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"You Have The Right To A Theologist. If You Cannot Afford A Theologist, The Court Will Appoint One For You."

There's an interesting case going on in Massachusetts right now. As most everyone knows, a couple of years ago their Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal. And ever since then, despite every effort by opponents, its backers have pulled every single shady, unethical, underhanded (and in some cases, outright illegal) to keep it from going before the people for a vote.

I happen to support gay marriage, but I strongly disagree with how it was done.

Nonetheless, it is the law of the land, no matter what I -- or anyone else -- thinks.

Even Stephen Dunne, law school graduate and would-be attorney.

Mr. Dunne recently took the bar exam -- and did not pass. That's because there was a question relating to gay marriage on it, and Mr. Dunne is a devout Catholic.

The question in question?

"Yesterday, Jane got drunk and hit (her spouse) Mary with a baseball bat, breaking Mary's leg, when she learned that Mary was having an affair with Lisa. As a result, Mary decided to end her marriage with Jane in order to live in her house with (children) Philip (and) Charles and Lisa. What are the rights of Mary and Jane?"

Mr. Dunne said that answering the question would have been tantamount to endorsing gay marriage, and he could not in good conscience do that.

Um... no, Mr. Dunne, answering the question would have been tantamount to acknowledging that gay marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts -- and it indisputably is.

Mr. Dunne wishes to become an attorney, but apparently he only wishes to practice the laws of God, not the laws of Man.

Attorneys don't get to judge the law, Mr. Dunne. That is the prerogative of judges and legislators, not lawyers. Lawyers practice the law; they do not judge it, do not make it, do not amend it.

It seems that Mr. Dunne has wasted quite a bit of time and money. If he wants to devote himself to only those laws that are compatible with every aspect of his faith, then perhaps he should have gone into the Seminary instead of law school.

In the meantime, the state Bar says that they will keep questions related to gay marriage in the "rotation" for future bar exams -- and they should. It's currently one of the most contentious and convoluted and popular topics in the state, and new lawyers ought to understand just what it does -- and does not -- mean.


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Comments (37)

Damn, Massachusetts is fast... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Damn, Massachusetts is fast with those bar results.

You're right and your wrong, JT. It is the job of lawyers to challenge the law on occasion -- but they do so in a court of law. Meanwhile, it is the job of an aspiring lawyer to pass the bar exam, applying the law as he knows it to a given situation.


--\PW|--

Mr. Dunne is wrong legally ... (Below threshold)
Jim:

Mr. Dunne is wrong legally even as the state of Massachusetts' Supreme Court was wrong Constitutionally.

This is such bullshit. Dun... (Below threshold)
99908u:

This is such bullshit. Dunne flunked the bar and like any good flunky is now using any avenue available as a grounds to appeal his score, and be waived in. This is classic "old wine in a new bottle" drivel.

The funny part is that he f... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

The funny part is that he flunked by a score of about .12. Also note that he dropped his suit because the July bar exam didn't include the offending question.

As for his personal peeves. If he doesn't want to endorse same-sex marriage, all he has to do is repeat the phrase "under Massachusetts law" to his heart's content.

--|PW|--

Or move to a state that doe... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Or move to a state that does not make it legal for two of the same gender to marry. Yuck!

Okay, Jay. Let's say legal... (Below threshold)

Okay, Jay. Let's say legal slavery made a comeback in Massachusetts in the manner gay marriage was made legal (underhanded techniques et al) and you were trying to pass the bar and was presented with the following question:

"Yesterday, Joseph got drunk and hit (his slave) Robert with a baseball bat, breaking Robert's leg, when he learned that Robert was having an affair with Joseph's wife. As a result, Robert decided to escape in order to live in a slavery-free state. What are the rights of Robert and Joseph?"

Now, I'm sure you find slavery morally repugnant (as do I), but would you honestly squash your personal convictions against slavery (no matter where they stem from) and answer the question just to pass the bar?

Pardon my bad grammar in th... (Below threshold)

Pardon my bad grammar in that last post. I changed it a little (making Jay the subject) before I posted and I missed changing one of the tenses. I really don't go through life writing or saying things like "you were trying to pass the bar and was presented."

C'mon..it's a no brain er</... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

C'mon..it's a no brain er

I am sure MURDER does not reflect most peoples way of life..or beliefs. BUT everyone applies the LAWS pertaining to such....

LAW is the LAW no matter whether it SUCKS or NOT.

Don't like the LAW, change it at the ballot box.----UMMM maybe not in mASS, but you can (TRY) to at least.

LAW is the LAW no ... (Below threshold)
LAW is the LAW no matter whether it SUCKS or NOT.

Yeah, I'm sure that argument will work if any state bans all abortions.

Speaking of abortion, how a... (Below threshold)

Speaking of abortion, how about this:

A state bans abortion through their Supreme Court. Some moderate who supports abortion rights tried to pass the bar in that state and is presented with this question:

"Yesterday, Steve turned his wife Rose into the police for getting an illegal abortion. As a result, Rose decided to end her marriage with Steve in order to live in her house with (children) Philip (and) Charles and Lisa. What are the rights of Rose and Steve?"

Would someone in favor of abortion rights be justified in refusing to answer that question?

NOPE..........just answer t... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

NOPE..........just answer the question ACCORDING to the STATE LAW........end of story...personal OPINION does NOT matter!!!!


When will Taxachussets make... (Below threshold)
BillyBob:

When will Taxachussets make it legal for men to marry 12 year old boys? Female teachers to marry 12 year old girls? Gay Scout Masters of gay Boy Scout troops? How bout Gay polygamy? Exchange vows during a circle jerk or maybe in a men's room at Logan airport.

Pathetic and against the laws of nature, not to mention scads of religious laws.

It's just not normal nor should be deemed as such by design.

For crying out loud - it's ... (Below threshold)
meep:

For crying out loud - it's a question of law, not morality. There's a set of expectations for the bar exam, and it involves the law as it currently applies.

Similarly, I just passed a series of exams (actuarial) where the syllabus is going to lag the regulations and state-of-the-art practice (not as much now that they have the syllabus online and can update things). You had to answer as the info was on the syllabus, and everybody knew that. Even if you disagreed with something (e.g., the Efficient Market Hypothesis) you had to put it down if it were relevant. You could, of course, put down your opinion that it was all crap but it would not help you pass.

Just take the damn exam again.

For crying out lou... (Below threshold)
For crying out loud - it's a question of law, not morality.

Exactly what do you think law is built upon? Nothing? Murder is illegal because it's immoral. Theft is illegal because it's immoral. Pedophilia is illegal because it's immoral. Etc.

Well, obviously, laws do no... (Below threshold)
Jim:

Well, obviously, laws do not operate in a vacuum, but questions of what is positive morality, positive ethics, and certainly good law are open to interpretation.

"Now, I'm sure you find sla... (Below threshold)
Dave:

"Now, I'm sure you find slavery morally repugnant (as do I), but would you honestly squash your personal convictions against slavery (no matter where they stem from) and answer the question just to pass the bar?"

Well, I'd have no issues whatsoever with my answer, because it would consist mostly of quoting Amendment 13:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Daft. PW and others already... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Daft. PW and others already covered why it's daft, so I'll just chime in with "daft."

Theologian, not theologist.... (Below threshold)
jpe:

Theologian, not theologist. Unless that was a pun I missed?

"NOPE........just answer... (Below threshold)
914:

"NOPE........just answer the question ACCORDING to STATE LAW.........end of story......personal OPINION does NOT matter!!!!"

RIGHT! unless that law was enacted by an activist judge unconstitutionally against the wishes of the masses as in a VOTE in which case as a lawyer I CAN SEE THE CONFLICT..


Attorneys don't get to ... (Below threshold)
marc:

Attorneys don't get to judge the law, Mr. Dunne. That is the prerogative of judges and legislators, not lawyers. Lawyers practice the law; they do not judge it, do not make it, do not amend it.

Hmmm... Mr. Dunne... coming soon to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals near you.

He's fit right in with those nutcakes that sit on that bench.

Re: The abortion question. ... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Re: The abortion question. The proper answer there is to note the supervening federal law that prevents states from outlawing abortion.

Re: The slavery question. The proper answer is to cite supervening federal law (a constitutional amendment) that outlaws slavery.

--|PW|--

As a practicing Catholic, e... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

As a practicing Catholic, even I think the man is wrong. Render unto Caesar, counselor.

No, laws might have been or... (Below threshold)

No, laws might have been originally based upon morals, but it begs the question, whose mores shall we base the laws upon? Suppose my mores are different than yours?

That is why, as a western society, we've attempted to create a set of laws that try to accomodate as many sets of mores as possible. While I'm wishy washy on the subject of "gay marriage" (It requires more text than I wish to write), I AM for upholding the rule of law, no matter what it is. If you want the law changed, present a case in court to get it ruled unconstitutional (if it is in fact unconstitutional!), or you get your elected representatives to change it for you!

Jay is right, though. Jason, I'm afraid you're in the wrong. Let me word it this way:

"Yesterday, Muhammed got drunk and beat (his wife) Aisha repeatedly, giving her bruises all over her body, when he learned that Aisha was going to the local community college to get an education secretly. As a result, Aisha decided to escape in order to live in abuse-free state. What are the rights of Aisha and Muhammed"

Word it that way and you realize that appeasing religion in the name of the law doesn't work.

Mr. Dunne has the right to ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Mr. Dunne has the right to not answer any question on the bar examination he has a moral objection to. Most likely he could still pass the bar without answering such questions unless the examination is loaded with them. As a lawyer, Mr. Dunne can also refuse cases that involve gay marriage.

The idea that the practice of law is devoid from individual moral beliefs is absurd. It may seem that way given the notoriety of some of the slime balls that practice law, but that's only a perception, not fact. So Mr. Dunne brought a suite to change something he didn't like. How's that different than suites brought to remove any mention of "God" in government, such as the pledge of allegiance or on our money?

Better to have more men with moral values practicing law, rather than the slime balls who corrupted the institution of marriage and those who violate the law to keep voters from having their say.

As a lawyer, Mr. D... (Below threshold)
jpe:
As a lawyer, Mr. Dunne can also refuse cases that involve gay marriage.

Sure, but he's still gotta be able to know the law. If he disagrees with it, he can say as much, but he can't just disregard it.

At any rate, what the hell kind of lame protest is it to not write an essay? Oooh, that'll show 'em!

Sure, but he's sti... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Sure, but he's still gotta be able to know the law. If he disagrees with it, he can say as much, but he can't just disregard it.

The law is the same for traditional marriages as it is for gay marriages, so he can know the marriage laws without delving into the parts he finds immoral. Once he passes the bar he can specialize in any area of the law he wants to such as real-estate, tax, or insurance.

At any rate, what the hell kind of lame protest is it to not write an essay? Oooh, that'll show 'em!

Likely the majority of voters in Massachusetts agree with Mr. Dunne and knowing that is why a few politicians are willing to ignore the law and prevent the question from getting on the ballot. Mr. Dunne can help keep the issue alive and question why the people have been denied their lawful right to vote on the subject.

Once he passes the bar h... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Once he passes the bar he can specialize in any area of the law he wants to such as real-estate, tax, or insurance.

Yeah well, he's got to pass the bar first, and you don't do that by refusing to discuss the law.

The idea that one must agre... (Below threshold)

The idea that one must agree with every provision of law in order to answer a question about its holdings and applicability is ridiculous.

Is there any lawyer who agrees with every law as written and/or adjudicated?

Criminy! Just answer the question, fool . . .

Tell me, how is this any di... (Below threshold)

Tell me, how is this any different than gays fighting against gay marriage bans? The bans are THE LAW and the gays are subject to them. Shouldn't they just shut up and sit down? Or does one have to be a lawyer to have to shut up and sit down?

I find gay marriage repugna... (Below threshold)
Candy:

I find gay marriage repugnant - and certainly against the laws of God according to my beliefs. However, I would not refuse to answer that question as posed on the exam. I don't feel that, at any point, I would have my rights as a Christian trod upon - and I also would not find myself in a position where I felt that I was sweeping Gods laws under the rug to answer the question on the Mass. Bar. That said: I would NOT want to be an attorney in Massachusetts, leaving myself in a position to, perhaps, be told by the court that I have to defend Jane.

There are many great reasons that we left Massachusetts almost a decade ago - and the insane liberalism is just one. Mostly it was the traffic :)

"As a practicing Catholic, even I think the man is wrong. Render unto Caesar, counselor."

Amen!


Jason, you've missed the po... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Jason, you've missed the point. The bar exam is not a place to oppose or protest laws that an attorney candidate disagrees with. It is a professional licensing exam, not a debate.

I'm taking my CPA exam next... (Below threshold)
mantis:

I'm taking my CPA exam next week. I'll decline to answer questions about income tax though, since I'm opposed to it.

Then I'll sue when I don't pass.

The saddest part is that it... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

The saddest part is that it was a trick question. Notice the last sentence: "What are the rights of Mary and Jane?" Not "What are the rights of Mary and Jane in regards to their marriage ending." The way the question is worded, the entire introductory portion is inconsequential.

Wonder how well that argument would fly on the exam...

Yeah well, he's go... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Yeah well, he's got to pass the bar first, and you don't do that by refusing to discuss the law.

You don't need a 100% score to pass. It's Mr. Dunne's call if he doesn't want to answer a question that goes against his moral values. What, you have a problem with people who have moral values?

The saddest part i... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
The saddest part is that it was a trick question. Notice the last sentence: "What are the rights of Mary and Jane?" Not "What are the rights of Mary and Jane in regards to their marriage ending."

Yes it's a trick question. Note that it doesn't say who's children Philip, Charles and Lisa are. Besides being a pedophile, Mary could be practicing incest. Apparently not many here find even that immoral. Just answer the question and join the rest of the sewer rats.

What, you have a problem... (Below threshold)
mantis:

What, you have a problem with people who have moral values?

My moral values prevent me from answering questions about taxes I disagree with. I'm looking forward to my CPA exam. If I don't pass, I'll sue.

It's Mr. Dunne's call if he doesn't want to answer a question that goes against his moral values.

It's also his call if he wants to be a law school graduate who works at Burger King.

Not everything is an arena for political statement. Sometimes you just have to prove your knowledge. Or fail to.

Not everything is ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Not everything is an arena for political statement. Sometimes you just have to prove your knowledge. Or fail to.

You think Mr. Dunne doesn't know that? Brining a law suit to change the law is how this all started. It's not only gays who can bring such suits.

On a side note, look at the question again. One spouse is having an affaire with one of the children and the other spouse is a violent drunk. It's gays who should be brining a suit to have such questions removed from the examination as it seems to go out of the way to depict them as particularly depraved. By the way, the answer to the question is that Mary and Jane have the right to a criminal attorney, anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law. . .




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