Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Levi v. O'Connell (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 7, 2006)

With the shocking -- and I mean, shocking -- announcement that Britney Spears filed for divorce from Kevin Federline earlier today, I know that it's going to be an uphill battle to get anyone to read a judicial opinion today. There are magazines to buy: Us, National Enquirer, People, etc. Who has time for anything else? (Election? What election?)

Nonetheless, in a desperate effort to restrain the celebrity-hungry masses from feasting entirely upon Britney Spears drivel, I shall somewhat debase myself by talking about this case exclusively as regards two of the participants therein. Doctrine schoctrine. Any exciting gossip? Or weird people? Details, my friend. Give me the lurid, fascinating details.

Well, maybe there aren't weird individuals involved, but there are at least two interesting participants. The first is the substantive plaintiff, Levi Clancy. He's a 13-year old child. But not your typical 13-year old child. Boy, howdy. He's instead an "extremely gifted" child who started attending Santa Monica College when he was seven years old. Yes, you read right. Seven. (Which made me wonder: if you're a 22-year old student at SMC, and you look at the seat next to you and see a seven-year old child there who just kicked your a** on a quiz or something, don't you inevitably just say to yourself: "Man, I must totally suck.")

But that's neither here nor there. Anyway, Levi goes to college when he's seven, passes the California High School Proficiency exam when he's nine, and he starts attending UCLA when he's 13. So his mother, Leila J. Levi, files a lawsuit that says that California is responsible for paying Levi's tuition at UCLA because the state is obliged to provide a free public education to children. And equal protection, etc. etc.

Needless to say, Ms. Levi loses the lawsuit. Doesn't take a 13-year old genius to figure that one out. And Justice Cantil-Sakauye affirms.

The other interesting participant is the attorney for Ms. Levi, Richard D. Ackerman. He runs a one-person shop called "The Pro-Family Law Center" (the sworn enemy, I assume, of its counterpart, "The Anti-Family Law Center") out here in Temecula. Mr. Ackerman's a double graduate of Western State in Fullerton (both undergrad and for law school), and joined the Bar in 1994. His web site says: "The Pro-Family Law Center is headed by a governing board of conservative Christians with the goal of influencing American society and culture," and its "mission statement" declares that "The Pro-Family Law Center exists to promote and defend Judeo-Christian values through advocacy and litigation." And as long as Mr. Ackerman didn't charge Ms. Levi -- a single mother -- for the lawsuit (and I'd be appalled if the opposite were true), I'm very happy for his pro bono services. I like lawyers working for the public interest. Regardless of whether their version of the public interest is different, or even inconsistent, with mine.

The only (very marginal) shots that I'll get in on Mr. Ackerman are (1) his self-selected e-mail address (professora@aol.com) -- I don't see that he's a "real" professor anywhere, and wouldn't personally select that address even if I was, and (2) his somewhat inflated (if perhaps not factually inaccurate) description of the cases upon which he's "worked" in the past; e.g., "Ackerman has defended the Pledge of Allegiance before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and United States Supreme Court . . . . fought before the Supreme Court to prevent the spread of AIDS. . . . and has represented parties and friends of the court at the United States Supreme Court level (Lawrence v. Texas, Newdow v. U.S. Congress, ACLU v. Ashcroft, and others). I mean, yeah, I guess submitting an unsolicited amicus brief on behalf of your own group counts as "defending" these topics and "representing parties and friends of the court," but somehow, my sense is that you're trying to give off a different impression than that you simply puked out an amicus brief -- along with a thousand others -- that pretty much no one read. (There's some other really good and interesting stuff about Mr. Ackerman as well, but I'll leave that to a google search. Let's just say that he's a very interesting character in his own right.)

There are my two personalities for the day. Sure, neither of them are Britney Spears. But how many people are? (Thankfully.)