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Above the Law

Nominate Me for the ABA’s Top 100 Law Blawgs

The American Bar Association (ABA) is soliciting nominations for its 2011 list of Top 100 Law Blawgs.  It would be an honor if UndeniableRuth.com was on this list.

During the last 20 months, I have written about a variety of legal topics:

The ABA has a rule that you cannot nominate yourself, a blog you have written for, or your company’s blog, so I can’t sit on my computer all day nominating myself.  I need your help to make this happen.  Also, the ABA doesn’t want to receive nominations from spouses, which I think they’ll probably extend to anyone the ABA thinks is a family member who is not otherwise employed in the legal profession (sorry Mom).  The nomination page can be found here.

Nominations will be accepted through September 9, 2011.

You are not limited to only nominating one legal blog.  Along with this blog, please consider nominating Above the Law, Military Underdog, and Legal Blog Watch.

SALK Day 208: David E. Mills

Today is my last day of Sponsor A Law Kid!!  My final sponsor of this adventure is David E. Mills of The Mills Law Office.    His recent claim to fame is being among the few lawyers who have had the privilege of arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court.  He obtained a 9-0 decision in Ortiz v. Jordan earlier this year.  I love that he’s done so much, and yet he’s still a down-to-earth person who works out of his apartment in Cleveland, Ohio.  He asked me to relay the story behind him becoming my final sponsor.

David E. Mills, courtesy of Mills Law Office

I announced Sponsor A Law Kid on November 16, 2010.  The idea came to me somewhat on a whim, and I had no idea if it would work.  My friend in the blogging world told me to “put out a blog post and see what happens.”  At that time, I had been blogging for less than a year and I was happy to have a few dozen people visit my site a day.  It took a few days, but Above the Law and the ABA Journal websites each ran a story about my endeavor and my numbers started to climb rapidly.

And then the comments started.  People who didn’t know me and wouldn’t know me from Adam, visited my site and left comments claiming that they were embarrassed for me and that I was lazy, undedicated, and begging for money.   It was hard to approve those mean-spirited comments.  I did not expect that level of negative backlash from the legal community.

I had over 3,000 hits in the first 10 days after I announced the program, including David.  He saw the post about Sponsor A Law Kid on Above the Law.  He thought my idea was interesting, and he was curious to see what people’s reactions were.   David had no intention of buying a day.  However, when he visited my site, he was so appalled by the unwarranted insults towards me and was so impressed with the way I calmly responded to them, that he offered to buy my most expensive day.

I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received for this program.  Now that Sponsor A Law Kid is over, we need to find new endeavors to support, like the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  Cleveland has a very special place in my heart, and this is a fantastic organization that provides a wide variety of legal resources for people who can’t otherwise afford legal representation.  It is staffed by wonderful people who work tirelessly for their clients.  They embody what the practice of law is supposed to be.

Sponsor A Law Kid was my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is David E. Mills.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

Is That Legal – Public Dancing

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

At 11:45pm on April 12, 2008, Mary Oberwetter and 17 friends engaged in silent dancing inside the Jefferson Memorial while listening to music on their headphones to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.  The Park Police arrested her when she refused their order to stop.  Oberwetter was charged with interfering with an agency function and demonstrating without a permit, which violates the National Park Service Regulations.  She responded by filing a lawsuit claiming that the police violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights.  On May 17, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the judgement that she was lawfully arrested and upheld the dismissal of her claims.

After the ruling came down, five more protesters were arrested for dancing in the Jefferson Memorial over Memorial Day weekend.  The group, led by Adam Kokesh and Edward Dickey, referred to their behavior as civil danceobedience.

Many people, including Elie Mystal from Above the Law, found the ban on dancing in memorials disgusting.  In response to the court ruling and the subsequent arrests, groups all over the world staged dancing events at memorials.  It was reported that as many as 38 countries participated in the event, including demonstrations at the Jefferson Memorial and in Phoenix, Arizona.  I could not find any reports of any arrests at any of the events.

Photo by Adam Nollmeyer

Unfortunately the problem here is the law is clear that any demonstration at a memorial won’t be tolerated.  It’s sad, but that’s what it is.  This event made me wonder, on what grounds might someone be arrested for dancing in public and what can people to prevent it?

Assault:  Assault requires intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person or placing them in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury.  So as long as you keep your body at a sufficient distance from other people, I don’t think dancing constitutes assault.

Trespass: Trespass requires knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully on any real property after a reasonable request to leave by the owner or any other person having lawful control over such property, or reasonable notice prohibiting entry.  Public property, like parks containing memorials, are open to everyone so as long as no person with proper authority, dance on!

Unlawful Assembly or Riot:  These crimes require two or more people acting together with force or violence or threats of force that disturb the public peace.  As long as you and your friends can dance without threatening anyone, then it’s ok.

Disorderly Conduct:  This is a catch-all crime for general bad behavior; however, the law requires the intent to disturb the peace with unreasonable noise or violent or seriously disruptive behavior.  I’m guessing you have to be a really bad dancer to rise to the level of seriously disruptive behavior.

Obstructing a Thoroughfare: To obstruct a thoroughfare, you have to recklessly interfere with the passage of a thoroughfare by creating an unreasonable inconvenience or hazard without a legal privilege to do so.  Thus, dancing on the grass, away from the sidewalk or otherwise not interfering with other people’s ability to use the sidewalk because of your dancing appears to be permissible.

Bolin Park Rules by Ruth Carter

It’s important to note when you’re dancing at a memorial to look for any signage that indicated whether you are permitted to be on the memorial itself.  In Bolin Park in Phoenix, there are over a dozen memorials and statutes.  I was surprised that each one did not have a “Do Not Climb” plaque until someone pointed out that this notice was on the posted signs with all the rules regarding permitted behaviors in the park.

We had a great time at the dance event in Phoenix.  There was another rally going on and there was lots of police and security present.  At one point we went over to their area and started dancing on the lawn when they started to play music.  The police looked at us strangely and smiled.

Thank you to Phoenix commercial photographer Adam Nollmeyer for shooting such awesome footage at the Phoenix Dance for Liberty Flash Mob.

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SALK Day 8 – Amanda Ellis – The Social Media Connection

My sponsor today is Amanda Ellis, attorney recruiter and founder of Amanda Ellis Legal Search.  Her firm assists associate level attorneys in finding jobs.  She is also the author of The 6Ps of the Big 3 for Job-Seeking JDs, a book that provides a detailed overview about how attorneys can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to develop business or find a job.  She also maintains a blog on this topic with tips and her appearance schedule.  Many professionals are afraid of social networking sites.  Her book does a great job of instructing professionals on how to use these sites and tips for having a professional presence online and building relationships with others.  I’m looking forward to implementing some of her suggestions on how to use LinkedIn to find a job in my upcoming search for post-graduation employment.  When Ellis sponsored today, she asked me to share one of my success stories of being a law student and using social media.  I thought I would tell the social media history of Sponsor A Law Kid.

One thing I’ve learned about networking through social media is that it is a process, not an event.  It’s about building relationships and seeing each connection and conversation and a potential stepping stone.

In January 2009, I was a 1L who had just finished her first semester of law school and did not stick out in a crowd.  I attended the first Global No Pants Ride in Phoenix.  I was intrigued by the boldness of Jeff Moriarty for planning such an event and decided that I wanted to meet him.  I purposely stood next to him on the ride and struck up a conversation with him.  By the end of the day we were “friends” on Facebook.  Through Jeff, I heard about Ignite Phoenix, and presented on the legalities of participating in public pranks at Ignite Phoenix #5.  One of the other presenters at Ignite was Kade Dworkin.  Kade and I kept in contact and about a year later, he started his own podcast called Meet My Followers where he interviewed his Twitter followers.  I was on his podcast and listened to his other shows.  One of his guests was Jason Sadler, founder of I Wear Your Shirt.  As I listened to Jason discuss how he makes a living by wearing shirts and creating content, I was inspired to use my blog to fund my final semester of law school.  In November 2010, I launched Sponsor A Law Kid.  This campaign has opened the door for me to connect with attorneys all over the country and opportunities to be a guest blogger for other websites.  It took almost two years and at least seven steps from participating in a prank to being mentioned on Above the Law, The Nutmeg Lawyer, Blind Drunk Justice, and ABAJournal.com.

Twitter is my primary modality for networking.  It is how I create and maintain connections with people in the legal community.  Along with connecting online, I try to connect with as many people as I can in reality through attending events and inviting attorneys to coffee or lunch.  I have stronger connections with people that I have met in person than with people I only know online.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school.  Today’s sponsor is Amanda Ellis.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Sponsor A Law Kid – Update – Nov. 24, 2010

I launched Sponsor A Law Kid a little over a week ago.  I was surprised by how much traffic my blog has had over the past week.  The ABA and Above The Law wrote articles about #SALK which literally brought thousands of people to my blog.

At first a lot of the comments were very critical, angry, and downright nasty.  I was shocked by the hatefulness of some people’s comments.  I figured if a person didn’t think #SALK was a good idea, that they simply wouldn’t sponsor a day and that would be the end of it.  I’m not sure that everyone understood that people who sponsor a day get a blog dedicated to the person, company, or cause of their choice.  Some of the comments gave the impression that I was simply asking for money and offering nothing in return.  I am very grateful to my supportive friends and the commenters who followed the angry comments with their support and encouragement.

To date, I have sponsorship for 20 days.  I was very humbled that two families have sponsored days to bring attention to rare illnesses that their children have and organizations that support the families who are coping with these illnesses.

I was especially touched by a lawyer from Cleveland.  He saw the article about #SALK on Above the Law and he came here for more information.  He had no intention of sponsoring a day, but when he saw “the unwarranted insults and anger” towards me in the comments, he was inspired to purchase my most expensive day.  I am still in awe over his generosity.

I hope I can continue to use #SALK to bring attention to special people, companies, and causes.  If you would like to sponsor a day, please contact me at SponsorALawKid@gmail.com.

No Love from ASU Law School for Current or Future Students

This past week, Elie Mystal of Above the Law wrote a biting and brilliant article about Dean Berman’s announcement that he intended to make the law school at Arizona State University less reliant on state funding.  Berman’s plan went from intriguing to horrifying when he said that he planned to do this by increasing the size of the law school student body and increasing tuition.

Seriously?!?

Mystal was on the right path when he said Berman’s plan would result in more unemployed lawyers with mountains of debt.  What he doesn’t realize is that ASU is already passed the capacity of its current facilities.  Where are they going to put another 30 people?  Furthermore, job prospects for law graduates in Arizona currently suck in this economy.  Is it ethical to flood the market with lawyers who can’t get jobs?

ASU Sign (1)
Image by John M. Quick via Flickr

I can understand Berman’s desire to be less reliant to state funding.  I’m sure some of his plans were derailed when the state budget for education was slashed.  I understand and generally respect the concept that people should pay top dollar for quality products.  However, asking students at a public university to carry this burden is asking too much.  And pissing off future alums by robbing them blind won’t help the school’s fundraising efforts.

In the National Law Journal, Berman said, “We’re expanding the scope of legal education.”  Is he referring to the cubic buttload of clinics, journals, and programs that have been added to the school since he became the dean?  Being a student at ASU Law, it seems like a new program is added every 30 seconds.  It seems like every time someone mentions the idea of starting something new at the school, Berman approves it.  I’ve been wondering where the school was getting the money to pay for all this.  I don’t know where it was coming from but now we know who will be footing the bill in the future – the students!  If the students are paying for everything, the school shouldn’t be expanding.  It should be focusing on doing a few things well – like preparing students to be actual lawyers with real lawyering skills.

Now, I take my fair share of flack for dissing my school while I’m still a student.  I’m not saying everything about it is bad – there are some awesome people at the school.  But from an administrative perspective, the school doesn’t seem to care about its students.  The most glaring proof of this are the decisions that are made to impress and entice potential students, but have limited usefulness to current students.  Have you seen the new website?  How about the new fancy desks that aren’t big enough to comfortably accommodate a laptop?  Or the classroom configurations that are a pain in the ass to navigate?  How many students were consulted before these decisions were made?  One current professor said probably zero.  There’s a lot of flash and sparkle without much utility.

You know what bothers me the most about Berman’s plan?  At a recent town hall meeting, Berman said, “”I never would have come if I knew they were going to privatize the law school.”  I know he said this because, (1) I was there, and (2) I immediately tweeted that quote out to the universe.  (Isn’t technology a bitch?)  If the dean of my law school is a walking contradiction, I’m pissed about how this institution is treating its students and severely concerned for its future.

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