Archive for April, 2009

The Bungling Bank Robber

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by barprofs

The United States Supreme Court ruled today on whether a bank robber who accidentally discharged his weapon during a bank robbery should have been given a 10 year sentence enhancement for discharging his weapon.

The case involved Christopher Michael Dean, arrested after he and a partner robbed a Rome, Georgia, bank five years ago. Dean had waved a gun and ordered patrons and staff to get down. While grabbing bills in one hand, the gun he was carrying in his other hand went off. The bullet hit a partition, and no one was injured. Witnesses later testified he seemed surprised that his weapon had gone off. Dean was caught and pleaded guilty to the charge. He appealed his sentence because he maintained that since his actions were accidental that he should not be subject to the sentencing enhancement since the enhancement required proof that he intended to discharge the firearm.

In a 7-2 opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said federal law “does not require that the discharge be done knowingly or intentionally.” Thus, tthe sentencing for a felon who accidentally fired a gun during a crime should be the same as if he had fired intentionally.

Chief Justice Roberts had some fun with his opinion as he announced the decision from the bench. He actually refers to Dean as the bungling bank robber in his opinion. “An individual who brings a loaded weapon to commit a crime runs the risk that the gun will discharge accidentally,” he said. “Those criminals wishing to avoid the penalty for an inadvertent discharge can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violent or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home, or — best yet — avoid committing the felony in the first place,” Roberts wrote.

Justice John Paul Stevens dissented in the case, stating, “Accidents happen, but they seldom give rise to criminal liability. Indeed, if they cause no harm they seldom give rise to any liability. The court nevertheless holds that petitioner is subject to a mandatory additional sentence — a species of criminal liability — for an accident that caused no harm.”

Dean v. United States may be ripe for an essay or a MBE question.

Repeating the Bar

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by barprofs

The time has come when you check the bar examiners website, look up your number and see that you have failed the bar. Shock, disappointment, sadness, angry, embarassment – you run the gaunlet of emotions. What do you now?

Spend a little time with your emotions. Get them all out – have yourself a cry, throw your books across the room, but then there comes a time when you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. That will determine what you are made of and that, believe it or not, will determine what kind of lawyer you become. In the future, when you do pass the bar, you”ll bee in the middle of a particularly trying case and everything goes wrong, but your client is depending on you for help. You refocus your energy, dust yourself and your client off, and begin anew.

If you must take the bar exam again, do not take too long to get over your emotions. Have your cry and move on. It’s time to refocus again on the bar. I’ve had students tell me that they have studied the hardest they had ever studied for anything in their lives for their first bar exam. That’s probably true, but that’s why it’s time to examine how your study. Taking the exam again will call for a change in approach, strategy, and preparation for you to pass that final hurdle in fulfilling your dream of becoming a lawyer. The bar exam is not an academic exercise. The bar examiners want to know whether you are prepared to practice law.

Look at your scores in depth. What areas of the law did you not do well in? Were you weak on evidence or real property?What areas of the exam did you not do well in. Was it the essays, performance test or MBE? That’s where you should start in reformulating how you are going to pass the bar. Did you do well in the essay portion or the performance test but not the MBE? The answers to these questions will determine how to prepare a strategy for yourself as your prepare for the next exam. If you are weak in writing essays, practice strategic writing and essay evaluation; if you are weak in MBE. do more practice questions and, more importantly, critique your subject matter comprehension.

Don’t do the same thing you did for the first bar you took. I personally don’t think that re-attending the same bar review course you took previously is going to help you. You need the extra time to really bone up on those weak areas, without, of course, neglecting the stronger areas of your performance. If you need extra help, see about getting a private tutor who can work one on one with you to keep you sharp and motivated and you” be on the way to passing the bar. Keep working, don’t despair and good luck.

The Florida Bar Results

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by barprofs

The Florida bar results came in two weeks ago. The school results were: University of Miami: 61.1%; Florida International University: 81.5%; University of Florida: 64.9%; Nova Southeastern: 72.5%; Florida State University: 65.0%; Stetson University: 80%; Florida Coastal: 66.1%; St. Thomas University: 70.4%; Barry University: 54.5%; Florida A&M University: 52.3 %; Non-Florida Law Schools: 73.7%. After the higher results in July 2008, people have asked us about the drop. Did the schools not prepare the students, did bar review courses get fooled, did the students not study? In my opinion, the Florida Bar Examiners readjusted the exam in light of the results in July. I thought the three essays questions were more difficult than in prior years. For example, the essay the students said was family law with some homestead thrown in was actually more of a real property question with issues like ejectment and a foreclosure action. The torts essay had elements of contracts and professional responsibility. The contract essay dealt with UCC, a subject that students find difficult as they try to remember the exceptions to the Code.

Right now, the schools are doing a bit of scratching its collective heads and wondering if this was just an aberration or is it a warning of things to come. Do the schools continue the course or will they have to intervene with new approaches to bar prepping their students to pass? What about the students taking the July 2009 bar? Do they need to continue the same old methods or do they try something new?

We are the Bar Professors

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by barprofs

We are a group of law school professors and bar exam experts. We have taken bars, passed bars, and taught bars across the country. This blog is designed to stimulate dialogue on issues relative to taking and passing bar examinations. We encourage any issue which is relevant to that subject matter.