: 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

Should I be Bluebooking my Blawgraphy Cites?

Sigh…, Christine Hurt, Conglomerate, (March 13, 2007).

Checking a Cite, Checking it Twice, Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty or Nice…

Just in case you were thinking that citation signals were just for show, Howard Bashman relates this cautionary tale -

The exchange began when Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. remarked that Tribe’s merits brief did not appear to cite very much authority for a certain point. Tribe remarked that there were two older New York State cases that provided support for the proposition. Justice Breyer then chimed in to note that one of the two cases appeared in Tribe’s merits brief following a “see also” cite, which — in Justice Breyer’s view — “is a sign to me there’s something wrong with that case.” After Tribe responded that, to the contrary, it was a really, really good case (to paraphrase), Justice Breyer asked, “Why did you say ‘See Also’?” To which Tribe responded, “I don’t remember.” (The exchange appears in the oral argument transcript at pages 45-46).

The Tribe described is, of course, Lawrence Tribe, the esteemed Harvard Law Professor, who had the unique, um, privilege, shall we say, of arguing in front of his former student, now Chief Justice. If that’s not the stuff of law student daydreams…

Patently Obvious Legal Research Skill #1

Write down what you just sent to the printer if you want to come back with it. I speak from experience.

In Praise of the Casebook

Legal Research and Writing (LARC in UHLC’s unfortunate acronym parlance – Legal Analysis Research and Composition, perhaps? who knows…) is the only course we’ve had so far that doesn’t use a casebook. When I arrived at law school, I found the case book a perplexing system at best – full of accidental precedent, jurisprudential pretzel-twisting and red herrings, cases present only because they represent misapplication of the law.

I make this point because I have since learned to stop worrying and love the casebook, to spot and appreciate the cautionary tales of tortured logic, the Machiavellian art of analogizing and distinguishing precedent. Yet here I am in the second half of Legal Writing & Research slogging through a wilted dandelion of a textbook of all things and now I’m wondering why, why, why am I reading this mind-atrophying instruction manual?

Shapo is actually pretty good, as textbooks go, but to me this only emphasizes the inherent inferiority of the textbook to the casebook. All semester long I found myself longing to see clear, complete examples in context, far more than the half-page samples provided in the text. Instead of being shown, I’m being told; told by a very boring person with no hands to gesture with, incapable of modulating the sound of his voice. Why oh why can’t we have a casebook?

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