Tag Archives: law

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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Another downer about the legal job market…

Swiped from the National Law Journal,  just a perspective on the legal job market for the public-interest (aka, me). A bit long, BTW.

Public-interest sector getting a little crowded

Karen Sloan
June 01, 2009

Sending incoming associates into temporary public-interest jobs — with a healthy stipend to cover their costs of living — is intended to be a fiscally smart and compassionate way for law firms to handle an overabundance of young attorneys in this dismal economy.

But some recent law school graduates who have spent years preparing for public-interest careers worry that law firms are hurting their job prospects by flooding the already competitive public-interest job market. They say they resent the suggestion that deferred law firm associates can step into a public-service role without, in many cases, having worked with indigent clients in law school clinics or completed internships with nonprofit legal organizations.

“Deferred associates are getting congratulated for going to public-interest organizations in the final hour and being so generous, while the people who were planning on working at these organizations throughout law school and have demonstrated a commitment are forgotten again by the legal establishment,” said Jane Fox, 28, who will graduate from Brooklyn Law School in New York City in early June. She is looking for a public defender position or other public-interest work in New York.

For people like Allison Standard, 24, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law who is searching for a public-interest job, the uncertainty over what the law firm deferral programs mean for hiring is unsettling. “The hard part is that there is no easy solution to this,” Standard said. “You can’t blame the organizations for taking the free labor. But people who intended on public-interest careers have been working throughout law school to build a path to these jobs, and they might get passed over.”

Brett Church, an incoming associate at Boston-based Goodwin Procter who chose to work at a nonprofit organization for a year, said he understands why some young public-interest attorneys may resent the deferred law firm associates. However, he sees potential for deferred associates to make a difference in their communities. “In this market, everybody is just trying to get by and find opportunities,” said Church, 28, who plans to work at a Boston-area organization geared toward helping children or young people before focusing on venture capital at the firm. “The fact that I went to Goodwin Procter doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about doing this type of work.”

Public-interest law students in the class of 2009 faced a harsh employment climate even before classmates on the law firm track came into the mix. Paul Igasaki, the deputy chief executive officer of Equal Justice Works, a group that promotes public-interest law careers, said that public-interest organizations have struggled with funding reductions from interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA), lower donations and fewer grants, limiting their ability to hire. The associate deferrals represent another curveball. The programs vary by firm, but many involve paying a stipend to associates who have had their law firm start dates pushed back by a few months to more than a year and who choose to work at a public-interest organization in the meantime.

The stipends generally range from $60,000 to $85,000 for yearlong deferrals — meaning that deferred associates will make significantly more money than many public-interest attorneys. Some firms are even covering health insurance costs. By contrast, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reported last year that public-interest attorneys can expect to start with a salary of about $41,000. Continue reading

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MPRE/Homecoming

So this morning I had to take the Multistate Professional Responsiblity Exam (MPRE). It’s administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and every state (except 2) make you submit MPRE scores in order to be admitted to the Bar.

That test sucked royally. WOW. First of all, I had to go to hell Camden to take the exam. I asked to take the test at MY law school, but it got full (how the hell are there not enough spots at the law school for everyone there who wants to take it?). So I had to get a ride from a friend over the bridge to sit for the exam. The room reminded me of my high school lunchroom. Cinder-block walls. Little L-shaped desks. Bad lighting. I went to the exam without eating anything. I was just rushed with all I had to do that morning. So all during the thing my stomach was growling. LOUDLY. I was kind of embarrassed because as you can imagine the room was dead silent. It’s been forever since I took an exam where you actually needed a #2 pencil and had to fill in little bubbles marked a,b,c, and d. The whole damn thing was so… regulated. Read the instructions together. Do not open the test booklet until instructed. Blah blah. I thought law school exams were weird, but I guess I’m used to it. I haven’t taken a standardized test since the LSAT and that was over 8 years ago! Continue reading

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Harvard-Schmarvard

Swiped from the ABA Journal, idiot in search of “simpler life” burns his degree from Harvard Law School:

“Jack,” a Washington, D.C., a 30-something lawyer who announced on his blog in June that he is giving up his $300,000-plus annual salary and opting for a simpler life.

In Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity, Jack blogs about his excesses and exit strategies. Then on Oct. 27, he took a key symbolic step in that direction. He burned his Harvard law degree and posted a video on YouTube for all the world to bear witness.

“I’ve been thinking about doing this, in one way or another, for a while now. But I was never really sure if I would be doing it for the right reasons. Not to mention how silly it sounded whenever I brought it up to people. But this weekend it all came together: the weather was beautiful, the trails were inviting and freedom seemed just around the corner. So I went for it,” Jack writes.

“This is NOT a knock against Harvard. Or a calculated criticism of legal education. Or even a rejection of elitism, per se. Sometimes you just need to say goodbye to your past in order to move forward.”

In the end, he concludes, “it was just a piece of paper.”

That’s some privilege for you… burning up your degree means nothing. “Just a piece of paper,” is right. Nobody ever asks to SEE your degree. They can care less. It’s basically a big piece of vanity. A pat on your back. Mine hangs in my living room. When I get my JD, I’m sure I’ll put it in my office but that’s not necessary. If “Jack” ever wants to get another $300,000 gig, all he has to do is turn in his resume with Harvard, send in a transcript from Harvard or even say “Harvard” and he’s back. This is like Bill Gates burning $100,000. So the fuck what?

Rest assured, however, that I will NOT be burning my shit. All the blood, sweat and tears (literally. that’s not just a cliche) I put into these past three years will go into a nice little frame so everyone can see it and I can pat myself on the back.

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