un, एक, një, uno, yksi, ein, ένας, en, um, 一个, jeden, isa, אחד

The number one has been on my mind a lot lately, because I learned a very valuable lesson this week.  It is a lesson that you may think is common sense.  I would agree but I also will say that the situation in which I learned this lesson was definitely a situation rife with a lack of common sense.

One little word can make the world of difference.  The inclusion or exclusion of one little word can have enormous, life-changing consequences in any type of case.  But it seems to me that this is especially true in family law cases.  Words like primary, or shall, or exclusive, or may, or joint, or sole.

It can mean people not doing things they clearly agreed to do, or doing things they clearly agreed not to do.  It can mean the difference between making ends meet or getting your home foreclosed on or your car repossessed.  It can mean a drastic change in legal custody or physical care of children that was not intended.  It can mean another attorney seizing on that inclusion or omission and running with it no matter the clear spirit of an agreement or decree, and no matter how ethical that behavior may or may not be.

I’ve always known that the legal world is one of technicalities, and accuracy is paramount when you are constantly in that kind of domain.  I would say that I look for those same inclusions or omissions to protect my client’s interests just like any other lawyer would.  But I know the difference between protecting my client’s interests and taking advantage of a situation when it is clear to everyone involved that my argument is absurd to begin with.  I would never give the kind of advice that was given in the case I’ve dealt with this week, because I know that it is wrong.

I know where to draw the line.  I guess that is one difference between this other attorney and me.

And I like that one difference.


where did my summer go?

Watching new substantive videos for Barbri is over, so now I have under two and a half weeks left to buckle down and get this stuff committed to memory.

I told Ryan this morning that I want another summer. One where I don’t have to spend every day chained to my Barbri books, learning and forgetting and re-learning. The bad news is that I don’t get another summer before real life begins.

The good news is that real life is going to begin! Assuming everything goes according to plan, I will pass the bar and truly start my career. Finally! We will be looking for a bigger house, and thinking about starting a family. I will maybe find a little time to read again, or shoot photos. I will find a little more time for my friends, who have been quite understanding at all of the neglect around here these past few months.

I’m not looking forward to the bar exam, or the loooooooooong wait afterwards. But I am looking forward to everything after that!

Sixteen days.

barbri day one: you’re breaking my heart, you’re shaking my confidence daily*

So…day one of Barbri down.


To be honest, I’m not sure how I’m going to remember everything. I’m sure that I will remember enough, but wow — there is so much information and we’re just in the preview stage. I’m also not sure how I managed to get the grade I earned 1L year in Torts if I didn’t retain any more of it than I did… But I WILL say that I’m so glad we spent so much time on theories of punishment in criminal law, but didn’t touch on many of the tested crimes or even the M’Naghten Rule. Funny how not one question was on UTILITARIANISM.


I’m sure that I will get better at this, and plenty of other people are feeling the same way. Right?

*Title of post from Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel


There are relatively few days left until graduation — only forty-six! — and it is starting to dawn on me that life is really and truly about to change. It’s hard to think that in just a couple of short months, I will be living at home full time again. This has a few very obvious implications.

Ryan and I will have to readjust to one another again. Part of what I love about us is that we have still remained our own individual selves in addition to being a couple. Some of the freedom and individuality that has automatically come with me living in the city during the week is going to go away, or it will at least become more of an effort to preserve it. We’re both used to kind of doing what we need or want to do during the week with only a phone call each day between us. I’m so looking forward to being home, but I know we’re going to have to readjust to being around one another every evening and weekend again.

I won’t see my friends every day anymore. Life is going to be so different without these people. We won’t have pre-made social events through the school to keep us close, or even just classes where we see one another several times a week. Law school has provided me with what amounts to a very unexpected wealth of friendship. I’ve met some absolutely amazing people, and they are soon to be spread around the state and the country. Thankfully there are things like email and Facebook, but those things are just not going to suffice. I’m going to miss my Guacamole Fridays, and other friend dates. I’ll miss getting ready at friends’ houses for events, or movie nights. I’ve been terrible my whole life at keeping in contact with friends, but I know that in order to avoid losing these wonderful people I’m going to have to make some changes in that arena.

And finally, I will no longer be taking classes. I will be out there, DOING things. I will have clients and help them through court processes. I will be able to get paid for what I am doing, as opposed to paying thousands of dollars to work in the clinic. I am truly looking forward to getting started in my career, and having my regular life back.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that it will be bittersweet on May 13th. I can’t wait to move on, but at the same time I don’t want to leave the learning and friendships behind. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m going into the law, because I will continue to learn as I go through my career and the legal community is a small one so I will hopefully see some of my classmates in the future as colleagues.

Forty-six days!

things to say

Oh, how my brain has been functioning lately . . . I’ve wanted to say things that are probably wildly inappropriate or pointless to people lately. Where better to share them than here?

1. To the guy who stands on his balcony below ours and talks on his cell phone, when I crack my window because it’s ridiculously hot in this apartment, I can hear every word of your conversation with Jules. Ask her out already, dude.

2. To the girl at the gym who half-asses everything she does every time I see her, you need to kick it up about 5 notches for anything you do to even be beneficial to you. I hope that you’re getting out of the exercise what you want to, but I seriously doubt you are.

3. To the local plastic surgeon who advertises and targets new mothers who are already emotional and insecure about their looks, you disgust me. A woman’s worth is not tied to her body image and you should stop preying on people when they are down. Her family is not going to fall apart because she has stretch marks. There is nothing so beautiful as a new mother and her baby, so can it, pal.

4. To the morning and afternoon traffic reporters, you really need to find a system to be a little more up to date with your information. I hate driving the speed limit and hearing that traffic is backed up because of an accident at some specific location, and seeing nothing when I go by. I hate driving around an area to avoid it based on your information to find out that the accident had been cleaned up some time before that. And I REALLY hate when traffic is ridiculously backed up, but you claim that “it’s a speed limit trip on the freeway.”

5. To Amy Sherman-Palladino, please, please, please write a Gilmore Girls movie. And to Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel and the whole motley crew, please come back for it. You know the ending of the series was unsatisfactory, and I want to know what happened next.

6. To my law and religion professor, we didn’t like the Howe article despite your hopes that we enjoyed it. It made no sense, was difficult to read, and quite frankly none of us is sure why it was included in the syllabus to begin with. Sorry.

7. To the creators of Just Dance 2, I can tell you that I have no problem doing your choreography in the privacy of my own living room. But your statement that you can “take the choreography with you” and do it in public . . . um, no. I am not going to point at other people and play air guitar when Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend comes on at a party, thanks.

8. To the guy who parks the BMW in the garage near my apartment building, why on earth are you driving a brand new BMW and living in these craphole apartments?! I’m just saying you could probably spend only a tiny bit more a month and live somewhere you don’t need to wait until no one’s looking to park the car in the garage for fear that someone will break into the garage and lift the car.

9. To Eminem, dude. You won a Grammy. It really is okay to smile a little.

10. To every guy who has purchased and then hung the ridiculous and disturbingly anatomically correct testicles on the back of your pick up truck, you are a moron. That is all.

the beginning of the end

On Monday, I will register for the last classes of my J.D.

It feels sort of surreal to think that I’ve been working so hard for so long toward this goal, and I am quickly approaching the day that I will meet it. On May 13, 2011 I will graduate from law school. I will have 90 credit hours of legal coursework and practical training behind me, and two summers of clerking. I will have successfully run major events, taught a class on research, edited works for the top ag journal in the nation, and worked in the leadership of several organizations.

At the same time, my ultimate goal will not truly have been met. I may become a law school graduate on May 13th of next year, but my work will not yet be finished. The week after graduation, bar prep courses begin and we will all find ourselves either back in the classroom or at least back in the books.

Graduating from law school is certainly a huge achievement, and one that I will be immensely proud of. There is certainly some excitement surrounding composite photos, registering for my final law school semester, applying for graduation, and the actual ceremony itself. But that is tempered excitement. Many non-law school friends and family don’t understand that while I’m thrilled about graduation, it’s not the be-all-end-all that they envision it to be. I can graduate all I want, but I still have to pass the bar exam.

Really, graduation is only the beginning of the end. And I honestly cannot wait to get to the end — when I have my J.D., pass the bar, and get to start in on the real work.

voter, educate thyself: thoughts on the judicial retention election

The question of judicial retention has been a huge weight on my mind as the election draws nearer. I do not write this entry as a soon-to-be attorney, but simply as a citizen of the state of Iowa who is tired of the manipulation of the masses by outside sources. National attention has been focused on Iowa ever since the decision was released for Varnum v. Brien. This widespread interest has certainly peaked in the months leading up to the November 2nd vote on whether to retain three of the Iowa Supreme Court Justices. In case you’re not aware, Chief Justice Ternus and Justices Streit and Baker were part of the unanimous decision holding that the state statute that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman was in violation of the Iowa Constitution. Bob Vander Plaats and his organization, Iowa for Freedom, are telling people that the solution to what they view as a problem is to unseat these Justices as some sort of punishment. This idea or cause or whatever they would like to call it is absurd.

I am not going to cite the Federalist Papers, quote our Founding Fathers, or make lofty intellectual points. I am going to simply make a common sense argument that amounts to this: voter, educate thyself. Do not permit people from outside our state whose main goal is to send a message to judges who are simply doing the job for which they were appointed to manipulate you. You should be skeptical of any information you receive (including my post – that is exactly what I mean), and do a thorough job of educating yourself in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not you check yes or no November 2nd.

Ask yourself whether you know the answers to the following questions: Who is Bob Vander Plaats? What is Iowa for Freedom? Where does their funding come from? What is their real purpose? Do you know those answers? Are you aware the Bob Vander Plaats has attempted to run for Governor of Iowa and lost at the primary level twice and voluntarily become candidate for Lieutenant Governor once? His last campaign focused a great deal on issuing an executive order to stop clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (which, by the way, is the incorrect mechanism for ‘reversing’ or ‘overruling’ an Iowa Supreme Court decision). Iowa for Freedom was founded by Vander Plaats after he ran a losing primary campaign to “stop judicial tyranny,” “defend marriage,” and “protect freedom.” This organization accuses the Iowa Supreme Court of ignoring the Iowa Constitution and “the will of the people.” If you go to the organization’s website and click the Contact link, you will find that they are “a project of AFA Action, Inc.” Checks can be made payable directly to that organization. If you know where I am going with this, you should next be asking yourself who AFA Action is. They are an arm of the American Family Association, which is an extremist organization founded in 1977 in Mississippi that uses the Bible as a weapon against all they disagree with. They spout hateful rhetoric all over their website, and are most commonly known for things like boycotting Disney because they had some secret “gay agenda,” and blaming gays for Biblical plagues (i.e. crop failure).

 The “Vote No” campaign is a classic red herring. Iowa for Freedom wants Iowa voters to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court Justices because according to their argument, this is the correct means to “check and balance” the courts. They are showing you their right hand, when really you need to pay attention to what their left hand is doing. The group argues not that the system is broken, but that by issuing a single opinion on a controversial issue, these Justices crossed some invisible line and therefore should be unseated. The question of the validity of a single case should not be the question at hand. However, it is and impossible issue to ignore in the face of this manipulative campaign. Anyone who argues to the contrary is simply missing the point. Iowa voters are being barraged with misleading information from an organization whose purpose is far removed from instituting justice under the Iowa Constitution.

Iowa for Freedom accuses the Justices of legislating from the bench or somehow doing something that took away the legislature’s power. Professor and former Dean of Drake Law School David Walker responded to this assertion quite well in a recent bipartisan forum on the issue. He said “nowhere in our Constitution is a court given the power to abstain from a case properly brought before it.” Varnum was properly raised by individuals who felt that the Iowa marriage statute (the act of the Iowa Legislature) violated their constitutional rights. The Court did not have the ability to just avoid this case simply because it was difficult or controversial. The Justices of the Supreme Court took an oath to uphold the Iowa Constitution, which contains an equal protection clause (Art. I, Sec. VI). This equal protection clause requires that those similarly situated must be treated equally. Therefore, the statute not treating those similarly situated equally is contrary to the Iowa Constitution. I say this at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, but I want you to go read the Iowa Constitution (link). I want you to go read the Varnum v. Brien decision at 763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009) (link). Take a look at the nonpartisan Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts website so you have a better understanding of how merit selection works.

I will be up front and tell you that I agree with the Court’s decision in Varnum. But that is not relevant to what I am arguing here. The question should not be whether you agree with a particular decision the Court reached, but instead whether these Justices are doing the job for which they were appointed. That is why you should read the Constitution, and Varnum, which will show you that the decision was absolutely within the power of the Court and in accordance with the Constitution. That is why you should look at the Iowa State Bar Association’s 2010 Judicial Plebiscite, which will show you that in an actual survey where participants answered only once, over 70% of attorneys stated they would retain Chief Justice Ternus, and over 80% would retain Justices Streit and Baker.

Voting “no” when asked if these Justices should be retained is not going to magically reverse the Varnum decision. It just does not work that way. I do not for a second believe that there should be a Constitutional Convention on this issue, but that is your means of redress if you feel so inclined. Contact your legislators, or vote for a Constitutional Convention on November 2nd. Do not buy in to the arguments that are truly meant to politicize the judicial system and to “send a message” to other judges in other states and scare them into doing what is popular, not right under the Constitution. Do not let out of state money, politics, and hateful rhetoric fool you into taking an action that has nothing to do with the Iowa Constitution.