Michigan

In past columns I wrote about how a lawyer and a judge use iPads as part of their daily routine. And there’s a good reason that iPads were the first tablets discussed; it’s because the vast majority of lawyers who use tablets in their practices choose the iPad. In fact, according to the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey, 84% of lawyers surveyed who used tablets preferred the iPad and only 10% used Android devices, with the remaining 6% using other types of tablets.

The lawyer I’ll be featuring today, Scott Bassett, is one of the 6%. Scott is a solo practitioner who lives in Florida with a practice focused on Michigan appellate work, and his tablet of choice is the Sony Digital Paper model #DPT-S1. Even though his Sony tablet costs more, he prefers it over the iPad because it’s versatile and substantially lighter: “My tablet is so thin and light you barely know you’re carrying it. At $1,100 it costs nearly twice as much as the iPad, but weighs half as much as the iPad Air. Not only is it lighter, it has a full-size, 13.5-inch screen, so documents appear on my screen full size. It’s a better screen than the iPad Kindle app because of the backlit LCD screen. It’s much easier to read and offers better reading comfort when you’ve got hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to read through. And, the batteries last nearly an entire month.”

What are some of its other advantages?

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Calm down, affirmative action supporters, calm down. Yes, the Supreme Court just gave every state the authority to ban affirmative action in college admissions if they so choose. Yes, Stephen Breyer sided with the majority. Yes, this all looks incredibly bad if you think that race should be at least as allowable a consideration for admission as whether or not an applicant’s daddy went to the school.

But nothing is f**ked here dude. Not really. Colleges will still use some form of race-conscious admissions policies, even state schools. Affirmative action works and nothing that happened today will change that. The Court just made it more likely that admissions committees will have to get creative when putting together a diverse class of students…

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‘We’re not Case Western Law.’

* Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t quite ready to publicly weigh in on whether computer data is considered a protected “effect” under the Fourth Amendment. “[T]hat may well come up [before the Supreme Court],” he says. Thanks NSA. [Business Insider]

* “[I]t doesn’t take many bad apples in a barrel to cause a stink.” No matter how hard Biglaw firms try to keep their confidential information locked down, someone’s going trade on it. It looks like STB is learning that the hard way. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The day after Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Judge Bernard Friedman, couples who rushed to marry were met with some serious Sixth Circuit sadness. Way to stay and spoil all of the celebrations, judges. [New York Times]

* “We’re not the Cleveland Browns,” says one of Case Western Law’s interim co-deans. With that kind of a glowing endorsement, we don’t see how this law school could possibly fail. [Crain's Cleveland Business]

* Rutgers Law-Newark has a new low-bono fellowship program “believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.” Some other law schools might have a bone to pick about that statement. [New Jersey Star-Ledger]


With the death of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan, federal judges are hiring law clerks earlier and earlier in students’ law school careers. We recently wondered — jokingly, but only half-jokingly — whether 1Ls should start applying for clerkships.

So federal judges should be keenly interested in the insights of young legal minds — especially minds being cultivated at the Yale Law School, the nation’s #1 law school (according to both the U.S. News rankings and the Above the Law rankings). Right?

Well, just because a judge wants your advice as a law clerk doesn’t mean he wants to hear from you as an expert witness. A current Yale law student recently learned this lesson the hard way….

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Judge Ito? Have some of my burrito!

None of what happened in this unusual case would ever have occurred if this law clerk had done his job of minding the jury with proper care, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown diner.

F. Anthony Lubkin, an attorney who was jailed for contempt of court for five days after saying the words “guilty,” “not guilty,” and “innocent” in the presence of an impaneled jury in a murder case he was not associated with. The Michigan Court of Appeals later vacated the contempt order.

The Michigan Legislature recently passed the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” into law. Under the new law, women and employers must buy an optional insurance rider for abortion coverage. Abortions will only be covered without a rider if the mother’s life is in medical danger. The law also specifically allows for the treatment of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

Detractors referred to the bill as requiring “rape insurance.” Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D – East Lansing) said, “This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have thought ahead and planned for it.”

If there were such a thing as rape insurance, I surely would buy it. What woman (or likely future prison inmate) wouldn’t? No, this is abortion insurance, not rape insurance.

What the opponents of the new Michigan law seem to conveniently overlook when choosing their inflammatory and misleading rhetoric: (1) Abortion does not fully, meaningfully address the harms of rape. (2) Rape does not necessarily, or even usually, involve abortion. (3) Foreseeing an individual need for abortion insurance does not require extraordinary foresight. But let’s look a little more closely at what’s going on in Michigan . . . .

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We’re now in year two of the Michigan “let’s make the bar exam more difficult” plan. In 2012, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners changed the weight it gives to the essay questions, with the goal of producing lawyers with a better understanding of state law. I don’t know, there are probably all sorts of things that don’t apply to automakers in Michigan that you’d never see on the Multistate section.

This makes the bar more difficult and more stupid at the same time. It’s harder to answer an essay question than a multiple choice event where you can make an educated guess, but it’s also dumber to administer a “standardized” test that relies heavily on the individual tastes of essay graders.

In any event, the results from the July 2012 bar exam were predictably horrific. Only 55% of test takers passed the July 2012 test. Cooley totally embarrassed itself, even by Cooley standards, with only 42% of test takers from that school passing.

This year, 60% of test takers passed the July 2013 Michigan Bar. So that’s better, though still pretty rough. Cooley, again, covered itself in glory by posting a 43% pass rate. But all the law schools have complained about Michigan’s new, harder exam.

And the Michigan BOLE doesn’t care. Law schools in Michigan better raise their game, because the game ain’t changing….

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A tried and true trope of conservatives faced with the grim outcomes of their cockamamie schemes is to attempt to shame everyone into ignoring the human cost of their policies — ironically — out of respect for the people hurt. Something horrible happened, but it’s unseemly to try to explore why it happened, just sit back and let the moment pass and enjoy some bread and circuses until you forget.

We’ve seen it countless times before. It’s rhetorical standard operating procedure. After Sandy Hook, the usual suspects from Senator Rand Paul to the Washington Times decried the “cruel” and “shameful” “exploitation” involved in pointing out that putting military assault rifles on the street makes it easy for someone to kill a lot of kids very quickly. The tactic worked as it always does and time passed, people forgot, and nothing happened. It was only a week ago that Senator Ted Cruz suggested it was disrespectful of Trayvon Martin’s mother to lobby for changes based on her son’s death. I guess it was disrespectful to… Cruz? One would have thought his mom would be the right barometer of how to honor her son.

Now this trope is the subject of Tamara Tabo’s criticism of my article yesterday regarding the recent shooting of Renisha McBride because I noted the uptick in the “shoot first” culture brought on by Stand Your Ground laws (regardless of the fact that the law isn’t technically at play here).

Let’s unpack this and also look at some other misdirection being flung my way, shall we?

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As Joe wrote yesterday, a 19-year-old Detroit woman named Renisha McBride was fatally shot last weekend on the porch of a Dearborn Heights home. Her death has received national media attention because of the speculation that, as Joe put it, it follows “the same basic pattern of an African-American in a predominantly white neighborhood at night running afoul of a gun-toting homeowner.”

The family members of Renisha McBride issued a press statement last night asking for peace while they mourn and promising to meet with activist groups after Renisha’s funeral. The funeral is scheduled for today at 10 a.m.

Authorities have slowly released details related to the young woman’s death. Some of these details match the statements made by Renisha’s family. Some do not.

Before leapfrogging over the specifics of Renisha’s case and launching a politically motivated rant, let’s look at what we do and don’t know about the tragedy that occurred on that Dearborn Heights porch. If Renisha McBride is more than a political prop, she deserves at least that much . . . .

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So it’s happened again. Another state, another neighborhood, another young black person shot to death by someone based on a loose, subjective “fear.” This time it’s Michigan, and it’s a young woman instead of a teenage boy, but otherwise it’s the same basic pattern of an African-American in a predominately white neighborhood at night running afoul of a gun-toting homeowner.

There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the prevalence of “Stand Your Ground” laws (which Michigan boasts), followed by the equal and opposite reaction loudly pointing out that Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply to this particular case (which it doesn’t).

However, while what happened in Michigan may not invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law, the existence and high-profile nature of laws that lower the standard for legally forgivable gunplay has everything to do with what happened in Michigan…

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