Ten things I learned during my first semester of law school

I’m about half an hour away from heading to the airport at the end of my first semester of law school. Granted, first semester isn’t over — we start finals on January 7 — but while I seek to delay accomplishing anything productive, here’s a list of ten interesting things I learned while classes were in session. Some came up during assigned reading, others while researching on my own, and still others were only tangentially related to my law school experience.

My apologies in advance if these are things you already knew all about. Hopefully you’ll learn at least one new thing from the list. In no particular order:

1. While trying to figure out if law students can be drafted for jury duty, I came across this response to that very question on a random message board:

Friend of mine this year got stuck on a trial midway through first  semester of 1L. Judge wouldn’t recuse him, because he “didn’t have  perfect attendance”.

2. This one was a random example in a casebook:

In the lumber industry, the term “two by four” means a piece of wood measuring 1 5/8 inches by 3 5/8 inches, rather than one measuring 2 inches by 4 inches.

3. Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act (which was exactly what you imagine it is) contained a “Pocahontas exception” that allowed whites to marry descendants of Pocahontas.

4. In Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 562 (1964), the Supreme Court wrote: “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres.” In 2004, representing George Bush in a high school mock debate, I said “President Bush is not as concerned with the environment as he is with your economic well-being because you are a human, not a tree.” The difference is, I meant it as a joke.

5. You can buy a cup that holds both cereal and milk. This is a very useful thing to bring to class, but can make you very hungry if the person next to you shows up with one:


6. This is a quote from a case about bribery:

This Court is equally unable to draw any inference of wrongdoing from Fink’s commenting, “I’m going to St. Louis”, at the time he threw several $ 100 bills in the air.

7. This is another:

Hill had stated that Peete held up one finger to indicate the cost of the bribe, $ 1,000; Peete testified that he was holding up his middle finger to express his blunt opposition to the mayor as part of the recall effort.

8. This clarification popped up in a paper on the ethics of taxation:

Expressing one’s feelings about the IRS… is not an element of tax fraud; if it were, our federal prisons undoubtedly would be brimming with such ‘tax convicts’. Belli v. Commissioner

9. Pennoyer v. Neff, which is an important case having to do with jurisdiction, is a dispute about land granted through the Oregon Donation Act of 1850. The first real Organ Donation wouldn’t take place for another hundred years, in 1954.

10. This was once a real sign — “Race Mixing is Communism” — and it (maybe?) explains Barack Obama:

race mixing is communism


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