Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vote for Boalt's entry in the ATL Video Content

Hi All,

It has come to my attention that the infamous Hitler parody made for THAT day this year has been chosen as a finalist in the ATL Law Revue video contest. Show some love to creator DS and submit a vote (it takes 2 seconds).


Perpetual glory here we come.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Identity Theft Hits Boalt Students

I wanted to warn everyone about credit card information theft that's been occurring in Berkeley. At least seven students (edited to include Will) have had credit card information stolen and used as far away as Tennessee and a few students have fallen victim more than once.

It's unclear where the theft is taking place, but it's a safe assumption that it's happening at a retail location near campus. Everyone should be vigilant in checking credit card statements and might want to think about using cash around campus or in Berkeley in general.

A Legal Theory with Teeth, and Pizzaz

Somebody needs to light a fire under Congress about the entertainment industry's abuse of takedown notices under the Copyright act. The current strategy -- which is to hold lawyers to a good faith belief standard, while also permitting them to collect fees for asserting meritless claims -- is as ridiculous dismissing any tort claim where the defendant asserts that she was "careful." Law is about power and the good faith of the powerful has never been an effective check.

That's why I love the spirit of the folks at PirateBay.com:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The "Should Good People be Prosecutors" panel is actually a thing that is happening

We were all reminded that we live in Berkeley today, when students received an e-mail from the BCCJ regarding an upcoming panel titled "Should Good People be Prosecutors?" I work at a District Attorney's office, but as an irredeemably evil asshole with nary a speck of soul within him, I guess I am unqualified to answer this question. Still, I can't help but hope the panel consists entirely of one justifiably indignant guy saying, "Um, yes, of course. Why the fuck would you even ask that?"

I am certain some commenters will point out the political difficulties associated with prosecution. I am sure Paul Butler, the former federal prosecutor and current law professor hosting the discussion, will present some convincing evidence of how totally screwed up our justice system has become. I will probably even agree with most of his views on the problem. But if his solution is honestly that "good people" should simply abandon prosecution and seek employment elsewhere, that seems as shortsighted as suggesting that they abandon politics because of Watergate. No matter how messed up a system gets, ANY office is better filled with "good people" than "bad people"--if we are even willing to reduce ourselves to such comic book morality. (Make sure you join us for next week's BCCJ panel: "Should Good People work for Dr. Doom?")

In fact, as the justice system begins to address issues like the prison crisis and the increasingly obvious failure of the drug war, the apparently rare "good person" in a prosecutor's office will likely prove an indispensable ally to policy activists like Paul Butler. Even now, while legislative changes remain out of reach despite the best efforts of folks like Mr Butler, it is largely good people exercising the enormous power of prosecutorial discretion that keeps the situation from getting any worse. Because trust me, the penal code is much less friendly than even the worst D.A.'s office.

I guess the real question here is, "Should people whose politics have completely blinded them to reality host discussion panels?" Find out this Friday!

E-mail is below.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Toilet Paper Prank Video Reveals Perpetrator

The commenters have been really getting on our asses to write something about the Yoo Toilet Paper prank. I wanted to sit it out for at least a few hours so someone could do the hard work and get to the bottom of it for me.

Well, Gawker points to the video below posted by an artist from LA. Some might brand this form of prank as asinine, but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face after seeing the video.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Some Great Course Evaluation News

If you are a student, you just received an email announcing that from here foreword - and subject to conditions - the 'narrative' portion of professors evaluations will be available students. About freaking time. Huge props to the students who pulled this off (I know it was not easy), although I do have one question about the email.

First, read this:
This year, our faculty advocates on the Curriculum Committee have approved a great change in course evaluations! Previously, students could only see aggregated numerical ratings (e.g., "Rate Professor X on a scale form 1 to 5") and not responses to narrative questions (e.g., "What could Professor X do better?"). However, this year, the responses to narrative questions will be made available online to the student body with password protected access. There's just one catch. In order for your answers to a particular narrative question to be made available to your fellow students, at least 50% of the students enrolled in this course must also respond to that particular question.

BHSA is asking that all students complete every question on the evaluations and remain polite and civil in our answers so that we are able to post them on the website. This new feature will give us all access through Berkeley Law's website to primary source information about student experiences with professors. We hope that you are excited about this and do your best to make it successful.
Doesn't the first sentence of the second paragraph sort of suggest that, while narratives will be posted, not *all* narratives will be posted? Who gets to decide what constitutes "civil"? Who gets to set the boundaries for what is considered "polite"? I hope it's not the professor.

Again, though, this is great work by some very dedicated 3L's. I'm not going to benefit from this, but it makes me very happy all the same.

Students: fill out your course evals here.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

GL's Post-Hearing Roundup

GL's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is over.

Overall, I think it went well. I don't think some senators' atempts to focus on the welfare rights article were successful--partly because the passages they quoted consisted of complex academic language.

And GL was able to circumvent other "hot topic" issues like gun control or capital punishment by either stating that he had no opinion, or in fact that he agreed with the questioner's premise.

He was a little on the defensive in light of his prior comments during the Roberts/Alito confirmations, but he avoided falling into the trap of comparing their nominations with his own.

And of course he took a bit of a battering on the late submissions of documents issue. But I really can't see how that could really be used to justify Republican opposition.

The correct link to Jesse Choper's letter is here. (Thanks for the tip, anonymous!) I still am waiting for Whelan's response. I'm sure hill have some indignant mouth-frothing on the hearing posted soon.


The White House has confirmed Goodwin's nomination here.

Prior N&B threads on Goodwin Liu shows a surprisingly wide range of view at Boalt. There are clearly a lot Boalties that worship at the Church of Goodwin. There are others that think that his constitutional law classes were overly biased in the ACS direction. (These last two sentences may not be unrelated.) I don't really know enough about GL to make any opinions. I thought his graduation speech last may was underwhelming. But he's been very helpful to me in the few situations in which I've interacted with him.

The logistical problem facing N&B on this topic is that, these days, the confirmation of judicial nominations can take years--if they happen at all. And the track record of speedy confirmations for Obama nominees is not good. Although the LA Times article suggests that GL has well-placed conservative supporters, he may be a controverial nomination (based on his ACS leadership and his opposition to the Alito SCOTUS nomination). And if we keep popping up with thread updates every few months, then we'll separate all the different comments.

So I propose keeping this as a kind of enduring GL Confirmation thread. I'll try to keep it updated as appropriate, and will bump it whenever there are any new developments. I also may change the title as appropriate, but will keep the comments. Of course, other posters can start their own threads. (After all, I'm sure there will be plenty of press releases coming out soon...)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Resurrection of Boalt's Legendary Gun Club?

Alright Boalties, time to channel Nancy Drew!

Last week, cryptic posters started showing up around the law school that featured a black and white photo of John Y*o, with a caption underneath that reads: “I’m sorry, for everything.” At first glance, they were easy to dismiss as yet another attempt to get a rise out of Boalt’s most notorious professor.

That was, until this morning – when a keg mysteriously appeared in the student center, plastered with the very same posters. The keg (seemingly of Bud Light) looked like it had been there overnight, much to the consternation of M*ndi and L*sa.

The cups sat beside a photo of Earl Warren...

Who was perhaps the most illustrious (and only known) member of the original
Gun Club, a secret society founded at Boalt in the early 1900s composed of "[m]en" who "lived for the drink and died by the gun." Time Magazine reported that Warren and his friends in the Club would gather on Thursday nights at Pop Kessler’s Rathskeller in Oakland for evenings of beer drinking and poetry reading.

While there is little if any additional information about the Gun Club’s current activities or members (secret societies are, well, secret) there are signs that it is still alive and going strong. As recently as 2005, students at Boalt found clues in the form of poetry promising that somewhere in the school was a hidden pint of liquor in a hollowed-out “tome”.

With the library about to move underground, are the Y*o posters and keg another invitation to find the legendary liquor-tome?? Do they mark the beginning of a new quest? Or have the anti-Y*o protestors finally learned that they can shape public opinion at Boalt with beer…?

In any case, rumor has it M*ndy gave the keg to the construction workers. With any luck, they’ll get wasted and build a few secret passageways for generations of Gun Club members to come.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fall 2010 Courses

Someone asks:
Can we have a thread to complain about the newly released Fall 2010 class schedule?
Yup. Here it is.

This is also an appropriate place to discuss the new ranking policy, which you can find here (scroll to section 3.07, about halfway down the page).

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Trickle Down Effect?

By now you've likely heard that Justice Stevens has formally announced his retirement. No real surprises there. Rather than his replacement (near unanimous consensus on the internets is that Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be tapped, or perhaps 7th Circuit Judge Dianne Wood) what I wonder is closer to home: what effect, if any, could a looming SCOTUS appointment have on Professor Liu's April 16th Confirmation hearing?

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Scotch: It Kills Germs and Keeps You Healthy

I'm not sure what the tuition was at Boalt Hall in the 1929 but I know who to ask: Josleph Aidlin. Mr. Aidlin is Boalt Class of 1933 and still practicing law. This article from KRSP's website is too short, too pithy, and too perfect to avoid quoting in its entirety:
Joseph Aidlin, who will turn 100 this month and is the oldest practicing lawyer in California, spoke to KPSP Local 2 reporter and legal analyst David Wohl about his 77 years practicing law.

Aidlin, who says he recalls speaking to friends and family who were serving in the military during World War I, came to Los Angeles from Chicago as a 10 year old in 1920. He went to Hollywood High and then attended UCLA and Boalt Hall School of Law.

When he passed the bar exam in November of 1933, he couldn't celebrate the feat because of prohibition. He went into practice in the 1930's earning $30.00 a week.

Over the past seven and a half decades Aidlin's law practice has included family law cases such as divorce and wills as well as corporate cases. He has also been involved in Geo-thermal energy through a business that he founded.

Aidlin, whose wife of 63 years Mary died in 1997, comes to work every day at his law office on Sunset Blvd. He never had children, although he says he loves children dearly and currently does legal work to benefit kids. He does not accept payment for his legal work any longer, and says most of his work involves "getting his affairs in order".

Aidlin attributes his longevity to taking vitamins and having a nightly glass of scotch, which he says "kills germs and keeps him healthy." While Aidlin is proud to be almost 100 years old, he maintains he would rather be 50.
The man has seen two World Wars and 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. He saw FDR elected the first time, and he saw Earl Warren as California governor. His state bar number is likely . . . what? 4 digits?

Clearly, I need to switch to scotch.

Boalt's Very Own Stalinist

Do not be fooled by the pleasant demeanor, pressed shirts, dapper necktie, or stylish shoes of my friend and co-3L Jonathan Singer.1 The National Review has just confirmed what those of you who saw Jonathan's mustache over the winter break already suspected -- the guy is a Stalinist.

Stalinism is no laughing matter. Stalinism is the theory and practice of communism practiced by Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union from 1928–1953. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, via Wikipedia, via my iPhone, "Stalinism is associated with a regime of terror and totalitarian rule." That's right. Terror and totalitarian rule.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is NOT the untenable conclusion that an idle 3L with a laptop and a blog has gotten thoroughly under the skin of Ed Whelan whose resume includes the OLC, SCOTUS clerk, and counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. Don't be tricked into thinking that a conservative big-wig is being publicly infuriated by snide, 20-something bachelor 3L who has yet to finish his writing requirement. No, dear reader, the important thing to take from this is that Goodwin Liu should not be confirmed because Boalt 3L Jonathan Singer believes in the use of secret police, propaganda, and bureaucratic central planning of the economy.

Thank god for the blogosphere.

[Cue Glenn Beck style weeping for America . . .]

1 For the record, the Stalinist pre-approved the use of his full name in this post.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Enemy of my Enemy of my Enemy is my... I don't even know.

Fox News produced some compelling television today, and not for the usual reasons. The players--Bill O'Reilly, Anne Coulter, Westboro Baptist Church (of "God Hates Fags" notoriety), and Megyn Kelly (host of Fox News' America Live and alternative spelling enthusiast)--were pretty much all villains, yet somehow what emerged became an epic battle of good vs. evil. Just don't ask me to decide which side is which.

First, the video:

Now, my reactions:

I can't remember the last time I found it so hard to figure out whose team I'm on. The most encouraging thing, I suppose, is that everyone involved agrees it was wrong for Westboro Baptist Church to protest at the funeral of a deceased solider. When the thing started, I half expected O'Reilly, or at least Coulter, to take their side. Instead, those two seem firmly convinced that these guys deserve to go down for this, no matter the implications for the justice system.

Which brings me to Megyn Kelly's spirited defense and impressive understanding of the 4th Circuit's ruling. My favorite part is when she points out to Bill (who, as usual, clearly has no idea what the hell he is talking about aside from three or four talking points handed to him by a staffer) that drafters of majority opinions do not have to "dissent" from concurring opinions. Seriously, does that guy even get what Judges do?

Bill's response: "You got brain damage going to law school," is another classic bit of anti-intellectualism from the far Right, but considering that I no longer remember how my brain used to work, I'm not so sure he's wrong.

The most satisfying thing about this video, of course, is watching Bill O'Reilly get so completely taken to town by someone who is clearly smarter and better informed than he has ever been. And since she works for the network, he can't simply cut her mic. I'm not familiar with Megyn Kelly's reputation or politics outside of this video, but she deserves major credit for standing up to O'Reilly's bullying and coming out looking like a goddamned legal hero. The ACLU owes her a thank you, if she'd take their calls.

As for the IIED claim, I'm glad I'm not the Judge who has to rule on it. Westboro Baptist is probably the most abhorrent issue group currently active in our nation. They're so abysmally evil, in fact, that they make Frat Houses look like bastions of social justice. But do they have a right to free speech, even at a soldier's funeral? To answer that question, I must turn, yet again, to The West Wing:

Josh: I don't know, Toby, it's election night. What do you say about a government that goes out of its way to protect even citizens that try to destroy it?

Toby: God bless America.

Monday, April 05, 2010

What is it Good For?

What follows is horrible.

First, some back story. In July, 2007, two Reuters photographers were killed during an altercation with American Apache helicopters in Baghdad, Iraq. The helicopters were assisting ground forces who had been fired upon by insurgents with RPG's and smaller weapons. The aircraft found a group of 8 to 12 people including the journalists, whose cameras they mistook for weapons. After determining the cameras were weapons, discussing the issue, and obtaining permission to fire, the helicopters killed most of the people on the ground. A van rushed to the scene and began collecting wounded and (from the aircraft's vantage) weapons. After obtaining permission, the helicopters fired upon the van. Ultimately a dozen people were killed, and two children who were inside the van at the time were wounded. Reuters demanded an investigation, the result of which was a finding that the American gunships had fired in accordance with applicable rules of engagement.

Until today, that's where the story seemed to end. This afternoon WikiLeaks (who are a fascinating group -- check them out) released leaked classified video footage taken from the gunship, along with dialogue. United States Command has since confirmed the video's authenticity, and also released photographs of the scene. The photographs do show machine guns and grenades near at least some of the bodies. There are thus two ways to characterize the events: one is a story about United States forces engaging what appeared to be insurgents, and the other is a story about innocent journalists killed in the street.

Both stories are true, though neither is complete. My view (and yours may differ) is that the American soldiers made an understandable but horrible error. You can come to your own conclusion by watching the video, but viewer beware: the video depicts a military altercation as disturbing as it is professional. This is footage of a tragedy unfolding, and unfolding in a way that greets the viewer with an uncomfortably dark feeling of inevitability.

Dark feeling of inevitability. That brings me to the point of this post. The United States has lost 4,287 soldiers to date in Iraq. As of today, 30,112 American solders have been wounded -- just a few hundred fewer than the combined graduate and undergraduate population at UC Berkeley. The documented civilian death toll is between 95,775 and 104,481, depending upon the source -- approximately the entire population of the City of Berkeley. I honestly do not see how tragedies like the one described above can be avoided as long as we are in Iraq. Simple mistakes, as the video footage shows, bring horrendous consequences, and there is only one way we can put an end to it. We need to get out of there.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Voting Can Make You Less Douchey (If You Do It Right)

START >> You wake up on the floor of your apartment, coming off a Peeps-induced sugar high from the night before, and realize that BHSA elections are upon us…

CHAPTER 1: Deciding Whether to Vote

A) Vote?! Haha. You are a jaded law student. Do you really think BHSA does anything? Do you really think if you voted, your vote would count? Do you even believe that we co-exist in anything but a purely solipsistic universe of one mind and infinite illusion?? Of course not. You eat a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and decide to zone out from all this BHSA crap for the rest of the week. [JUMP TO CH. 4A!]

B) Can voting count as my exercise for the week? In any case, sure – I’ll vote. [MOVE TO CH. 2!]

CHAPTER 2: Due Diligence

A) Thank goodness your student group told you who to vote for. Now all you have to do is show up, cast a ballot for your cause, and all will be well. [JUMP TO CH. 4B!]

B) You go to the candidate speeches event today at 12:45 in room 105. [MOVE TO CH. 3!]

C) You do independent research by talking to the candidates, visiting their facebook groups, and reading their candidate statements before voting. [JUMP TO CH. 4C!]

D) You have heard rumors. Dark, scary rumors of collusion, fascism, and porn… lots of porn. You will not vote for Porninators. [JUMP TO CH. 4D!]

CHAPTER 3: Critical Analysis

A) You eat some free pizza and play USA Today’s crossword puzzle. What is a 5-letter word for “Where pies are feet”?? Oops – meeting is over. [JUMP TO CH. 4A!]

B) You listen intently as the candidates babble about LRAP. Are you scared about LRAP? We will make sure LRAP is okay. Under my watch, LRAP is like baby Jesus in his manger, surrounded by incense and fluffy barn animals. You absorb this information and feel prepared to vote. [JUMP TO CH. 4E!]

C) You listen to the speeches, and then get your cross-examination on! “Oh, you want to protect the LRAP, do you?? I dare you to DESCRIBE the current state of our LRAP.” I’m like a CEO hiring you to be my spokesperson next year – so you better be friggin amazing. [JUMP TO CH. 4F!]

CHAPTER 4: Conclusion

A) Congratulations! You’ve earned unlimited free rides on the Waaaaahmbulance next year any time you express dissatisfaction with LRAP / student fees / construction / etc. You are part of the student body – as such, you are represented by the BHSA. If you renounce any part in helping to shape that body of leaders, or do so in a half-assed manner, then you have lost your right to complain. You are: HYPOCRITE DOUCHE!

B) All of a sudden, it gets very cold. You have one brain cell, and look for another so you can rub them together and create a spark. ALAS! You do not have two brain cells to rub together. You do as you’re told without inquiring further: Would other candidates serve my cause just as well, or better? Just because they haven’t been hand-selected by my student group, does that mean they’re against my student group? Or does it just mean that sometimes politics at Boalt are not unlike a cartel? So many questions – so difficult to answer without doing some original thinking. You are: AUTOMATON DOUCHE!

C) You have no appetite for rhetoric, but are responsible nonetheless. Congratulations!! Your doucheyness has substantially decreased. You are: PARAGON OF CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY!

D) Oh no! You’re an idiot. Don’t you know by now that rumors at Boalt are 40% lies, 40% exaggeration, 15% lack of sex, and 5% caffeine high?? You’d be better off not voting than voting based on misinformation. You are: SUPER DOUCHE!!

E) Nice try, but you have only marginally decreased your douchyness with this attempt. There are lots of reasons why a law student might want to be on BHSA – among them, prestige, power, resume-building… but also a desire to lead, to change the status quo, to fairly represent their peers. You can’t fairly determine which motives are driving a candidate until you ask the tough questions – that means not letting them get away with the same stupid babble. You are: EARNEST DOUCHE!

F) Surprisingly, despite your apparent red hotness, you are less douchey than most! Elections are one example of a time when aggressive inquisitiveness is appropriate. Congratulations, you are: INTELLIGENT CONSTITUENT!

END >> Vote on Weds/Thurs in the Donor Lobby from 10am-2pm.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fair Use Humor By Any Other Name

Google nails it again this year.  The trademark dilution chart at the bottom of the post just had me dying.  Good luck explaining the joke to your non-lawyer friends.