Tips From High School Students on Persuasive Writing

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High School EssaysFor any of you appellate lawyers out there hammering out legal briefs, here are some helpful pointers from high school students across the nation. (Okay, they are not really pointers, but they are funny to read nonetheless.)

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year for the amusement of educators nationwide.

Here are some of the winners from last year (I particularly like #7 and #16)….

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. Instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Halle Berry’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Surely #19 can be worked into a legal brief at some point.  Talk about the power of persuasion…

Homeless Thief

Homeless Thief Trades Laptop and iPhone for Egg McMuffin

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Homeless ThiefIn lieu of a post on an obscure Texas law this week, I have a bizarre story for you. This is a true story about something that happened to a coworker of mine in Washington DC this past week. I’m trying to convince her to write something about it for the Washington Post, but she doesn’t think it’s newsworthy. I disagree simply because it is so crazy and bizarre (and funny to everyone but her). So here goes.

My coworker, we’ll call her Lindsay, is a Marine officer and lawyer. Lindsay lives alone in a basement apartment in a, how should we say it, not-so-well-to-do section of Washington DC. She calls it a “transitional community.” On Monday morning, Lindsay woke up, got dressed, put on a pot of coffee and plugged her cell phone into her computer that was on the coffee table in the living room. Then she noticed a package waiting for her outside her front door. Lindsay went outside to get the package and did not lock the front door when she came back in. After all, who needs to lock the front door when they are about to walk right back out of it in 10 minutes to go to work?

Lindsay then went back to her bathroom to tie her hair into a neatly shaped bun, a daily requirement for female Marines (those with long hair at least). When she returned to her living room (only 10 minutes later) to retrieve her piping hot cup of Joe she went to grab her cell phone and found that it was missing. Not only that, the computer to which she had just plugged it in was also missing. Knowing good and well that her coffee had not yet begun to take the desired effect, Lindsay began questioning whether she had actually plugged her phone into her computer 10 minutes ago. “Was this the early onset of Alzheimer’s?” she thought as she checked the refrigerator and freezer for her computer and phone. Finally, after scouring the house, she gave up and went to work.

Lindsay told me about her troubles as soon as she walked in the door to our Pentagon office and then she called her bank and credit card company. Believing now that someone had entered her house and stolen her laptop and phone, she also tried to report the incident to the DC police, but they refused to take the complaint. “You have to be calling us from inside your home or we cannot do anything.” She protested by kindly pointing out that the perpetrator had stolen her phone, but they weren’t convinced.

Right about now you might be thinking, “Okay, so what? She was burglarized. What’s so crazy about that?” Well here’s the crazy (and ridiculously lucky) part of the story. About an hour after she got to work, Lindsay received an odd message. Someone had called our office to report that she was in possession of Lindsay’s computer and cell phone. Lindsay called the woman who confirmed that she indeed had the laptop and cell phone and they arranged a time and place to meet up. When Lindsay met the woman she received the rest of the story.

This woman (the one that found the laptop and phone) was walking to work near the Washington Navy Yard when she saw a little homeless man walking down the street carrying a laptop and an iPhone. In fact, the iPhone was still plugged into the computer.  Finding the Apple-laden homeless man a bit out of place, the woman approached the him and said “Hey, I don’t think that laptop and cell phone belong to you. How about I buy you some breakfast at McDonald’s and you give me the laptop and cell phone so that I can return them to their rightful owner.” (After all, what’s a MacBook Pro when you can have a tasty egg McMuffin, right?) The homeless man agreed, enjoyed a McDonald’s breakfast and promptly relinquished the contraband items.

Later Lindsay paid the kind woman back for the homeless man’s breakfast and thanked her for stepping in. She is still pretty “creeped-out” as she puts it, that a random homeless man just let himself into her apartment while she was in the back room, but she has learned a valuable lesson about locking the door behind her. As Lindsay told us the story while we went for a jog around Capitol Hill, we wondered whether we would stop a homeless man to ask where he got a laptop/phone. We’re not sure we would have done that, but Lindsay sure is glad someone did.

Fort Worth Student Athlete Defense

Obscure Texas Law #4 – Illegal Recruitment of an Athlete

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Fort Worth Student Athlete DefenseHere’s our weekly review of obscure Texas laws.  Although enacted in 1989, this harkens back to the era when SMU football was a powerhouse (before they received the death penalty).  I don’t know whether they have a similar law in Florida, but from the looks of things the Miami Hurricanes may be finding out real soon.

Section 32.441 – Illegal Recruitment of an Athlete

Under this law, “[a] person commits an offense if, without the consent of the governing body or a designee of the governing body of an institution of higher education, the person intentionally or knowingly solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept any benefit from another on an agreement or understanding that the benefit will influence the conduct of the person in enrolling in the institution and participating in intercollegiate athletics.”

Of course there is an exception if the person providing the benefit is related to the athlete.

Violations of this law are broken down as follows:
(1) Class C misdemeanor if the value of the benefit is less than $20;
(2) Class B misdemeanor if the value of the benefit is $20 or more but less than $500;
(3) Class A misdemeanor if the value of the benefit is $500 or more but less than $1,500;
(4) state jail felony if the value of the benefit is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000;
(5) felony of the third degree if the value of the benefit is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000;
(6) felony of the second degree if the value of the benefit is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
(7) felony of the first degree if the value of the benefit is $200,000 or more.

This is one of those laws, however, in which you might see a lot of prosecutorial discretion.  After all, the elected district attorney might not position himself well for reelection if he goes around prosecuting the local cattle barons and oil tycoons.

Texas Leaving Child in Vehicle

Obscure Texas Law #3 | Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

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Texas Leaving Child in VehicleBefore my wife and I had children, I was used to running quick errands to the store in a matter of minutes.  When the rugrats arrived, the quick errands required carseats, strollers, diaper bags, etc.  While I am now somewhat of a pro at running errands with children, I didn’t adapt all that quickly.  The first time I took my son to the store with me it was dark outside and he was asleep in his car seat.  I pulled up to Best Buy and completely forgot that I had him with me.  About 5 minutes after walking through the aisles I realized what I had done.  I’m sure I resembled the mother from the movie Home Alone as I darted out of the store to get my baby and bring him back in with me.  I can only imagine what the employees that guard the doors must have thought.  Well, Texas doesn’t take kindly to idiot parents like me (correction: like I used to be).

Here’s obscure Texas law #3.

Section 22.10 – Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

Under this law, it is a class C misdemeanor for intentionally or knowingly leaving a child in a vehicle for longer than five minutes if that the child is younger than seven years of age; and not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.

Okay, so I might not have been in trouble because (a) I did not intentionally leave my child in the car and (b) there is a decent argument that as a stupid new parent I also did not knowingly leave him in there, and (c) I didn’t leave him in there for more than 5 minutes, but others may not be so lucky.  In all seriousness, however, if you ever see a small child locked in a vehicle (especially in the Texas summer heat), call the authorities immediately.  This law exists because children have died from the heat or cold of being locked in a car.

Purchase of Human Organs Texas Law

Obscure Texas Law #2 | Purchase and Sale of Human Organs

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Purchase of Human Organs Texas LawContinuing our weekly look at obscure Texas laws (in no particular order), here is one that gives a whole new meaning to the phase “Give me a hand.”

Section 48.02 – Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs

Under this law, it is a Class A mismedeanor if a person “knowingly or intentionally offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or otherwise transfers any human organ.”

Of course, there are exceptions for blood and plasma, and more exceptions for medical transplants.  I cannot imagine that this law is charged very often, but it would not be on the books if it hadn’t been a problem at some point in time.  Perhaps the lawmakers were concerned with the urban legend in which the person wakes up in the bathtub of ice and both kidneys missing.

Texas criminal law Use of Laser Pointer

Obscure Texas Law #1 | Use of Laser Pointers

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Texas criminal law Use of Laser PointerTexas has plenty of laws on the books that are obscure to the average Texan (including lawyers like me).  In an effort to educate the general public (since ignorance is no defense), I have decided to post one obscure Texas law (from the Texas Penal Code) every week, until I run out of (what I consider) obscure laws.  Here’s the first one:

Section 42.13 – Use of Laser Pointers

Under Section 42.13 of the Texas Penal Code, it is a Class C misdemeanor to knowingly point the “light from a laser pointer at a uniformed safety officer, including a peace officer, security guard, firefighter, emergency medical service worker, or other uniformed municipal, state, or federal officer.”

So I’ve never violated this law (to the best of my knowledge), but I am definitely guilty of making the family dog run around in circles chasing a laser light.  Perhaps there is another obscure Texas law that covers that.  We’ll find out in the coming weeks.

Texas cheerleader sues for sex case

Wanna-be Texas Cheerleader’s Lawsuit Falls Off the Pyramid

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Texas cheerleader sues for sex caseWhile the 5th Circuit case linked below has nothing to do with criminal law and procedure, it has everything to do with ridiculous Texas shenanigans.  Volokh linked it first.  I found it too good not to note.  Read the case for yourself.  Don’t pass up the footnotes.  It is utter greatness.

Samantha Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD (5th Circuit – Civil)

Here a teaser:

Samantha Sanches appeals summary judgment on her claims of sex discrimination and retaliation under 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (“title IX”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.

And it only gets better from there.