You (“Y”) call your attorney (“A”) to check the status of your case. He answers:

A: Hello, Jim speaking.

Y: Hey Jim, it’s Alex Smith. I wanted to get an update on my case, as we have that big hearing next Friday.

A: Hey Alex. Yeah I was going to call you, I’m going to request a continuance of the hearing. I have undergone some trauma recently and am not in the mental state of mind to handle it right now.

Y: Oh, sorry to hear that. Is everything alright? Are you and your family alright?

A: Yeah I’m fine and the family is fine too.

Y: Something with your friends?

A: No they are fine too.

Y: Hmm ok. If you don’t mind me asking, what is necessitating the continuance of our big hearing?

A: Well I’m guessing you saw the recent Eric Garner controversy on the news. It is beyond upsetting the grand jury didn’t indict the offending officer. I just can’t believe it and am now traumatized by it.

Y: Oh…okay. Did you know him? I thought you said it had nothing to do with your friends or family…

A: I have never met him nor do I have any connection to him personally or professionally. It just offends me as a member of the legal system and as a person overall, to the point it impairs my ability to be a lawyer right now. Sorry.

Y: What the f…

Is this who you would want to represent you in court? To negotiate a deal for you? Of course not. Being an attorney is one of the few fields where the strength of your mind and your ability to handle pressure are considered some of your top assets. As I discussed recently, remaining calm and handling surprises are two key assets every good attorney has.

So where did this above hypothetical conversation come from? From the non-hypothetical recent happenings over at one of America’s pansiest best law schools, Columbia.  Stemming from the recent decisions in the Brown and Garner case, Columbia Law is allowing their students to postpone their final exams if they are too upset at this result. Seriously.

The school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, announced via email:

The grand juries’ determinations to return nonindictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally.

For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.

In recognition of the traumatic effects these events have had on some of the members of our community, Dean Greenberg-Kobrin and Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Director, Academic Counseling, have arranged to have Dr. Shirley Matthews, a trauma specialist, hold sessions next Monday and Wednesday for anyone interested in participating to discuss the trauma that recent events may have caused.

The law school has a policy and set of procedures for students who experience trauma during exam period. In accordance with these procedures and policy, students who feel that their performance on examinations will be sufficiently impaired due to the effects of these recent events may petition Dean Alice Rigas to have an examination rescheduled.

It’s hard to know where to even begin with this. We can say this is just another one of many signs of our cultural decline in America, where the individuals that we are to rely on to promote and administer the law of the nation are too hurt to fathom taking a test right now. Or perhaps how politically correct educational institutions have become to the point of absurdity, demonstrated with the situation above or the Yes Means Yes crap from the past few months.

There is a lot of blame to be put on Columbia for sanctioning this type of behavior. Interestingly, Columbia claims this is in accordance with its own procedures regarding rescheduling exams (See last paragraph quoted above, referring to the school’s in place “policy and set of procedures” for rescheduling an exam). But is it really? Let’s take a look at these so called procedures that interim Dean Robert E. Scott refers to (emphasis is my own):

Columbia Law School’s examination policies require all students to take exams at the scheduled times.  As stated in the Law School Rules, “All students should be prepared to sit for examinations at any point throughout the examination period.”  However, exams can be rescheduled in certain situations as defined below.

  1. Two (2) Law School exams scheduled on the same day. One of the exams will be rescheduled to the first exam day on which the student does not have a scheduled exam and that will not create an exam conflict requiring further rescheduling.
  2. Proctored or fixed-date take-home exams can be rescheduled to allow a 36-hour period between the start of two exams. For example, a student having proctored or fixed-date Law School exams scheduled for both Monday and Tuesday can reschedule the Tuesday exam to Wednesday.
  3. Illness on the day of the exam: Any excuse granted on grounds of illness or other physical disability is conditioned upon receiving a satisfactory medical note from the attending physician within a reasonable time (one or two days, and by no later than the end of the examination period).
  4. Birth of a child: An exam will be rescheduled if the student is attending the birth of his/her child.
  5. Religious Observance: An exam will be rescheduled if it conflicts with a religious observance on the day of the exam.
  6. Bereavement: An exam will be rescheduled in the event of a death in the student’s family and the student is attending the funeral or grieving.
  7. In other exceptional and documented circumstances.

Exams cannot be rescheduled because a student has an early flight home for the winter or summer break, or for other personal reasons not outlined above.

So the rule, as stated by Columbia itself, is that all students must take their exams as scheduled, unless one of the seven reasons specifically delineated above applies. Numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 clearly do not apply. So that leaves us with 3 or 7.

Number 3, even if we assume somehow that this “trauma” is considered an illness, only applies on the “day of the exam.”  So this can be eliminated as well, as the rescheduling offered by Columbia for being a pussy was offered in advance of the exams. Nonetheless a medical note is required, another reason this is not the applicable provision.

That leaves us with number 7. But again this does not apply, at least how I and most competent people would read it. Presuming that the “trauma” referred to by the interim dean qualifies as “exceptional,” that still leaves the necessary component of the documentation (as “and” was used, and not “or”). You would think, naturally, this would require documentation of the actual circumstance that was exceptional. Of course, no such thing can exist because how do you document someone’s hurt feelings stemming from an unrelated court proceeding?

So what Columbia has done, I believe, is extend the “documentation” requirement to just documenting the traumatized student’s request.

We are writing with information about how to go about postponing your exams, in the event that you choose to do so, due to trauma in the wake of recent national events. Exam postponement will be granted on an individual, “opt-out” basis. In order to postpone your exam(s), please email Dean Alice Rigas ([email protected]) in the Registrar’s Office. The email need not be extensive and each person’s language may be the same. We are providing sample language for your email request below.

Subject: Emergency Action: Request for Exam Extension
Dear Dean Rigas,

In light of recent traumatic events, I would like to request a(n) exam extension for the following exam(s).

A decision will be made on an “individual” basis, yet Columbia states all requests can use the exact same language. Rather mind-boggling coming from one of America’s purported top law schools. Essentially, Columbia has done nothing more than just establish a procedure on a whim and in direct conflict with its stated reasons above. They are expressly allowing students to reschedule exams for “personal reasons not stated above.”

As a member of the legal community I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that these individuals will one day be representing any client in any capacity whatsoever. I am embarrassed that a top law school would allow, much less facilitate, such a pussified way of existence by finding a court proceeding that has nothing to do with someone can cause “trauma” to the point of impairing their ability to take an exam.

It is already bad enough that we have a bunch of incompetent attorneys running around attempting to practice law and failing. But at least some of these dim-witted attorneys carry a mental toughness that serves to advocate their clients’ positions if nothing else. Being a lawyer is hard and requires a very tough mind. You will get thrown off many times throughout your career, and often times have only seconds to respond.

It will be a sad day in court when an attorney comes in to request a continuance on the basis of “hurt feelings.” Hopefully I will not be there to see it.

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