: 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

Considering Harris County’s Public Defender System and Youth

Rather than re-post this in full, I’ll just point out my recent post Anticipating Effect of Public Defender System on Representation of Indigent Youth in Harris County on the Children and the Law Blog, part of my work for the Center for Children, Law & Policy. This follows up on my previous post Call for Harris County Public Defender’s Office.

Harris County currently uses a system of appointments by juvenile judges, a system called into question by another Houston Chronicle article – A select few get the cases, and the cash. The article reveals a system, which combined with the fact that judges in Texas are elected, requiring them to campaign and thus to raise campaign funds through donations, that can hardly hope to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The article claims that two of the county’s three juvenile judges “received more than 90 percent of their campaign contributions from the attorneys they appoint.”

The judges, for their part, seem open to a public defender system themselves -

For his part, [Judge] Shelton says he gets no joy from his appointment powers and plans to study public defender offices in other cities. All three judges deny any correlation between contributions and appointments.

“I would be happier if there was a public defender system,” Shelton said.

Lawyer Nightmares, When Your Client Wants to Talk Who’s to Stop Them

As Scott Greenfield noted at Simple Justice in Rusty Hardin Wrongly Maligned For Roger Clemens, “Clemens knew the risks and chose to talk. There’s a limit to what a lawyer can do,” as in there’s a professional obligation to abide by the decisions of yoru client even if you know they’re making a monumentally stupid decision. The lawyer’s job is to advice; as long as the client’s mentally competent, it’s the client’s call.

You’ve got to think the lawyer for this woman just wanted to strangle her when they saw this -

via Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch

Ordinarily, lawyers spend most of their time counseling clients to keep their mouths shut about their cases. Walsh-Smith did just the opposite, venting about her ex in a professionally produced video that she posted here on YouTube. Among other things, Walsh-Smith revealed details about her sex life (or apparent lack thereof) in the video and claimed that her ex failed to comply with the terms of the pre-nup that he’d had her sign. When I last checked the video, 144,000 people had already viewed it.

Law Schools Consider the Laptop or in-class-internet Ban

Law schools have been wrestling with the following scenario for a while now -

The students sit in class, tapping away at their laptops as the boring old law professor mechanically plods through his lecture. Except one. Instead of hunching over a portable computer or a notebook, he’s playing solitaire with a deck of cards on his desk. The professor halts his droning. “What are you doing?” he demands. The student shrugs. “My laptop is broken,” he says.

Inside Higher Ed: Hey, You! Pay Attention!

LOLcat - Im on ur laptop, bannin its internets
Photo: Gillicious; with apologies for the LOLcat, surely this trend has run its course but I couldn’t resist.

As internet-addicted as I am, I probably come down on an unexpected side of this issue. Theoretically there’s nothing wrong with internet access in class, but in my experience it’s an annoying distraction and I wish more of my professors got rid of it. In fact, I wish more of them banned laptops in class entirely. While I certainly wouldn’t force anyone to get a legal education, I’m tired of sitting through classes filled with student-zombies who haven’t yet figured out that there’s really no such think as multi-tasking, just dividing ones attention between multiple things, thereby managing to do all of them poorly.

Only one of my professors so far has seen fit to implement a full-on laptop ban. It remains one of my favorite classes in one of my least favorite subjects (no small feat there) and the model for how I think law school classes should be conducted. He had a paper-notes-only policy and I actually found I enjoyed the class more and was forced to prepare in a more effective manner. When ones name was called there was nothing but ones book and ones brain. As a result I prepared as methodically as I knew how to for every class, recited my case briefs in the car on the way to school and knew that even this level of preparation would only get me through the first few questions before he would ask me something I never would anticipate. Then I would have to think on my feet, so I had to know the material well enough to give myself something to work with. My prof had no problem implementing his laptop ban. He proclaimed. We obeyed. Simple enough.

The across the board internet-access-in-the-classroom ban Chicago recently implemented on the other hand seems lackluster and possibly even counter-productive -

Late last month, as students returned from spring break, the University of Chicago Law School announced that Internet access would be blocked from classrooms. While individual professors at law schools have created policies banning laptops or allowing them only for specific uses — and while some colleges don’t even have classroom Internet access, or mandate classroom-only use without any enforcement — the move by Chicago appears to be the first institution-wide directive of its kind. Already, there’s been an uproar among students and even senior administrators, while some law professors have stepped up to defend the policy.

So I just thought of about 8 different ways to circumvent that, as did, I’m sure, most of the bright law students at Chicago -

Not surprisingly, many students don’t hold the same view, and most who responded to requests for comment did not want to be quoted by name. “Surfing the Web was widespread in class, but to be honest, class discussion hasn’t changed much since the ban,” wrote one in an e-mail. “People now play chess, solitaire or just go through their pictures in class.” Another suggested that some students even save Web pages to their hard drives to read later in class.

In other words, rather than fixing anything, the policy is an invitation for students to invest in circumvention measures, taxing an already busy student body with yet another unnecessary hurdle.

New Website for Evening Law Student Association at UH Law

The Evening Law Student Association (ELSA) at the University of Houston Law Center has a new website.

I sat on the fence for a year after I took the LSAT, knowing I wanted to become a lawyer but that the type of law I wanted to practice (bleeding heart public interest-y stuff mostly) would never pay me enough to allow me to pay back the loans I would be taking out to get through three years of law school with no income. Then I discovered that some law schools had evening programs, including my then alma mater, the University of Houston.

Going to the evening program has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; not that there’s a lot of competition for that distinction. Though it’s not for the the faint of heart – I’m either working, in class, or studying from 9am to 11pm most days, including weekends – I wouldn’t do it any other way.

ELSA was a big reason I’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. The people I first met through ELSA gave me insight and inspiration into the opportunities and challenges of being an evening student and encouraged me to succeed. There’s a new crop of evening students arriving at Houston Law next month. I hope they have as great an experience as I have.

CUNY Law: How to Anger your Friends and Alienate People

The folks at the CUNY Law Blog are getting hassled from their alma mater about the name of the blog because the administrators are worried the blog could be ‘misidentified as official communication from CUNY’. They would prefer the blog be named something like CUNY Law Students’ Blog. It’s not an altogether unreasonable request and rather pleasant as cease-and-desist letters go. In typical lawyer-like fashion however, CUNY admins have managed to simultaneously fix an imaginary problem, piss off their students and future alums, and stake a claim for douchbaggery across the blogosphere. As with any story, I’m sure there’s another side to this one, which I’d be interested in hearing. At this point, it’s quite a coup for the anti-PR department at CUNY law.

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