News Roundup

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There have been several interesting stories since the last news roundup, which was two weeks ago.

1. The General Assembly adjourned the short session when it finished the budget. The budget includes cuts for the court system, along with virtually every other part of state government. My understanding is that the AOC has allocated a big chunk of the cuts to its IT division, but there are plenty of cuts to go around.

2. Although the focus of the short session was the budget, the General Assembly took action on several criminal law bills. Perhaps the most noteworthy are the bill authorizing the collection of DNA from certain arrestees — a topic about which I blogged here — and the bill that is intended to outlaw video “sweepstakes.” The North Carolina Bar Association’s brief summary of the legislative session is available here.

3. One thing that the General Assembly didn’t do is take action to ban synthetic cannabinoids, such as “spice.” As I noted here, the legislature took some initial steps in that direction, but the issue did not get over the hump this session. Meanwhile, the New York Times recently ran an interesting article about legislative responses to “spice” across the country.

4. Speaking of things that haven’t happened yet, the News and Observer reports that North Carolina’s nominees to the Fourth Circuit, judges Jim Wynn and Albert Diaz, are still waiting to be confirmed. With the Senate now focused on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, it’s possible that the wait will continue for some time.

5. Elizabeth Wurtzel at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice recently argued for the abolition of the bar exam, contending that it is an “empty and painful ritual” that doesn’t measure fitness to practice law. The post has attracted considerable attention — among other things, it has prompted an interesting discussion at the Volokh Conspiracy regarding whether the bar exam is essentially a collusive effort by lawyers to restrict the supply of attorneys and thereby drive up existing lawyers’ salaries. Perhaps I should be ashamed that the most interesting part of the original post, for me, was the gossipy list of notables who have failed the bar exam at least once: Kathleen Sullivan, the Dean of Stanford Law School at the time she sat for the bar; Michelle Obama; Hillary Clinton; Franklin D. Roosevelt; California Attorney General Jerry Brown; Benjamin Cardozo; and others.

6. Last, a little tooting of our own horn. TaxProfBlog just publised a list of the “[t]op 35 blogs edited by law professors with publicly available SiteMeters.” We’re not on the list because we don’t have such a SiteMeter, and in any event, it’s debatable whether I am a “law professor.” But we’re averaging about 10,000 hits per week these days, or about 500,000 hits per year. That would put us 19th on the list, and we would be the only blog on the list with a single-state focus. Is anyone aware of a single-state legal blog, edited by anyone, on any topic, that is more widely read than ours?

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6 comments on “News Roundup

  1. Although, I believe the bar exam is necessary for law school graduates to take, failing the test should not preclued a graduate from being allowed to practice law. Instead a graduate who fails the bar should be allowed to serve a period of apprenticeship under a member of the bar and upon completion, be allowed to apply for bar membership upon the recommendation of his/her mentor and other bar members.

    • I agree with part of Defender’s post (wow, never thought I would do that…). but I think we should go a step further and replace law school with an apprenticeship-based system. I found that, with the exception of a few courses like Civ Pro., Crim. Law, and Evidence, most law school classes are a waste of time.

  2. Wurtzel is wrong about Cardozo. It is NOT true that Justice Cardozo, the 20th century’s greatest common-law judge, flunked the bar exam. He applied in June of 1891 and, having been duly examined, was admitted that October. Now, it IS true that he dropped out of Columbia without earning a law degree, but that’s another story.

  3. I would be willing to also abandon law schools in favor of an apprenticeship system. However, there is too much money in play by making prospective lawyers go to law school. I read some law history when in law school many years ago and initially law school was a two year program until Harvard needed money and turned it into a three year program to collect another years tuition. So prosecutor, for once you and I agree with the exception of one thing: not only were were most law school classes a waste of time, so were civ. pro., crim. law and evidence. Every year when I meet the next crop of brand spanking new lawyers, I note with some amusement that they know a lot of law, but are continually frustrated that they have now idea how to use it.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Defender. I have seen so many new attorneys fresh out of law school who have no idea how to file a motion, what to put in the motion, or how to act in court. The worse part is that the bad economy has forced more new attorneys to start taking criminal cases, and attorneys from other counties to come into our local courts to take cases. They do not know anything about our local customs and practices, and it inevitably takes time to get them caught up. On top of that, they come in with unrealistic expectations about what we should do with the case.

      As far as law schools being a cash cow, just look at the Socratic Method. Never has a better scheme been devised to squeeze the most amount of cash from as many people as possible, using the least amount of resources, all while not actually teaching anything substantive.

  4. Agreed on all points.

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