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Friday Roundup

Election Returns.  "Follow the money" is a time-tested aphorism in politics, but you wouldn't think it would apply to California's referendum legalizing marijuana, which went down to defeat on Tuesday by an 8-point margin.  While reading through some articles on the reasons for the measure's defeat, I came across this:

Preliminary election returns showed Prop 19 winning in 11 of 58 counties, with the strongest support in San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

But in a sign of what a tough sell it was, Prop 19 lost in the state's vaunted marijuana-growing region known as the "Emerald Triangle" of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties.

Many in the region feared the system they created would be taken over by corporations or undercut a cornerstone of the local economies by sending pot prices plunging.

More parochially, the big news from here was the defeat of Bridget McCafferty for a Common Pleas judgeship.  McCafferty was one of two judges indicted in the Federal government's two-year investigation into county government corruption, but despite that, and consistently poor ratings by bar associations, was favored to win a third term.  Why?  Well, check the roster of Cuyahoga County judges and see how many non-ethnic names you can find.  (Actually, the number of Russos has fallen.  There used to be six:  in addition to the four in the general division, there was one in Domestic Relations, and there's still one in the Juvenile Division.)

But it doesn't necessarily take getting indicted for a judge to get voted out of office.  Last year the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.  Iowa has a merit selection/retention method for supreme court justices:  instead of voting for opposing candidates, the public simply votes on whether to retain them.  Since the system was instituted in 1962, no justice had ever lost a retention vote.  On Tuesday, all three justices up for retention did.

Take me out to the ballgame.  The recession hasn't spared many industries, but it's been especially hard on the legal profession:  the number of legal jobs has fallen by 7.8% since 2007, compared to decline of 5.4% in total jobs.  And while law school enrollment has increased -- the number of people taking the LSAT has climbed over 20% in the last three years -- graduates are finding a job market that simply does not give them the $65,000 salary that makes law school a good investment, given the $71,000 in debt that the average public law school graduate has incurred.  (For private law schools, it's $20,000 more.)  And while law schools reported that employment for the 2009 class was 88.3%, a quarter of those jobs were temporary, and another ten percent only part-time.  The employment prospects are so grim that one 3L at Boston College has written a letter to the dean proposing a deal:  he'll drop out of law school if the school will refund his tuition.  To him, it's a win-win:

On the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I’ll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News.

But even a law job takes second place to the National Pastime, at least for Boris Briskin, who, Findlaw tells us, quit his job at a Los Angeles firm when they wouldn't give him time off to attend the playoff games of his beloved Texas Rangers.

In fact, the Rangers, despite their historically lackluster performance -- before this year, their 38 years of existence hadn't produced a single playoff game victory -- apparently inspire members of the legal profession, such as Darrell W. Cook, who sought a continuance of a pretrial so he could attend the first Series game in San Francisco.  The motion, which you can read here, is a riot, especially the footnotes, the best of which, regarding the Rangers' vanquishing of the Yankees in the League Championship Series, is this one:

It should be pointed out that A Rod [Alex Rodriguez] a/k/a A Fraud took a called third strike to end the series and secure the pennant for the Rangers.  It has no significance to this Motion other than the fact that Darrell likes to point it out as much as possible.

Alas, the Rangers lost the Series in five games to the San Francisco Giants.  Cook fared better in the deal:  at least his motion was granted.

Style tips.  Not only do I do this blog, but I also write a weekly summary of all the criminal decisions of the 8th District for the listservs of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association.  That means I read an awful lot of cases.

The downside of that is...  I read an awful lot of cases.  Just what a downside was reinforced by an article I came across on the miserable quality of legal writing, and the reasons for it.  Especially resonant with me was Reason No. 4:  law students (and lawyers) read lots of judicial opinions.

Let us remember that the judicial opinions in our casebooks were not chosen for their writing style; they were chosen for their content. But many judicial opinions are poorly written, and most are mediocre at best. One commentator has said that lawyers, in their reading, are exposed to “the largest body of poorly written literature ever created by the human race.”

Anybody want to give me an amen?

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