Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Mark Edwards (William Mitchell, left), a guest blogger at Concurring Opinions, has an interesting post on the recent fire sale disposition of the Silverdome, the former home of the Detroit Lions, primarily on the subject of bargaining power between landlords and tenants, and the importation of contract law principles into residential and commercial leasing. Mark commented on the "Michigan" aspect of the Silverdome's decline, and I felt a personal tug, because I'm a Michigander born and bred, still own a home there, and I started kindergarten at the Herrington School about a mile from the Silverdome, in a little neighborhood just across Featherstone Road from what many years later would become the site of the Silverdome. I wrote a comment over there I'm re-posting in large part here, because there is, it turns out, something kind of Michigan about the problem.
Mark suggests that the Silverdome problem has to do with the commercial power of the tenant, but I see it somewhat differently. It strikes me that it arises because of the non-fungible and substantial fixed nature of the asset (which indeed was dictated by the tenant at the outset). You could have a very powerful tenant in an attractive office building in mid-town Manhattan, able to dictate terms versus the owner, and not have the Silverdome problem. You could also have a smaller building and not have the Silverdome problem (I see a lot of restaurants that clearly used to be A&W Root Beer Drive-Ins.)
If there is something particularly “Michigan” about the Silverdome problem, it’s the problem of dealing with the redeployment of large fixed assets when the forces of creative destruction take down an industry. As a former executive in the chemical industry, I can attest to the dilemma of the rational impulse to continue to operate fixed assets, even when they are not returning their total costs, because, in the short term, there is a marginal return on the marginal cost. It’s Microeconomics 101 – you operate at a loss on total costs until you reach the shutdown point of no marginal profit. If it were just one chemical plant sitting somewhere that has been made non-competitive (somewhere after not returning total costs and extending to shutdown), it would be unsightly, and the owners would have taken the loss, but it wouldn’t be a crisis. It’s a crisis in Michigan because it’s happened to an entire industry at the same time.
It’s also not the first time it’s happened to an industry in Michigan. Take a drive some time around the Keweenaw Peninsula, the part of the U.P. that juts into Lake Superior. Calumet, Michigan and the surrounding township used to have 25,000 people there, mining copper. I think about a thousand live there now. Copper Harbor, at the very tip of the peninsula, still has street grids laid out.
Nor is it unique to Michigan – see steel towns in Pennsylvania, mills and factories in Massachusetts. But I’m not sure anything has ever compared to the auto industry in terms of the dependence of whole regions and nations. During the Chrysler bailouts of the 1980s, I remember hearing George Will, supporting the idea, say that something like one-sixth of the U.S. GDP was related to the auto industry.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Over at Legal Ethics Forum, my friend and colleague, Andy Perlman, has implicitly acknowledged us as the standard against which LEF must necessarily measure itself. Rivals? Us? Oh, yes, I suppose in a manner of speaking. When we think about them at all. And no link? So petty.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
Two recent posts from the Law of Criminal Defense Blog caught my eye and I share them with you below. (This is in addition to recommending Bill's nice and provocative post here this morning on outcomes in legal education -- which btw has been picked up by the ABA Journal here [they do that to Mike's posts all the time, too] and has good comments after, including several "Go Henderson"s.).
In one post, the blog (by John Wesley Hall, Jr.) reports on "a rare look at an appeal from a denial of CJA fees appealed to the Circuit Court and applying the" circuit's written guidelines. That court was the Ninth Circuit; it held that the trial judge's "48% reduction of CJA counsel's second interim fee request was within the court's discretion based on the judge's observation of the trial not matching the trial preparation."
I am indisputably interested in issues of federal appellate deference and standards of review, to be sure, but also what caught my eye is the decision below was by "Judge Quackenbush." I immediately thought of Groucho's doctor-character in A Day at the Races, but that was actually Hackenbush. But my comedic instincts were not wrong. Turns out he was originally Quackenbush but "MGM’s legal department discovered at least a dozen legitimate U.S. doctors named Quackenbush, so, for legal reasons and to Groucho’s dismay, the name was changed to Hackenbush." More famous litigation lore, perhaps, is the Warner Brothers' rumored threat to sue the Marx Brothers for their film title A Night in Casablanca, to which Groucho wrote a letter to WB threatening to sue them for using the word “Brothers”: “Professionally, we were brothers before they ever were.”
In another post, Hall comments on a trial judge's chastising of Sidley Austin "for dripping sarcasm in their brief." Hall's reminder: "You're going to win or lose without it [sarcasm], either on the facts and law or the fact the judge hates defense lawyers and defendants, and sarcasm is just unprofessional."
Hall also links to an article on lawyers AS criminal defendants, by Leslie Levin, new in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
But mainly to You, the visitor and reader. TaxProf Blog reports today that our blog rose in the rankings from this time last year, both as to discrete visitors (now ranked #32) and page views (#31). Here is the quarterly report of all law professor blogs which have a public statmeter, and Paul Caron also shows the percentage increase over the last year. LPB is up 32% in visitors and 29% in page views. Special congratulations, as well, to the Legal Writing Prof Blog, with a whopping increase in page views of 175%, first among the blogs in increase (LPB is 7th by that measure--we'll take it!).
Monday, October 12, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
This new site, Louisiana Legal Ethics, will be iPhone optimized and includes a homepage blog on Louisiana rules, issues, and decisions. It is the product of Loyola professor (and Tulane alum) Dane Ciolino with contributions and updates from Loyola students. One of its many nice features will occur when it "will offer free continuing legal education ('CLE') videos which will qualify for Louisiana MCLE ethics and professionalism credit." It also has a free eBook to the annotated ethics rules in Louisiana (a very useful text that now will be updated in real time). For those taking the upcoming MPRE, consider these incredibly useful flowcharts or "mindmaps."
Congrats, Dane, and I know all your hard work and linked resources will be appreciated.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Two subjects that, Miss Manners said, should never be the talk at a formal dinner. Anyway, Jeff's SSRN piece analyzing Leiter's conception of religion has become "recommended reading" by Larry Solum on the Legal Theory Blog, and is number one with a bullet on the First Amendment Law Prof Blog.
It has also caused some consternation on the Prawfsblawg blog because Brian Leiter does not like what Jeff says very much. Although blogger Rick Garnett cut out the most strident comments by various people (none by Jeff, who is polite, in my opinion), it is still fun to read Professor Leiter's apparent position that Jeff is wrong with a capital F. When he refers to Jeff as Professor Lipshaw (as in "Professor Lipshaw's incompetent caricature of my arguments in the SSRN essay"), you immediately think of Marshall McLuhan coming out from behind a theatre billboard telling Jeff, "You know nothing of my work. How you got to be a professor in anything is beyond me." [And read a real attempt to engage Jeff intellectually here by blogger Michael Young.] Keep it up, Jeff. At least he spelled your name right. If law school were a situation comedy, you and Brian Leiter would be in-laws.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
Not really. But given the rash of recent bar disciplines on lawyer-bloggers and law prof-bloggers who revealed too much about jury duty and the like, on which Mike Frisch became the Deep Throat of the New York Times (or was he the Daniel Ellsberg? Or the psychiatrist? I get confused; whatever. I know he reported it from Behind The Green Door). Anyway, this is not even my jury duty story, and it is not really about the law part, more like the secondary education part -- well, tangentially about the law part if you can imagine being on trial for your life with this one juror... It is a report from Ingrid M----, with her jury story; she is a second grade teacher in Austin and said we could post this:
Jury duty was a no-go, mercifully for my students. Something about a felony being reduced to a misdemeanor trial and not needing as many jurors. By luck or some other means, I was dismissed along with about 20 others. The kid next to me seemed genuinely disappointed that he was axed.
The other emo kid next to me hadn't even figured out yet who the "Juror" was supposed to be on his pay form he was filling out. He looked on my paper and started to write "Ingrid M--" on his paper on the line marked "Juror: ________." Then I pointed out that HE is the juror when filling out HIS paper and I am the juror when filling out MY paper. This was news to him. Not realizing that he was a potential juror, it's probably best he was dismissed. Plus, the Deputy in charge, a dour Barney Fife, chided him for being late, as if it would have been better for him to have been confused longer. He probably took the extra time to figure out that the elevator button that says "3" actually takes you to the 3rd floor/jury selection room.
Plus, I was overdressed for the occasion. Most people came in jeans and a T-shirt. Not me, I was the Elle in the room. Oh well.
Not sure if she means Elle Woods or Elle Magazine, but I want to know what emoboy was wearing. Someone may have dodged a bullet lethal injection that day. Reminds me of the Woody Allen joke about cheating in philosophy class. Also reminds me of the true story I once heard from a friend at a record store (that's anachronistic, I know) overhearing a customer ask the manager, "Dude, how do you spell AC/DC?"
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
The Lowering The Bar blog, in its post called Law Review Article Titles: Stop the Madness, groans at
LTB asks you to email them your favorite clunker. Jeff's titles are usually entertaining, though they sometimes require unwinding and occasionally put one on obscure-allusion alert. But my nomination? I really like the title of a colleague's study of what happens when a court declares someone dead after seven years--and he shows up fairly pissed that he can't get a brake tag or Blockbuster card anymore:
Jeanne L. Carriere, "THE RIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD: Absent Persons in the Civil Law," 50 Louisiana L. Rev. 901 (1990).
Actually his insurance/social security beneficiaries may be even more pissed that he showed up at all. Such implications are nicely explained in this blog, drawing on Jeanne's article and referencing Tom Hanks and Wilson in Cast Away. (Wilson never actually showed.) There are up to 100,000 "living dead" in the U.S. (or at least from it--I'd pick Crete), Jeanne points out, raising many live issues. If you want someone in that category to be "dead" faster (just four years), hope they are from Georgia or Minnesota.
The most famous evidence-law case involving The Disappeared is Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y. v. Hillmon, 145 U.S. 285 (1892). The widow Hillmon wanted the insurance company to pay up for her maybe-dead husband John whose body apparently showed up in Crooked Creek, Colorado. But Mutual said the body was of a guy named Walters and wanted to prove it with a a letter from Iowa that Walters wrote to his sister, saying he was heading out to Crooked Creek. While the Supreme Court makes no mention of any inference of veracity to be drawn from the name of the town he chose to die in, it did create an exception to "hearsay" to allow the letter into evidence as some proof that the body in Crooked Creek was actually Walters' (or at least that Walters intended to go there). The verdict for the widow was, of course, reversed for new trial using the Walters letter (which, btw, many people now think was forged by Mutual).
An evidence-prof's aside: the Walters letter also said that he was going to Crooked Creek with John Hillmon, so maybe the body was Hillmon's after all! But many courts have since ruled that such a letter would not constitute proof that the Other Guy went there; it's inadmissible hearsay as to the one not writing the letter. It can't prove that Hillmon went, just Walters. If you don't see the difference (other than one makes the widow of course lose), you need to gouge out your common sense and go to law school. We get it right away, and charge you for explaining why. [Other courts would allow it--your basic law split.]
Of course some people would somehow not be satisfied until they see the long-form death certificate.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A follow-up to this blog's ranking earlier this year of 31st (visitors) and 28th (page views), the latest TaxProf survey places the blog at 30th and 27th among U.S. law professor blogs. Due thanks, sincerely, to our readers and commenters is found here. [Alan Childress]
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
There's a new entrant to the legal blogosphere - the Computational Legal Studies blog - run by Dan Katz and Michael Bommarito at the University of Michigan. Katz and Bommarito are both Ph.D. candidates in political science; Katz already has his Masters in Public Policy and J.D. from Michigan.
The blog includes the following:
(1) Online Simulation where a user can diffuse ideas (at any level of infectiousness) upon the structure of the American Legal Academy.
(2) Zoomable Visualization of Campaign Contributions to the 110th Congress. Both the Senate and the House.
(3) Visualization of Hiring/Placement Network within the American Legal Academy
Dan Katz got in touch with me some time ago when I made a couple of forays into the matter of complexity. When I was in tenth grade, I wrote an English paper that I recognize now (it's still in a box in the basement) as my adolescent effort at expressing a personal epistemology and moral philosophy. My teacher, obviously completely bedazzed by the BS, said something like it reached the true simplicity that lies beyond complexity. Well, when you look at the work Dan and Michael are doing, that's precisely the paradox you have to confront. In other words, this stuff ain't easy (see image, right). My simple-minded question is whether there are simple universals about complexity that you can draw from the work. And that's enough to give somebody a headache early in the morning.
As a thirty-year holder of University of Michigan football tickets, and the parent of an about-to-graduate Michigan senior who is most likely going on to be a student at the Medical School, I'll be in Ann Arbor a few times over the next couple years, and I've challenged Dan to explain this stuff to me in short sentences consisting of words with three syllables or fewer.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
Because of the many ethical readers and other occasional lurkers here (and we do thank you), TaxProf Blog's latest survey of traffic on blogs by U.S. law professors ranks The Legal Profession Blog as number 31 in discrete visitors -- and number 28 in page views -- during the most recent survey period (April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009). That puts us up slightly from the last such report. Bill Henderson's other b-venue, Empirical Legal Studies, ranks similarly -- and I congratulate him and his colleagues there for their consistent readership (count me as one), as well.
Here, too, is the e-badge we get to post showing our status as an ABA Journal honoree for '08, as in '07. I think we can all agree that one is directed mainly at Mike Frisch, and really also to the insightful and opinionated readers' comments which follow his many bar discipline and judicial misconduct reports. (Notably helpful comments came from Patrick O'Donnell, Wick Chambers, Stephen "FixedWing," Fred Ours, Stephen Diamond, "kelly" and "joe," to name just a few.) Keep it up, y'all.
Anyway, some good LPB news on a day when many readers' hearts just sank deep into their respective stomachs just from reading Mike's latest title, Admission Denied Due To Unpaid Student Loans.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
So debates the University of Pennsylvania blog on language (though their commenters' pedantic debate is over whether it is a mondegreen not a pun), at this link, with hat tip to Minor Wisdom. It even beats something I said in the fifth grade when Mrs. White taught us things about Oktoberfest: I replied, "You can lederhosen to water but you can't make them shrink." [Alan Childress]
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Posted by Alan Childress
Wildly off topic but hopefully helpful to someone, as I am finding nothing on this by googling turbotax error form 4562 (or as Turbo Tax.) I want someone to be able to find this post if they suspect the same thing (to phone Intuit I started to go through their online hoops, plus possibly pay, and anyway there is an easy fix, so I quit that and posted this, fwiw). Maybe it is just me and something I did wrong, but when I tried to expense an asset placed in service in 2008, it showed an "error" that I exceeded the limitation and could not expense it. Since I teach, and this asset is less than $1500, I really doubted I exceeded any maximum set for the real world. Had TurboTax made a mistake in disallowing this depreciation for me? (I am using this year's deluxe federal, for tax year 2008.)
So I went to the actual form that shows the limitation, at form 4562, and my Turbo Tax seemed to be subtracting $250,000 FROM zero [rather than $250,000 MINUS zero] to arrive at the "dollar limitation for tax year" on line 5. If so, I am of course way below the maximum and I can expense the asset fully this year (and could expense another 248k to boot if I had such an asset). So if it is setting the maximum you can expense at zero [as the rounded result of negative 250k], that disallows expensing anything.
The easy fix is to override line 5 and place it back to 250,000 by right click on the figure in the form itself. Now it expenses it, in full, without showing an error alert. That seems to be the correct result. I hate overriding anything, but I am certain that there is no ceiling of zero or $1500 on 179 expensing. You may have to override somewhere else where it asks the same limitation question for state purposes, because originally I got two error alerts and made two overrides--restoring the ceiling--before I forgot where the second one is.
These should show up by running error alert, but the real risk is that your program may just disallow the expensing and not think it is an error. You may only get the error if you insist on taking the expense this year as a whole. So unless I am off about all this, users of TurboTax this year (which I normally love but something as basic as the "from" versus "minus" switch scares me, and this year's version seems more confusing to me overall than previous ones) may want to be sure any asset they thought they depreciated via expensing under section 179 got done--they ought to double check that the full value is in fact taken off where it is supposed to be (in my case on schedule C, line 13, which it now is).
If I am wrong, Intuit, let me know and I will post an update here. If someone else thinks theirs is zeroing out the ceiling too, please comment here. I have already tried the interactive Ask Tina function and it does not understand me no matter how I phrase this. It thinks I want to save my file and cannot. One question I posed in 6 words she asked me to make shorter. I'll go try: Is 4562 fubar? Here is a site reporting multiple customer complaints about [other] calculation errors in the program, including an apparently common one of real problems on the TY07 Massachusetts [Jeff!] and Rhode Island state forms transferring the wrong income info. So I will double check everything this year the old fashioned way.
UPDATE: Thank you to the VP of Intuit for his two helpful comments below. I will double check his ideas and follow up.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Every year someone does one of those chain-comparisons to declare, like, Slippery Rock the best team in the country. This year's winner is my Tulane Green Wave. I know this is off-topic, but believe me Jeff lives for this illogical crap. [Alan Childress]
Monday, December 29, 2008
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
If I make it through the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times before finishing my coffee and oatmeal, I read the Boston Globe (it's a slightly longer read than the Indianapolis Star, but not by much). There was an article today about a company developing wind and wave energy farms in the ocean off Nantucket and Block Island, and who should I find quoted but our friend, Carolyn Elefant, of MyShingle.com, demonstrating that solo practice need not be unsophisticated practice. Here's the relevant portion:
Carolyn Elefant, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C. who has advised ocean renewable energy developers for 15 years, says that in order to construct a wave farm, Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company would also need to secure a lease from the Minerals Management Service. Elefant said the regulatory process remains unclear in a way that gives companies the ability to "game" the system by potentially staking a claim to certain waters through one federal process that may be quicker and then selling those rights to another developer.
The permit applications, "should send a warning signal to the industry, to the agencies, to the Hill that this is an issue that needs to be addressed," she said.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Odd bumping noise heard on Denver plane's tape
...That would have been the kid behind me kicking my seat back, and bringing my seat back forward.
One of my brothers is a pilot for American and was visiting my school one day, having lunch with lots of us law profs. An occupational hazard for him is that everyone immediately decides to tell their personal airplane inconvenience or near-miss stories. (Just like how we ethics profs always seem to 'invite' stories of outrageous lawyer conduct, or even such urban myths as the guy who got trapped robbing a house, was forced to eat dog food, and sued!) Each law prof duly told my brother their tale of airplane horror, and he listened attentively, till one prof ended the conversation by apologizing for subjecting him to all the scare stories about flying. My brother just replied, "That's OK. I'm afraid of lawyers."
One of his best airport inconvenience stories is the time that TSA confiscated his nail clippers while he was obviously on the way to a fly a plane full of passengers. Like he could not bring the plane down if he wanted to, even without those clippers. [Alan Childress]
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Posted by Alan Childress
In the internet voting for the ABA's Top 100 Law Blogs of 2008, we sit currently at 96th. Even all the blogs in the Quirky category are hammering us. Please do not vote [here] for our blog, before Jan. 2, as there is something humiliating about being 96th that, ironically, would earn sweet countercultural redemption if we become the actual last place, 100th.
It is a little like how the person graduating last in his or her class from the U.S. military academies gets a dollar from all the other grads, but being nearly dead-last gets nada (except having that fact mentioned a lot if one runs for president a half century later). Or how very unpopular politicians now go around citing their unpopularity as some proof that history will redeem them -- somehow, counterintuitively, the long-term redemption is more likely if one is anathema or toxic now. (As if a basic tenet of democracy, that people's views of a politician predict his or her abilities and competence, is necessarily nonsense.) Anyway, if our readers succeed in making us 100th, it is inevitable that history will judge us well, via the Truman effect. Thank you.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Posted by Alan Childress
A belated welcome to the newest member of the Law Professor Blogs Network: Constitutional Law Prof Blog. It's edited by Steven Schwinn (John Marshall--Chicago), Ruthann Robson (CUNY), and Nareissa Smith (Fla. Coastal), and I noticed they post regularly. Keep it up!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Posted by Alan Childress
Thank you to the ABA Journal for -- like last year (Jeff's funny post in 07) -- naming our blog to its 2008 edition of Top 100 blawgs of interest. We were one of just five Law Professor Blogs Network sites so named. For readers so inclined, here is the link to vote for LPB on the ABA website. Voting ends Jan. 2. Their summary:
Sometimes the legal ethics-oriented law profs at Legal Profession Blog slip off topic. But even in those instances, their commentary generally centers around the ethical business practices that apply to lawyers. The bread-and-butter posts here involve lawyer discipline, though anything that involves lawyer conduct and the practice of law is fair game.
Not true, stories are always relevant (right). And BTW, I remoted across Driving Miss Daisy for about eight minutes the other day on some TV station and found it to be nearly unwatchable, something I had only vaguely remembered from seeing it originally. Deference and knowing your place! And Roll Tide tomorrow, as well. Also.
At the voting site, the ABA displays a tiny picture of one of Mike's posts plus repeats their review -- but omits the last sentence about bread-and-butter topics. This clearly indicates the "slip off topic" remark is directed at Mike. Learn to stay on topic Mike. Oh, our family's first dog was named Mike, after our cousin Mike. Some of our teachers at Tulane use a mike in the classroom now. But I do not.