Rudeness

As I waited for my plane to take off Sunday morning, coming back from Thanksgiving vacation, I was listening to music on my iPod. We had been waiting on the runway for 25 minutes and I was bored, tired, and roasting hot. I needed to distract myself. But then, before I knew it, it was apparently time to take off. Without warning, the stewardess came from the back of the plane, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “SIR, you have to turn it off now. SIR. SIR.”

Like I do every time I fly, I took off my headphones until the flight attendant walked away. Then I put them back on. I also never turned off my cell phone or put it in airplane mode.

You probably know this is not allowed. Airplane passengers are supposed to turn off all electronic devices for takeoff and landing.

But WHY? Is aviation safety so delicate that a few Kindles or iPads endanger hundreds of lives? I don’t think so. A New York Times article from Monday takes a look at this mysterious, anachronistic facet of America’s law of the skies….

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UPDATE (5 PM): Sigh. According to the Smoking Gun, the “poop tattoo” story — reported by The Sun and picked up by Drudge, among many other outlets — is full of crap. But it was fun while it lasted, no?

Some people love tattoos, other people hate them. I’m one of those “other people.” I have no idea why people would want to turn their bodies into coloring books. But if people want to permanently decorate themselves, then by all means, go right ahead.

Besides, if people weren’t so obsessed with inking their bodies, we wouldn’t have awesome lawsuits like this one to talk about. Here’s some background information before we get into the heart of this case:

Boy, a tattoo artist, meets Girl. Girl is a nerd who has a thing for Narnia. Boy and Girl fall in love. Girl decides that in addition to Narnia, she has a thing for Boy’s best friend. Girl cheats on Boy, thinking Boy is none the wiser. Girl asks Boy for a Narnia tattoo. Boy finds out Girl’s dirty secret, and begins to plot his revenge….

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On Thanksgiving Day, while you were enjoying your turkey (or tofurkey), we wrote about a different bird: namely, the ostrich. In a somewhat snarky opinion, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit compared a lawyer appearing before him to an ostrich: “The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate. The ‘ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against a litigant’s contention does not exist is as unprofessional as it is pointless.’”

Ouch. Judge Posner even included a photo (above right) of a man in a suit burying his head in the sand.

What did the lawyer in question, David “Mac” McKeand of Houston, have to say for himself? And what did McKeand have to say about Judge Posner?

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Welcome, William and Mary law students!

Virginia is for Lovers, not Partiers. Law students in the Old Dominion State are not as much fun as we thought they were.

We recently wrote about a law school party — called the “Fall From Grace,” aptly enough — that supposedly spiraled out of control. According to an email from the Student Bar Association (SBA) at William and Mary School of Law, the raucous event featured law students “urinating on the bathroom floor, breaking a toilet paper dispenser, knocking over a flower pot, and engaging in inappropriate behavior” at the Williamsburg Crowne Plaza. This supposedly culminated in the Crowne Plaza calling W&M Dean Davison Douglas “to inform him that the law school is no longer welcome at the hotel.”

But now we’re hearing that this incident has been overblown, and that the law school has not been banned from the high-end Holiday Inn at Fort Magruder….

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I bet William and Mary Law students are still allowed to party in Colonial Williamsburg.

It’s been a while since we had a story about an entire law school student body getting banned forever from a party venue. I think maybe the last school law to have this public shame was Tulane? I know things got pretty crazy at the UC Davis Law “prom” last year, but they didn’t get banned from anywhere.

But apparently neither of these schools has anything on the law students at William and Mary. According to the school’s Student Bar Association, the conduct of the students has been so disorderly that they’re running out of places in Williamsburg willing to host law school events.

Man, I guess you can see why a lady like Laura Flippin (she of the alleged .253 BAC) is on the William and Mary Board of Visitors….

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Gun hard!

Last week, we told you about some law students who were holding tryouts — and charging a $20 application fee — to fill the final two spots in their study group.

The students in the group were roundly mocked. Charging an application fee made demanding an undergraduate transcript from applicants pale by comparison.

Now, if the school had been a place like UVA Law, the student body would have gotten defensive and lashed out about how the study group post “didn’t tell the full story.” They’d whine about how the study groupers didn’t “represent” the student body. They’d claim that ATL “planted” the poster, because we “had it in” for the school.

But some students at the Georgia State University College of Law didn’t feel the need to defend their school or the silly students in the study group. They realized that nobody would impute the toolish behavior of a few 1Ls to an entire institution.

Instead, they chose to have a bit of fun with it. Confidence and a sense of humor are beautiful things….

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Judge Maryesther Merlo. Who will play her in the movie? Suggestions welcome.

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Judge Rae Lee Chabot, a state court judge in Michigan. Judge Chabot was accused of taking three-hour lunch breaks and long shopping trips to the Gap, in the middle of the workday.

I wrote in defense of Judge Chabot, whose judicial work was well-regarded despite her, ummm, flexible work schedule. I opined that “[a]s long as a judge is reasonably current with his docket, he should be left alone. There is no face-time requirement for judges.”

But even I would have a hard time defending the latest judicial diva under fire, Judge Maryesther Merlo of Allentown District Court in Pennsylvania. Judge Merlo — or make that ex-judge Merlo, since she just got removed from the bench — allegedly missed 116 days of work, from September 2007 to December 2009. That amounts to over 23 weeks, in a period of about two years.

And that’s not all Maryesther Merlo stands accused of. Her treatment of defendants appearing before her may have strayed beyond the merely tough into the downright rude….

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(Not that she spent much time on it anyway.)

Want to join them? Bring a writing sample -- and twenty bucks.

In some imperceptible yet significant way, the experience of American legal education has reached a new low.

We all feel this. Between tuition that is out of control, deans who don’t tell the truth, and students who are willing to fight other students to the death to get jobs in a market where there aren’t enough to go around, law school feels like less of a good experience than it used to be.

And we feel that in the air even if we can’t put our finger on it. And then we see something like what’s happening at one state law school, and the whole sad experience of getting a legal education in America suddenly has a new mascot.

Today we have a flyer from a group of three 1Ls who want to hold “tryouts” for the other two members of their study group. We’ve seen this type of thing before — remember the study group at a top-ten law school that required a transcript? — but this latest application process takes things to another level.

This study group wants to charge people $20 for the opportunity to try out….

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Years ago, I saw a memo written by a law firm partner who was renowned for mistreating junior partners, associates, staff, and lost children who wandered in the front door looking for their parents. But this memo showed a whole different personality. The memo was directed to a practice leader who had solicited comments about how best to expand the practice. (In case you’re wondering, the memo was distributed widely by mistake. The practice leader told his assistant to gather in one document all of the comments about how to improve the practice, so the comments could be shared and everyone could discuss the ideas at an upcoming meeting. The assistant then took all of the unedited inbound memos and assembled them in a single packet that she distributed to the entire group. Voilà! There was the ogre’s memo, for all to read.)

The ogre’s memo was breathtakingly — what’s the right word here? — “solicitous” to the practice leader: “I’ll satisfy your request for suggestions about how to expand this practice area further, but we should first acknowledge what you’ve achieved to date. When you were appointed to lead this practice ten years ago, everyone thought you’d been sent on a fool’s errand. No one thought it was possible for our firm to compete in this space. We had no cases in the area and none of our lawyers had any expertise. But you’ve defied all the odds. You’ve made this practice one of the great success stories in the firm. You deserve endless praise for what you’ve done, and I want you to know how much we respect — indeed, admire — you.” And so on.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand the fine art of sucking up. (I’m not much good at it, but I understand it.) And I appreciate the wisdom of people like the ogre who try to do their sucking up in private. But I don’t understand folks who do these things publicly. Can’t we control at least the public manifestations of unequal treatment being accorded to people who matter to you and people who don’t?

What am I thinking of?

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Last week, we told you the story about a University of Chicago Law School student who received an offer and found a charitable way of bragging about it to his friends.

I should have known that we’d end up doing a series of posts about this. “Bragging” about getting an offer is something that everybody does in their own way, and something that rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

And so our next installment of law student puffery involves photos, which is always fun. But in truth we can’t be totally sure if this guy is bragging about getting an offer.

Given the firm the kid is bragging about, he might just be happy to be there…

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