: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

An argument one would not anticipate having to make in one’s legal career

From the Bay City Times in Michigan, comes this jewel of a case:

Kuch’s defense attorney, Kathryn Fehrman, argued that Michigan’s statute on sodomy and bestiality is vague and does not outlaw sex with a dead dog.

Now there’s one to call home about. Though it beggars credulity, it does, in fact, get worse -

The alleged crime occurred near the Forest Day Care Center, 2169 W. Midland Road, on a school day. The teacher was leading an Animal Control officer to the dead dog so he could dispose of it when the pair discovered Kuch, who allegedly scuffled with the officer before fleeing into the woods.

To her credit, against overwhelming and damned embarrassing evidence for her client, Fehrman refused to roll over and play dead. (sorry)

Fehrman had said in previous written and oral arguments that a dead dog is not an animal and therefore cannot be violated against its will.
Sheeran also upheld the indecent exposure charge. He said it was irrelevant whether the patch of woods where the alleged crime committed was public or private property. ”There was a substantial risk that someone might be offended.”

The funniest line I’ve read in an opinion today…

From Syester v. Banta, 27 Iowa 613 (1965).

Plaintiff is a widow living alone. She has no family. Her exact age does not appear but a former employee of defendants and a favorite dancing instructor of plaintiff testified ‘that during the period from 1957 through the fall of 1960 she was 68 years old.’

More on the Fulbright & Jaworksi N-word incident

I posted my reaction to the n-word incident at Duke – Fulbright & Jaworski Partner Drops N-Word in Interview; Sky Falls – having only read the early reports based on Dean Bartlett’s interview. A big thanks to Hans Bader for alerting me to the more recent developments. His comment appears in full below my first post. F&J’s executive committee issued the following response, which I find very illuminating:

Because you may hear about or be asked about a recent situation at a law school where attorneys participated in training interviews of students, we want to bring it to your attention. One of our lawyers recounted a story about Leon Jaworski’s defense of an African-American man in a murder trial in Waco, Texas in the 1920s. During the retelling, in an effort to display the depth of racial hostility that Jaworski and his client faced, the attorney used a racial term that characterized what the district attorney in the case said about the defendant. After review of the situation, all involved concluded that such terms, although recounted without ill intentions, are inappropriate for our firm, which values diversity and strives for inclusiveness. We are addressing the situation, and Steve Pfeiffer and other senior partners are en route to meet with the students. One of the other attorneys who participated in the training session acted immediately when the incident was called to his attention and responded with an electronic letter of explanation and appropriate apology. Any inquiries should be directed to the firm’s Hiring Partner, Gerry Lowry. Executive Committee

Dean Bartlett’s only explanation of what actually transpired is as follows:

A Duke student reported that a partner from Fulbright & Jaworski who was meeting students on campus told a story in which “the n word” was attributed to one of the characters in the story. Understandably, the use of the word offended the student.

“Attributed to one of the characters in the story” could take many plausible forms, many of which are particularly damaging. To me that phrase implies something along the lines of an off-color joke, certainly not giving an example of an opposing prosecutor’s actual racism. Indeed, context is everything. If those facts are right, then I find Bartlett’s description is misleading if not dishonest. Her description invites the reader to imply a much more sinister context than what seems to have actually taken place.

Houston Crime Lab Makes News Again; Impact on legal cases?

The Houston Crime Lab tends to make the news from time to time and almost never for anything good. In the latest debacle, an lab technician has been arrested for stealing cocaine processed in the lab over the last several years.

Houston Chronicle: Impact of cocaine thefts from DPS lab disputed

This is actually relatively benign after what we’ve seen from the crime lab in years past. HPD Lab Investigation site has a more detailed history but here are some of the highlights -

I tend to think that this particular infraction has relatively minor direct impact on any cases. It supposedly happened only after the cocaine had already been processed. However Troy McKinney hits it right on the head as quoted in the article – it goes to the fundamental trust in the system. How much can we trust the evidence the evidence that comes out of the lab when we see infraction after infraction?

Troy McKinney, a past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, says the current incident raises questions about the quality of the evidence coming out of the agency’s crime lab.

“It suggests that there is very little integrity in the evidence coming out of that lab,” McKinney said. “Whether it’s because he handled it, or that he was able to get away with it for so long without anybody knowing.”

Fulbright & Jaworski Partner Drops N-Word in Interview; Sky Falls

Apparently a Fulbright & Jaworski Partner on a recruiting trip to Duke let the dreaded N-word fly in a story he or she was telling to a student. As might be expected, except by the offending F&J Partner apparently, the shit has hit the proverbial fan.

Duke Law Dean Kate Barlett sent out a campus-wide e-mail which found it’s way to legal tabloid The letter contained, in relevant part –

Upon learning about this episode, pursuant to the Law School’s Anti-discrimination Policy, the Career Center staff immediately asked the student if they could approach the employer to investigate the incident. The student agreed, and Tia Barnes called the recruiting manager to say that this was a serious situation that needed to be promptly addressed.

The hiring partner called back within minutes, clearly upset at the behavior of his partner. Shortly thereafter he reported back that he raised the issue to the highest levels of the firm, that the firm was taking internal measures dealing with the individual involved, and that the offending lawyer will not be permitted to return to Duke to meet with students.

The offending lawyer admitted his use of the word in question and reportedly recognizes that it was wrong to do so. The firm also sent an official apology to the student through us, as the student wished to remain anonymous.

As part of its remediation efforts, a partner at the law firm has asked to come to Duke to meet with students to describe the incident, to apologize to the community publicly, and to explain the measures that the firm has taken. Breaking: Fulbright & Jaworski Partner Drops the N-Bomb During A Recruiting Interview! (check the comments for a very enlightening discussion)

This is an excellent opportunity for a little mental exercise I think. Take a moment, whip out your legal pad and list in order of social horrificness the things that the F&J Partner could have done or said that would gotten him into more hot water. Confine your brainstorm to things which are not illegal. Ready? Go!


So how you doing yet? Got much? Me neither. Aside from denying the holocaust, professing allegiance to Al-Qaeda, or revealing that his middle name is Osama-Hussein there’s not much he could have done to earn more moral approbation than to drop the ‘n-bomb.’ Now there’s more to be learned of the context in which the admitted n-bomb dropping took place, but since when has that mattered once the internet gets its dander up?

More on this later…

I just noticed Fulbright is flashing its NAACP-Houston’s President’s award on its home page now. I got to wonder if that was there yesterday. What do you say google cache? Ouch, yesterday it was a little different.

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