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December, 2010:

What Happened to Being Pleasant?

A few weeks ago, my friend attended her husband’s company Christmas party at the Biltmore.  The Biltmore is one of the swankier places to hold an event in the Phoenix area.  During the party, my friend posted this on Twitter:

Said Merry Christmas to the woman folding towels in the bathroom.  She said I was the only guest to speak to her today.

I was shocked and saddened by this.  It reminded me of my internship at a large law firm last spring.  One day my office neighbor walked into my office and said that he was getting new bookshelves.  He didn’t have space for one of his plants and he asked if I wanted it.  I thanked him but declined, saying that I have a history of killing plants.  He responded with something along the lines of, “Oh no, we have a service for that.” 

I was surprised to learn that we had a plant service.  I accepted the plant and put it by my window.  The following Friday, a woman with a plastic watering can popped her head into my office, pointed at my plant, and went to work watering my plant, dusting its leaves, and removing any dead leaves.  When I said, “Good morning,” she gave me a look that suggested that I was violating a social norm by speaking to her.  I thought, “She’s a person – why wouldn’t I speak to her?”  From then on, I made it a priority to say “hello” and “thank you” every time she came to my office and asked her how her day was going.  

Bath attendant Stella, Lysekil, Sweden
Image by Swedish National Heritage Board via Flickr

I hate elitism.  I hate when people disrespect or disregard the “little” people who are below them.  Maybe the washroom attendants, waitstaff, and clerks of the world didn’t have the opportunities for a fancy education.  Maybe they are doing what they need to do to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table.  Regardless of why they do what they do, they provide a valuable service.  They make my life easier, and therefore their positions deserve respect. 

As we head into the new year and you’re making your resolutions, please consider a resolution to be pleasant and respectful to everyone around you, regardless of their status or stature.

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Undeniable Recap of 2010

2010 was an eventful year for me.  As I was driving from Phoenix to my parents’ place in Sonoma, CA, I started reflecting on the highlights of the year.

  1. My Sister’s Wedding. This was hands-down the best day of the year.  I consider myself to be my sister’s little sister and her big brother so watching her get married to such a wonderful man was a very big deal.  I watched Morena marry the love of her life, Rick,  in a wedding that the two of them designed with hand-selected music and readings.  My sister, who is also a law student (super smart, editor of her law review), was stunning.  It was wonderful to meet her in-laws (who are awesome!) and reconnect with friends.  It was everything a wedding is supposed to be.
  2. Sponsor A Law Kid. I am often a person who has creative ideas but who is too afraid to put them into action.  I have to thank Kade Dworkin and Meet My Followers to inspiring this idea and the social media community for encouraging me in this endeavor.  When I posted the first #SALK blog, I thought, “I’m either a genius or crazy.”  I also thought about the advice I received from Sam Glover who said to think about the worst thing that could happen.  For #SALK, the worst thing that could happen was nothing.  To date, #SALK has sold 28 days and funded over $1000 of next semester’s education.

    Photo by Jeff Moriarty

  3. Jester’Z Improv Acting Class. I am a person who thrives in structure.  Most of my flashmobs and pranks are fairly planned out in advance.  This class put my classmates and I had no idea what was going to happen on stage or what scenario we would be asked to play out.  Taking this acting class pushed me think faster on my feet and to enjoy the simplicity of play.  It also gave me a reprieve from reality for three hours every week.  My friend, Jeff Moriarty, shot a snippet of my final showcase.  Per the audience’s suggestion, my classmate Linzi and I were supposed to be “pumped lawyers.”  Most of the audience did not know that I was in law school.  I love how happy I look in this video.
  4. Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I ran my first half marathon in 2010.  It was 2 hours and 9 minutes of masochistic fun.  It was hard, but I’m glad I did it, and I’m doing it again next year.
  5. Finding My Legal Niche. I solidified my decision to specialize in intellectual property and internet law this last year.  I’ve enjoyed so many of my classes in this area: Intellectual Property, Cyberspace Law, High Tech Licensing, Copyright, Trademark Law, and Privacy.  I’m looking forward to working with entrepreneurs through ASU’s Innovation Advancement Program next semester.

I had many firsts in 2010:

  • First internship at a big law firm
  • First internship with an in-house legal department
  • First half marathon
  • First trip to Ohio
  • First California roll (eww)
  • First guest appearance on a podcast
  • First painted toenails
  • First paintball game
  • First talk on a legal topic at a conference
  • First trip to the Firefly Room in the Phoenix Art Museum

I am excited for what’s to come in 2011.

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Reflections on Police Authority & Public Pranks

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am a law student. In accordance with ABA policy, this blog should not be viewed as legal advice. It is simply my experiences, opinions, and stuff I looked up on the internet.

I took Criminal Procedure this semester to learn more about the legal implications of participating and planning flash mobs and pranks.  While I was studying for my exam, I started to reflect back on Improv AZ’s encounter with mall security and the police last spring and if we should have done anything differently.

The stunt was simple – we had four agents wearing t-shirts that said “Coroner” across the front and back walk through a local mall carrying a stuffed fake body bag.  The purpose was to see the reactions on people’s faces as they contemplated if what they were seeing was real or a joke.  We were stopped and detained by security who called the local police.  The police spoke with us briefly, mostly struggling to understand guerilla theatre, and released us without citation.  Looking back, I think we could have done things differently.

When a police officer suspects that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime, they can conduct a Terry stop to briefly stop the person to ask what they are doing.  They can also ask for identification.  If they suspect that the person is armed and dangerous, the police can protect themselves by frisking them for weapons.   If the police find no evidence to create a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is about to occur, they can’t detain the person any longer.

Mall Cop
Image by Mike_fj40 via Flickr

Mall security, however, are just people.  They have a job to protect the interests of mall merchants and the safety of other mall patrons.  It’s reasonable for them to confront suspicious behavior, but they have no more authority than Joe Blow Average.  I remember from Torts class that when shoplifting has occurred, they can detain the shoplifter for a reasonable time until the police arrive.  That’s a situation where the police know that a crime has occurred.  I think there’s an argument that they don’t have this ability when they concerns about suspicious behavior.

In some states mall security have government authority, but this is the exception, not the rule.  If they detain someone under the authority of their position without evidence of a crime, there’s an argument that they are impersonating a public servant or peace officer or committing unlawful imprisonment.  I think if we are stopped by mall security during a prank again, we will know that they can ask us questions within the scope of their employment, they can escort us off the private property, but without more than mere suspicion or dislike of our prank, we can probably keep walking if they try to detain us.  We also do not have to show them identification.  They can request it, but there’s no legal reason why we have to comply.

We have only been questioned by police once in the two years that Improv AZ has been in existence.  We are very thoughtful about planning our pranks to be fun and lighthearted.  The last thing we want to do is take the police away from fighting actual crime.  However, if we are stopped by police again, we have to provide them identification – especially with the police being hyper-sensitive to illegal immigration.  The police can Terry stop us and ask what we are doing.  If the stop becomes a lengthy conversation, we can ask, “Am I free to go?” and if the police respond negatively, we can ask, “In what is this pursuant to?” and see if they can provide a valid reason for our continued detention.  If we have purses or bags, the police can ask to search them, but without at least reasonable suspicion of a crime, we can respectfully decline their request.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-police.  On the contrary, I support the police preventing and fighting crime.  I also support people exerting their Fourth Amendment rights.  It’s very rare for the police to be summoned to the scene of a flash mob for legal or safety reasons, and it’s important when that happens, that participants know what rights they do and do not have.

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Seven Layers of Academic Hell

A week before my 1L fall semester finals, I hit the wall studying and was inspired to write the seven layers of academic hell to describe the process of studying for exams.

Day 62 - Fire Demon

Image by Mourner via Flickr

  1. Procrastination: I don’t want to study.
  2. Frustration: Studying is hard.  Grrrr.
  3. Caffeination: I can induce motivation through chemistry.
  4. Horror: I’m overwhelmed by all the studying I have to do.
  5. Panic: There’s no way I can learn/remember all this.
  6. Mental Disintegration: I’d care more if I could think clearly.
  7. Fuck It: I don’t care anymore.

Fuck It doesn’t mean that you’ve given up.  Fuck It means you’ve given up the drama of freaking out before finals.  It means that you know what you know, and it will be enough to pass the class.  Fuck It is being ok with not setting the curve in every class.  It is not letting your nerves or other people get to you.  It means doing your best and letting the chips fall where they may.

Good luck on your finals everyone!!

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