deplorable, but what hits me the most is to realize that some things never change.

As far back as the early 1800's, this country was trying to figure out what to do with women and children who were abandoned by their husbands/fathers.  The political leaders, even back then, divided women in to classes:  the deserving poor and the undeserving poor.  Women and children were often exploited in sweat shops for low wages, in an attempt to provide shelter and food.

In the 1860's, during Reconstruction, legislators were concerned with what to do with black women and their children.  Slave owners forbid African American men and women from marrying, fearing insurrection if they allowed this.  Families were split, children sold off, and with the south freed, this was a huge problem for the south.  So legislatures, in their infinite wisdom, started declaring certain freed slaves to be "married" so as to not have to provide for the black women and her children.  Shameful.

I would like to say that it improved over time, but it did not.  100 years later, Democratic Senator Daniel Monhiyan publishes the Monhiyan Report which blames welfare on the black matriarch single women.  20 years after that, Reagan campaigns on the Welfare Queen, and the Media begins to picture black single mothers as the face of Welfare.  In 1994, Congress promotes welfare reform and attacks illegitmacy as the social ill that drives all other social ills, drugs, crime, illiteracy, and so on................

I'm ashamed of this in so many ways.  Maybe because to some extent in 1994, I bought into this myth to some extent, without knowing the ramifications or even the racial undertones that laced the debate.  I did not know the barriers, the issues that face the black single mother.  I identify with the stigma of being a single mother, but by virtue of the color of my skin [white] I would have been crowned deserving in the 1800's, and certainly not villified as a welfare queen schemer in the 1980's.

The tone of the welfare debate must change.  The politicians must begin to realize that if they are serious about welfare reform, that they have it backwards.  That education is the key to a hand up out of welfare.  This is not about "deserving" for every person deserves to thrive and survive in this country.  There is no magical thing that makes some one "less."  I wish there was a way to change the debate and the way people think about this subject.  I wish there was a way to open eyes to the fact that the history of this debate, and the continued lack of support for education is only leading to more poverty and more racial bias.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A few books all law students should read...

When I was at dinner with the Chief Justice the other night, he made a comment that there were books that all law students should read.  Some because you can learn things about trying cases, and others so that you will know what a trial is really like.  Got me to thinking because some of his book recommendations that I have read and really enjoyed and wondered how realistic they were.  So, I have made my own list.  Enjoy.

1L by Scott Turow:  I recommend this book for all people to read BEFORE the start law school, and even before they go to apply, if they can.  This is a realistic look at what the first year is really like in law school.  It's a bit dated, but you know, the principles in this book are still true and the tactics that people use still hold true as well.

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly:  the Chief Justice recommended this one and I have read it.  This was a great book and gives a realistic view of what the criminal courts in LA County are like.  Trials especially..

The Conviction by Richard North Patterson:  Wow, very powerful book.  And very, very good, detailed, realistic look at what it is like to go through the appeals process for the death penalty.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham:  His first nonfiction book chronicles the real life story of a man wrongly convicted to death for the rape and murder of a young woman in Oklahoma.  I was lucky enough to see this man speak not long ago.  The Innocence Project was responsible for proving this man was innocent and overturning his conviction.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult:  So, great book [warning you will need kleenex]. It's not that this book is terribly accurate on what happens with trials, but the legal principles in here are spot on, from both the prosecution side and the defense angle.

The Nine by Jeffery Toobin:  A non-fiction book about the Nine Supreme Court Justices [before Alito and Sotomeyer].  Great insight, wonderful stories.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who-hoo, My semester is over!

You got it folks---today was my last class of the semester!  Yay.

So, what was this second to the last semester like--not sure yet, I will let you know when I have finished my papers and had some rest.

Though I will tell you that it was nice hangin' with the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and having dinner and a beer with him.  Great time of talking law and just getting to know him better.

Also, today's last class with Professor Wise was fun.....we had Salvadorean food and drinks---good times were had by all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can it be done?

I am seriously beginning to wonder if I can open my own practice up.  Can it be done?  Can I afford to do this?  Would it be wise?  Would it be legal malpractice? 

I know that I like the idea of being on my own time, being my own boss.  I hate the idea of the uncertainty.  Just something I am kicking around right now.

Next Semester's Courses

I am still awaiting final news of what I will be taking because of one class is still in the lottery phase, but so far, here is what I am taking:

Juvenile Law:  This class deals with dependency and termination of parental rights....should be up my alley.  Who-hoo.  Though I have never had the professor, so there is an unknown quality here.  No ratings in Rate My Professor . I am flying blind here.

Criminal Procedure II:  Follow up to the first course I took last year.  Taught by a new professor Davidson.  Heard she is tough, and a bit grumpy at times.  This course follows what happens from Jail to Bail.  She does get a smiley face on Rate My Professor.

Law and Education:  Another new professor....sheesh, way to go in my last semester.  This deals with the rights of children and parents in the education system.  Unknown quantity:)

First Amendment:  Taught by Professor Green.  Honestly, he was one of the reasons I went to my school was to take a class by him.  So, here I am, in my last semester take a class on a subject I love, learning from a master.

Sentencing Law and Reform........taught by my fave Professor Appleman.  So, I know there is a take home exam, no paper.  I know I love her as a professor and am glad that my last semester is spent in one of her classes.  And this is  a subject that has become an interest of mine over the last year or so.  So I will buckle up, hang on, and enjoy the ride!

Also taking a course on setting up your own solo practice.  Very excited about this one.  This class is being taught by an attorney here in town who has his own solo practice.  Should be good.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I am taking Intensive Trial Practice during the break---1 Week, 40 hours = hell, but a pass/fail class........Taught by Professor Tornquist, someone I have not had yet, but heard wonderful things about.

The End of the Semester....

I like to do a recap of my experiences from classes. I have no finals this semester, they are all paper courses, so I am going to do a recap now, prior to getting my grades, so you can have unbiased feedback without the tainting that a law school final can give!

Oregon Criminal Procedure:  The BEST class I have taken in my law school career.  Seriously.  Taught by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, who prior to his experience on the bench, was a top criminal defense attorney who defended on capital murder charges, this class was practical and gave wonderful insight into the process of defending, writing motions, and basic Oregon Constitutional law.   Some say it was alot of work....I laughed at that.  There is no final.  There is only a 2 page motion to write once a week.  Chief Justice makes it easy for you by telling you what to focus on.  Also, let's be frank, anytime you can get face time with someone so influential--take it.

Civil Rights Litigation:  Interesting and thought provoking class.  Taught by Professor Carrasco, the class really gets you thinking about topics that are involved in civil rights.  Prof. Carrasco is passionate about this subject, especially when it comes to the rights of undocumented workers.  He has an obvious left leaning political ideology, but he is willing to explore and listen to all sides of the argument.

Race and the Law:  Taught by Professor Appleman, who by the way is my favorite law school professor, this class was a frank exploration on the topic of racism in American and how the law has both historically, and today, tainted the law.  Honestly, this class felt more like a sociology course, but I really enjoyed it.  Killer paper though, and as this is my third year graduation requirement class-----whoo-ee, she is tough, but fair.

Sexuality and Discrimination:  I took this class as a gap filler.  I really saw nothing interesting I wanted to take so I filled this one in.....And honestly I am glad I did.  We studied not only gay rights, but pregnancy, and gender issues.  Taught by Professor Carrasco, the class was more of a survey course then a seminar.  The topic often a bit uncomfortable, but always eye opening.

Comparative Constitutionalism:  This class is an example of why sometimes you should not take a course just because you love the professor, which I did.  Professor Wise taught the course, which is the only thing that saved it.  Studying constitution's and their role in international countries makes for very dry, boring reading.  For me, the most rewarding was the paper I am writing on the country of Iran and women's rights.  Really opened my eyes to the oppression and subrogation women experience in other countries.

So, that's it........for this semester and courses.  I might let you all know how I did with scathing reviews of how fair paper grading went when I get my grades:) [which is never until January because they torture you].

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Job Hunt

The job hunt is a scary time.  To be very, very truthful, the chances are that you will not find a job before you graduate.  Unless you are a member of a top 10 school, then you might.  The truth is that you will interview and interview, but unless you are in the top 10%, and ready to sell your soul for a big time firm that will chain you to a desk and work you for 80 hours, you are going to have to scrap.

I have been flirting with the idea of opening a solo practice.  Barring that, maybe getting some other students together to open a small firm together.  Not sure.  What I do know, is that the stress of the unknown is a scary place to be.  Don't be naive, assuming a job will fall in your lap.  Work it.  And be willing to go out on a limb.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon Movie Experience

I want to encourage single parents to take time out every once in a while and do something with your kids that you would not normally do, even if it means you lose sleep or study time.  Last week, I decided to pre-order New Moon tickets for the midnight showing of the movie for my daughter.  I am so very glad I did this.  She had a blast!  And it will be something she remembers for a long time.

So, I don't want to spoil the movie, but here are a few observations---there were a few changes from the book, but nothing as to ruin the book.  I got a kick out of going to the midnight showing.  The excitement of several hundred teenage girls was palpable!  When Edward appeared for the first time the girls screamed.  When Jacob took his shirt off for the first time, the girls screamed louder.....LOL.  And when the movie ended---well mayham broke out.

What was great was the absolute joy it gave my daughter to not say "Oh, I don't have time."  OR "Oh, it's too late."  I believe she is going to remember this for a long time to come.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top 10 Law Movies Every Law Student Should See

1.  Twelve Angry Men (1957). A look at the legal system through the eyes of the jury. This one has been remade, both using all men, and using all women. It's particularly interesting, because keeping the viewer's interest while using one set (the jury room) and one issue (the jury deliberation) is difficult.

2.  My Cousin Vinny (1992). The film deals with two young New Yorkers traveling through rural Alabama who are put on trial for a murder they did not commit, and the comedic attempts of a cousin, Vincent Gambini, a newly minted lawyer, to defend them.

3. Fracture (2007).  This moving deals with a rising star of a prosecutor, and a murder defendant going pro se.  The plot is good, if a bit fantastic, but the legal proceedings are done with a very keen eye.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Penned for the screen by Horton Foote, the movie was an instant classic, as lawyer Finch rises above the naked racism of Depression-era Alabama to defend a crippled black man (Brock Peters) falsely accused of rape by a lonely, young white woman.

5.  Philidephia (1993).  Tom Hanks won an Oscar as an Ivy-educated gay attorney who claims his big-time law firm fired him after discovering he contracted AIDS.

6.  Erin Brockovich (2000).  Lawyer line of the movie, she to him: “Do they teach lawyers to apologize? ’Cause you suck at it.”  Note the real Ms. Brockovich got her law degree and now practices.
7.   Kramer v. Kramer (1979).  An all-too-painful reminder of the human toll that is pos­sible when domestic relations litigation takes a nasty turn.
8.  The Paper Chase (1973).  The real drama, however, is the demanding milieu of Harvard Law School, where reputations can be made and broken in a single, grueling class.  (Yes, law school is REALLY like that, even if you don't go to Harvard).
9.  A Civil Action (1998).  Best lawyer line goes to Facher: “Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.”  This is a great illustration of what happens when you are a lawyer but a LOUSY business person.  So, take the warning and heed it well.
10.  THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997) A new attorney introduced into the world’s most powerful law firm discovers that its managing partner is morally challenged.  Did you really think that Pacino would not make this list somewhere??????  Not because this is a great, realistic thing, but because it shows the ethical dilemmas you will face, and the inner warfare of losing who you are.
So, if you have some free time, check these out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hitting the "Wall"

Yes, even third year students hit the proverbial wall.  If you are not in law school yet, this wall is the moment when you cannot handle anything else in the semester.  Everything is overwhelming, everything seems too much of an uphill battle and quite frankly you would like to quit--school, job, whatever and run away to assume a new identity.

I have hit that point this semester. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Open Letter to Veterans......

Dear Veteran:

Thank you for your service to this country.  Thank you to your families, your husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, maybe even grandchildren---for sharing you with this great country.  Thank you for being the peacekeepers, the peace makers, the guardian, the warrior, and the other titles that you wear, so that I enjoy the freedoms, rights, and privileges you help to safeguard.

I owe you an apology.  I am sorry for taking you for granted.  I am sorry that I don't tell you enough what your service means to me as an American. 

But know, that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  This great country is founded upon certain principles in which you swear to uphold and protect.  And you do so with honor, integrity and valor.

Thank you.  I can never truly express this heart of gratitude I hold for you. 

Yours truly,
Single Mom.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What is wrong with people?

 often think that we are blessed to live in America.  And don't get me wrong, we are.  But we are not above the ugly human rights violations that plague the rest of the world.  Recently, my eyes were open to the fact that this country has a real problem with sex trafficking as it applies to women and children.  Check out some links to stories to see what I mean:

52 Children Saved from Prostitution
Teen stories of sex trafficking
Woman pimps kids on craiglist

Time to understand this is a REAL problem in the US.  Be educated.

DC Sniper Executed.

Not sure how I feel about this.  I have been flipping back and forth between whether I believe in the death penalty or not.  John Allen Muhammad seems to be the guy. Yet, he died still claiming he was innocent.  No final last minute confession to ease his soul--just defiance that they got the wrong man.

Then I am troubled by other factors......1) His execution was five years from date of conviction.  From what I have studied, I do not know how he could have made it through all the appeals processes in 5 years, when Virginia has other prisoners sentenced to death dating back to 1997.  Why the rush on this guy?  2) Did the media taint Mr. Muhammad?  Did he get a fair trial because of that?  Remember the terror of living in that area?  I didn't live there, but I have close friends that live 2 miles from one of the rest stops where someone was shot to death.  Did the states rush to find someone in order to stop the terror that was going on at the time?  Then again, the shooting stopped once Muhammad was caught, so if it were someone else, likely the shootings would have continued.

I guess my problem with the death penalty in general is this:  how can we be certain?  In the age of instant media, where the media calls out "facts" real-time without verification, how can we be sure?  In post 9/11, terror being rained on by people traveling the beltway, how can we be sure?  Whenever we deal with taking another's life, how can we be sure?  We are not God, we cannot see, we are not omnipotent, all knowing. 

Just the other day, I was reading about a man in Maryland convicted of murder and rape.  He sat in prison for years, before DNA evidence cleared him of the crime.  What about the story of Ron Williamson, the true story that John Grisham wrote about in his non-fiction book An Innocent Man? These thoughts scare me. I would rather error on the side of caution, than execute an innocent man.

But the flip side of me, who hears about people who confess to horrible crimes, wants to see them gone.

Keep on keeping.....

I have made a decision today....I am going to keep on going when I graduate.  I am going to give my followers a blow-by-blow of studying for the bar, job hunting, and the first year on the job.  I feel like there are so many unanswered questions for me still. The comments and encouragement I get and the "thanks" for taking the time are a blessing.  But more so, I want to help that single parent know as much about the process as I can.  So, this won't be my last guys are all stuck with me for awhile.