Computers, Interviews, Boredom

I feel bad for not having any posts up the past few days, but I have to confess that I'm left with little to say about investigating law firms and/or building/overclocking a new computer system. I'm completely out of the loop regarding current events and my classes haven't really swung into action yet. I hope all the new 1Ls are enjoying the beginning of law school, and that everyone else is having a good end to the summer.

I'm finally almost finished with A Farewell to Arms (after multiple delays arising from academic obligations) and I'm absolutely loving it. It's nice to have good feelings about Hemingway and I haven't even gotten to his short stories.

Circuit City

Interesting computer shopping experience today. I'm upgrading my desktop computer (added a new motherboard and processor) and decided to buy a larger hard drive. I went online to look at prices at my favorite online source, and compared those prices to the ones listed at Circuit City, which is close to my home. Circuit City was having a sale on hard drives, so the prices were almost even. I happily jumped in the car and rode over to Circuit City, only to find the very same hard drive priced $30 higher than I'd seen online. At first I thought I must be crazy, but it then dawned on me that Circuit City might very well have targeted pricing schemes set up. On their webpage, they know they are competing for online customers against places like newegg.com. In the store, particularly the one in Charlottesville, they have no such competition.

So what did I do? I walked over to the silly Sprint Broadband demo computer, logged onto circuitcity.com, ordered the hard drive and designated express pickup as my delivery option, walked 10 feet to the merchandise pickup window, and received my new hard drive for $30 less than the price in the store. That felt pretty good.

Bravo

I want to give kudos to the 8 associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court who have stepped up and ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments monument in their rotunda:

I'm not sure whether they had any legal obligation to make this decision (since it was a federal case), but it is most welcome as a reflection of Moore's disgusting disregard for the role of law in our society and the oath that he took upon coming to the bench.

Yesterday, Yglesias pointed out that this all seems calculated merely to boost Moore's political ambitions. In the comments, I posed a query that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, so I'll repeat it here.

This sort of politicking only seems to work in the South, at least as far as my knowledge extends. I can think of several civil rights-era Southern politicians who made their name by defying the Court, but no equivalent examples in Northern states. If others have such examples, please enlighten me.

Reflections After Year 2, Day 1

It was quite a pleasure to return to school yesterday and begin classes without any of the fears or confusions that came with the first year. A friend pointed out that it almost feels like being a high school senior... we get to drive to school, we have all our friends, we know where we're going to eat lunch. Then there are the poor, pathetic 1Ls. They're actually briefing cases, they're talking about the reading with each other before class, they're carrying around Black's Law Dictionary. I can hardly believe I ever was one.

Seriously though, being back in school without those stresses has let me recognize how much I really enjoy law school, how positive an experience it has been for me (horror stories notwithstanding). I love the three classes I've been to (Judicial Role in American History, Foreign Relations Law, and Evidence) and the professors are all good teachers, a quality that clearly does not always correlate with academic reputation or tenure decisions. That's reportedly one of UVA's strengths, though the fact that I've not attended any other law schools limits my capacity for making such comparisons.

I also got a very good prompt for a potential paper from my ConLaw professor, Mike Klarman. I continue to be fascinated by the early years of the Burger Court, despite several potential topics going nowhere, and his suggestion is that I look for explanations for the disparity in the Nixon appointees' voting patterns on constitutional issues. Briefly, there must be some reason why they put a halt to much of the forward progress on race and crime issues, but also declared the right to abortion, (briefly) struck down the death penalty, and finally recognized equal protection on gender grounds. Klarman's intuition, which I share, is that it reflects the power of social and political context upon even those justices we don't think of as activists. That should allow a limited amount of archival work, plus the political/social science research in polling and the media which I learned to love as an undergraduate.

Dangers in Labelling

During his introduction to the the course, Professor G.E. White laid out his objections to the labelling of Supreme Court justices as 'liberals' and 'conservatives.' For one, it obfuscates the differences between political and judicial flavors of liberalism and conservatism. In addition, the labels attempt to apply contemporary definitions to historical periods so different from our own that the labels fail to convey anything meaningful. Was Frankfurter a liberal or a conservative? Holmes? Does that mean a judicial liberal (e.g. an activist) or a political liberal (e.g. a New Dealer)?

I can certainly understand the use of such terms by those making generalizations, or those without access to or understanding of the full historical context of the times. But I think White makes a very good point as it concerns historians, legal academics, and law students. We don't have the excuse of ignorance, and shouldn't make the excuse of laziness.

I'm Back

So school is back in session and naturally my first class begins at 8:35 this morning. In the two weeks I've been away, there's not been too much excitement to share. My first law review editing assignment was actually pretty easy, thanks in large part to the author's being a current student here and gathering many of the sources for us. I narrowed my law firm interview list to 18, and submitted the first of them starting Monday of this week. I'll start hearing whether I get the interviews next Tuesday.

As for classes, I decided to go a little easier on myself and dropped Employment Law, leaving me with American Role in Judicial History, American Legal History, Evidence, and Foreign Relations Law. With that lighter course load, I'll be able to continue my employment as Professor Anne Coughlin's research assistant, which is great because it means extra money in my pocket and a continued relationship with a stellar professor and caring person.

The research for my potential paper is going pretty slow. It's been an eye-opening experience. I started out looking for a topic in criminal procedure and now I'm researching the relative conservatism of the Burger Court, the race riots, and the patterns of dissent by Marshall and Brennan once they lost their liberal majority in 1969.

I like being back in classes, though I never feel sufficiently settled until I've gotten used to my new routine. Fortunately this semester should provide a routine I'll be happy to get used to. I've got four classes on Tuesdays and three on Wednesdays, but only one on Mondays and Thursdays and none on Fridays. That should leave plenty of time for law review, interviews, writing AND, of course, blogging.

Ivy League Admissions Consulting

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. My dad passed along a link to this story from Bloomberg on private admissions consultants, and I can't help commenting on what a screwed up system we've created:

Halfway into the first meeting with college consultant Michele Hernandez, tax attorney David Selznick walked out of the living room of his home in Somers, New York. He says his head was pounding after he�d listened for more than an hour as Hernandez dissected his son Ben�s high school transcript and college admission test scores, nixed his summer camp plans and described how playing up Ben�s strengths could land him a spot in an Ivy League college. �I was sweating, it was so draining,� Selznick, 47, says. �We got four hours of information in an hour.�

Afterward, Selznick and his wife, Helene, agreed to spend $16,500 over the next two years to hire Hernandez, a Dartmouth College graduate and former assistant dean of admission at the school. She promised to guide Ben�an A student with Ivy League aspirations and a passion for drumming�through the intricate puzzle of getting into a top school. �It�s a lot of money; it�s obscene,� Selznick says. �But I had come to the conclusion that I was willing to invest in my son�s future.�

It used to be we could just depend on the status of race, wealth, and connections to do all the work getting into the Ivy League. Then someone had to go and open the doors to the masses. So now the rich white kids have found another way to tweak the system. How glorious. I hope they fail miserably. See you August 20.

Oh, Before I Go

Oliver Willis has a list of his best and worst Americans of all time, and it suggests a knowledge of history unbefitting someone of his age and intelligence. It reminds me of an essay I wrote after being invited to apply to be a Presidential Scholar during my senior year of high school (I won, likely due to the fact that they take a male and female student from every state, and I was applying from Utah). The prompt was to pick three people from history to dine with; here are my opening paragraphs:

Three people? I can do that. I would invite James Madison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Lennon. Yes, they are all American. There is actually a good reason for this. I want three people who speak the same language as I: English. I would love to invite Albert Camus or Fyodor Dosteovsky, but who could understand them? One thing a leader must always take into consideration is the ability to communicate. It would be a rather boring dinner party if I invited Aristotle, Leo Tolstoy, and Baruch Spinoza. These were all great men, but no one would be able to talk to each other. That is not my idea of an educational evening.

So, I picked three Americans. I could have picked an Englishman, but for the topics I wish to discuss, Americans will serve best. James Madison was the easiest choice for me...

Leave aside the amateurish writing, cliches, arrogant literalism, and your own opinions of the men in question, and see how long it takes to spot the planet-sized error I missed (as did the selection committee). I first realized it while discussing the selections of my fellow Scholars at our ceremony in D.C. What can I say? I was 17.

OK, now I'm really going on hiatus. For real. Bye.

Breathing Room

Classes start two weeks from today. I'm going to be pretty busy with research and relaxation until then, so let's call this a "back to school" hiatus. I'll resume posting on August 20.

Quite a Summer

I've been flipping through Gideon's Trumpet to see if it offers anything helpful in my research, and stumbled upon a previously unknown bit of legal trivia: while a law student at Yale, John Hart Ely worked his 2L summer in the law offices of Arnold, Fortas, and Porter and spent two full months doing research on a little case called Gideon v. Wainwright, which Fortas would argue and win, consecrating the indigent defendant's right to counsel in state criminal cases. Ely, of course, went on to become a leading constitutional scholar.

New Scanner

I've never had much use for a scanner, but many of my research sources are library books and I have a feeling many will soon be recalled. I also obviously can not write in them (nor would I want to). So I did a little web surfing, and saw that the Canon CanoScan LiDE 20 is on sale for $39.99 at Circuit City. I reserved mine online, drove over to Circuit City, showed them the online confirmation, and walked out with a new scanner for $41. It weighs 3 lbs. and is 1.4 inches high, and does exactly what I need it to do. I inserted the USB plug (which provides both data and power, so no AC plug is necessary) and within 5 minutes I was creating PDF copies of the chapters I need. Combined with my laser printer, it can also serve as a copier in a pinch, with printing beginning the instant the scan is complete. I'm a happy camper. Considering I also just got a 52x cd-burner (an upgrade from my 16x) for $43, this has been a very good computer peripheral week for me.

Justice Powell's Legacy

I meant to link to this last week. My boss has an op-ed in the Legal Times (registration required, blah!) on the legacy of Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke and vote in Bowers as related to the most recent term's decisions in Grutter and Lawrence. She clerked for Powell during the term in which Bowers was decided, and has some interesting insights:

For some of us, Bowers was a debacle not merely because we disagreed with Powell's vote, and some of us did passionately disagree. Rather, the experience haunted us because, when all was said and done, Powell discovered that he disagreed with his own vote. We got it wrong because we failed to help him find the position he wanted to take.

Over the years, we've been asked a lot of questions about Bowers. Trust me, your cross-examinations have been mild compared to the grillings some of us have given ourselves. When working on Bowers, why didn't we think longer, harder, and, for crying out loud, better? Lewis Powell was a great judge because he knew that heaven and earth held more things than he had dreamed of. Before deciding, he (almost) always looked for the holes in his philosophy and experience. For the Bowers clerks, the problem was immediate and excruciating. Powell had worked with gay clerks both before and during the Bowers term. Yet he did not know that he knew gay people. He has been criticized, even derided, for this blind spot. Some of that criticism is fair.

But, in his generation and for many years after, "don't ask, don't tell" was not inscribed merely in military policy. The hearts and minds of a whole culture were in the closet, as were many gay people themselves. But we knew that Powell was vacillating, and he needed our help in understanding the value of gay sex, intimacy, and love. Why didn't we try harder to fill in those blanks for him? If we were too cowardly or uncomfortable to come right out and make him understand, why not make a discreet phone call or two to the justice's former clerks? Perhaps they would speak, give Powell the advice and comfort that he needed, and he would listen. Over the years, I've asked myself these futile "what if" questions, even though it's vain to think that one heroic law clerk might have saved the day.

The registration is worthwhile, as the whole op-ed is pretty fascinating. The influence of individual clerks is hard to assess, but there sure are some interesting stories (see e.g. Edward Lazarus' discussion of Michael Dorf encrypting his computer so that Justice Kennedy's more conservative clerks couldn't interfere with the Casey plurality opinion).

Hiroshima

I can't claim any special insight or knowledge regarding the dropping of the atomic bombs, but Nicholas Kristof has expressed my general sentiment regarding the event:

While American scholarship has undercut the U.S. moral position, Japanese historical research has bolstered it. The Japanese scholarship, by historians like Sadao Asada of Doshisha University in Kyoto, notes that Japanese wartime leaders who favored surrender saw their salvation in the atomic bombing. The Japanese military was steadfastly refusing to give up, so the peace faction seized upon the bombing as a new argument to force surrender...

It feels unseemly to defend the vaporizing of two cities, events that are regarded in some quarters as among the most monstrous acts of the 20th century. But we owe it to history to appreciate that the greatest tragedy of Hiroshima was not that so many people were incinerated in an instant, but that in a complex and brutal world, the alternatives were worse.

I've no doubt there's a lot of room for debate and counter-factuals, but that remains my position.

How Do You Spell Relief?

Will Baude of Crescat Sententia has provided a great public service:

I offer you the links for what some of you will consider the "new/improved" Volokh Conspiracy. Without Cowen, without Barnett, and without either.

Many thanks Will!

Law Firms, Interviews, Blogging

I've finally narrowed down the 120 D.C. law firms coming to UVA for on-grounds interviews to a respectable 29. Here's the list; I'd be grateful to hear any insights you all might have on any particular firm:

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld
Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn
Arnold & Porter
Baker Botts
Boies, Schiller & Flexner
Bracewell & Patterson
Covington & Burling
Crowell & Moring
Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
Fulbright & Jaworski
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Hale & Dorr
Hogan & Hartson
Jones Day
Latham & Watkins
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
O'Melveny & Myers
Piper Rudnick
Shaw Pittman
Shea & Gardner
Sidley Austin Brown & Wood
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Steptoe & Johnson
White & Case
Wiley, Rein & Fielding
Williams & Connolly
Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
Winston & Strawn

In narrowing down the list I looked primarily at the size of each firm's white collar crime and legislative practice areas. I think there are ~20 firms on the list I'd be really excited to work for, and the rest we'll call "backups".

I'll try to keep everyone relatively updated about the job search, but I won't make particular comments on the firms I interview with unless something really egregious occurs. I also probably won't be announcing what firm I'm working for, to maintain a certain amount of privacy and anonymity, though I may ask for advice if I need help narrowing it down (assuming I get more than one offer).

The other thing I should mention is that it's unclear how much blogging I'll have time for during this next semester. I was able to do a lot of blogging during the day last semester, and I think that ought to remain true. Nonetheless, with an additional class, interviews, two papers to write, and law review cite checks, I will be a bit busier. So we'll make a go of it. I have the fullest confidence that it will be a wonderful semester.

My 2003-4 Class Schedule:
Or How to Avoid Talking About Money in Law School

Well after several weeks of planning, complaining, waiting, and generally learning to hate our new registration system, I've finally got into ISIS (who'd ever imagine that ISIS would seem like a relatively good system?) and set up a schedule I'm actually very happy with (number of credits in parentheses):

Fall 2003 (no Friday classes!)

Judicial Role in American History (3)
Foreign Relations Law (3)
Employment Law (3)
Evidence (3)
American Legal History (3)

Spring 2004 (no Monday classes!)

Federal Courts (4)
Constitutional Law II: Freedom of Speech and Press (3)
Constitutional History II: From Reconstruction to Brown (3)
Federal Criminal Law (3)
Analysis of the Military Criminal Legal System (2)
White Collar Crime (1)

I decided that as long as the fall was already filled with cite checks, interviews, and my seminar paper, I might as well take a fifth class and have no fun at all. The spring will be a lot more fun. I've got a lot of classes scheduled, but they are all either with my favorite professors or criminal law-related. I'm particularly excited about the class I'm taking at the JAG school on the criminal legal system (there were only 5 slots for it!); it ought to offer me a head-start on my military training as well as a more academic approach than I'll get when I report for my officer basic training in 2006.

UPDATE: I just switched out of Environmental Law and into Lillian BeVier's ConLaw II: Speech and Press. She's supposed to be a fantastic teacher, and I'm glad to be able to take such a neat class with her.