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Entering Law School

Summer Reading for a New 1L

Entering Law School;
Embrace the Bramble Bush

by Claudia Valenzuela

The Bramble Bush

There was a man in our town
And he was wond’rous wise;
He jumped into a bramble bush
And scratched out both his eyes.
And when he saw his eyes were out,
With all his might and main
He jumped into another bush
And scratched them in again.

– L. Frank Baum

A week ago Tuesday, I received the last acceptance letter of three law school applications

I had submitted a month earlier. Two letters came with scholarship offers; one came with an offer of acceptance and a promise of more details to follow. Each school had their own outreach methods and enrollment materials, enticing me to enroll and sign on the dotted line NOW NOW NOW!!! I had three great options before me, and I was honored to have such a choice to make.

I knew which choice would be right for me and my family.

Yes, my family.

No, not my parents, not my legal guardian, or anyone who could claim me as a dependent on their taxes.

My family: my seven children and my partner in crime, David.

We had just done this dance, this painstakingly long, law school waltz; culminating on May 17th at 7:15 pm when we received David’s California Bar Exam results – PASS. He did it! We did it! The kids did it! The 5-year journey was finally over.

Well, not really…

It was my turn to decide whether I would allow this jealous mistress into my life. I knew her very well.

For five years, she lived in my home, in my bed, in my car, on my dining room table, in my garage. She went on my vacations, our kids’ school events, our sons’ little league games; she was selfish and demanded frequent attention.

This mistress was the law. And I had had enough of her. She took David away from us physically but mostly mentally because he always had her on his mind.

But, as many who have tried to dissuade me from my lifelong commitment to a naive and stoopid 4th-grade girl inside me have learned, I may not be of sound mind. So, I will be inviting this all-consuming lady for the next dance come August.

Having managed to steer my family out the bramble bush once, I have decided to that we will now jump back in.

I am in my “late post-twenties”, in a loving committed relationship with seven kids, a full-time job, several board commitments, a part-time gig teaching cooking classes, a school mom.

And I am a 1L.

Not only does this sound like a recipe for disaster, she, the law, didn’t even have the decency to allow me to celebrate, adjust, or contemplate the facts in my sad case. Along with one of my acceptance letters was an invitation to take a six-week summer enrichment program that is designed to help “ease me into” the role of a 1L. The course started three days ago. Of course, I signed up. Because it makes perfect sense…

So this summer, instead of playing hooky from work to go to my kids’ swim lessons, play at the beach, take a family vacation up the coast, or jet across the pond to Le Bourget for the Paris Air Show, I will be reading The Bramble Bush.

Kids, I love you all. I will miss you terribly. And yes, I will still cook for you.

David, I will try to let go, let you do for me what I did for you. It will be hard for me to let go because – as you know – my way is the best way. And how will you know the best way if I’m not around to tell you?

I must go now because its 11:57pm, I’m three days into this dance, and I’m already two weeks behind. I will need my sleep. If I let her, this selfish, demanding bitch will take that from me, too.



Am I too vague?

Week one of law school is under my belt, and I’m proud of myself; I’m no more of a hot mess than I typically am. I’ll put that one into the WIN column.

This week was surprisingly fun.

I’m enjoying law school despite the fact that I’m the oldest person in the room by a decade. I’m hopeful that – come August – I will have a compadre or commadre (or two) who are also juggling work, family and school. I may propose a secret sign or handshake that those troublemaking youngsters won’t be able to understand, but the “old, wise Responsibles” will totally get.

So… I’m over it. By it, I mean the vagueness doctrine. Four days of school, four days of cases related to whether or not something is constitutional or unconstitutional because it’s vague. Okay, I think I get the point – you must be given fair notice and it cannot encourage arbitrary discriminatory enforcement. Done. Next. I know this stuff isn’t easy; I know that it means something, and it’s a real life legal question, but it’s okay to be over it in four days, right? Of course, I kid. I know that in the fall I will be swimming in a sea of cases not knowing which way is up and just trying to keep my head above water.

I did some thinking about this vagueness doctrine and how it relates to me and my family. Upon reading the cases, I realized that sometimes I can be vague – too vague and too arbitrary. My poor children live with a woman who doesn’t always give them fair notice about what conduct she expects; and at times, these “ordinary people,” my children, are brought up on charges that are arbitrarily and discriminatorily enforced; and they are punished for them.

I started out feeling a little bad about it. I thought about making myself clearer and explaining what I expect to them so that there would be no question what conduct I expect. But I stopped myself.

I must run these seven kids like a military unit. Otherwise, daily home life would be too much to handle. Beds, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, reading toddlers bed time stories…how the heck would we get it all done if they didn’t help contribute to the greater good?

That’s when I remembered Parker v. Levy. Ah, yes, the good ol’ military. I knew last week would pay off in one form or another. In Parker v. Levy, the Supreme Court held that the Uniform Code of Military Justice regulates a far broader range of the conduct of military personnel than a typical state. That the military “is the executive arm” whose “law is that of obedience.”

Yup, that did it. Guilt – BE GONE.

I am the Chief Executive in my home; I command obedience, and therefore, the US Constitution does not apply.

So, tonight, I will give my children fair notice that the US Constitution and their right of due process under the 5th and 14thamendment does not apply to them while they’re in my charge. So they’d better look around, and consider joining together to start their attack plan to oust me from my post of Commander Mom in Charge, or they can shut up, hurry up, grow up, get a J-O-B, turn eighteen and GET OUT!

Too vague?


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