Spotting BLL?

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Easy-E
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Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:36 am

I'm not sure if this question makes sense, so bare with me. What is the best way to go about spotting and extracting the black letter law? It's only the second day of class, but should I already have some BLL down from the cases discussed? I think I may be confused about BLL vs policy. For example, in reading "Naval v Charter" (Red October case) the main takeaway was:

Damages for breach of contract are calculated by the actual loss sustained and uncertainties are generally resolved against the wrongdoer.


From what I understand this isn't BLL? Is this considered a general contracts policy then? I just want to make sure I'm not missing BLL of which I need to be taking note. Thanks for any help.

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:07 pm

Well I guess it was a stupid question then?

lukertin
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby lukertin » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:10 pm

Damages for breach of contract are calculated by the actual loss sustained.

This is sort of BLL. It's really just a generalization of the BLL rules governing contract remedies.

uncertainties are generally resolved against the wrongdoer.

This almost certainly is NOT BLL. You generally cannot recover on speculative/uncertain losses.

You don't "spot" BLL until you read a few cases and are able to identify over-encompassing generalizations. (a case will also ID BLL for you in their discussion of the precedents) Just read a hornbook or supplement and get the BLL that way. Nobody gives a shit (and you shouldn't either) whether you are capable of finding the BLL in a case.

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:22 pm

lukertin wrote:
Damages for breach of contract are calculated by the actual loss sustained.

This is sort of BLL. It's really just a generalization of the BLL rules governing contract remedies.

uncertainties are generally resolved against the wrongdoer.

This almost certainly is NOT BLL. You generally cannot recover on speculative/uncertain losses.

You don't "spot" BLL until you read a few cases and are able to identify over-encompassing generalizations. (a case will also ID BLL for you in their discussion of the precedents) Just read a hornbook or supplement and get the BLL that way. Nobody gives a shit (and you shouldn't either) whether you are capable of finding the BLL in a case.



Further making me question why I'm even reading this stuff. Thanks for the response. I've got supplements assigned for some classes, I'm still trying to figure out which ones I need for the others, and the differences between hornbooks and the supps. To the sticky I go.

RedLightGreenLight
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby RedLightGreenLight » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:24 pm

there is no such thing as BLL. HTH.

Gorki
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Gorki » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:27 pm

BLL means its what the court WILL apply in that circumstances, as opposed to "well gee you seem like a good guy, you win" ; unless that jur has a "If they look like a good guy based on ABC factors, they win" rule or somethin crazy.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:44 pm

BLL is basically what's in the Restatement. New 1Ls need to chill out, take a deep breath, and get used to reading cases. It'll take time; nobody knows what the hell they're supposed to be learning in the first few weeks.

ash0117
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby ash0117 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 4:06 pm

I would describe the BLL as the rule of the case that will be applied to future cases. Was there a principle that the court applied the facts to to come to a decision? If so, that is the BLL. In some classes, determining what is BLL is easy (in Ks, the Restatement, in Crim the Model Penal Code). In other classes, you have to figure out what rules of the case would be applied in future opinions to determine what the actual BLL is.

Also, the person above me is right. You'll pick up skills on recognizing patterns in how opinions are written to determine BLL. Also, you will learn the language that tends to accompany RULES and law as opposed to POLICY which is not BLL. It takes time, but it will get easier.

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Aug 27, 2013 4:49 pm

philosoraptor wrote:BLL is basically what's in the Restatement. New 1Ls need to chill out, take a deep breath, and get used to reading cases. It'll take time; nobody knows what the hell they're supposed to be learning in the first few weeks.

ash0117 wrote:I would describe the BLL as the rule of the case that will be applied to future cases. Was there a principle that the court applied the facts to to come to a decision? If so, that is the BLL. In some classes, determining what is BLL is easy (in Ks, the Restatement, in Crim the Model Penal Code). In other classes, you have to figure out what rules of the case would be applied in future opinions to determine what the actual BLL is.

Also, the person above me is right. You'll pick up skills on recognizing patterns in how opinions are written to determine BLL. Also, you will learn the language that tends to accompany RULES and law as opposed to POLICY which is not BLL. It takes time, but it will get easier.


Thanks guys, this was helpful. I think I get it now, at least a little bit. BLL for something like contracts (K's I assume?) are things like Restatement Second and the UCC then? Should I be preparing to know all of this, or just what is relevant to what is discussed in class? A few of the 1L guides (the more extreme) had people knowing the BLL cold, but I can't imagine professors would be giving extra points for going outside the scope of the class. They certainly don't seem to like it when the gunners bring in legal concepts we haven't even touched upon yet.


Also, as far as policy vs law, generally speaking is policy more of the overall "goal" of the area of law, wheras BLL is (as mentioned) the specific rules, "Such and such is X if a)blah b)blah blah c)yadda yadda"

Gorki
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Gorki » Tue Aug 27, 2013 4:55 pm

BLL = you must prove or show these to win

Policy = why do we want people to prove the BLL to win, or why do we have a specific BLL principle in the first place.


And the only BLL that matters is what your professor teaches in class. Learning the entire UCC is probably impossible in a semester, there are entire semester-long classes for each of its articles. I dunno anyone who could legit spout out the 2dContracts cold either.

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Aug 27, 2013 7:37 pm

Gorki wrote:BLL = you must prove or show these to win

Policy = why do we want people to prove the BLL to win, or why do we have a specific BLL principle in the first place.


And the only BLL that matters is what your professor teaches in class. Learning the entire UCC is probably impossible in a semester, there are entire semester-long classes for each of its articles. I dunno anyone who could legit spout out the 2dContracts cold either.


Good to know, thanks.

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jessuf
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby jessuf » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:17 pm

Westlaw Headnotes.

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:44 am

Jessuf wrote:Westlaw Headnotes.



Mind elaborating?

lukertin
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby lukertin » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:54 am

emarxnj wrote:
Jessuf wrote:Westlaw Headnotes.

Mind elaborating?

1. look up case on westlaw
2. westlaw headnotes give you holdings of case, as well as identifying precedents relied upon
3. enjoy free shit from westlaw points

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:57 am

lukertin wrote:
emarxnj wrote:
Jessuf wrote:Westlaw Headnotes.

Mind elaborating?

1. look up case on westlaw
2. westlaw headnotes give you holdings of case, as well as identifying precedents relied upon
3. enjoy free shit from westlaw points



Good shit, I wasn't really 100% clear yet on what purpose Westlaw/LexisNexis actually served. Them points sound good though.

masterbrowski
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby masterbrowski » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:14 pm

BLL for contracts is determined by the subject matter of the contract.

Apply the UCC for sales of goods: personal property like cars, office supplies, widgets, dog food, bags of potato chips, whatever).

Apply restatement/common law for other contracts: sales of land/buildings, service contracts, construction contracts, employment contracts, etc.

The fact that your professor doesn't tell you this on the first day is why law school is so confusing.

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InferenceOptional
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby InferenceOptional » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:41 pm

DK anyone who used westlaw for the bll. The judge normally says something like the established rule in our circuit is....

I would also note the precedent of why a certain case won while another lost that is mentioned in the case. No one else will, and having additional forks is the trick to getting high grades without having to know how to spell.

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InferenceOptional
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby InferenceOptional » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:42 pm

Idk but having that 1 case that did weird shit is pretty key as long as you also have the majority rule.

lukertin wrote:
Damages for breach of contract are calculated by the actual loss sustained.

This is sort of BLL. It's really just a generalization of the BLL rules governing contract remedies.

uncertainties are generally resolved against the wrongdoer.

This almost certainly is NOT BLL. You generally cannot recover on speculative/uncertain losses.

You don't "spot" BLL until you read a few cases and are able to identify over-encompassing generalizations. (a case will also ID BLL for you in their discussion of the precedents) Just read a hornbook or supplement and get the BLL that way. Nobody gives a shit (and you shouldn't either) whether you are capable of finding the BLL in a case.

Void
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Void » Sun Sep 01, 2013 2:43 am

RedLightGreenLight wrote:there is no such thing as BLL. HTH.


This.

I spent my first semester of law school trying to figure out what "black letter law" is. Three years later, I can tell you with confidence that:

1. There isn't really any universal common law that applies in all jurisdictions and in all scenarios, and;

2. It doesn't matter because what you should be learning is the law of the exam.

You aren't really learning useful substantive law in law school- you're just reading cherry picked cases, often from a cluster of jurisdictions and eras, that together might not even relate of apply in the real world. But all that matters is the exam. You just need to learn the rule of each case, in order to later apply it (or decline to apply it, if appropriate) to a new set of facts. So whether the rule of a particular case is or is not "black letter law" doesn't matter at all. Just forget that term entirely and keep reading cases and understanding the general rule of each case.

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manofjustice
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby manofjustice » Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:39 am

What an experience to see 1Ls post these same questions I struggled with just a year ago.

Here's my answer OP: there are multiple sources of law. Take each source for what it is. There are state statutes. Federal statutes. Constitutions. State cases. Federal cases. Old cases. New cases. Analogous cases. Reach cases. Etc. There are factors that determine the weight any one source of law will have for any one legal problem. The trick is to recognize those factors.

Cases will themselves be a source of law and will reference other sources of law, which will be the law the case applies. The law the case applies is the first thing you should be applying on an exam. It usually corresponds to rules statements in supplements. Just be careful if you're studying bad law to demonstrate the evolution of the law--in that case, be sure to disregard the bad law on the exam, unless you want to show off and can do it quickly.

To identify the law a case applies, reading its headnote on Lexis Nexis is helpful. When condensing an entire case to a short headnote, the "signal-to-noise" ratio, with respect to conception of the law the judge applies, is lower. That conception of the law must remain intact in the headnote, but most everything else will be left out.

Always remember, however, that when you do discover the law the case applies--what you might call the "black letter law" (although I think that term should apply only to the text of statutes)--you've discovered one of the least useful sources of law. After all, if that "black letter law" was so clear, why would there be cases that themselves constitute a supplementary source of law?

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Easy-E
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby Easy-E » Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:08 pm

manofjustice wrote:What an experience to see 1Ls post these same questions I struggled with just a year ago.

Here's my answer OP: there are multiple sources of law. Take each source for what it is. There are state statutes. Federal statutes. Constitutions. State cases. Federal cases. Old cases. New cases. Analogous cases. Reach cases. Etc. There are factors that determine the weight any one source of law will have for any one legal problem. The trick is to recognize those factors.

Cases will themselves be a source of law and will reference other sources of law, which will be the law the case applies. The law the case applies is the first thing you should be applying on an exam. It usually corresponds to rules statements in supplements. Just be careful if you're studying bad law to demonstrate the evolution of the law--in that case, be sure to disregard the bad law on the exam, unless you want to show off and can do it quickly.

To identify the law a case applies, reading its headnote on Lexis Nexis is helpful. When condensing an entire case to a short headnote, the "signal-to-noise" ratio, with respect to conception of the law the judge applies, is lower. That conception of the law must remain intact in the headnote, but most everything else will be left out.

Always remember, however, that when you do discover the law the case applies--what you might call the "black letter law" (although I think that term should apply only to the text of statutes)--you've discovered one of the least useful sources of law. After all, if that "black letter law" was so clear, why would there be cases that themselves constitute a supplementary source of law?


Thanks for this post, found it very helpful, particularly the very last line, helped me clear up some confusion I was having.

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NoodleyOne
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby NoodleyOne » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:42 pm

1L so take with a dose of salt, but sometimes in cases it's pretty obvious. Normally when they're applying a law they'll point out the test they're applying and whether this case meets the test. For the most part, this is a skill you'll pick up pretty quickly.

Or you could just look at the wikipedia page.

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bsktbll28082
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby bsktbll28082 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:26 pm

Is there any reason to continue to try and pull the law from cases cold? Other posts recommended skimming first, reading briefs, or reading the last paragraph to see what the main point is.

I totally use Wikipedia as well. All about that life.

masterbrowski
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby masterbrowski » Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:43 pm

bsktbll28082 wrote:Is there any reason to continue to try and pull the law from cases cold? Other posts recommended skimming first, reading briefs, or reading the last paragraph to see what the main point is.

I totally use Wikipedia as well. All about that life.


Read the cases and read some kind of supplement/good outline. Then extract the pertinent legal rules however you can and make your own outline. Include a 1-3 sentence summary of the case in your outline if you think it is very important. Then, take your new legal rules out for a spin and do practice problems (E&E's, old exams, Q&A series, whatever). The order you do the first step in is really up to you.

EG: You can try and learn what the coverage and exceptions to the parol evidence rule are by reading cases, OR you could read about parol evidence in a supplement (even wikipedia really), then read your prof's cases to see application of the rule. The second option is quicker, but you lose out on the "experience" of learning law from reading cases. It's really up to you.

memo2partner
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Re: Spotting BLL?

Postby memo2partner » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:31 pm

The black letter law is the rule of law (the rules that you apply to a set of facts). For example, in contracts you have the mailbox rule (that is black letter law). In property, you have the rule against perpetuities (that is the black letter law). Torts-elements of a negligence claim. Crim law-elements of the specific crimes. This is all black letter law that you need to know.




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