if justice is blind... Sua Sponte
My law school odyssey: three years, three time zones and beyond.


Stop what you're doing, quickly! You're not worthy! Bow to Mecca!!!

(Link courtesy of Hose Monster. No offense intended to any Muslim readers.)

Wholly brand equity, Batman!

thus spake /jca @ 8:31 PM...


The sunrise train features its own cast of usual suspects. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning I come trudging downtown to the station and see much the same people waiting: the same woman who from twenty paces looks exactly like my college roommate Laura; the same group of loud high school kids who make a point of greeting each other volubly as they're dropped off, one after another, in the parking lot on the far side of the tracks ("HI CHRIS!!!"); the same three Mexican sous-chefs who ride bicyles, speak rapid Spanish, and wear some of the most remarkably-patterned cotton pants I've ever seen first thing in the morning.

Sometimes the light rail arrives before the sunrise train, letting off a load of two-segment commuters who can't catch Caltrain in their hometowns. On those days, we all share the trip northward with perhaps the most remarkable passenger: a tall, sandy-haired blind man, accompanied by a yellow Labrador retriever on a leather harness. I always have to restrain my urge to pet Seeing Eye dogs, since they are invariably so calm and sweet-looking and focused on the task at hand. This one in particular has big soulful eyes and seems peacefully resigned to his day job.

I want a dog.

MUNI, on the other hand, is a different story. On Caltrain, I duck upstairs to the single-file seats, huddle in with a casebook in my lap, and am usually asleep by Hillsdale. But MUNI is designed to be a short-haul system, so the seats are plastic, there are hang-on handles suspended from the ceiling for people who don't sit down, and the stops are more frequent and closely-spaced. (I still, on bad mornings, manage to lean forward and rest my forehead on the telescoping handle of my pullman bag as the trolley jolts from one stop to the next...anything to gain another fifteen minutes of dozing time before arriving at school.)

MUNI passengers, too, are a more diverse crew than the Caltrain folks. Last week I was roused from my doze by one of those overpowering odors that make it almost impossible to inhale. I opened my eyes and first saw a pair of muddied shoes standing a few feet away to my right. Sitting up, I beheld one of the most massive homeless men I've ever seen. He risked scraping his frowzy head on the ceiling of the trolley. He left a path through the air. I held my breath until my stop and had difficulty breathing for the rest of the morning; the memory of the scent still feels like choke.

Or, during a busy rush hour, someone will come onto the trolley in a wheelchair. Normally this is hardly an issue, since at the Caltrain station the MUNI usually stops at a platform. Recently, however, construction at that intersection has compelled the trolleys to disgorge their passengers about a block away, which involves lowering the steps and having people exit at ground level. Within a few days of the rank giant, I shared a trolley with a paralytic in a wheelchair whose limbs were contorted in a way that must be awfully frustrating if they're yours: his arms bent at the elbow, forearms stuck straight up, and hands frozen into twists at the top. I looked away so as not to offend, but then I heard the guy cough.


It was a crowded trolley, and the standing commuters hanging on to the ceiling handles were squirming to get out of the way of the incoming coughs. The poor guy couldn't cover his mouth while his hands were stuck in a permanent stick'em-up position, so the rest of us, none of whom wanted to get sick, buried our faces in our sleeves and dodged out the other door as soon as the MUNI stopped. I never did see how they got his chair down the steps.

Still, absent significant worsening of the risk of physical harm, my commute beats the hell out of the available alternative. Few things on earth are worse than Bay Area traffic (maybe Los Angeles traffic is one of those, but I won't go there...literally). At least on the trains, the people you watch while people-watching are utterly devoid of road rage.

thus spake /jca @ 4:08 PM...


Incredible, how diverse our law school experiences all manage to be even within the 1L formula. The folks at Open and Notorious are going through an El-Dubyar-like experience in what they've dubbed "Brute Court," while my own Moot Court experience has turned out to be a blessed relief from the rest of my semester. I can spend a few hours working on my brief and, implausibly, feel better than when I started.

Meanwhile, the Angry Clam praises Property as the one item on his schedule that doesn't clearly conflict with his politics. Once again, I envy him. Somehow, the chemistry of my section, my casebook and Professor Property taken as a whole manages to infuriate me so much that my scalp actually itches. Case after case, property law seems to deal solely with the transcendent ability of choicely-located individuals to spirit away various rights of the people who actually paid for the property.

This has to be misguided. However much fun it may be for the Property-Teaching Establishment to gloat over nonpurchasers successfully usurping piecemeal ownership rights from the folks actually paying the mortgage, emphasizing the policy advantage of shafting corporate entities in particular, I have to believe that the law in reality will take better care of me when I shell out the big bucks and make my life's investment. I'm OK with spring guns and traps for trespassers being illegal. Really, I am. I can deal with that. But it can't be so easy for people to go traipsing through my yard, camping in my woods, beating paths through the redwood logs strewn on my beach, and wind up having the right to be there merely because I failed to sic a Rottweiler on them. (My husband is allergic to Rottweilers, anyway.)

I went to Professor Property's office hours this afternoon to try and sort this through, which I think now might have been a mistake. I don't think she likes me. To a certain extent it's tough to tell, since she never attempted to end the conversation, nor did she recognize that I was doing so when I stood up, picked up my papers (ten minutes later), or started inching toward the door (after another ten minutes). She also remains one of the most stunningly beautiful women I've ever seen, and it's tough to parse ill will out of her huge dark eyes, perfect skin, and unfurrowed brow.

Still, the entire time I was there I felt under attack. Sparring with Professor Crim was one thing; but he didn't interrupt me, nor I him, to pre-empt an argument or to generalize a premise to an absurd extreme. No, Professor Property, I do not support racially-based standards of exclusion, nor would I kick my parents out onto the street. I'm actually not that evil a person at all, if you can imagine. I simply have difficulty rousing sympathy for people like the plaintiffs in Rase v. Castle Mountain Ranch, folks who built their vacation homes on land that someone else owned in the mistaken belief that he'd never sell it. And so on.

Conclusion, after an hour of this: I need to get over it, find a way to shut down my own worldview, dissemble, misrepresent, come up with phrases like "Trust is a basic human commodity! If we could all trust each other then society would be a better place!" on the exam policy questions under the guise of "arguing both sides," and just tough it out for another six weeks. It's going to get worse before it gets better; we haven't even begun future interests yet. But it will, some day soon, actually end.

Faster, please...

thus spake /jca @ 6:31 PM...


Preregistration for next semester fast approaches, bringing all sorts of baggage that I have no desire to carry these days. So let's not go there. Anyways, boiled down to its essence, we've basically been given our marching orders: rack up two semesters of Con Law; one each of Evidence, Crim Pro, Wills & Trusts, Corporations, and Remedies; two credits of Professional Responsibility/Ethics (which gets its own quasi-bar-esque exam); and a course in Community Property since this is, after all, California; and *whee*! we're magically ready for the bar exam.

Or something.

I suppose it would bother me more if the available pool of alternatives were brimming with the kinds of courses I feel most interested in, such that I found myself faced with a real choice. Alas, a cursory perusal of the course catalog yields only one offering remotely related to the Internet, a seminar helpfully characterized as a "one credit mini-course." Smurfy, Papa Smurf! Maybe I can take it twice!

Sorry, I thought I was going to manage something more upbeat than this post. I don't want Sua Sponte to turn into my depressive sulking-place, so I'll be back when I've bucked up a bit.

thus spake /jca @ 11:13 PM...


A Moot Court horoscope!

G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

Getting started isn't easy for you. Luckily, this condition is temporary. By the end of the day, nothing can stop you. The first few decisions are the hardest. After that, logic and ability feed on each other in an upward spiral. For an Earth Sign, you have the look of someone who's on fire. You wonder why you ever doubted your common sense. Throw away bad advice and hold the truth aloft in triumph. Your brain is your best feature, although other parts of you are worthy of equal praise. You could listen to them talk all night long.

You couldn't make these up.

(Well, I guess someone must, but *I* couldn't.)

thus spake /jca @ 10:19 PM...

This might be it for my Moot Court brief. "Final drafts" are due tomorrow, but then again they were due last week and will probably be due again next week, not to mention after we get back from spring break and this time they mean it. Still, I get the sense that I'm almost there. Not much more real writing to do on this baby.

My good-natured instructor, who doesn't even get peeved when nagging students like me schedule review meetings with him in town on Friday afternoons, tended to agree. "You've got a great paper here," said he, "maybe three or four more hours of work and you'll be done." Hence my schedule for the evening.

"Of course you'll put more into it than that," said my husband, who went on to disapprove of the fact that I invariably waited until Monday night to redraft stuff due Tuesday afternoon.

Every so often I'll have one of those gosh-how-law-school-has-changed-me moments, and this is one. Great paper, only four more hours of work left!? As an undergraduate I would have maybe spent four hours total on two drafts tops, and that for a class with an actual grade. But now it's different. The whole legal-writing experience has been so damaging for me that now I'm almost like a crocus peeking up from a snowdrift, nervous and guarded, and to hear someone call a paper of mine great feels rather aberrant. I'm almost afraid to trust his assessment. It's too positive.

I'm going to be really, really pissed if last semester left me saddled with a post-traumatic stress disorder.

thus spake /jca @ 8:57 PM...

In today's email:

Subject: 2003 Summer Externship

Dear Ms. A...:

Thank you for your interest in an externship with [district judge] for the 2003 summer semester. We regret that we shall not be able to offer you the position, but wish to thank you for taking the time to come in and interview with us.

As I am sure you will understand, the number of qualified applicants far exceed the limited resources of this office, thus forcing us to make difficult choices.

Your resume is very impressive, and we wish you great success in your legal career.

Sincerely yours,

[judge's assistant]

Whoomp! There it is.

thus spake /jca @ 6:42 PM...

I am now officially a schlemiel.

This morning, for some reason, I wasn't in the mood for my standard sandwich from the school cafeteria (smoked turkey, havarti, sun dried tomatoes, and shredded lettuce on a tortilla spread with pesto sauce, light on the oil, cut in half and each half wrapped to go, please) and decided to try one of their always yummy-smelling soups. Today's treat was a potage of curried butternut squash with apples, which Ali (who can recommend good Persian restaurants anywhere in the Bay Area) warned me was spicy. It wasn't. I took a cup of it along with my daily cup of green tea and paid $3.25 for the lot.

This left me in the fun position of balancing one boiling-hot cardboard cup on top of another as I dragged my pullman bag behind me with my other hand. I had to pause, every so often, to shift my burning fingers around on the lower cup. Fortunately, I managed to cross the street and even climb up the few concrete stairs in front of the classroom building without incident, cups-holding hand extended out in front of me.

"Wow," said someone I didn't know, admiring my balance as I negotiated the stairs. "That's a talent."

"Actually, it's dumb luck," I smiled back, which was true. I've never been known for the grace of my movements, and can, if I'm not careful, trip over my own feet while standing still.

But my luck seemed to be holding as I opened the door and walked into the classroom building. There, in the lobby, some friends from my section were manning a bake sale table for my journal. I stopped to buy a brownie (our editor-in-chief makes incredible brownies) and was disappointed to find that they were fresh out, but instead picked up two fifty-cent chocolate cookies.

M. checked the clock and remarked that she needed to run back to her apartment and grab her stuff before Property; K. did too. I offered to stay with V. and run the table until they got back, which was fine with everyone. "This isn't bad," I said of the cookie I munched, as I set down my cups and sat in M.'s chair behind the bake sale table. "I paid for two, right? Let me--"

Leaning forward over my cups was a bad idea.

Both lids popped off in perfect synch, splashing curried-butternut-squash soup and green tea all across the bake sale table. I swore floridly and immediately clutched at the roll of paper towels, managing to contain the flood before it hit any of the baked goods on paper plates. V. sprang up and did the same on the other half of the table, half-laughing and half-chanting "It's OK, it's OK, don't worry, we'll just clean it up quickly."

"Oh jeez," said a customer as she cream-cheesed her freshly purchased bagel, "what a mess...you've got some in your hair, too, and on your clothes..."

She was right. My hair and even my eyelashes were sticky with tea and soup, and a big orange splash had landed front-and-center on my black T-shirt. "Good! Good!" I said, working my optimism as hard as I could. "Get all my bad luck out of the way early, then this will be a good day!"

V. and I cleaned up the rest of the table, drawing the attention of a number of passersby who went on to purchase baked goods almost certainly out of sympathy. I buttoned up the cardigan of my twinset, which successfully hid the gunk, but was unable to mop it all out of my hair. Said hair still crunches when I fiddle with it.

So today was Property and no lunch, a combination that left me grossly crabby. I did have a blood orange in my bag, and ran to the cafe a few doors down for a piece of baklava...but still, dinner sounds like an excellent idea.

I'll just have to be extra careful not to spill it.

thus spake /jca @ 5:08 PM...


G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

You wonder about the people who often seem guided by whim and inspiration. You're jealous of how effortless their lives appear, and how unconcerned they seem with little things like perfection. These days you're burning the midnight oil, throwing away ideas and drafts, trying to come up with something that actually works. What seems possible at night may not hold up under a daylight scrutiny. Know your limits when you reach them, preferably before someone else says no. Maybe you should move to a situation that would actually welcome your fertile mind.

thus spake /jca @ 8:12 PM...


I'm not usually a blame-shifter, nor do I normally buy in to group-based politics. But this article from a school over on the other coast hooked me with its take on why certain groups of people, including women -- particularly ones with a history of overachievement -- set themselves up to do poorly in law school. Hmmm.

thus spake /jca @ 11:34 PM...


Past ten-thirty PM. Husband still not home from work. Dinner tonight was two blood oranges, a few almonds, a piece of toast, some buttermilk, and two (thus far) glasses of wine.

I suppose I should be reading Contracts, but instead I'm going nuts with Limewire downloading old jazz MP3's. They always work. I've got Billie Holliday doing "One For My Baby" and Ella Fitzgerald doing "Black Coffee" and...yeah.

You'd never know it
but buddy, I'm a kind of poet
and I've gotta lot of things to say
And when I'm gloomy
you simply gotta listen to me
until it's talked away...

Blood oranges are delicious.

thus spake /jca @ 10:37 PM...

Earlier this week, folks at UMich held an Affirmative Action Bake Sale -- charging different prices for a bagel depending on the ethnicity of the purchaser. Guess who got the best deal.

Chocolate irony: bake sales are the #1 fundraiser for nearly every student organization at my school, my very-pro-affirmative-action journal being no exception.

(Link courtesy of Kitchen Cabinet.)

thus spake /jca @ 8:52 PM...

Michigan's brief is online. Whee!

(Link courtesy of Rule 11).

Edit: MuteKevin directed me to the petitioner's brief as well -- thanks!

thus spake /jca @ 8:30 PM...


It struck me as odd, back last week, that only one exam awaited me at the official show-your-ID pickup station. I already had both my Torts and Contracts responses in my possession, so the pickup should have completed my collection with both Civ Pro and Crim. Sure enough, there was Crim, and as it turned out I had blown the exact question I'd feared and perfectly nailed everything else. But Civ Pro was notably absent.

"There should be another exam of mine there," I told the flunky behind the desk, and repeated my exam number.

"Nope, that's it," he replied.

I emailed Professor Civ Pro wondering why his exams hadn't made it to the pickup station. He responded, inscrutable as ever, that he reserved the right to reuse the exam questions and thus was refusing to release either the exam itself or any student answers.

"Can he do that?" I ranted to C. I hadn't noticed any of his previous exams missing from the lawbrary archive.

"He's Professor Civ Pro," she responded, which was true.

So I trundled to his office hours, which on Thursdays are late enough that I expected them to be sparsely attended. M. showed up with a question on issue preclusion (kicks self for still not having begun Civ Pro outline), but the only real takers were my Moot Court buddy P. and myself.

Professor Civ Pro equipped us each with our own answer and a handful of A answers to compare, then packed us into the faculty break room across the hall from his office. "You did fine on the first question," he told me before sending me off. "Frankly, if you'd done as well on the second question, you'd have had an A." I guess that's good to know, although learning of a near-miss is never a happy thought.

And it looked like a near-miss to me. Comparing my Erie answer to the benchmark, they looked more or less the same to me. After about fifteen minutes of mutual brow-furrowed silence, P. couldn't stand it any more and mentioned the same thing: "This person got three points for saying [particular phrase]. I said [virtually identical particular phrase] and only got an underline with No! No! No!!! and lots of exclamation points."

Professor Civ Pro's grading voodoo is this: he will underline issues, then add a check mark over his underlining to indicate who-knows-what. If he likes a particular sentence in your answer, he'll scrawl a number next to it in the margin (usually said sentence is also underlined and check-marked, although sometimes it's only underlined, and a check mark without a number still means no points). Sometimes he seasons his underlining -- usually in the absence of a check mark -- with a flurry of question marks, an all caps "NO!!!" or "WHY???", or some other similarly-inflected monosyllable followed by extreme punctuation. In the end, what winds up mattering is your raw score: the simple total of all the numbers in the margins, unaffected by the quantity of underlining, check-marking or !!!!?????.

I'd pulled a respectable raw score on the first essay, the one on personal jurisdiction, the one I knew that I could nail ever since he'd picked over my practice exam and showed me everything I was doing wrong. But somehow the same was not true for Erie: my raw score on the second essay was less than one-third that of my first.

P. went back into the professor's office first, while I in a fit of fussiness cleaned up the faculty break room. I threw away two empty vitamin jars, sorted the salt and pepper packets into separate piles, discarded all of the already-opened packets and the empty vial of contact lens solution. I straightened the magazines on the coffee table -- Science, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and the chick mags (Cosmopolitan & co) -- into their respective piles. Someone had scattered Christian tracts around the room; I arranged them in an empty napkin holder. I caught myself lining up the push pins scattered around the wall before I decided that I should probably just go wait in the hall before I broke something.

I'm not sure how the session went for P., who left the office soon after I took up my vigil outside the door. My own soured almost immediately, not because Professor Civ Pro was anything but congenial and supportive, but because in one fell swoop I realized exactly why I had tanked on the second question.

"Look at your previous paragraph," he said, when prompted to explain why near-identical sentences had earned the A answer three points and mine only one. "The Sibbach test isn't a constitutional test."


I blinked. My entire Erie analysis, while all the buzz-phrases were present, had been predicated on a sense that the entire issue was a constitutional one. But Professor Civ Pro sticks to his story; he wouldn't suggest that we frame an issue constitutionally and then change his mind. I haven't taken constitutional law. Where the hell did I come up with this?

And then I realized. I'd learned it from a flowchart, on a chalkboard, during discussion group.

I went to discussion religiously last semester, especially for Civ Pro where the TA seemed so brilliant and authoritative and helpful in cracking the professor's individual code. I'd been a first-semester 1L, addlepated as a matter of course, and latched onto every "Professor Civ Pro loves this, make sure you include it on your exam" pearl tossed before us in the wallow. Tell me more! How can I do well? You did well! I'll believe anything you say, anything!

This was where it had gotten me.

I looked back up at Professor Civ Pro, agog, not realizing there were tears in my eyes until one tickled my cheek. "Did a lot of people make this error?" I asked.

"A number of people did, actually."

"You want to know why?" I forced myself not to snarl; it wasn't his fault, it was mine, for being so gullible and prone to wooden nickels, and my TA's, yemach shemo, for lying to us all. "Discussion group."

Professor Civ Pro rolled his eyes and gave a spectacular groan. "They're not supposed to tell you things like this. You're supposed to go over hypos."

There was the explanation I'd been looking for, something to explain the disparity between my perfectly solid grades in Contracts and Crim and my shameful ones in Torts and Civ Pro. The discussion groups for the former had been unengaging and, in my view, uninformative, while the latter had been excellent, so key to understanding the professors, they'd really helped me make my outlines, prioritize the rules...

What a manifest idiot I was. I deserved those grades just for being so suggestible.

"This is excellent," said my husband. "You had the A, basically, and you know exactly what you need to do now."

"Yeah," I spat angrily, chugging a glass of P. and V.'s homebrewed Scotch ale. "Do my own studying, make my own outlines from scratch, and never go to another discussion group again."

thus spake /jca @ 9:45 PM...


Check it -- I won third prize, 2000 loyalty points, in the Valentine's Day Lexis Nexis contest. How's that for luck?

thus spake /jca @ 9:54 PM...

I certainly hope I'm not giving the impression that I'm some nose-in-the-air appellate elitist who nostril-sighs and rolls her eyes at the thought of being a trial lawyer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is this, or at least close to it: A jury, to me, is the scariest thing in the world.

Moot Court oral arguments are going to be entertaining precisely because they're in an appellate setting. It will, at least conceivably, be a rush to make a speech to and be questioned by a panel of folks who have all gone to law school and experienced this kind of thing before. If I were faced with a jury, on the other hand, the experience would almost certainly be no fun at all.

Part of my fear arises from the nature and composition of a jury. You know who's on juries? The mailman. Some college kid. My mother. Anyone who's ever tried to discuss law with my mother knows how much fun that is. And she is almost certainly not the only lawyerphobic person ever to attempt to evade jury duty by ranting "Our society is too litigious, I'll bet you this suit is frivolous" during voir dire. Meanwhile, there you are, arguing angels-dancing-on-a-pinhead to a dozen folks who all have someplace else they're supposed to be.

Another part comes from my own personality. I grew up unpopular and have never quite shaken the sense of pervasive hostility that's instilled in an eight-year-old by a bunch of other eight-year-olds shutting you out of a circle. The only time I've ever really fit in, down at a soul-granular level, with a group of my peers was in college. A randomly selected jury, meanwhile, is almost 100% unlikely to share the psycho-socio-intellectual composition of my alma mater. That's the crux of it: a jury is chosen to represent the parties' peers, not the attorneys'. I'd stand in front of them and, oh shit, be eight years old all over again.

So that, in brief, is the issue I have with trial advocacy. It is not derivative of some sense of appellate superiority. Those who think that way are entitled to do their opinions, but my own take is purely practical.

thus spake /jca @ 5:04 PM...


Out of luck today in Moot Court; other folks are catching on to my submit-the-draft-electronically-the-night-before strategy. Today's overheads detailed the picking-over not of my second draft, but of one submitted by counsel for petitioner. I guess it's only fair that both sides get equal air time.

I did, however, learn who my adversary will be in the oral-argument phase of the class. He's a guy named J. who, in a move of great bravery, volunteered to argue twice since there were twelve counsel for respondent and only eleven for petitioner. He'll face off with me and with P. in some succession. Hopefully I'll get to go first.

What is it about oral argument that's so shock-frightening and gooey-alluring at the same time? On one hand, I can't *wait* to throw aside the constructs of my legal writing efforts and just talk. But on the other hand, I can pretty well imagine the state my intestines will be in come the end of March. It's almost like a drug...there's the physical resistance, but then there's the high...

thus spake /jca @ 9:11 PM...


you know you're a woman hitting That Time In Your Life when...

...the x10 spy-camera window pops up; before closing it, you glance at the animation, panning up and down a provocatively-posed model and back and forth across a stone house.

And you lust after the house.

thus spake /jca @ 11:36 PM...

Argh, it's so late and my Moot Court argument redraft has yet to pick up any serious steam.

Half of my section failed to show up to Contracts last week for one reason or another, the one reason being that they were all grinding away at their own Moot Court briefs and the other being that they'd skipped town early to lengthen the long weekend even further. I don't want to fall into either trap. I need to power through this redraft in the next three or four hours and get it emailed out tonight.

My Moot Court instructor, bless his heart, has actually rewritten a page or two of my argument for me. Well, not for me exactly; he intended to put these rewrites up on his overhead projector last week as examples of the right way to structure the section, but the TA responsible for creating the overhead slides had failed to copy these pages. Still, with these in hand I'm more fortunate than most of my classmates, who as of yet have received no feedback (unless the instructor mail-dropped all of our corrected drafts today, which is possible but doubtful). On one hand, it's nice to see a real concrete example of what he's looking for. Unlike my El-Dubyar instructor, however, this guy doesn't seem to be interested in parroting. He hasn't handed me the answer because he wants to hear it repeated; instead, he wants me to reinvent it in my own words.

Ambient music: Rachmaninoff elegiac trios. They're going to have to be the first things to go, I think. Rachmaninoff, even at low volume, simply can't be background noise. (I highly recommend the elegiac trios, though. They're spirited and forceful and dramatic and everything that's wonderful about Rachmaninoff, plus they've got a brilliant cello part.)

thus spake /jca @ 9:15 PM...

Blogger's back! You'd think that getting acquired by Google would be cause for something other than a straight day of downtime. (Or was it just me?)

Anyways. It's snowing out on the other coast, a fact which arouses apathetic shrugs, Schadenfreude and/or semi-hysterical television news reports around here where it's sixty-five degrees out and didn't even rain today. Yahoo News says that this is the worst storm in 7 years, which [does some quick math] must mean that the Northeast hasn't gotten this much snow since the week-before-Christmas blizzard in 1995. I was there. I remember it.

[cue Elrond flashback]

I had a psychology final that day, for which I halfheartedly decided to show up. After roughly twenty straight hours (pausing for naps, bathroom breaks, and a bite to eat every so often) of labor, I had just finished my senior essay the night before. My printer promptly ran out of ink. St. Daniel loaned me his. There was no going outside to buy ink, no going outside unless you were stupid. I was stupid, that morning, shuffling up College Street, headed to my Cr/D/F[1] intro psych exam if I didn't freeze or break a limb on the treacherous icy sidewalk first. By the time the exam ended, there was barely sufficient visibility to fight my way back four blocks to my room.

One of my grandfathers died during that blizzard, a suitably dramatic end to a long illness. The roads were shut, the phone lines were out, and I sat in Connecticut and waited for plows and salt and technical support. Eventually, they all arrived as needed.

I wound up doing well enough on my senior essay to win distinction in the major, something I hadn't been expecting. And I passed intro psych.

The world looked like this. And now it does, again. Brava Erin for documenting it with such brilliant visuals; as ever, you spoil us.

[1] Cr/D/F = because pass-fail just oversimplified things. I guess they figured that if you got a D in a pass-fail class, that shouldn't count.

thus spake /jca @ 7:36 PM...


High-fives to Waddling Thunder, who is in a positive place after learning of his exam results. (Clifford Chance, here he comes!) Once again, WT, I find myself wishing I were you. At least one of us has it all together!

And a hug to Jeremy, who can't disclose his grades since his blog isn't anonymous. Remember (if this in fact applies to you) that an albatross is supposed to be a bird of good omen.

thus spake /jca @ 3:26 PM...


Returned home this evening to find a message on the answering machine. A clerk from one of the hitherto-silent district judges was seeking to schedule an interview with me. If, that is, I was still interested.

I swore.

"What?" asked my husband, coming into the kitchen.

"Federal district," I groaned. "That's a job I would have taken."

He blinked at the answering machine a few times, then began to exercise one of his sharpest skills: putting things in their place, including me. "This is an interview, not an offer, right?"

He was right, of course. It would mean an interview that couldn't possibly have been scheduled before the magistrate and the bankruptcy judge anyway, and almost certainly another perusal of my transcript. And it wouldn't be appellate work anyway, even if after a good gawk at the albatross they still decided I was acceptable company.

"True," I said, taking a deep breath. "And I've already had an offer. Already *accepted* an offer. I'm done. They should have called me sooner if they were serious."

"Damn straight."

Earlier this afternoon, I'd tried to explain to C. and K. why appellate work seemed more interesting than trial work. "At the appeal level, you're dealing with questions of law, while at the trial level it's mostly questions of fact," I said. "And I'm going to law school, not fact school."

"Wouldn't that be awesome -- to go to fact school?" C. grinned.

"And every day you could go home and say, I learned fifty new facts today." K. agreed.

"Like all the U.S. presidents!" C. giggled.

I tested myself and realized I still remembered most of the U.S. presidents. Whether or not this is an indicator of how much fun I'll have in an appellate externship is anyone's guess.

thus spake /jca @ 8:20 PM...

It's always embarrassing to find out about an annoying habit of yours when a group of your friends start imitating you and agreeing with each other. "Oh, that's so JCA!" "Omigawd, exactly!"

I have a natural fidget. My hands won't keep still. I come from an ethnic background that predisposes me to wave my hands around when I talk; I thought I managed to tame this tendency early on in school by grabbing hold of my laptop screen when I was called-on. I figured that nothing looked sillier than an older woman in a ninety-person section waving her hands around while she answered a question. Apparently I was wrong: a woman fiddling with her laptop screen looks sillier.

"You rub the corners!"
"You stroke the sides!"
"It's almost obscene the way you touch that thing!"

It seems I can't win. Now, whenever I catch myself reaching for the screen -- wouldn't want to offend anyone with my obscene laptop-fondling! -- I've adopted the anti-habit of joining my hands, either into a folded fist or palms together and fingertips splayed. But even this, it seems, is a practice that's unique enough to me to send folks into peals of laughter when someone else does it. "Hey, you look just like JCA!" "Yeah, that's totally a JCA thing!"

Called-on in Civ Pro this morning, I very deliberately kept one hand on the keyboard and allowed myself to wave the other around in a subdued kind of way, thumb and forefinger together. "Dude," I complained to D. after class, "now I have no idea what to do with my hands, y'all have made me so self-conscious."

"You shouldn't feel self-conscious! It's not annoying, it's endearing!" he replied.

I hope it is. I remember an instance from my childhood, watching through a window as my mother spoke with someone outside. When she came back into the house, I expressed admiration that she spoke sign language. "I don't speak sign language!" she replied. "I just saw you doing it," I insisted. This was, of course, back in the days before laptops.

Maybe it's just cute when other people do it.

thus spake /jca @ 12:23 PM...


D'oh! Now everyone has to buy tomorrow's paper, too.

Subject: law student ad publication delayed by NYT

OK, here's what we know: the NYT says they rescheduled our ad because of increased national news. They make decisions about which ads to prioritize based on the "equity" each advertiser has with the paper. It is now scheduled to run tomorrow. However, they refused to use the word "guarantee." At this point, we're saying
that the ad is "scheduled to run." At 3 pm today, we will know whether it went through the next step in the internal newspaper processs & have a little more information on whether it's actually going to run.

thus spake /jca @ 1:14 PM...

Per the excellent advice of pretty much everyone, I phoned up the Sixth District just now and accepted the offer.

Whee! I have summer plans!

Now to decline the federal interviews. Ahhhhh. Load off. Damn, can I make mountains out of molehills...

(Special waves-of-thanks to invaluable Rob, Paul, Bill and Adam.)

thus spake /jca @ 12:00 PM...


Campus NLG reports, via mass email, that the fundraising campaign for the New York Times ad was a huge success. The ad will run in tomorrow's West Coast edition of the Times, on page 13 [oops --ed.]. Be sure to check out the paper and make sure that they didn't misspell any of my colleagues' names.

I feel a bit guilty; got quite a few Google hits today for "wake up about the war." Everyone looking for further information on the campaign is hereby invited to buy the newspaper tomorrow.

thus spake /jca @ 10:19 PM...

Hey, look, another Sua Sponte has started blogging over at Open and Notorious! We should start a club :)

thus spake /jca @ 6:00 PM...

Earlier this week I happened to glance at the laptop screen of O., who sits to my left in Edie, as she checked her email. I tried not to blanch as I saw a sentence that was obviously none of my business: "Maybe you should wait to accept the offer from [magistrate judge] until you hear back from [other judge]." The magistrate judge in question was the same one who had contacted me last month, promising an interview in February. If she had already made offers, then...

Ah well, I thought, I've got the offer from the appellate justice. I'm all right. If anything this simplified things, leaving me with a binary choice: the appellate offer or whatever resulted from next Wednesday's interview with the bankruptcy judge.

Not so fast, it turns out.

My cell phone -- which mysteriously pulled a Lazarus, vigorously fielding an incoming call even though the battery was completely dead -- zinged in the middle of our study group this afternoon, right as C., K., L. and I were hashing out the conceptual differences between an implied warranty of workmanship and an implied warranty of fitness for purpose. "Is this a good time?" asked the magistrate's clerk.

This time I blanched. "Actually," I said with heartfelt apology, "the battery on my cell phone is almost dead."

"OK, I just wanted to set up a fifteen-minute phone interview with you."

~~Thrum~~ went my nerves. Tell her you have an offer already! Don't go there! Don't take the interview! Don't set yourself up for a federal offer that you might decline and leave yourself on the outs with the federal folks!

--No, no! Take the interview! If they ask for a transcript you have no reason to panic, you've already got an offer!

"Friday at 4 works for me," I told the clerk.

I had been almost 100% ready to accept the state appellate gig today. As soon as I got home, I figured, I'd cancel the bankruptcy interview, draft a letter of acceptance, and send it out in tomorrow's mail (the district doesn't seem to be too high on electronic mail; they haven't sent me any, nor have they shared any addresses with me).

Now I'm back where I started, two days ago. Magistrates in the Northern District of California hear trials just like district judges do. This could be the next best thing to being in the chambers of Hizzoner, he who failed to see past my albatross. But at the same time, I'm not convinced that it's a better gig than the one awaiting me at the Sixth District. I don't want to waste anyone's time. And yet I look at the email addresses (the feds are more forthright about sharing theirs), see the uscourts.gov, and go all gooey.

Thanks to everyone who shared feedback on the federal-state-appellate-trial hierarchy. Now the question is simpler: do I beg off the federal interviews, rather than risk coming across as a flaky opportunist when I'd most definitely like the federal judiciary to think well of me later on in my law school career? Or is there really not so much of a potential offense in declining an offer for an unpaid volunteer summer externship with a magistrate as there is in declining a paid post-graduate clerkship with a district judge?

thus spake /jca @ 5:47 PM...


The secret to good feedback in Moot Court is simple: don't wait until class to hand in your draft on paper, just email it to the instructor the night before. The next day during class, like clockwork, paragraphs of mine will magically appear on the overhead and proceed to get tidily fisked, sentence by sentence, by the instructor. It's completely anonymous, so there's no insult or offense involved. (Even so, he comes up to me after class and thanks me for being a good sport. What a guy! I'm not being a good sport at all, I'm being a greedy feedback-seeker!) I take all of his notes and walk away from class with my draft already redlined in Word, ready to retool over the weekend while all the paper drafts are still being evaluated for the first time. I will iterate until I get this right.

I'm quite the fan of this instructor, too; he's a cute middle-aged guy with a beard, his own practice in the east bay, and a Doberman named Lola. Best of all, he's appropriately dismissive of the restrictions under which the establishment would see us operate. "Throw away your syllabus," he announced the first day, "I won't be using it." And later, after we'd submitted our draft preliminary statements: "You all obviously lifted your form straight from the green book. On April 8th, Petitioner filed a motion blah blah cite. On April 10th, Respondent answered blah blah cite. Here's a new rule for you: don't read the sample briefs in your green book. They're crap." They are, in fact, Best Brief winners from previous years. But he thinks they're crap, bless his heart. He wants us to be creative. And the class is pass-fail, so we actually can.

Today he brought in a guest lecturer, an attorney serving as local counsel to the petitioner in our case. The guy was pleasant enough, a graduate of my school, former California Supreme Court clerk, and talked at length about how there was no way trespass to chattels -- "a tort that isn't even in Witkin! If it's not in Witkin, it doesn't exist!" -- should trump the First Amendment in a sane universe. Now I'm doubly psyched for our next guest lecturer, one of the MoFo guys representing the respondent (a.k.a. my side). And oddly enough, I'm even psyched for the rewrite. Last semester I was relieved to learn that Moot Court was delayed until the spring; now, with 20/20 hindsight, I can only laugh at the fact that El-Dubyar looked more appealing on paper.

'Course, maybe Moot Court would have sucked last semester simply because everything else did. And yet...I don't think so.

thus spake /jca @ 7:28 PM...


Argument draft is done, finally. That took a long time.

I'm actually looking forward to the rewrite, since the thing already seems to be in need of repair. Iteration was the secret to my success in El-Dubyar, and I'm starting to appreciate how valuable it really is to take a big floppy block of text and sharpen, refine, spackle in the gaps...

Right, then, bedtime.

thus spake /jca @ 11:32 PM...

This is clearly my lucky day: I just found myself an instant winner of 1000 loyalty points on Lexis-Nexis. Now that's nifty.

thus spake /jca @ 8:51 PM...

I did something almost unheard-of this morning: I drove to school.

Driving in The City freaks me out, as a general rule. My lousy vision results in the crazing sense that the gridlock is closing in around me and threatening to sideswipe my beautiful car-car (which frequently could be true). I tend not to weave through freeway traffic for this reason, but on narrow urban streets pocked with cones and construction sawhorses, it takes next to nothing to spook me. And don't even mention parallel parking.

So I take the train and save myself the hassle, except for the occasions when I just can't spare an hour and a half to get home. Today was just such an occasion.

I had an interview at 3:30, down in the south bay.

What a good thing, having the car when you need it. I was home by 2:30, which gave me a half hour to paint up, don the black suit, and figure out something to do with my ungodly long hair. (It's halfway down my back at this point, and I'm just about ready to just grab a pair of scissors and do the deed myself.) I wound up twisting it into a reasonable facsimile of a French Twist, buckled it into place with an industrial-strength barrette, and hit the road.

I had equipped not only my pearls, as before, but also the gold bracelet that had traditionally served as my interview good luck charm. And I was glad of it.

Picture four women perched on upholstered chairs and a flowered couch, arranged around a coffee table in a large corner office: the judge, two staff attorneys and yours truly. I was the only one wearing pearls, wearing black. One of the staff attorneys had gone to my school. Everyone smiled easily.

I took some frequently-offered advice and did not avoid the subject of grades...but the albatross never actually came up. The judge didn't ask to see my transcript, nor did she show any real interest in any grade I mentioned (with the possible exception of El-Dubyar, since the story there was not the grade itself, but the saving thereof by redrafting and redrafting until I got it right -- apparently a key job skill in her chambers). Instead, she asked the kind of questions I myself would ask of a summer interviewee.

"Do you love to write?" she asked.

"I love to write," I gushed, speaking honestly.

"Do you love to research?"

"I like to research," I said with a smile. If I felt a bit more competent at Lexis and Westlaw I'd like it better, I explained, and I expected that to come with time and practice. They nodded in agreement.

"And you play the cello?"

Now that was a change of subject. "I took several years of cello lessons," I said, blushing, "and yes, there's a cello in my front hallway, but it's fallen into total disuse since I started law school."

"But you sing, right?"

"I could." Now I was red for real. "If you really wanted to hear me...but I'm awfully out of practice." Were they going to ask me to sing? I hadn't practiced in years. What would one sing in an interview with a judge and two attorneys, anyway?

Fortunately she didn't ask me to sing (or, for that matter, play a cello). Instead, she offered me the job. Five weeks, from the end of June through the beginning of August, drafting opinions on what would likely be criminal cases.

I sang in the car all the way home.

I'm now faced with an interesting quandary. I am vaguely aware of the existence of a hierarchy among judges, such that you're better off summering for one than for another. The one who failed to hire me back in January was federal district. The position I've been offered is state appellate. I have two more interviews pending, one with a federal magistrate and one in federal bankruptcy court (along with whatever comes through from the public-interest-fest, as well as the state regulatory agency to which a dear friend and Sua Sponte reader referred me last week).

What should I do?

It's easy to rule out the public interest stuff, by and large, since my goals have always tended more toward public sector rather than public interest. The regulatory agency hasn't yet scheduled their interview with me, although strictly speaking neither has the federal magistrate. I really like the idea of working for a judge, particularly one to whose chambers I can commute by car (although parking is an issue; bah, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it). I promised Her Honor that I'd respond by the end of next week, which gives me time to take my federal bankruptcy interview next Wednesday but not much else. Keep in mind that I pulled a decent grade in Crim Law but know precisely diddly about bankruptcy law. On one hand, this might put me in a good position to learn about it; OTOH, it might lose me the job.

Does state appellate trump federal bankruptcy? Is it worth chasing down the federal magistrate, on the chance that she'd trump either? Or should I just accept the state appellate gig and run with it? How *does* the hierarchy work, anyway?

thus spake /jca @ 5:48 PM...


When is an A just not enough?

(Of course there's a law firm involved...)

thus spake /jca @ 8:44 PM...

Sloooooow going on the Argument. It's not so bad as El-Dubyar, but for some reason, lecturing at length on the subject of trespass to chattels just feels like pulling teeth. One by one. With salad tongs.

I've taken a page from El-Dubyar, though, and am not investing any extraordinary amount of love in this draft. I'm doing my best to stick to form, since there isn't terribly much substance to the tort (intent, check; contact, check; possession, check; lack of consent, check; damages, unnecessary, check), but ultimately I figure that this is going to go through many more drafts than my memo did. No reason to nurse it now if I'm going to shred it next week.

Good news, though: I'm an Instant Winner on Lexis-Nexis. I won -- are you ready for this? -- another sweepstakes entry. No points, no gift certificates, nothing. Just another sweepstakes entry. Still, at least now I have two.

thus spake /jca @ 7:20 PM...


Must...break...out of...procrastination mode...

I really ought to have a working draft of the Argument section of my Moot Court brief complete by bedtime tonight, which means that I really ought to be writing it, right now. But there's nothing quite like a paper to write to make me incredibly productive in every area of my life except paper-writing. Thus far today I've gone to the gym, finished my Property reading for Monday, cleaned up the kitchen and run the dishwasher, done three loads of laundry, taken out a shopping-cartload of trash, booked our next North Coast B&B adventure (three nights for the price of two, right at the end of spring break), and, best of all, finally hauled the six massive Hefty bags of old work clothes out of the hall closet and down to to the St. Vincent de Paul donation bay. (Whee!)

But I haven't started my Argument yet.

I'm not feeling particularly argumentative, I guess. I woke up this morning with a jittery annoyance of a hangover from C.'s housewarming party last night (excellent tequila, two flavors of mole, and a lovely time had by all), and as busy as the day has been, I can't say I've been particularly focused on anything I've done today. Now it's already seven-thirty and I'm still just staring at section headers. At least I have those.


[ambient music: Astor Piazzolla tangos]

mustwork, mustwork, mustwork...

thus spake /jca @ 7:34 PM...


Today's mail drop featured a sequel to last semester's panic-inducing LEEWS promotional flyer. "Now you know the accuracy of the BASIC TRUTHS we announced last fall," it announces ominously, then picks over the remains of our collectively shredded hopes with alarming deftness. I particularly liked the punch line:

If you've completed your first term and not gotten A's (even if you did get A's), you face the choice below. Select one.

___ I've given up on getting A's. What is required is likely beyond me. I don't have "the right stuff." However, I'm no longer nervous. I know I can pass, even get B's, probably with a lot less work. I'm not looking forward to five more terms of work. Reading cases is tedious. Most classes are boring. But I can and will get through.

___ I don't accept that mastery of law school exams is beyond me. Some may have a knack. There is much work to do. But legal problem solving is comprehensible. What professors want is predictable -- perform as a competent lawyer on my exam! Impressing and getting A's is doable. Indeed, law school can be the intellectually challenging and rewarding experience I had hoped for.

In my years as a marketing writer, I (fortunately or unfortunately) never once had to write "hard sell" copy like this. I'm not sure whether I envy the people who do. Is LEEWS itself as powerful as its promotional materials? If so, it could easily be worth the effort...

thus spake /jca @ 5:29 PM...


From the same folks who brought you the "Get Your Name on the Michigan Amicus Brief" petition...it's the "Get Your Name in the New York Times for Only $25" ad campaign:

Subject: Friday deadline to contribute to "Wake Up About the War" ad in NYTimes

Last chance to appear in the New York Times!

Many in the legal community oppose the Bush administration's policies in relation to the "War on Terrorism" and the concommitant [sic] erosion of civil liberties.

Law students, law professors, and community members have raised most of the money needed to run the full page ad in the western edition of the New York Times in opposition to administration policies. The cost of the ad is $18,000 and we are almost there. The text of the ad follows. We are targetting a run date of Thursday, February 13, 2003.

Tomorrow, February 7, 2003 is the deadline to contribute and have your name appear in the ad. Student and community member minimum contribution to appear in the ad is $25, professor minimum contribution is $50. Forms can be found at the table or online at wakexupxaboutxthexwar.org. A mockup of the ad is also featured there. Credit cards may be used by completing the form. Checks are also fine.

Names will appear on either side of the ad. Sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild student chapters in California.


Oddly enough, the table in the main lobby recruiting contributions to this campaign has been rather subdued.

Everyone be sure to go buy the Times on Thursday, just so these nice folks get their money's worth -- or at least their fifteen minutes of fame.

thus spake /jca @ 3:25 PM...

Welcome the Blawg Ring's 100th member: Naked Ownership!

thus spake /jca @ 1:35 PM...


An unusual quantity of roadkill has appeared across my path this week.

I mean that literally. Two spectacularly smushed whatevers en route to the parking lot, a late ground squirrel decorating the lefthand lane on Evelyn Avenue, a severed wing resting flightlessly along the train tracks, and, perhaps most surprisingly, the remains of a pigeon apparently impaled on a steel coat hanger, right in the middle of the intersection bisecting my school. I admired the spread of feathers and entrails, the perfect intactness of the coat hanger, and found myself humming in my contrarian way: I'm still standing, yeah yeah yeah.

A less-exciting near miss: two women were sexually assaulted in the Civic Center BART/MUNI station yesterday morning, right about the time I usually arrive on Mondays and Wednesdays. There but for the grace of it being a Tuesday go I. This was not some midnight drunk going wilding; this was at ten-thirty in the freakin' morning. I need to equip the pullman bag with pepper gas.

thus spake /jca @ 5:50 PM...


From the email file, special for Janeway:

Subject: LexisNexis Valentine's Day Contest....One lucky person will win 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points.........

1) Go to http://www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool

2) Using either Federal & State Cases (from the Legal Tab) or News Group File, Most Recent 90 days (from the News and Business Tab), run any or all of the following searches:

a. atleast10 (romance)
b. love bird
c. sweetie pie
d. cupid w/5 arrow
e. valentine w/p bitter

3) E-mail the results of each search to me at [address] using the e-mail feature next to your Print options. Please put your name and e-mail address as a note so I can contact you if you win!

4) If you'd like, you can enter up to 10 times by running all five searches in both files!

Contest ends 2/16 and winners will be drawn on 2/17.

GRAND PRIZE: 10,000 points
SECOND PRIZE: 3,000 points
THIRD PRIZE: 2,000 points
100 points just for entering!**

Guess what I just spent the past fifteen minutes doing.

thus spake /jca @ 2:58 PM...

I need to find a way to use the word "gravamen" in conversation more often.

thus spake /jca @ 1:24 PM...


What the hell is the deal with adverse possession??

In an attempt to take off my rose-colored glasses and be less artificially upbeat this semester, I'm working to assess my classes with a more jaundiced eye. Accordingly, I marched into the study yesterday and announced that I hated Property.

"Why's that?" asked my husband, who was busy killing an army of snow trolls.

The concept didn't bother him so much, perhaps because his ambitions don't quite tend in the same direction as mine. But when you've just spent a few weeks working out all the luscious details of a fantasy purchase of some acreage up on the North Coast, playing around with the dream of building your own B&B, there's nothing so offensive as the thought of some itinerant claiming title to your land because he built an outhouse there and used it daily while you were busy grinding away at your interim life, five hours' drive away in the Bay Area.

Worse yet was Wednesday's reading on the right to exclude (or, more correctly, the lack thereof), which ruled out any potential dreams of live-in nannies or maintenance staff at the fantasy B&B. Such danger you're in, if you operate a business that's open to the public! You have, it seems, little to no right to be selective in your clientele, and if you've got employees who are residing on your property as part of their compensation package, they appear to have the run of the place despite any rules you might wish to make. Unsavory visitors? Too bad, you can't kick 'em out.

Paradoxically, as S. suggested in class today, the best way to pre-empt adverse possession (short of actively policing your land and commencing ejectment lawsuits every time you catch the trespasser relieving himself on your parcel) is to put up a sign expressly granting permission for people to trespass. At that I could only shake my head, which prompted Professor Property to call on me. "I'm sorry," I said, rather unprofessionally, "but I just can't justify the fact that you need to open private property to the public to prevent someone else from claiming title to it. Isn't the point of private property that you're not required to open it to the public? You didn't buy the ranch because you wanted to make it a park."

And then there are prescriptive easements. Don't even get me started.

I bet this is exactly the goal of the casebook author, who admits outright that he's a Critical Legal Studies theorist. "How do you explain this radical Commie doctrine?" Prof. Property gleefully questioned us all, the twinkle in her eyes making it evident that her apparent criticism of the left was intended entirely in jest. I imagine that there's probably some incentive to scare away potential homebuyers who would otherwise be fed up with renting. Debt, not equity drives the consumer economy, does it not? Let's convince as many people as possible not to invest in real estate, first by moaning and groaning about how much effort it takes to maintain a house, and then by threatening the actual property rights that they believe they're purchasing. Brilliant, eh?


thus spake /jca @ 6:41 PM...


Poor, poor Brobeck.

Not that I would have worked there. Not that they would have wanted me to. Still, that's gotta smart.

thus spake /jca @ 8:42 PM...

more final thoughts...

sua sponte
transferring law schools
on the moblog
the short list
otherwise of note
recurring themes
fellow travelers
other blawgs