Monday, March 31, 2008


Now That's a blog! An IPLawBlog!

There is an exciting new addition to the blogoverse-- The Washington Post has started a blog for the Washington Nationals, and IPLawGuy is one of the bloggers! You can see the blog here. It is really an honor that Tom was invited to be a part of this. You may be surprised by two things related to this: (1) Washington has a baseball team, and (2) that a Republican like IPLawGuy would be affiliated with the Post. As to the second point, it is important to note that unlike the New York Times the Washington Post is a local paper. It has lots of comics, and a big, wonderful sports section that includes lots of coverage of high school sports. Even if you are kinda conservative, it is hard not to like big gobs of the Post for the local content.

As to the first point-- yeah, DC does have a team again, something that was a huge thing to DC baseball-lovers like IPLawGuy. Over the years, Washington has had several pro ball teams, but they have all left for greener pastures. Early on, there was a National League team called the Plutocrats, but they relocated to Hagerstown, Maryland in 1897. Later, there were several teams known as the "Senators," but they all decamped for other places-- in 1939, for Rehobeth Beach, Delaware to become the 32ers (now defunct); in 1948, to Milwaukee to become the Brewers; in 1958 to Anaheim to become the Mighty Ducks (now just the Ducks); in 1966 to Japan to become the Nippon Ham Fighters and in 1967 to Dallas to become the Rangers. During this period, two other teams departed DC's baseball scene as well: In 1971 the Dolphins left for Miami, and in 1954 the Hamburger Clowns left for McDonaldland (they later became the New York Mets).

Anyways, it is great to see IPLawGuy combining his love for baseball with the medium of the internet. And I'm not the only one who thinks so-- check out this post, which garnered 28 comments! I think that's pretty cool.

UPDATE: Justin Scott provided a better description of this blog than I did.


Looking forward with the New Baptist Covenant

One thing I will be thinking about for the next several days is what we should be doing locally to further the goals of the New Baptist Covenant, as the Atlanta meeting fades into the mists. On the larger stage, this much is known-- there will be another national meeting in 2011.

Over the next three years, there will be many challenges. Given that the New Baptist Covenant will not be a denomination but is concerned with reconciliation between estranged groups, there are three central questions that emerge:

1) What is it?
2) What does it do?
3) Who is to reconcile?

The first question is definitional, but also has something to do with practical language. Remember how people wondered what the 00's would be called (the "aughts?"). It turned out we don't call it anything, and it may be that we don't mark it in our personal histories in the same way because of that. Language creates realities, and it would be good to have the right language to describe the New Baptist Covenant.

The second question is even more important. Is the action-purpose of the New Baptist Covenant to encourage discussion, to serve our world, or to bridge communities?

The third question has to do with the very question of bridging communities, which thus far has been a primary function of the NBC, mostly in allowing black and white Baptists to worship and share together. However, there seems to be multiple reconciliations in play, some of which conflict with one another. As I see it there are no less than four reconciliations which have been discussed:

1) Black/White
2) SBC/Moderate Baptists
3) Gay-affirming churches/others
4) The generational divide

To different people, different reconciliations are important. This diffuse focus is compounded by tensions between the goals; for example, attempting the third would probably make the first two impossible. The broadest consensus seems to be focusing on the first and letting the others remain less important for now, and I think this may be the wisest course. No course, though, is easy when there are so many goals fighting for attention.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Sunday reflection: Silence and empathy

Last night I had a wonderful dinner with my mock trial team for the National Ethics Smackdown. We met out at Kaye Johnson's house out in the country near Clifton, and it was a beautiful place, especially once night fell and the stars came out. We ate outside, and she lit a fire in fire pit, and we sat around talking and eating. In the distance, you could hear coyotes.

This has been one of my favorite teams, and I have real affection for them. I had a lot I wanted to tell them about their work and what kind of lawyers they would be. I even thought about exactly what I wanted to say as I drove out, because that was important to me. But, when the time came, I didn't say those things. I wanted to; I thought about it; but instead I told some lame old stories they have heard before. My struggle was familiar. I'm not good in sad situations, at funerals and retirements and things like that. This dinner was sad, I suppose, because it marked the limited nature of our relationships with so many students-- you pull them together in the school, get to know them, care about how they do, and then they are gone. That flow of people and ideas is, of course, one of the best things about teaching, but also one of the most painful whenever another group leaves. So, I didn't say the things I should have.

I see that moment in others every week, in Practice Court. They know what they should say, but they don't say it-- maybe they are scared, or forgot it for that moment, or froze up. I know that feeling, too, though in a different situation (like the one last night). When I see that in PC, I try not to view it as a moral wrong, but something to be coached through. At times, of course, I do get tired and frustrated, but I hope that there will be empathy in me for those people who, like me, struggle with saying the things they should say.


Opening Day

Here we see IPLawGuy and IPLawBaby at opening day for the Washington Nats (short for "Natterers," I think) in their new ballpark. The Nats lost to the New Jersey Generals 11-2.

I don't know a lot about baseball, but it sure looks like fun!


Bridges in Waco on a grey Saturday

Friday, March 28, 2008


Thinking, Rankings, Coffee

GED3 sent me this wonderful link about the reactions at some schools to the release of the latest U.S. News rankings. Also of interest is this post and its attached lists, one of which shows that Baylor has the highest discrepancy of any school between its reputation with academics and its reputation with lawyers and judges.

I have been re-reading the comments on the last post about rankings, and have learned something-- the rankings really do matter to at least some students an alums, perhaps more than I realized. Intriguingly, Baylor is an anomoly in another way. Brian Leiter observed that the academic reputation for a school tends to adjust to the overall ranking for a school. That sure hasn't happened for us, as academic reputation has been a factor out of step with the others for Baylor over the past several years.


Aggie-based Haiku Friday

I like Texas A & M. For years, I have noticed that many of our best BLS students come from there. A few years ago I went down and gave the Wiley Lecture there, and was really impressed with the school.

Of course, I'm not an Aggie myself, and though I admire the Aggie traditions and sense of identity, I get confused by some of those traditions. For example, they elect their cheerleaders, all of whom are male. Apparently, this is now fought out on Youtube videos. I can't figure out if the video below is genuine or some kind of parody, given the plethora of what appears to be interpretive dance involved. So, Aggies, what is going on here?

Anyways, it is haiku Friday, so I think that the haikus should be about Texas A & M or some other Texas school, if you choose. Here is mine:

Aggie Yell Leader!
Your dance is inspiring
Your camera, poor.

Now it is your turn to haiku. I will allow a little leeway from the traditional 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable format this week, as a nod back to Jack Kerouac.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


That turned out purdy...

Several months ago, I started a blog about innovation in law school with Doug Berman and professors from Harvard and UC-Davis. I post there once or twice a week. Yesterday I put up this post. What I love about it isn't the text-- it's the usual professorial "rankings, equities, yadda, yadda, yadda...." Rather, I put a picture on the bottom which worked perfectly with the text. It's a black-and-white photo I took on a boat a few years ago in New York. Somehow, the photo, at the top, blended in with the background of the text to create a really nice flow.

I may not have written the most significant post of the year, but maybe it is one of the prettiest.


A query to Baylor folk who care about U.S. News rankings: What should we do, if anything?

As reflected in the previous post, I do not think that there is cause for alarm in the recent U.S. News Rankings. However, others do seem concerned. Let me ask you all then: What should we do about it, if anything? Keep in mind that our weak areas are reputation among law professors at other schools (this is huge, since it is 25% of the total score, while bar passage rate counts for only 2% of the total score), employment at graduation, and (to a lesser degree) the LSAT scores of incoming students. For a good description of how the rankings work, check this out.

So, should we do something to try to raise our rankings?
If so, what?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


U.S. News law school rankings leaking all over the internet

The leaked numbers from different sources match, and (if past history holds) are probably credible. You can see the full list of the top 100 here.

Baylor ranks 55, which is pretty much the same spot as last year (53). There are a large number of schools bunched up around 50, which means small differences can change things significantly. UT is tied for 16th, SMU comes in at #46, and the University of Houston is tied with Baylor at #55.

There was a little movement near the top. UC-Berkeley (Boalt Hall) moved up to #6, which may be its highest ranking ever.

The biggest mover in recent years seems to be Pepperdine, which at the start of this decade was not in the top 100, climbed to #87 by 2006, and now have pulled up close to the first tier at #59. I have some positive insights on how they have done this, in part based on my recent visit there, but will save that for another day.

Regarding Baylor: As the rankings reflect, we are an anomoly in a way which is consistent with our mission. Our reputation score among practitioners is stronger than the schools around us in the rankings, and our reputation score among academics is weaker than the schools around us. But, our bar pass rate is the highest of any school reported on the first page (up to number 59), and may end up being the highest of any school overall. (Note that Wisconsin is reported at 100%, but that is because graduates of that school don't have to take the Wisconsin bar exam to join the bar there). Baylor's pass rate is an amazing 98.5%. #1 overall, Yale, has only a 91.2% pass rate. Should this matter? Absolutely, since the bar pass rate is one of the only true objective measures used. It is a hard, verifiable number, unlike the self-reporting of employment, or the even spongier reporting by law professors about which other schools they like.

At what we do, prepare people to practice law, we can and will continue to say that we are among the very best.


Another 1L starts blogging!

Trailblazing 1L Clark tipped me off to another new 1L Blog, "Catfish and Paddles." The new blog even features a photo of the law library at the top, which is a great choice. Recently, Wacoan magazine described the law library as one of the great undiscovered places in Waco, and I believe it-- it is a beautiful space.

I was also able to obtain this photo of either Catfish or Paddles checking out the Razor. 1L's are so cute! And they get younger every year...

C & P have started out by blogging about their affection for Alan Dershowitz. I admire him, too (I really enjoyed his Letters to a Young Lawyer and had a funny encounter with him when I was in law school), but that affection is not universal.

Welcome, Mr. Catfish and Ms. Paddles! [Er, or whatever your gender is...]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Something else that didn't go so well for Detroit

In the wake of a number of other indignities, now Detroit is suffering through the indictment of the city's Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. Named one of America's Three Worst Mayors by Time Magazine, Kilpatrick suffered through a number of scandals-- beat-downs by his security detail, spending $210,000 for travel, meals, and entertainment on his city credit card over 33 months, and various other financial misplacements. In the end, what brought him down was perjury. He had an affair with his chief of staff. Two fired police officers sued, saying they were canned because the Mayor feared they would disclose this affair. The Mayor gave testimony, and said that did not have an affair. Then text messages between the two emerged, disproving his denials.

He was elected at age 30 in 2001, and is now only 37.

Monday, March 24, 2008


My kind of sportscast!

IPLawGuy sent me this great clip, which almost made me wish I lived in DC rather than Waco. Of course, I had the idea first:


I picked Davidson for the Sweet 16! (and other lies)

My bracket is hash. I picked none of the upsets, but did guess wrong on several others. The Baylor Male Bears left the dance early (the Female Bears play tonight in the second round v. Pittsburg). Sadness abounds.

Perhaps the only redeeming thing I have gotten from the tournament is this great picture of the Western Kentucky mascot, Big Red. I stole it from Baker's blog, where he made note of this goofy thing. I'm not clear what he is, exactly. But here's the thing-- he reminds me of nothing so much as Stephen Baker himself. Affable, good-hearted, apparently intelligent... hmmm. Plus, just like Baker's blog photo of himself, he appears to be bowling! It's hard to miss the physical similarities, and the recently graduated Mr. Baker was at school last week talking about having "gotten a job." I did notice that Baker wasn't around once Western Kentucky started playing...

Sunday, March 23, 2008



I took this picture last year in Alpine, Texas. I love the sunrise (and the sunset) in the desert, especially with mountains. I chose this picture for the light. It is intense and beautiful, but its source is not seen. No one, though, would look at this picture and deny that there is a Sun.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


When I took this photo, I felt admiration and hope

Surprising things happen in the desert. Improbable life springs up, and hope perseveres.


More Holy Week pictures

One function of being from Detroit seems to be that you love certain kinds of images-- usually of something abandoned or allowed to rust, with that air of desuetude about it. Even here in Texas, looking for found crosses, I found Detroit. Of course, there is a connection-- these images somehow reminded me not only of the sad desolation of Detroit but the sad desolation of Good Friday and what it represents.

It could be that since I basically wrote a whole book about Good Friday, I am all out of words and now I think in images. A heart can only take so much of the same type of sadness.

As usual, you can make the images bigger by clicking on them...

Why do I find the cross in empty spaces? And so often in threes...

No cross here, but something about the cage over the take-out window seemed so... final, like a boulder before a tomb:

Friday, March 21, 2008


Good Friday 2008 Part I


Good Friday 2008 Part II

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Go Bears! Score more points than your boilerhead opponents!

Today is a huge day for Baylor Sports, as the Men's basketball team plays a first-round game in the NCAA tournament against Purdue. Baylor is an 11 seed, but seems to be a good match-up with Purdue. It's Baylor's first time in the tournament since 1923, when they beat Bryan School of Dance (now Texas A & M University) before losing to the University of Chicago in the second round. Purdue, on the other hand, makes the tournament almost every year under the rule that all schools located in the state of Indiana get an automatic entry regardless of record.

Hey Tyd-- the game will be on TV! It will be televised from Washington, providing a needed distraction from that town's recent obsession with Elliot Spitzer's dalliances and the impending birth of IPLawBaby II (these being events with no connection between them, according to some reports).

I, of course, won't be watching the game. Instead, I'll be watching four students do direct and cross-examination exercises. Nonetheless, I plan to root for the Bears by critiquing the students while shirtless, with a giant green and gold "B" painted on my chest (see illustration).

UPDATE: Bears lose 90-79. Boilerheads everywhere celebrate by swinging mallets at one another.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Where Self-Replicating Law Professors Come From

Here's an interesting chart about where law professors come from (or at least recent grads). It's intriguing in a few ways.

First, it's clear that, nationally, most law professors come from a handful of schools. This is both long-standing and self-perpetuating. I know that I can go to most other law schools and find faculty that not only went to Yale, but went there about the same time I did. That network was helpful when I was looking for a job, and continues to be a natural source of contacts as my career continues. It's not fair, and it doesn't reflect any particular talent I have, but it is still there and I confess to using it now and again.

In fact, when I was in Law School I was basically apprenticed to be a law professor. I was a Coker Fellow, a position one obtained through a competitive application process. No, there was no coke involved-- actually, we taught legal writing in pairs of two under the tutelage of professor. The Coker Fellows are even included (way down) in the Yale Faculty list as "Assistants in Instruction." It was great training, and a large percentage of former Coker Fellows are now law teachers.

Second, it seems that most law schools produce almost no law professors, relative to the top producers, at least for recent grads. It's pretty amazing that some schools, for example, made the top twenty by only producing four law professors during the relevant time period!



On the Friday before Spring Break, Baylor announced tenure decisions. 29 professors were up for tenure, none of them from the law school. Several of my friends, however, who teach undergraduates, did receive decisions on their tenure applications. At least two of them were denied tenure, I'm sorry to say. I don't know about the background on those decisions, so I won't comment further other than to say that I wish things were different, as I like and value both of them.

On the positive side, two of my favorite people got tenure:

Deanna Toten Beard

Deanna is one of my heroes of teaching. She is a dramaturg, which means that she teaches theater history. For several years now she has assisted me in my criminal practice class through the use of Susan Glaspell's play, "Trifles," and we co-authored an article about the experience which was recently published in the Texas Theater Journal. I consider her not so much a colleague as one of my teachers, since I learn something almost every time I encounter her.

Lenore Wright

Lenore is one of my favorite philosophers. She is smart, focused, and a good writer-- I actually read her book and understood it, even though I rarely venture into that genre. I have visited her class and saw the impact she has on her students, who clearly love her and value what she does. If I was an undergraduate, she is one of the professors I would seek out as a mentor, and I'm proud and glad that she will be staying with us here at Baylor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Two Things Involving Law Students

First off, congratulations to Swanburg for winning something I don't understand.

Second, are any of the 1L's blogging? I know about Clark (who seemed to have something mysterious happen today), but other than that, nothing. I'm hoping that someone will pick up the habit.

As many of you know, the legacy of blogging at Baylor goes back to the immortal Chris Fahrenholt, whose SoTheBearSays chronicled an era, an whose run for commencement speaker ended in tragedy. It is probably fair to remember his efforts now and then, given the stories he left behind.


The News Van Cometh...

I just gave an interview with Adam Fox from KWTX (Channel 10) on the Heller case argued today in the Supreme Court, construing the Second Amendment. Of course, I forgot to ask what time it will be on...


Bear Stearns and Eliot Spitzer-- the conspiracy!

A former student sent me this intriguing little bit of muckraking... which makes me seem quite moderate on these issues!

The article does hint at one thing that angers me about this supposedly "conservative" Republican party. They did (while controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress) limit the ability of states to independently regulate lending, consistent with their rejection of Ronald Reagan's belief in the rights of states and the principle of federalism.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Deregulation or bailouts: Pick one, not both

I realize that I have been a little heavy with political and economic diatribes of late, but I really can't stop myself on this one.

The Federal Reserve, with the support of the Bush Administration, has bailed out Bear Stearns, one of the most reckless finance houses, which got up to its eyeballs in bad home loan debt. Bear Stearns isn't a traditional bank (though it is involved in investment banking). However, it was able to get involved in traditional banking functions because the financial industries were deregulated.

I'm ok with deregulation. I think it often has good effects, and is based in sound principles. However, those principles involve letting markets work-- that is, letting companies die, even when that causes some dislocation.

I'm also ok with bailouts. Sometimes, key players in given industries need government assistant to survive, and the government can be well-positioned to make those calls.

What I'm not ok with is having both deregulation and bailouts. Bailouts counteract the market forces we are supposed to be trusting with deregulation. They can make sense, but only if we accept the principle of government intervention in markets at opportune times, which is also going to mean... appropriate regulation.

Behind all this is my sneaking suspicion that this administration is ok with deregulation and free trade where it harms individuals, but can't stomach sticking with markets when those markets turn on corporations and rich people. Letting things sort out through free markets hurts the weak players in those markets. We should hold the same principles whether those players are individuals or corporations.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My Team is #1! Or #3! But never, ever, #2! Please help...

Congratulations again to Christie Smith, Layne Rouse, Rachel Sonstein, Kaye Johnson, Tom Jacob, and Ed Cloutman for finishing third out at the National Ethics Smackdown in Sacramento. Once again, our students showed people across the country what we can do, even with rookies (albeit, incredibly talented rookies).

I was thinking about the record of my teams over the past five years:

2003 NACDL: Champions
2004 NACDL: 3rd
2006 ATLA: 3rd in region
2006 SMU Rookie Tourney: Champions
2007 NETC: 3rd
2007 NACDL: Did not break
2008 NETC: 3rd

Making the semifinals 6 out of 7 times (out of fields ranging from 12-20 teams) isn't so bad. Most recently, any success should probably be credited to Gordon Davenport, who has been working with the teams more than I have (and traveled with this group to Sacramento). Judge Manske, of course, also has been instrumental to our good outcomes.

But what is my problem with getting through to the finals? 4 out of 7 teams losing in the semifinals? I have been doing some real soul-searching on what I might be doing wrong on this point, and have decided that the problem might be my teams' lack of a name. After all, all the great teams have a name attached to their city or school. So, let's have a contest to name future Osler mock trial teams. Feel free to offer suggestions below. Here are a few I have considered:

-- The Fighting Jaworskis
-- The Walter and Sheila Umphries
-- [for an all-female team, which I have never had]: The Sheilas
-- The Hey-hey-heys

Any other ideas?


Crack bad. Crack laws also bad.

The Waco Tribune Herald this morning ran an editorial I wrote about about the crack laws (you can see it here). Intriguingly, the other columnists on the page were Attorney General Michael Mukasey (presented in a point-counterpoint format with my piece) and Ted Nugent.

Me, The AG, and The 'Nuge all in the same place-- for only $1.50!

UPDATE: I just noticed that sentencing Uber-Blogger (and lead dog in the sentencing academy) Doug Berman posted a blurb on my op-ed. In other pieces he has noticed Mukasey's bizarre combination of positions on sentencing: On the one hand, condemning leniency for minor-league crack defendants, then promoting leniency for anti-American terrorists. Your DOJ at work!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Baylor makes semifinals in National Ethics Trial Competition!

OK, you know the mock trial team I have been coaching with GED3 and Celebrity Luvr? Well, they are in their competition now in Sacramento at the National Ethics Trial Competition. The news is good: They have made the semifinals after winning rounds with Temple, Alabama, and UC-Santa Clara. This morning they face Buffalo in the semis.

Perhaps, because of Baylor's record of success, this seems like no big deal to you. But it is! Consider the following:

-- Temple and Alabama are two of the top programs in the country.
-- None of our advocates have previously competed in mock trial.
-- One of our advocates is a first year student, and another is in his second year.
-- It took a nearly flawless performance to break to the semis from 20 competing schools.

Congratulations, team!

Lost in the semis. Still, a good run for a great bunch of students. I'm proud of them.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Haiku Friday On The Road for Spring Break

Most of you have heard of Jack Kerouac. He went to Columbia on a football scholarship, started the Beat Generation of writers, and is remembered for On The Road, which college freshman still read. When I was very young and he was relatively old, Jack Kerouac and I both lived in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. I went to kindergarten; he hung around at the Rustic Cabins bar down on Kercheval. Our lives never really intersected in any way, until now.

Kerouac took haiku seriously. He, like other Beat Generation writers, loved poetry and especially the spare aesthetic of haiku. Kerouac studied Buddhism and even his other writing seemed to be affected. In reviewing his Dharma Bums in 1958, the Village Voice noted that "The sentences are shorter... almost as if he were writing a book of a thousand haikus...." Penguin has now published a book of what Kerouac called his "American haikus." As he explained it, the Japanese form of haiku, with strict adherence to beat counts, nature themes, and reference to season, was not suited to Western languages (most of what we write here is, in fact, closer to senryu than true haiku). He wanted to free haiku to simply be defined as three short lines which are rich in meaning. Here are a few of his that I really like:

Two cars passing
On the freeway
-- husband and wife


Spring night
The neighbor hammering
In the new old house

So, let's go with that this week. No syllable counts. No suggested themes. Three lines. Perhaps you can start with something within your sight right now. Or cats. Or, if you don't like cats, dogs.


John 8, Client 9, and the 10 Commandments

Elliot Spitzer messed up, a lot.

I'm saddened, and discouraged, but not especially surprised. Not because I expected Spitzer to be a hypocrite, but because we all are when we turn our energies almost solely to condemning the wrong of others. This includes me; I was a prosecutor, and it always wore on me that I was not without sin at the time that I cast stones at others. I've never visited a prostitute, and I never will, but I have my own sins. In my faith, materialism is wrong, and I am guilty, for just one example.

The anti-prostitution Governor who solicits prostitutes festers with the misdemeanor prosecutor who smokes pot and the homosexual-condemning preacher who lusts in his heart and the moralistic politician who condemns the other side on personal terms while not staying true to his own principles. And, frankly, we are all that exact type of hypocrite at one time or another.

Many of my students now were in middle school in 1997, so they may not remember one searing lesson from that year. The President of the United States, Bill Clinton, had an affair with an intern (that part we all remember). A number of men in Congress rose up in indignation, including leaders of that body like Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde. They appeared on the floor of the House and on television to condemn Clinton again and again. Meanwhile, a pornographer named Larry Flynt hired private investigators to look into the sexual proclivities of these accusers. Shocking truths came forth, and their political careers ended in shame.

The people who condemn the loudest best be sure they live the cleanest.

Am I saying it is wrong to condemn the sins of others? I don't think I can commit to that as a blanket statement (I do believe in the institution of criminal law), but I don't want to do it any more myself. Being the condemner of others is especially hard to justify for Christians. Christ was quite clear: Worry about your own sins, rather than judging others. John 8, in which Jesus condemns those conducting a lawful execution ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone") is a direct challenge to those in the courtroom, legislature or pulpit. I find it especially sad that so much of the Christian body is consumed with defining right and wrong in terms of those sins they could never commit-- men condemn abortion, and heterosexuals condemn homosexuals, and that marks them as Christians? Meanwhile, does anyone really notice any more what Christ spoke most clearly about? Keeping the Sabbath. Divorce and remarriage is adultery. The poor, not the rich, fill heaven. Hard truths, huh? It's probably easier to pick up the stone and point it at the gay or pregnant teen-ager.

I'm sorry about Elliot Spitzer. Dumb move, in a number of ways. But if I saw him today, rather than calling him a sinner (he knows that), I'd probably say "welcome to the club, brother. Let us both claim our wrong and do better."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Another interesting place....

Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture for Chapman Law School's LLM program in criminal prosecution. I love seeing other schools, and I've been able to get that opportunity recently-- this was my third such chance in the last month (the others being Northern Kentucky and Pepperdine). I always come away with new ideas and a better perspective on what we are doing at Baylor.

The LLM program in prosecution is a great idea. The students are primarily career prosecutors who have significant experience in the field. Some of the classes are provided via distance learning-- that is, many of the students participate in lectures via videoconference. This means that not only was I talking to people in a room, but a screen with a checkerboard pattern of faces spread across the state of California-- it was hard not to think of Hollywood Squares.

Thanks to Chapman's Katherine Darmer for the invite-- it was a great insight into a different way of doing things. I also had a chance to have lunch with the Dean and faculty at Chapman, and was very impressed by what they are up to, including the development of this LLM program.

I wonder if anyone will do something like this in Texas?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Not that I understand this, but I do love accordions...

I get sent some weird and intriguing stuff, like this San Francisco firm's promo (which seems to include a Texas guy):


Work, Study, and the Presence of Joy

I think there is value in joy-- in that feeling of pure, unadulterated happiness that can overwhelm a person. It's not a conclusion, but an emotion, so it cannot be reached by reason. Usually it is connected to an experience, but not always. We may all have different triggers. It is absent when we most expect it (ie, the sullen bride), and sneaks up on us when we least think it will visit (ie, during Practice Court).

For Baylor students, it is spring break. They have been working hard, and many of them (especially the PC students), have no doubt planned to work through the break. Still, I hope that a little bit of joy will sneak in. Sometimes all it takes is to look in a different direction, listen to some music, speak to someone you don't know.

Let it happen!


Gah! U.S. News Rankings Leaked!

Not really... but this is pretty funny. And how close to true is it, given that the same 14 schools have been in the top 14 for over ten years?

Monday, March 10, 2008


New Sins

Apparently an Archbishop who is the number two guy in the Vatican's department that deals with such things has discussed new sins such as harming the environment. I think it is great to have an active re-thinking now and again about right and wrong, which is what he suggests.

In a lighter vein, what are the principle law school sins? I would imagine some of them would involve use of the printers and parking...

Sunday, March 09, 2008


It's the economy, stupid!

A little while back, I was blogging about how none of the presidential candidates seem very concerned with criminal law issues. More perplexing, perhaps, is the lack of interest they seem to show on economic issues. We're in rare and serious trouble in the U.S.-- an economic downturn, increased unemployment, tanking real estate prices, and inflation. What is unusual is that the first three are combined with the last-- that is, in normal times a weak economy, unemployment, and lower real estate prices all act against inflation, by making something cheaper. The weak economy lessens demand for goods (which usually lowers prices), unemployment lessens the cost of labor, and cheap property... well, it's directly in opposition to inflation.

The problem is, in part, that energy prices and the national debt (which lessens the value of the dollar) are going in the opposite direction to such a degree that it offsets all the others, and create overall inflation.

Here is the weird thing about it all-- those two things (energy prices and national debt) are what we should have most hoped the Bush administration could handle well. Bush and Cheney are oil men, and one justification for the Iraqi war was to stabilize oil prices. If nothing else, they seemed like the right people to protect the American people from an economic downturn based on an oil shock. On the second point, this administration promised a devotion to small government, which should have resulted in a cheaper government, and less debt. Oops.

These are serious issues, and this administration has let us down in those areas that should have been its strengths. It worries me that the new crop of candidates is not offering much meat to chew on regarding these topics.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


And the winner for worst cartoon mascot character is... H.E. Buddy!

Not long ago, Prof. Serr was telling me about the horrific experience he had in the grocery store with H.E. Buddy. For those of you not from Central Texas, the H.E.B. is our local grocery chain (based in San Antonio), and H.E. Buddy is the store's cartoon mascot... kind of a giant bag of groceries come to life.

Kids hate H.E. Buddy. Little kids are terrified of him, and older ones have a mixture of fear and contempt. His schtick, apparently, is to loom in the aisles, lurching towards toddlers and small children when they happen to be wheeled nearby. He can't talk (he's a bag of groceries, after all), so it's not surprising that with no explanation the kids scream their heads off when approached by an anthromorphic grocery bag which combines the creepiness of a mime with the grace of a drunk.

Of course, there are other examples:

1) BS, the UC-Santa Clara mascot, who is a banana slug.
2) Orchiotomy Man
3) The Stanford Tree.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Bloggy, Foggy, Haiku Friday

I didn't realize this when I was a student, but professors know when classes are going well, and when they aren't. Yesterday, I did not have a very good sentencing class-- I was mostly mumbling and gesturing aimlessly (or at least it felt like that). Professional Responsibility and Practice Court went a little better, I hope. But then, as we were working with our mock trial team, Gordon referred to both a "button up shirt" and a "scrappy doo outfit," and I didn't know what either of those things might be.

Maybe haiku will help things. It will make us all smarter.

Here are the suggested themes for this week:

1) Baylor fans go overboard
2) Spring break plans
3) The worst appetizer ever
4) Airport indignities
5) "Scrappy doo outfits"
6) The Simpsons at Baylor
7) A terrible idea for a blog
8) Project Runway
9) A book
10) Lent
11) Waking up to (and perhaps driving in) a Wintry Mix!

Here is mine:

What's a "scrappy doo?"
Maybe a goofy hairstyle?
If so, I got it!

Now it is your turn-- 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables...

Thursday, March 06, 2008


The Drug War and The Wire

Justin Scott sent me a link to this fascinating story about the television show The Wire and the drug war in Baltimore.

No city in America, probably, has been as adversely affected by narcotics than Baltimore. The efforts to fight drugs, at the least, haven't worked. I think there is a legitimate debate on whether or not narcotics, in whole or part, should be legalized, but there is no longer much legitimate debate on whether or not our efforts to fight and eradicate the drug trade have worked. They haven't.


More good words about Baylor Law

A nice piece about Baylor Law School just came out where one would most expect it-- the Baylor alumni magazine put out by the school (a separate magazine, the Baylor Line, is put out by the alumni association).

Thanks to Living Law Legend Jen Seale for tipping me off to this.


Okay, fine, just tell me what you think about "Project Runway"...

In the previous post, I tried my best to make a serious comment about the minimal role criminal law issues play in our national political culture. As if to prove my point, every single comment following that post was about Project Runway rather than anything remotely connected to the post. I kinda love that.

Anyways, I only saw the last half of Project Runway, because I went to the ugly and disheartening Baylor-A & M game. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I was a little scared of the Baylor crowd once things got bad. It almost seemed like there were a lot of drunk people there, though I'm not sure why drunk people would go to a basketball game.

And, let's face it, drunk people would be better off watching Project Runway at home. I was tempted to throw some Dr. Pepper bottles at the screen myself once it was announced that Christian won. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but his clothes look like they are made for Victorian fops in a stage show.

Right? Right?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The Candidates and Criminal Law

At the caucus last night, I ran into some of my friends and neighbors who were there supporting Hillary Clinton. They asked why I wasn't supporting her, too, and I gave them the honest answer-- that her opposition to making retroactive recent reforms of the 100:1 Powder/crack cocaine ratio in federal sentencing was a stopper for me. Obviously, as made clear by their reaction, this is not a high-profile issue in the election.

Of course, neither is criminal law generally. You hear almost nothing about those issues, despite the fact that polls consistently show crime as a concern to citizens. It's easy to figure out why-- no one wants to risk the accusation of being "soft on crime," or dealing with those complex issues.

Still, I'm going to take a shot at ranking the candidates on criminal law issues. Naturally, this ranking is from my own perspective as a former federal prosecutor who sees the need for some reform of the system.

Issue One: Sentencing Reform

The current administration has taken almost no role in the sentencing reforms that have taken place under its watch. Notably, neither has Congress; those reforms have been wrought by the Supreme Court in Booker and Kimbrough and (to a lesser degree) by the Sentencing Commission. I would expect Obama to be most vigorous in engaging the process of reform, and he is the candidate who has most often articulated this need. Surprisingly, perhaps, I think Clinton is the candidate least likely to embrace reform. The previous Clinton administration pursued conservatives in part by maintaining a hard line on sentencing issues.

Here is my ranking:

1) Obama
2) McCain
3) Clinton

Issue Two: Judicial Appointments

McCain is the only candidate who is not a lawyer and he does not seem particularly interested in this area, so the party apparatus will probably have sway. That means lots of judges from civil practice with a strong interest in social issues, without much criminal expertise.

On the other hand, Clinton is close friends with many of the judges who are most prominent on criminal issues, such as Nancy Gertner in Boston. Because many sitting district court judges up for promotion were appointed by her husband, she is probably in the best position to appoint judges knowledgeable and interested in criminal law. Obama does not have that background, and it is hard to guess how he would pick judges.

1) Clinton
2) Obama
3) McCain

Thus, Obama would be best at running the DOJ with an eye to reform and highlighting these issues with Congress, while Clinton would be more likely to appoint judges interested in sentencing policy. Because I think policy should be made by Congress and the administration rather than the courts, overall I would favor Obama for the task of making criminal law an active part of the national debate.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I Caucused!

Texas is very odd. Today we had not only a primary, but a caucus-- and one of the prerequisites for attending a caucus was that you had already voted in the primary. Delegates were chosen from both processes, so essentially if you were willing to put in the time you got to vote twice. And I did.

I had never been to a caucus before, and neither had most of the other people there tonight. I was in the Democratic caucus, and for a while we were hanging around in a hallway trying to figure out how this all was supposed to work. Down the hall, a handful of Republicans gathered, their candidate having already been essentially selected.

Eventually, we were herded into a room (actually, the room where the primary voting had been taken earlier) and milled around, chatting. My precinct is small, since I live in the city, and lots of my neighbors were there. It was a pleasant time-- we talked, and I met some people from the neighborhood I hadn't known before. Eventually, we signed in and stated our preferences, and then the Clinton and Obama people retreated to opposite corners of the room. It was an intriguing moment; many of us were watching closely, curious to see who went where. The crowd was about 1/4 African-American, and nearly all of them came with me to the Obama corner, while the Clinton side was about 2/3 women.

The outcome: 38 for Clinton, 37 for Obama, and one "undecided." Thus, Clinton received five delegates to the county convention and Obama got four.

This was the closest I have ever come to direct democracy, and something about it was, in its own goofy way, moving and memorable.


And on the left, a guy getting his driver's license photo taken...

Above is a photo of the mock trial team I have been coaching, which includes (from the back left, then going clockwise) Layne Rouse, Kaye Johnson, Christie Smith, Rachel Sonstein, law school maverick Tom Jacob, Ed Cloutman, and fellow coach (and competitive eating champion) Gordon Davenport. (You can make the photo bigger by clicking on it).

Why is it that in these photos I always look like a homeless guy or a complete doofus? Needless to say, the best team pictures are the ones in which I do not appear. I coach them on some things, but not photogenics.


Note to self: Get someone else to speak at my retirement party...

In the midsts of the primary election it seems we have almost forgotten that there is still a sitting president. While I generally think that President Bush is, in fact, an intelligent and educated man with some very sharp political instincts, there is no doubt that he sometimes says the wrong thing. For some reason, a lot of those slip-ups seem to involve the military. For example the Army Times reported yesterday some of his comments upon the retirement of the Army's #2 man in Iraq, Lt. General Ray Odierno:

Trying to summarize Odierno’s role in that success, Bush said, “I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who were trying to defeat us in Iraq.”

Monday, March 03, 2008


Overheard in New York

Law school maverick Tom Jacob sent me this tidbit from a site called "Overheard in New York." I think he was trying to trick me into comparing those two ambitions, based on his (fair) assumption that I had experienced both.


Not that anyone asked...

But the photo in the previous post is of Sylvia Plath, an American poet who took her own life at age 30 in 1963, ten days before I was born. Her poetry was excellent-- troubling, but brilliant and evocative. Here is one:

The Narcissi

Spry, wry, and gray as these March sticks,
Percy bows, in his blue peajacket, among the narcissi.
He is recuperating from something on the lung.

The narcissi, too, are bowing to some big thing :
It rattles their stars on the green hill where Percy
Nurses the hardship of his stitches, and walks and walks.

There is a dignity to this; there is a formality-
The flowers vivid as bandages, and the man mending.
They bow and stand : they suffer such attacks!

And the octogenarian loves the little flocks.
He is quite blue; the terrible wind tries his breathing.
The narcissi look up like children, quickly and whitely.


High School Poetry Contest Winners!

We had a number of fabulous entries in the angsty high school poetry contest. Our winner was from Jonathon Swanburg, for this horrifying scenario:

It's dark in here
The hooks of the locker press against my skin
The world outside laughs
Must be funny

I close my eyes and pretend I'm happy.
I pretend they think I'm funny
I pretend they are my friends
I pretend it doesn't hurt
I pretend they know my name

The door swings open
Reality rushes in
My pants are wet
I pissed myself

I close my eyes

Here was our runner-up, from the Spanish Medievalist:

I have ears like Dumbo,
that catch the wind
and give me lift,
my untamed, uncombed hair
curled wildly around the bow
of my bottle bottom glasses.
I looked funny, but funny
Strange, not ha-ha.

The girls never gave me
a second look because I was funny,
smart and strange.
Eating alone with
the other outcasts, we were
never invited to the parties
or went on dates.

Prom was a fiasco I don't
care to discuss.
Nothing happened. Nothing.
Loneliness has no cure when
You are surrounded by people
who don't care--in fact,
they prefer it that way.

Honorary mentions go to EBC4 and Celebrity Luvr, whose poetry was the stuff worthy of publication in the forthcoming Razor literary magazine, HeartRazor.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Reason and God

This morning in church we had a great discussion of the role of reason in faith. Some believe that human intellect is one way that God reveals truth to us. I suppose that is true to me, in a sense-- the construction of the world is God's, and when science figures out (through reason and deduction) the nature of that construction, it does reveal some of God's truths.

However, I don't follow the triumph of reason some places. Those that say that the reasoning of Augustine and Aquinas are revelations of God's truth-- I can't say I can give them that authority. In the end, I'm very cautious about recognizing something as a revealed truth, and I can't say I see that in what a theologian or philosopher has deduced, at least on that basis alone. The gospels themselves often lead me to question those experts.

That may be arrogance, or it may be humility (of all men under God), but it is a view that defines me.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Coach Borseth is sad about the performance of his team, and also unhappy about certain aspects of the game's officiating

I'm going to use this to get some tips for critiquing practice court exercises. One obvious technique-- first, get a pair of eyeglasses (or maybe two). Throw the glasses off, then reach for them again, only to find they are no longer there. Then, when they have magically reappeared on the podium, throw them yet again after carefully placing them on your head, all while yelling.


Something new at Baylor

Yesterday, something very unusual (for Baylor) happened on campus. There was an actual protest rally, against a big coal-burning electrical plant that Dynergy wants to build near campus. There were lots of students with signs and one guy dressed as a coal plant, and an interesting array of speakers. Pictured is hero of writing Bob Darden.

One really incredible part of it, though, was the placement of it. They set up a little podium under this big old live oak tree, with branches going out every which way. At about the third speaker, the sun came out, and cast this beautiful light on the whole scene. It was a remarkable setting, and whether this was intended or not (and I'm sure it was), reinforced the message of the protest.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?