Friday, January 28, 2005


By Tweed

Law libaries** are suppositories of a great variety of legal works, such as judicial opinions, photo-copiers and the primary location for student research and nappy-time. Like any other libary, a law libary is filled with thousands of volumes that no one has ever opened, such as "Horker on Handtruck Liability" and many volumes written by Federal Reporter. Like general libaries, law libaries use the Dewey Decimal system - so bring your sextent and abacus.

Like their step-siblings, the general libarians, law libarians are a insular bunch. They congregate in mysterious offices behind reference desks or in the basement. They speak their own language, often incomprehenible to the new student:

Student: Could you please tell me....

Libarian: 2nd Floor, you want AD2 and Pacific Reporter, but you can also look in F3d or Fed. Sup2nd. The Key Number is 16 and 23 so cross reference that and don't forget to Shep.

Student: Where the bathroom is?

Though they frequently speak about themselves with self-deprecating humor, law libarians are crafty and clever. Underneath their false modesty lies the most remarkable encyclopedic knowledge of the great and indispensable resources that their library doesn't have. Constantly under pressure to discontinue such precious commodities as "Rouschefoch's Law of Fur Trading," law librarians greedily protect the limited resources their libary has to offer. Though proud of these prized texts and outwardly protective, law librarians have the annoying habit of lending out indispensable texts to people with the morals of wandering snake-oil salesmen.

Despite their many charming idiosyncrasies, law libarians are very helpful at finding information. But don't expect them to help you with an actual legal problem - law libarians know blessedly little about the law. Rather, they know how it is organized, catalogued and stacked. Thus, as actuarials are to social security, so law librarians are to the law.

Law libraries contain a number of great resources beside the actual law (statutes and regulations). They contain legal publications, like periodicals (e.g. the New York Law Journal, the National Law Journal, the Inlaw Journal), scholarly articles, usually in law reviews (e.g. Harvard Law Review, East Schenectady School of Criminal Justice Law Review and Broadside), and treatises (Corpus Juris Secundum, Merten's Federal Income Tax, Williston on Williston and Prosser On Prosser's Wife).

Law libraries have gone through an extraordinary transformation over the past fifteen years, not unlike Michael Jackson. Law libraries used to function as flop houses for law students - like MJ's Neverland. But now, through the power of the internet, they constitute the single largest profit source for internet pornography - just ahead of MJ's Neverland.

* Some of your more ignorant colleagues will pronounce it "library" and "librarian". Don't let them make fools of themselves. Correct them at every opportunity.

** One of the most prestigious law libaries can be found at 225 AD2d 545, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


By Stockton

Civil Procedure is a rich, complex legal tapestry that cannot be summarized in one, eight paragraph entry. Therefore, to gain a thorough understanding of this discipline, How To Law School will present two, eight paragraph entries on Civil Procedure.

Civil Procedure will teach you the rules that govern litigation in Federal Courts. Federal Civil Procedure can be found in The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). The FRCP contains all you'll need to litigate in Federal Court and comes complete with dice and two decks of game cards.

Almost every state in the union has adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for their own State Courts.* Thus, many students kill two birds with one stone, learning not only how to wrongly apply Federal Civil Procedure, but simultaneously learning to wrongly apply the procedure of their own state courts. One glaring exception is New York, which still holds fast to its own procedure.**

FRCP 4 - The Summons

A Summons is an invitation to come to court. It informs the recipient where to be, when to be there and what to wear ("You are cordially invited to present yourself at the Federal District Court for the Northern District of New York on Monday, May 11th at 12 O'clock in the forenoon to give me money...). The Answer is the RSVP. "Of course, I'd love to attend. And no, I won't be giving you anything."

Rule 4 also governs service of the pleadings. Service of process is extremely important and must be followed to the most insignificant detail. Improper service upon a defendant means that jurisdiction has not been obtained and therefore, the defendant is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Such a defect can often prove fatal to a suit.

The most common form of service is personal service. A process server must physically take the Summons and Complaint and whack the defendant over the head with it three times, while shouting, "You are served!" three times. Traditionally, the defendant is then supposed to tip the process server.

Pay particular attention to FRCP 4(g), service upon incompetents. This rule governs service upon children as well as adults who have guardians. It does not, I repeat, does not, apply to service upon government officials or your brother-in-law.

FRCP 11 - Signing of Pleadings, Papers and Sanctions

FRCP 11 is relatively new. It mandates that most papers in litigation be signed by the client or attorney of record. By signing, the attorney is attesting to the truth of what is contained in the papers. A violation of this rule can result in sanctions, or worse. Therefore, as much as you might want to, refrain from signing names like, I.P. Daily or U Fukkem Yung.***

FRCP 35 - Physical and Mental Exams

This Rule can be quite fun. If a Plaintiff places their physical or mental health in issue, opposing counsel can request that the Plaintiff be examined by a physician or mental health expert. Here's a fun thing to do: purchase a white lab jacket and schedule the physical or mental health examination at your office. When the Plaintiff arrives, and if she (or he) is good looking, You conduct the exam. If you have ever spotted a box of latex gloves in a law office, thank Rule 35.

FRCP 45 - Subpoenas

The Subpoena (pronounced sub-pony) comes from the Latin and literally translated means, 'under the pony'. In ancient Rome, people who ignored a court order to produce themselves or documents were punished by being thrown underneath a pony.

Advocate: Your Honor, Cicero refused the order to appear and testify.
Judge: Then it's under the pony for him!

Subpoenas can be great fun. They are typically used to ensure a non-party's attendance at trial or depositions. Also, they are used for the production of documents or other evidence. But don't limit the scope of what you do with a subpoena. Be creative. Use subpoenas to order lunch, make your spouse produce credit card bills and even have video stores deliver rentals straight to your house. They are also great for last-minute shopping.

Rule 47 - Jury Selection

Jury selection in Federal Court has been honed to a near perfect science and, unlike state court, the attorneys have little involvement. The Federal system of jury selection is known as 'One-Potato-Two-Potato' and ensures that only the least knowledgeable individuals too stupid to avoid jury duty are selected to try their peers.

* Before a State can formally adopt the FRCP, the state is thoroughly investigated to ensure it will provide a safe and nurturing home.

** New York Practice derives from the early procedures of the Anglo-Saxon Althing (cir. 581 AD) although it remains slightly more archaic than its predecessor.

*** Unless your name is I.P. Daily or U Fukkem Yung.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


By Stockton


How many of you have wondered; "What type of extra activities can I do to make me a better law student?" Me neither. Still, here are a few projects that will keep you sharp over breaks and vacations and put you a step ahead of your colleagues.

1. Prepare a topographical map of Blackacre (be sure to include two easements, one improvement, an acre subject to adverse possession and a right-of-way).

2. Commit a crime (nothing greater than a misdemeanor) and then represent yourself. Move to have all charges dismissed based upon a violation of your 4th Amendment Rights. Before the Judge rules on your motion, make sure he knows that if he decides your motion in the unscholarly, amateurish way typical of lower court judges, you're prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court.*

3. Create a life-size, talking doll of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes out of paper mache. The doll should recite lines from Holmes' more memorable opinions ("Two generations of idiots are enough!" - The Carrie Buck Case)**

4. Cross Examine your spouse or significant other about their credit card bill. Get them to admit that half their purchases were unnecessary. Bonus points if you get them to cry.

5. Create a diorama depicting the states in which you and your friends may be subject to personal jurisdiction and the basis for such jurisdiction (be sure to remember Long Arm Jurisdiction).

6. Default on a debt to a bookie or loan shark. Explain that such activities are illegal and thus, they have no way to enforce your promise.

7. Write and produce a musical based on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

8. Draft a quasi-contract, amend it into an implied-in-fact contract and then back into a quasi-contract.

Practice Questions

1. A contracts to sell B 1,000 ice cube trays. A then contracts with C for the manufacture of 1,000 ice cube trays. A is to deliver the trays to B on or before May 1. The trays are to be manufactured by C on or before April 15 and shipped to A no later than April 21. C is told that B, a restaurant owner, is relying upon the ice cube trays and that delivery after May 1 is will result in substantial monetary loss to B. Both contracts are reduced to writing with a clause stating, "This contract is whole and complete and its material terms cannot be altered except in writing, with written consent of both parties."C's factory burns down on April 12. The fire is ruled to be arson. Answer the following questions:

a) What was B going to do with 1,000 ice cube trays?

b) Was C involved in the fire? Why won't C's son speak to him?

2. A rare diamond is on display at the New State museum. It is valued at $1,788,245.22. On the first night of the exhibit, the diamond is found missing. Curator Smith suspects that John Doe, who catered the event, took the diamond. Smith tells the police that he has absolutely no evidence that Doe took the diamond but that Doe should be questioned. Police go to Doe's restaurant, arrest him and search the building. The diamond is found under a medium-rare porterhouse steak. Doe is arrested and convicted of the theft.

a) Can Doe's statement, "Boy, I sure could use $1,788,245.22 to help pay for those ice cube trays," made the night before the theft, be used against him?

b) Can the porterhouse steak be admitted into evidence? Can the baked potato? Can the fact that the steak was ordered medium rare but cooked well-done be used to impeach Doe?

* You may need to take a leave of absence from school for a semester or two.

** Also, the doll makes a great gift for a friend or relative expecting a child.