Bar Exam Tip: Bar Exam Predictions, Criminal Law Murder

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Hello Everyone,

Thank you again for following the blog. We are almost at 700,00 site visits, so thank you!

I have not yet released my predictions publicly, but I will. Please understand that my enrolled students get access to the predictions first. Our last Bar Exam Cram Session on July 18th and 19th will be the last time we release predictions in our classroom setting. At that point all of our students will have my predictions. Once our students have had an opportunity to have the predictions, I will begin releasing these publicly on the site. It will likely be (as always) the week before the bar exam. For more information about our last Bar Exam Cram Session, click here, we still have some spots left.

In the meantime, however, I wanted to post an approach for Criminal Law Murder. I personally think that Criminal Law Murder is due. While Criminal Law has been tested several times in recent years (including showing up back to back on two consecutive bar rounds), the bar examiners have not tested Criminal Law Murder in several years. So, I think it is safe to say that it is coming soon.

First, a few words about my “predictions” . . .

I can not predict what will be on the bar exam. I have had a lot of luck in making the predictions that I make. I am glad of that. I spend a great deal of time reviewing several years of past exams and put in a lot of effort to come up with these predictions. However, no one can predict the bar exam. And, whatever you hear about predictions, you should NOT study based upon predictions. That being said, I think it is helpful to think about possible essay scenarios that might be a bit more likely to show up on the bar exam because these areas have not been tested in some time.

Also, understand – my theory and philosophy towards the bar exam is to be ready for anything – I firmly believe that is the best way to prepare. So, whether or not Criminal Law Murder shows up on the bar exam this July 2015, you want to walk into the bar exam prepared to write a Criminal Law Murder Essay. That is how you want to prepare for the bar exam.

The following is from an earlier post that I wrote covering the basic murder approach that we have seen traditionally embraced by the California bar examiners. You may have come across this post earlier if you have been searching through older posts. If so, this will be familiar to you – either way it is a good refresher.

Incidentally, if murder were to show up on the exam on day one or day three of the July 2015 bar exam, then I would not be surprised if it were crossed over with some of the lesser tested areas of Criminal Procedure. We have not seen any 8th Amendment issues in some time (see the “Free Stuff” page for a free download of an exam template for this area) and we also have not seen much testing of the 6th Amendment areas of void dire (peremptory challenges, right to an impartial jury, etc.). So these areas could easily be tested this bar round. Evidence is also an area that can repeat and sometimes we see it as a cross-over with Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (and if you read my post from a few days ago – we have seen it tested with Wills and Community Property as a cross over with marital and spousal privileges).

It is this simple – as I have always maintained over the many years of writing this blog – the bar examiners can test anything on any bar exam round. I do not say this to send you into a panic. It is simply true. As a result, there will be topics that you are hoping for and there will probably be a few you hope not to get – that is the nature of the bar exam. But, you can do it, do NOT give up no matter what you see on the exam. And, remember, you have time to prepare adequately.

The bar exam is still weeks away. I know it does not seem like much time. But, if you use it effectively, then you can absolutely prepare in time. Our students in our last Bar Exam Cram Session generally come in without any approaches to the bar exam and yet, they are able to take the approaches we provide in class and memorize these and write the bar exam using these approaches. So, you have time now to start working on these things. I had to come up with my own approaches to the essays because the commercial bar prep companies at that time were not providing essay approaches. In fact, they still don’t. If I can come up with my own, you can too. Take control over your own bar studies and make certain you prepare from here on forward in such a way that you will know how to write any essay that you face. And, remember you should prepare for every topic, because any topic could come up.

YOU NEED TO HAVE AN APPROACH FOR EACH TOPIC

As a bar taker you will undoubtedly walk into the bar exam and have a very good grasp of the rules for Murder. However, it is very important that you are able to make your way through all of the necessary points efficiently and in a manner that the grader will recognize as a passing or above passing answer. This requires an essay approach. You should walk into the bar exam with approaches to every topic (each bar subject has either one approach or several. For example, Contracts really only has one approach – the approach for Contracts is essentially the same regardless of the Contracts essay, the only differences being whether you write on the Common Law of Contracts only or if you have a UCC exam. On the other hand, Torts has several approaches – a defamation approach, a products liability approach, a negligence approach a torts/remedies approach and a miscellaneous torts approach. I will do my best to write more on these topics as I have time).

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO START WRITING AN ESSAY

My point is that there is a lot you can do to effectively prepare for the bar exam now so that on exam day you know exactly what to do, what to write, how to start your essay, etc.. You should NOT be trying to figure this out on exam day. If you are in that position, you are likely to fail. So please take it upon yourself to prepare NOW for these situations. You know that you are going to have to write essays – so figure out ahead of time how you will start each topic.

Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. (Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach – this will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach).

APPROACH FOR HANDLING A CRIMINAL LAW MURDER QUESTION

First address: Common Law Murder – Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies – watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR felony) felony – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony)

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).

Manslaughter

There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter)

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can – this has not been tested in years), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all work to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

Thank you again for following the blog!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar Exam Cram Session & Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

California Bar Exam: Criminal Law Murder Approach

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Hello Everyone,

Thank you again for following the blog. I mentioned earlier that murder might be on the exam. It has been absent for some time and would seem to be due. Of course, anything is possible. And, if you were studying for the bar at any time in the past couple of years, then you will know that many have been predicting a murder exam for some time. It was on my list of possible essay scenarios for July 2014 (along with Criminal Procedure – which did actually show up on the last exam).

But, most seem to have put aside the idea of a Criminal Murder exam showing up on this bar exam. I would not do that. (But, understand – my theory and philosophy towards the bar exam is to be ready for anything – I firmly believe that is the best way to prepare). And, if you have studied past bar exams, you know that on any particular bar round any subject is possible. Since murder has not been tested in a very long time, it would be a good idea to be prepared for it. The following is from an earlier post that I wrote covering the basic murder approach that we have seen traditionally embraced by the California bar examiners. You may have come across this post earlier if you have been searching through older posts. If so, this will be familiar to you – either way it is a good refresher.

Incidentally, if murder were to show up on the exam on day one or day three of the February 2015 bar exam, then I would not be surprised if it were crossed over with some of the lesser tested areas of Criminal Procedure. We have not seen any 8th Amendment issues in some time (see the “Free Stuff” page for a free download of an exam template for this area) and we also have not seen much testing of the 6th Amendment areas of void dire (peremptory challenges, right to an impartial jury, etc.). So these areas could easily be tested this bar round. Evidence is also an area that can repeat and sometimes we see it as a cross-over with Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (and if you read my post from a few days ago – we have seen it tested with Wills and Community Property as a cross over with marital and spousal privileges).

It is this simple – as I have always maintained over the many years of writing this blog – the bar examiners can test anything on any bar exam round. I do not say this to send you into a panic. It is simply true. As a result, there will be topics that you are hoping for and there will probably be a few you hope not to get – that is the nature of the bar exam. But, you can do it, do NOT give up no matter what you see on the exam –  write your heart out tomorrow.

Did you know that many topics show up back to back (from one bar round to the next) sometimes even three times in a row? Therefore, all bets are simply off on presuming something is not likely to come up.

My main focus in writing during the bar exam days is to simply provide you with something to hang onto, some peace of mind and hopefully even a little bit of sanity.  

I know how demanding and draining and how seemingly impossible taking this exam can sometimes feel like to examinees. But, it doesn’t have to be that way – sometimes a few words of encouragement – or a quick review of an approach – like the approach below :) – can be all a person needs to make that little bit of difference between passing and failing. That is why I write here. I tell you this as a source of encouragement: it is completely normal to be a little bit freaked out about tomorrow (assuming you are awake – like most, and are thinking about the exam). This is normal. It is also normal to feel somewhat calm – we are all different. There is no one size fits all approach to this exam. Ideally you would get a good nights sleep before the bar exam. Some do. I never did – and yet I passed. So where ever you are at (asleep early or awake still and reading this post) you can do it!

OKAY – WHAT TO DO IF YOU WERE TO GET A CRIMINAL LAW MURDER ESSAY TOMORROW (OR THURSDAY)?

As a bar taker you undoubtedly have a very good grasp of the rules for Murder. However, it is very important that you are able to make your way through all of the necessary points efficiently and in a manner that the grader will recognize as a passing or above passing answer.

Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. (Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach – this will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach).

Approach for handling a murder question:

Address: Common Law Murder – Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies – watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR felony) felony – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony)

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).

Manslaughter

There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter)

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be in the context of Criminal Procedure (specifically in the context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment).

Best of luck to you all!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

Bar Exam: Criminal Law Murder Approach

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Hello Everyone,

I mentioned that murder might be on the exam. It has been absent for some time and would seem to be due. Of course, anything is possible. But, since murder has not been tested in a very long time. it would be a good idea to be prepared for it. As a bar taker you undoubtedly have a very good grasp of the rules for Murder. However, it is very important that you are able to make your way through all of the necessary points efficiently and in a manner that the grader will recognize as a passing or above passing answer.

Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. (Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach – this will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach).

Approach for handling a murder question:

Address: Common Law Murder – Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies – watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR felony) felony – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony)

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).

Manslaughter

There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter)

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be in the context of Criminal Procedure (specifically in the context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment).

Best of luck to you all!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

February 2013 Bar Exam Tip: Shorthand Murder Essay Approach

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Hello Everyone,

I wish all of you who are studying for the February 2013 bar exam this week the very best of luck!

I mentioned that murder might be on your upcoming bar exam. It has been absent for some time and would seem to be due. Of course, anything is possible. But, many will presume that Criminal Law and Procedure is not going to be tested simply because it was tested on the preceding bar exam. Remember, the bar examiners do repeat subjects from one bar round to the next – back to back. And, murder (while within Criminal Law) was not tested on the last bar exam. And, murder has not been tested in a very long time. As a result, I would be prepared for it.

Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. (Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach – this will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer if you have an approach going into the exam).

Shorthand approach for handling a murder question:

Address: Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies – watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR felony) felony – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony)

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).

Manslaughter

There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter)

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be in the context of Criminal Procedure (specifically in the context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment). I will write more on that possible scenario soon.

Best of luck to you all!
Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
barnonereview.com

California Bar Exam Predictions: July 2012 – Part Two

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Hello All,

The bar exam is one week from today. So here are more of my “predictions”. Remember that I use the word predictions loosely. However, I really do think that it is helpful to think of potential exam scenarios. I pass these along to my students throughout our review course. And, now I am passing some of these along to you.

So here are my thoughts:

So far we have suggested Civil Procedure and Criminal Law & Procedure. I want to make a few additional comments about Criminal Law/Procedure: First of all, as I stated in my previous post (“Part One”) Criminal Procedure has not been tested since July of 2010 (four bar administrations ago). That is a long time for it to be absent. What is also significant (at least I attach significance to this) is what was tested and what was not tested on the past Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure essays:

July 2011: Criminal Law was tested without Criminal Procedure (the Criminal Law issues were: burglary, robbery, larceny, criminal battery and accomplice liability issues – no murder)

July 2010: Both Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure were tested (the Criminal Law issue was kidnapping – no murder, the Criminal Procedure issues were: 4th Amendment admissibility issues – which are very typical and common – and a guilty plea issue – not so common – no 5th Amendment, no 8th Amendment).

So, here is what I think you should keep in mind: 1) Criminal Law and Procedure is a likely topic – know it, 2) Criminal Law and Procedure may very well not be on the exam, but KNOW IT, 3) if you were to be tested on Criminal Law and Procedure it would seem like a cross over with Murder (the whole Murder approachcrossed with Criminal Procedure issues is likely.

*Note: For a good example of how to address murder in a quick fashion, search this blog for: “shorthand murder approach”

The 4th and 5th Amendments are always likely in this context. But, what hasn’t been tested in some time are the jury issues (6th Amendment) that can come up within the context of a murder exam. For example, peremptory challenges on the basis of not believing in the death penalty and then an 8th Amendment issue about the constitutionality of imposition of the death penalty (the most commonly tested aspect of 8th Amendment imposition of the death penalty issues are: the requirements that there be guidelines and discretion (discretion to impose – “automatic imposition” of the death penalty is NOT allowed, anything that would require a judge or jury to automatically impose a death sentence would be unconstitutional) and allowance of mitigating factors (defendant must be allowed to present mitigating evidence, also hearsay evidence IS allowed in the penalty/sentencing phase).

In addition to the above, you should be cognizant of issues that can come up in the context of the imposition of the death penalty and felony murder – imposition of the death penalty will not be allowed where a co-felon was not a major participant in the felony murder).

Review the 8th Amendment in general (search this site for “8th Amendment Template” (I released it as a download in a prior post – you should be able to easily find it by searching the blog for it. It covers both the capital punishment issue as well as bail issues (another area I would review).

The above issues are things that I would want to brush up on. Just as likely is a very run of the mill, straight forward, Criminal Law Murder crossed with 4th and 5th Amendment issues. Still, be ready for any of the above.

Okay, that is what I wanted to pass along about Criminal Law and Procedure.

NEXT:

Torts – Products Liability or Miscellaneous Torts (miscellaneous torts like: Abuse of Process & Malicious Prosecution). So it should be no real surprise that I think Products Liability is a likely possibility (see last February for my “predictions” where I indicated “IF you were to be tested on Torts, here is what I think might be likely . . . products liability . . .” ).

So, if you were to get Products Liability (or defamation, or any other topic) would you know how to start your exam? You should work on having an introduction to sort of get the ball rolling and to use as a framework for the organization of your exam. Remember, Products Liability is a race-horse exam. As a result, you do not have a lot of time to think about it, you simply have to get writing. So, having a canned up approach ahead of time (one of the cornerstones of our program) is not only a good idea, I think it is a necessity. 

Here is a good introductory statement: The plaintiff may have claim against defendant (here, insert the defendant or defendants plaintiff is suing) for Products Liability. A Products Liability claim may be based upon the following theories: 1) Intentional Tort, 2) Negligence, 3) Strict Liability (for defective products), 4) Implied Warranty theories and 5) Express Warranty.

Something like the above is very handy. It will work on virtually any Products Liability exam even if your particular essay ends with a discussion of Implied Warranty of Merchantability  and does not have any relevant discussion for Implied Warranty of Fitness for Particular Purpose or Express Warranty. Why is this the case? Because you have just, in one quick paragraph, at the very beginning of your exam, told the grader that YOU know what you are talking about, that you get it. You can modify the above paragraph, but, keep in mind that laying it out ahead of time not only puts the grader at ease with your knowledge and where you are going, it also anchors YOU in an approach. It is much easier to write from this position – having an approach.

Community Property – Value Enhanced Separate Property Business Like many, I think Community Property is likely. I would definitely know the two tests for determining the Community Property interests in a separate property business that has increased in value (Van Camp and Pereira). One of these tests favors separate property and one favors community property (meaning that one favors finding more of the value to be considered separate property and the other favors finding more of the value of the business to be considered community property).

So how does this come up? Often it comes up where an ex-spouse is attempting to collect for child support – and you have to determine whether the ex-spouse can reach a separate property business. Here is an example: Wilma and Hank were married in 2001. In 1999 Wilma opened a brokerage account. Wilma continued to manage her brokerage account through the course of her marriage to Hank. The brokerage account increased in value. Wilma and Hank divorce in 2012. The call of the question is whether Wendy, Hank’s first wife, who has obtained a judgment for past due child support may reach Wilma’s brokerage account.

Keep in mind, it could be any creditor of Hanks that is trying to reach Wilma’s brokerage account.

The key is to recognize that the only way you can properly answer this call of the question is to apply the tests (Van Camp and Periera) for value enhanced businesses so that you can determine what portion of the business is considered Community Property and therefore what Wendy (or any other creditor) can reach.

You should always address BOTH tests, even if you believe that based upon the facts, one test is more applicable than the other. If you do feel you can make that call – then simply bring up both and weigh in on which test you think is more applicable. But, remember the bar examiners really want to see your breadth of knowledge – so bringing up both tests is important.

You may not be given numbers to deal with and you need to be comfortable with the absence of numbers.  You may also get numbers (what Wilma initially used as start up capital for her business, what it is now worth today, etc.). So either is an option. Review past exams for how the bar expects you to deal with this – it is simpler than you might think.

What is Goodwill – another consideration for community property when dealing with a separate property business is the concept of goodwill. This is something that is important to address when you have a separate property business that has NOT increased in value. In these situations, a court may assign a value to the “goodwill” of the business. For example, any business where there are repeat customers and/or a good reputation, long standing business, etc. the concept of goodwill is important to mention. The goodwill of a business has some value – the fact that there will be continued customers, a future business, etc.

Therefore, if you end up in the situation on the exam where you have a separate property business, but, there is no increase in value or the business has gone down in value, the non-owner spouse may receive some interest based upon the “goodwill” of the business.

With respect to Community Property, be sure to be ready for any issues and remember that you MUST know the introductory paragraph for Community Property. You should have it as I do not know if any bar review course that does not provide it (and if for some reason you do not have it, you ought to be able to find it in virtually any California bar released answer for Community Property). Still, if for some reason you can not find it, feel free to email me or leave a comment here and I will provide one for you.

Okay, that is it for right now. Do a search for the “Shorthand Murder Approach” (I put this up in a blog post for the February 2012 bar exam, it is easily found by searching this blog for” shorthand murder approach”).

Stay tuned . . . there is more to come.

Good luck to everyone who is studying for the July 2012 bar exam!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831
barnonereview.com

California Bar Exam Tips: July 2012 Bar Exam Predictions are on the way!

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Hello all,

I will be posting my “predictions” for the July 2012 bar exam later today.

In addition, I will post tips each day between now and the bar exam. Topics will include: how to study in the final days and hours, likely essay scenarios, as well as quick approaches for some of the possible essay topics.

So be sure to check back here on a regular basis.

Also, I am taking questions, so please feel free to email me if you have a question you would like to ask and I will do my best to answer it for you. You can email me at: pass@barnonereview.com (My enrolled students are my first priority. However, I will do my best to answer any questions that I can between now and the bar exam).

In the mean time, take a look at some of the study plans on this blog. It is very important to have a plan of attack for the remaining days leading up to the exam. While I have provided sample study plans, your plan can vary. It is more important that you have a plan for each day than your following every aspect of the suggested plans on this site. The key is to mix it up – rotate in multiple subjects into your review each day and be sure to spend a significant amount of time reviewing past essays – this is critical. Do not test yourself on these essays – simply read the fact pattern two or three times and then study the answer(s).

This is one of the best ways to prepare in the final days leading up to the bar exam. Most examinees make the mistake of spending all of their time cramming and memorizing the law and end up neglecting the essays. It is so important to see how the issues come up (how the issues are tested) on the California bar exam. No outline will accomplish this for you. And sadly, most examinees spend most of their time in outlines – divorced from the actual exam. My advice to you today and for next 7 days is to review as many past essays as possible. This is how you will improve your issue spotting and handling of the essays on the actual day. Also, it will greatly increase the likelihood that on the bar you will see essays that you have already seen all or part of before. How great would that be? You can make that happen by simply reviewing many essays every day.

Not only will review – right before the actual exam – of past essays improve your chances of spotting the correct issues, this essay review really is a substantive review. By reviewing four Civil Procedure essays in a row, you will have a much better understanding of how to approach the subject if it shows up on the exam. By the way, I am predicting Civil Procedure. This is a fairly obvious pick. Of course, it may or may not be there. But, if it is, it would probably be nice to know that the last time the California bar examiners tested In Personam Jurisdiction (the full minimum contacts analysis) was in 2006. And, this essay is no longer on the California bar exam website . . . interesting. This does not mean that Civil Procedure is a definite for the exam. But, it does mean that personal jurisdiction (specifically in personam jurisdiction) is due. Many things are “due” or “up”. All of this being said – no one can predict this exam. Nor should you direct your studies away from a topic because it isn’t on someone’s list of predicted topics. That would be very, very foolish.

So, read lots and lots of essay exams and answers. This will increase your issue spotting skills, serve as a substantive review that is in the actual context of the exam, and increase the chances of your actually seeing the exact or nearly exact essay or essays on the actual bar exam.

I will post again later today with my thoughts on what I believe is most likely to be tested. Keep in mind that anything can be tested. Do not dismiss any topic. First Amendment Speech was once tested three times back to back. Many other subjects have been tested three times in a row. Anything is possible. However, I will post what I think is more probable and provide essay scenarios of what I believe could come up on this exam.

Be sure to check back here for more and be sure to let others you know who are studying about my blog.

Remember that you can accomplish so much in these final days. This is really the most important time. You will be relying heavily on short term memory, so make certain that you study well in these last days. I am always stunned at how some examinees will say: “If I don’t already know it now, it is too late”. That could not be more untrue. It is NOT too late. Read essays, read essays, read essays!

I wish all who are studying for this exam the very best of luck!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
barnonereview.com

February 2012 Bar Exam Tip: Shorthand Murder Approach

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Okay all, this is likely the last post for the night (unless I think of something else).

Here is a quick murder approach – I am providing this because if you do end up with a Criminal Law(murder) cross over with Criminal Procedure (which certainly could happen), then you will need to make your way through your murder approach fairly quickly.

Here is quick shorthand approach for handling a murder question:

Address: Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intend to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.

(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, I am not expecting the examiners to test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies, instead, IF they ware to test felony murder I would expect to see it in the context of a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or something like that – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a c/l enumerated (BARRKS) felony)

Then move onto:

Statutory Degrees of Murder

First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).

Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).

Manslaughter

There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).

Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.

There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.

Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.

Best of luck to you all!