Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal joined ATL in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. Elie received a degree in Government from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He's written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization.

Posts by Elie Mystal

Yesterday’s situation at Roger Williams University School of Law ended peacefully. Authorities report that a former student emailed threatening messages to certain faculty members at the school. The student, identified as 36-year-old Kevin Pacheco by WLNE-TV, barricaded himself in his home until police cut the power.

Police say that Pacheco had access to firearms — lots and lots of firearms — which is a whole different problem. But the increased police presence and community warnings seemed appropriate and timely given the situation.

Phew. But a tipster wonders if this is a sign of things to come…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “As Admissions Standards Decline, Do Law Schools Need More Security?”

Uhh… my bad.

The big news in “Justice” today is a new report from Professor Samuel R. Gross of the University of Michigan Law School showing that exonerations of convicted criminals are on the rise. Gross used data from the National Registry of Exonerations to determine that 87 prisoners were freed from wrongful convictions last year, the highest number in decades.

In a way, that’s good news. More exonerations suggest that more resources are being spent going back over closed cases and freeing people based on new or better evidence. But the report is also chilling proof that our criminal justice system gets things wrong, all the time, and innocent people go to jail because of it.

Instead of being obsessed with conviction rates, state bars might want to look into prosecutorial f**k-up rates. Because it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Instances Of Known Prosecutor FAILS Are On The Rise”

Here was the ominous message that my colleague Joe Patrice received late last week from Georgia personal-injury lawyer Jamie Casino:

Hey Joe,

I saw the [story] you wrote about me. Good work. I got something big coming out at halftime during the Super bowl. Be sure to check it out.

JC

I didn’t know if that was a threat, but now I see that it was a promise. We couldn’t “check it out” during the game, being up here in New York, but afterwards readers started sending us tips about an explosive lawyer ad that had played locally in Georgia.

Uhh… be sure to check it out…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Jamie Casino’s Two-Minute Super Bowl Law Thingy”

Are there lots of people in law school who are under 21? Are there lots of people in law school who can’t give legal consent for taking out hundreds of thousands in student loan money? Are there lots of people in law school who should have to ask for a hall pass before they go take a leak? Not many? Then maybe law students should be allowed to congregate and have a freaking beer without the administration threatening them with sanctions. Maybe the law school’s policies regarding alcohol at student functions should be a little bit different than the policy of the undergraduate school. Maybe a group of legal educators should be able to DISTINGUISH between a law student and a college freshman.

A law school has come up with a set of embarrassing and ludicrous alcohol-related policies, and now it’s threatening students who try to work around them…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Enacts Scary And Stupid Alcohol Prohibitions”

It’s not that cold today, but don’t you worry, the polar vortex is coming, again! This winter needs to be stopped by Dennis Quaid.

Going to work or school in this weather is no fun. That’s why I stay home, but some people don’t have that luxury. This weather is terrible because you freeze your ass off getting to work, and then once you get there you have to disrobe because your office is 5,000 degrees.

Well, one law school has seemingly solved the problem of “layering.” They just keep it so cold in the building that students only have to worry about frostbite…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is It Too Cold To Go To Law School?”

Regardless of what you think about affirmative action, can we at least agree that it is a complicated issue? Can we at least agree that the vagaries of constitutionally permissible racial conscious admissions programs are subtle? Is it too much to ask that when reporters try to get the public to freak out about affirmative action proposals, they at least read the proposals first?

The Daily Caller got a hold of an affirmative action story yesterday, and they totally blew it. They’ve got a juicy headline: “Will public law school push affirmative action in secret?” And they’ve got a really crazy hook: “[The law school] would allow [disadvantaged minorities] to study a different curriculum and take different tests than other students pursuing the same studies.”

Well damn, if a law school was pushing a secret plan to allow minorities to take different tests than everybody else at the law school, that would be outrageous! And unconstitutional! And generally horrible.

Good thing that’s not at all what any law school is contemplating…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Affirmative Action Proposal Draws Criticism From People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Read The Proposal”

Law schools believe that if you start making people give to your program early, you increase the chances of turning them into lifelong alumni donors. That’s why schools try to start their alumni giving campaigns while students are still on campus. It’s not that your law school thinks they’ll make a lot of money off of graduating 3Ls. But they believe that a $20 pledge while students are on campus is the gateway drug to a $200,000 donation in twenty years.

It all makes a lot of sense for the law school, but what do the graduating students get out of it? A lot of students will be paying off their law school tuition for decades, and many will have to start making those repayments before they get a good legal job. Law schools spend money on a slick alumni giving team, with the law school dean serving in the role of “fundraiser-in-chief.” But 3Ls need their schools to focus on “job-raising” instead of fundraising.

To the extent that 3L giving is a reflection of the services rendered by the law school over three years of expensive education, you’d expect a lot of law schools to get squat out of their 3L giving campaigns. That is exactly what one law student is suggesting to his fellow classmates.

The fun thing is that this 3L is on the committee for 3L fundraising…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “3L In Charge Of Alumni Giving Encourages Unemployed 3Ls Not To Give”

We know the new economics for middle-tier law schools. Applications are down, so to convince students with good test scores to come to your school, you have to offer them money. It’s the market, imperfect though it may be, at work.

So when a law school offers “full scholarships” to a number of students with strong academic credentials, don’t think that it’s doing you a favor. They’re trying to fill their seats, not trying to address the fundamental cost problem of law school. If a law school is offering “scholarships” to high-performing students, that means that the low-performing students who are paying full price are subsidizing the people in their class who are most likely to bust up the curve. Addressing the value proposition of law school involves lowering tuition for all students, not making law school free for the kids with potentially better options.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little price competition among law schools for those good students. If you can go to law school for free, what do you care if some of your classmates are being price-gouged?

And if you go to this law school, you might legitimately be getting an education more tailored to the real legal job market than at other schools, thus making your free education even more valuable…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Offers Free Tuition To 50 Applicants”

Last week, we mentioned that Winston & Strawn partner Gene Schaerr is leaving the firm to represent Utah in its gay marriage squabble against equal rights. By all accounts, Schaerr is a terrific lawyer. The BYU and Yale Law School grad served as head of Winston & Strawn’s Appellate and Critical Motions Practice.

It’s a little bit surprising that Schaerr took the extraordinary step of leaving the firm to take this case. The move caused some online commentators to speculate that Schaerr left W&S because of the firm’s work with LGBT groups… or even because W&S has an LGBT affinity group at the firm.

Well, we now have Schaerr’s actual departure memo, the one that he sent out firm-wide. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes suggested that Schaerr left the firm simply so he could “focus” on this important case. You can read the departure memo and judge Gene Schaerr’s motivations for yourselves…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Gospel Of The Day”

Emoticons Of Death

To paraphrase Paula Cole: “where have all the gangstas gone?”

Back in my day, if you stiffed a drug dealer on a drug deal, you’d be signing yourself up for a world of hurt. Nowadays, backing out of a drug deal gets you Insta-bombed with meany emoticons.

Well, the law can adjust to this new softness. If drug dealers are going to threaten people with hateful emoticons (or “emoji” as is the technical term), then the law is fully capable of recognizing the threat. You know how the song goes (NSFW):

Grab your gifs when you see 2pac
Close the comments when you see 2pac,
Who snarked me, But your punks didn’t finish
Now you ’bout to feel the frown of a menace
Nigga, I gram ‘em up

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Emoticons Of Death”

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