Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is a Bad Boy a Bad Guy?

Once I got a footing on the type of law student I would be, that is, the “bad boy of law,” I began to experience how important it is to face my law professors and colleagues with some dignity. But does being proud about being a bad boy also make me a bad guy?

What on earth am I talking about? Trust me, I’m using law school terminology that cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars to master.

After also learning Latin and verbose legal theories, law students today are still asked to refer to either the convicted criminal or even the loser in a civil suit as a “bad guy.” How I hated this lesson! Justice compensates for wrongs done by members of society, but is not an affirmation of bigotry. Who (let alone conniving lawyers) can stand above the sphere of morality and judge any person (or guy) as good or bad?

The clarity of logic gives us moments when, as if turning a light switch on or off, we can evaluate whether or not someone is a burglar just by reading a clock on the wall and determining what time the breaking and entering occurred (under common law burglary, that is—you’ll have to look that up if you don’t get it). But does this determine who is a bad guy?

We’ve also all seen the Lethal Weapon movies, where Riggs tells his partner that it’s OK to break into that warehouse without a search warrant, because “we’re the good guys”; same with Rambo; same with Dirty Harry. How can defenders of due process of law really quibble with the popular Riggs-Rambo-Callahan element of our culture?

I admit that I can’t really be so pure as to say that I live in a perfect world of not judging people. Look at this blog! I am calling the people who run law schools bad guys. People who call themselves good guys run a big risk of being the real bad guys—me included.

Let’s say that being a naughty boy in school is not really OK, but if you are a good guy dealing with bad guys for teachers…well, you fill in the blanks of this contradictory argument. Let’s also say that once you get out of law school, you’re not a boy anymore and hurling spit wads at people who annoy you can even be a public nuisance.

So am I a good guy or a bad guy? After all, if a bad guy tells you law schools must be debunked, you really should not listen. Who cares what bad guys think?

If you disagree with me and think law schools are the outstanding, upright institutions of education that they purport to be, you can just ignore my arguments as the useless rants of a bad guy. My motives might be all wrong: sour grapes; poor loser; lazy whiner; hoaxing paranoid conspiracy theorist; even evil narcissist trying to destroy the good guys just because they are good. All of these motives would make me a bad guy that you should ignore.

Or I could be an honest scholar looking for defects in our society caused by the overzealous greed that the legal profession breeds. I could be a true-to-life do-gooder, fending off corruption. I could be a farseeing social reformer who detests hazing rituals and reinforces worthwhile weaklings (Gandhi, Christ, Buddha—you get the picture).

After my experience of law school, I tend to ruminate a lot about it and such thoughts that I produce are written down here. Perhaps I don’t know what I am or what makes me ruminate about law school, but I want to know and writing about it helps me focus in on what exactly bothers me about the whole experience.

Still, I hope that my observations during the past years will continue to help me and others understand why law schools may be run by bad guys and being at the bottom of your law school class does not automatically make you a bad guy. Don’t give up on law if its training system treats you poorly.

The law needs everyone to participate, overachievers and ruminators alike, to be fair. Winners and losers.

Just because the irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife, don’t ignore the silly good-guys-versus-bad-guys bac-and-forth. Bad guys may call good guys bad guys. Good guys may retaliate and call the putative good guys bad guys. Good guys ignore bad guys, and bad guys ruin the reputations of good guys.

Which one are you? Do yourself a favor and find the answer outside of law school.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

How Law Schools “Study” the Alton Logan Case

I admit, I only know the Alton Logan case by how my law school taught it. Based on the way I now know lawyers, I assume the lesson is crucial, instilling a code that all lawyers live and breathe by.

In 1982, Logan was tried and convicted of murdering a security guard working at a McDonalds in Chicago. Logan served 26 years in prison before the courts acknowledged he was wrongly convicted and freed him.

Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz are two lawyers indirectly related to the Logan case. Now they consistently receive standing ovations at lawyer gatherings where they give presentations about how they knew all along Logan was an innocent man.

Coventry and Kunz represented a man named Andrew Wilson who when confronted about the security guard murder, privately confessed to his lawyers that he did it. As Wilson’s lawyers, Coventry and Kunz had a duty of confidentiality, according to the sacred lawyer rules known under the rubric “Professional Responsibility.”

Although Coventry and Kunz had correctly solved the crime police wrongly pinned on Logan, they couldn’t tell police about it. Duty called, and the lawyers could have been reprimanded or disbarred had they breached this duty of confidentiality to their client, even if it meant righting a profound wrong and setting an innocent man free.

The lawyers obviously felt the moral weight of what they were doing by upholding their sworn duties. This led them to get Wilson to sign a release so that if Wilson died, the lawyers would be free to release to the courts Wilson’s posthumous confession and clear Logan.

Without Wilson’s written consent to do this, Logan would probably have died in prison. It was a long wait before Wilson died, leading to Logan's 26-year stretch in the pokey.

I can’t blame Coventry and Kunz for what they did, but am puzzled about why lawyers would give them standing ovations. Is the Logan case, after all, not an extraordinarily tragic instance that illustrates that indeed the American legal system can be profoundly flawed?

My professor stated these facts to us in a fairly neutral way. So did a story on 60 Minutes, emphasizing the tragedy, but presenting the final result to the viewer as an issue for discussion.

Because I was older than most students in my class (made obvious by my widow’s peak and greying sideburns), my professor turned to me and asked me what I thought of the Logan case, carefully nuancing the question (as law professors like to do) so that I should have figured out that the “correct” answer was to praise the lawyers and show steely indifference to what happened to Logan. Instead, I expressed only remorse for Logan and suggested that certainly the legal profession as a whole should be smart or clever enough to invent some mechanism that could prevent such things from happening in the future.

As I recall that moment today, it probably represented my most important moment in law school. All law schools demand of their students a killing off the old child inside of them to become “adults.”

Every ounce of intimidation, innuendo, and even veiled threats came to me by this professor that day, and in essence, I hit him back with a cold fish. I paid for my insolence by getting a “D” in Professional Responsibility—the lowest grade I have ever received; the lowest grade this professor gave out that semester; and something that left me wondering how I could have screwed up such an otherwise easy course.

The official lesson that day in Professional Responsibility was why it is important for lawyers to be ice-coldly indifferent about the fate of innocent people whose lives are destroyed by the American legal system. Meanwhile, I can only see such lessons as a form of brainwashing.

If the goal of law professors is to teach young adults how to be cowardly super-citizens whose livelihoods depend on a type of human carnage that they never have to roll up their sleeves and be bothered about, then the legal profession is a parasitical and immoral institution. To quote Dickens, “then the law is an ass.”

I go one step further and imagine the monster in the movie Alien that has no emotion whatsoever and uses gutted human carcasses to feed its young. There is a profound human evil here that has nothing to do with how and why lawyers should follow their own rules of confidentiality, but has everything to do with creating a caste system in which the lives of non-lawyers are expendable in an effort to keep lawyers driving their BMWs to work every day in nice suits.

In light of such goals and attitudes, today I wear that “D” in Professional Responsibility with honor. Let anyone presently going through law school find their own definition for “adulthood,” but please, make it at least a multiple-choice question, not the true/false proposition that so many law professors and practicing lawyers are making it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

How Law Schools “Study” the Peltier Case

Of mainstay domestic liberal causes over the past decades, few loom as high, long, or loud as the grassroots campaign for a Presidential Pardon for Leonard Peltier. Convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Peltier has always declared his innocence and has claimed that FBI misconduct played a significant role before and during his trial.

The bizarre shootout in question unfolded on June 26, 1975, when no one really knew who was shooting whom, or why. Leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) claim the FBI had been spying on a camp of their members in the area and had had big plans for taking them down, one way or the other. An AIM teenager named Joe Stunz was also shot and killed that day.

The FBI originally claimed the agents were simply trying to serve a warrant on a petty criminal (who wasn’t even in that area); someone fired a first shot; and the situation escalated. Transcripts of the agents’ radio chatter now indicate they were chasing a red vehicle into the area; three men were in the vehicle; and when the vehicle came to a stop in a grassy area near the AIM camp, the shooting commenced.

Peltier admits he participated in the shootout, along with others including two AIM members who in a separate trial were acquitted based on self-defense—Dino Butler and Rob Robideau. This acquittal aggravated already high emotions inside the FBI. Not only was the shootout tragic and pointless, but after the Indians got the best of the situation, Agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were executed point blank—not self-defense at all (although adequate provocation or "heat of passion" could have made this voluntary manslaughter).

On the other hand, during the first trial of Butler and Robideau, the jury heard evidence of a Tribal President named Dickie Wilson who had all but declared martial law on the Reservation with brutalities and hundreds of unsolved murders, presumably at the hands of Wilson’s aggressive police force—all with the latent blessings of the FBI, which did not intervene. As part of a slight-of-hand political maneuver during the aftermath of the shootout, Wilson also nonchalantly turned over a large piece of Reservation land known as the “Stronghold” or “South Unit” to the Federal Government (it was returned in 2012).

The burning unanswered question relative to Peltier’s case is who delivered those close range shots that finished off the agents. Journalist Peter Matthiessen very guardedly relates a story (included in a 60 Minutes report) that a red pickup truck full of explosives with three AIM supporters in it was the vehicle the agents pursued into the area, and that its driver delivered the mortal wounds in self-defense and panic when a delirious Agent Williams raised his gun at him. Robideau also relates this story in the documentary film, Incident at Oglala (1992), directed by Michael Apted, claiming he saw the red truck and occupants.

The problem is that Butler now claims Robideau’s story of a red pickup truck is a fake perpetuated by Robideau. He also insists that Peltier was not the one who delivered the fatal shots to the agents. Butler also claims he was asked by Robideau to go along with the red-pickup story, but refused.

That leaves much suspicion on Robideau as the one who might have ultimately killed the agents, but, in a case where a rigid justice system prevails, he was acquitted of those crimes on a self-defense theory. Robideau admits in Incident at Oglala that he was the one who fired a round that ricocheted oddly into Coler’s arm in such a way, that the arm was shredded, so that Coler was in the process of completely bleeding out, minutes from death, when he was executed. If Robideau was close enough to see his round hit Coler’s arm and claimed all along he was close enough to see who killed the agents, he would be a prime suspect, if the red pickup story is truly debunked. He also could not have been tried twice for the same crime, had he lived (he died in 2009).

Butler and Peltier both claim they had been at the AIM camp all morning. When they heard gunshots and noticed bullets landing close to them, they grabbed their rifles and headed off to the origin of the shots, returning fire.

Peltier’s lawyers claim that the FBI was so desperate to pin the murder of its agents on any convenient AIM suspect that false evidence was created, most notably in the form of a spent bullet casing from Peltier’s rifle that they claim was found in the trunk of one of the agents’ cars. Since the verdict against Peltier was handed down, new eyewitnesses have been produced by investigators claiming that Peltier even bragged about killing the agents.

As for all my law school experiences, the Peltier case came up only once. In my Evidence class, there were a couple of problems in the casebook (Fisher 3d, 167ff.) based on the “facts” of the shootout and an encounter Peltier and his entourage of AIM members had in Oregon with the local law while fleeing. In one of the problems, the editors inserted in square brackets that Peltier had been one of the three men in the red vehicle the agents pulled over (which Peltier denies).

Most importantly, the questions were worded in such a way that left out all reference to the controversies, depicting Peltier as a born killer on the lam. The two questions, which my class’s Witkins Award winner (i.e., the student with the highest grade in the class) answered “correctly,” involved the prejudicial effect of an outstanding warrant Peltier had at the time and the fact that the Winnebago he was riding in was filled with weapons, including bombs. These might be probative of the “fact” that after killing the agents, Peltier was ready to make one last suicidal stand against police—so said the Witkins Award winner.

I went around to members of my Evidence class afterwards and asked them if they knew further details of the Peltier case. None did.

An especially interesting fact not mentioned in the problems is that actor Marlon Brando owned the Winnebago the AIM members were riding in and loaned it to them to show his support. A fact like that would spoil the fantasy that the casebook was trying to create—our favorite movie stars do not mingle with homicidal maniacs, after all.

Not only was my law school attempting to depict Peltier as one of the most homicidal outlaws since John Dillinger, but the casebook had cherry-picked details so that the overall impression was distorted. At any time, the professor could have mentioned what the real controversies were, but never did.

Why would my law school take such a stand against a famous liberal cause and use a deceptive if not outright dishonest way of portraying it? My only answer is that law schools are not about depicting important legal controversies in the neutral light they claim to be painstakingly instilling into students. Instead, law schools brainwash students into believing among other things that liberal causes are silly, and that even when the legal system gets it wrong, some deserving reprobate gets locked up anyway.

Whether you agree with the AIM movement or not, Peltier is a victim of a legal system gone awry. A thorough study of Peltier’s case should be the first thing that all American law schools should be teaching young would-be lawyers today—thoroughly. Let them make up their own minds after all the facts are in, because it is a complicated case, but at least use all the material facts.

Meanwhile, there is no excuse for what this Evidence casebook did, and if there was a valid legal lesson to be learned that day in Evidence class about relevance and prejudicing juries, those practice questions could have been rewritten to leave Peltier’s name out of it. I’m left with the burning feeling that our American legal system is built upon a pack of lies, and that the first order of business for American law schools is to whitewash this so it can recruit people with the best of calculating brains, but the most indifferent of moral consciences.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

RFK’s Ghost Still Haunting California

While I was in law school with nose glued inside dry case books, a sadly ironic drama unfolded. It was a California drama rife with injustice—the type of injustice law professors typically instruct students to ignore as delusions of the hoi polloi.

Early in 2012, the Attorney General of the State of California, Kamala Harris, found herself squished between a rabid pack of conspiracy theorists and those invisible forces (i.e., “them”) that run things in the world based on secret policies and undemocratic decision-making. Harris had submitted a court document on behalf of the respondents named in a Federal writ of habeas corpus filed by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (b. 1944) back in the year 2000.

I took a seminar in habeas corpus, which the professor running it insisted is currently the most difficult area of law. So difficult, in fact, that such writs are routinely punted to roving magistrate judges, who presumably have more time than other Federal judges to bone up on and master all the intricacies.

The crux of the habeas corpus complexity lies in a 1996 law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Even the most conservative students in my seminar had to admit that AEDPA has had the effect of suspending the writ, something the Constitution expressly prohibits, unless public safety requires it in times of insurrection or invasion.

Still, AEDPA does not apply to Sirhan’s writ, because his conviction became final in the 1970s, long before its enactment. On the other hand, this law provides that writs for older judgments like Sirhan’s should be filed by April 1997 (in essence, like the one-year statute of limitations that is normally invoked). Of course, filing Sirhan’s writ in 2000 clearly has made it barred by AEDPA’s explicit statute of limitations.

To overcome this bar, Sirhan’s lawyers have found a loophole around AEDPA, quoting a 1995 Supreme Court case, Schlup v. Delo. If Sirhan can prove he is actually innocent, the bar of the statute of limitations can be lifted.

As much as this may continue to be a glimmer of hope for Sirhan, he must still overcome the extremely high standard set in the Schlup test, which is to present new evidence showing that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror could have found him guilty.

Sirhan’s ardent defense lawyers have always valiantly attempted to connect the dots of a half-century of conspiracy theorists. But to satisfy Schlup, they can only rely on “new” evidence, that is, evidence not presented at his trial during the early 1970s.

Most notably as “new” evidence, an audio recording by a Canadian journalist (Stanislaw Pruszynski) has been analyzed by now state-of-the-art technology showing that at least 13 shots were fired in the pantry at the Ambassador Hotel where RFK was assassinated. Sirhan’s gun only carried eight bullets.

Also “new,” another journalist and eyewitness (Nina Rhodes-Hughes) claims that a transcript of her “original statement” to the FBI of hearing only eight shots was falsified. She now claims that she initially heard a few of Sirhan’s shots to the left of her followed by a rapid fire of different shots to the right of her—12 to 14 shots in all.

Sirhan’s lawyers have also included a declaration by a psychology professor (Daniel Brown) and law professor (Alan Scheflin) stating the history of mind control experiments by the CIA and others, which included techniques involving hallucinogenic drugs and hypnosis, to “program” potential agents to follow orders once they were “activated” by a code word or gesture—the rich stuff that conspiracy theorists have been generously coloring their hypotheses with all along. The fact that Sirhan has always claimed to not remember the actual shooting, basing his guilty plea on his own admission that he nevertheless must have been the shooter, feeds this notion that he actually was “programed” to stand in front of the victim and start shooting while someone from behind actually fired the deadly shot. The coroner who performed RFK’s autopsy (Thomas Noguchi) in 1968 confirmed the fatal bullet entered the right mastoid only inches from the victim’s ear, uniquely tattooing it with powder burns.

In response, Harris’s document specifically debunks the actual innocence claim with these and several other points: 1) the Pruszynski tape has been analyzed by other sound experts differently; 2) Rhodes-Hughes new testimony is inconclusive; 3) Noguchi’s autopsy conclusions were available at trial, but simply not used; 4) even if further allegations that ballistic evidence was tampered with are true, they only offer “speculative inferences” about Sirhan’s actual innocence; and 5) the theories of Brown and Scheflin are “unreliable and speculative,” if not altogether “fantastic.” I even recall watching television news coverage of the filing of Harris’s document, including a young woman presumably from Harris’s office even suggesting that the crime is so old now, nobody really cares about it anymore.

In August 2013, a habeas corpus expert (Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich) wrote a 60-page opinion recommending that a motion by the respondent to dismiss Sirhan’s writ be granted. Earlier this year, in January, District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell did just that.

At the end of the day, Harris nonchalantly steered her canoe through roaring white water, poising herself as a viable candidate in 2016 for U.S. Senator. Had she not buried the Sirhan matter as tidily as she did, she risked a barrage of bad press and political shenanigans, much as Jim Garrison did in the late 1960s as depicted in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK.

Moreover, Harris had to tow an official line dismissing conspiracy theorists as kooks that the law cannot bother with and affirming a bright and shiny reality that the well-groomed people running America’s government are privileged as they are because they see the truth of reality clearer. Going through law school should help you unravel the sophisticated ideas behind AEDPA and today’s habeas corpus law, but if you can't hack it, we cannot wait for you. Meanwhile, the bloody, awful event that was the public assassination of a man who probably would have been elected President in 1968 remains nothing more than an act of random and senseless violence by a disturbed individual.

Harris admittedly played good soldier, hardly working up a sweat, and creating the cosmetic appearance that all’s well in California, as long as nutcases like Sirhan remain behind bars and the so-called mysteries surrounding cases like his remain ignored. Why then do I feel that law as practiced today is no different than it has been for thousands of years: a hocus pocus and tap dance to get the hoi polloi looking the other way so that the king (or "them") can do the dirty work required to stay in power?

And isn’t this precisely what law school is teaching us? Hocus pocus and tap dancing?

And endurance. Almost 50 years later, the magic act continues as does the dancing.

I remember career day at my law school, when a representative from Harris’s office was sitting at a desk, available to students for light conversation about possible careers. In the most calm and unassuming tone I could muster, I told her I was very interested in the Sirhan case. She acted with alarm and said she didn’t understand what I was talking about and that there were no positions available at Harris’s office.

In fact, she was the only person at career day who was not cordial and pleasant to me. Is it then really so “fantastic” to believe that one code word can set someone off into a predetermined and choreographed behavior?

Alakazam and clickety clack.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Law School Must Be Debunked

Anecdotes about law school swim through my head. It’s hard to know where to begin, now that I declare this blog up and running again.

For some reason (and maybe I’ll even try to ascertain that reason by writing this), I’d rather cut to the chase. Let’s put forth the burning question here: why did I call this blog what I did, and what exactly needs to be debunked?

That’s a much more specific question than asking if America has crossed over some line in the sand called “Fascism,” even though I would not be honest if I did not share the first word that popped into my head when posing the question above. After all, I’m old enough to remember America during my youth impliedly promising me it would never cross that line.

Sour grapes? I’ll go as far as to say that’s a valid question. Just remember what the parable is. I ate my grapes by going to and finally finishing law school.

Has the bold experiment in Democracy finally come to a halt, exemplified by the way honest, decent young adults sign up for law school by the droves; make a financial aid pact that essentially turns them into indentured servants; and get genuinely swindled by nothing more than an elaborate bunco operation not designed to teach, but only to skim the top 10% of the class as “winners” of the law school “games”? Are such “games” really determinative of who will function best in the elite society as lawyers? Or are they even designed (like in the Hunger Games) for the amusement of those overseeing it?

And that’s all only the procedural side of things. Then there’s a substantive side that touches upon morality and theories of justice—both topics at best mere jokes in the law school atmosphere I encountered.

When beginning my journey into law back in 2007 (when I started preparing for the LSAT exam), I truly wanted to enter law school with a blank slate, even though that was most likely impossible to do at my age. I very deliberately turned off the lever in my brain that used to unleash my hypersensitivity to injustice and lies.

Sure enough, as the challenge overtook me and my attending lectures demanded that I speak freely and with an opinion, I rediscovered my hypersensitive moral compass and found it remarkably out of whack with the majority of other students (although a few, and only a few, were even more sensitive than I am). That’s not to say that I was not impressed with my not-so-sensitive colleagues, because I was and still am. On the other hand I must express some concern, since not all of those crowned as "winners" of the “games” had what I would consider a stable emotional state of mind ready to run the quirky business of interpreting and enforcing the laws of this country.

I’m still not sure what to make of my own relationship to the law. My mediocrity from the onset as reflected by my performance in the “games” surely would have discouraged someone younger than me who doesn’t know that things can turn around so keep trying. Somehow it also reminded me of those times on my high school golf team when I truly could not hit the ball or putt, despite hours upon hours of practicing.

Moreover, I always sensed with every assignment I undertook that I did fit into the legal world, and I even did pretty well in some classes. My hypersensitivity to a sense of justice should therefore not disqualify me from being a lawyer, as some professors suggested to me along the way, but should fit in like all the other human elements that law has traditionally encompassed.

Why then do I still get the funny feeling that law schools are driven by a pseudo-moral landscape based on strong people ruling over the weak through competition, even if that competition allows a few improper bolo punches. In my prep course to the Bar Exam, one of the professors put it nicely albeit with irony: “if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough.” Isn’t this mentality a conqueror’s mentality and against the idea of rights and Democracy as stated in the U.S. Constitution?

When I was young, I took an IQ test administered by a psychologist. I didn’t prepare for it; I didn’t try hard to do my best; and based on the way the test was administered, I certainly didn’t have any opportunity to cheat. IQs, after all, are supposed to measure simply how smart people are—not how much they might want the success that comes from officially having a high IQ. This test by a psychologist is designed by psychologists in such a way that you really can’t improve the results through trying harder than the next person.

Unlike IQs, LSAT scores and law school GPAs are supposed to test how people apply what intelligence they have and how hard their resolve might be. They are designed that way. On the other hand, isn’t the liability of a party and the culpability of a potential criminal also something that is simply supposed to be (like an IQ)? Or do people really have to earn a dismissal of their case? What is our justice system at all if a judgment can be earned instead of determined?

I must indeed express my concern for the “winners.” The overseers have now seeded them into the elite realm of American society.

Even worse, the “losers.” A few of them had what I would consider genuine character and decency, but were, like me, spastics when it comes to playing the “games.”

What needs to be debunked? Why do I care?

I care, because I don’t like to get hurt or see people being hurt by brats empowered by self-appointed gatekeepers.

Behind the ideals of law schools in America are thousands of years of scholarship, but also a bunch of high school dropouts who nonetheless got rich in America and are now setting naïve standards as to the type of super-people they want to join into their corporations.

Law is a serious business and not a reality TV show. We become lawyers to fulfill our own individual sense of justice. We are therefore by definition all welcome into the legal profession, because it must welcome anyone who wants to serve their particular American demographic.

Anyone assuming they can turn you away or tell you there isn’t room for you is corrupted. That’s what must be debunked.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five Years Later

A recent google search about another matter allowed me to arrive at this blog after nearly five years of neglect. I was so happy to see recent comments were made by readers who liked what they read. I’m glad others chimed in as well.

I’ll be happy to update my saga, especially since people are asking. More importantly, I hope that this can continue to be a helpful source to those, like me, who encounter law school as anything but a routine process.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who wants to steal thunder away from those who do well in law school, but attending law school has made me believe steadfastly that some of the best future legal talent lies in those people who struggle through it. We live in an era where law schools and business schools are attempting to prove themselves as the only real useful training that higher education has to offer, outside of perhaps med school and engineering school.

I have lots more stories about my experiences as a law student over the past five years. For now, I believe I left off with my attempts to pass the Baby Bar (FYLSE).

Based on your comments, I do need to clear up some of the rules about this. Like the California Bar, you can take the Baby Bar as many times as you want. The only restriction is you can’t get your studies at a correspondence school or at an unaccredited brick-and-mortar school to count, unless you pass the Baby Bar by the third time it is held after the successful conclusion of your first year. In other words, if you conclude your first year in the month of June, you can take the Baby Bar the following October as the first attempt, the following June as the second attempt, and the October after that as the third attempt, but skipping any of these “attempts” does not buy you more time. They count as an “attempt” whether you sit for it or not.

I was in a different category, as someone who had been culled or academically disqualified from an ABA-accredited law school. I did not sit for my “first attempt” of the Baby Bar, because my school was offering one more semester to disqualified students as a “retesting” period: you were given one more chance to pass the exams with a C+ or better, which I did not accomplish. My “second attempt” was therefore actually my first (June 2010), which I did not pass.

The following September, I enrolled in an unaccredited law school that today no longer exists. That meant, I had only one more chance to pass the Baby Bar (my “third attempt,” which was actually my second) if those courses were to count. I did not pass the October 2010 Baby Bar either, leaving me once again knocked down in the dirt.

Nonetheless, I did enroll for the June 2011 Baby Bar, even though it didn’t count for anything. I passed it with lots of room to spare.

As far as the statistics went, 24.6% of all test-takers passed the June 2010 Baby Bar; 19.5% passed the October 2010; and 18.7% passed the June 2011. That means that of my three attempts, I passed the hardest one.

I can say that I benefited because the June 2011 Baby Bar had two criminal law questions on it, and I was strongest in criminal law. There was a rare nuisance question that I did not do well on. As far the multiple choice questions, I got a surprising 85% correct.

But as I said, my finally passing the Baby Bar amounted to nothing, except as a bargaining chip to get into another school, which might agree to allow me credit for some of those first-year courses.

What happened instead was that at the beginning of 2011, I started courting other ABA-accredited schools with the intention of starting completely over with my law studies. This is consistent with another rule here in California that if you are disqualified after your first year, you can become eligible to enroll again at a law school after three years. Because I was disqualified after my first year in 2008-2009, I could enroll again for law school beginning in the fall of 2011.

One of the ongoing influences here were the student loans I had taken out in 2008-2009, which I continued to dodge with forbearances and unemployment deferments, but these were running out. Even though my original school rejected my application for re-admittance (probably with some good cause, although I did feel betrayed), I got accepted into another ABA-accredited school’s fulltime day program.

So there you have it: a law school experience that stretched out into six years instead of three; a Baby Bar that I finally passed on my third attempt, but not the required “third attempt” to make any courses in my past count; a second year commenced at an unaccredited school that amounted to nothing; but finally, a rebirth of sorts at a new ABA-accredited school. I graduated with a J.D. last May. I am awaiting results from the California Bar Exam which I took last February.

There is no moral to this tale yet. It keeps going. I do not know how I will be accepted into the lawyer community, but suffice it to say that I have my doubts after these experiences that it will be an easy transition.

In Hesse’s Demian, the hero is asked to look upon the mark on Cain’s forehead not as a curse, but as a badge of courage. Somehow, that’s how I am trying to interpret all this. If anyone else reading this relates to any of my missteps here and feel you have a mark on your forehead, I encourage you to try feeling the same way. Be bad.