Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's 106 miles to Chicago....

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 8 ( and hopefully the last one! )
Crossing the Burning Sands. Maybe I'm not quite on a mission from God, but I also don't believe they're gonna have to call out the Illinois National Guard to catch me.

That's it kids. Zero hour. Game time. Kickoff. Here we go again. It's a 106 miles to Chicago...

I'd like to tell you all that I'm super ready, as I know what I'm getting into, and that I'm ready to put the pedal to metal and keep my foot to the floor. But maybe fear of the unknown is better in this situation. Cockiness does not work well in this situation.

I'm up early to eat and make sure I've got the three things I can take in the exam room with me ready, to a quick paranoid re-read of a subject or two, just in case, maybe say a prayer or fifteen, just because, and make sure I can get there with no trouble.

At least I won't oversleep. That's something. Isn't it?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 7

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 7
When you join one of the historically black fraternal organizations, the process is called "Crossing the Burning Sands." It's supposed to mean that your willingness to undertake this journey represents your commitment to the organization. In legal terms, your willingness gives them consent. Which means that being unable to leave the testing room for any reason does not qualify as false imprisonment, even though we are aware of the confinement, and usually object.

The details. That's where they get you.

Friday morning I had a horrible scare.

I sneezed.

I've been in that huge open room under test conditions. It gets cold and you're like right on top of each other with really no place to go.  And since my understanding is they don't even allow you to bring in tissue, if you have the sniffles or a runny nose you're in for a bit of hell. And, then you'd discover that taking an effective medicine - DayQuil, Robitussin, something - would make taking the Bar on par with say, trying to do calligraphy on a tossing ship deck on a wobbly table. Kinda.

Luckily, it was a one time deal. One sneeze. (Thank God!) 

My stomach is still up and down, but that may be because I'm eating all the wrong food. And I'm at that point every law student would put themselves in right before any exam, the classic "why did I do this to myself" question. Everything is pretty much framed through a legal argument at this point. I'm concerned because my last MBE practice questions still coming out around the 50% mark. Not good.

And after all this is over, too many things are still crowding into the back of my skull. I need to get stuff done around the house. I have story I want to write. And most importantly, I still need to find a job. I hate being a burden to my supporters. I just want to get back to ...well, I guess what it all was before.

Zero hour approaches. I need to get that 5-hour energy drink tomorrow, just in case.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 6

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 6
When you join one of the historically black fraternal organizations, the process is called "Crossing the Burning Sands." It's supposed to mean that your willingness to undertake this journey represents your commitment to the organization. The theoretical sand burns at your soul(s) and gets you thinking about your life choices. Unless you're my law school classmate who went out to $2 Tuesdays after his first day of the exam. He might have tiptoed across the sand. 

How it feels to get ready...

My RP was right, since the MBE answers include a through explanation of why the right answers are right and the wrong answers are wrong, doing them IS studying. Why didn't I see this before?

My stack of flash cards has to be over a thousand cards. I'm starting to recognize some of them. I've pared down the reading to the streamlined review and the MBE questions and answers. Thursday I think will essay brush up day. Get my format down and all.

As of late my stomach is not cooperating and I'm also having trouble sleeping. I'll climb into bed, close my eyes and two hours later I'm still awake, just lying there. I'll get up and do some flash cards, but it's still middle of the night staring at the walls.  

Which raises the concern that I won't wake up on time on test day, next Tuesday. If I'm not asleep by 2am the day of the test, and I'm going to bed at 9 or 10pm...then I'm just not going to sleep. Me and 5 hour energy drink, like for real. All this work? The prospect of simply oversleeping is devastating.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The “State” vs Zimmerman (as required by Internet Rule # 47854b)

This is a political post. 

Far too many times of late a African American male has been killed as of late, and its nobody’s fault.

I’m taking a moment to comment here on the Zimmerman trial, because after glancing through the commentary I’ve come to believe that due to the messaging we are missing the point. I got this after the watching Bill O’Reilly, who I cannot believe still has a TV show, suddenly consider the NRA’s stock answer of “arm everybody” to reduce crime to be too extreme after his guest Tavis Smiley suggested the concept be applied to black people as well.

Before I get started, I’d like to remind everyone that just because you agree or disagree with the verdict doesn’t mean it just or unjust. It is just a verdict. The reality is that the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” is an inherently relative term. 

It is terribly sad that a youth died. Trayvon Martin might have posted pictures of himself dressed as a thug and maybe even gotten in trouble a time or two at school, but was his path set for the penitentiary? Not necessarily. At the time of his passing he was looking at college applications. He was the typical middle class American child, rebelling a little. But for some reason the media chose to frame this question as if the rebellious nature of a black male youth somehow disqualified him from justice. And while extremely troubling, that’s not THE troubling issue. Nor is it black on black crime.

The problem is, that under Florida law, as it is in too many states, if one feels as though one’s life is threatened, one has the right to kill.  

The ramifications to me, personally, are frightening. The context is far too fluid, the criteria is far too subjective. This because the default setting for black American males is “threat”. We start on danger level. Let me give you an example: During my litigation exercise in my second year of law school, I stood up to make an objection. Just like on TV, “Objection Your Honor!” Afterwards, during the critique of our work, one of the first year law student jurors, a small white female, said that when I stood up to make that objection, I frightened her. Me. A middle aged man, a fellow law school student. In a courtroom, wearing a six hundred dollar suit, acting as the attorney. My presence "frightened" her. And if I’m a threat under those circumstances, then imagine a black male in the dark coming towards her.

The weird part is that Zimmerman didn’t even plead the Stand Your Ground defense. But reading of the jury instructions shows that it was something that the jury needed to consider.

It is my opinion, that the execution of the Stand Your Ground law (even in the “don’t apply but do consider it” reality we just experienced) erodes the rule of law, in that the criteria is now custom cut to fit the individual. Even worse, you now take into account the “egg shell” defendant. Were they recently robbed? Or previously assaulted? Are they small in stature? Let’s not  kid ourselves into to believing that we don’t assess what’s contextually “reasonable.” It something we all do  automatically, unconsciously. And that's not how the law should work.

Now I’m not trying to vilify George Zimmerman. Nor am I trying to make Trayvon Martin out to be some angel. I just find it odd that I haven’t heard about any Stand Your Ground cases where the “aggressor” survived to tell their side of the story. Does the law encourage killing? Can't you wound in self defense? Or just scare the aggressor? Oh, wait, maybe not.

I’m not going to speak on the “trial” until I’ve had a chance to look at it.

Now, back to the books. Georgia Bar in a week.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 5

Notes from the Law Desert - Part 5
When you join one of the historically black fraternal organizations, the process is called "Crossing the Burning Sands." It's supposed to mean that your willingness to undertake this journey represents your commitment to the organization. Retracing those steps doesn't make any easier. The Bar might not last long, but its the burning sand. Might even be the burning coals.

This blog has been desolate lately.

Studying for the bar for a second attempt has the feel of walking through soft, foul smelling mud. It is a slog, which seems to require an effort for everything that needs to be done. I realized immediately that I couldn't approach this as a "brush up" retake, and that I had to re-immerse myself. Only it's like re-reading a book you read last week. Deja vu to the extreme. You can't shake that feeling that you know this stuff, but you also can't skip anything, so you find yourself reading and re-reading, to the point where you're reading things out loud to prove to yourself that you read them.

Flash cards, audio CDs, prep material, android apps. And repeat. 

For the occasional break, which I swear I'm trying to cut down on, I glance at this blog for Zerlina Maxwell, who is prepping for the NY Bar and whose tumblr format allows for way more funny pictures.

I thought the door bell rang at 6 am on Sunday.
I heard my imaginary dog bark.
I need a haircut.
I went outside the other day and there were cobwebs on the steps to my car.

Theoretically I'm ahead of the game. I've at least seen the thing before. Or is that a bad thing?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

And the next Scandal up at bat...

This is a political post

"...the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be."
~ Eric Snowden

And this statement would be so powerful. Until you realize that that the Obama Administration ends in less than three years, come hell or high water. There is no mechanism in the constitution that would allow him to serve any further. No, the 'evil' Obama Administration will be gone.

Ah, the fake tyranny of it all.

But back to Snowden's statement, which gives rise to the another possibility, one that slightly undercuts my original theory of a him trying to live out a Jason Bourne fantasy. You know, the former security operative on the run with data that could destroy the government? It's very Hollywood. At least he went big with it. But this statement makes me question his stated motivation. If that's his statement at all.

Now, let me be clear.  I in no way support the idea of the broad powers imbued to the NSA for the purposes of our 'safety'. And since going to the FISA court is like asking your two year old if you can have another piece of pie, let's just say the whole legal process to facilitate these actions needs some more explaining. Further, that the government is doing to its citizens and its allies exactly what it accuses China of doing, and having called those manuevers and act of war, is climbing to the height of hypocrisy.

However, when you get right down to it all these sneaky actions are still legal. Perhaps dubiously legal, quasi-legal, maybe just barely good faith legal, but still legal. Well, legal-ish. That's due to the now ironically named Patriot Act. To paraphrase Comedy Central's John Oliver, apparently the government never broke any laws, and we just find it a bit unsettling that they didn't have to.

And while the US government has violated the spirit of the law, but not the letter, our dear friend Mr.
Snowden went ahead and broke it. That he broke the law does not de-legitimize his actions, history will judge if he was right or wrong, but he did break the law here and now. And at this moment he would be the part of the movie Hollywood doesn't show, because after the hero kills forty bad guys and gets the girl, we never see the administrative leave or hearings due to the shooting investigation. That usually happens after the credits.

Snowden is now enjoying the attention and accolades, with some attempting to compare him to the founding fathers. It's a cherry picking argument, but they are doing it. He broke the existing law on the strength of his convictions, just like Ben Franklin. Yeah, Jefferson Davis did the same thing, so it's not cut and dried. Good ole sound bite government Ron Paul likes to believe that charging Snowden with treason would indicate the government considers its own citizens the enemy, but Snowden is a Paul supporter, and those who support him need to stop acting like the news stopped at the border. The world knows. Some of them ARE our enemy. And for a "security operative", him failing to recognize or even consider that there might be some unintended consequences to his actions makes believe our agents are a little less James Bond and more Maxwell Smart. Were the revelations supposed to make it harder for us to deal with our allies? Was the news supposed to compromise legitimate surveillance operations? Was the intent to embarass the government? Is the goal of the messenger to tear down the government and start over?

I've no faith in Snowden. Bradley Manning went all in. Snowden on the other hand seems to believe had the 'right' to expose the government, but the government now must refrain from any pursuit? And his reluctance to go all in has made the story about him, and NOT the actions he's exposed.  If Snowden were truly serious about his self appointed role as whistleblower in chief, he'd have given all the data to the Guardian to print and showed up on the national mall the next day, cameras in tow, begging to be arrested.

The sad part of this all, besides the fact that I now need to request my FBI file, maybe we can work where we can update them like Facebook, is that this is scandal the conservatives have been waiting for. Egg all on the President's face. Except, the previous President authorized it...and Congress gave it the gas. And all Obama did was fail to...um, commit treason and reveal classified information? No, keep a campaign promise to close it down. No, really, that's the argument. He promised. Not so much a scandal per se as Obama slowly becoming a mere mortal. Not a whole lot of talk on that front. He's busy explaining the whole "listening in on you" thing to our allies. Good Luck! 

Now, if whoever is monitoring me can give me a wake-up call around 6am...that'd be great thanks.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Odd Quotes

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul, and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t mean security, and you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises, and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child, and you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure… that you really are strong, and you really do have worth.
~ Veronica A. Shoffstall