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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Friday, March 26, 2010

D.C. Circuit Seals Courtroom to Hide Appellant's Identity

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has sealed the courtroom for a special education case where the appellant's counsel is his mother. The appellant's identity is secret. The court fears that if someone saw appellant's counsel- supposedly a well-known courthouse figure- everyone would know the appellant's identity.

A Taste of Law School

Mostly what I write here is targeted at trial lawyers, but if you are not a lawyer and want a taste of what law school is like, check out this discussion of a novel legal problem- in this case, when a meteorite crashes into a leased commercial building, who has the better claim: the landlord or the tenant?

Friday, March 19, 2010

For Carrying a Weapon, the Plain Statutory Language Is Not Enough

For defense counsel, a most promising source of reversible error is the jury charge. The trial judge in the case of Hernandez v. State, No. 14-08-00787-CR, (Tex. App.-- Houston [14th Dist.], Mar. 16, 2010, no pet. h.)refused a self-defense instruction, apparently because defendant-appellant Hernandez's handgun possession was illegal. The proposed jury instruction seems to be to be a gross oversimplification of the law. The opinion states that Hernandez was trying to recover property stolen from his employer by a third person. The opinion neither indicates nor claims that Hernandez's attempt was illegal or improper. It is the defense lawyer's duty to provide the trial court with an accurate statement of the law. This does not appear to have been done, and appears to render any error harmless, though it might be a basis for a writ.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Suprising Place to Find a Summary of Texas Criminal Law

I was surprised to find the best short summary of the Texas criminal law today on Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney Rene Guerra's web site. It's an outline, but comprehensive.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Am Not Dead Nor Do I Sleep

I have had very little access to an internet-enabled computer the last few weeks. I have good reason to believe that I will have a working, internet-enabled computer during practically all business hours after late Monday morning at the latest. I expect the blog posts to come a lot faster then.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What This Blog Is Trying to Be and Do

On February 26, I read the best article on blogging I've ever read Joel Spolsky's final column in March's Inc. magazine. He recounts Kathy Sierra's observation that an entrepreneur s blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company or his or her product. Such a blogger needs to share knowledge about the common interest(s) of the blogger and the reader. Blogs about the exploits of the blogger or the blogger's business is boring. (Don't we blog readers know that!)

So, who is this blog for and what is it about?

I started with the idea of a blog for lawyers who were thinking about bringing or defending an appeal-- more specifically, trial lawyers who were trying to decide whether or not to bring or defend an appeal or some other appellate proceeding themselves or whether or not to hire an appellate lawyer to do it. Additionally, appellate courts are beautiful, weird, old-fashioned institutions. Some of their processes and practices will never change: they inhere in their mission. Many of their practices are antiquated and will have to change. The third area this blog is intended to address is legal writing. Legal writing is actually improving greatly over what it has been in the past. The only other time in the history of common-law law practice that writing appears to me to have improved was when the Federal Rules of Procedure were introduced and many appellate judges and law professors were embarrassed by how badly their writing sounded. Still, of any communications profession I know of, lawyers still write the worst.

There is a tradition among political actors in some southern states, Texas for example, to thank God for Mississippi. (Sometimes it might be, instead, my mother's home state of Arkansas or my wife's people's home state of Louisiana.) Thank God for Mississippi, otherwise we'd be last in education (or some other government service). I say thank God for technical writers. They make lawyers sound clear.

This blog has a point of view. It reflects my point of view. I generally believe in following constituted legal authority, including procedural and local rules. Do your homework-- that is, your legal and factual research. (In the past lawyers had few precedents, no typewriters, no copy machines, no computers, no phones and no fax machines. Lawyers and judges travelled by horse. What the appellate community produces should be a whole lot better than it used to be.) Don't put a wrench in a court's work by not taking cognisance of a court's internal operating procedures. Use checklists. And write pithily, with power. Don't beat around the bush.