Sunday, August 30, 2009

On law school and early marriage

Kevin Barney of By Common Consent has a post about what he calls the “Mormon Early Marriage Culture.” As is often the case with such topics, the post itself is brief but the comment thread is not.  Barney talks about how he was an “odd duck” in law school because he already had a wife and child. I was married before I started law school, which also put me in the minority. But it was not an especially small minority; there were a fair number of students who had gotten married after undergrad. Some of those married students even had children while they were in school. Additionally, quite a few of my classmates were married during or immediately after graduation from law school. So perhaps young married Mormons aren’t as significant a group of outliers Barney takes them to be.

I admit that my law school classmates may not have been the most representative sample. I went to school in the South, where even the law students are somewhat more likely than their East Coast or West Coast counterparts to be religious. Or perhaps, since the legal profession is a relatively traditional profession,  lawyers and future lawyers are more inclined to follow traditional social orders. It would take another study to figure that out.

A couple years ago the U.S. Census Bureau released some data indicating that, for the first time in American history, the majority of adults were unmarried. And according to the graph below (from seattlepi.com) the median age of marriage has risen to 27.1 years for men and 25.3 years for women. I don’t know what the median age is for Mormon men and women in America, but I’m guessing it’s a couple years younger.



A few of the comments on Barney’s BCC post make some good observations. One law student commenter noted that many of his fellow law students were in long-term relationships, even though they weren’t married. This matches with my experience as well: many of my classmates lived with a long-term boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancĂ©e, often owning property together. A generation or two ago they would have been married, but under current norms they put it off or never ultimately marry.

In a somewhat different vein, commenter John Mansfield noted that the age of first marriage for women had been creeping up after 1960, but that the average age of first marriage for men stayed steady until it shot up in 1973. He opined that this was largely due to Roe v. Wade, and that the continued lower age of first marriage for Mormons may be due to the fact that they are somewhat unaffected by the availability of abortions.

Friday, August 28, 2009

BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School is Named a "Best Value"

The National Jurist magazine recently reviewed 65 different law schools in the country to come up with their "Best Value" law schools. National Jurist looked at the cost of tuition, job placement, bar passage rates and school rankings. BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School came in second on the list. Congrats!

  1. North Carolina Central University- Tuition: $5,702. Bar Passage Rate: 86%. Employed at Graduation: 87%. Tier 4 school.
  2. Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School- Tuition: $8,700. Bar Passage Rate: 97%. Employed at Graduation: 91%. Ranked 41st by US News.
  3. University of Nebraska School of Law- Tuition: $9,018. Bar Passage Rate: 89%. Employed at Graduation: 94.5%. Tier 3 school.
  4. Georgia State University College of Law- Tuition: $9,530. Bar Passage Rate: 93%. Employed at Graduation: 96%. Ranked 65th by US News.
  5. University of Mississippi School of Law- Tuition: $8,930. Bar Passage Rate: 92%. Employed at Graduation: 87%. Tier 3 school.

Monday, August 24, 2009

For new law students

Many law schools across the U.S. are starting classes this week, which means a whole new class of 1L's. It seems like every lawyer or returning law student has advice to dispense to the new law students, so I'll pitch in my three bits of wisdom. My successes and failures in law school were largely based on how well I adhered to these suggestions.
  • Work hard. It may be obvious, but it's worth stating up front. Law school is intentionally hard, and you will be competing with some of the best and brightest minds. You will also be learning to think in new patterns and with new concepts. Put the time in, do the reading, and be prepared for class. A lot of law students are naturally intelligent and may not have had to do much work to excel in undergrad. That won't cut it in law school and it won't cut it in the real world.
  • Find a schedule that works for you—and stick with it. When I was in law school I treated it like a job. I went into school in the morning and I left at the end of the day or whenever I finished my work. Some people prefer to get up early so they can be home earlier. Others like to work late. Develop a schedule that allows you to get all your work done, and stick to it. Being able to focus for long periods of time is a skill you must learn in order to succeed in law school and to succeed in legal practice after you graduate.
  • Keep your priorities straight. You may be spending upwards of $100,000 to go to law school, so it should rightly be your top priority—most of the time. But you must keep some balance in your life. It is possible to spend too much time doing school work. I've seen classmates do it, and it's unhealthy and ultimately unproductive. Make time for friends, family, scripture study, church service, and community involvement. You may even have to schedule some of these items to fit them in. Just make sure they happen. Even though law school is very important, your family or other priorities may trump your studies from time to time. And that's okay. 
I also recommend that all new 1L's (and even returning law students) read "To Beginning Law Students," a brief but worthwhile article in the December 2002 issue of First Things magazine by Arizona State University law professor Patrick McKinley Brown.

If any of the readers have better advice to new law students or things they wish they had done in law school, feel free to share them in the comments.

Photo credit: Jesse Michael Nix.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FLDS man's civil rights lawsuit against Mormon Church thrown out

Last week the federal District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed claims against the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) by a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs that broke away from the Mormon Church. (Whew! Got those long names out of the way.) Last year Roland Cooke brought a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Mormon Church and the FBI. (This case already sounds like a conspiracy theorist's dream.) The action was later dismissed and then refiled against the Corporation of the President and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church.

Late last year the defendant organizations within the LDS Church filed a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, and it was granted last Friday. The District Court actually rejected the Mormon Church's res judicata arguments, but granted dismissal on grounds that Mr. Cooke failed to state a claim under § 1983 for which relief could be granted:

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff fails to plead any facts sufficient to allow the Court to reasonably infer that Defendants were either “engaging in a traditional and exclusive public function [or] responding to state compulsion ...” Plaintiff's conclusory allegations of collusion amongst Defendants and the States of Utah and Arizona, as well as the allegation that his “property was confiscated and put in the care of ... a member of the Mormon Church[,]” are not sufficient to permit the Court to infer any sort of invidious discrimination or actionable “joint participation” between the States of Utah and Arizona and the LDS Church (citations omitted).
The outcome perhaps should not be surprising, given that Mr. Cooke was acting pro se. Fortunately for Mr. Cooke, the Arizona District Court granted him leave to file another amended complaint to try to cure his pleading deficiencies. Unfortunately for Mr. Cooke, it will be very difficult to prove state action in the current scenario under the standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

Hat tip: Religion Clause.
Cooke v. Corp. of the Pres. of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints                                                                                                                                            

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mormon missionaries will be excluded from 2010 Census

The excellent Howard Friedman of Religion Clause writes today that the Census Bureau has decided that the upcoming 2010 Census will not count Mormon missionaries who are living overseas. This was a big issue for the State of Utah, which narrowly missed gaining an extra congressional seat in 2000. Instead, the seat went to North Carolina, which has several military bases. Military service members living in other countries are counted in the census, but missionaries and other U.S. citizens living abroad are not. There are an estimated 11,000 Mormon missionaries from Utah that are living overseas. Utah challenged the census methods in a 2002 Supreme Court case, Utah v. Evans, but was unsuccessful.

The current Census Bureau policy counts military service members, federal employees, and citizens on merchant vessels. Other groups of U.S. citizens living abroad are not counted. Representative Bob Bishop (R-Utah) has opposed the policy as unfair an inaccurate. The most recent challenge to Census policies does not contest the counting of military members or federal employees, but instead argued that other groups (such as Mormon missionaries) should also be counted. I actually think this argument has some merit, particularly since the Census Bureau currently counts people on merchant vessels. Military service members and federal employees are serving their country, and may therefore be entitled to special treatment. But how is a crew member on a merchant vessel different from a missionary or a businessperson or a Peace Corp volunteer living abroad? The Census Bureau responds to these criticisms that they have found no feasible way to accurately count every American overseas.

There was a brief attempt earlier this year to change Census policies through congressional act, but the bill (S.160) (PDF) failed in the House when members of Congress attempted to use the bill as a vehicle to invalidate D.C.'s firearm restrictions. 

Further reading:
Religion Clause: 2010 Census Again Will Not Count Overseas Mormon Missionaries
Salt Lake Tribune: Census count to exclude overseas missionaries—again
U.S. Census Bureau: Issues of Counting Americans Overseas in Future Censuses

Photo credit: noneck.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Should Mass. Mormon leaders use the Dover Amendment?

Much of the Bloggernacle took note when a venerable LDS chapel in Cambridge, Massachusetts caught fire and burned in May of this year. The unavailability of that chapel exacerbated a crowding problem in the Boston Stake. In another Boston suburb, Brookline, the Mormon Church has been attempting to build a new chapel for the past two years. The Boston Stake purchased the land in 2007 but experienced severe criticism from neighbors, even after agreeing to several design changes. Eventually the Brookline Preservation Commission issued an 18-month stay on the project to protect a historic house on the property.

That stay expires in November, and Mormon leaders in the Boston area now face a choice: do they continue to seek community approval and cooperation with the building project, or do they go forward in spite of the opposition? The Mormon Church's common practice has been to work with neighbors, and that is clearly a good policy for fostering goodwill and community involvement. But the LDS Church hasn't always been able to reach an agreement with neighbors. The best example of such disagreements was the contentious building of the LDS Boston Temple. Neighbors filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church and the temple was dedicated without a steeple. Eventually the Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and allowed the steeple to be constructed, nearly a year after the temple was dedicated.

The Boston Temple must be on the minds of Mormon leaders as they prepare to make their case to the community a second time. The other thing on their minds is likely a law commonly referred to as the "Dover Amendment" (Massachusetts General Law 40A § 3).  Among other things, the Dover Amendment exempts religious organizations from certain zoning restrictions. If neighbors to the proposed chapel continue to fight the project, Mormon leaders could choose to ignore the protests and build the way they want to. Another Brookline congregation, the Korean Church of Boston, proved this point last year when they built a towering gray monolith addition to a traditional old church. Planning Commission officials saw the designs and didn't like them, but since the Korean Church was exempted from the zoning restrictions they could not oppose the project.

Neighborhood criticism of the proposed Mormon chapel hasn't abated since 2007. Gill Fishman, president of the Fisher Hill Neighborhood Association, insists that the design is ugly and that the chapel is too big. Even still, I consider it unlikely at this point that Boston Stake leaders will avail themselves of the Dover Amendment. In addition to the cost in goodwill to the community, it could result in a lawsuit similar to the one that delayed the Boston Temple steeple, further delaying the construction. But Brookline neighbors may have to acknowledge that when push comes to shove, they don't have a choice.
Photo credit: bunkosquad.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dear Abby and missionary service

I usually try to keep posts here strictly legal, but this topic was too interesting to pass up. A family member mentioned this Dear Abby column that ran in a newspaper about a week ago, and it raised a lot of red flags. The question and answer are brief so I will reproduce them in their entirety:

DEAR ABBY: Our nephew recently asked family members for money to help him go on a mission for his church. Apparently he is supposed to gather 50 sponsors to pay a "tax deductible" $50 to $100 per month for two years (via direct bill or credit card), according to the forms from his church.
We love our nephew and his parents, but we do not share their religious beliefs. And quite frankly, the request has upset more than a few members of the family because the amount requested is obviously not just to support the young man, but a way to support his church.

I generally think the new Dear Abby distributes poor advice, but she's right-on this time. I wanted to know more about the situation. First and foremost, is this a Mormon mission? The two-year time period and Arizona location would seem to support this possibility, as would the family members' disapproval of the church in question. But if that is the case, I'm just as embarrassed as the writer in Arizona.

I'm sure the Mormon Church has methods or forms to enable interested family members or friends. However, I'm reasonably certain that mass-mailings are discouraged, if not prohibited. I find it particularly troubling that the young missionary-to-be was seeking a fixed number of sponsors (50) that were supposed to donate a certain amount per month ($50-100). While that may be a legitimate fund-raising tactic in other areas, it seems to run against the personal sacrifice aspects of Mormon missionary services. I find it extremely hard to believe that the Mormon Church would instruct its missionaries to gather sponsors in such a way. In fact, the general guidance is for young men and women to save money in their teenage years to pay for the cost of serving a mission.

I see two possibilities behind the Dear Abby question. The first is that this aspiring missionary is actually a member of another denomination that performs missionary service. If that is the case I have no problem with it. It seems somewhat in poor taste, but they can set their own rules. The second possibility is that this is indeed a young man going on a Mormon mission who is misrepresenting the LDS Church's missionary system in order to defray the cost of service. I wish I could say that it was impossible that a young man or family would try to pass on the cost of a mission, but I can't. I hope that it is not the case.

Is anyone aware of specific LDS Church policy prohibiting missionary funding schemes like this? I don't have immediate access to a Handbook of Instructions, but I can check. I can't find any specific policies on mission funding on the LDS.org missions page. The most guidance I can find is the following passage from the LDS Newsroom page on the Missionary Program. It states: "Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their field of labor — and are not paid for their services."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Good Luck Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) Test Takers


Good luck to all the law students who will be taking the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) tomorrow. The MPRE is a 60 question, 2 hour and 5 minute, multiple choice exam administered 3 times a year. Passing the MPRE is required for bar admission in all but 4, U.S. jurisdictions. Passing scores vary by the jurisdiction but required scores currently range from 75 to 86, depending on the jurisdiction you are applying to.

I'll be taking the MPRE tomorrow in Phoenix. I've been getting differing opinions on how much I should study. Everything from "don't study, the only people who study are the ones who don't pass", to "you better study alot, I had to take it twice". So, I've studied a fair amount but still not feeling overconfident. I'll study some more tonight and then "swing for the fence" tomorrow morning!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

UCLA/BYU Law Schools to Hold Conference on Interviewing and Counseling

UCLA School of Law and Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School will be hosting a conference on the pedagogy of Interviewing and Counseling. The conference will take place on Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17 at the UCLA School of Law.

This conference will explore ways to increase the effectiveness of teaching interviewing and counseling. Interactive panels and small groups will consider specific methods by which law students can better retain what they learn in clinics, first and second year introductory skills courses and simulation courses when they enter practice.

Conference panels will explore what is meant by teaching for retention; how teaching for retention enhances reflective lawyering; how teaching methods such as simulation and repeat experiences anchor student training; and what can be learned from other professional schools such as medicine about the use of simulation and live clinic to train students. Other panels will examine how recent cognitive science and neuroscience findings inform our understanding of the processes of interviewing and counseling skill development, reflective learning and retention.

On the second day of the conference, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) will lead a panel on how the web might be used to create a digital social media space for interviewing and counseling instructors who would like to share materials and insights. Other second day panels will discuss common interviewing and counseling contexts typically not discussed in texts on interviewing and counseling.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

From the Blawgernacle - August 1, 2009

If you read legal blogs you know that they are often called "blawgs," an extremely unimaginative combination of the words "law" and "blog." Similarly, the Mormon portion of the Bloggosphere is often given the horrendous name "Bloggernacle." I don't know if there is a name for the legal corner of the Bloggernacle, but I'm calling it the  Blawgernacle until I can think of a better name.

I wanted to highlight a few good posts from the newly-christened Blawgernacle that have been posted in the last week. The first is by Geoff B. of Millennial Star about the Mormon angles of the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination hearings. He mentioned a few interesting tidbits, including the fact that Bork and a young associate named Dallin Oaks helped end a "Jewish quota" at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Geoff's article is here.

The second post of note is by Blawgernacle notable Nate Oman of Times & Seasons on "The Evolution of Excommunication." The development and interaction of LDS Church courts with the American legal system is on of Oman's areas of interest, but I thought this post was especially interesting. Oman looked at old Church Handbooks published in 1890, 1920, and 1940, and he identifies a shift in focus from remedying past wrongs to seeking the spiritual welfare of the individual. Anyone familiar with criminal legal theory will recognize that this shift is similar to the shift in criminal law from retribution or isolation to rehabilitation.  Oman's article is here.