It was often said of K’ung Fu-tse: “If the mat was not straight, the master would not sit.” This is surely an outlook with which many American lawyers, and those who deal with them, are familiar today. Though there is, of course, something to be said for keeping the mat straight, especially in an area as specific and particular as the law, the refusal to sit because of minor discrepancies can lead to tired legs and a bad temper. In the legal context, this means that certain “mat-straightening” practices can lead to inefficient procedure, incomprehensible or purposeless laws, and, at worst, miscarriages of justice.
The American legal system, descended as it is from Hebraic, Roman, and British law, is, in spite of the genius of its framers, at times hopelessly mired in the muck of mat-straightening when it should be concerned with simply sitting and getting down to the business of justice. This is due not so much to flaws in the basic structure of the law, but to the immense over-complexity that is largely (though certainly not solely) a phenomenon of the modern era. These days, it seems that the simple purpose of the law has been completely obscured by the practice of it. Fortunately, though much of Western legal scholarship has ignored or simply not recognized this trend toward unnecessary complexity, in the East, particularly in China, political and social philosophers have been dealing with this exact kind of excessive insistence on convolution and bureaucracy for thousands of years. They know it as Confucianism.
In 1924, proponents of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) believed arbitration was an amicable way to resolve disputes between business professionals: Arbitration “preserves business friendships. . . . It raises business standards. It maintains business honor.” This indeed may be true, but judicial opinions interpreting the FAA have transcended the realm of legal reasoning, becoming hostile and antagonistic not toward a party’s improper action, but toward judges.
Whether and to what extent multidisciplinary practices should be allowed in the United States has recently been described as the “‘most important issue facing the legal profession today.’” Multidisciplinary practices, or “MDPs,” emerged as an important ethical issue more than ten years ago when the accounting profession began to offer businesses a wide variety of professional services they had not traditionally offered. Consulting and other professional service firms followed suit, and began promoting services similar to those traditionally offered by law firms. The growth of these nonlegal firms led such firms to hire an increasing number of lawyers. Not surprisingly, this trend raised concerns about the unauthorized practice of law, conflicts of interest, and lawyer independence. Since the distinctions between legal and nonlegal professions have become muddled, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) has devoted significant resources to addressing the MDP issue.
In 1958 in Pakistan, Parveen Chaudry’s parents introduced her to Hanif Chaudry, the man they had chosen to be her husband. In accordance with Islamic tradition, Parveen’s parents negotiated the terms of her marriage contract with Hanif, consenting to and even signing the contract on Parveen’s behalf. According to Islamic law, Parveen’s marriage contract included a mahr provision, or dower, in the amount of 15,000 rupees (approximately $1,500), to protect Parveen if Hanif suddenly divorced her. Islamic law provides that couples retain their assets before, during, and after marriage, and because Parveen would likely not be permitted to work outside the marriage home without her husband’s permission, the mahr was a nest-egg in case the marriage soured.
On February 22, 2002 the General Accounting Office (“GAO”) filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Vice President Richard Cheney, seeking an injunction requiring him to produce certain records relating to the National Energy Policy Development Group (“NEPDG”), which he chaired at the behest of President George W. Bush. For the first time in its eighty-one year history, the GAO has filed suit against a federal official in relation to records access.
The suit is the result of a GAO inquiry begun at the request of Representatives Henry Waxman and John Dingell, who were concerned about the potential influence Enron and other special interest groups had over the NEPDG’s activities. The Vice President has so far refused to meaningfully acquiesce to any of the GAO’s information requests or attempts at accommodation, and has argued that the GAO does not have the statutory authority to obtain the records requested. More significantly, he has hinted at—though not formally asserted—executive privilege, setting the stage for a legal showdown that could make its way to the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Constitution is unique even among democratic nations for the guarantees it grants to U.S. citizens. The interpretation of the Constitution further distinguishes American notions of freedom and liberty from every other country in the world. The Internet Age, however, has ushered in a period where national boundaries and guarantees are blurred among the many intersections of the World Wide Web. This uncertainty has raised serious questions relating to the fundamental rights and liberties established by our forefathers: Can the United States maintain its guarantee of freedom of speech for the Internet? Who profits from such a guarantee? What are the implications for other nations if the United States ignores their pleas to rein in such guarantees?
In 2001, more than thirty years after the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, women still have not achieved equality in the workplace. Many statistics emphasize the divide: Last year, 95% of all venture capital went to men; of the top 2,500 corporate executives in America, only sixty-three are women; only three Fortune 500 companies are headed by women; and Congress is 90% male.
While many factors undoubtedly contribute to this disparity, one factor in particular stands out: Women are more likely to take family leave after the birth or adoption of a child, and are far more likely to serve as the primary caregiver for children.