Category Archives: Legal Pad

Do-gooder? It’s gonna cost ya.

[insert frowny face here]

Elle Woods, Harvard Law Grad. :p

So I recently heard that Harvard Law is no longer going to cover the tuition of aspiring public interest lawyers. If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you know that I graduated from law school. If you’re a close reader, you know that I spent my time in law school focused on public interest law, aka the kind of law that helps people who cannot access the legal system in a proportionate, just and affordable manner. The other side of Big Law and six-figure salaries. Apparently, the recession strikes again. Harvard had been offering scholarships to law students that committed to work in public interest for 5 years after graduation. The program, in existence for less than two years, is kaput. Not only has Harvard succumbed to the economy, but I guess way too many students were taking advantage of it. It’s sad to see a program like this go. My legal education was financed by a similar program.

Temple Law has the Rubin-Presser Scholarship which covers 2 out of the 3 years of tuition for students willing to commit to working in the public interest after graduation. Temple is still offering the scholarship and, as far as I know, they plan to continue. You don’t have to be Alan Greenspan to know that Harvard has a much larger endowment than Temple, but the reason TULaw can offer this scholarship year after year is probably because they only give it to three select students each year. You’d think before cutting the program altogether, Haaaavaaaad would have implemented alternative strategies (offer half tuition, limit the recipients per year, you know… get like Temple).

It’s a shame but I can’t really get TOO boo-hoo for anyone that graduates from Harvard. It sounds mean, even a bit salty, but still. While the work is rewarding, many public interest lawyers are “sacrificing” in one way or another to do the work they believe in. After receiving the same training, spending the same money and taking the same licensing exams as any other attorney, you’ve got to call it a sacrifice to willingly accept a third of the pay and half of the prestige than your peers. Ivy League law grads, however, can afford to work in the public interest, knowing that the institution on their degree gives back some of that prestige (to a certain extent) and may even garner a better salary in some places. They’ll be alright, for sure, but I hate that there’s yet another obstacle inhibiting those who want to be “do-gooders” from going out and saving the world (without going broke in the process).

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those damned jabots

After commencing her duties on August 8th, 2009 as the 111th Supreme Court Justice and the first Latina to hold such office, Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her first seat on the bench Wednesday at a specially convened session of the Court. Yep, now that the hubub is over and she’s really in there (whoo!) Sotomayor is down to business hearing her first SC case involving campaign finance and Hillary Clinton. Interesting.

I know this isn’t the most progressive or feminist thing to be pointing out but as I was reading up on Sotomayor’s first days on the job, I couldn’t help but sigh at this photograph of Justice Sotomayor.

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The Zoloft Defense?

Ever heard of the “Zoloft Defense?” It’s an argument a defendant might employ that basically boils down to “the drugs made me do it.” The Zoloft Defense usually makes an appearance when a defendant is charged with some sort of violent crime like battery or murder. Before I get into what I think about this defense strategy, let’s be sure we understand the drug itself.

Zoloft is an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety manufactured by Pfizer. It belongs to a class of anti-depressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which, among other things, may cause suicidal feelings. According to Drugs.com, you might also have to be on the lookout for mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, feeling impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically),  and more depressed. Sheesh. FYI, other SSRIs include Paxil and Prozac.

In 2001, 12 year old Christopher Pittman tried to use the Zoloft Defense when he was tried for killing his grandparents in the most horrible way: he walked into their bedroom, shot them while they were asleep and then burned down their Chester, SC house with their bodies still inside. [As an aside, Pittman left with the car, the dog and some money. He was found by some hunters the next day, wandering the woods, and said he’d been kidnapped by a black man who had slain his parents and set their house ablaze, but that he had been able to escape. Ain’t that about a bitch?]
The jury was believed that Pittman’s mental state was affected by the drugs but not enough to compel him to kill and in 2005 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Attempts at appeal by his attorneys, as recent as 2008, have failed.

We might not remember the name Seung-Hui Cho but we all remember the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007. Cho never made it to trial for killing 32 people and wounding 25 others because he committed suicide before the police could reach him. Cho was not on Zoloft, but he was prescribed Prozac, a similar medication. There is no proof that he ever filled a prescription or took the medication, though. Had he made it to trial, his attorneys might have presented the Zoloft Defense (or a form thereof) as an option. Continue reading

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do you take this man (and his name)?

After a heads up from Feministing, I learned that the American Sociological Association put out the results of a recent study showing that about 70% of Americans believe that women should take their husband’s last names when they get married and 50% think it should be a legal requirement. Wow. Although I am not one to put too much stock into polls (I, nor anyone close to me has ever been polled about anything remotely significant so I have no idea where they get these people and their opinions), that’s a large percentage for something so traditional and antiquated. And BY LAW? Why?

I am at that age where more and more of my friends are getting married. I’ve noticed a trend among the women to keep their own last names to the complete exclusion of their husband’s or to take their spouse’s name name in addition to theirs (with and without hyphens). That’s not to say that the majority of women in America don’t take their husband’s names, but maybe it’s a generational thing that not too many of my peers feel obligated to take their husband’s name.

One common characteristic of the women who haven’t totally forsaken their own names is that they are extremely ambitious. Maybe they’ve already accomplished a significant amount in their lives and certainly plan to continue doing so. In my opinion, it’s just not fair to assume (or in the case of any legislation, mandate) I will change my name and erase this identity that has existed for 27 or more years. An identity that has been through a lot and accomplished much more. I agree with Jessica at Feministing when she says

What’s really distressing about this news – Laura Hamilton, the study’s lead author says that when respondents were asked why they thought women should change their last names, “they told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family.” Continue reading

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a thought on mike vick

Let me start by saying before Michael Vick’s legal troubles, I could probably count on my hands how many times I heard his name. Clearly, I am not an NFL fan or a big sports fanatic. My point is, I don’t really care about Michael Vick and am not invested in whether he plays or does not play football.

I went from barely noticing Michael Vick was alive to hearing about him constantly when he was brought up on charges and subsequently convicted of felony dogfighting charges. I had to witness the outrage from people who wondered how a man could go to jail for some dogs. Over and over people went on about how it was just some dogs and therefore it was ridiculous for Vick to be in jail. Okay. I’m not an animal activist and I’m not even really a dog person (I like cats). Still, it was very annoying to me that people were making a bigger deal of the perceived low value of a dog’s life than the fact that Vick just plain broke the law. There are lots of laws that people find ridiculous, but until you get the legislation changed, the law stands and going against it is a violation with consequences. Plain and simple, Vick broke the law (and in a shitty way, I might add) and therefore must pay the consequences. If the length of the sentence bothered people, well that was also written into law via statute and aggravated by the fact that Vick lied to the judge. Judges don’t like that. Remember that when judges have sentencing discretion, you might not want to lie to them or otherwise piss them off. Just a note. Continue reading

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Leave ME at the altar? Nah, buddy.

Girl, let me be your manager, er, lawyer!

Leave me at the altar and I’m not going to kill you (á la the recent, so-called “angry women killers” in the Gatti and McNair cases). No, I’m going to get you where it really hurts. I’m going to sue your ass (or at least try to).

So by now maybe you’ve heard of how San Antonio Spurs player Richard Jefferson (formerly of the NJ Nets) notified his bride-to-be 2 HOURS before their wedding that he wasn’t coming. Although the wedding party made the best out of a bad situation, they partied and charged up his Black African American Express Card, I’m sure fiancée Kesha Ni’Cole Nichols was not a happy camper. Being the litigious recent law graduate that I am, I read this story and immediately thought about how I would find some remedy in the courts for this. It’s just not right. When I took a course called economics of divorce, we talked about whether a person could claim for a broken engagement but didn’t get around to being left at the altar. While in most places you cannot sue for a broken engagement, I think taking the “promise to marry” up to the point where all of HIS friends and family are waiting at the wedding location takes the agreement to an almost finalized place. Here are the three ways I would try and go Judge Mathis on his ass: Continue reading

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Put on your red dress, and slip on your high heels…*

I feel as though I need to begin with a disclaimer of sorts. I am not perfect. Sometimes I hold opposing ideas and views in my mind at the same time, perhaps prompting some to call me a hypocrite. I prefer to quote Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Whatever you call it, it’s what makes me condemn misogyny & violence yet sweat it out to raunchy hip hop music. It’s what makes me speak of feminism and support positive images of women while thinking I like my flight attendants svelte and pretty. Huh? Yeah…

In 2005, Delta Airlines decided to go upscale and hire designer Richard Tyler to create a signature piece to add to their flight attendant [FA] uniform choices. Now, in addition to the slacks, blouses, skirts and blue dresses, female FAs can don a fierce red dress that almost looks too fab for the aisles of a 747. The dress makes a bit more sense when you hear the inspiration behind the design was a time when air travel was a classy affair, not a tiring inconvenience that we show up for in our pajama pants & hoodies (I see yall).

Not everyone was pleased with the new, attention-grabbing red dresses. Recently, the Association of Flight Attendants at Northwest (which includes Delta employees after the merger) filed a compkaint requesting that the red dress be made available in sizes larger than the current max, which is 18, up to a size 28. According to Patricia Reller, vice chairwoman of the grievance committee, “Red is a color that attracts attention and someone, somewhere has made a decision that they don’t want to attract attention to someone in a dress that’s larger than a size 18 … I’m very offended by it.” Reller and crew also have beef with the requirement that FAs who want to wear orthopedic shoes aren’t allowed to wear the skirt or dress uniform of any kind but must wear pants.

Here’s where my opposing thoughts come in. In defense of Reller and the union, the airline is improperly making a judgment call on what’s attractive and/or appropriate without regard to what it actually takes to perform the job. Under the law, there’s the term “bonafide occupational qualification” or BFOQ. A BFOQ basically refers to an employer’s right to discriminate if the criteria upon which the discrimination is based is directly related to the performance of the job. For instance, airlines may institute height requirements for the comfort and safety of the cabin crew and passengers. FAs must be able to reach certain above-head compartments or function appropriately in a small, low-clearance cabin. A size 28 woman in a red dress, however, is no different from a size 28 woman in a blue dress when it comes to pouring Sprite and demonstrating how a seatbelt works.

Could this be another message from society that only “beautiful” women should be seen (and by beautiful we mean size 18 or less)? Is Delta saying that women in skirts/dresses belong in heels because we want to see those shapely calves? God forbid that they’d rather be comfortable on a 6 hour flight and skip the pu Continue reading

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