Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My Constitutional Law Final Exam

I have been away from my home computer the past week, with only intermittent access to the internet. At the moment I am at a Columbia Library computer terminal, and as I sat down to check Left Behinds, I noticed that someone left their Constitutional Law Final Exam questions on the desktop.

I am not a law student, but Neda Cole and I have been toying with the idea of applying to law school together this fall. Maybe I should see if I'm any good at this law stuff before I incur another $100,000 of debt.

After the jump, a preview of how I would do if I went to Columbia Law School. And, um, never went to class or read any law books but took the final exam anyhow.

UPDATE: Oh my god, these are some long questions. A precis of my first response is "affordable housing is a human right, so denying an individual that right as part of a policy to better the overall housing stock violates universal human rights, though not the US constitution. Until we amend it." I have to go to dinner, but will post my full, and hopefully funnier, responses, the next time I'm online. The full questions are still after the jump, in case you're feeling motivated.

Question I
Word Limit: 700 words

The City of Eediana owns and operates a federally subsidized low-income housing project. Applicants for apartments within the project have traditionally been selected on a first-come first-served basis. Early in 2004, the City held hearings regarding the state of its public housing developments. In the course of those hearings, the City heard evidence that in large cities and in rural areas the primary residents of public housing projects are unmarried single-female households. Although a handful of married couples often can be found in some projects, married couples rarely inhabit projects in which single-female households constitute more than twenty percent of the public housing project.

The reasons for the segregation, according to the housing experts who testified before the Committee, is two-fold: First, in many cities and rural areas single female-headed households represent a majority of applicants for public housing, in part because a larger percentage of the members of those groups meet the income eligibility requirements. The second reason is the so-called “tipping point” phenomenon. Many heterosexual married couples do not object to living in projects in which the percentage of single female-headed households is under approximately 20%, but they do object if the percentage is greater than that. Once the percentage exceeds approximately 25%, heterosexual married couples begin to fear that the project will “turn” and they move out or fail to apply for admission.

The experts also testified that housing projects in which single female-headed households predominate had a significantly higher rate of criminal activity and vandalism than integrated projects. In addition, they told the committee that a considerable body of evidence tended to show that those projects are more likely to be poor and depress neighboring property values.
In response to this testimony, the City adopted an ordinance providing that the Public Housing Authority (PHA), the entity that manages the City’s public housing projects “shall to the maximum feasible extent, take steps to assure that such housing will be integrated. That is, they should contain a mix of female single-headed households as well as heterosexual married households.” The ordinance went to provide that, “if necessary to achieve that objective, the PHA shall limit the percentage of single female-headed households within a project.” The City Council adopted the ordinance against the objection of Councilmember Left Behinds [OK, in the original exam it's Councilmember Left Wing] who predicted that the new policies would have an adverse and disproportionate impact on women and particularly women of color.

Following the passage of the ordinance the PHA has taken stock of the Eediana’s housing projects. Although the PHA has attempted in various ways to encourage eligible married heterosexual families to apply for apartments, the percentage of single female-headed households in the project has been rapidly rising and is now at 30%. Concerned that the project will soon “turn,” the PHA has announced that it is abandoning its first-come first-served policy. Henceforth, it will divide its applications into two lists, one for single-parent households and the other for married heterosexual couples. Applicants from each list will be selected in chronological order as units become available, but the city will limit the number of applicants selected from the list containing the names of single-parent households to the extent necessary to assure that the percentage of single female-headed households does not exceed 25%. Since many more single female-headed households are on the waiting list, the effect of the new policy is that members of those groups will be required to wait considerably longer than heterosexual married applicants.

Eve Eve (Ms. Eve), a single-mother with two children and a woman of color, has been denied an apartment. Ms. Eve’s eligibility is otherwise undisputed and under the City’s old policy Ms. Eve would have received a unit. As predicted by Councilmember Left Behinds, the policy has had a tremendous impact on women and particularly on women of color. Ms. Eve has filed suit in federal district court seeking a declaratory judgment that the City’s policy is unconstitutional and an order directing the City to rent the apartment to her.

You are Ms. Eve’s attorney. The City has moved for summary judgment on Ms. Eve’s complaint. You are against the City’s motion before the Honorable I. M. Notpatient. Judge Notpatient is permitting you to advance your three best arguments against the City’s policy. Judge Notpatient has asked you for the following memo:

(1) In your first paragraph, please state your three best arguments that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
(2) In two paragraphs or fewer, please explain why those are your best arguments.
(3) In three paragraphs or fewer, please explain and discuss your likelihood of success.
(4) In three paragraphs or fewer, please state, explain, and discuss any other issue or issues bearing on constitutionality of the statute whether or not your client would have standing to raise those issues.

Question II
Word Limit: 700 Words
To: Uber Peon, Associate
From: Hang M. Hi, Partner:
Re: P. Diddy, Daddy Puffy, Prince Snoop, Plaintiffs v. City of Minihapolis, City of St. Paulus, and City of Mondalia, Defendants
Dear Associate:
We have been retained on the behalf of the above-named Defendants, who have been sued by the above-named Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are white children living in Minnihapolis, St. Paulus, and Mondalia. Plaintiff Diddy has applied unsuccessfully to Ujoma Academy in Minhihapolis. Plaintiff Puffy has applied unsuccessfully to Africana Academy in St. Paulus. Plaintiff Snoop has applied unsuccessfully to Malcom X Academy in Mondalia.
Ujoma Academy, Africana Academy, and Malcom X Academy are elementary schools located in the cities of Minihapolis, St. Paulus, and Mondalia, respectively. These academies were founded by African American parents disillusioned with the public schools’ failures to properly educate their children. Each school has an admissions policy stating the following or its equivalent: “Our mission is to educate African-American students. We believe that only black institutions are capable of dealing with black educational problems. In keeping with this mission, admission to the Academy is limited to students of African descent.” Not only do the schools admit only black students, they only hire black teachers. In fact, everyone at these schools is black from the janitor to the principal. Many experts have concluded that these types of schools provide black students with improved self-esteem and help them to become productive citizens of society. These experts have also
concluded that these schools provide black students with the means of succeeding academically in college and later on in life.
The file also contains the following facts:
1. The academies have all been extremely successful. Their students regularly score at the very top of the State’s standardized tests. Ninety-percent of their students go on to matriculate at four-year colleges. (The State average is 30 percent generally and 15 percent for African American students.) The record that we have assembled so far unequivocally supports the conclusion that black students are far better off in these academies than they are in the public schools.
2. Ujoma Academy is funded completely through tuition and private donations. As with all elementary schools, Ujoma is accredited by the State. The City provides bus transportation for students attending Ujoma. Parents at Ujoma are required to purchase all school supplies for their children. Supplies include texbooks, pens, papers, notebooks, toilet paper, rules, erasers, etc. Parents are also charged an “infrastructure cost,” which covers an estimated per pupil share of fixed-costs such as maintenance, janitorial services, copy services, etc. Minnihapolis reimburses Ujoma parents for the purchase of supplies as well as for the infrastructure costs. Without the City’s support Ujoma would have foundered almost at its inception.
3. Africana Academy is also accredited by the State. Africana is the least Afro-centric of the three schools. It follows the State’s recommended curriculum but supplements that curriculum with Swahili lessons and Kwanzaa celebrations. Africana is funded through donations and tuition. Tuition is $8,500 per year. St. Paulus provides each parent residing within the City limits a coupon worth $8,000. The parent can use the coupon in any school, public, private, sectarian, or non-sectarian. The parent brings the coupon to the school, the school sends the coupon to the State, and the State remits a check for $8,000 to the school. While Africana draws some students from neighboring cities, 85% of Africana’s students are from St. Paulus. Africana is heavily dependent upon the coupons provided by the City. Without those coupons, these students would not be able to attend Africana.
4. Africana is also the most successful of the three academies. Last year, the school boasted four national merit scholars. 5% of the school’s juniors achieved perfect scores on the SATs and ACTs. In its annual review of its admission policy, Africana has decided to accept Latino and Latina students starting in the fall of 2006.
5. Malcom X Academy is accredited by the State. Malcom X is funded through donations and tuition. Tuition is $7,500 per year. The City provides bus transportation for students residing within the City limits and attends Malcom X Academy. Mondalia provides each parent residing within the school district a voucher worth $5,000. Parents can use the voucher in any school, public, private, sectarian, or non-sectarian. Many Malcom X parents make-up the tuition difference through the educational tax rebate that the State provides. Malcom X’s textbooks are supplied by the City.
6. The plaintiffs argued that the academies are unconstitutional.

I have a bowling tournament to attend (where I’m expected to repeat my feat of multiple perfect games from last year.) I don’t have time to figure this stuff out. I hear you were trained by the great constitutional law professor Sandra Day Holmes. Here’s what I need from you:
(1) In your first paragraph please state the constitutional issue(s) that is/are raised by this case.
(2) In your second paragraph, please state what you view is our strongest argument.
(3) In your third paragraph, please state what you view as the plaintiffs’ strongest argument.
(4) In four paragraphs of less, please discuss and explain our likelihood of success on the merits. Don’t forget to provide reasons to support your conclusions.

Question III
Word Limit: 400 Words
(1) Please find in your exam packet and read the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
(2) Please also find and read the plaintiffs’ complaints in Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft and Carhart v. Ashcroft.
(3) In light of the Supreme Court’s current precedents, in three paragraphs or fewer, please explain the constitutional status of the Act.
(4) You are now a Justice on the Supreme Court. You have been assigned the opinion on the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003. There are four Justices who will sign on to your opinion, no matter what you say and how you get there. (You can reverse previous cases, extend previous cases, or affirm previous approaches.) There is only one catch; the opinion has to be written in five paragraphs or fewer. What say you?

Question IV
Word Limit: 700 Words
Law Clerk:
I need your help with the following problem. All of the parties involved in this case are residents of the State of Edina (51st state of the Union) and all of the events took place in this State.
The facts are as follows:
Herrera and Heros Cretin were on their way to Mt. Olympia, in the State of Edina, when Heros drove the chariot, in which Herrera was a passenger, into the ditch. The recently married couple was returning from their honeymoon. Herrera was taken to State Hospital immediately after the accident. As it turned out, she was thrown from the chariot and as a result suffered a subdural hematoma. Doctors attempted to remove the blood clot and pressure on her brain, but unfortunately the surgery was not successful and Herrera is now in a vegetative state.
Heros has asked the doctors to withdraw all artificial feeding and hydration equipment after the doctors informed him that Herrera would have no chance of recovering her cognitive faculties. Heros maintains that Herrera told him that she would not want to live in a permanent vegetative state.
As the doctors were about to withdraw the artificial feeding and hydration equipment, a young woman entered the room and pleaded with them to stop. She identified herself as Electra and claimed that she is Herrera’s wife. She maintained that Herrera and she were married last year by the Mayor of Mini-mini, Gavin Handsome, a city in Edina. Electra claims that Herrera told her, repeatedly and insistently, that Herrera would rather remain in a vegetative state in the hopes that science would one day revive her than have doctors withdraw artificial feeding and hydration.
Believe it or not, two days later, as the doctors were trying to decide how to proceed, a young man entered Herrera’s room. He identified himself as Gaius. He maintained that he and Herrera were married two years ago. He continued to explain that he is a polygamist and that Herrera is his fourth wife. He would like the doctors to cease all artificial feeding and hydration. He maintained that Herrera wanted to have her Herrera’s remains placed in cryonic suspension, a deep-freezing process done in hopes that future scientific advances will restore her to life.
Edina law provides that if an individual is incompetent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf, the individual’s spouse is automatically appointed as guardian ad litem on behalf of the individual. If the individual does not have a spouse, the individual’s parents are appointed as guardian. If the individual does not have any parents, the individual’s siblings are appointed as guardian. If the individual does not have any siblings, a court must appoint the closest living relative. Herrera does not have any parents or relatives except for Heros, Electra, and Gaius.
Edina law also provides that if there is dispute among family members a judge may take advantage of two options. First, the judge can flip a coin: heads, the patient remains on life support; tails, doctors can withdraw life support. Second, and in the alternative, the judge can refuse all requests to withdraw life support until the patient dies a natural death or recovers.
The State forbids marriages between individuals of the same sex. The State does not recognize plural marriages.
The State’s statute contains many reasons for these prohibitions.
(1) First, the State maintains that same-sex marriages and plural marriages are wrong and uncivilized.
(2) Second, the State argues that these types of relationships are abusive and sexually promiscuous.
(3) Third, the state argues that it has the right to safeguard the health and welfare of the state. These relationships are not adequate to child-rearing. Children are better off when they are raised in a traditional home with a traditional marriage.
Electra argues that the State’s prohibition against same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Gaius argues that the prohibition against plural marriages is unconstitutional. Heros just wants me to pull the plug.
If Gaius is right, then Herrera goes into a deep freeze and her body will be suspended in liquid nitrogen. If Electra is right, then Herrera gets to wait for science to catch up with her. If both are wrong then Heros gets his wish. I’m tempted to just flip a coin.
I’m going on vacation. Resolve this before I get back.
Judge Hercules

>Tags: news and politics, constitutional law, columbia, affordable housing


  • At 7:12 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    Herrera and Heros Cretin? Please tell me you made up the last one..

  • At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    typical law school final ... the prof is clearly from minnesota

  • At 9:54 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    No offense, but if your jokes require me to read through all this shit as set-up, I'm never going to get them.

  • At 1:24 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Unless it's Carolina Herrera I cannot be expected to pay attention.

    (and no, I did not make up any of these questions, or to be honest finish reading them -- they were cut and pasted from an exam I found on a computer at Columbia)


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