Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Count me in for midnight breakfast!

I have always liked Heather Creed's idea for the Midnight Breakfast, but have never gotten to participate before. Those days are over though-- I'll be there tonight, properly attired.

I just hope they let me serve eggs.


Suddenly, Capital Punishment is Halted

[Note: This photo actually shows the Canadian Supreme Court, raising the question-- why can't our Supreme Court wear cool outfits like that?]

I think and write about the Death Penalty quite a bit. I have always found the Furman opinions especially fascinating, as the addressed the compelling issues in American law in the course of temporarily outlawing capital punishment from 1972-1976. I did not imagine, though, that another moratorium would occur in the near future, but now that day has come.

It appears that in granting a stay of execution in a Mississippi case, the Supreme Court is effectively halting the death penalty in the US. The reason is not (like Furman) deep questions regarding racism, equality, and the national conscience, but rather whether or not the method of lethal injection used by almost every state may cause undue pain rising to the level of cruelty. This is of special interest to me since I wrote about it in the book I just finished-- the chemical process which lethal injection uses (anesthesia, binding agent, killing agent) replicates the mechanical process used with the cross (anesthesia in the form of wine and myrrh, binding on the cross, death by gravity). I'm surprised that this has been the cause of an effective moratorium, but not by the complexity of the issue. Here is a short excerpt from the book:

Lethal injection, in fact, is a fairly recent phenomena coming at the tail end of decades spent seeking an acceptable manner of execution. If nothing else, the experience of execution in the United States has repeatedly proven that there is no easy way to kill a person. The human body, it seems, resists death by hanging, electrocution, gas, and chemical injection, leaving no clean and tidy options for the executioner.

In the early years of the republic, hanging was the preferred method of killing prisoners. However, this was often problematic. New York State suffered a series of botched hanging in the early 1800’s, and the mistakes were made in full view of the several thousand people who attended these spectacles. Finally, in 1885, the governor of New York commissioned a committee to study alternatives to hanging. After a lengthy period of study, it was this committee which recommended the first use of an electric chair, and New York strove for reform by changing to that method.

Electrocution, though, did not prove to be much of an improvement. New York first used its new electric chair on a murderer named William Kemmler. Rather than being neatly dispatched, however, Kemmler did not die quickly, and slowly expired amidst the smell of burning flesh and ashes. For over a hundred years, the electric chair was used with varying results. In 1999, Allen Lee Davis was executed by electrocution in Florida, poorly—during the execution he was badly burned and left bleeding. Gory photos of the execution were posted on the Florida Supreme Court’s website, and so many people tried to see them that the system crashed and was disabled for months.

Until fairly recently, a wide variety of execution methods were used, each presenting its own problems. Firing squads can misfire, the electric chair offered wildly uneven results, and by the estimation of Deborah Denno, the gas chamber was the worst of them all. Speaking of an execution in Arizona, Denno recalls that “Donald Harding’s eleven-minute execution and suffocating pain were so disturbing for witnesses that reporters cried, the attorney general vomited, and the prison warden claimed he would resign if forced to conduct another lethal gas execution.”

Out of these many problematic procedures came a general consensus that lethal injection is the best possible choice. In the United States, every state with the death penalty except Nebraska has made lethal injection the default method of execution, though some states allow the condemned to choose an alternative method. The reasons for this consensus are unclear, but one reason might be the perception that lethal injection is the most humane of the possible options. Part of that perception might draw from the fact that the lethal injection method, unlike hanging, the electric chair, or lethal gas, resembles a therapeutic use of medicine. This is especially true since the sedative and (particularly) the paralyzing agent often prevent the prisoner from screaming or thrashing around during the execution.

Given the seeming agreement that lethal injection is the best choice for executions, one would expect that the predominant method of lethal injection would have been at least as thoroughly studied as electrocution was before being implemented by New York State in 1890. However, it seems that the most common method of executing by lethal injection was developed by Oklahoma’s medical examiner after several physicians refused to participate in the project, citing the Hippocratic Oath. That medical examiner’s three-drug process has become the standard for lethal injection, but when asked why he chose those three drugs, he responded, “Why not?”

To describe any method as the “standard” may be a stretch, given that there are nearly no standards governing lethal injections in some of the states which use it. Some require doctors to be present, while others do not; some have extensive written protocols, while others either do not have such thorough protocols or refuse to divulge their any protocol they might have. Some states, meanwhile, seem thoroughly disinterested in the proper administration of lethal injection. Alan Doerhoff, the surgeon in Missouri who mixed the lethal dosages for executions in that state, admitted in a deposition that he did not know of a written protocol and believed he had the ability to change it if he wanted, anyways. Further, he conceded that he relied on his memory when mixing the drugs, and concluded that “It’s not unusual for me to make mistakes… But I am dyslexic and that is the reason why there are inconsistencies in my testimony.” Doerhoff was finally relieved from his duties after it came out in the press that he had been sued for malpractice more than 20 times.


Baylor Lawyers Conquering Foreign Lands

Mollie McGraw, who is working as a public defender in Las Cruces, NM, has won the title of Best Young Lawyer in New Mexico. Woo-hoo! Of course, we already thought that, but it's still good that others recognize it, too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Best Cereal-Based nickname for a PC student

Recently, I reflected on my chagrin at having told a PC student that her minitrial performance reminded me of "Pop" from Rice Krispies' Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Maybe I just had the wrong cereal mascot? Would it have been better to suggest that she reminded me of, say, Trix the Rabbit? (Probably not, since some analysts feel that Trix may be a third world beggar).

Today's last lecture seemed to go okay. As part of my restructure of PR, I downplayed the emphasis on principles this time around, and confined it to the last class. Also, for those of you visiting from the past, I did not dash out at the end of the class, either.


Please be my associate!

A former (and excellent) student who is an associate at a law firm sent this to me under the subject heading "My Life." Ouch.


Texas Baptists elect first female president-- Whoooo, Joy Fenner!

For the first time, Texas Baptists, through the Baptist General Convention of Texas, have elected a woman as their president. And not just any woman, either, but Joy Fenner, a wonderful and accomplished missionary whom I have gotten to know through our service together on a planning committee for the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Joy started out as a church secretary in Marshall, and then was a missionary in Japan for 13 years. She has served the Convention well in a variety of jobs prior to this one. In my own experiences with her (in our six-hour planning meetings) I have found that she is warm, judicious, and wise.

Meanwhile, some are predicting that Joy's election will widen the rift between the BGCT and the Southern Baptist Convention, which in 2000 turned against the idea of women in the ministry and has expelled both female students and faculty from the ministry programs at SBC seminaries. Most recently, the SBC-controlled Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth started a new "homemaking program" exclusively for women to reinforce what they see as biblical family and gender roles.

As for me... I'm with Joy.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Who knew knee injuries were contagious?

There's a lot I don't know about medicine, but I'm kind of surprised at my latest physical malady. Apparently by just spending time with Baker, I have sustained some kind of knee injury. I have never suffered from a sore knee before, and didn't do anything in Key West that would have resulted in such an injury, but upon my return from Florida my knee has been hurting every day.

If it is possible to catch a knee injury from someone, it would be Baker. Consider his history:

May, 1984: Injures left knee playing tetherball. Minor surgery.

July, 1985: Injures right knee while celebrating American independence from Britain.

October, 1985: Injures both knees during bizarre gardening accident. Minor surgery.

May, 1987: Breaks both legs during scrum at Lillith Fair concert.

June, 1989: Tears ACL in left knee while robbing convenience store in Paramus, NJ. Surgery.

August, 1992: Left leg removed at knee during altercation with Cal Ripken, Sr. Surgery.

June, 1994: Both kneecaps broken during debate tournament. Major surgery.

July, 1995: All ligaments in left knee removed during incident at Maryland State Fair, replaced with ligaments from Carnie who died in same incident. Thus, Baker is part-carnie.

June, 1999: Right leg snaps in half as Baker wins DC radio station's "Joe Theisman" contest. Prize includes major surgery.

August, 2001: Both knees affected when body is cryogenically frozen as condition of probation. Thawed in 2005.

August, 2006: Left leg simply falls off during torts class. Surgery.

October, 2007: Further tragedy averted by Gordon Davenport's "Vulcan neck pinch." Baker conveys knee pain to other team members and coaches through unknown method.


The Beall-Russell Lecture

This afternoon, I went to hear the annual Beall-Russell lecture on campus, given by author Taylor Branch, who wrote three volumes detailing the civil rights movement. It had been a while since I had sat through someone else's lecture, but it's something I need to do more of.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I get to give my own annual art history lecture, to the certain confoundment of the PR students.


Life is good when your heroes are your friends

In church matters, I'm very lucky. Church is an area where I am not a leader; rather, I try to be a good lay member of the church, a reliable part of the body of Christ. I am lucky in that I have found a church (Seventh and James) that fits me very well and where there is inspirational preaching (usually by Raymond Bailey) that almost always makes me think about that topic the rest of the day.

Yesterday, though, I went to go hear my friend Hulitt Gloer preach at Calvary Baptist Church. Hulitt and I, together with Randall O'Brien, teach a class in Oral Advocacy every Spring at the law school, and over the six years we have worked together, I have come to really admire him. Yesterday, Hulitt preached on the idea of the body of Christ as the church, and it was stunning. I'm not sure if it was appropriate (I'm like that lately, as evidenced in the last post), but afterwards I hugged him and told him I loved him, which is true. It is a very specific kind of love-- for a friend, but also for someone who is one of your heroes.

Of course, I am looking forward to the regular humiliation I suffer every Spring, speaking third after Randall and Hulitt. After those guys, I feel like an ape scratching and grunting for an audience.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Maybe not the right thing to say...

Last night at a Halloween party, I was talking to a very nice woman dressed as a cat. While making a point, she waved her tail at me, at which point I said "Nice tail!"


This is on top of the incident last week when I told a PC student that her performance reminded me of "Pop" from Snap, Crackle, and Pop (pictured at right above).

Also not taken well.

This week, I am planning only to nod agreeably with whatever anyone says.


Lament of the Baylor football fan

One of the things I love about working at a large university is the intercollegiate sports. College football and basketball are my two favorite spectator sports, so being at a Big 12 school has its advantages. However, being a Baylor fan at times... well, it has its drawbacks. Yesterday's 51-13 loss to Kansas State was a real gut punch, dropping us to 0-5 in Big 12 play with little hope for another win.

What makes college football special is that it is played by college students who have a real tie to their school. That means, though, that I also recognize that the players are basically children of about 19 years old, most of whom can't even legally get a beer. I think it's wrong to act like the fate of the University rests on them, or to criticize them individually in the way we would a pro player.

I really do love Baylor, and like anything else you love, it is important to be gentle when it is down. After all, I have had a few 51-13 type clunkers in my own performances this year. At any rate, it continues to sadden me that the value of the institution is viewed in terms of its football players; as I've said before, in general I see an inverse correlation between football success and academics. Vanderbilt, Stanford, Duke, Northwestern-- these are our peers as private schools in big-time sports conferences who generally fail at football. Is that such bad company for an academic institution?

For an alternate take on all this ("We're only covering tennis and golf from here on out") that may make more sense than my view, see the fine gentleman over at Beer Mat.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Legislative Update!

Yesterday I joined the McClennan County Criminal Defense Lawyers for their monthly lunch, where we heard from Allan Place, who gave us a very interesting update on what the Texas Legislature has been doing. As a public service, I have listed some highlights below, grouped as (1) those laws you may have heard of, and (2) those you probably did not hear about or even imagine anyone would think of.

Laws You Probably Heard About:

Death Penalty for 2d Aggravated Sexual Assault (HB 8): This provision was part of a broad measure regarding sexual assualt crimes. It is an open Constitutional question whether capital punishment can be exacted for crimes less than murder. The U.S. Supreme Court will have to resolve this question, as many states are passing similar statutes.

Juvenile Law Reforms (SB 103): In the wake of the Texas Youth Commission scandals, many reforms were passed. Most importantly, children can no longer be sent to the TYC for misdemeanor offenses.

Castle Doctrine expanded (SB 378): This expands the presumption of reasonableness relating to self-defense with deadly force, to now cover those protecting a business or home. However, there are significant caveats, so don't start shooting those who appear to be approaching your car.

Laws You Probably Haven't Heard About:

Interference With People in Radiation Suits (HB 2703): It's now illegal to mess with people who are involved with public health and safety operations. One such offense is depicted above, in which Poseur and Swanburg pester some workers trying to attend to a nuclear waste spill.

Disabling Aircraft With A Laser Pointer (HB 1586): Be careful, kids! If you succeed in impairing a pilot's ability to control an aircraft (resulting in, say, a crash), that's now a state misdemeanor offense! This kind of reminds me of the signs that Michigan actually posted in highway construction areas: "Kill A Worker= $7,500 fine!" It always seemed like a pretty weak threat...

Friday, October 26, 2007


Celebrate the end of Practice Court exercises!

I'm at my desk, breathing a huge sigh of relief. This afternoon was the very last day of seven weeks of practice court exercises, for 3-6 hours every afternoon. The exercises aren't boring or unimportant-- quite the opposite-- but, it is tiring to be "on" for that long at a time, offering critiques the whole way.

When it is over, though, there is a reward. Through their hard work, the students always, always get better, and by the third minitrial the change is most apparent. That was certainly true in the session I saw today.

Congratulations to all those who are done, and thanks for all of your hard work-- it really does make my job worthwhile.


Halloween Haiku Extravaganza!

Five days until Halloween!

Until then, haiku will keep us entertained. Here are some topics:

A) Best Halloween candy
2) Baylor law prof. costumes
3) My best costume ever
4) The World Series
5) Gamblin' referees
F) Final exams!
G) Arbitrations
8) Tricks
9) Fall finally arrives
10) Baylor quarterbacks

Here is mine for this week:

Licorice, not bad...
Tootsie Rolls, you get hundreds
Snickers-- that's the best!

Now it is your turn. Just stick to the 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable formula, and you should do great!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Dining in the Keys, if you have to...

Last week on our way to Key West, we ran into Philosophy prof. Anne-Marie Bowery on her way to New York. As one might expect, the trip made her get all philosophical, in a good way.

Meanwhile we went on our way to Miami and then Key West. Some people have have been asking what we ate in Key West-- always a good question when GED3 is along. Here is a brief rundown of the places we dined:

Sarabeth's: This is a preppy jam place which is an outpost of a well-known New York brunch spot. They have many different kinds of jam. The owner was quite kind to us.

McGrubby's: Poseur picked this one. It was basically unclean, but cheap. Everything there was fried, from conch fritter to hamburger buns. They also not only had football on the televisions, but people playing football right in the restaurant, which was messy.

Limey's: This place takes key limes to the extreme-- everything is made with key limes, including the lime n' oreos burger which is their specialty.

Dumpy's Seafood Prison: Dumpy's had an odd theme... prison dining. Everything was served on metal trays by waiters dressed as prison guards, and you had to sit at long tables with people who appeared to be real prisoners. It was fun!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Worst (yet still somehow popular) Song Ever

Today in the arbitrations we are doing for practice court, I found my mind wandering to horrifying moments from past exercises. It was kind of like having your life pass before your eyes, but only the weirdest parts. There was Nordstrom asking the jury panel about their paint-huffing experiences... the big trial which devolved into a girl-fight... and then I remembered it-- the worst song ever entering the realm of practice court.

It was the closing of a lover's-quarrel criminal case. In rebuttal, the prosecutor turned to the jury and said "This violence is what can happen when love ends. It is like the song says: 'I'm all out of love. I'm so lost without you....'" He then recited from memory several more lines of the song.

It still gives me the creeps.


What's Across The Street

Here at the Law School, we too often exist in our own little universe. Part of it is that we have our own driveway-- we turn left off of University Parks toward our building and away from the rest of the University. Unfortunately, there are some real costs to that isolation, in that we lose out in being a part of the culture and life on the other side of the street.

I may have this on my mind because the School of Social Work is having a symposium tomorrow on faith and the death penalty. I heard about it only through the school paper yesterday.

On the plus side, some of my best mentors and colleagues are on the other side of University Parks, including Bob Darden (Journalism), Blaine McCormick (Business), Deanna Toten Beard (Theater), Randall O'Brien (Religion), and Hulitt Gloer (Seminary), each of whom I work with every year on various academic projects.

How can we make this better? Should we?


She is a dada genius

Quickly-- get over to the Dada Drummer's blog, and enter her contest to name the adopted, non-muggle child of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindewald!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


My days as a one-hit wonder

Back in college in the 80's I got heavily involved with the college radio station, WCWM (then known as "Radio Free Williamsburg"). Actually, it was Station Manager IPLawGuy who first noticed me fooling around with stuff in the production room and gave me a show.

One of the things I loved doing was remaking songs with a local angle. My most popular remake, which got into heavy rotation, was of the song heard in this video-- Ebn Ozn's "AEIOU Sometimes Y." I found a version of the song without the talking part, and spliced in me talking about taking the wife of the University's president, whose name was "Zoe," out on a date. I suppose that should have gotten me in trouble, and in retrospect it might explain why I wasn't a darling of the administration. It was a fun song, though-- right to the end, where I replaced the "Lola... Lola" line with "Zoe... Zoe...," said with great longing.

It's a good thing I am now a very serious academic who would never do anything like that.

And no, my hair wasn't like that. Not quite.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Mystery comix about yoga and cats

Every once in a while people send me photos and books and stuff hoping I will talk about it on the blog, and I often do. It has helped me diversify the pictures I use, and at least gives me a laugh now and then However, every once in a while it takes me a while to figure out why I have been sent a photo of a duck with a firearm, say, or a dancing snowman video.

A friend (not the author of the Yoga and Philosophy blog, but also very smart and sophisticated) sent me this comic, which was kind. However, for the life of me I can't figure out what the heck it is supposed to mean. Is the cat doing yoga? Or is it late for yoga class? And if so, why is it funny that a cat is late for yoga?

Does anyone have a theory?


My idea for a really great football play

As well-chronicled over at Bar Mat, the Baylor football team continues to struggle. Over the past two games, big losses to Kansas and Texas, five different quarterbacks have played, and none have been particularly effective. I think it may be time for some innovation. Here are five possible tactics to make things better in a hurry:

1) Switch to a "Quarterback Vortex" offense

The "quarterback vortex" is a play I originally designed back in the days of Osler League touch football. It involves several quarterbacks running in a cirle behind center until the ball is snapped at random to one of the them. The others, if not too dizzy, spin off across the field for a pass, lateral, or forward fumble (my personal favorite). This system is perfect for a team with five decent quarterbacks. One key is to snap the ball early, before they all get too dizzy.

2) Switch to a "No Quarterback" offense

At the other end of the spectrum, we could run an offense with no quarterback at all. One option would be to permanently run from punt formation, with the punter deciding at the line if the ball should be punted, fumbled, run by the terrified punter, or thrown downfield Garo Ypremian-style.

3) Emphasize fake injuries

There are few plays in football more consistently effective than faking an injury, then jumping up and completing a pass. No team, though, has ever tried doing this on every play. This may be the time to try! Soccer players have the fake injury down to perfection, and may be able to give us tips.

4) Marbles

Many Disney movies feature the heroes foiling the villians by dropping marbles so that the villians trip and fall while comically waving their arms in a windmill fashion. Nothing in the rules of football prevent this from being an effective tactic.

5) Strategic Use of the Golden Wave Marching Band

Having the band march onto the field while the other team is approaching a touchdown is a tried-and-true tactic on defense. Isn't it time we took advantage of every resource at hand?

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Perhaps the worst airport P.A. announcement ever...

The Key West Airport is really a treat-- kind of a little structure with roosters running around and, intriguingly, a Cubana airplane parked in front of the Customs shed. Hmmm. Anyways, this seemed a model of efficiency and modernity compared to the Miami airport.

As we walked along the concourse changing planes, there was a loud announcement blaring over the loudspeakers "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET SOME PEOPLE OVER TO GATE 46!"

I'm not an expert on these sort of things, but it seems like in P.A. announcer school they suggest avoiding using any of the following phrases:





At any rate, things didn't seem much more secure once we left Miami. We had to circle DFW for about a half-hour before landing. The pilot, in a tense voice, told us that "the airport has been closed due to a situation on the ground." This, of course, didn't assuage many fears.

In the end, we landed, and all seemed normal. Is it "Panic Week" for the National Airport Association or something?

Saturday, October 20, 2007


No, I haven't had my body painted

Key West is currently having their annual "Fantasy Fest," which apparently involves 50-year-olds dressing as angels and flappers or wearing only body paint and wandering around. It seems a strange time to have a mock trial tournament, but they may not have known... at any rate, rest assured that Baylor's team is not participating in Fantasy Fest.

I suspect, though, that things might be different if the students weren't accompanied by their ethics professor.


News from Key West

The NACDL team was a ballot short of making the break to the semifinal round. This tournament neither lets coaches see the rounds or the ballots (I don't even know which rounds we won), so I can't offer a first-hand analysis, but it does sound like the team (Desmond Cooks, Christie Smith, Stephen Baker, Heather Kanny) did a great job in a non-Kabuki-Theater kind of way.

Unfortunately, apart from the outcome, the tournament wasn't as well-run as in the past. I really enjoyed the competition in 2003 and 2004 because the judging was by experienced criminal trial practitioners, which resulted in both good critiques and realistic judging. This year, though, they had two judges at most in any round, and some of those were not trial attorneys. From an educational standpoint, I would hope for better.

We did draw a tough schedule (which is a good thing)-- SMU, Wisconsin, and Alabama. Alabama was especially good, as they usually are in this tournament (they knocked us out in the semis in 2004).

On the the TOC!

Friday, October 19, 2007


Haiku of the Pirate Hordes

This week's Haiku Friday will be rated "Arrrrgh!" Here are the categories:

1) The last person Baylor should ever hire as an adjunct
2) My Dinner with Andre
C) Pillaging
4) The Spanish Medievalist's secret lair
5) Baylor football
6) Cross-examination
7) Fantasy minitrial league
8) The pancreas
9) Polyps
10) Dance Dance Revolution!

Here is mine:

My name: Geraldo
I'll be teaching torts this year
Live! On Fox News!

Now it is your turn. Feel free to choose your own topic, of course....

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Thank you to everyone for the excellent discussion in the comments section to the post below-- 75+ comments on how to improve our school. The discussion was in the best spirit of what I remember seeing on the Free Speech Wall back in my own law school days.

Now I'm wondering how important these good ideas are, relative to one another. Below I have listed some of the ideas for improvement mentioned. In the comments section below, please identify which ones are most important (you can mention more than one). I know this is far from scientific, but it is at the very least interesting!

Top ideas:

Tuition relief, particularly for those going into public service

Move PC to the 2d year

Create more diversity at Baylor Law

Create more criminal law offerings

Address issues within the moot court competitions (ie, shortening it and rewarding barristers

Hire more faculty who did not go to Baylor

Better internet access

Create LLM in Trial advocacy

Increase efforts by CSO for non-law-review students

Create clinical programs

Publicize the success of practice court

Broaden participation in mock trial and moot court

Address remaining issues re grades (ie, those who are under both systems)

Make tax a 3-credit class

Lessen use of socratic method

Printers on first and second floor of library

What do you think?

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Nice Shootin', Tex!

On Friday night, I watched the very first Star Wars movie, the one from 1977. Originally, it was called "Star Wars," but now that it is the fourth movie in a series of six, we are supposed to call it "A New Hope." It's a good movie, and unintentionally funny since many of the things depicting the far distant future seem outdated as of now. The robots, for example, are full of wires, many of which are exposed; apparently they are from a galaxy without circuitboards.

Anyways, I did notice something intriguing. In the scene where Luke Skywalker and the other rebel pilots are flying in to destroy the Death Star, at least two of the pilots have distinct Texas Accents. Texans, with guns, in space.

The next day I mentioned it to some students, who liked the idea of these guys being interstellar NASCAR fans from Abilene. We eventually came to the consensus that if you looked closely at the back window of one of the Rebel X-Wing fighters, you would probably see a sticker of Calvin peeing on the Death Star.

UPDATE: While we are talking Star Wars, check out this Wookie-related PR test from last year. Also, I hope everyone is aware of the Wren-Wookie connection.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Update on the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant

Fall is going by fast, which means we are getting closer to the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in February. Besides the official website, there is also a very nice blog which is covering the event from a number of perspectives. I really enjoyed the video above, featuring Aidsen Wright-Riggins of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., one of the largest African-American baptist groups.

If you haven't seen it yet, the video from the original announcement includes former Baylor law prof. Bill Underwood. You can link to it here.


Key West Queries

Next week, I'm going to Key West for the NACDL mock trial tournament. I've never been there, and I have no idea what to expect. So far, here is the sum total of my knowledge of Key West:

1) Hemingway lived there.
2) Chickens are running around in the streets.
3) There are a lot of beaches.

Friday, October 12, 2007


El Paso del Norte Haiku Friday!

Actually, I'm back from El Paso. My lecture (with Henry Bemporad as co-star) drew about 60-70 people and seemed to go over well. I noticed that the next speaker out there is Erwin Chemerinski. Is he following me or something? Not that I'd have a problem with that. I also got to visit briefly after the lecture with Baylor Law Grad Superstar Mollie McGraw, who is still doing great things in Las Cruces. She sures seems to like her job a lot better than some recent grads... but, of course, those other people are being paid big gobs of money.

So, here are some haiku topics:

1) The Good Blues
2) Burritos
3) I hate Practice Court and Everything Associated With It, Including You, Professor Osler, and Your Stupid Lap Dog, Mitzi
4) Halloween costumes
5) Joseph Hoelscher, Witness-King
6) Fake Hogwarts
7) Taco Bueno
8) The problem with my present employment
9) Huckabee!
10) Katie's Frozen Custard

Here is mine:

King Joseph Hoelscher
Your slightly quizzical look
Foiled cross-exams.

Now, it is your turn-- the recipe is 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables:

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Now accepting nominations for the Slaybaugh/Hoelscher Lifetime Achievement Award as a PC Witness!

It's time to kick off this year's election of a new lifetime achievement award for PC witnesses! The award is named for former students Slaybaugh and Hoelscher, both of whom excelled as witnesses. Interestingly, both of them gave top performances in the role of Rock Harris, the male stripper/coke dealer/diamond merchant/seducer of middle-aged divorcees. (Mr. Hoelscher's classis line on cross-examination: "No ma'am, I wouldn't do that. I draw the line at pimping.").

So, nominate away in the comments section below-- and please make a note of any particular talents your nominee has exhibited (ie, "Mr. Slaybaugh, in the role of Dr. Green, made picking up teen runaways in the "Combat Zone" seem eminently reasonable.")


Two Random, Unrelated Thoughts

1) According to USA Today, Mitt Romney named his son "Tagg." Hello, Dada Drummer?

2) This morning I went to use the gym here at my hotel in El Paso, and noticed if featured a large sauna. Hello? Why do you need a dry heat generator in El Paso? As the Spanish Medievalist and others can tell you, it makes a lot of sense in Duluth, but in El Paso?


The Not Good Blues

OK, now this is one of my Dad's paintings featuring a guy who has the real, bad, blues-- Winston Churchill. Troubled, and with good reason. I grew up reading the paper under this painting, and I think it may have messed me up a little.

I'm in El Paso Del Norte, and it is a pretty fascinating place. I can't understand what is going on half the time, though.

And what is this about a fake Baker posting? That's not normal, my friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Good Blues 2

Today, I don't have time to have the good blues. Here's the plan for the rest of the day:

1-6: PC
6-7: Talk at 7th and James Church (Harper Hall) about the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant
7-9: Race to DFW
9-11: Get on plane (not easy), fly to El Paso

Please feel free to come by the presentation at 7th and James-- get there before 6. The church is located, uh, at the corner of 7th and James Streets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


October iPod, Idyll, and the Good Blues

I was walking today when a song slipped out of my iPod. I don't remember putting it in there, or hearing it before. It was "High and Low" by Greg Laswell. It isn't the kind of song I would normally like, but it captured my mood in that exact moment-- kind of a very gentle melancholy born of sad but not tragic memories.

"Once I can see straight,
I might move somewhere cold;
Seattle or the Bay Area
To see your ghost
What's left of you
What's left of you.

Found a letter from a man
I might have met
Addressed to you
I'll steal the words he ended with:
"I miss you."

My life has been largely free of tragedy and full of good fortune. There was no dead father or alcoholic mother or jailed sibling; no debilitation emotions or crushing illness. My sadnesses don't take me back to a horrible memory but rather to my own failings, those moments when I should have been kind and wasn't or felt lost when others were really there for me. My dad was painting a portrait once, and someone said the subject looked sad (it might have been the one shown here). My dad disagreed; "It's just the good blues" he explained. I like that phrase, and I know that feeling.

The funny thing is that the good blues today came on the heels of what has been a wonderful week. They just kind of wafted in on a memory of a slight I may have once inflicted, many many years ago. Of course, with the kinds of things that happened this week there are always the seeds of both challenge and change, the vague sense that all this may be temporary in one way or another.

And, it is October.

October, when there should be leaves on the ground and the sound of a marching band practicing and events at the school to be a little late for, when certain scents return-- apples and cinnamon and pumpkin and smoke. Each leaf on the ground is a death, but also an accomplishment and promise fulfilled, greater than any of mine. When I have the good blues, each leaf is humbling.

If you were in my courtroom today, I'm sorry that my critiques were not as sharp and knowing as I hope for. Part of me was somewhere else apart from here in place and time, a little boy in a lion costume walking by the curb, pushing the leaves with his feet, sad that Halloween was over.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Cover Art Ponderings

In a comment to the previous post, Sleepy Walleye suggest that my book should feature cover art by the man who brought us the album art for Spinal Tap's Rock n' Roll Creation, shown above.

Good idea, but it doesn't quite... go to 11. Any other suggestions?


A really, really great day

Last week, on Thursday, I signed a contract with Abingdon Press to publish my book, Jesus Christ, Defendant. It was an incredible moment, and a dream come true.

When I finished writing the book, I was kind of at a loss about what to do next. My confusion didn't last long, though. As usual, some of my amazing mentors stepped in to help. I asked Bob and Mary Darden who I should send it to, and Mary quickly and definitively told me to send it straight to Abingdon. If there's one thing I know about the Dardens, it's to take their advice.

I sent the book off on a Friday, and heard the good news the following Wednesday-- I didn't expect, or deserve, to have it be so simple. The book will come out next fall or winter, due to the time needed for editing and marketing.

Like everything else, the book was the work of many hands, including those of the Dardens, Michelle Lowery, Bill Underwood, David Meadors, Misty Keene, Florencia Rueda, and of course Larry Bates (you can't really write a book about Jesus without involving Bates), among many others. It's hard to describe how it feels to know it will be published--I grew up in a home where books were important, not as symbols or decoration, but as tools to be used and handled. My mother read Proust while we at the beach, and from a young age I was taught to challenge myself through books. The idea that I may walk into a bookstore and find my own book there is almost too much to hope for, but now... well, I expect that to be a pretty incredible feeling.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Maybe the ref deserved it?

I rarely just slop stuff on here from other blogs, but this photo on Beer Mate was just so... so... fun.


More bad news from Detroit

According to this story on Yahoo, the Detroit housing market is now so bad that out-of-towners are swooping in to poach super-cheap homes.

IPLawGuy is still here in Waco, and he often reminds me of a story from when I first moved to Waco. Someone was complaining about all the strip malls here, and I chirped up with "at least they are open!" The comment came from my years in Detroit, when I drove by the same boarded-up stores for a decade. Of course, the final indignity may have been seeing what was left of the city destroyed by Decepticons.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Reagan Baby is here!

The famous Reagan Baby, an amazing child who is able to articulate in great detail the philosophies of Ronald Reagan when she is seated beneath a photo of the former president, is visiting me today. She really is quite remarkable. This morning she was discussing fiscal policy, and later this evening, she will be attending the BU/Colorado game with Thatcher Baby, who is visiting from England.

Are there any questions for the Reagan Baby?

Friday, October 05, 2007


Oral Roberts Univ. Disaster-topia

I've always been wary of those who hold themselves out as entitled to wealth because of their Christian faith. This item, which I found on the Ladybird's blog, only confirms the problems with this view.



The Most Terrifying Haiku Friday Ever

I'm still somewhat haunted by the sight of Gordon Davenport tooling away in my Miata-- Gordon is 6'5" or something, and the Miata is a small person's car. Plus, Gordon just learned how to drive a manual last weekend. He was kind of sticking his head out over the windshield as he drove off, which I don't think is the way it is supposed to work... but what do I know? The next big adventure is that the IPLawFamily is coming to Waco tomorrow! Anyways, it's time for Haiku. Here are some topics:

1) Big man in a little car
2) Minitrial meltdown week
3) Britney loses custody of Kevin Federline
4) The Supreme Court goes crack-tastic!
5) Halloween costumes
6) Beyonce n' Bates
7) Moot Court tournament
8) Dating do's and don'ts
9) Catfight!
10) The new XO third-world computer

Here's mine:

Poor, poor Miata
If you can at all help it
Don't drive by lobsters!

Put your own in the comments section, in the 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable format.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


"You could... bring in truckloads of wild pit bulls..."

I am not always right on top of pop culture, especially when Celebrity Luvr is busy with other things and can't keep me up to date. For example, I just heard that Britney Spears has lost custody of one of her dancing men, Kevin Federline. I was surprised it was a custody-type thing in the first place, but when you see those dancers, it kind of makes sense.

Anyways, I'm glad that at least America's country music stars have their head in the right place:

Country Music Stars Challenge Al-Qaeda With Patriotic New Song �Bomb New York�

It does seem a little specific about introducing hemmoraigic fever through the inlet pumping substation at 45th and 9th, doesn't it? With the flashing arrow on the map and everything? Hmmm...

In other terror news, I lent Gordon Davenport my Miata. As he drove away in it, I couldn't help but be reminded of those shriners driving the tiny cars...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Thanks for nothing, Sen. Larry Craig!

After the whole Larry Craig debacle, I’m kind of at a loss as to how to properly use an airport men’s room for its intended purpose without appearing to be some kind of perv. First of all, I sometimes listen to an iPod at the airport, which may lead to men’s room toe-tapping, so the iPod stays stowed now that I know how that toe-tapping may be construed. Second, one of the ‘signs’ that Senator Craig was perving it up was that he “placed his rolling bag against the stall door.” Well, where else are you going to put it? Yesterday, I kind of awkwardly put it on my lap, but that was really uncomfortable. Then I tried to kind of balance it on the tiny ledge, and it fell on me. Crikeys!

Sigh. Can we go back to the days when "wide stance" referred to something football players did on the field?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


It was good day.

Got me on the court and I'm trouble,
[Messed] around and got me a triple-double...
Today, it was a good day.

Well, no. I'm not capable of a single-single, in basketball anyways. But today was a good day, if you are me and not Ice Cube. We probably have different views of success.

Today was the argument in Kimbrough v. United States, challenging the holding of the Circuit Courts that a district judge is not free to depart from the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine because she does not agree with that ratio. For seven years now, I have have been working to get judges that discretion-- writing articles, litigating it, and trying to influence Congress. Today was the culmination of that work, by me and many others.

My favorite part of the argument this morning was when Michael Dreeben (arguing for the government) pointed out that nine circuits agreed with him and a Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, basically, “La-di-da.” The Justice accompanied this dismissal with a dramatic wave of his hand that signified the change that may be coming.

More importantly, Chief Judge Roberts seems to think that if Congress mandates a 100:1 crack/powder disparity in the sentencing guidelines, they need to do it through, like, a law, rather than via inference. Having made this precise argument to several Courts of Appeal to only blank stares and rejection, it was wonderful to hear the Chief Justice raise this point so forcefully, especially since he may be the fifth vote in our majority. What he said in response to Dreeben's inference argument, verbatim, was this: "No, Mr. Dreeben, your office used to argue that when Congress wants to do something, there's a way to do it. They pass a law through both houses, then the President signs it. That's the only way they can give legal effect to their intent." He later rooted this concern in the fact that since Booker, Congress has chosen to take no action. This is an argument that was first put forward by Benham and I in our Spears petition (the reply brief, actually), and later incorporated into the Petitioner's briefs in Kimbrough.

So now there is some hope. It may be, it just might be, through failure after failure after failure, that we played a small role, together with many others, in changing something that is wrong in a subtle and cruel way, a grinding engine built of inattention and fear.

Afterwards, I walked out of the Court and down the high marble steps with Acosta and Benham, feeling euphoric. There was an amazing and beautiful tableau before us—the news teams waiting at the bottom of the steps, the Capitol Building in the near distance, and beyond that the Washington memorial and the crystal-clear blue sky of early fall in Washington. I stopped them, as we were alone on those steps, and took it all in.

There may be only one such moment in a lifetime, and I wanted to breath it in deeply.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Arrrrrr! Now, I will take on all three branches of government at the same time!

I am anxiously awaiting tomorrow mornings arguments, when I will get a sense of whether or not the Supreme Court buys my arguments on the crack/powder ratio in the federal sentencing guidelines. Meanwhile, via this post on Doug Berman's sentencing blog, I see that my legislative proposal for reform of the crack laws (long story short: Longer sentences for big players, shorter for small-timers) came out today in the Federal Sentencing Reporter. Thus, I'm confronting all three branches of government at once-- The administrative branch (in the form of the DOJ) is the opponent before the Supreme Court (judicial branch), while the legislative reform suggestion hits the street.

Well, big whoop. Tom Brooke (IPLawGuy) told me today about a really incredible accomplishment: His Mom, Elizabeth Brooke, was named chief of the news desk at U.S. News and World Report. At age 75. That's an accomplishment!


Things are good in the nation's capital

I'm sitting here having a cup of coffee with IPLawWife while IPLawBaby and IPLawGuy go for a run with one of those jogging strollers. I'm impressed he can pilot one, and that IPLawBaby kind of likes being steered around busy streets.

Meanwhile, I just ordered a a new book put together by Robert Baird and Katherine Darmer, called Morality, Justice, and the Law: The Continuing Debate. Bob Baird is a philosophy professor here at Baylor, and Katherine Darmer (his daughter) is a law prof. at Chapman Law School in California. The book includes pieces by Cass Sunstein, Ronald Dworkin, Oliver Wendell Holmes and several others (including me). My part is about the death penalty.

And now it is time to head into DC and act like a professional lawyer, at least until Acosta and Benham show up.

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