Friday, September 29, 2006

I need to post more often, eh?

Something really incredibly messed up happened last night. I witnessed it, and kind of took part, in the end. It was on the Long Island bus. I was attempting to go one place and boy how life took me in another direction. Let's just say the incident ended with an arrest that turned violent, and I lost faith I may have had or been willing to implicitly grant to Nassau County's police, I was not arrested. I will try to post about it soon. I am very short on time right now.

I really just stopped by to say, hey, I need to post here more!

And I would also like to point out that in my classes we read cases. Lots and lots of cases. Every day, cases. Civil Procedure--cases. Criminal Law--cases. Contracts--horrifyingly mind-numbing cases. Torts (my favorite!)--lots and lots of cases. Even in Legal Writing we read some cases. And you know who has appeared in more cases than any other entity? Wal-Mart! That's right. Those fools/epitome of all that is evil have got themselves in more trouble, as far as I can see, than just about anyone else. Well, and is anyone surprised?

Man, I hate Wal-Mart. They are just. So. Wrong.

I will try to share more law school thoughts soon. Or even just life thoughts.

Yes, there IS ALWAYS an alternative place to shop. Boycott the W!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Doubt it

Another toss-off line in a class set me thinking. This time it was Torts, with my brilliant teacher from Omaha! (oh, Omaha! *sigh*) He mentioned a "reasonable doubt: one that can be reasoned, not a speculative doubt." Suddenly -- ding! The light bulb went on for me.

I must admit I'd never really thought about it that way. We've all heard for years that the prosecution in a criminal case must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt." And, even if we never paid attention to these things before O.J., we probably could recite after that the burden of proof was less in a civil case: "a preponderance of the evidence." But I'd always thought about a "reasonable doubt" as sort of an "acceptable level of doubt" or an understandable doubt, you know. Reasonable. Not outlandish. Behave reasonably.

And in civil cases, and all the intentional tort cases we discuss in class, the standard of negligence asks what a reasonable person would do in those circumstances, how a member of society can reasonably be asked to behave. We often hear that, though, as "how would a normal person behave?"

It's important for us to remember that the law asks us to be reasonable, to be logical. That is to say, our actions should not be unfounded. There should be discernible reasoning behind them. As for proving the prosecution's case against the defendant, sure, you could always come up with some far-fetched speculative doubt ("well, what IF the REAL killer just HAPPENED to throw the bloody knife in my bag...." or whatever) but the courts ask only to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, to make a case that withstands logical probing and analysis.

I love logic. I love the law. I might add that I've always hated when in emotionally volatile situations people try to get out of facing consequences or owning up to their actions or answering the question "Why?" by saying they can't explain it, it just happened, they can't help what they feel, there's no logical reason for it, and so on.

Here's to being reasonable!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This year I was in New York for the commemoration of September 11.

After class on Monday -- well, class and some other things -- I headed into The City to look at the Twin Towers of Light. You know, the blue lights that shine up into the sky where the World Trade towers once stood. (Although it turned out they were actually not on the actual actual spot of the where the towers stood, but it looks like it in the skyline from a distance.)

There were of course various things happening all day noting the event. In the morning, after my clock radio alarm woke me, I actually just lay there listening to the reading of the names for quite a while. Survivors, mostly widows, would read a group of 5 or 10 names and then end with their husband/fiance/father before passing it on to the next reader...I'm sure you've seen this on TV over the past four years, but maybe you've blown it off just like I did.

Hofstra Law School had a noontime remembrance ceremony; three law school alumni lost their lives at the World Trade Center that day. At night I ventured into Manhattan. We wandered around the area -- I don't really know what to call it these days; it's not 'Ground Zero' anymore -- noting the flowers, pictures, poems, gathered throng, firefighter tributes, protester with a sign calling for investigation (I hear ya brother!), people taking pictures, U.S. flags, peace sign in a window across the street...

The thing that struck me the most were the little kids. Earlier in the evening I had spoken briefly with my sister on the phone, which of course meant my nigh on 3-year-old nephew was in the background, and my sister was telling him, "Aunt Linda's in a place called New York!" I was like, put on your TV tonight and you can show him where I am. That got me started thinking. Then, as I looked at the children wandering around the sidewalk and displays I just kept thinking, "They weren't born." I don't know why it hit me so strongly in that moment, or why it hadn't before, but suddenly it seemed totally bizarre that there could be functioning little human beings in the world with thoughts and ideas and sentences and personalities who did not exist on that September 11.

The tall blue beams of light go so far up into the sky you can't see the end of them. When they hit the clouds, so bright, it looks like the moon is behind the clouds. I love blue things anyway, but it looked amazing.

In my Torts class, we study all sorts of cases of negligence, battery, false imprisonment, and other wrongs that people do each other. A tort is a harm. A lot of people in the so-called general public have in mind torts when they think about "frivolous law suits" and our "overly litigious society." It's not criminal court. The torts system is about compensation for injury, not punishment. What's it not, or I should say what's it not necessarily, is about getting ridiculous revenge. You have to prove a harm, and damages are awarded to compensate for the harm. A line in my text really struck me, that the torts system offers a non-violent alternative to fighting back when someone hits you, assaults you, or commits some other intentional or negligent wrongdoing.

I was thinking what a nicer world it would be if instead of terrorism and war people always turned to the common law of torts to be justly compensated for harms and wrongs done to them.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Amy Ray no longer plays her song "Nashville." She wrote it 20+ years ago, at a time when, the story goes, she felt a lot of animosity toward the city, Vanderbilt University, their oppressive racism and sexism, and the hoops musicians and songwriters must jump through there. She left and transferred to another school. The song on one level indicts Nashville and its ruinous effects on musicians. On another level, of course, it can be interpreted to be about much more than the games the music business plays...but by all accounts, Indigo Girls will never play the song in concert again because she is older and wiser and has let go of her bitterness toward the city. There are a couple other songs from their earliest albums they have also declared we fans will never again have the pleasure of hearing live.

That sucks for me about "Nashville" in particular because it's one of my absolute favorites of theirs. And not just because I, too, left my first choice university in a conservative city with its own special rules, singing as I went: "As I drive from your pearly gates I realize that I just can't stay, all those mountains, they kept you locked inside and hid the truth from my slighted eyes. I came to you with a half-open heart, dreams upon my back, illusions of a brand new start..."

I have found a recurring theme in my life of breaking up with places as if they were people.

I've never heard the Girls do "Nashville" live, but I've worn out multiple copies of the cassette and/or CD on which it is found, Rites of Passage. But for the first time this morning, I found myself singing it about a person, not a place.

"But I'll be walking proud, I'm saving what I still own
I fell on my knees to kiss your land
but you are so far down I can't even see to stand
In Nashville...
I'm leaving
I got all these debts to pay
You know we all have our dues, I'll pay 'em some other place
I never asked that you pay me back
We all arrive with more, I left with less than I had
Your town is made for people passing through
Last chance for a cause I thought I knew
You tell me what you are gonna do with all your southern style
It'll never pull you through
I can't place no blame but if you forget my face
I'll never call your name again, no, never again, no never again
I fell on my knees to kiss your land
but you are so far down I can't even see to stand
I'd like to know your fate, I'd like to stay a while
But I've seen your lowered state today
I'm running away, I'm running away
I'm running running running away."

--amy ray, 'nashville'