What Were the Damages in Erie?

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on November 10th, 2010 by bl1y

A few days ago I posted a video of an NYU civil procedure class performing a skit that somehow is supposed to explain the Erie doctrine.  You can see NYU’s own coverage of the event here.  Now it’s time to look at just how much damage was done.

A semester in law school, not counting exam periods, lasts about 14 weeks.  And, in each of those weeks, an NYU 1L will have 15 hours of class room instruction (see, we didn’t count exam periods because there are no classes then).  Actually, at NYU you’ll have 15.5 hours the first semester, and 14.5 the second semester, if you have civil procedure first semester (which these kids obviously did), but it’s a 5 hour class, and replaced with a 4 hour class second semester.  The weird .5 comes from Lawyering being 2.5 credits per semester, taken both first and second semesters.  I’m just going with the average of 15 hours to keep things tidy.

So, 14 weeks multiplied by 15 hours per week means 210 total hours of classroom instruction for the semester.  Yearly tuition at NYU is $44,820, or $22,410 per semester.  This is just tuition, not total expenses with books, and fees, and room and board.  So, $22,410 for 210 hours of classroom instruction comes out to $106.71 per hour.

The Erie skit, not counting the vapid gifts to the professor (his tenured position and cushy salary doing part time work is his gift, you imbeciles!), lasts about 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour.  That’s $17.79 in tuition dollars going to that skit.

Per student.

Now, unless something big has changed since I attended, the 1Ls are divided in to 4 sections, and each section has two different civil procedure groups.  When I was there I believe we had about 450 1Ls, and I believe that number has gone up, but let’s just call it a conservative 50 students per civ pro class.  50 students x $17.79 per student is $889.50.

$889.50 for that sketch.  To me, that doesn’t actually sound like a whole lot of money when you compare it to the total cost of law school.  But, I think going back to the per-student figure is more enlightening.

$17.79 per student in the audience, $17.79 per student performing (yes, they pay to perform in class, not the other way around), and $17.79 per student who’d really rather just get a decent education and be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.  $17.79 per student to watch a performance which, given most classes’s attendance policies, students were more or less required to see.

Would you have paid $17.79 to watch that performance?

Would you have financed that $17.79 with non-dischargeable debt which you will be paying off for the next 10, 15, or 20 years?  When you include the interest, that $17.79 could easily blow up to $30 or $40 dollars per student.

But even in today’s dollars, let’s look at how much $17.79 is.  Just a block from where this performance took place (assuming it was in Vanderbilt Hall, which it looks like it is) is the Comedy Cellar.  Ticket prices Monday-Wednesday are $10, Thursday and Sunday are $12, and Friday and Saturday are $18.  The shows usually last about 2 hours, and involve 6-8 comedians performing short acts.

If you went to tonight (it’s Wednesday, so only $10) your opening act would be Modi:

Then, you would listen to 5 other comics who have been on Last Comic Standing, Z Rock, Howard Stern, and written for Dave Chappelle.  After that, you’d get your headliner, Dave Attell:

And then, to close, you’d have schmuck who only got so far as having a half hour special on Comedy Central.

Of course, Comedy Cellar, like most comedy clubs, has a 2 drink minimum.  Domestic beer is $5, imports are $6.  I’ll assume they have something like Sam Adams or another good American beer, so we’re going domestic.  $20 plus tip.  Would you rather pay $22 (tipping only on the drinks, not the ticket, duh) to see these comics, or $17.79 to have your legal education interrupted with an amateur Erie doctrine skit?

Would you rather get:

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Archer Memo

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22nd, 2010 by bl1y

If you’re a 1L at NYU School of Law, you should be having the Archer project coming up (unless they’ve changed the curriculum since I was there).  If you find yourself having trouble with the research, or struggling to put your memo together, you’re in luck!  I wrote the book on Archer.  Literally.

Well, kinda.

I worked as a research assistant and did a major rewrite of the “bench memo” (aka: teachers’ edition) and still have my copy.

I won’t just give you my copy of the memo.  After all, I may need to hire one of you some day, and I’d prefer to you learned the basics of legal research and writing.  But, I also know that many professors phone it in and don’t give much guidance, and that’s not going to result in a skilled lawyer either.

I’m not going to do the work for you, but if you need help, I don’t really have anything else better to do with my time.  Either post your questions in the comments, or send them to nycbl1y@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to make your first semester suck a little less.

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Reason Not to Go to Fucking NYU #1

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 4th, 2010 by bl1y

On or about April 17th I sent a request to the NYU records office to have them mail a degree certification form to the Alabama State Bar.  It took them until yesterday to mail it.

On Wednesday the Alabama Bar sent me a notice that I had until next Saturday to get the certificate in.  Final deadline.  No fucking around.  Miss it and I get to apply for the February 2011 bar exam.

Mother fucking NYU, you dirty fucking whores.

[Also, NYU is over priced and doesn't teach you anything, and Peggy Cooper Davis has publicly lied about the contents and quality of the NYU Lawyering Program.]

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ICWA Tip: Southwest Voter Registration Educ. Project v. Shelly

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23rd, 2010 by bl1y

Time again to help out the tired, poor, huddled masses in the NYU Lawyering program.

If you’re having trouble with the substantial likelihood of success section of your memo, check out Southwest Voter Registration Educ. Project v. Shelly, 344 F.3d 914 (9th Cir. 2003).

In a nutshell, plaintiffs argue that the alleged disparate impact of punch-card ballots on minority voters violated Section 2 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. Plaintiffs allege that minority voters disproportionately reside in punch-card counties and that, even within those counties, punch-card machines discard minority votes at a higher rate. To establish a Section 2 violation, plaintiffs need only demonstrate “a causal connection between the challenged voting practice and [a] prohibited discriminatory result.” Smith v. Salt River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist., 109 F.3d 586, 595 (9th Cir.1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). There is significant dispute in the record, however, as to the degree and significance of the disparity. Thus, although plaintiffs have shown a possibility of success on the merits, we cannot say that at this stage they have shown a strong likelihood.

Here we basically have a discussion where success on the merits would have been pretty easy.  Plaintiff only needed to show a casual connection between voting practice and a discriminatory result, which they seemed to have evidence of.  However, “significant dispute” in the record was enough to take the plaintiffs down to a mere possibility of success, not a strong likelihood.

This should be a sort of no-brainer for the State.  Just make a good faith showing that you have some reasonably chance of winning on the merits and this precedent will take you far.  As for the Tribe, I don’t know.  Just be prepared for another hurdle.

Go State! Beat Tribe!

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ICWA Tip: Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Counsel

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12th, 2010 by bl1y

Hopefully all the 1Ls at NYU have found Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Counsel already, but if you haven’t, go read it.  Winter makes a pretty important adjustment to the requirements for a preliminary injunction.

A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor,and that an injunction is in the public interest.

The moving party is no longer requires to show that they will suffer irreparable harm, but only that they are likely to.  This is obvious a lot of help to the Tribe, for which the harms they are arguing are largely hypothetical.

If you are arguing for the tribe, make sure you point out that this case changes the standards.  It is not enough to simply put the new standard in your brief.  There is a good chance your judge will gloss over it and not really notice that there has been a change.  Remember, your judge may be just an attorney, and that attorney may not have argued a preliminary injunction case since Winter came out two years ago.  Make sure it is clear not just what the new standard is, but that the standard has recently changed.

For the State, there’s not really a lot you can get from this.  Just continue to focus on making the burden of proof an uphill battle for the Tribe.  Argue that the harm won’t be irreparable, and make sure the Tribe is showing that the harm isn’t just a possibility, but is in fact likely.

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 10th, 2010 by bl1y

Since posting my offer to help NYU students with their ICWA assignments just 6 days ago, I’ve already had 4 students e-mail me asking for help.  Over 20 people have come across my site while specifically looking for help with the assignment.  (I can tell they didn’t stumble upon while doing regular research, because the searches contain terms like “NYU” and “memo.”)

I imagine in the next few weeks, I’ll be getting some more requests for help, so I’m going to go ahead and post some of the general advice here.  When you kids are further along in your writing, feel free to send me a draft of your brief and I’ll look over it and get back to you.  And, you can always just e-mail me questions if you have an issue that I didn’t address here.

If you’re wondering about my qualifications to give you advice, you’re on the wrong train of thought.  You can get my advice and then exercise your own judgment.  If you mindlessly follow whatever I say, you’re a moron.  But, having said that, I wrote a substantial section of one of the “model answers” for one of the larger lawyering projects (I won’t say which one, because that could jeopardize my anonymity).  And on top of that, I’ve been through the damn ICWA exercise, and won…as the mother-freaking Tribe.  Also, I’m collecting old briefs from some of my classmates, and stitching together a master brief, so you’re getting more than just my experience.

How to Structure The Damn Thing

Factual Background

First, give a really short introduction so the reader has some context.  Then, give a bit of the history leading up to ICWA.  Finally, give the specific facts for this case; explain who is moving for what and why.

Legal Standard

State the four parts of a preliminary injunction.


One by one, explain how the facts relate to each of the preliminary injunction requirements.  Even though this is a hearing before a judge, the question is largely a factual one, so think more in terms of the factual argument you would present to a jury.

Whenever possible, add in relevant precedent.  There are basically two types.  The first gives legal standards.  If a court has defined what “irreparable harm” means, state it.

The second type of precedent is factual.  Look for cases where the party on the opposite side from your should have won, but lost.  Then argue that if the party lost in that case, your opponent must lose in this one.

For example, if you’re the state and there is a case where a party moving for a preliminary injunction said that if the injunction isn’t granted a bomb will blow them up, and the court didn’t think that was irreparable, then there’s no way the harm the tribe is claiming is irreparable.


This is probably the least important part of the memo, it just makes things fit together.  If you’re the tribe, argue that you met all four requirements.  If you’re the state argue that the tribe failed all four requirements, and that they only need to fail one.

State Strategy

The state has two basic themes it wants to run with: burden of proof, and best interests of the child.

The tribe is the moving party, the burden of proof is on them, and if they fail on just one of the preliminary injunction requirements, the whole thing fails.  Play to those strict rules as much as possible.

Also, harp upon how the state is protecting the best interests of the child, while the tribe is fighting for the best interests of the tribe.  The better this argument is, the more likely the judge is to find the tribe failed to meet its burden of proof.

Tribe Strategy

The tribe’s strategy revolves around best interests of the child, and the status quo.

The tribe has to rely on the poor track record the state has in how it treats Indian children.  Use this to undercut the state’s claim that it is acting in the best interests of the child.  Paint them as bumbling government bureaucrats, wrecking lives just to follow a misguided law.

Then, argue the status quo.  Even though you are moving for a preliminary injunction, what you’re really arguing is that everything stay where it is until trial.  The state is the party trying to get its way before the hearing.  This argument is completely bogus legally, it does not at all change the legal burdens on the tribe.  But, it should soften the judge and make him more likely to find you’ve met your burden.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #37

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on March 8th, 2010 by bl1y

The parties suck.

Law school parties are a recipe for disaster.  You’ve got a bunch of neurotic, undersexed, stressed-out socially awkward nerds with big egos and low alcohol tolerance.  How could it not go wrong?

To: All Law Students


Re: Spring Fling, March 8, 2007 – A Message of Concern

Date: February 27, 2007

The annual Spring Fling will take place in the Vanderbilt Hall on Thursday, March 8th between 8 PM and 12AM. Invitations will be placed in student mailboxes later this week. We wanted to let you know about some changes we have instituted at this year’s Spring Fling as a result of incidents that occurred at the 2006 Spring Fling and 2006 Fall Ball.

We found that the level of intoxication among some students at these events was quite high. As a result:

1. Several students become ill in Vanderbilt Hall and in the Residence Halls

2. Two students had to be hospitalized

3. One wait-staff was assaulted by an intoxicated student

4. There was extensive property damage to Greenberg Lounge

In addition, although we have always encouraged students to bring their spouse or domestic partner to these events, we found that many students were bringing other guests and that some of these guests were under 21. We had no mechanism for identifying these underage guests.

We are sure you will agree that these issues are troubling and need to be addressed. Therefore, at this year’s Spring Fling law students must show their law school ID and a second form of ID showing their age. Any spouse or domestic partner who accompanies a law student must also have a picture ID that shows their age. Anyone without these IDs will not be admitted.

All attendees 21 years of age and over will be given a wristband with 2 drink tickets attached. Attendees under 21 will receive a wristband with no drink tickets. In addition, we will have sandwiches and other foods available in addition to the usual snacks, beer, wine, and soft drinks. As in previous years, we will stop serving alcoholic beverages one hour before the end of the event.

We hope that these measures will help to address some of the problems associated with this event. However, it is up to all attendees to make the Spring Fling the community building and celebratory event that it is intended to be. Please look out for your fellow students and help us to make the event safe and enjoyable for everyone. Enjoy the Fling!

While I can’t defend people who trash the place and assault the staff, much of the blame for shitty law school parties falls on the school.  Our parties at NYU had the classic disaster combination of free booze and no food.

Okay, there actually was food, but there might as well not have been.  The two big items on the menu at the party that wrecked parties for all future NYU law students were chips and sandwiches.  Chips are a big no-no.  They’re salty and just make people want to drink more.

Sandwiches are worse.  These weren’t hearty, Carnegie Deli sandwiches.  These were wimpy, more-bread-than-meat sandwiches.  I guess they law school subscribes to the belief that bread will keep you from getting drunk because it “absorbs” the alcohol.  First of all, that’s not even true.  Second, it wouldn’t matter, because you’re still digesting the alcohol-saturated bread.

As every fraternity since the dawn of time as learned, if you want to keep people from getting too fracked up (for frats the question is purely academic), you serve pizza.  Meat, cheese, grease.  That’s the way to go.

After and incredibly disappointing and uneventful 2L Spring Fling, the new SBA leadership tried to get our up our drink allowance.  We got a recap of the negotiations in one of our weekly SBA e-mails.

Next week the Law School will be hosting its annual Fall Ball. Fall Ball is an official Law School event, hosted and funded by the Office of Student Affairs, and not the SBA. In response to property damage and other issues during last year’s Fall Ball, the Dean’s office decided to limit the student body to two drinks per person. Beginning last Spring, the SBA embarked on a series of discussions with the administration to advocate for more drink tickets at the official Law School semesterly parties (Fall Ball and Spring Fling). As a result of these discussions, the Dean’s Office made an offer to the SBA that they would increase the number of drink tickets to three tickets per student if the SBA would agree to indemnify a proportion of any property damage out of its budget. The SBA Board did not deem it appropriate to put student activities funds and other student monies at risk, and have the entire student budget contingent on the potential actions of individuals. The SBA refused the offer, and Fall Ball will be limited to two drink tickets per student, as Spring Fling was last year.

What a fracking ridiculous joke of an offer from the administration.  All of the SBA’s funds come from the school.  The administration knows the SBA couldn’t possibly pay for any damages because the administration hasn’t given the SBA that kind of money.

Personally though, I think our SBA should have accepted the offer.  What’s the worst that could happen?  We damage the school in a three-drink rampage, the school asks the SBA to hand over the cash, and the SBA informs the school of how incredibly unpopular it would be to rob every student organization of their funding.  Odds are the school would just give a big “harumph,” pay for the damages itself, and limit students to two drinks at the next party.

Even if they did pull funding for all future parties, how hard is it to round up a few 3Ls with money left over from summer jobs to spring for a case of Yellow Tail and a couple PBR kegs?  Yeah, that’s the shit they served at our parties.  A two-drink maximum is a reprieve.

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 4th, 2010 by bl1y

[Update: Go here for my revised ICWA help.]

It’s ICWA time again at NYU School of Law.  ICWA is the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is the main statute involved in the NYU lawyering program’s largest project of the year, a brief on a pre-trial motion along with an oral argument before a judge or attorney playing a judge.

I was reminded that it’s that time of year again when I looked at the search engine queries that have brought people to this site.  A search for “icwa nyu” is almost certainly from someone trying to find a lawyering program alumnus who has posted their old memo or other useful information.

If that’s you and you’d like some help, simply e-mail me at nycbl1y@gmail.com and I’ll be more than happy to give some advice.  I promise not to turn you in, and you can create a gmail account with a fake name if you’re worried.  It’s been a while since I did the ICWA project, but there are some things I remember learning from my judge that were incredibly important, and which my lawyering professor never mentioned or even appeared aware of.

Think this is cheating?  Meh.  Lawyering is ungraded, so your doing better does not hurt anyone else.  I’m not going to write your memo for you, I’m just going to give you tips that will help you write a better memo.  Basically, all you’re doing is learning how to be a more effective advocate, which is exactly what lawyering is supposed to teach you.

[Earlier: Check out this hilarious e-mail exchange between a lawyering teaching assistant and two students about how the class wasn't giving ICWA or lawyering the kind of respect they deserve.]

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Illegal Abortions Now Illegal

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23rd, 2010 by bl1y

The Utah state House and Senate have passed a law that would criminalize the procurement of an illegal abortion.  (The law does not penalize abortions obtained through regular legal avenues.)   Basically, the law makes it illegal to ask your boyfriend to hit you in the stomach to terminate your pregnancy.

Seems pretty reasonable, but plenty of raging panties are already bundled up about it.  Feministe.com is running an article with the headline “Utah bill would criminalize miscarriage.“  Here’s the complaint from NYU Law grad Jill:

The Utah miscarriage law is understandable because it targets women who intended to have miscarriages.

I understand that. We do hold people more culpable for things that they do on purpose; we also hold people accountable for a lot of things that they do negligently. My question, though, isn’t with the punishment aspect, but with the activism aspect. Let’s say that we take anti-choicers on their word that they really, truly believe that a fertilized egg is a unique, individual human being, and that the death of that egg is like the death of a person. If that’s the truth, then why no activism around trying to find a cure for the close to 50 percent of fertilized eggs that naturally don’t implant, and are flushed out of the woman’s body? Sure, it’s not intentional, but if there were some disease that killed 50 percent of all five-year-olds, I’m pretty sure we’d be doing something about it, no?

I realize this is all pretty far afield from the actual Utah legislation, but it’s illustrative, I think, insofar as it demonstrates that the concern here isn’t really about fetuses or life or any of that. It’s about punishing women.

This isn’t at all about “punishing women.”  It’s already a crime for a third party to end the life of your fetus (outside of consensual abortion, of course).  All this does it make the law more fair by punishing women who obtain illegal abortions.

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I Choo Choo Choose Not to Participate

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16th, 2010 by bl1y

I just got a call from the NYU alumni people asking me to donate money to the school.

NYU Chugger: “We’re hoping to get everyone to contribute and are asking for you to make a donation of $250.”

BL1Y: “Sorry, but I can’t.  I recently got laid off.  Can you send me some money?”

NYU Chugger: “Well, what we really want is just for everyone to contribute, so can you contribute even just $35 to show that you enjoyed your experience at NYU?”

BL1Y: “No.  I didn’t enjoy it.”

NYU Chugger: “Can I ask why not?”

BL1Y: “You don’t have the time to hear it all.”

Are they serious?  Their records should show that I paid for school with private loans.  Even if I was still working, where would I have the money to donate to the school?  If I give money anywhere it’s either to the undergrad literary journal I worked on, or to establish a scholarship for the philosophy department.  I’m sure as hell not going to give money to NYU.

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