Thursday, January 31, 2008


Wow! So far, the CNBC is Bap-tastic!

Last night's opening session of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant was both overwhelming and energizing. It was everything we hoped, and now (from what I hear) it is becoming a kind of Baptist Woodstock, with people who heard about last night now deciding to come. Traffic on the website ( had crashed their server, in fact, the last time I checked.

Going into the hall last night was a moving and wonderful experience. It was as close as I will ever come to the pilgrimage to Mecca, where people of all backgrounds gather together in a common spirit. The hall filled up, and it all began. Bill Underwood started things off with an amazing message harking back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that someday the sons of slaves and the sons of slaveowners would worship together on the red hills of Georgia. When he said that, it sent chills down my spine, and there was a hush. Is this finally that moment?

Bookending the other side of the presentations was Jimmy Carter, who was so moved that he almost could not finish. His message, too, was important, strong, and challenging. In between those two was a sermon by William Shaw, President of the National Baptist Convention, USA (which is one of the black Baptist denominations here), which had people on their feet, both black and white. Hopefully, all of this will be viewable on video at the web site, if it recovers. If nothing else, watch the introduction by Bill Underwood, who just two years ago was spending his days critiquing Practice Court exercises.

Today is a big one... lunch with Al Gore, then my talk this afternoon. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've been cachinated!

So, yeah, it's the middle of the night, and I'm wide awake. Once in a while, at times like this, I troll around my own blog and see who has stopped by. If you click on the statmeter down to the left, you can do this for yourself. It leads to a lot of intriguing questions for me, such as "who in Woodland Hills, California or Fuquay Varina, NC is checking out the Razor?"

I also check out the comments to see who is stopping in. Usually, except for "anonymous," I can tell who it is dropping a comment, and it's like an old friend stopping by. Other times, it's a mystery. For example, lately I have been favored with some witty and pithy comments from "The Cachinator." Intriguingly, despite a little study, I have no clue who this is. Here is what I do know:

1) The Cachinator has three blogs, one of which apparently is focused on Pokemon. Whoop!

2) The Cachinator is wonderfully articulate and has a light touch with words.

3) The Cachinator seems quite well-versed on faith issues.

4) Yet, the Cachinator writes out his/her tax checks to the "County Tax Ass. Office" and finds that hilarious (which it is).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The Triumphant Return of Joe Hoelscher and Seth Sutton

Yesterday, in criminal practice class (why is that starting to sound like "this one time, at band camp...?"), I had Seth Sutton and Joe Hoelscher come talk about creating and marketing a criminal defense practice. All I can say is that it was awesome-- way better than me prattling on about things like that.

For those of you that don't know them, both Seth and Joe were well-known around the law school. Seth excelled in practice court; I remember him giving one of the best closings I had heard. Joe, of course, won an Osler for his lifetime achievement in PC witnessing.

Seriously, I think it says a lot for this school that someone like Joe will drive 6 hours on I-35 to come speak to my class, without pay or even a very good lunch being provided. Baylor Law generates incredible loyalty, and that is something that rewards the school in more ways than you might imagine.


Bail bondsmen turn out to be kinda an American thing...

Yesterday in criminal practice class, I learned a lot (more on that later). One thing that became apparent is that I am somewhat rare in that I enjoy visiting people in jail and prison; as a prosecutor, for example, I had no problem with taking proffers of information from co-operating defendants at a prison, and these days I am more than willing to visit defendants who are incarcerated.

Part of the incarceration subculture I have always found fascinating is the business of bail bondsmen. There is often a little fleet of them near a jail, their pick-ups parked in a clump outside the entrance. Until today, though, I did not realize that they are pretty much unique to the U.S. justice system. This article in the New York Times details the way in which we go it alone in allowing private businessmen to secure the appearance of defendants in court.

Looking at it objectively, it is an odd system. There can be little doubt that it favors those defendants with access to cash, which in reality means either those who are not poor or who have some ill-gotten gains lying around. It also is probably unnecessary, even in the U.S., given that the federal criminal justice system functions just fine despite relying largely on personal bonds rather than bail and bail bondsmen.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Some people are taking Project Runway a little too seriously...

I received this message recently from BLS grad Tim Swearingen (who was reacting to my enthusiasm for Project Runway contestant "Ricky"): "I will cut you. Ricky must go. Don't toy with me, Osler."

So, apparently, if Ricky wins, Swearingen and I will have a knife fight down in Room 127. Should we sell tickets, or just let people watch for free?


Mock Trial, Burritos, and The NY Times on the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant

I took the mock trial team to Ninfa's for dinner tonight and had a great time with them-- they've got things in pretty good shape. It's a good thing, too, since I will be out of town for much of the next week or so. First up, Atlanta on Wednesday.

Yesterday's New York Times had a great article yesterday about the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta this week, and on Friday Bill Moyers and John Grisham (both of whom will be speaking) were talking about it on Moyers' show. Even more intriguing is the article in the Columbus, Georgia paper which started out with a reference to "Rev. Bill Underwood, Ph.D." While Bill is many wonderful things, I'm not sure he is either a Reverend or a Ph.D., unless a lot has changed since my visit to Macon three weeks ago. He was practice court professor, though, which may be more significant to Baylor Law students.

I'm excited; I'll be surrounded by family and friends. My parents are coming down for it, and I found out today that my deacon will be there as well. I'm traveling out with Hulitt Gloer, and it just might be that I'm a little more nervous about speaking in front of one of my heroes of public speaking than anything else.

At any rate, the excitement is building...

Sunday, January 27, 2008


A sad day for Mormons

I see that Gordon B. Hinckley, the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, died today at age 97. I have to admit that I did not know much about him until I began reading Craig Pankratz's blog, but from that and other sources I was impressed with how much he accomplished.


The $6300 fine for a giant explosion...

This morning's Waco Tribune-Herald had an intriguing article with the ho-hum title of "Mayor's Company Hit With $6300 Fine."

At first, I skipped right over the article, and perhaps even rolled my eyes a little-- it must be some minor violation, only of note because a local politician was involved. But then I went back to it, and realize there was far more there.

The fine, assessed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, was for a "spectacular acetylene gas explosion last summer that sent metal cannisters flying into the air." Two workers were severely burned and more than $2.3 million of damage resulted. OSHA had found that the company fined had failed to provide sprinklers which could have prevented the explosion, didn't mark trucks carrying explosives properly, and had conducted a substandard hazard analysis. Specifically, the citation (as described in the paper) said that the company exposed workers to "serious hazards that were likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

Seriously? A $6300 fine for creating a situation "likely to cause death or serious physical harm?" To me, that seems crazy in a world where minor drug dealers receive prison terms and recidivist thieves can go to prison for life. I realize that this was an administrative rather than a criminal response to the wrong, but that seems not to undermine my central point-- that corporate persons are treated much more leniently than actual persons who are (properly) vilified, impoverished, and imprisoned if they commit acts which are "likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Maybe clowns don't like kids, either...

A few days ago, I passed along the surprising news that kids really don't like clowns. It took me a while to digest that news, since, like every other adult, I had long thought that kids loved clowns. Not that we ever asked them... but who wouldn't like an overweight adult with too much make-up?

It made me wonder about the reverse question: Do clowns like kids? It's hard to tell, since most of the time clowns are pulling stuff out of their ear or making balloon animals instead of talking honestly about their feelings. Could it be that we just never asked?

I got in touch with two Detroit-area clowns, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope (pictured above), whom I had hired to entertain at my nephew's 2-year-old birthday party. Their answers surprised me! It turns out that some clowns, at least, not only aren't fond of kids, but of the kids' parents, too. Here is what Violent J had to say about one large family he knows (he put his feelings into a little "rap" song he wrote himself): "#%#^& back up 'cause your dimmin my shine, you got nine kids, only two of them mine. I get you cigarettes, weed, Pampers, And Similac, start giving back, $%&# hittin that.... Every time I'm with you, I'm smelling nothing but baby poop. You got WIC food stamps, and ADC, why you still %$^&# with me?"

I'll admit that perhaps Detroit's clowns have had it a little harder than most, but this does seem to be a foul attitude toward's America's families! Can we even trust our children with clowns anymore?

Friday, January 25, 2008


"Look, if you haiku one shot, one opportunity... here I go, it's my shot, feet fail me not."

[Note: Video added for the Haiku Nazi listed in the comments.]

Not all moments are equal.

This week the Big Shots-- the ex-presidents, the famous authors, the tv people-- will be speaking at the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant to many, many more people than I will, but I am going to make the most of that moment that I have, because I really believe in what I have to say.

So, in haiku form, I need your advice.

1) What should I wear?
2) Do I need a haircut?
3) Should I point in the air a lot?
4) What should my psyche-up music be?
5) Will it all matter?
6) What Would Bates Do? (WWBD)
7) If I meet John Grisham, will he want to talk about law stuff?
8) Is there anything you did in your big trial I should try to adopt?
9) How about that 5 OT Baylor win?
10) OMG! It's almost finals!

Here is mine:

American Idiot
Bad choice for psyche-up music
Better with The Jam.

Now, it is your turn! You don't have to follow my dopey self-centered suggestions-- write about whatever you want. Just make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Death in Prison as the ultimate punishment

One of my favorite Texas writers is Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News, who is responsible for much of my information about the continuing mystery that is Dallas. This morning he had a great column about the death penalty. First he notes (as have many others) a softening of attitudes towards the death penalty, even in Texas, which is where it matters the most.

Second, he suggests a change in language which might help the state move beyond the controversy, expense, and danger of killing innocents that go with state executions. In short, his idea is that we describe the alternative to such executions as "death in prison," which is both accurate and hauntingly descriptive. As he puts it:

I don't think we should abolish the death penalty. I just think we should simply abolish executions.

We would begin to use a new term for our ultimate punishment: "Death in prison."

Try out the sound of that. "I hereby sentence you to death in prison." It's just got a gravity that "life without parole" does not.

People so sentenced would still be sent to death row, a special prison unit where there would be no recreation time, no rehabilitation programs, no socializing, no life-extending medical treatment.

Just waiting. And death.

Sometimes, a few well-chosen words by a journalist can be better and more important than all of our lengthy ponderings in law review articles.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Last Will be First...

Or, at least ranked in the top 25.

It doesn't seem so long ago that I saw three of my law school compatriots (Bill Underwood, David Guinn, and Michael "Hap" Rogers) striding mournfully through the courtyard. I didn't ask what they were doing-- I knew they had come from a meeting about the basketball program, which later avoided the NCAA's death penalty only by the dint of their very hard work before the NCAA infractions committee. At that moment, though it seemed like Baylor might not ever again be good, or even mediocre, at men's basketball; it was probably just not going to exist anymore.

Not so long afterwards, things were so bad that the team had open tryouts on campus-- I remember seeing a flyer on a bulletin board announcing them.

Today, for the first time since 1969, Baylor is ranked in the top 25. Scott Drew deserves much of that credit. But at least a little should go to those three law professors, who saved the program from what seemed like a certain death.

UPDATE: Tonight, Baylor beat #18 Texas A & M in 5 overtimes, at College Station.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


A new year, a new super-team

I spent some time this weekend with my new mock trial team (pictured above, with Waco's own Kobayashi, Gordon Davenport). They will be heading out to Sacramento in mid-March for the National Ethics Trial Competition, informally known as the National Ethics Smackdown (NES). Last year, we got to the semifinals of the NES, and I hope to do even better this year. The team is composed of Layne Rouse, Christie Smith, Rachel Sonnstein, Tom Jacob, Kaye Johnson, and Ed Cloutman. My fellow coaches are Davenport and Judge Manske.

Coaching and participating on teams takes a lot of time, but I think it is worthwhile as an educational experience. Over time, I hope that we will be able to field more teams and include more students, because we have a lot of talented students who don't get a chance right now. I always try to comprise my teams largely of people who have not had a chance to compete in mock trial; on this team, for example, only two have been on a team before. Still, there are several others whom we easily and confidently could have chosen. It certainly hasn't been a handicap to give new people a chance-- last year, newbie Campbell Warner excelled at the NES, winning best advocate in the semifinal round.

Like many other things here, coaching teams reminds me again how sharp and hard-working our students are.

Monday, January 21, 2008


The Lorraine Motel, 1989

In the summer of 1989, I was was working for a law firm in Chicago as a summer associate. Those were the golden years of summer associating-- low expectation, high pay-- and it was a great summer. We were treated to a lot of great meals, ball games, and good times One Friday evening, a friend and I decided to drive down to Memphis. I think our goal was to see Graceland, though it was a little murky at the time.

We headed down south, the full length of Illinois and a bit more, and arrived in Memphis in the wee hours of the morning. We were looking for a place to stay, just wondering around, when we saw the blazing lights of a perfectly preserved 1960's motel. We parked and were going to walk across the street to it when we realized that it was... not quite right. The cars parked in front were vintage 1960's cars, and the motel itself seemed almost too clean. Just then, it clicked in my mind. This was the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

Suddenly, it was a very serious moment. They were converting the motel into the National Civil Rights Museum, but were not quite done. It was one of those moments where something unexpected happens, and you don't quite know what to say to the person you are with. We sat on the curb for a while, maybe even an hour, and didn't say anything. It looked like such an average place in some ways, but I knew that it never had been. It was a black-owned motel, a place where African-Americans could stay in a time when segregation ruled. That segregation, itself, was part of what Dr. King stood against. I remembered in Richmond seeing the faded outline of "White" and "Colored" signs over the restrooms at a theater, the fact that sometimes Thurgood Marshall could not use the water fountain outside the courtroom where he argued.

I don't know if we ever did say anything, but that we did just drive back to Chicago, and somehow being a cake-walking summer associate seemed a little silly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The Product of the High Quantity!

Back in December, I suggested a trip to El Paso dollar stores for unusual gift items. This week, I was able to check them out myself, and they were everything I hoped for and more. There appears to be some kind of China-to-El Paso pipeline for 4th-rate toys which bypasses the rest of the country for some reason.

My best find was this toy fuel-hauling truck, which inexplicably says "To wart the cockles of one's heart." (You can click on the photo to get a bigger picture of the truck in all of its glory). The idea of heart warts is kind of disgusting, but I imagine such things might be caused by exposure to fuel vapors, right?

The bottom of the package was no less compelling. It identifies the truck as "Conveyance Good Hand," and offers us the following superlatives:

"The product of the high quantity!"
"All styles is all astonishing!" [I'm sure this is true, actually]

Perhaps most intriguing of all is the back of this fascinating vehicle. Not only does it offer up the odd combination of phrases "Good luck/no smoking," but identifies this fuel hauler as "Fire Engine 648." It certainly would make life more exciting if fire engines (which tend to go near open flames) were chock full of flammable liquids!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Another sad story about prosecutors...

The front page of the New York Times today carried the story of Daryl Atkins, whose death sentence was commuted by a Virginia trial judge. Atkins was the petitioner in a 2002 Supreme Court case in which execution of the mentally retarded was barred, but litigtion continued on whether or not he was sufficiently mentally handicapped. Prosecutors continued to press for his execution.

Then, a new issue appeared. Lesley Smith, the attorney for a co-defendant who provided testimony for the government, stepped forward and provided convincing evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. As the Times described it:

Mr. Smith had represented Mr. Atkins’s co-defendant, William Jones. In a tape-recorded debriefing session with prosecutors on Aug. 6, 1997, Mr. Jones told his version of the 1996 killing of Eric Nesbitt, whom the two men had robbed and forced to withdraw money from a bank machine. The crucial point was who had shot Mr. Nesbitt. Under Virginia law, only the triggerman was eligible for the death penalty.

“As he began to describe the positions of the individuals and the firing of the shots,” Mr. Smith said last month, referring to his client, a prosecutor “reached over and stopped the tape recorder.” According to Mr. Smith’s testimony and a memorandum he prepared soon after the debriefing, the prosecutor, Cathy E. Krinick, said, “Les, do you see we have a problem here?”

The problem was that Mr. Jones’s account did not match the physical evidence. “This isn’t going to do us any good,” Ms. Krinick said, according to Mr. Smith.

For 15 minutes, Mr. Smith said, prosecutors coaxed and coached Mr. Jones to produce testimony against Mr. Atkins that did match the evidence. They flipped over a table and pretended it was a truck. “We used a chair, or something like that, to simulate the open door,” Mr. Smith testified, “because only one of the doors on the truck would open.” When the tape was turned back on, Mr. Jones’s story bolstered the case against Mr. Atkins as the triggerman.

As a former prosecutor who really does believe in both punishment and the incapacitation of proven criminals, this story illustrates once again a fundamental problem in criminal law: Too many prosecutors are more committed to getting convictions than they are to justice. The underlying problem is the trend to see prosecutors as solely a part of law enforcement, with police as their clients, while part of their true role is to be an objective, deliberative administrative body which acts as a filter between the police and the the courts.

It may surprise some people to hear me say that prosecutors are not just a part of the law enforcement mechanism. But the system is structured for them to be something else. Prosecutors are allowed great gobs of discretion (often more than judges), in choosing what cases to take, what charges to lay, what enhancements to seek, and what to ask for in sentencing. They are given this discretion because of their role as a filter between police and courts. If prosecutors are unwilling to perform that task, perhaps it is a mistake, then, to grant them such high levels of discretion.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Haiku Friday in the Borderlands

Dusk is spectacular in West Texas-- just an explosion of light. I'm staying at the Camino Real, which is kind of an odd place. The room is huge, but almost devoid of furniture. There is a huge window with a weathered wooden frame, though, that looks out over the city and Mexico beyond.

A fine place from which to haiku. Here are this week's topics:

1) Cooties
2) Writing Syllabi
3) Clowns
4) Big Trial
5) The Spanish Medievalist's election-year highjinks
6) The perfect margarita
7) Project Runway
8) The Book of Galatians
9) Farming accidents
10) The intriguing footnote one in United States v. Williams, 2008 WL 80206 (4th Cir. Jan. 7, 2008).

Here is mine:

Please vote off Sweet P,
She is scarier than a mime
And poorly dressed.

Now it is your turn! 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables...

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Swanburg's coming back, I'm leaving...

Have others noticed the sudden return of J. Swanburg to the law school blogging scene? After his sojourn to Biz school began, he seemed to forget the blogosphere, but now he is back with a vengeance. Interestingly, it seems that law students, despite being busier with school, are more attuned to the blogs that the business students. Swanburg's blog, at least, seems to show this-- post after post on Biz School things (ie, "I have learned a lot about marketing") seem to go un-commented-upon, while the least tidbit on law school leads to a relative frenzy of activity. It's good to have Swanburg back!

Meanwhile, I am on my way to El Paso this morning (though not by Amtrak, as the picture may seem to indicate). I'm talking to the federal criminal bar out there about what is going on in the crazy world of sentencing. Don't worry, though-- I'll be back in time for tomorrow's Big Trials.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


News flash: Kids hate clowns!

A new study makes it official-- kids hate clowns. They're scary, for one thing. I've never really understood the clown thing myself; it's like they represent some kind of dark netherworld full of false joy and underlying pathos. Plus, they tend to put too many people in one car, which is unsafe. And balloon animals taste terrible.

The only thing worse than clowns are mimes, and I have often thought that if you want a highly-rated reality show, just have clowns fighting mimes to the point of debilitation. If nothing else, it might be fun to watch the mimes gloat if they win...


Big trials underway as we get close to the end...

Practice Court big trials began yesterday, so for the next few weeks I will be spending my afternoons and evenings in the courtrooms. For those of you not at Baylor law, the Big Trial is the final exercise of the Practice Court program, and is (duh) a simulated big trial.

For students and profs alike, Big Trial is a stressful time. We often don't get done until 8 or 9 at night, and afterwards I feel a little woozy-- and unlike the students, I got a decent amount of sleep the night before. Compounding the time crunch is the fact that PC students also must serve as judges, witnesses, and jurors in other trials during the same period.

Though sometimes it may seem like the discovery process has erased the brains (or at least that part which comprehends evidence rules) of some students, the Big Trials as a whole are pretty impressive displays by our students. Walking out, they usually feel a sense of relief and accomplishment-- at least until they remember that finals and the bar exam loom in the near future.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Candidates telling whoppers!

I see that the Republican candidates in Michigan are promising to personally revive the US auto industry. I'm sure that if Dems were campaigning there, they would say the same.

As to these Republicans though, it seems a strange thing to assert. Not only is it a ridiculous claim, but it seems to fly in the face of the idea of protecting free markets from government restraints, which is usually promoted as a bedrock conservative value. You know, the kind of principle Republicans really believe in, like smaller government...

Speaking of politics, can you spot the current U.S. Congressman in the photo above?

Monday, January 14, 2008


I'm pretty much like everyone I graduated with...

This intriguing study shows where law professors went to law school. Here are the top schools at producing pointy-headed academics (according to Brian Leiter, who seems to be pretty accurate in such things):

1. Yale University (3.68)
2. Harvard University (1.94)
3. University of Chicago (1.51)
4. Stanford University (1.33)
5. Columbia University (0.84)
5. University of Michigan (0.84)
7. University of California, Berkeley (0.77)
8. University of Pennsylvania (0.67)
9. New York University (0.62)
10. Duke University (0.51)
10. Northwestern Univeristy (0.51)

The numbers represent the total number of profs from that school divided by the graduating class size from that school. Thus, since Yale has an average class size of about 150, and there are 552 Yale grads teaching law, the index is 3.68 (552 divided by 150= 3.68).

Apparently, I'm the product of a law professor factory. I can't say there is an easy explanation for this; the education at Yale isn't that different from what a student receives at, say, Stanford or Columbia, but Yale still cranks out almost twice as many profs as second-place Harvard (sorry, Bates).

Still, I will concede that certain other schools (Harvard) do produce superior foosball players.


Updated Prof. Hernandez information!

The Baylor web site now has updated info on new professor Laura Hernandez, some of which shows my earlier report to be in error. For instance, she doesn't have "a degree" from Stanford, she has two. Also, she won SMU's moot court competition, not a Moog synthesizer competition. Finally, she will be teaching Remedies, not Multidistrict Complex Pretrial Procedure Advocacy Complexities, which will continue to be taught by Prof. Underwood.

Over the next few weeks, we hope that Prof. Hernandez will be warmly welcomed by the many characters at Baylor, including Chicago and Prof. Bates, pictured above.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Sadly, nothing will ever really make GM cool...

I wish that this was a doctored photo, but sadly it isn't. It's a genuine photo from the North American International Auto Show, which started press previews today in Detroit. When I lived there, this was one of my favorite times of the year. I love cars (a trait shared by most people from Michigan), and it was incredible to simply wander among all the newly-developed designs.

Of course, to get there you had to trudge through a lot of snow and slush. Further, as you traveled the roads to the show you couldn't avoid one simple truth: Auto engineers tend to be terrible drivers.


The Need to Explain

This week Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying about her steroid use. Notably, she wasn't convicted of using steroids; rather, like Martha Stewart and others, she is going to prison for telling lies. The intriguing thing about these cases to me is that the target of the investigation didn't have to say anything at all; they could have remained silent. They certainly knew that was their right.

But, it seems, we have this strong human need to "explain." I saw it over and over again as a prosecutor-- people who didn't have to talk, were told they could remain silent, who signed a document saying they understood that-- then talked for hours. It was never a good move, not once.

Being guilty is just one reason to not explain; sometimes there are others. One important reason for lawyers in some cases not to explain is the need to keep confidences. I worry that some of our students undervalue this; they have been raised in a culture awash with information about everything and everyone, and sometimes think that if they don't get an answer to every question the person withholding information is in the wrong (when sometimes the opposite is true). As lawyers, this expectation that all be told will run up against important ethical rules and principles, especially the need to keep attorney-client and some other communications confidential.

Moral considerations aside, a major problem with not keeping confidences is that you prove yourself unworthy to receive them, which can be fatal to a legal career. Law, and a principled life, sometimes demands that you keep a secret, even when some will think it unfair. It is one kind of toughness that is too little heralded, but still often valued in the rough-and-tumble of real life, within and without the practice of law.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Actually, I know a few...

This saying, attributed to the founder of Mercer University, is memorialized in front of the statue of Jesse Mercer in the middle of the campus. I loved it.


Law and Hyperbole

One of the blogs I check every day is UT law prof Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, which offers an intriguing melange of commentary and news about what is going on at various schools, including lateral moves by professors. In a recent post, he commented on some hyperbole by Michigan's PR department about that law school being the "International center for interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship." Certainly, every school has, at one time or another, engaged in similar puffery. My favorite Baylor claim (now removed from the web site) was that Baylor turned out "crack lawyers." As someone who has spent considerable time in the last year as a crack lawyer, I thought that was great, but others disagree.

At any rate, interdisciplinary study is on my mind, as I have just finished up a week in criminal practice class teaching negotiation with business prof. and negotiation expert Blaine McCormick. As always, Blaine added inestimably to my own knowledge, and created three great exercises.

However, this practice-based interdisciplinary work is coming at it from the opposite direction from much of the "Law and..." school of interdisciplinary studies. That is, I started with the practical problem, and then drew in expertise from another field. Very often, legal interdisciplinary studies start with the other field, through the person of an expert in that field or a theory, then apply those concepts to law. In some cases, this is a natural. For example, law and philosophy have long been intertwined, something ingrained in me by reading Aristotle's On Rhetoric every year. I regret that I never took a legal philosophy class, in the same way that I wish I had taken Practice Court before becoming a lawyer-- both would have informed my career, albeit in different ways and times.

While Baylor certainly will always be a practical-knowledge-oriented school, we have a lot to learn from those with a broader focus. One of the breakthroughs in interdisciplinary study was the hiring of Stan Wheeler as a prof. at Yale Law in the 60's, and as I reflected upon earlier, he was one of the great influences on me. This was true, yes, even as I worked as a civil and criminal trial lawyer. There is no such thing as too much knowledge, and considering topics broadly need not be done at the expense of the particular.

Friday, January 11, 2008


It's Haiku Time Again!

Friday, the first week back after break-- if you're like me, your brain is still a little foggy. Fortunately, that's good enough for haiku! Here are this week's themes:

1) Big Trial disasters
2) The worst movie ever made
3) Broken car
4) Swanburg's return
5) Taco Bell, 1 am
6) Cowboys v. Giants
7) Off-Season Santa
8) The Medievalist's Sandwish
9) New Hampshire adventures
10) Pets

Here is mine:

Sister Act Two, with
A drunk projectionist, who
Forgot the third reel.

Now it's your turn--

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Baylor Law welcomes new prof. Laura Hernandez!

The picture above is not of Baylor Law-- it's Stanford, the undergrad alma mater of my newest colleague here at Baylor, Laura Hernandez. Before I go any further, I have to admit that I am a little intimidated by Stanford grads. Part of this stems from the fact that every one I have ever met has been whip-smart. Also, in 1987 I visited Stanford and was terrified by how happy, fit, and active the students seemed (I then immediately decamped for a place better suited to slobs like me). I'm trying not to be scared of Prof. Hernandez, but so far she is entirely living up to my prior observations of Stanford grads.

Prof. Hernandez followed Stanford with law school at SMU, where she was an articles editor for the Law Review. After that, she embarked on a legal career in Texas. Before coming to Baylor, she was with Bickel & Brewer in Dallas, where she worked on a variety of issues which seem to be complex beyond my comprehension (a career in criminal law clouds one's ability to understand things like "supplemental jurisdiction").

Starting in the Spring quarter, Prof. Hernandez will be teaching Remedies. Based on prior experience with new faculty, I'm doing further research to determine if she has the ability to fly, cyborg tendencies, or jedi skills and a Wookie sidekick.


Hmmm... this President Executron seems pretty smooth...

In The Know: Are We Giving The Robots That Run Our Society Too Much Power?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Maggie Weaver, still at work

Misty Keene tipped me off to this very nice piece that Florencia Rueda wrote for the Texas Young Lawyers Association site. It's great to hear that Maggie Weaver is doing so well...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


IPLawGuy is alive, and being wooed by the French...

Apparently, IPLawGuy (pictured above) gave an interview to France 24 while campaigning for McCain in New Hampshire. Here is part of his astute analysis of the political scene there today, translated into English:

There were between 4-7 of us McCainiacs at Manchester's Ward 5 polling place along with some retired union guys from Albany and other "old line Democrats" there for Hillary, a bunch of younger folks for Obama and some very committed people for Ron Paul. We were all friendly and had a good time. The Hillary people even shared their pizza with the rest of us. I wish the foreign press would come take pictures of scenes like this or of the public demonstrations in which I participated in downtown Portsmouth, NH on Sunday and Monday. We were there for McCAin in force along with packs of Ron Paul supporters, Kucinich people, Hillary die-hards, Obama lovers and a couple of Edwards supporters and even some Romney people. Really haven't seen much evidence of Romney's campaign except on TV. I thought he looked terrible during the Sunday night Fox debate but the Frank Luntz focus group disagreed. I don't get it. I think Tyd's right about his character.

Anyhow, there are tons of McCain folks in NH, but the most vocal groups are the Kucinich and Paul supporters! They seem to know where the TV cameras are and have packed the main street of Manchester. -- too bad most of the voters are in neighborhoods and apartment buildings, not the central business district.

From 6-9 AM a group of us did a "sign wave" at a major intersection in Manchester, then went to breakfast at local legend the Merrimack Restaurant. We saw both Paul and Kucinich. The latter stopped by our booth and we spoke pleasantly -- he knows my Uncle, a liberal Democrat in Cleveland.

At lunch we saw a third party candidate named Christopher Popham-Smith, from the new "One America" party. We think his platform is that Muslim extremists are bad. We also met "Citizen Kate," a video blogger from Chicago. She started a blog to learn about politics. Or something like that.

I did get a chance to say hello to my old boss John McCain and his wife last night at a final rally for friends and family. He was in good spirits and still telling his patented corny jokes.

We feel like he will win today, but the press built him up too much once again, so today's message has been that Romney is surging.. Why? How?

Who knows. We'll find out tonight.

Oh, and Obama is going to win big on the D side. The Hillary people are working hard, but the sentiment is clearly not with her amongst the voters I saw. I feel sorry for her. I think she'd be a fine COO, but Obama clearly has the "temprament" to inspire. His voters BELIEVE. I just worry about the whole "cult of personality" that develops around all politicians, especially the super -charismatic ones.

Monday, January 07, 2008


IPLawGuy, we call to you!

Our own IPLawGuy is in New Hampshire tonight, roaming the frozen tundra in search of people who will vote for John McCain (see illustration above).

So, IPLG, what's going on up there?

In an unrelated Razor-ite matter: based on her recent posts, I'm worried that Tyd will soon be working at Off-Season Santa.


Supreme Court grants our Cert. Petition in Spears!

Though the big events in the Supreme Court today relate to the arguments on lethal injection in the Baze case, Dustin Benham wrote me this morning with the exciting news that the Supreme Court granted our petition for certiorari and vacated the Eighth Circuit's opinion in Spears. This throws the matter back to the Eighth Circuit for further wrangling. Despite the fact that I look like "Jim" from the old tv show "Taxi" this morning, I do still have some important work ahead of me.

Here is the docket entry from the Supreme Court this morning:

06-9864 SPEARS, STEVEN V. UNITED STATES The motions of petitioners for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted. The judgments are vacated and the cases are remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for further consideration in light of Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. ___ (2007).

Sunday, January 06, 2008


More election-time musing

Today's New York Times Magazine had a lengthy piece about Mitt Romney and his Mormon identity. The article posited a few things which seemed to be confirmed by the results in Iowa. First, it's clear that evangelical Republicans are more comfortable with Huckabee than Romney, a fact that may or may not have to do with Romney's church membership. Second, it does seem that there is some measure of bigotry towards Mormons in our society generally.

One aspect of the article, though, diverged from my own experience. The author feels that Mormons are secretive about the tenets of their faith. My own dealings with Mormons like Craig Pankratz has been quite the opposite. It also seems an odd charge to level at a faith that sends guys to your door, eager to explain said tenets.

I'm interested to see what happens next-- if Romney does not win New Hampshire as predicted, the religious issue will probably come into clearer focus.

Also, what happened to Guiliani?

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Supreme Court takes on another big death penalty issue

As Doug Berman ably describes, the US Supreme Court has agreed to consider a Louisiana law which allows the death penalty for the rape of a child. While many people assume that the death penalty is strictly limited to the crime of murder, this has never been addressed by the Supreme Court. In fact, some states allow for the death penalty for rape of a minor, and federal law allows for the death penalty for a number of non-murder crimes.


The Iowa results

I would like to apologize for the mistakes I made leading to the actions by the French owners of the blog. I have agreed not to promote Big Red® soda any more, and they have returned editorial control of the blog to me.

While I was gone, there was a big election. The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries are perhaps my favorite part of the election cycle, because they remain old-fashioned. Cold, largely rural places where the candidates must actually show up and interact with voters, Iowa and New Hampshire place interesting and important demands on the candidates. My prediction is that the nominees will be Obama and McCain.

But I am usually wrong about such things.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Vendredi Haiku!

Aujourd'hui est le jour pour l'haîku! Il y a beaucoup de choses que vous pouvez écrire un haîku de, comme les chatons ou Larry Bates, qui plaira aux lecteurs. Souvenez-vous de suivre le format approprié.

Citroen, j'aime
Il danse comme Bradley Thomas
Et voyage aussi bien.

Tu, aussi!

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Citroen C4 est magnifique!

Each with a heart should buy Citroen C4! Not only it is a splendid dancer, but it will push back the communists. If you believe in the Razor, it is the time to buy Citroen


Vous devriez acheter nouveau Citroen C4 parce que c'est vivant avec la technologie!


De nouveau, nous devons objecter à cette insulte en France!

Nous regrettons que de nouveau nous devions intervenir pour arrêter la sottise de reprendre du Razor, qui continue à être une filiale entièrement-possédée du gouvernement français. Récemment, le Razor a pris à la célébration des valeurs communistes quelquefois connues comme "Grand Rouge." Pendant que le socialisme a ses mérites, le spector "de Grands Rouge," avec beaucoup de ses sous-entendus soviétiques, ne sera pas permis.

Depuis quelques jours suivants, le Razor présentera certaines des automobiles Citroen parfaites disponibles pour l'achat.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The Best Christmas Card of All

Of the Christmas cards I received this year, perhaps my favorite was one from former student Danny Noteware. Danny has gone on to work at a big firm, but his wit has not been dulled by the experience. His card included this entertaining and largely accurate haiku:

"I've read your Razor
Law blogs are fun diversion
But keep your day job."

I found that haiku to be as refreshing as a keg of Big Red® on a hot summer day, while standing on top of an old station wagon! Big Red®-- It's America's best red-colored consumer product!


Another Great Use for Big Red®-- America's favorite red beverage!

For those of you who didn't see it, Mrs. CL slipped this recipe for Big Red ice cream into the comments section from the previous post:

2 cans eagle brand milk
2 qts. frozen strawberries
2-3 32 oz bottles of Big Red

Put in ice cream freezer, filling to top with Big Red. Makes one gallon. May substitute orange drinks and 8 oz.crushed pineapple for Big Red and strawberries.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008


New Year's Resolutions, presented by Big Red®

2007 was a great year, and I think there will be some significant changes, personally and nationally, in 2008. While many of you have come to rely on the Razor for cutting-edge drivel, stimulating recipes, and repetitive haiku, the Razor Resolutions for 2008 promise even more! Check it out:

1) The Razor is going to move into the modern media age, and begin featuring product placements by some of our corporate partners. These placements, of course, will not affect the content and integrity of the Razor in any way!

2) Some people have noticed a paucity of repressed memories and recipes in recent months. These areas will be beefed up, as will the area of Britney News.

3) This year, the Razor resolves to enjoy even more Big Red®, America's favorite red-colored beverage! Big Red®-- Red Means Refreshment!

4) Finally, this year will feature a return of the photo of IpLawGuy® dancing on a car with a keg on his head. Sadly, this photo has not been featured enough of late, a problem I promise to remedy!

What are your resolutions?

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