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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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

Real Life Crim Law Hypo: Texas Dies from 35 Year Old Bullet Wound, Ruled Homicide

Who’d have thunk it… well, besides a law professor…

A man shot in the back 35 years ago has died of complications from the shooting and his death has been ruled a homicide — but prosecutors fear the trail for the suspect has long ago gone cold. So far, police and prosecutors said they have been unable to find out who shot Craig Buford in the back in Denver in 1973. It was a time before records could be filed on computers. Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman with the Denver District Attorney’s Office, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that her office might file charges if evidence and witnesses can be found.

Houston Chronicle: Death of Texan who just died from 1973 bullet wound ruled a homicide (archived)

Looking for the Key to Unlock the Floodgates in Climate Change Litigation

Stephan Faris’ Conspiracy Theory in the new issue of the Atlantic posits climate change as this era’s Tobacco settlement, profiling the efforts of Steve Susman and Steve Berman.

As scientific evidence accumulates on the destructive impact of carbon-dioxide emissions, a handful of lawyers are beginning to bring suits against the major contributors to climate change. Their arguments, so far, have not been well received; the courts have been understandably reluctant to hold a specific group of defendants responsible for a problem for which everyone on Earth bears some responsibility. Lawsuits in California, Mississippi, and New York have been dismissed by judges who say a ruling would require them to balance the perils of greenhouse gases against the benefits of fossil fuels—something best handled by legislatures.

But Susman and Berman have been intrigued by the possibilities. Both have added various environmental and energy cases to their portfolios over the years, and Susman recently taught a class on climate-change litigation at the University of Houston Law Center. Over time, the two trial lawyers have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country’s largest emitters. It’s the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. And in Kivalina—where the link between global warming and material damage is strong—they believe they’ve found the perfect challenger.

If there’s a guy worth watching as a student for insight into the business of law, it’s Susman. After reading John Jenkins’ The Litigators, my passing interest is perhaps bordering on obsession. Although I’m skeptical of the merits and/or chances of climate change litigation, the fact that these guys are after it makes me more than a little intrigued, particularly about how exactly they plan to make such a case.

In February, Berman and Susman—along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming—filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.

This second charge arguably eliminates the need for a judge to determine how much greenhouse-gas production—from refining fossil fuel and burning it to produce energy—is acceptable. “You’re not asking the court to evaluate the reasonableness of the conduct,” Berman says. “You’re asking a court to evaluate if somebody conspired to lie.” Monetary damages to Kivalina need not be sourced exclusively to the defendants’ emissions; they would derive from bad-faith efforts to prevent the enactment of public measures that might have slowed the warming.

Living La Vida Large Firm

Jeanne Graham has a great article in Texas Lawyer on the current batch of summer associates, Fewer Summer Associates Spread Their Wings at Big-Tex Firms This Year, while some firms are cutting back on the number of positions offered it, it doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the summers she follows around for the article, but the statistics are the most interesting. Behold:

Summer Associates at Large Texas Firms

Firm No. of Summer Associates 2008 (1L/2L) No. of Summer Associates 2007 (1L/2L) Weekly Texas Salary 2008 Weekly Texas Salary 2007
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld 48 (9/39) 53 (14/39) $2,933 $2,600
Andrews Kurth 51 (16/35) 46 (13/33) $3,077 $2,700
Baker Botts 124 (14/110) 146 (28/118) $3,077 $2,700
Bracewell & Giuliani 55 (10/45) 70 (10/60) $2,700 $2,700
Clark, Thomas & Winters 6 (0/6) 6 (0/6) $2,000 $2,000
Cox Smith Matthews 19 (0/19) 11 (0/11) $2,300 $2,300
Fulbright & Jaworski 94 (39/55) 130 (55/75) $3,077 $2,700
Gardere Wynne Sewell 33 (2/31) 29 (7/22) $3,077 $2,100 1L/$2,600 2L
Haynes and Boone 71 (14/57) 68 (11/57) $3,077 $2,700
Hunton & Williams* 5 (0/5) 20 (0/20) $3,080 $2,800
Jackson Walker 22 (5/17) 25 (5/20) $3,000 $2,600
Jones Day* 47 (3/44) 49 (17/32) $3,077 $2,885
Kelly Hart & Hallman 9 (0/9) 10 (0/10) $2,300 $2,200
King & Spalding* 12 (4/8) 16 (2/14) $3,100 $2,700
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis* 15 (2/13) 23 (4/19) $3,080 $2,600
Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell 68 (13/55) 79 (24/55) $3,076 $3,076
Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr 10 (0/10) 8 (0/8) $2,600 $2,600
Patton Boggs* 16 (3/13) 15 (3/12) $3,070 $2,600
Strasburger & Price 10 (0/10) 7 (0/7) $2,100 $2,100
Thompson & Knight 36 (0/36) 36 (0/36) $3,080 $2,700
Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons 10 (0/10) 10 (0/10) $1,650 $1,650
Vinson & Elkins 119 (45/74) 128 (28/100) $3,077 $3,077
Weil, Gotshal & Manges* 40 (2/38) 29 (5/24) $3,077 $3,077
Winstead 28 (2/26) 26 (7/19) $2,600 $2,600
Note: The largest 25 firms as listed on Texas Lawyer‘s 2008 The Texas 100 poster, published April 28, 2008, were invited to participate in the Summer Associates Survey. Brown McCarroll declined to participate. The chart includes only summer associates working in the firms’ Texas offices.

* Firm is not based in Texas.

Texas Lawyer, June 2008

Attrition Rate Numbers Among Texas Law Schools

Via one of my favorite new reads, the Sophistic Miltonian Serbonian Blog, mouthful that, comes Retentionally yours, noting the following attrition rates among Texas law schools:

University of Houston Law Center: 1.79%
SMU Dedman School of Law: 1.81%
University of Texas School of Law: 2.13%
Texas Tech University School of Law: 2.99%
South Texas College of Law: 4.45%
Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law: 6.99%
Baylor University School of Law: 7.23%
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law: 10.15%

It’s nice to see the University of Houston come out on top in this one, confirming my own opinion that it’s a great place to go to law school. See also Above the Law, Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Law School Attrition, Tex Parte Blog

Houston Law Review Article on Death Penalty Profiled in New York Times

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak highlights a forthcoming article from the Houston Law Review in today’s A New Look at Race When Death Is Sought. In Racial Disparities in the Capital of Capital Punishment, Scott Phillips of the University of Denver makes a surprising finding in analysis of death penalty statistics.

A new study to be published in The Houston Law Review this fall has found two sorts of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty there, one commonplace and one surprising.

The unexceptional finding is that defendants who kill whites are more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks. More than 20 studies around the nation have come to similar conclusions.

But the new study also detected a more straightforward disparity. It found that the race of the defendant by itself plays a major role in explaining who is sentenced to death.

We were excited about this particular piece when it first came in, but obviously this kind of attention exceeds those expectations. Our incoming editing staff deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Congrats y’all.

Stephanie Cecere, editor-in-chief of the Houston Law Review, will enter her final year at the University of Houston Law Center this fall. She expects excitement about her publication to pick up about the same time. That’s when the journal will publish an article by Scott Phillips, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver. After studying Harris County death penalty statistics, he found that — all other factors, such as the type of crime committed, being equal — a black defendant is more likely to be sentenced to death than a white defendant in Harris County.

Tex Parte Blog: Running the numbers

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