Monthly Archive: May 2006

Oral Argument

Today I went to Annapolis to attend the oral arguments at the Maryland Court of Appeals. Since the oral arguments were open to the general public, I figure it’s OK for me to write about it here without violating any ethics or code of conduct.

I saw some really good lawyers, who articulated their points very clearly and answered the judge’s witty questions with equally witty responses, and some really bad lawyers, who did not seem to know their cases well and who went on and on about some irrelevant issues without answering the judges’ questions. There was even one criminal defense lawyer who could not stand still in front of the podium when he’s speaking. Every body part of his seemed to have to be in constant motion. I got dizzy just watching him move. Even when he sits down he could not sit still: he rocked his chair like he was riding a seesaw; he expended extra effort to put on the smirks on his face while watching his opponent speak; and even when there was absolutely nothing for him to do, he would go through the elaborate process of taking out a pen from his shirt pocket, twirling it, circling a word in his brief, then rubbing the pen in between his palms a couple dozen times before putting the pen back in his pocket.

Other than seeing this lawyer who was apparently suffering from hyperkinetic syndrome, I was quite happy that I had the opportunity to observe the court proceedings. I don’t know why, but I was just fascinated by some pure formalities preserved by the court, presumably from its earliest days in the 17th century. For example, this is an excerpt from the Court’s website that describes the opening procedures of the court this morning:

The judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland assemble on the 4th floor of the Courts of Appeal Building before 10:00 a.m. A few minutes before that time the judges don their red robes with white stocks in the robing room and line up in the conference room in prescribed order to enter the courtroom.

Promptly at 10:00 a.m. the Chief Judge pushes the buzzer, and the court crier with a rap of the gavel announces, “All rise, please,” while the judges enter and take their places, standing in front of their chairs. As the judges and spectators stand, the court crier continues:

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having any business with the Honorable the Court of Appeals of Maryland draw near and give your attention. The court is now in session. God save the State and this Honorable Court.

I heard that a Michigan Law grad is clerking for one of the judges this year, and I am looking forward to meeting this person. It’s a good feeling to know that there is some alumni network around here. Mostly the clerks and interns are from schools in the local area, and there are, by my last count, eight law schools in the DC-Baltimore area alone (American U, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, U of Baltimore, U of DC, and U of MD, plus UVA and William and Mary, but they are further away). The Washington DC area is certainly a crowded place for law students, and lawyers.

U.S. v. China

Came across a case titled “U.S. v. China” today. I said to myself, oh no… that is going to be one heck of a lawsuit.
Then I read the case. Turned out the defendant’s lastname was — “China.”

U.S. v. China, 138 F. Appx. 421 (3d Cir. 2005)

Follow Constitution to the Right

Overheard in DC today, near Constitution Avenue.

Tourist (asking for directions): How do I get to [… inaudible, probably some well known federal government building]?

Police : Straight ahead, then follow Constitution to the right.

I giggled as we walked by them. Ping asked why.

I replied: I just realized that the officer summed up the Supreme Court’s direction pretty well.


I’m doing quite a bit of writing at work, and don’t feel like writing anything else when I get home — kind of like how chefs don’t usually cook at home. I have to admit that I enjoy writing, because it allows to me slice and dice things, kind of like what the chefs do when they are at work. But in the spirit of slicing and dicing things, what I actually enjoy is the thinking process preceding the actual writing itself. Putting thoughts into words is still a painstaking process. But, ever since Laughlin the Supreme Court has held that production of merchandise, though distinct and preceding the actual buying and selling activity, is nevertheless “commerce” that can be regulated by Congress under the commerce clause. The analogy here is that the thinking process that precedes the transcription of thoughts into written words is nevertheless “writing” that can be enjoyed. So I enjoy writing. Q.E.D.

Judicial Internship

It’s only been the first day and I have already been assigned to draft the majority opinion of a case — a real case still pending at the Court. This is a refreshing and welcoming change from all the memo-writing and case-reading chores of the 1L year — all the chores that are based on hypotheticals and that never get past the legal writing professor’s desk.

For obvious reasons I cannot write about the details of this case or any other future cases. In fact, to avoid any inadvertent disclosure, I will not blog about my intership after this post, except perhaps a summary at the end to let future law students considering a judicial internship know whether it’s worth it, and how to get the most out of it.

If I have a clue at that time, that is.

Secret Western Root

I have about half a dozen University of Michigan t-shirts, you know, the only kind of apparel that the Ann Arbor stores sell, other than U of M pants, boxers and flip-flops. Some people are obsessed with color-coordinating what they wear–I go even further. I geographically coordinate my apparel. Michigan tees in Michigan, Maryland tees in Maryland.

Today I ran out of other options, so despite the fact that I am in Maryland, I picked out a Michigan tee and wore it for a short trip to CompUSA to check out the latest electronic gadgets. The t-shirt was not your ordinary school t-shirt: it only had three Chinese characters on it that stand for “Michigan” in Chinese. There were no English letters on the t-shirt so I thought I would be safe wearing this in Maryland and no fashion nazi would accuse me of mis-matching my t-shirt with my physical location.

When I came out of the CompUSA and went downstairs on the escalator, I saw a white guy at the bottom of the escalator staring at my shirt. Then I heard him say, in English, “Secret — Western — Root.”

I was stunned. To make sure that he actually knows what it means, I asked, “you know what they mean, right?”

“Yeah, Michigan.” He smiled triumphantly.

I was very impressed. We then briefly chatted in a mixture of Chinese and English. After we left him, Ping turned to me and marvelled, “how can he speak such good Chinese!”

His Chinese was GOOD! Not your average American good, but your average Chinese good. It was so good that I almost wanted to pick out some Chinese accent in his English because I always assumed that no one could possibly speak both of these two drastically different languages accent-free. But I failed.

So, I went home with my Secret-Western-Root shirt, thinking that next time I need a Horse-Inside-Orchid shirt in Maryland.