Monday, January 31, 2011

Featured Case - State v. Kadijah: Is "Oversleeping" Willful Criminal Conduct?

State v. Kadijah is a Connecticut Appellate Court decision. The defendant, charged with three counts of drug posession, failed to appear at the appointed time for the second day of jury selection for her trial.  Her lawyer called her to discover that she had overslept and counsel represented to the court that the defendant was en route.  The court declined to wait and entered an order for re-arrest moments before the defendant arrived at the courthouse. Prosecutors added a charge of felony "willful failure to appear" (see statutory language below).  Subsequently, the defendant's motion to suppress evidence in the drug cases was granted and the drug charges were nolled.  The prosecution proceeded to trial on the willful failure to appear charges, only. At trial, the defendant testified that: she had worked at her regularly scheduled job delivering newspapers the night before from approx 1-8 AM.  She arrived home and sat on the couch to rest.  She instructed her boyfriend to wake her if she fell asleep.  She did fall asleep and did not wake up until she received a phone call from her lawyer.  Upon receiving the call, she proceeded immediately to the courthouse. Upon these facts, the court determined that the jury's guilty verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, of "willfullness" and entered a judgment of not guilty.  Read the NY Times article.  Here is another link to an unofficial report of the case decision. And, just to make sure we are wearing suspenders AND a belt, here is another and here is another.  (The Connecticut Supreme Court dismissed the appeal per curiam stating that certification had been improvidently granted.)

Ayanna Kadijah:

General Statutes § 53a-172 (a) provides in relevant part: ‘‘A person is
guilty of failure to appear in the first degree when (1) while charged with
the commission of a felony and while out on bail or released under other
procedure of law, he wilfully fails to appear when legally called according to the terms of his bail bond or promise to appear . . . .’’

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Law Music Video - Razzle Dazzle

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is Razzle Dazzle. This is not a true music video but a video clip from the movie "Chicago".  I use this video in the regular curriculum during a discussion about whether a trial is effective as a "search for truth." It is a little long (6:32) but its message is so effective that I think it is worth the investment of class time. In the alternative, I am sure that it would also be effective as a pre-class video. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Featured Article: "Betting on Justice" Part 3 NY Times

The first installment in the "Betting on Justice" series from the NY Times,  reported on the issue of banks and financiers loaning funds to plaintiffs' counsel to cover litigation expenses during the pendency of a case. The second installment reported on the financing of divorce actions. This third installment, "Lawsuit Loans Add New Risk For the Injured" features the practice of loaning money directly to plaintiffs in lawsuits. Apparently, the lenders characterize their practice as "investing" in the lawsuit and, therefore, avoid regualtions that apply to loans. The distinction is justified, they allege, because the plaintiff is not required to pay the money back if the lawsuit is unsuccessful. Therefore, the investments are particualrly risky and higher interest rates are justified.  According to the Times, those rates may exceed 100% annually - even when a settlement has already been reached and payment is pending, thereby eliminating the "risk."  When I came to the bar in the early '80s, it was impermissable for a lawyer to agree to finance a client's litigation. In a contingent fee case, the client had to agree to repay all expenses regardless of outcome. I know those rules have changed in many places.  However, leaving these investors unregulated would seem to allow them to reap unreasonably large gains at the expense of the weak and vulnerable. Wouldn't this practice fall within the definition of unconscionability?

Two of the companies referenced in article are LawCash and Oasis.  A Law Cash ad was featured in the blog post from Part 1 of the series. Below are more examples of ads from each:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Product Liability is All About

Why try to explain a hypothetical in words, when pictures (especially videos) can do it so much better?

Suppose you were to buy a treadmill and . . .

Or, suppose your little brother bought a pogo stick, and . . .

Or suppose you were riding an ATV, and . . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Employment-at-Will: Fired for Choice of Necktie

A Chicago area car salseman was fired from his job for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie (at least that is the sensational headline). Of course, there is always more to the story. But at least now I have a new example to use in class.  I usually say, "The boss can fire you if she doesn't like your shoes."

It looks like the car salesman is going to land on his feet. Another dealership has offered him a job and Packer fans are already calling to buy cars from him.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is it "Precedent" or "Prece-Don't"

In my opinion, stare decisis is one of the most difficult concepts for undergraduate law students to master.  As law students and lawyers know, the concept is so much more nuanced than simply, "a court must follow prior rulings." But it is difficult to sufficiently explore the complexities of this concept in the limited framework of a Legal Environment course. Stephen Colbert has provided this video resource. In response to the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United, Colbert explores the depths of precedent by establishing the word of the day as "Prece-Don't."


Monday, January 24, 2011

Civil Battery - With a Frying Pan

Those clever college kids! What will they think of next?

Battery, with no assault:

Battery, with assault:

But wait! was there consent? Here, there is clearly consent!

This one looks like a straightforward example of battery and assault:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Law Music Video - Jury Duty Girlfriend

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is Jury Duty Girlfriend by Dave Anderson. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

What exactly are jurors focused on while completing their civic duty?  If the parties only knew!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reasonable Interpretation of Contract Offer/Acceptance Language

What would you give to see the Red Sox win the World Series? While this is not really a contract, the isssue is, "How would a reasonable person interpret the language of the responses?" You decide!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eyewitness Reliability

How reliable are eyewitnesses?  Is "seeing, believing?" What constitutes seeing? How might a trial be affected? This video gives food for thought on these issues.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Law Lessong: Burden of Proof

This simple video and song from a Power Point presentation can help students learn and remember three levels of proof requirements: "Preponderance of the Evidence," "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" and "Clear and Convincing Evidence." Learn more about Law Lessongs from the post found here. More audio files are found at the Law Lessongs Website. More videos may be found at my youtube channel. Please feel free to use them in the classroom or as assignments or in any way that they work for you as an educational resource.

Other law lessong videos available:
Business Enterprise Song
Enumerated Powers Song
It's Not Certain, It Depends
Mirror Image Rule
Mixed Contract Song
Non-Competition Clause
Our Lives Would Suck Without Law
Public Figures Need Malice
Substantial Performance
Statute of Frauds Song
Take it Reasonably
The Ballad of Susette Kelo
The Court System Song
The Holder in Due Court Blues
The Offer's Real
The Negotiable Instrument Song
This Form is Your Form

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Blogger: Eve Brown, Indiana University - Trial Court Reality Check

The following post is from guest blogger Eve Brown of Indiana University. It includes the materials that she presented as a Master Teacher finalist at the 2010 ALSB conference in Richmond, Va. 

Many of our students aspire to be attorneys. Frighteningly, most of them have a severely distorted image of the legal profession, as well as of the judicial process. From watching television and movies, students believe that practicing law is filled with drama and glitz, and that courtrooms are hotbeds of passion and intrigue. They come to class imagining trials complete with last-minute epiphanies, surprise mystery guests, shouting attorneys and sobbing witnesses.
It may be worthwhile (and fun) to use a class session to “debunk” common courtroom myths, and to clarify the true intent of the civil judicial system – the reasonable, often boring, resolution of private disputes.
This Matlock clip illustrates an image of trials created by television. 

This movie clip from the movie, "Witness For The Prosecution" illustrates another image.

This clip is from a California election recount trial (Nguyen v. Nguyen)

Power Point slides to accompany Eve Brown's Master Teacher presentation.
Lecture Slides Master Teacher

Monday, January 17, 2011

National v. State Power - Little Rock

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am posting a video clip related to the Civil Rights Movement. This clip from the PBS documentary "Eyes on the Prize" describes the Federal-State conflict arising out of attempts to enforce the decision of Brown v. Brd. of Education in Little Rock, AR.  The clip is a bit long (9:57), but I think it is important for students to see.  Not only are students generally unaware of the potential for Federal-State conflict, but I find that nearly all of them are entirely unaware of this event in American history.  I consider this video to be a part of the work to assist students in becoming educated and engaged citizens - something that I believe is an important part of BLAW courses.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Law Music Video - First Amendment Karaoke

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is The First Amendment Kareoke (sic) from The Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping Choir. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning. "Bill of Rights-Eluia!!"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Featured Case - Hustler v. Falwell: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The U.S. Supreme Court opinion in this case is well known both in and out of the academy. Access to a picture of the "ad parody" is readily available.  A copy is reproduced below.  Less available is a picture of the Campari ad campaign which the Hustler ad parodied. A copy is provided, below. Also provided below is a clip from "The People vs. Larry Flint" dramatizing the argument before the Supreme Court in Falwell.


Magazine Ad for Campari, Alcohol, Elizabeth Ashley Celebrity Endorsement, 1982

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Autotune The Law - Melding Law and Popular Culture

Our students are all well familiar with "Autotune the News". (The oldtimers among us will remember Peter Frampton autotuning his guitar licks in "Show me the Way".) The Gregory Brothers take video news clips and creatively turn them into songs and music videos.  The Bed Intruder Song (video below)has well over 35 million hits as of the time I am preparing this post. NPR has reported on the phenomenon.

Here is the video clip of the underlying incident reported in the news:

Here is the song created from the news video:

There is much academic discussion about how the law is portrayed in poular culture.  There is also scholarship on how popular culture acts to shape the law and its understandings.  I believe that we are seeing a new dimension, here, where the law is not merely reflected in the poular culture but has melded or fused into the popular culture in a way not previously found.  I'm not sure what it means for the law or for enhancing the understandings of law, but its worthy of discussion.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ethics - ". . . But it's Legal!"

In the video below, youth football players (they look to be about 9-10 years old) have been coached in how to win by playing within the technical confines of the rules, but outside of fairplay.  In case you can't hear the audio at the start, the quarterbck on the green team calls to the coach from the field of play, "Coach, its the wrong ball." (In football, different balls are used for kicking and for regular play). The coach answers, "Then bring it over here." I usually pause the video at precisely :26 where two coaches from the green team are giving each other a "high five." Then I ask the class what gestures they think the coaches and fans on the other sideline might be exhibiting.

The scary thing is that if you look on youtube, you will find several  videos of the crafty "wrong ball" play executed in various youth football games.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Attorneys' Fees - Fixed Fees

While lawyers may charge fees based on an hourly rate or on a contigent fee basis, sometimes the fixed or flat fee may be appropriate or desirable. In this video, the lawyer describes a flat fee arrangement - and that it can cost a little more if there is a trial.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Featured Movie - John Grisham's The Rainmaker

I have been using  John Grisham's, The Rainmaker as a required assignment pretty much since it became available on DVD in the late 1990's. The movie raises important issues about the legal system and the legal profession that I simply do not have time to cover in detail in class. In that sense, this movie truly has worked for me as an extension of the classroom, allowing students to learn from an entertaining medium in a comfortable setting (their own dorm room or place of their own choosing). Although the setting of the movie may be starting to look a bit dated (Rudy talks on a cell phone that looks like the receiver of a backpack radio from a WWII movie) the issues that the movie raises about the legal system and the legal profession are relevant and provocative.
A summary of the movie plot may be found here.  Reviews may be found here and here.  A complete transcription (good for double checking student quotes) may be found here. Be careful to distinguish the move from a 1956 movie with Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn entitled simply, "The Rainmaker."

I post "Guided Viewing Questions" for students to read prior to watching the movie on their own ( please e-mail me for a copy if you like).  I place a DVD of the movie on library reserve, but our library also has acquired rights to stream the movie free to students' laptops.  In the worst case scenario, students can rent a showing from Amazon for $2.99 to watch on line.  I encourage students to watch the movie with other classmates.  My hope is that they will spontaneously discuss this movie with their friends, as they would any movie that was watched for entertainment purposes, alone. On an appointed day, I post a question or choice of questions from the Guided Viewing list for students to answer on line. Responses are limited to 500 words. This assignment consistently produces many comments that start, "I never realized that . . ." or "I never thought about how . . ."  That is what I was aiming for.

John Grisham's, The Rainmaker trailer:

Dek Shifflet (Danny DeVito) on legal ethics after "signing up" a hospital patient to a contingent fee agreement:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Law Music Video - Lawyers, Guns and Money

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is Lawyers Guns and Money by Warren Zevon.  You have your choice of the live rock version or the live acoustic version. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bad Lawyer Ads #2

A colleague asked me what standard determines whether an ad is "bad." The standard is, of course, wholly subjective.  These ads may be very effective in achieving the lawyers' presumed goal (bringing in business).  However, if I don't like them, they make the "bad" list. Readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and share them in the comments section.

Here is bad lawyer ad #2.  Once again, enjoy or be horrified as the case may be.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Law Lessong: The Ballad of Susette Kelo

This  video and song from a Power Point presentation can help students ponder the making and results of the US Supreme Court's decision in  the Kelo v. New London eminent domain case. I would also like to recommend Jeff Benedict's book, Little Pink House.  The book is a little light on the legal principles and procedures of the case, but is a a compelling chronicle of the way the law is used (manipulated?) to affect real people in tangible and profound ways.

Learn more about Law Lessongs from the post found here. See all law lessongs posted to date. More audio files are found at the Law Lessongs Website. More videos may be found at my youtube channel. Please feel free to use them in the classroom or as assignments or in any way that they work for you as an educational resource.