Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On increase ...

Some food for thought at this back-to-school-time:

In the past 25 years, minimum wage increased 216 percent.

Tuition increased 400 percent.

Twenty-five years ago, more men graduated from college than women.

Today, more women graduate than men.

Just over twenty-five years ago, I did not exist.

Today, I do.

If I applied the logic some of my classmates try to use in class, it would mean that I am reasponsible for the increase in tuition, minimum wage, and the number of women earning college degrees.

You're welcome.

*I realize it's tangential to the point of this post, but I'd also love discussion on the tuition/wage increase issue as well as this article about how efforts to boost the status of women have worked (yay for lots of college degrees),but now maybe men need the boost back .... Link courtesy former professor at Thoughts???

On career options ...

The words left my mouth and I instantly knew they'd come out too hastily. I had snapped back at a classmate who, in her own frustration, accused me of talking to the one attorney in the clinic that night out of turn. I immediately tried to apologize but she was too worried about her client who had been sitting with no answer for at least 20 minutes. So I sighed, turned back to the attorney who was ignoring my classmate for the moment, and wrote down her instructions.

Every Tuesday I volunteer to offer legal help to domestic violence victims. The first week or so the questions were simple and basic. What form do I need for a protective order? Can I take my child out of the country if his dad has custody and refuses to sign his passport? Where is the courthouse? I was cocky enough after this experience that I actually told a friend it was somewhat frustrating to do all the work and have the supervising attorney take credit.


This week was a doozy. And I realized just why being an attorney requires three years of intense study, bar certification, and a few years of practice in a firm or under a mentor before you're ready to go it on your own as a solo practitioner.

Because as a second year student, I had absolutely no idea that if your ex-husband got you to sign divorce papers under fraudulent pretenses the next step is to submit a motion to dismiss with a supporting affidavit. I also had no absolutely no idea what your client should tell the judge if your abusive husband has been deported and so you can't find him to serve him with divorce papers. And I definitely had absolutely no idea what to say when a woman my age, a stay-at-home mom with a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old and no education and only a few months work experience at Petsmart whose husband has all of their money in his name and cheated on her so she now has zero money and zero job prospects, looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "This isn't how I thought marriage was going to be."

And that's when I also knew divorce law probably isn't going to be for me..

One field of law down, 100 to go. I'll figure out what I'm doing eventually.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On overcoming denial ...


I watch Dancing With the Stars while editing law journal articles.

I secretly wish I was on Dancing with the Stars.

I find Bristol Palin adorable and refreshing.

Congratulations American Broadcasting Corporation. You can take away my "I think I'm too smart for pop culture" award now. No one's been able to do that since Gilmore Girls ended. I miss Rory.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On stamping...

I've spent a lot of time in the law library lately. So I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to notice the disclaimer on the large "stamp" used at the circulation desk where I check out research materials. (I say "stamp" because really it's not a stamp in my mind. A stamp is what my Young Women leaders would use to decorate homemade greeting cards. This thing is a spring-loaded, foot-tall, complete-with-interchangeable-date-plates-ink dispenser of doom; an apparatus only the true librarians can handle.) Anyway, here's what the label on top says in red capital letters.

"Please do not stamp personal items. Stamp is for library materials only."



Why on earth was this disclaimer necessary? Who would want "Howard W. Hunter Law Library[DATE]" stamped all over their stuff anyway? Is wildly stamping anything in reach really such a temptation for law students that it happens frequently? And was that really so offensive to the librarians they felt the need that the stamp must be made exclusive? That the sacred name of the library not be allowed to touch non-library materials?

I think what this really means is that I've spent too much time in the library. And that I very possibly need a life outside of law school.

Monday, September 13, 2010

On sleeptalking ...

Remember THIS? It just keeps getting better:

I turn out the light and Dave rolls over reaching for my arm.

"So," he says touching my elbow. "How are things going for you guys?"

Guys? Since when am I plural? Hmm ... I think. This sleep talking thing has been going on for a year but it's never been interactive. Maybe I should check that out. Maybe he's dreaming about the next day when we'd see some friends at another friend's wedding? But before I can say anything he interrupts me.

"I don't mean personally. I mean with the load."

Ah. He's dreaming about work where he manages semi-truck drivers.

"What load?" I respond.

"I don't know. Maybe I'm too tired to ask this question. Maybe I should ask you tomorrow."

I search for another response when he starts in again ...

"Really good, thanks for asking. Things are great with me and my wife."

That's happy, I think. Even unconscious he's happy with our marriage.


"What time will you arrive with the load?"

"10," I say, searching my brain for a number.

"And what time is it due again?"

"11." If I'm going to play truck driver, I might as well be a really punctual one.

"Great. Sounds good to meeeeeeee," his drags out the word in a tired sing-song voice."Maybe I'm too tired to ask this question. Maybe I should ask you tomorrow. But it was really important I know before I go to bed for some reason."


I wonder what else I can get out of his subconcious.

"So, what's your favorite thing about your wife?" I ask.

"There's so many things!" he says enthusiastically. "How could I choose just one?"


"Do you know who you are talking to?" I am suspicious from his last answer he is starting to wake up. "Who am I?"

"You are ... You are Brooke," he says somewhat uncertainly.

"Yes. So why are talking to me like a truck driver?"

"Because you drive a truck."

"No I don't."

"Have you ever considered switching vocations?"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On panic ...

Panic is looking at your "absolutely-must-have-finished-before-class-at-9a.m.-Monday" list at 1 a.m. Sunday and then realizing all your books are at school in your carrel. In the library. In a building that is locked on Sundays because it is owned by a religious organization.



BYU may be able to keep my from my books on the Sabbath but they won't exactly be forcing me into a day of rest. More like a day of stress.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 links ... We will never forget

I liked this collection of photos:

Also, I love that First-Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush spoke together today in Pennsylvania.

P.S. American journalists and legal scholars ... Can we please, please stop using the acronym OTUS for "of the United States." It took me a long time to figure out what the heck articles were talking about in law school when they referred to the Supreme Court as SCOTUS, and in looking for a link about the First Ladies' speech, I just came across an article that referred to Michelle Obama as the FLOTUS. Really? That phrase sounds like some kind of quasi-sexual flower to me. And strikes me as slightly demeaning. Does that mean her husband the president is the POTUS and that as a resident and citizen I am a ROTUS or COTUS? Typing out U.S. before something takes less time than writing OTUS after it and will save my poor eyes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

T-shirt goodness ...

The BYU Women's Law Forum has had some rocking T-shirts the last couple years. Lady Justice stands proudly wielding her sword with the scales of justice hanging in the balance. Two years ago she was surrounded by the words: Women belong in the House .... and in the Senate."

Last year we gave our gal pal Judge Judy some screen time. "I'm here because I'm smart, not because I'm young and beautiful ... although I am."

This year's quote has a lot to live up to. I just got the list board members will vote from and I thought I'd share some of my favorites. (Feel free to comment with your insights or your own favorite quotes about the law, achieving your goals, women, feminism, or to help me balance this discussion out a little, men.):

"Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex" - Abigail Adams

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank, writer

"Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads." -Erica Jong, author

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"A woman's work is never done." - Proverb

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." -Helen Keller (editor's note: can't you just see this in vinyl?)

"Feminism's agenda is basic: It asks that women not be forced to 'choose' between public justice and private happiness." - Susan Faludi, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

"Women are the real architects of society." -Harriet Beecher Stowe

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." –Mother Theresa

"We are all pencils in the hand of God writing love letters to the world." -Mother Theresa

"There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers." - Susan B. Anthony

"When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" -Eleanor Roosevelt

Prop 8 ...

The lead counsel for the defense in Perry v. Schwarzenegger spoke today. His speech, followed by intense debate (yes, there are people at BYU Law on all sides of this issue) and discussion with classmates left my head in knots.

Every time I'd attempt an argument in any direction, I'd end up in a circle. And after a crash course in tax break regulation, I'm convinced there's a lot more to this argument than people from either side are letting on and that acknowledging those untalked about incentives (*cough! cough! **FINANCIAL!) would actually simplify the debate enormously. And I also wanted to completely ***overhaul the tax code.

I believe in tolerance. I also believe in morality. But discussion and studies about homosexuality and its impact or lack thereof are irrelevant here because that's not what the case is about. Those things may be what Prop 8 were about and they are certainly what all the buzz and debate and exchange within the marketplace of ideas surrounding the case are about. The actual lawsuit, though, has to focus on legal, not social principles. So it's about whether or not a referendum held to a public vote and then passed by only a slight majority (52.24 percent) of Californian residents does or does not violate Constitutional guarantees. And for law students, legal scholars, and hopefully, for all Americans, that is a very important question to have answered.

I know where I stand on the irrelevant stuff -- morals and tolerance and the balance between the two. But I still haven't decided what I think the Constitutionally-acceptable solution should or will be. Good thing I'm not in charge.

Thoughts? Does someone out there have a better grasp on the Due Process clause and is certain they know how it should be interpreted? Is anyone else as lost as I am? Or does no one want to touch this?

** I am not referring only to proponents of gay marriage here -- financial incentives play into both sides. Nor am I implying the only reason homosexual couples want to be married is because of a tax break. There are certainly important emotional aspects to this issue. I am referring here, however, to the fact that one of the main arguments that current marriage laws are discriminatory is that heterosexual couples who are married are given different tax breaks than heterosexual couples that are not married and that current marriage laws force homosexual couples into the unmarried category.

***(Warning: I ramble here. You may want to just read the main post and move on to the comments if you're not in the mood to make sense of confusion.)
Marriage as an institution has historically been about children. That does not mean that your marriage has to be about children. You may choose to be married and not have children (my husband and I are fully in that category at the moment) and you may choose to have children and not be married. But governments and societies have typically offered incentives (and really, what other form of incentive does the government have other than tax breaks and some sort of government-recognized title distinction) to people who are willing to commit to long-term relationships because it is an effort to reduce the number of children born to single parents.
If the incentive works (or if the incentive creates a culture where marriage is valued), this reduces the percentage of children who will need government assistance to make up for a missing parent and significantly reduces other social ills that have been statistically linked to poverty due to single parenthood. That's good for society as whole. The government recognizes that not all married couples will have children. But they do recognize that the majority of heterosexual people will procreate and they want to encourage as much of that to happen within committed and stable relationships as possible so marriage has traditionally been offered to heterosexual couples.
This line of reasoning is used as by some as an argument against extending marriage to committed homosexual couples: The only reason the government cares at all about heterosexual marriage is because heterosexual marriages usually produce offspring and governments have a valid interest in parental care provided to the children born into their country. If children were not usually a product of heterosexual relationships than the government could care less whether or not the two adults in the relationship wanted formal recognition of their lifelong commitment to each other. Because no homosexual couple will ever spontaneously reproduce, the argument is there is no valid reason for the government to get involved. Homosexual couples may adopt, just as others who are not married may adopt, but other tax credits are offered to parents regardless of marital status and if unmarried people (regardless of sexual orientation) are willing to go to the lengths that it takes to adopt a child, then their families are probably not the kind that threaten societal harmony like lots of children from uncommitted relationships do and so there is no need to offer incentives against it like there is with unmarried couples.
The Supreme Court, in some cases, seems to agree with at least the line of reasoning which leads to this argument because it has repeatedly let the American people know that they can have sex and be committed and spend there lives with whoever they want, but marriage the institution is about children and families, not just about two adults who love each other. That does not mean they won't extend marriage to homosexual couples at some point, because they might. It just means that they say the reason America cares about marriage is because marriage is about kids.
Now how does this all relate to financial incentives and a complete overhaul of the tax code? I follow the purposes and reasoning for tax breaks for married couples to a point. But I also see where it seems completely unfair that when my friend's dad bailed on her mom and asked for a divorce, that her mom now pays more in taxes (because she doesn't get to file jointly with anyone), which actually leaves her with less income to support her daughters just when she needs the extra income the most. It also seems totally bogus to me that I get more of a tax break than my unmarried friends who are dating. How is that fair? And it seems bogus to me that heterosexual couples without kids should get more of a tax break than homosexual couples without kids. But I also think the government should be encouraging marriage because it is good for kids and what other ways can the government do that than offering tax incentives? And can we really afford to offer ALL parents, regardless of marital status, the same huge level of tax breaks? It's not like this money just magically appears if it's not collected. The people who don't qualify end up making up the difference. So now everyone who is childless would be footing a much larger bill. But, on the other hand, then the tax break would be even for all parents regardless of marital status. It's one reason this friend is against gay marriage because the money lost to all the new tax breaks for married homosexual couples will fall largely on unmarried people, a large portion of them single parents. Why should they get a tax break when the whole purpose is to benefit kids and right now unmarried people WITH kids don't even qualify. But don't we want parents to be married, so shouldn't we continue to give tax breaks to married couples because they most likely will have children? Most married people do have children. You could argue that we should only give it to couples who are married with kids if kids are the ones we're trying to help in the first place. But is it fair for one marriage to receive a tax break when another doesn't based on child status? Do we give a tax break for people trying to have children? Or only once they actually have a child? What would would happen if we just overhauled it all and didn't give a married tax incentive? What if, since kids are the ones we are trying to help, we just gave a bigger child credit? Would that somehow be interpreted as government approval of people choosing to have children outside of committed relationships even though that has been shown to be bad for society? Would Prop 8 have even have happened if there was no married tax break? Would as many homosexual couples want to be married if non-marriage wasn't keeping them from equal treatment in the eyes of the law because not even married people were being given the break? The fact I can come up with so many questions and I absolutely loathe talking about tax law is a big sign to me that there needs to be some kind of tax reform. But, again, I won't be the one to do it.