Sunday, June 24, 2007

The LSAT, Logic Games, & Brendlin

One component on the standardized test used for admission to law schools around the country, is called logic games. Logic games comprise a range of different situations in which a student taking the test must know how to arrange and coordinate multiple sets of elements at a time.

For example, say that a college counselor needs to meet with five students: Betty, Carol, Dan, Ellen, and Fin over the five day week. The test taker must coordinate the schedule for the college counselor. Simple right? However, there may be several restrictions to the counselor's meeting schedule such as the fact that she cannot see any girls on Monday or Wednesday, Carol must see the counselor before Dan, and Carol must see the counselor anytime in between Betty and Ellen. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) thus requires students to be able to separate important issues and determine what really matters in resolving a problem.

Similarly in the recent case involving passenger's rights to bring a constitutional challenge against a traffic stop search (Brendlin v. California), a similar element of being able to separate issues and deal with multiple elements at a time is at hand. The case is interesting in that the methamphetamines seized on Brendlin's person implicate him in illegal drug use. Why should a person who most probably committed a crime be allowed to bring a challenge to his detention and suppress this evidence? It is most likely for this reason why the California Supreme Court ruled against Brendlin since letting a person who violated the law go free is not "equal justice under law." Yet, the question which the justices should have addressed separates this issue of guilt and innocence, requiring them to ascertain whether or not Brendlin or a person similarly situated has the right to bring a constitutional challenge to the seizure. Whether or not the person is guilty or innocent based on this evidence seized during the traffic stop is an entirely separate issue.

The question posed to the justices was: "Whether a passenger in a vehicle subject to a traffic stop is thereby “detained” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, thus allowing the passenger to contest the legality of the traffic stop." How else could a person sitting in the vehicle not be detained? It would be ludicrous to say otherwise. Come on, justices use those good skills that the LSAT reinforced.

It appears that perhaps the California Supreme Court justices need a little logic games review for the next term.

Increasing Tension in Lower Court Nominations

It is well known among scholars of the law that most of the power to decide cases lies with lower court judges rather than courts of appeal or courts of review. The rationale is that higher courts, while they have the power of reviewing lower court decisions, do not have the time to review all of the lower court decisions and therefore they usually stand as the law.

However, it appears that there is always a frenzy over appointing judges at higher levels in the court system. Alito and Roberts are examples on the USSC. On lower courts, we saw in the summer of 2005 the contentious battles over the nomination of Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown for federal courts. Owens was finally confirmed for her seat on a federal appellate court and Brown now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Recently, a similar, but less contentious battle over the Governor John Corzine's nominee for chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court has brought to light this battle over lower court nominees. Corzine nominated Stuart Rabner, former attorney general for the state, but some minorities in the New Jersey Senate criticized Corzine for Rabner's nomination citing the fact that not as much consideration was given to minority candidates.

Rabner was confirmed by a vote of 36-1 indicating that although there was concern over his nomination, this did not pose much of a threat to his nomination. It appears, therefore that either credentials were more important in state legislators decision to confirm Rabner or that his political ideology was in line with that of state legislators despite concerns over his race.