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 approach* crossed 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.
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!
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