New York State

Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.)

It’s hard out here for authors of judicial memoirs who are not named Sonia Sotomayor. Just ask Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.), a federal trial judge in Brooklyn since 1994 and the author of an appealing new book, Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge (affiliate link). In Disrobed, Judge Block describes his surprising rise from small-town Long Island lawyer to Article III aristocracy, where he has presided over cases involving the Crown Heights riots, Kitty Genovese, mob boss Peter Gotti, and other headline-making subjects.

The book has received several favorable notices. Writing in the New York Times, Sam Roberts described Disrobed as an “engaging” book that provides “a rare look behind decision-making on the federal bench.” Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield called the memoir a “well-written,” “easy and quick read,” by a “quite well-regarded” judge. I’ve read the book myself, and I concur with Roberts and Greenfield.

But even though the book has sold well, exceeding the expectations of its publisher, Thomson Reuters, Disrobed hasn’t attained the bestselling status of Justice Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (affiliate link). And this makes Judge Block a little sad, as he confessed to me when I recently visited him in chambers.

Especially because Judge Block came painfully close to what would have been a big, big break….

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Unlike when the New York bar exam results were released in early November, we’re not experiencing a hurricane-induced blackout. But today, some people might wish that they were experiencing a different kind of hurricane-induced blackout (one that involves alcohol, not nature), because we’ve finally got a list of the passage rates for the July 2012 administration of the New York bar exam by law school.

Last year, more than half of the state’s law schools were able to improve their pass rates over the prior year’s results. This year, more than half of the state’s law schools saw a decline in their pass rates, and in some cases, epically so. The state’s pass rate for first-time takers dropped a whole percentage point, due in part to the law schools’ reversal in fortune.

So which law schools’ pass rates tumbled, and by how much?

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Feline Riot

Seven members of Pussy Riot.

This website has been sadly bereft of Pussy Riot coverage. Sadly, because typing the words “Pussy Riot” is fun. Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot. If you don’t know of what I speak, here’s a quick crash course on all things Pussy and Riot. They’re a female punk band in Russia and, this August, three of their members were convicted of something called hooliganism because of a performance that took place in an Orthodox Christian cathedral, where the band shouted anti-Putin slogans and railed against the Orthodox Church’s support of the Russian president. Comprende?

Well, like that Che Guevara shirt you thought was so transgressive at the time and now looks like nothing more than the celebration of conformity and a youthful attempt to graft meaning onto an otherwise whitebread, boring upbringing, the Pussy Riot gals have transcended politics to become something even greater. Namely, fashion. The lasses of Pussy Riot have inspired lame middle class American kids to start wearing balaclavas.

If you don’t know what a balaclava is, don’t despair. I had to look it up too. It’s just a ski mask.

But contra Freud, the state of New York believes that sometimes a ski mask is not just a ski mask. Sometimes, it’s a criminal act…

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Well, isn’t this a nice surprise! The results of the July 2012 administration of the New York bar exam have been released — ahead of schedule, as it turns out. And this time it appears to be an intentional rather than accidental release.

The New York State Board of Law Examiners previously stated that it would announce the results tomorrow, Friday, November 2. But NY BOLE went ahead and made results available to applicants tonight, at around 10 p.m. or so.

Keep reading, for a link to the results page and commentary from Above the Law readers….

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In May, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon the state’s would-be lawyers in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement. Last month, we found out that the new rule was “much better than it could have been,” since it allowed for the mandatory pro bono hours to be completed anywhere and at any time, including during bar admittees’ law school years.

That really doesn’t sound as bad as everyone thought it was going to be. The “justice gap” will be closed, the importance of public interest work will be stressed to new lawyers (even though existing lawyers will continue to maintain only an aspirational call to perform pro bono work), and everyone will hold hands, sing “Kumbaya,” and call it a day. At least that’s how Lippman envisioned it.

But now that everyone’s gotten used to the fact that New York’s pro bono rule is here to stay, some additional analysis has been performed by law schools statewide. Oh, you thought that the state’s “justice gap” was going to just disappear? Yeeeaaahhh, about that….

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Back in May, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon would-be lawyers in the state, in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement.

It was at that point that people started losing their minds. Some likened the decree to indentured servitude, while others called it “utterly wrongheaded.” Even law schools were pissed off about the requirement, citing worries that the requirement constituted a “significant barrier to entry” to those who attended law school outside of New York State.

Now, just four months later, Judge Lippman has unveiled the details of his pro bono plan — and, to tell you the truth, they’re really not that bad. What’s in store for future New York bar examinees?

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Today, we’ve got a tale for our readers about a lawyer from upstate New York who seems to be the epitome of a DUI defense lawyer’s worst nightmare. As the old saying goes, “the third time’s the charm,” but apparently when it comes to this guy and allegations of drinking and driving, the third time’s when you get caught with an alleged prostitute in your car.

Did we mention that the accused prostitute once starred in a reality television show, Wife Swap? That’s certainly not going to help this fellow keep the allegations under wraps….

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... a damn about law students.

Back in May, we noted that New York would be implementing a new prerequisite for admission to the state’s bar: all would-be attorneys must complete 50 hours of pro bono work before being allowed to practice in the Empire State.

This initiative was Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s latest attempt to mete out justice for all, but it was not well received by all sides. Some have likened the pro bono requirement to indentured servitude; others have thrown up their hands in frustration and called the move “utterly wrongheaded.”

At first, it seemed like only in-state bar examinees and law schools had reason to worry. Now, out-of-state law schools are stepping up to the plate to complain about Lippman’s requirement. Details for the rule’s implementation still haven’t been drafted — in fact, out-of-state schools weren’t even invited when the Chief Judge’s advisory committee last met in July. Law schools and law graduates alike have been kept in an uneasy waiting period while all of the minutiae get worked out.

But for out-of-state law schools, the worst part of this waiting period is the uncertainty about whether this pro bono requirement will come at a cost to students….

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I can now perform 'mawwages.'

On Friday, I took a little trip to the New York County Clerk’s office to become registered as a marriage officiant in the state of New York.

Let me say that again: I can now legally marry people. Like a mayor. Or a ship’s captain.

Going through the process of becoming a marriage officiant has given me a wonderful look at the state of our marriage laws, and my hours at the clerk’s office were the perfect icing. Let me say just say that the closer you get to the legal process of marriage, the more ridiculous gay marriage opponents appear.

I mean, come on, if I can legally marry people, how “sacred” or “traditional” is the institution of marriage really? Besides, have you looked at some of the man/woman combinations that are getting married these days? I just think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fists at Him and say, “Instead of helping the poor or sick or infirm, we’re all going to eat chicken sandwiches to show that we’ll defend as sacred something that can be done in two hours at the freaking clerk’s office.”

Let’s just say that the number of gay people getting marriage licenses was dwarfed by the number of men standing their with pregnant girlfriends looking like their balls were being held in a vise grip….

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Is the bar exam like a rat race? Well, when there are actual rats in the building....

If you just completed the 2012 bar exam, congratulations. For many of you, the bar exam will be the last test you ever take in your life. How good does that feel?

Special congratulations to those of you who just emerged from three days of bar exam misery, either because you took the bar in a state with a three-day test or because you took the bar in two different states. I took the New York and New Jersey bar exams back to back — and I had to take New York up in Albany, which meant hours of driving with a fried mind — so I feel your pain.

Pain and the bar exam go hand in hand. Earlier this week, we shared with you bar exam horror stories from Virginia and North Carolina.

Today we have many more bar exam dispatches. Read on for stories of horror and heroism, reports of rodents and other creepy critters, and claims of shady behavior….

UPDATE (7/27/2012, 11 AM): Please note the UPDATE appended below regarding the Virginia bar exam.

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(And more horror stories from across the land.)

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