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

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Friday Legal Link Round Up

My client did not wear diapers

Words Don Lykkebak, the attorney for former-astronaut Lisa Nowak, has no doubt dreamed of saying ever since passing the bar.

Mike Nifong: Outlier or Par for the Course?

According to David Feige, the disbarment of Duke Lacrosse Rape Case Prosecutor Mike Nifong is unique, but the instances of prosecutorial misconduct that lead to it it are not.

The Long Arm of the Law Extends to the Classroom

NPR profiles Harris County Justice of the Peace William Yeoman whose docket of misdemeanors now frequently includes students whose acting out in class now lands them in court, thanks to the state’s new “zero tolerance” policy on school discipline.

Bennett Sees Occam’s Razor and Raises Him a Chainsaw

Houston Defense Attorney Mark Bennett reminds us that there may be many reasons why your client is not guilty of the crime for which they are charged, but you only need to convince a jury of one of them, and that every contest and every explanation… complicates your case.

Houston Toxic Torts Lawyer Indicted for giving kickbacks in Insurance Settlement

Two Hartford insurance employees allegedly received a new BMW each and split $3 million to settle in bulk the 1,000 silicosis lawsuits attorney Todd Hoeffner had pending.

Texas Death Row Inmate Ruled Too Delusional for Death Penalty

A divided Supreme Court overturned the 5th Circuit in finding that in ignoring Scott Panetti’s delusional belief that he was being put to death as punishment for preaching the gospel, the lower courts did not follow existing guidelines to establish sufficient mental competency to be executed. Panetti was convicted of gunning down his in-laws in front of his estranted wife and her daughter in 1992.

Ruben Cantu continues to Haunt Bexar County

Ruben Cantu has become a flash point on the touchy subject of capital punishment in Texas after being executed for crimes many have concluded he did not commit. As reported in the Houston Chronicle yesterday in Bexar DA calls execution justified, Bexar County DA Susan Reed has issued a report finding no merit in the claims of Cantu’s innocence. The case has become controversial in part because the DA who prosecuted the case, Sam Millsap has called the execution a mistake and apologized for it while becoming an vocal opponent of the death penalty. (briefly noted on this site in february)

Doubts about Cantu’s guilt originally surfaced through the investigative journalism of the Houston Chronicle’s Lise Olsen, whose 2005 article Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man? garnered the case national attention and brought it to the fore of the innocence debate.

Grits for Breakfast says the Ruben Cantu case shows why Texas needs an Innocence Commission.

Professor Richard Alderman on the 54 million dollar pant case

In this Chronicle op-ed Houston Law Professor Richard Alderman points out What the ‘pant rant’ on talk radio misses about lawsuits (archive), advocates for tort reform are pointing to Judge Pearson’s $54 million dollar pant case for all the wrong reasons. The judge tossed this case and Pearson out on his proverbial can.

Jon Stewart Spins the Justice Wheel for an Update on Supreme Court Decisions


Law School Rankings Discover Blogs, or vice versa

Amir Efrati’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal – Law Schools Also Ranked By Blogs Now – highlights what I think is the only solution to the quandary faced by law schools on how to deal with an skewed rankings formula that’s allowing arbitrary metrics to drive the educational strategy of the institution – “mo’ betta information”.

It’s unsurprising that students are jumping into the gap. In my experience the black market for information among law students parallels the secret service organizations of most of the world’s nations. The collective neurosis of a highly motivated and deeply insecure community racking up monumental amounts of debt to compete for scarce but highly paying positions equals a ravenous market for information.

The article profiles student run blogs such as and that aggregate bits of information collected from other students and disseminate the numbers to the community at large. While somewhat anecdotal and skewed to the communities that are aware and participating (primarily east coast white shoe firms it seems) the information is far more relevant to student aspirations than the general rankings and frequently more specific and up to date.

While the law school deans can sign all the petitions they want to complain about the unreasonable attention paid to a system of rankings with little relevance to legal education (while simultaneously doing everything in their power to improve their performance in those irrelevant rankings), the only thing that beats nothing is something. Nancy Rapoport, Houston’s former Dean, has written in detail about the rankings from a Dean’s perspective. William Henderson and Andrew Morriss recently highlight this state of affairs in The American Lawyer
Rank Economics, noting the following -

U.S. News is influential among prospective students at least in part because the magazine does what the law schools don’t: give law students easy-to-compare information that sheds light on their long-term employment prospects. Law schools could easily supply that information themselves, but they choose not to. In fact, as the collective head shaking about the rankings has increased, the growth of the large law firm sector—which pay salaries that justify the rapidly escalating cost of legal education—has made the rankings more important.

While criticism of the rankings is becoming a favorite past time, proposals for viable alternatives are few and far between. It’s clear that the idea of ranking the law schools is not going away. It serves a need of students to make a cost-benefit analysis of their choices that’s growing increasingly vital in proportion to the debt load they’re taking on. It’s also clear that the current system of rankings is far from adequate. A change is a comin’ in other words. The most likely source of the imminent revolution in evaluating law schools is the collective power of students themselves, harnessed by the internet. A multiplicity of methodological approaches and data sets is increasing the competitiveness of ranking systems and will force both U.S. News and the ABA to adapt to an increasingly demanding market.

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