Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Labor Law Has Shaped the Ravens and Orioles

By Chris Simmons

This off-season, the Ravens experienced an exodus of players from their Super Bowl winning team.  Meanwhile, the Orioles made no major moves, content to utilize the same roster that many pundits thought overachieved last season.

In both Major League Baseball and the National Football League, players have unionized to bargain for their working conditions. Until the 1970s, player movement and salaries were severely restricted in both sports, as one team owned a player's rights unless it decided to get rid of the player. 

That has changed in recent years.  These new working conditions and rules are complied in a collectively bargained agreement, signed by both the leagues and the unions.  Many of these rules influence how teams build their rosters.

In baseball, the player  agreement allows for free agency after six years of service time.  But prior to free agency, when a player can sell his services to the highest bidder, a player can go to salary arbitration to settle any disputes with a team over a salary.  It is a nuanced area, but in general, the player has this right to do so when he has played at least three years, but less than six.  However, if a player spends at least 82 days on a roster in his first year, he can be eligible for arbitration after his second season.

This has led teams to hold Major League-ready players down in the minors for the first few months of the season to avoid starting their arbitration clock a year early.  This could potentially save a team millions, as most rookies will only make about $500,000 per year.

Many teams are now buying out those arbitration years before a player gets there, by giving long-term contracts to young players.  This gives the player more long-term security, while giving the team a cheaper rate over that period.

Rather than dabble in free agency, this appears to be the Orioles' approach:  develop a young core and spend to secure their rights early while building with cost-effective players in other positions.  The Orioles have already locked up Adam Jones to a long-term deal, and will likely attempt to do the same for Matt Wieters and Manny Machado.   

The Ravens have taken a similar approach since the newest collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2011 after a lockout of the players by the owners.

The new CBA implemented a rookie wage scale.  Before this iteration of the bargaining agreement, teams were free to make rookies some of the highest players in the league.  Now the league limits how much money teams are allowed to spend per year and all players are given four-year deals, with first-round picks getting a fifth year option.

These contracts are now slotted with a certain value, at significantly less money than veterans earn (the agreement also gives veterans a higher minimum based on their years played).  This has led teams to cut non-Pro Bowl veteran players who can be cheaply replaced with players on rookie deals.  Teams would rather pay younger players less money and retain control over their rights than keep higher-paid veterans.

This may help explain why the Ravens traded Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round pick.  Boldin was set to make $6 million per year.  The Ravens' first-round pick this year, the 32nd in the drafted, has been slotted at four years for a total of $6.7 million over the total length. This means that the Ravens' pick, Matt Elam, will be forced to accept a deal for approximately that value because of the rules limiting the amount of money teams can spend on rookie players.  The Ravens were simply building in the way the new collective bargaining agreement dictates:  give expensive deals to players you cannot replace, but seek cheap, young replacements for nonessential veterans.

It's easy to see how both teams reached their conclusions on the best way to structure their rosters.  All they had to do was look to the bargaining agreement.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

No Trace of Pain: Notes from Field Training

The essay below was originally submitted to the University of Baltimore School of Law Office of Admissions as the "personal statement" of the applicant for admission.  Needless to say, the application got favorable attention.  Virginia Reed, a former police officer, tells of an experience during her training that left a lasting expression.



Law School Personal Statement

By Virginia Reed

All I heard my Field Training Officer say was, “Ohhhhh. We’ll be there in a minute.” Hanging up his cell phone, he smiled and said, “The lieutenant has a little job for you—a brush fire.” He avoided looking at me, just humming and smiling as we drove to the call. New officers usually handle routine calls and work their way up to more serious ones gradually.  I was nearing the end of my field training and should have been handling calls of abuse, rape, and suicide.   Yet apparently the lieutenant thought I should respond to the “brush fire”, going so far as to call my FTO on his cell phone to have me respond. This was not a good sign.

When I arrived, I could see the lieutenant in the distance wearing a smile similar to my FTO. From far away it looked like he was watching a pile of smoking leaves.

My FTO couldn’t contain himself any longer and as he pointed towards a mound near the center of the burned area he said, “The fire department thought it was just a bunch of leaves until they hosed it and found her.” At that point the smell of lighter fluid hit me. This was my first homicide, and all that came to mind was I hope she was dead before she was on fire.

I walked over to the lieutenant and he told me to “glove up.” I did not look very hard at the body,[;] for some reason it didn’t seem appropriate. The lieutenant advised that he needed someone to put her in a bag. I noticed the crumpled white plastic bag lying next to her body, as well as the four to five other veteran officers looking at me and smirking. I wasn’t sure why they were all there; all I knew from their posture was none of them had any intention of helping me, or explaining how I ought to get this girl into the bag.

Luckily, another rookie from my academy class was summoned to the scene as well. He arrived just as I was unfolding the bag next to the body. He said nothing, but looked visibly green. I felt better. His FTO had apparently told him what we were doing. He lined himself up by her head in preparation for lifting her sideways onto the bag. I was lined up at her feet, facing the semi-circle of veteran officers who had gathered around.

The smell of lighter fluid was distracting, but I knew we had to lift her without thinking about it… about what had happened there. In the last moment before I moved her, though, I knew I had to look at her. So I looked right at her face. There was no mistaking that she was dead. It would be impossible to have thought she was sleeping; there was no trace of pain. Something in the complete void of her expression made me feel that there was no need for empathy. I didn’t have to feel bad for her in that moment as she was, and I could be as neutral as necessary.

This turned out to be a good thing, as she was too tall for the bag. And for those who have never had to move a body that is already set in rigor mortis, let it suffice to say that it takes more assiduity than initially apparent. By the time I finally got her in the bag, I was sweating. I felt like I was covered in some kind of resin that sank through my clothes, and coated my skin.

Whatever it was, it began to make me feel nauseated. At the same time, however, I saw a feeling of relief in the officers around me. Every one of them told me, “good job”, but I wasn’t really sure what they were commending me for. Someone offered me water and I almost gagged as I said, “no thanks”. Everyone laughed a little harder, as if we were all in on the same joke now.

When I got into the car to leave, my FTO told me about the background he had gathered. Apparently she had been a witness to something, and was going to testify concerning a drug violation. She had been bludgeoned to death hours before they had set her on fire.

As we drove back to my post, I wondered about the girl’s life, her family, and her “friends”. Did she know that one of her associates had the capacity to kill her? What misery did she have in her life that could have led her here? Did she know she was capable of looking completely out of pain? Because she was, I had seen it first hand. Everyone there saw it, and everyone could vouch for it. I wondered if she knew that she was capable of looking that way, and if it would have mattered.








Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your Degree Does Not Make You Special

By Kira Zuber

Going to college was never a question for me.

You went to middle school. You went to high school. And then you went to college. It’s not that I didn’t have a choice, or that my parents didn’t give me a choice. I just never thought about that choice.

Does everyone go to college today? No. Do a lot more people go to college
today than they did 30 years ago? That’s for sure. The New York Times reported
that more than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees in 2012. This
stands in stark contrast to the mere 10.7 percent of college educated Americans in
1970.

Why should you care? Are you are currently searching for employment? Having your bachelor’s
degree in the professional world no longer makes you special. You are expendable.
If you don’t want the job being offered for that salary, another college grad will
come searching and be happy to take it.

Further, there is the competition of those who have been fired from their jobs due to downsizing. Many people from this group have their bachelor’s and work experience, which makes your bachelor’s worth even less. Many people with their bachelor’s degree are now being forced into jobs which require only a high school education. The Chronicle of a Higher Education published an article on this subject entitled, “Millions of Graduates Hold Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree, Report Says”.

This overflow of people with college degrees impacts the professional world. In an effort to distinguish ourselves, there is a new pressure to go out and get another degree.

In my case it was a J.D.

A warning to the reader: BEWARE. If you think you need to go out and get that “additional”
degree to spruce up your resume . . . so does everyone else. Therefore even more
people are getting degrees, and once again you are no longer special. The Huffington
Post
reported last summer that only 55 percent of the class of 2011 had full time
jobs that required a law degree and lasted more than a year.

This is not to say not to go out and get that second professional degree. If you can, you should. After some despair of my own, and thinking I would never find a job, I found out a J.D. can be extremely useful for a variety of jobs. It shows an employer you have analytical skills, fundamental knowledge of the law, people skills (as long as patent law wasn't your specialty), and the dedication to go through three years of hell and to then take the bar. BUT a J.D. in and of itself is not the complete answer. I would advise you to still try to further distinguish yourself.

Sorry if this was all a bit depressing. It wasn’t meant to be, truly. I guess it was meant to say WAKE UP!!! It’s a rough market out there, and we are all desperately trying to get jobs. Do not count on the fact that you have a degree of any type to get you ahead in the job hunt. It is of utmost importance that you get out there and (sorry for the extremely trite and clich├ęd expression) “be all that you can be.”  Learn more languages than everybody else. Be the person who bothered to send the thank-you note. Remember peoples’ names. Dress well. Be courteous.

Take advantage of every opportunity. The best piece of advice I have received so far on this subject was, “try your hardest.” It sounds simple, but it means a lot. If you want something, go after it. Do research. Look into how can you make yourself the best candidate for that job and proceed accordingly. And perhaps if trying your hardest doesn’t get you the exact job you wanted, it will provide you with an opportunity. Opportunity isn’t going to find you, you have to go out and find it.

Pre Bar Pro Bono, a New Requirement?


By Dean Fleyzor

Getting "hands on" experience in law firms and court rooms while a law student is a crucial for anyone training to be a future lawyer. The opportunities offered to students through clinic programs vary greatly from state to state, and even school to school, but they all benefit a prospective lawyer’s career. When I was researching which school to attend, the University of Baltimore’s clinics and history of success for their clients attracted me to enroll.

New York (from Wikimedia Commons)
Maryland law permits law students to practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Currently, all 50 states have a similar rule allowing students to give legal advice. Some students will represent convicts looking for a chance to prove their innocence while other students can prosecute their own cases before the Circuit Court. The University of Baltimore’s program is so renowned because most students that seek placement in a clinic have the opportunity to take part in one before graduation.

Yet in one state, instead of just being an opportunity, clinic programs are becoming a requirement for law schools to provide. New York recently passed a new rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono service before obtaining a license to practice law in the state. These hours may be completed through clinic work, making the availability of the opportunity critical for prospective law students. This new rule will take effect in 2015. Although these required pro bono hours do not need to be through a clinic program, it makes a big difference if a law school can help students complete their hours. One of the more prestigious schools in the state, Brooklyn Law, boasts over 30 clinics for students. Other schools, such as New York Law School, have no history of offering such programs. However, New York Law School will be introducing 13 clinics in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year to reflect the chances in New York’s policies.

Many see this new policy as a way to offer free legal services to those in need, but it only appears to mandate practical experience before admitted to practice law. Since these pro bono advocates are not yet lawyers, the actual benefit of students providing free legal advice as opposed to older, experienced lawyers may not be as great as publicized.

Although New York is the first state to implement this kind of policy, California and New Jersey are considering following suit. According to Karen Sloan, writer for Law.com, “Any move by California could well have a ripple effect throughout the country.” The interesting difference in California’s proposed requirement answers the question of whether or not students should be offering free legal services. California proposes that the required hours can be fulfilled in law school or during the first year of practice.

If the SCOTUS Justices Were Characters in Harry Potter....


1.  JUSTICE SCALIA IS DOLORES UMBRIDGE 

Let the battle of the sassy conservatives begin

Truly a match made in originalist heaven.  They both love rules, hate change, and are sticklers for doing things "by the book" (or, in Scalia's case, "by the original intent").  Reading a Scalia dissent is like sitting through an Umbridge detention, but instead of writing "I must not tell lies" in your own blood, you would be writing "I must not breath life liberally into the Constitution." Plus, they even do the same quirky head tilt: 
"Why yes, Dolores, I do believe public policy argumentation is impractical and for sissies!"


2.  JUSTICE THOMAS IS HORACE SLUGHORN 


"This would be better in an armchair"


Like Horace Slughorn, Justice Thomas enjoys a good armchair.  Also like Horace Slughorn, Thomas prefers to sit back and watch how things occur before really forming a concrete opinion.  Only in the case of Clarence Thomas, it's less "hey, should we kill these mudblood spies?" and more "hey, should we overrule Proposition 8?" 

3. JUSTICE GINSBURG IS MINERVA MCGONAGALL


Oh my GOD they're adorable


Look at Justice Ginsburg. Just look at her:

"We have neither desire, need, nor right to know most of Judge Roberts's views on most imaginable subjects."
 --RBG

Now look at this excellent picture of Professor Minerva McGonagall:

"Do what you have to do. I'll secure the castle."
--MM

Now look at this picture Justice Ginsburg wearing McGonagall's signature pointy hat:

This is the face of magical feminist justice 


I rest my case. 

To elaborate: They are both incredibly tough feminists who rock schoolmarm hairdos and never give up when it comes to making sure justice is served. 

4.  JUSTICE KENNEDY IS ALBUS DUMBLEDORE


When the finger is raised, evil pays

Besides the obvious "yes, they are both quite old and doddery," Justice Kennedy and Dumbledore have loads in common.  Both men are considered swing voters (Dumbledore was neither conservative nor liberal; he merely went with common sense and refused to draw firm, hard lines).  Both men were appointed by people who thought that said appointment would result in favorable results which didn't really happen. 

5.  CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS IS RUFUS SCRIMGEOUR 
They're both bitter because RBG/MM belittle their masculinity

They both were appointed to positions of power to further a conservative agenda. Plus, both men are really, REALLY good at damage control. 

6. JUSTICE BREYER IS MAD EYE MOODY 


CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Like Mad-Eye Moody, Justice Breyer prefers a more practical approach to things. Only, instead of advocating for teaching 13 year olds how to kill people by saying magic words, Justice Breyer advocates involving the American populace in more governmental decisions (which, when you look at it, could basically result in the exact same thing).  Also, Justice Breyer is a curmudgeony liberal reader of statutes who thinks that Congress lacks perspective.  Mad Eye Moody is a curmudgeony liberal gadfly who thinks that the Ministry of Magic lacks perspective. The only difference? Justice Breyer still has both his eyes. And has never killed anyone. Not even Scalia. 

7. JUSTICE ALITO IS DRACO MALFOY
My father/Scalia will hear about this!

He's basically considered Scalia's deputy. And if Scalia is Umbridge, then that would make Alito the horrendous butt kisser Draco Malfoy (since Draco Malfoy was actually the head of the Inquisitorial Squad).  

8.  JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR IS GINNY WEASLEY 


Feminism is beating the boys at their own game(s)

Like Ginny Weasley, Justice Sotomayor came from an impoverished background and then basically won at life by being awesome.  Also like Ginny Weasley, Sotomayor seems to piss off white men for being better than them and knowing it. Only, instead of beating all the Gryffindor boys for a spot on the Quidditch team, Justice Sotomayor pointed out the fact that her experience as a Latina woman brings a more well-rounded view to the bench.  Newt Gingrich called Justice Sotomayor "a racist." The rest of the world called Justice Sotomayor a bad-ass. 

9.  JUSTICE KAGAN IS HERMIONE GRANGER


They're smiling because they know they're ALWAYS RIGHT

Like Hermione Granger, Justice Kagan basically bested everybody at school, went on to be extremely successful and politically connected, and then went back to school (only Hermione went back to learn; Justice Kagan went back to be the Dean of Harvard Law School).  Jeffrey Rosen said Kagan has the "ability to puncture her colleagues’ bloodless abstractions and tendentious arguments, and to explain the constitutional stakes in plain language that all citizens can understand." Replace "colleagues'" with "Umbridge's" and "constitutional stakes" with "magical theory" and essentially you have the most succinct character summary for Hermione Granger (Book 5) ever. Plus, if we continue the metaphor of "Scalia is Umbridge," Rosen also said that Kagan's writing in her dissents gives Scalia "a run for his money."  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Beyond Numbers

By Kira Zuber

Defining Points in Trying to Get Into Law School:
I went to _______ college – that college is ranked _______ in ____________.
My class rank was ____________.
My GPA was ___________.
I did _______ number of extra curricular activities.
My LSAT score was _________.

In Applying for Jobs After Law School:
I went to ________ law school – that law school is rated ________ in the U.S. News rankings.
I am ranked _________in the class of ________.
My GPA is __________.
I wrote onto law review, which had _____ number of applicants and only
accepted ________.
I was accepted onto ________ moot court team, which had _____ number of applicants and only accepted ________.

Sometimes I feel like the world will think it knows me by merely filling in the blanks above. I am afraid that it will think it knows my level of intelligence, drive and dedication. During times like this the sun seems to rise and set according to these numbers. I worry about being a mid-grade student at a lower-tier law school. If I get a bad grade, I see a dark future before me. In this state of mind I see my GPA plummet, which in turn will affect my class ranking, which in turn will ultimately affect my desirability in the hiring market. Said grade has now affected my entire future.

It is this attitude which fosters competitiveness in law school. Ivy League law schools are notorious for the race to be in the top 10 percent. If you are not in that top percentile you are considered inferior, not “smart”, not worthy. Even schools like University of Baltimore School of Law, a law school that is not known for competitiveness, sometimes succumb to measuring worth by numbers. They send out e-mails to students about prospective job opportunities. Those opportunities?
You guessed it. Are only geared toward the top 10 (okay maybe 25) percent.

This is bullshit. I write this to remind myself, and remind you (whoever you
are), that we are more than these numbers. I will not deny that these numbers do affect us, yet I will vehemently argue with anyone who says that they are “who” we are. I am also my passion, my work ethic, my people skills, my network, my hometown, my creativity. We are all our own compilation of unique skills and talents. Intelligence goes beyond those skills demonstrated in the classroom.

So as finals approach, please remember this. I am not saying don’t try. But I
am saying that if those grades come in and they are not what you had hoped for - do not despair. Remember that you are worth more than these numbers.

A Confederate Memorial in Baltimore


Ruckstull, Frederick Wellington,
Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, 1903
Art has the power to remove noise and highlight what the artist thinks is essential about the subject he or she depicts. But what about when the artist gets it wrong—what about when he or she focuses upon the wrong element, or depicts something that does not in fact exist? I recently discovered an outdoor monument in Baltimore that I think illustrates this problem.

On Mount Royal Avenue, just a few blocks south of West North Avenue, sits Frederick Wellington Ruckstull’s 1903 Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Depicted is a winged goddess of victory with flowing vestments and up-opened wings. With her left hand high, she clutches a laurel wreath in an act of solemn presentation. With her right arm, she braces a dying Confederate soldier, giving him support as his one hand grips his chest, and his the other hand holds the battle standard of the Confederacy, tip pointing slightly downward. The soldier’s head is tilted toward the bosom of the goddess and the eyes on his weary face are closed—perhaps the last fitful moments of the young soldier's life. Among the inscribing upon the sculpture’s plinth are the Latin words Gloria Victis (“glory to the vanquished”), Deo Vindice, (“God vindicates”), and the phrase "Glory stands beside ov'r grief."

Let’s make sure we get this right. God vindicates . . . the Confederacy?

Buberl, M. Caspar,
Appomattox, 1889
I think it is useful to contrast Ruckstull's work with another Confederate memorial, this one in Alexandria, Virginia. Caspar Buberl's 1889 Appomattox depicts an unarmed Confederate soldier, standing in a contrapposto pose, his head down with heavy eyes and a sunken face, arms crossed, and with one hand tightly gripping the cloth of his shirt, and his other hand gripping his hat.

I think Buberl's monument utterly suits the subject that it seeks to memorialize. It doesn’t glamorize the Confederacy, or whitewash its horrors. Quite the contrary; the veteran could just as easily be standing over the graves of dead comrades as he comes to the realization that the Confederacy fought for a benighted end. Erected by the Robert E. Lee Camp of the United Confederate Veterans, the sculpture nevertheless speaks to a far larger audience than those who identified themselves with the Confederacy. An emancipated slave, now proud and independent in his freedom, could easily have have looked upon the work and been moved by it. The emancipated slave could easily have seen a veteran who fought for a lost cause—and a man whose dedication now recoils upon him.

Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, detail.
And therein lies the genius of Appomattox. The sculpture is one of those rare artworks that serves as a lens for our view of the Confederacy through its depiction of the emotional pain of the veteran. It is the kind of work that allows us to imagine what the veteran is thinking—and also imagine what he should be thinking. More than one hundred years after its making, the sculpture still imparts a valuable lesson.

In contrast, Ruckstull's far larger monument seeks little more than to propagandize the glory of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. It's not surprising given Baltimore's southern sympathies during the Civil War, but its statement in the present moment is jarring. And consider that Ruckstull even depicts a man in his last moments of life. Ruckstull's work depicts the more graphic and tragic horror, but his depiction manages little more than to trivialize it. 

Appomattox, detail.
And even more than that, Ruckstull's work is a finger in the eye of anyone who would disagree with its message that death for the Confederacy was a glorious end. The same emancipated slave moved by the subtle conflicts of Buberl's Appomattox would be left horrified by Ruckstull's Soldiers and Sailors Monument. How could he not? While clearly a work of technical mastery, with its ascendent angelic wings, flowing drapery, and the tortured face of its dying hero, Ruckstull's monument ultimately advances little more than a moral corruption. Gloria Victis, Deo Vindice.

According to the New York Times' coverage of a speech Ruckstull gave before the people of Boston in 1903 and the same year of his Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Ruckstull believed that “the functions of open air statuary are to delight, to refine, to console, to stimulate.” These are worthy goals for public art. It’s a shame then that Ruckstull's own monument here in Baltimore did not live up to his stated ambition.