Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MBE Fast Fact: The Right to a Speedy Trial

Though not tested all that frequently in Criminal Procedure questions, the right to a speedy trial is tested enough that I recommend knowing a couple of key points here. This right attaches once a person has been formally accused of a crime by the government. If the right is violated, the result will be a complete dismissal of the charges against the accused. There is a balancing test that courts use to determine whether the right has been violated. Consider the following factors in any question testing the right to a speedy trial:

--The length of the delay
--The reason for the delay
--The defendant's assertion of his or her right to a speedy trial
--The prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay.

Regarding that last factor, there are quite a few ways that defendant might be prejudiced by the delay.  Perhaps evidence is lost and the loss is caused by the delay. In addition, an undue delay might cause witnesses to be less able to recollect facts that will form the basis of testimony.  Even excess anxiety caused to the defendant resulting from the delay will suffice.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

MBE Fast Fact: The Taxing Power

I remember my Constitutional Law professor in law school mentioning that Constitutional Law can be broken down into two main areas: powers and limitations. I think he had a point.

There are quite a few congressional powers and one of those powers is the power to tax.  Specifically, Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare. And so with this rule in mind, it follows that a congressional act purporting to be a tax will be upheld if it raises revenue or if it was intended to raise revenue as raising revenue is deemed to be providing for the common defense and general welfare.

In addition, as long as Congress has the power to regulate the activity taxed, the necessary and proper clause can form a basis for Congress to tax that activity.

So, in short, it's best to remember that if Congress has the right to regulate an activity (as per a power granted to it in the Constitution) then the tax is very likely to be upheld as per the necessary and proper clause.  But even when Congress does not have the power to regulate an activity taxed, a tax will likely be upheld if its dominant intent is to raise revenue.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Few Thoughts:

As difficult as it is studying for a bar exam, the formula for passing isn't that complex. There are two components needed: you need to know the law, and you need to be skilled at applying the law that you know. The biggest mistake people make is to dedicate too much time to one component at the expense of the other. 
If you were learning how to play chess it wouldn't be enough to know the rules of the game. But many people go into the exam having spent too much time learning the rules and not enough time practicing how to play. But then it comes time to play the game. And you need to be really good at it. Not an expert, but really good. You're just not going to be very good at playing the game unless you've practiced how to play it by working through enough MBE questions, essays, etc.
And yet if all you've done is practice but have never taken the time to adequately learn the rules, your skills may be top-notch but you won't be able to use those skills to apply the correct law on the exam. 
Remember the two components: know the law, and know how to apply it. Nothing here is meant to imply that getting good at this game is easy. But approaching it with the correct strategy makes it far more likely you'll achieve the level required to pass!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Choice of Law in Contracts

Conflict of Laws is not a subject that is tested on its own on the MEE.  It does, however, show up as a sub-issue in essays testing other subjects and so it's important to understand well how this subject applies to the other subjects that might show up on the bar exam. Different areas of substantive law have different approaches to determining choice-of-law.  This post will focus on how to apply choice-of-law if faced with a contracts issue.  To gain full credit on these issues, you should discuss the various approaches that a court might take in determining which law will apply.

The crux of the issue here is that there will be laws that conflict (for example, the laws of different states), and the court will need to decide which law to apply. Sometimes, there is an express choice-of-law provision in the contract.  If so, that provision will generally apply and the court will apply the law as directed by the contract. The provision will not apply, however, if it is contrary to public policy or if there is no reasonable basis for the parties' choice.  Further, it will not apply if consent to the provision was given as a result of fraud, mistake, duress, etc.

The First Restatement of Contracts directs us to apply the law of the state where the contract was made for issues concerning the validity of the contract and construction of the contract.  The law of the place where the contract is to be performed governs issues relating to performance of the contract.

The Second Restatement of Contracts directs us to apply the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the contract.  There are quite a lot of factors that can be used to determine which state has the most significant relationship, including the following: the place of contracting, negotiation, and performance; the location of the contract's subject matter; and the domicile, residency, nationality, place of incorporation, and place of business of the parties.  Note that specific types of contracts have specific rules (for example, life insurance contracts are controlled by the law of the insured's domicile) but all of these specific rules can be overcome if the factors point to another state having a more significant relationship which will warrant applying the law of that particular state.

Finally, there is an interest analysis.  When applying the interest analysis, it should first be assumed that the forum will apply its own law.  If the forum has no interest in the litigation but another state does have an interest then this is known as a "false conflict." The forum should apply the law of the other state. If, on the other hand, the forum and another state both have an interest then we have a "true conflict" and the forum will apply its own law if it determines that it has a legitimate interest in the litigation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

UBE Essentials Now Available on Amazon

UBE Essentials combines the two volumes of the book MEE Essentials into one book.  As such, the resource contains every subject currently tested on the Uniform Bar Exam.

Specifically, there are chapters in each of the following subjects:

--Corporations & Limited Liability Companies
--Conflict of Laws
--Family Law
--UCC Article 9 Secured Transactions
--Civil Procedure
--Criminal Law
--Criminal Procedure
--Constitutional Law
--MPRE Essentials

I hope you'll find the resource helpful! It can be purchased @


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

MBE Percentiles (February 2017)

MBE Percentiles have been released for the February 2017 exam. The maximum scaled score on the MBE is 200 scaled points. For this exam a scaled score of 140 would place you in the 69th percentile.  Five more scaled points to a 145 is a jump of 12 percentile points to the 81st percentile.  To score in the 90th percentile would require a scaled score between 150-155.  Finally, the top percentile (99th) required a scaled score of 165.

Source of data @ https://www.ilbaradmissions.org/feb-2017-percentile-equivalent-charts

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Types of Collateral

Article 9 of the UCC (Secured Transactions) is difficult.  The complexity makes it daunting in the relatively short time available for students to learn it for the bar exam. But an important first step in getting a grip on this subject is to understand the different categories of collateral that can form the basis of a security interest.  The rules throughout this subject will often refer back to these categories (for example, some rules only apply to consumer goods, a type of tangible collateral) and building this foundation by simply understanding the types of collateral can set you up to far better understand the subject as a whole.

In total there are 3 main categories with sub-categories within each one to keep in mind.  The three main categories are tangible collateral, intangible collateral, and proceeds.

I:  Tangible Collateral (often referred to as "goods"):

(1):  Consumer goods:
These are goods bought or used for personal, family, or household purposes.

(2):  Inventory:
These are goods held for sale or lease and goods consumed by a business.

(3):  Farm products:
These are goods used or produced in farming that are in the possession of or used by a farmer.

(4): Equipment:
These are goods that do not fit within any of the 3 above categories.

II:  Intangible Collateral

(1): Instruments:
Instruments include notes, drafts, and certificates of deposit.

(2):  Documents:
Documents include bills of lading and warehouse receipts.

(3)  Chattel Paper:
Chattel paper are records evidencing both a monetary obligation and a security interest in specific goods or a lease of specific goods.

(4):  Accounts:
These are rights to payment for goods, services, etc.

(5):  Deposit Accounts:
These are savings accounts, passbook accounts, etc.

(6):  Investment Property:
These include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, etc.

(7):  Commercial tort claims:
These are tort claims filed by organizations and tort claims filed by an individual that arose out of the individual's business and do not involve personal injury.

(8):  General intangibles:
These are intangibles not fitting within any of the above 7 types of intangibles.

III: Proceeds

Proceeds include whatever is received upon the sale, exchange, collection or other disposition of collateral or other proceeds.  Insurance payable by reason of loss or damage to collateral is also deemed to be proceeds unless it is payable to someone other than the debtor or secured party.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

An area of some complexity that shows up in Family Law is jurisdiction for child custody cases.  And when I'm working with students who are preparing for the MEE, it's an area we spend some time on because it's important to know it well should it show up on the exam.  In other words, it could amount to a large percentage of the points in any given essay.

The Act to understand well in this regard is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act which is far too many words and so after mentioning it once in an essay, just call it the UCCJEA.  The purpose of the Act is to avoid jurisdictional disputes with courts of other states in matters of child custody and visitation as well as promote interstate cooperation. It also aims to facilitate the interstate enforcement of custody and visitation orders.

And so a question may be raised in a fact pattern as to which state has jurisdiction to initially enter or to modify a child custody or visitation order.  First, we look to the home state of the child. A child's home state is the state in which the child lived with a parent (or a person acting as parent) for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of the proceeding.  If the child is less than six months old then the home state will be the state where the child has lived since birth disregarding temporary absences.  A court in the home state of the child will have jurisdiction to enter or modify a custody or visitation order

It's possible, though, that a child had a home state (had been living in the state for at least 6 consecutive months) and within the last six months has moved out of state.  A court in the state that was recently the child's home state will have jurisdiction to enter a custody order if a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in that state.

Further, it's also possible that no state will satisfy the home state test as stated above.  If no state has or accepts home state jurisdiction then a court will have jurisdiction to enter or modify a custody or visitation order if that court sits in a state in which the child and at least one parent (or persons acting as parents) have a significant connection and if substantial evidence concerning the child is available in that state.

When analyzing jurisdiction for these purposes, I would first look to apply the home state rules and then move on to the significant connection test if necessary.  And then note that the court that made the initial custody or visitation determination has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the matter until neither the child nor the child's parents (or persons acting as a parent) continue to reside in the state or the child no longer has a significant connection with the state and substantial evidence relating to the matter is no longer available in the state.

Even if a court has jurisdiction as outlined above, the court may choose to decline jurisdiction if it determines that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court in another state is a more appropriate forum.  Finally, note that under some extreme circumstances, a court may have temporary emergency jurisdiction even if the general jurisdiction rules as outlined above are not satisfied.  This should be applied sparingly, though; a court will have temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child has been abandoned or if it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, the child's sibling(s), or the child's parent is threatened with or subjected to abuse.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Actual, Apparent, and Inherent Authority

If you happen to get a Partnerships essay on the MEE, the chances are quite high that Agency issues will be mixed within.  And a very common Agency issue deals with the authority that an agent (for example a partner in a partnership) has to act for the principal (for example, the partnership).  This post will review three types of authority that should be known well going into the exam:

Actual Authority:  Actual authority is the authority that the agent reasonably believes s/he possesses based on the principal's dealings with the agent.  This type of authority may be express or implied.  Express is pretty straight-forward; look for an agency agreement and if the authority is stated within that agreement then express authority has been granted to the agent.  Implied authority is that which the agent reasonably believes s/he has as a result of the principal's actions even if there is no express agreement stating as such.

Apparent Authority: Apparent authority arises from the reasonable beliefs of third parties.  In other words, if a principal directly or indirectly holds out another as possessing certain authority and such holding out induces reasonable reliance by another that the agent has such authority, the agent will have apparent authority to act on behalf of the principal even if as between the agent and principal the definition of actual authority (either express or implied) has not been satisfied.  One way to think about this is that the principal will be estopped from denying that the agent has authority to act for the principal if the principal has acted in a way that would lead a reasonable person to believe that such authority was in fact granted.

Inherent Authority:  Even if the agent has no actual or apparent authority, the agent might still have the inherent authority to act on behalf of the principal.  Sometimes, courts wish to protect innocent third parties rather than the principal when an agent acts on behalf of the principal.  As such, the law will hold the principal liable for the acts the agent.  A very common example of inherent authority is respondeat superior in which an employer will be held liable for the acts of an employee that occur within the scope of the employee's employment.

There is more to say on this topic for sure (for example, how authority is terminated.)  Future posts will delve deeper into this commonly tested area.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Limited Liability Companies

Limited Liability Companies ("LLC's") is a trendy topic on the MEE.  So much so that the most recent update to my book MEE Essentials will contain a more in-depth discussion of this topic.  A foundational area to understand here is the differences between member-managed LLC's and manager-manager LLC's.

Member-Managed LLC's:
With this type of management structure, each member owes to each other member as well as to the LLC duties of care and loyalty.  In addition, each member must discharge their obligations consistent with good faith and fair dealing. Most importantly to remember here is that there are obligations that members have that they do not necessarily have under other management structures such as will be listed below (under manager-managed LLC's).

Regarding the duty of loyalty, a member must account to the LLC for any benefit derived in connection with the LLC's business and must refrain from dealing adversely with the LLC (unless the transaction is deemed fair by the LLC).  Further, the members must refrain from competing with the LLC's business.  These acts, however, may be authorized even though they would generally violate the duty of loyalty if authorization is provided by the other members after full disclosure has been provided to the other members.

Under the duty of care, members must act with the care that a person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances, in a manner reasonably believed to be in the best interest of the LLC.  This standard shows up elsewhere and is known as the 'business judgement rule.'

Manager-Managed LLC's:
Here, the duties of loyalty and care are different for managers and members.  Although both retain the obligation of good faith and fair dealing, only the managers are subject to the duties of loyalty and care as discussed above for member-managed LLC's.  Further, only the members may authorize or ratify an act by a manager that would otherwise violate the duty of loyalty.

Lastly, it should be noted a member-managed LLC is presumed unless the operating agreement of the LLC provides otherwise.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Intestate Distribution

When studying for Wills on the MEE, the Uniform Probate Code is the governing law.  Wills can get complicated, though, and it's sometimes best to contrast the uniform rules with state rules that might differ from the Uniform Code.  One such area deals with the means by which descendants (such as children) of a decedent take their shares of the estate.

In some states a decedent's descendants take their shares per capita with representation.  Essentially, this means that property is divided into equal shares at the first generational level at which there are living takers.  Each living person at that level takes a share, and the share of each deceased person at that level passes to his issue by right of representation.  I've always found that language to be difficult, and an example might help:

Let's say that A has three children: B, C, and D.  One of A's children, B, has 2 children: E and F.  Another of A's children, C, has 3 children: G, H, and I.  The last of A's children, D, has no children.   When A dies, 2 of his children, B and C, have already died.

Let's say that A dies with an estate worth $300,000 and all the property is going to pass to his children.   If applying per capita by representation, the $300,000 will first be split equally among A's children (B, C, and D) so that each gets $100,000.   B, however has already died so his $100,000 will pass to his 2 children (E and F) and C has already died so his $100,000 share will pass to his 3 children (G, H, and I).

How will this all result?  D who is alive will take $100,000.  E and F will share $100,000 equally ($50,000 each).   And G, H, and I will share $100,000 equally ($100,000/3 each).

Things change with the Uniform Probate Code, however.  The Uniform Code applies per capita at each generational level.  Here, the initial division of shares is again made at the first generational level in which there are living takers.  But the shares of deceased persons at that level are combined and then divided equally among the takers at the next generational level.  Let's look at the differences:

Applying the same situation as above, when A dies, two of his children, B and C, have already died.  This time, however, we will take the shares of B and C and combine them and then distribute that combination equally to all who are entitled to take from both B and C.

In other words, using this method (and this is the method to apply on the exam), D still takes his $100,000 as he is alive.  But we will combine the shares of B and C ($100,000+$100,000=$200,000) and divide them equally among all 5 children of B and C.

So, D takes $100,000.  And E, F, G, H, and I, each take $200,000/5=$40,000.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Good Luck!

All best to those who are taking the bar exam this week!!

Posting to resume shortly to assist those who are preparing for the July exam.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


"The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed - it is a process of elimination."

Remember the above quote when taking the MBE next week. There are no tips or tricks that are going to make this test easy but in my view it is easier to spot errors in the distractors than it is to spot the one perfect answer in any given question. Every wrong answer must be wrong for a very specific reason.

In fact, if you're looking for the perfect answer you may never find it; oftentimes the correct answer on the MBE is correct only because it is better than all of the others.

And so work your way to the correct answer by eliminating all the answers that are worse than the last one remaining.  This alone will increase your score!  Confirm that you believe it to be correct, but even if you aren't certain, be confident in that answer since it remains after the rest have been eliminated.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Spendthrift Provisions (Trusts)

A common question I often get in the final weeks before the bar exam deals with study strategy.  As the exam approaches it becomes much harder to cover everything that might potentially show up on the exam.  I think it's important to be sure not to go into the test having not reviewed a subject hoping that subject won't show up.  But it is also important, especially when time is short, to focus your studying on the subjects that are most likely to be tested.

Trusts has shown up with some real frequency on the MEE.  A spendthrift clause in a trust precludes a beneficiary from voluntarily or involuntarily transferring his/her interest in the trust.  As such, creditors are precluded from reaching the trust to satisfy their claims. Importantly, note that once income has been distributed to the beneficiary, the creditors can then reach that income; it is only the income interest that the creditors cannot reach!

There are some exceptions to note:  A spendthrift clause cannot be used shield the beneficiary from his/her own creditors where the beneficiary is also the settlor.  In other words, a settlor cannot create a trust whereby the settlor is the beneficiary of the trust with a spendthrift clause if the purpose was merely to shield him/herself from creditors  Further, claims for support, alimony, and necessities as well as claims by the government are valid and will withstand a spendthrift provision.  Lastly, any creditor can reach a mandatory distribution of income or principal if the trustee did not make that distribution within a reasonable time.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

MEE Fast Fact: Attachment (Secured Transactions)

Not only is secured transactions a very complex subject but it is tested with some frequency on the MEE.   There's plenty to say about this subject but an initial place to begin is with the concept of attachment. A security interest will not be enforced unless it has first attached.  Essentially, this means that the secured party will have no rights against the debtor unless there has been an attachment of a security interest.  And attachment requires the following:

(1): The parties (the secured party and the debtor) must agree to create a security interest.  Evidence of this agreement can be accomplished in a few ways, one of which is the creditor taking possession of the collateral (personal property of the debtor).  In addition, the interest can be evidenced by the debtor authenticating a security agreement describing the collateral.  Finally, the agreement can be evidenced by the secured party taking control of certain types of collateral.

(2): In addition to the evidence outlined above, value must be given by the secured party to the debtor.

(3): Lastly, the debtor must have ownership rights in the property used as collateral.

If all three elements above are satisfied, a security interest has attached.  That's just the beginning, but it's a good place to start.