Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Salt Lake City prosecutor's office says it will not pursue charges against two men who were cited for trespassing on a Mormon church-owned downtown plaza earlier this month.
Prosecutor Sim Gill said in a statement that "when you have private property that is open to the public...there is some responsibilities of the property owner". Gill also said that Utah state law requires the property owner to let the public know what rules to follow. It will be interesting to see if the LDS Church puts signs up on the Plaza explaining exactly what type of affection can be displayed and by what sexes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has disputed Aune's and Jones' version of the events, saying their behavior was lewd and more was involved than a "simple kiss of the cheek."
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The bar exam is the legal profession's greatest single rite of passage. Whether your view it as a necessary evil or a self-protective barrier to entry, there is no avoiding the bar exam (unless you live in Wisconsin). Reform efforts in this area have met enormous opposition, since the legal profession is extremely slow to change. But it has gotten better -- many states now offer the option to use computers for the essay portion of the bar exam. I would have gladly taken that option, especially when rigor mortis set in on my writing hand in the afternoon of the essay portion.
One of the best proposals I have seen this year was from George Mason Law prof Ilya Somin, who suggests that law examiners and other state bar officials should be required to take and pass the bar exam every year. Somin continues:
Any who fail to pass should be immediately dismissed from their positions, and their failure publicly announced (perhaps at a special press conference by the state attorney general). And they should be barred from ever holding those positions again until - you guessed it - they take and pass the exam.
After all, if the bar exam covers material that any practicing lawyer should know, then surely the lawyers who lead the state bar and administer the bar exam system itself should be required to know it. If they don't, how can they possibly be qualified for the offices they hold? Surely it's no excuse to say that they knew it back when they themselves took the test, but have since forgotten. How could any client rely on a lawyer who is ignorant of basic professional knowledge, even if he may have known it years ago?
Of course, few if any bar exam officials or state bar leaders could pass the bar exam without extensive additional study (some might fail even with it). That's because, as anyone who has taken a bar exam knows, they test knowledge of thousands of arcane legal rules that only a tiny minority of practicing lawyers ever use. This material isn't on the exam because you can't be a competent lawyer if you don't know it. It's there so as to make it more difficult to pass, thereby diminishing competition for current bar association members (the people whose representatives, not coincidentally, control the bar exam process in most states - either directly or through their lobbying efforts). Effectively, bar exams screen out potential lawyers who are bad at memorization or who don't have the time and money to take a bar prep course or spend weeks on exam preparation.
That seems like an appropriate remedy to me, but it doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being implemented. Still, one can dream.
We here at Mormon Lawyers wish everyone taking the bar exam this week the best of luck. To those who are about to take the exam: we salute you!
Photo credit: Alex France.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Twice in the last week the death penalty has come up in conversation, and it got me thinking about it. The first was actually in a job interview: I recently applied to a government position that required occasional work on habeus actions, including some capital cases. The interviewer said the office had used conscience waivers in the past, but they were difficult to coordinate. I honestly hadn't given the death penalty much thought prior to that moment. In fact, I have been pretty agnostic on the subject. I don't really oppose it, but the death penalty isn't something I cheer about.
The topic came up again over the weekend as various news media outlets around the Southeast began to report on the jury selection process in a high-profile kidnapping-rape-murder trial of a Knoxville couple. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for all four defendants. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for all four defendants, and the cases are generating a enough controversy in Knoxville that the jury had to be picked from another city
My own ambivalence as to the death penalty doesn't mean other Mormons don't have strong feelings on the matter. Many Mormons feel that that capital punishment is inconsistent with Christian doctrines of forgiveness and mercy. Others oppose it because they feel that we should not judge in matters of life and death.
On the other hand, there are apparently some Mormons who believe in a theory of "blood atonement," where forgiveness of some sins can only be obtained by execution. There is some disagreement about what "blood atonement" means, but that's the gist of it. Clint wrote a post last February about a murder trial in Ogden, Utah, in which the defense attorney sought to exclude all Mormons from the jury who might believe in a "blood atonement." I've never known anyone who espoused this theory, but it apparently comes from a few statements made by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders in the 19th Century. The theory definitely hasn't been taught in Mormon congregations in my lifetime, but it may have had some support as recently as fifty years ago. Take, for example, this excerpt from Joseph Fielding Smith's Doctrines of Salvation:
I should note that this statement doesn't necessarily advocate capital punishment. It could just as well be interpreted as saying that forgiveness will have to wait until after an individual's death. Such an interpretation might not even be contrary to current Mormon teachings. But at least some people take it to mean that the death penalty should be administered in certain cases. Bruce R. McConkie also references the "blood atonement" theory by name in his oft-quoted Mormon Doctrine.
I notice that both Doctrines of Salvation and Mormon Doctrine aren't official publications of the Mormon Church, and both are known to include teachings that are disavowed by Mormon leaders. But both works are still used with some regularity by some Mormons, so perhaps it isn't surprising that some people would still believe in the blood atonement theory.
After my interview I thought about my opinion on capital punishment, and out of curiosity, I looked up the LDS Church's official statement on the subject. The official position is almost as ambivalent as my own:
That official statement seems to expressly disavow any dogma that advocates the death penalty for certain offenders. I can't find any good information as to whether the "blood atonement" theory was ever an official doctrine of the LDS Church, but it seems safe to say that it isn't now. I also think it's safe to say that this belief is a rarity within Mormonism. If it was ever more prevalent among American Mormons, that has changed as Mormonism has evolved into a world religion. The majority of the membership of the Mormon Church lives outside the United States, and most countries do not even allow capital punishment.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Position: Mid-level (class of '03-'06) litigation associate
Location: 로스앤젤레스, 캘리포니아
Description: 전미 20대 법무법인(로펌)의 LA지사에서 3년 이상의 기업소송경력을 지닌 mid level associate을 구합니다. 특허와 독점금지법에 대한 경력을 선호하며 한국어에 능통하여야 합니다. California bar를 선호합니다.
For more information about this position, please contact Gloria Noh Cannon at email@example.com or see Position #5128 on Lateral Link. Lateral Link is pleased to welcome Gloria Cannon to its California group. Gloria brings a wealth of legal practice and legal recruiting experience to the team, having previously practiced for four years as a financial restructuring associate at Milbank Tweed, five years as a Vice President at Oaktree Capital Management LLC, and for the last four years as a recruiter at a large national attorney search firm. Click here to read more about Gloria.
As always, membership in Lateral Link is free, and you can apply at www.laterallink.com.
Friday, July 24, 2009
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life chose this Pioneer Day to issue a report entitled "A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S." The report is chock-full of interesting statistics that compare American Mormons with other religious traditions. Look for other Mormon bloggers to delve into this date in the next few days -- it's a wealth of interesting information.
Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
UPDATE 7/27/09: Obama says he should've chosen words more carefully when he said the police "acted stupidly". NY Post
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As they have done with the past two American presidents, the Mormon Church leaders presented President Obama with his family history, including a large-scale family tree (pictured above).
Monday, July 20, 2009
A New Zealand High Court found in favor of Robert Sintes for his use "family search". Sintes of Auckland, is the owner of familytracing.co.nz which specializes in locating the living lost. The LDS Church owned Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (IRI), objected to his use of the phrase "family search" on his website. IRI, owns the LDS Church's intellectual property, including copyrights and trademarks. IRI, was seeking to avoid confusion by both groups using the same phrase on their websites.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
"There has been a good deal of publicity surrounding an incident where two men were cited for trespassing because of belligerent and profane behavior on the Church Plaza, which is an extension of the Salt Lake City Temple grounds and Church headquarters. While this property is owned by the Church, we want it to be a place of beauty and serenity in downtown Salt Lake City for everyone.
As we said earlier on this matter, these men were asked to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the Plaza. There was much more involved than a simple kiss on the cheek. They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol. They were politely told that the Plaza was not the place for such behavior and asked to stop. When they became belligerent, the two individuals were asked to leave Church property. Church security detained them and Salt Lake City police were called.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Lateral Link is pleased to welcome Gloria Noh Cannon to its California group. Gloria brings a wealth of legal practice and legal recruiting experience to the team, having previously worked at Milbank Tweed, Oaktree Capital Management LLC, and a large national attorney search firm. Click here to read more about Gloria.
Position: In-House Corporate Attorney
Location: Southern California
Description: An international botanical skin care company (the "Company") has retained the services of Lateral Link on an exclusive basis to conduct a search for a junior in-house corporate attorney. The primary responsibilities for this position will include: (i) drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts and third-party agreements with vendors, customers and partners for various internal Company departments; (ii) managing the Legal Department's contract processes and procedures; (iii) providing top-level/senior management legal and strategic business advice as well as risk mitigation strategies; (iv) regularly assisting the Vice President, Legal with complex and sensitive company issues and other legal projects and duties; and (v) serving as the point of contact for, and providing legal support to, the Company's internal departments regarding business initiatives.
This position will report directly to the Vice President - Legal and will have significant contact with senior management and various internal departments. The position will initially focus on contract review, but there will be work on other types of projects depending on the background, interests and experience of the candidate, i.e., in areas of IP, IT transactions, review of marketing and/or product materials. The Company offers a competitive compensation and benefits package, and the salary will be commensurate with experience.
Requirements: Successful candidates will have (a) outstanding academic credentials from a nationally-recognized accredited law school, (b) at least two years of significant experience at a top-tier law firm in general corporate and transactional matters, (c) demonstrated strong contract negotiation skills and substantive expertise with key contract provisions (e.g., warranties, indemnities, licenses, etc.), and (d) strong business sense/judgment, well-developed analytical skills, excellent written/oral communication skills, outstanding multi-tasking skills, and the ability to work independently and efficiently in a fast-paced environment. In addition, in-house experience is beneficial and membership in the California bar is preferred.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Click HERE to Register. This event is a great opportunity to practice for recruiting events and on-campus interviews which will be occurring later this summer and into the fall.
The event will take place on Thursday July 23, 2009 at the law offices of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
John Waters, Executive Director of Covington and Burling will be speaking about the current hiring climate due to the economic recession and how to market yourself to firms. Members of the JRCLS professional chapter will be assisting with mock interviews and there will be an attorney from Brownstein on-hand to review resumes and offer pointers on how to enhance them.
- Four BYU Law profs are among over a thousand signatories of a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Mormon Times.
- The University of Utah has issued a cease and desist letter to HBO for violating the university's trademark in a "Big Love" episode. Deseret News.
- From the Wrong-Way-to-Do-Things Department, a New Zealand man beat his daughter in the head with a piece of cinder block after she refused to go to with him to his Mormon congregation. She won't be going to church with him any time soon -- he received a 12-month sentence for the offense. NZ Herald.
- The Utah Bar Association is suing an LDS attorney who allegedly preyed on illegal immigrants and stole their money without providing immigration services. KUTV.com.
- Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff reported in a radio interview that child bride marriages have all be halted in the state of Utah. KSL.com.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block an architect from engraving "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capital Visitor Center in Washington D.C. The lawsuit claims the taxpayer-funded engraving would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The background of the Plaza has been contentious. The Mormon Church purchased the land from the city in 2003 in a land swap deal, but the exchange was plagued by lawsuits almost from the get-go. The ACLU sued along with other parties, challenging the deal as unconstitutional because the Church could then limit speech on the property that had formerly been a public forum. The LDS Church eventually won the lawsuit and prohibited a variety of activities in the plaza, including protesting, smoking, sunbathing, and offensive conduct of any sort. The prohibition against protesting didn't stop a group on Sunday that participated in a "kiss-in, " but they were promptly shooed off the property when police arrived. No citations were issued.
As a matter of legal rights, I think the Mormon Church or any other private or religious organization is free to set whatever silly rules it wants. My only concern in this case is the issue of notice. I have visited Salt Lake City, but I don't know if any signs are posted in the area with a code of conduct. Particularly given that the Plaza was once public property, some signage seems appropriate. Nevertheless, even without signage, this restriction is probably safely on the side of legality, even though it's terrible PR. It's also worth noting that the PDA rule is apparently enforced on both heterosexual and homosexual couples, though that doesn't enter into my analysis of the policy's legality.
For a first-hand discussion of the Plaza and the enforcement of the PDA rule, I recommend Ryan's post on the subject Right Juris.
Photo credit: Edgar Zuniga, Jr.
Arizona just passed a law allowing patrons to bring handguns into bars. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law this past Monday. The new law requires any bar owners who don't want their patrons to be drinking and packin' to post a sign next to their liquor license banning weapons. Otherwise, patrons are free to bring in their pistols.
Monday, July 13, 2009
- BYU, J. Reuben Clark Law Professor Michael Goldsmith threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Yankee's game this past July 4. He threw this pitch 70 years to the day of Lou Gehrig's famous speech in Yankee stadium. Goldsmith now suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease and has been a loud voice for raising awareness of the disease.
- The Sotomayor confirmation hearings begin today. Her confirmation is 'all but assured, barring a meltdown'. REUTERS
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Nothing is certain but death and taxes -- and jobs for tax lawyers. This is a tax attorney position with a top i-bank.
Also, if you're a Cadwalader, Shearman, Dewey or Skadden attorney participating in a firm-sponsored sabbatical program, Lateral Link has just added several new junior corporate positions with top media companies exclusively for deferred attorneys. Please contact Lateral Link for more information.
Position: Senior Manager/Vice President - Tax
Location: New York, NY
Description: The Tax Counsel Group of one of the world's leading investment banks is seeking a mid-senior level (class of '01 - 06) tax attorney for a Senior Manager/Vice President level role. Role responsibilities include: supporting various business units of the firm by providing tax advice relating to their transactions; structuring transactions; assisting members of the Tax Department on technical tax issues; and managing external tax advisors. Candidates must have top academic qualifications and 3 to 8 years of significant transactional and technical tax experience in a law firm and/or financial industry tax experience. Experience must include significant partnership taxation experience and taxation of financial products experience. Experience with Section 409A and Executive Compensation (NQDC) and benefit related issues including 409A and 162(m) is highly preferred.
- Reaching out to undocumented immigrants soften immigration views of LDS missionaries. Salt Lake Tribune
- Gay couple detained near Main Street Plaza after kiss. After being asked to leave the private property the two men became hostile and refused; they were both cited with misdemeanor trespassing. AP
Friday, July 10, 2009
Hopefully this new attention to the website will be accompanied by more resources and more frequent updates. The old site often went weeks or months without updates.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I've never quite understood the rationale of the private club rule. By most accounts, the rule was not much of a barrier to drinking, and in some parts of the state (such as Park City) it wasn't even enforced. So the private club rule doesn't appear to have restricted alcohol consumption. It seems to have had more of a social stigma function, requiring drinkers to be "on a list." In that respect, the updated law hasn't changed much. The Associated Press reports:
Utah alcohol laws still have quite a few quirks. That same AP article notes that flavored malt beverages may not be sold at grocery or convenience stores, the percentage of alcohol in beer is capped at 3.2%, happy hours are illegal, and cocktails must be mixed out of the sight of customers.
As a policy matter, I think the new law is at least a step in the right direction, particularly the harsher DUI penalties. I would rather see some more creative solutions, such as those that I discussed earlier this year involving alcohol tax equal to the average marginal social cost of each drink.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
In their article entitled "Explaining the Puzzle of Cross‐State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates," Lars Lefgren and Frank McIntyre make the argument that the variation in bankruptcy rates is due primarily to differences in state laws. Specifically, they found that laws governing the garnishment of wages significantly impacted bankruptcy rates. This actually makes a lot of sense -- if your state's laws prevent your creditors from garnishing your wages, you are less likely to need the the protections afforded by filing bankruptcy. On the other hand, if your creditors can get at your paycheck, you have a strong incentive to file for bankruptcy as soon as possible. Lefgren and McIntyre also found, somewhat unsurprisingly, that rates of bankruptcy were highest in areas where the median household income was between $30,000 and $60,000.
So it appears that Utah's relatively high rate of bankruptcy (7.05 per thousand households) has more to do with its laws allowing creditors to garnish the wages of debtors than it does a particular trend among Utah residents or a Mormon subset of that population. Utah allows up to the federal limit of 25% of wages to be garnished, although it does impose a 6-month limit. In the Southeastern United States where I live, many states use the federal garnishment limit and have similarly high bankruptcy rates. Tennessee leads the pack with 8.12 bankruptcies per thousand households, with Alabama (7.42) and Georgia (7.38) not far behind.
The article is a bit dense, but it does a good job at dispelling some of the myth that Utah residents are spending like there's no tomorrow. The bankruptcy data doesn't support that assertion, and in fact, it turns out that the state-by-state data isn't very useful to map trends, due to the differences in state laws.
Lefgren and McIntyre's article is currently available for free on the J.L. & Econ website in both HTML and PDF.
Photo credit: debaird™.