A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late March, 1992
Monday, March 23, 1992
Noon. It’s a dark, drizzly, mild day. In New York City it snowed last night and a jet at LaGuardia crashed into the water on takeoff; it was the continuation of a Jacksonville flight, so it was on the local news this morning.
I slept excellently from 9:30 AM till 6 AM. Last evening I read Contracts cases and really studied, reviewing my notes (which I don’t do as much this term) and reading the Code and Restatement.
This morning Baldwin breezed through Griswold and went right into Roe. There’s so much material in the casebook, I’m afraid I’m not very far ahead, but it depends on how fast Baldwin zips through.
I left off at Webster, the decision that so outraged me in the summer of 1989. I can remember Ronna telling me that Jordan had gotten her a copy of the case off Lexis and how we discussed all of us learning how to do menstrual extractions so we could help women if abortions were outlawed totally.
When I went to see Dean Savage and told her that I wanted to go straight through law school and not go into the joint program at the journalism school because I loved law school so much, she said all I have to do is write her a letter and she would arrange everything.
She said my grades are excellent and that she figured I want to be a law professor, but I said I wasn’t sure I could keep up my first term’s marks. We’ll see.
But at least I know where I’ll be next fall. Dean Savage didn’t blink an eye when I brought the subject up.
After leaving the dean’s office, I handed in my paper to Rambo’s mailbox, chatted with Rick and Kevin while I drank a caffeine-free Diet Pepsi soda in the lounge, and then went outside to read Contracts.
Davis didn’t get far today, as he got wrapped up in a wonderful philosophical point about good faith and bad faith, the kind of thing that can make Contracts interesting even to me.
At Publix, I ran into Michael K, with whom I’ve rarely spoken since our conversations last semester when we took Jurisprudence together. But we always smile and wave at school.
I feel relaxed right now. I won’t do anything for Appellate Advocacy until I’ve spoken with Rambo on Wednesday afternoon.
A lot of people seem to be slacking off, although I’ve heard stories that some people, like Erica, are way ahead in our readings and have finished their App Ad briefs.
7:30 PM. I went back to school early and played around in Lexis for a while; it’s like a museum or library I can explore at leisure.
Before class, I wanted to talk to Dowd about the Bindrim case involving defamation based on a character in a novel. I told her I was a fiction writer, and we had a good talk. I brought up “outing,” and she said she plans to discuss that question when we cover privacy.
When I told her I’d read Anthony Lewis’s Make No Law, she said I’d love today’s class because Professor Kermit Hall would be speaking on New York Times v. Sullivan.
Prof. Hall, who has a joint appointment with the History Department – he taught Rick, Martin and Lawrence as undergrads – and is about to become Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tulsa, was indeed an engaging lecturer.
Hall’s book, Heed Their Rising Voices, will be published next year, and as he told me after class, unlike Anthony Lewis, he did a lot of legwork in Montgomery. That showed, because he knew details Lewis never mentioned, like the fact that the Montgomery judge was a pedophile who had every reason not to rule against Commissioner Sullivan.
A lot of my younger classmates don’t know much about what the South was like 32 years ago and are ignorant about the civil rights movement except that they know Martin Luther King.
Along with covering both Roe v. Wade and New York Times v. Sullivan in one day’s classes – an intellectual feast – I was in heaven today because everything worked out well.
When I got home, I was relieved to find my unemployment check and claim card in the mailbox. Today I also mailed out my letter of application and résumé to Santa Fe Community College for fall adjunct work and straightened out my plans for next year at law school.
Tomorrow will be a long day, but I may not attend the C-10 tutorials; I didn’t answer the Property sample exam questions. Also, I need to read Con Law and Contracts for Wednesday. The workload is getting heavy so that I can relax only for a day or so, and I’m always in danger of falling behind.
Too tired to do more than read the papers and watch and listen to the news, I’ll skip schoolwork for now. I hope to listen to, if not watch, Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound on ABC-TV tonight.
I feel a sense of satisfaction with where I’m heading, even if I’m not exactly sure where that is.
Tuesday, March 24, 1992
1 PM. I’m tired and need to rest, so I’m not going to either of the C-10 tutorials today.
Last evening I called my parents to tell them I’d continue with the second year of law school next fall and to urge Dad to see a doctor about that thing on his cheek.
Mom just called a little while ago and said Dad had it removed. The dermatologist doubted it was anything more than seborrhea, but I know you can’t fool around in case of melanoma.
I’m glad I did get Dad to go have it looked at. I find I’m talking to my parents the way I used to speak with my grandparents; that’s probably to be expected as Mom and Dad grow older. After all, they’re now the same age Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel were when I was a college student.
Last night I stayed up for Broadway Bound, which I listened to in bed, the way I do to the old time radio shows of the ’40s and ’50s on WRUF-FM’s Theater of the Mind on Sunday nights.
Simon’s play, of course, reminded me of my own Jewish family from Brooklyn. It took him until he was in his sixties to write well about his family – clearly dysfunctional by today’s standards – and it will probably take me that long, too.
Remember Simon’s stereotyped caricatures of his parents in his early comedy, Come Blow Your Horn? I think it takes becoming middle-aged to come to terms with your parents’ lives at the same age.
I had trouble sleeping last night and awoke at 4:30 AM. I exercised an hour later, and when I went out this morning, the car wouldn’t start.
It turned over, but in a choky way, and I was about to give up and take the bus when the car started.
I didn’t want to miss depositing my unemployment check – I haven’t been so tight as far as money goes in a long time – so I left the car running in front of NCNB while I put the check in their ATM.
Before class, Shay and I talked about abortion. Her mother is probably younger than I am since Shay said her mother gave birth when she was 17. (On the other hand, Karin’s mother had Karin when her mother was 36, so even though Karin is 22, her parents are close to mine in age.)
Baldwin finished going over Roe and he seemed a bit pedantic today. I also think he keeps mixing up obscenity and pornography – I was the only one in the class who knew what the book Show Me! was – but when I went up to him after class, Baldwin said it was the Court who mixed up the term, that it was pornography that was illegal.
I think it’s like his theory about Watergate and Gene McCarthy: he’s got these idées fixe and there’s no arguing with him.
Contracts went okay today, but when I got in my car to go home after class, I was afraid it might not start. It did.
Karin thinks my battery might be corroded and suggested pouring Coca-Cola over it. Actually she probably diagnosed the problem correctly. If I face a big car repair bill, I’m in trouble.
The Florida budget crisis may mean even more drastic cuts in the state university system: cutting faculty and staff still further, no second summer session, closing all the branch campuses.
Florida is already last in spending for higher education, just as we’re near the bottom in spending for children. The state is last in the percentage of students who graduate high school.
Why don’t we just shut down all schools? We can really save money that way.
Thursday, March 26, 1992
4 PM. Yesterday while reading the New York Times and noting once again how many stories are related to the law, I decided why I liked the study of law: unlike graduate study, law can allow me to do what I want, which is to be a generalist.
I can study fiction, obscenity, credit cards, AIDS, gay rights, religion, the media, nutrition, creativity, computers or any other field, and it’s related to law. So it’s a neat way to avoid the narrow specialization of Ph.D. studies in the humanities and social sciences.
I finally got to talk to Ronna last evening. She says work is great, and she’s taking on lots of freelance writing assignments for Hadassah chapters and related organizations.
She and the folk singer Oscar Brand (I didn’t realize he was over 70 now) are co-writing a lengthy presentation for a Jewish organization in Nassau County.
Next July she’ll be in D.C. for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem (“or of Israel winning the war,” Ronna added), and so she seems to be doing well in her career.
Her mother is coming up next month for Passover, but Ronna will probably be in Florida in June.
At school early today, I studied Property before class; unlike most of my classmates, I like Julin’s teaching style.
In our last App Ad class, we were treated to members of the moot court team acting out the oral arguments of Texas v. Johnson with six people playing the justices, who asked questions and made comments, and two students playing William Kunstler and the lawyer for Texas. Supreme Court argument is much more informal and conversational than you’d expect.
Back at school after lunch, I saw that the summer and fall schedules had been posted although there won’t be copies for us until Monday. David A, Ken O, Donna, the two Dans and I discussed what subjects and teachers to take.
Despite promising myself not to take an extra class this summer, I’m starting to want to take Slobogin’s Law and Psychiatry elective.
For the fall, I probably will take Evidence (one of the two priority classes) but not Corporations; Dean Lewis and Professor Seigel, who Section 1 had for Crim Law in the fall, are teaching the two sections.
Baldwin is teaching Political and Civil Rights, Dowd is teaching Family Law, and there are other interesting fall courses as well as seminars in Media Law and Art Law.
Today’s Civ Pro class dealt with ancillary and pendant jurisdiction: hard stuff that made me feel the way I did last term when I couldn’t follow what was going on.
I wanted to work on my brief tonight, but I need to work on Civ Pro for tomorrow. Am I wrong in feeling confident I have the whole weekend to do the final draft? And if worse comes to worst, I can take off Monday and have the paper in by 3 PM.
Friday, March 27, 1992
7 PM. I’ve been fighting off a cold all week, but tonight it feels like it’s getting the best of me. I’m exhausted, even though the week hasn’t been that stressful.
I just couldn’t face working on the brief today; yesterday I did some minor editing, but the big job is ahead of me.
Perhaps I should consider taking a day off, especially if I’m getting sick. I haven’t missed one class all semester, afraid that I’d need the time in case of illness later. Everyone at school has had colds this term.
I realized last evening that I’ve completely forgotten the early part of the term in Civil Procedure. I can’t remember much about the right to jury trial.
At the JMBA office today, they didn’t have any Civ Pro II outlines for Mashburn’s class, but Nick gave me Donna P’s for Twitchell’s class to look at and xerox.
I hung around a lot today, asking people about registration for fall classes. I may not take Evidence after all and simply do what I did the last decade in grad classes: take electives that interest me.
If the law school doesn’t require Evidence, I don’t have to take it, as I may never take a bar exam. Even if I do, I can get that stuff in a bar review course.
Some classes I’d like to take for the fall may not be open by the time I register, and I’ll change my schedule if I need to. It’s probably better to register for more credits than I plan to take, the way I did as an undergraduate; then I can drop a class during the drop/add period.
August 18, the start of the fall semester, is a long way off. I spent too much time today musing about my fall schedule when I should be concentrating on this semester’s classes.
I followed Julin’s lecture in Property and managed to keep up with most of what Mashburn went over this afternoon.
Up at 6 AM with a jolt – because a dream ended in vertigo – I went to Publix before school and also xeroxed my claim card (for the phony record of my job contacts) and the two certificates I got from American Jurisprudence for booking the two classes last term. They came in yesterday’s mail, and I’ll send the originals to Mom.
God, I’m tired. Maybe it’s because I’m sick. Or am I sick because I’m tired? Well, there are 3½ weeks of classes left – plus my brief and the practice and final orals.
After that, law school will get easier. I don’t need to push myself. Just the fact that classes go from an hour to fifty minutes starting this summer will help.
For instance, even if I took seven credits this summer, which would be fourteen hours a week, it would still be less time in class than I’ve got this term because each “hour” will now be only fifty minutes. Plus, I’ll have three-day weekends.
I’m at the point in the term where I just want to get through finals, and I don’t care about my grades. If I do lousy, I won’t be any worse off.
I know that getting my J.D. is not going to be impossible. And if I don’t have the academic record to become a law professor, that’s okay.
Monday, March 30, 1992
Noon. I got a good chunk of Contracts reading done last evening, as the new chapter on impossibility of performance deals with concrete stuff I can understand more readily than the usual business details.
I watched a little TV to unwind and drifted to sleep at about 9:30 PM, only to be awakened by a phone call from Josh.
He wanted to ask about my rental of a laptop in 1988, when I was in New York City, because he needs one that’s at least XT-power for WordPerfect 5.1.
I told him a little about what’s doing here; his term at John Jay doesn’t end until mid-May or so.
It took me a while to return to sleep, and I was awakened again at 4:30 AM when the smoke alarm went off for a moment (for no apparent reason).
Unable to get back to sleep, I finished the Torts reading for this week: the chapter on privacy claims ending with the right of publicity.
I met Dan N as we pulled up our cars at school, and he said he’d finished his brief only a few hours before. Most students were present for Con Law, where we finally got through Thornburgh and Webster.
I handed in my brief at the Legal Research and Writing office after the crowd dispersed.
Rick told me I’ll probably get closed out of my first choices of electives for the fall, so I’d better make plenty of alternate choices.
I was distressed to read in The Alligator that Santa Fe Community College will be cutting back on the number of part-time faculty. I never heard from the English Department chair, which makes me think adjunct courses are unlikely.
I’ll register for 15 or 16 credits for the fall so I can drop classes or take a full schedule if I don’t teach.
The state budget crisis is a disaster, and it’s no wonder people aren’t taking comfort in the economic recovery when conditions in states like Florida, California and New York are leading to so many cutbacks in services.
Outside, I read further in Contracts. Lots of people didn’t show up for class, and Davis told us not to tell them that he has to cancel class for next Monday.
He doesn’t take attendance and he’s still using those random numbered balls to call on people. Poor Ryan got called on for the fourth time this semester.
I just had lunch and am planning to relax in bed until it’s time for Torts.
7 PM. I was filling out my course requests for the summer and fall terms as I watched ABC News.
The lead story was the death of an anencephalic infant in Fort Lauderdale. Knowing she had only a few days to live without a brain, her parents wanted to donate her organs before she died and the organs deteriorated, but the courts in Florida denied this.
The next story was about the abortion clinic gag rule sustained in Rust v. Sullivan. I look at the law as a chance to get involved in important issues like these.
I can take as many electives as I want in the fall, so I’m going to take subjects that interest me, including seminars. I’d rather write a paper than take a final any day, and it seems like law school may become more like grad school in the seminars.
I may not get the broad legal background helpful to a practitioner if I avoid Evidence, Corporations and other “meaty” classes, but my interests are intellectual, and I want to pursue what I’m interested in, especially since the school doesn’t require me to do anything else but take the second parts of Property and Con Law this summer and Legal Drafting and Professional Responsibility next spring.
In grad courses at Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University and Teachers College, I just pursued my own interests, so why not do it here if I can?
Torts was interesting today. After class, I came home, exercised, remembered to go out to get my pants at the cleaners, and got a call from Mom.
She was impressed with the Am Jur book awards I’d sent her and said it was remarkable that I’ve gotten so much recognition for my achievements as a law student when I never got diddly from being a grad student or a college teacher.
It shows you how society’s values are warped. If Americans paid teachers what they do attorneys, as Japan and Germany do, maybe our educational system wouldn’t be third-rate. Mom paid my rent for me, she said.
I’m tired now, so I’ll finish the newspaper and then lie down. Hopefully I’ll fall asleep during the Oscars.