Friday, October 29, 2010

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Other Propositions

From time to time, I ruminate on propositions that appear on ballots.  In general, my default is to vote not unless there is something compelling about the proposition.  The reason is I think propositions have fundamentally constricted the state's ability to adjust to changing economic conditions.  Too much of the state's budget expenditure is fixed by propositions that allocate funds for specific purposes, that may or may not be warranted in a given year.  That said, here we go:

Prop 19:  Yes.  I can pretty much guarantee that I will never buy pot.  But even a dollar of the state's money spent on busting people for pot possession is a dollar wasted.  Any harms that can result from smoking pot already result from smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.  So, we save money by not bothering with enforcement and we gain revenues from taxes.  Deal.

Prop 20:  Yes.  My idea on redistricting used to be, "Hey, when Texas adopts a non-partisan redistricting commission, then California should happily follow, 'til then, T.S."  But I'd rather that California officials concentrate on improving the state's fiscal crisis.  So, "I am a flip-floppin'."

Prop 21:  No.  See, dedicated funding for parks and wildlife.  I love parks and wildlife.  I really do.  But isn't flexibility important?  What if our schools face a critical shortfall next year?  On top of that, the source of the fee is an $18 vehicle registration fee, meaning it disproportionately burdens the poor.  I'm ok with a use tax if it is directly related to the benefit, e.g., park entrance fees, parking fees at state parks, etc., but a blanket car fee?  Makes no sense.  Why does the guy in the BMW pay the same to enjoy state parks as the guy with a clunker?  It's a classic benefit provided by the state to all of her citizens, not just car owners.  And it should be funded through general income taxes. 

Prop 22:  No.  It sucks when the state raids local funds.  But again, propositions are already stifling the slightest flexibility remaining in the budget process.  The solution isn't more restrictions that eliminate the few remaining's to open up more options. 

Prpo 23:  No.  The Berkeley Center for Law, Energy, and Environment has a great whtie paper on this proposition, co-authored by prolific writer Prof. Dan Farber.

Prop 24:  No?  OK, I confess.  I approach the propositions, unless they are REALLY interesting, the same way most voters do.  I read the very short paragraph in the pamphlet and form a quick opinion.  (Not unlike how women decide if you will get lucky that night, but I digress).  I don't understand why repealing taxes on business, particularly small businesses, is a good thing.  High tech and the entertainment industry are very fickle and can easily abandon California for greener pastures.  I'd rather keep them here.  Plus, again, I'd rather have the Legislature determine fiscal budgets rather than having voters pass their judgment piecemeal. 

Prop 25:  Yes.  Only majority needed to pass a budget, but retains the 2/3 requirement to pass taxes.  Not ideal, but a good move to bringing sanity to the budget process.  My fear is that Democrats in Sacramento, following this proposition, will not give any serious consideration to elimination of wasteful or unnecessary spending.  I hope that's not the case.

Prop 26:  No.  The anti-25.  Adds fees to the 2/3 voting requirement. 

Prop 27:  No.  The anti-20.  And it really irks me that two completely contradictory propositions can be on the same ballot.  What if both pass? 

Your thoughts?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proposition 19: What Will it Actually Do?

Question for you federal conflict preemption buffs out there: If Proposition 19 passes, will the Controlled Substances Act preempt it?

I have seen in a number of places people arguing that Proposition 19 removes some state-side enforcement concerning Marijuana, and as such does not conflict with federal law since the States do not need to have laws which enforce federal crimes (e.g. piracy). My question is: What about the fact that Proposition 19 affirmatively says that someone can possess up to one ounce of Marijuana, and federal law says someone cannot possess Marijuana. Is there a distinction between passing an act which says someone can do something versus abolishing an act which says they cannot do something?

My initial reaction is that Federal Law would preempt Proposition 19, and even if it did not, federal enforcement of Marijuana related matters would increase substantially. That would mean the salutary neglect that the Obama administration has shown California's medical marijuana dispensaries may come to an end. But as I said, that is my initial reaction, and I would love to hear from someone who has studied the relevant issues.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wherein A Blog Post Was Written In Order To Demolish Texas

This filing is making the rounds. It is purportedly an emergency motion to extend a case management conference that is scheduled for this afternoon...right around the time of the World Series, Game 1.  It's only mildly amusing from my perspective, and honestly, if I was the judge, I'd be very angry. 

I also think the motion is a great example of some terrible legal writing.  So, to all the future lawyers, particularly the 1Ls, here's how NOT to write.  Ever.

1.  Passive voice.  For example, paragraph 5 is chock full of sentences that make me cringe.  "was discovered..." "was sold..."  Blah.  Terrible writing.

2.  I don't know what to call this, but it drives me nuts when lawyers write:  "love of the Rangers that has gone generally unrequited for thirty-eight (38) years."  Huh?  What moron doesn't understand what thirty-eight means?  Or 38 for that matter.  Pick one or the other and stick with it.  It's not too hard.

3.  Verbiage.  Case in point:  "They acquired the greatest post-season pitcher in baseball today in the person of Cliff Lee."  Hmm.  How about, "They acquired Cliff Lee, the greatest post-season pitcher in baseball today."  When you are facing strict page limits, lots of facts, and lots of arguments, then every character counts.  Plus, less is more.  The same goes for this whole motion.  The reason I would rule against this guy as a judge is because he's trying to be cute.  The whole thing can be written in one paragraph:
This Court has presently scheduled a case management conference for October 27, 2010, at 1 pm CDT.  As a life-long fan of the Texas Rangers, who are representing the American League in the World Series, counsel arranged to attend the first game of the World Series in San Francisco without realizing the conflicting time with the Court's scheduled case management conference.  See Declaration of Counsel.  Counsel is mindful of the Court's burdened docket; canceling the current travel arrangements, however, would impose a substantial financial burden on Counsel.  Id.   Therefore, Counsel respectfully requests that the Court grant this unopposed motion to reschedule the case management conference in this matter. 
Of course, who knows what the motion would look like if it were filed in the Northern District.


A Halloween Tale: LimeWire and the Deathly Injunction

It's the season of witches, pirates, and Snooki wigs -- so what better time for U.S. district judge Kimba Wood to sentence one of our most notorious pirates to the ranks of the undead, right beside those near-forgotten ghouls Napster and Grokster? As of yesterday, visitors to LimeWire’s website are greeted with the following:


This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court-ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software. Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorization is illegal.

While some news outlets view the injunction as spelling certain death for one of the largest remaining peer-to-peer services, others are saying this isn’t a “game-changing legal victory” for the music industry—but rather, a (predicted $1 billion +) slap on the wrist that will force LimeWire to “go legit”.

I am no expert in these kinds of cases (or any kind of case, for that matter) but I view the latter suggestion with some skepticism. Whether or not LimeWire will be able to work out a deal with a very miffed record industry is anybody’s guess, but with an estimated 50 million monthly users who download nearly 3 billion songs a month, “going legit” is not likely to be an easy feat.

And even if LimeWire evaporates under the sheer burden of monetary damages and trying to comply with increasingly-complex online copyright law, I’m doubtful such hard-fought lawsuits aimed at shutting down large peer-to-peer networks will ever yield the results record companies are hoping for. If history is any indicator of future behavior, Napster was replaced with Grokster was replaced with LimeWire which will be replaced by _________.

Partially underlying my skepticism about record companies ever having their “We are the Champions” moment, are my own personal experiences with file sharing. It’s been a healthy number of years since I’ve tinkered around with any of the abovementioned services, but as a teenager I remember thinking something along the lines of, “If this is so readily available to everyone who has the internet, how illegal can it be?” Compounded by my awareness that this was a bad—but somewhat socially condoned—thing to do, was an acute statistical realization that I was more likely to win the lottery than to get caught for downloading a few ABBA songs.

I suppose the end result of all these musings is that I think this injunction is a bit… futile. The world has changed, people share files. Change the file formats, find better ways to monetize your product, but don’t attempt to shut down sharing. Otherwise, where LimeWire is buried, a new—more clever—file sharing service will walk again…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

Spring registration is underway. I do not have anything particularly witty to say about registration, but if you have comments, complaints or questions, post them in the comments.


Monday, October 18, 2010

So You Were Pre-Med and Got a C in Organic Chemistry?

My little brother is thinking about going to law school. This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.

With that said, I hope he comes to Boalt.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Blogging the Moral Character Lunch

Hey All --

So, having lost my various other forums I will be using Nuts & Boalts to restart my liveblogging of events that I feel obliged to go to that tend to be a huge waste of time. Things are just getting started here, so grab your Gregoire (mmm, skirt steak) and let's get going.

12:38: who are all of these people? Seriously. I like dont' recognize half of the people here. Are 1Ls here b/c they're special? Did we take a bunch of new people?
12:38: Jared Fish wants us to vote. Oh, Lauren Dickey does too. I love her!
12:39: Jared REALLY wants us to vote
12:40: pretty decent showing. Starting to recognize people. Oh, there's M*ndi, she looks really excited about this ...
12:46: there is an undergrad sitting two seats down from me ... he just said, "This isn't going to be so bad, right?" He is 1) wrong 2) proving why undergrads are basically just bigger 8 year olds
12:48: Ann*k is getting things started. It's amazing for her that we're 3Ls. It is terrifying to me.
12:48: I should have at least 2 handouts, I have none
12:49: Joel has them, but is really annoying. Cal Bar Exam: Bus Ass; CP (Fed and Cal); Com. Prop; Ks; Con Law; Crim/Pro; Evidence (Fed/Cal); Pro Resp.; Prop; Remedies; Torts; Wills and Trusts; FML. FOR NY, add Family Law, nix others.
12:50: We have to do something about exit counseling if(!) you have student loans. Also, if you aren't taking NY or Cal, this will be useless(ish) to you
12:51: FOr CAL three steps: 1) register as 1L; 2) moral character; 3) apply for the bar. THE BAR IS NOT FORGIVING. If you don't do these in that order then you DO NOT GET TO TAKE THE BAR.
12:52: For NY: You don't have to reg as a 1L. Instead, you apply for bar, then moral character, then register. Lawyers are SO annoying
12:53: BARBRI: B/c of construction, haven't been barbri here lately. But, we have now given them the opportunity to do it here -- and is VERY likely that if you take CA you will have classes here at Boalt.
12:54: MPRE: There is a Ste*le review Wednesday at 5:30 -- not sure which Wednesday, maybe come every Wednesday until you get it right.
12:55: the really want us to take the moral thing soon. She could not be talking quieter
12:56: sounds like we should just go to the website ( She says that this may take a lot longer to fill out than others. I assume she's talking about Joel. You need residences for the last 8 years, employment since age 8 (not just legal, but any employment more than 6 months). Also if you have other licenses, are you involved in litigation (like, not as a representative), 5 personal refernces -- people who know but aren't related to you, and one must be an atty; crim convictions and notwithstanding penal code 1203.4 dismissal you still have to put it down.
1:00: ugh, I'm seriously bored. And people are now asking questions... Why are people this year so question happy?
1:01: small claims court litigation counts (J.)
1:02: note, employment covers babysitting, adult sitting, any other kind of sitting
1:03: On the bright side, only 50-60 people don't pass each year in CA
1:04: This is turning into one of those things where everyone is asking questions that are only relevant to themselves. This is more painful then BizAss
1:07: nice, now we're talking about drug use.
1:09: people have started leaving. I want to be people.
1:10: Chuckles is SO happy he flew back from Europe for this.
1:10: If you don't know which bar you're going to take: you should start figuring this out.
1:12: negative determination is valid for 2 years
1:12: this thing costs 450 dollars to process! WHAT?! Joel is going to have to have to sell his other kidney.
1:13: Also, if you registered for the CA bar when you were a 1L -- like they told us we had to -- and you don't end up taking the CA bar you don't get a refund. "Oh, here CA, take my $180 donation to the bar association"
1:15: The attorney personal reference can be someone you worked for .
1:16: I'm starting to think that this is just some sort of overblown Q&A session -- and I'm freaking out.
1:17: I really wish this lady would talk closer to the mic. Her hair doesn't not look like Antoine Dodson's hair .... hide your kids?
1:19: We're talking about appeals now. Seems like the general appeals process in most settings.
1:20: Great, all my friends just left and now I am the only person in the back row. Thanks guys. That was awesome.
1:24: So, we just found out that we didn't need to register as 1Ls
1:24: TRANSFERS: If you registered as a 1L you will need to go re-register b/c you put in your old school.
1:25: HIRSHEN: If there is something that you are going to report (e.g., past conviction) you need to let the school know AND put it on your report. It needs to be in both places! Very important. This isn't a school requirement it is a bar requirement. Also, if you haven't heard back from the moral character folks by the time the bar comes, you can still sit you just can't get sworn in until you have got the moral stuff back. She also really wants us to do it over xmas. I'm positive I will not be filling out that paperwork during my 5 weeks in Argentina and Brazil.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Go Rays!

This has been a pretty pathetic baseball season for me. My beloved Dodgers are this close to ending up in the red Estates and Trusts casebook as a footnote in the Community Property chapter. The whole thing made me so sick, the only game I attended was at Minnesota's brand new Target Field (and much like Target the new ball park was pretty amazing...but unlike Target the prices a tad too high).

And here we are in the playoffs. On the NL side, I hate the Phillies and their fans. I loathe the Giants and their pretentiously smug fans. (Be honest with yourselves, with the "offensive" production that the team has put out, you'd be lucky to steal one game in the series against the Phillies, and that will probably because of a pitcher whose name rhymes with Mincecum).

The AL side doesn't get much better. We have the Yankees (like I need to say more). And we have the winner of Tampa Bay versus the team formerly owned by Bush 43. So that's why I'll be rooting for the Rays tonight and through the rest of the playoffs.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Untangling the Tangled Web of LRAP and IBR

I made a comment in a thread a while back that included some information about federal loan forgiveness programs and LRAP. It got a few of us thinking that it might be worth an entire post, since this kind of analysis will likely factor into the career decisions many of you are making right now. The thrust of my comment below was basically that, given the array of loan repayment options at your disposal, your debt need not determine your career path.

Unfortunately, understanding that array of options is frustratingly difficult. I was fortunate as a 3L to have a friend on the LRAP committe, so I'll try to relate what I learned from her. Of course, this information is subject to the flaws in my brain and may be a little outdated, so the best thing to do would be to schedule an appointment with Sigrid Allen at Berkeley financial aid as soon as possible. She really knows her stuff when it comes to loan repayment, and she can give you a very clear analysis of your options.

With those caveats, here is what I know about the various programs. I have a tendency to overexplain things, but I think this stuff is complicated enough to warrant it:

INCOME BASED REPAYMENT ("IBR"): This is a program run by the federal government in which all federal student loan debt can be repaid proportionately to your income. The maximum payment is 15% of your income above the poverty line no matter what career you end up in. Unfortunately, if you make below a certain amount, your interest may eclipse your payments, meaning your debt will actually increase, even as you pay it off. (I believe the fancy economic term for this is "negative amortization." Gross.) That's why the federal government included provisions to completely wipe out the debt after a certain time.

WIPING OUT DEBT UNDER IBR: If you continue to pay off your debt at 15% of your income, after a certain amount of time, your remaining debt will be wiped out, even if it has negatively amortized (yuck. stop it.). That amount of time is 25 years for jobs in the private sector and 10 YEARS for jobs in the public sector. Determining whether a job is public or private is more complicated than you might think. These are the kinds of things you can discuss with Sigrid Allen.

I should emphasize, however, that IBR applies to ANY JOB in ANY CAREER. For example, if you really hated law school and decided to go be a teacher, you could theoretically get away with putting 15% of a teacher's salary toward your loans for ten years and then have the debt WIPED OUT. Pretty cool, right? But the legal nature of your job does play into LRAP.

LOAN REPAYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LRAP): You all know what this is. It's probably one of the reasons you came to Berkeley. But you may not know how it all works. And given how often it changes, this is an area where my information may be outdated.

The first thing to note is that LRAP covers public interest jobs that are specifically law-related. Determining whether your job counts can be tricky and often involves lobbying, so ask around if you're not sure. Clerkships can count as public interest IF you go to a public interest job after clerking (under IBR, they count as public interest regardless). LRAP also can kick in for "low bono" jobs, where you may technically work in the private sector but the majority of your clients are low-income and traditionally underserved.

Under the current LRAP scheme, there are two possible paths:

1) TRADITIONAL LRAP: This is the old program where Berkeley pays some portion of your loans up to a certain cap as long as you work in a public interest or government job that somehow makes use of your law degree. I believe the cap was $100,000 when I was in school, but it may have gone up since then. What that means is that Berkeley will figure out your total loan payment and then cover the portion equal to satisfying $100,000 of the debt. For example (watch out, there are numbers and stuff), if your total debt was $200,000, your monthly payment was $1,000, and the cap was set at $100,000, Berkeley would pay $500 per month or one half of your total payment. Because $100,000 is half of $200,000. Get it?

Note, however, that LRAP is also income-based, so if your income is above $60,000 (or whatever the new level is), Berkeley will only pay some pro-rated portion of your loan payment UP TO THE CAP of $100,000. (I.e. instead of getting $500 per month, you would get like $350 per month and your income above $60K would be expected to cover the difference.)

The downside of traditional LRAP is the cap, which depending on how much debt you owe, could mean you are still paying a prohibitive amount of your income to loans. The upside is that you don't have to deal with negative amortization. Your monthly payment will make a steady dent in your loans, even if you do have to cover more than half of it yourself. Practically, this means you are more free to switch to the private sector, since your loans will not have been increasing like they might under the ten-year IBR plan. Make sense? So if you are the kind of person who will likely switch away from public interest somewhere between 5 and 10 years from graduating, you would likely be better off making payments through traditional LRAP.

Oh, the other plus here is that traditional LRAP can be applied to any kind of student loan, while IBR only works with loans from the federal government (although you can usually convert private loans into federal loans to take advantage of IBR). BUT, traditional LRAP does NOT cover undergraduate debt, while IBR (and the combined plan below) do. Confused yet? Read it again.

2) LRAP + IBR: Under this plan, LRAP works together with IBR. ("With our powers combined, we are Captain Payment! Captain Payment, he's our hero. Gonna reduce our debt down to zero! Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Heart!" I apologize for everything that just happened.)

So basically, if you find a job that is both law-related and in the public interest, you can use IBR to knock your payments down to 15% of your income above the poverty line, and then LRAP will step in to pay that for you. Because 15% of your income will likely be so low, the debt cap will probably not be triggered and you will simply pay nothing for the full ten years, at which point IBR will wipe out your remaining debt, and you will have spent a full decade getting fat on government cheese.

The downside of this plan is that if you don't spend the full decade in public service, you may get hit hard with the negative amortization when you come out. In other words, if you leave the plan after less than ten years, you might come out with more debt than you started with. Avoiding this fate means either committing to the plan for a full decade or leaving after only a couple of years, because switching to the private sector makes less financial sense each year you stay on IBR while your debt rises. On the other hand, if you were leaving public service to pursue a cush private sector job, you would probably be able to handle the debt even if it had risen.

I should also note that the 10 years do NOT need to be consecutive, so that might help.

THE WEIRD WILD WORLD OF PROLONGUED UNEMPLOYMENT: And now we come to my personal track: that of the penniless Sitar player. First, I must admit that spending most of your time staring this job market in the face is pretty bleak. As you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you. Etc. Etc. But all hope is not lost. If you can't find a job for a while, there are many options for delaying repayment on your loans, especially if they are federal loans. Again, this is a matter best discussed with Financial Aid, but suffice it to say that you can forbear or defer your loans for a long time if you are unemployed--potentially years. You can also find some crappy job to pay the bills and use IBR to reduce your payments to a manageable level while you look for something better. If all else fails, there's always People's Park.

I think that covers the basic layout. I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to supplement or correct as needed in the comments.


Open Thread: What's On Your Mind

Alright, after last night's misfire (pun intended) of a post, here's an open thread to gauge what's on people's minds.

1Ls: Lost and confused yet? Doubting whether you made the right decision? Questioning DE's commitment to the school? Provided a crime victim statement to BPD yet? Talking about outlines?

2Ls: Curious what the post-OCIP world is looking like. Is it a world of have's vs. have nots? Was the distribution somewhat even? Plans?

3Ls: Profit!!!

'0910: I have been thinking about a post or maybe an open thread about advice to new associates. I don't think I'm qualified to tell anyone what it takes to succeed, but sort of like a lighthouse, I might guide you away from the deadly pitfalls. Off the cuff, (1) enter the profession with humility; (2) do not buy a fancy car right away--paying off your debt is far too important. Too many fall immediately into a lifestyle fixed by the golden handcuffs; and (3) set boundaries. If you don't f*cking roll on the Shabbas, let people know. It may be hard, but if you start early enough, it just might work.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bomb in Chicago?

I'm getting word that a bomb has exploded in Chicago. So far no news from the usual online sources. This report of a suspicious package is the only thing I could dig up. Anyone have anything concrete?

Update 1: Eh, sounds like Bomb Squad just did its job and detonated a suspicious package. Nevermind.

Friday, October 01, 2010

"When a Decision Has to be Made, Make it"

Greetings denizens of Nuts & Boalts. As my first official post, I would like to pass on something the CDO emailed out yesterday:

Those of you who are weighing an OCIP offer should consult the CDO's Offer Guide, which contains advice about the mechanics and timing of accepting or declining offers (ignoring an unwanted offer or callback invite is never ok -- see the Guide as to why if it's not obvious to you).

Among the advice you will see in the Guide (as well as in a Nuts & Boalts blog posting from last year): if you are fortunate enough to have multiple offers, don't unnecessarily hold offers open.

Translation: if you know you are not going to work at a given firm, decline your offer.

Since I saw CDO linking to a Nuts & Boalts post from last year, I thought perhaps some fresh discussion could be used as well.

Insight on how to best make a decision? Vitriol from people stuck on waitlists? General displeasure at seeing yet another OCIP focused post? Voice it in the comments.