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The People’s Law School

January 6, 2022

By Thomas McCutcheon

This is my first column for 2022 and for the next few articles I am going to give an overview of basic law school courses and provide some insight into different areas of the law. Let’s start with a basic example. “Any lawyer worth their salt will tell the suspect, in no uncertain terms, to make no statement to the police under any circumstances”. That’s what United States Supreme Justice Robert Jackson said, and he is the only attorney to be the U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Attorney General, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

This statement recognizes so many different areas of the law that at first are not apparent. Everyone should recognize the direct reference to the Constitutional right not to speak. You can’t be compelled to be a witness against yourself in a criminal case. Straight Constitutional Law. It’s a full-year course in law school. But let’s go further. Most people think of this privilege only as a shelter for wrongdoers.

Have you ever heard of the Lacey Act? 16 U.S.C. §3370: “It is unlawful for any person… to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States or in violation of any Indian tribal law or regulation of any State or of any foreign law.”

You have no idea whether or not you have ever violated the Lacey Act. What if you had a lobster in a restaurant that was shorter than the legal requirement for length in another state? That’s a federal offense under the Lacey Act. The point being, that you have no idea what your client has done, and they don’t either. If your client gives a statement and it includes a violation of the law, then that statement comes into evidence. If it’s not a violation of law or against his interests, the police officer can’t testify to it because it’s hearsay. That’s a rule of evidence.

The point is that a legal problem that seems simple, will almost always implicate various areas of law. They all are interwoven and to an extent that they all must be considered. Law school consists of at least 18 core courses, each one of which is important.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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