Applying for law school? Check your Facebook page

Hey, law school applicants: You probably didn’t need a 1,439,953rd reason to remove all those drunken college photos from your Facebook page (or your abandoned MySpace page, for that matter), but here it is anyway: law school admissions offices are Googling you for more info. [Wall Street Journal, National Law Journal. HT: ABA Journal]

A healthy 41% of law school admissions officers said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37% have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site. Only 20% of college admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers said they Googled an applicant, while less than a quarter of either group have visited an applicant’s Facebook page.

It follows then that law school admissions officers dig up the most dirt. The survey found that 32% of those who researched an applicant online discovered something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. Only 12% of college admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers found something online that negatively impacted an applicant.

Forty-one percent don’t have enough information from the massive application and essays to make a call about you. Thirty-seven percent think the possibility  you might be a degenerate is so high that they need to go to your Facebook page and see if you list “street chemistry” among your interests.

So clean up your page, or at least update your permissions. I’d hate to see you miss your chance at months of post-graduation unemployment because your old fraternity brother won’t remove that photo of you, the bong and that goat (“Chill out, brah!”)

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Amicus Curiae: Our Links To Things Of Interest

[At least once a week, I will post things that may be of interest from other publications. Some will be news stories from other states that are interesting. Others may be columns or viewpoints on issues that may be of use to a practitioner.]

Parole Evidence Former Court of Appeals judge Bill Schuette is running for attorney general as a Republican. The Detroit Free Press published an editorial column he wrote in which he proposes “broad-based public safety reform” in the face of the state paroling convicted felons from Michigan prisons to save costs.

A report by the Council of State Governments makes clear why Michigan needs to reform its criminal justice system. In a comparison of Great Lakes states:

• Michigan has the highest rate of violent crime.

• Michigan has the highest rate of unsolved violent crime.

• Michigan has the fewest number of police officers per capita. In fact, Michigan has lost more than 1,900 law enforcement officers since 9/11.

• Michigan sends the fewest felons to prison per capita.

The Free Press had proposed that Michigan restore a good time for prisoner behavior policy. Schuette thinks its a bad idea.

Finally, the Free Press proposal to restore good time for prisoner behavior would be the death knell for truth in sentencing. Truth in sentencing means that a prisoner will serve at least his or her minimum time. Before the implementation of this practice, some prisoners were back on the streets committing crimes before their minimum sentence had even been reached (and that is still sometimes the case for those prisoners sentenced before the implementation of truth in sentencing). Families, judges and especially victims need to know that those convicted of a crime will serve their minimum time.

Winning cases: So easy even a caveman can do it The media loves reporting on stories in which Everyman eschews the help of a professional and succeeds anyway, especially when it comes to representing himself in court.

In this case, Everywoman was a middle-aged nurse who beat the IRS in tax court in a dispute over her deduction of $15,000 in tuition for online MBA classes.  [Wall Street Journal via Yahoo]

Her odyssey began in 2006, when she filed her 2005 return. It showed just over $50,000 of income, several smaller deductions, and one large one—for $14,787 of expenses for an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix, an online school. Ms. Singleton-Clarke deducted the tuition because her tax preparer told her she met the law’s narrow definitions.

When the IRS audited the return in late 2006, she conceded all the IRS’s challenges to her deductions but one. She dug in her heels on the tuition deduction because, after looking at a complex diagram in IRS Publication 970, she believed she qualified for it.

The audit process first involved several rounds of confusing IRS correspondence. "At one point I had three requests for the same records, each with a different contact name. I had to spend hours calling to figure out who needed what," says Ms. Singleton-Clarke, a steely but soft-spoken woman.

The story would have been more informative if it described which of the deductions described in Publication 970 she used and how she qualified.

How did she win? Attention to detail and do exactly what you’re told:

Ms. Singleton-Clarke had been told to bring copies of her documents in triplicate, including a time line of her career. Judge Stanley Goldberg questioned her closely and complimented her on her record-keeping during the hour-long trial. "The whole time," she says: "I was thinking, here is this god-like man who is going to make an important decision for me. But he wasn’t a bully. I had met with the bullies before."

Reached Friday by phone, Judge Goldberg said: "I remember the case well because Ms. Singleton-Clarke was so articulate and well-prepared. Too many taxpayers are not."

Elsewhere, The Lawyerist weighs the pros and cons of letting law firm employees go on Facebook. Law.com’s Legal Blog Watch reports of a Montana judge that refused to throw out a verdict that found a baseball bat manufacturer liable in a products liability case, even though it also found that the bat was not defective.

Should jurors refrain from the Internet during service?

Should the court and parties reasonably expect jurors to refrain from using the internet and, more importantly, discussing the case on Facebook?

Members of the jury who convicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon of misappropriating gift cards Tuesday became friends on Facebook as much as a week earlier and referenced the case in online messages between days of deliberations.

While it is not yet clear if the five jurors’ outside-of-court communications constitute juror misconduct, Visiting Judge Dennis M. Sweeney had routinely instructed them during the trial not to discuss the case with anyone outside deliberations, specifically prohibiting Internet commentary.

Sweeney said they could tell their families and employers that they were hearing the Dixon case but otherwise encouraged them to keep a low profile.

HT: Juries

It’s an interesting point. Obviously, jurors are told not to discuss the case with anyone during the trial. But is it realistic to believe that they won’t, especially in our current TMZ/tabloid times? And social networking sites make it easier to talk about it with more people.