Busy, Busy, Busy…

This is what juggling several things looks like. It’s that face.

Sorry to everyone who’s been following my blog for not posting in the last ten or so days. As always, law school takes up a tremendous portion of my time, especially now. This semester marked my Jurisprudence class, which was a class dedicated to writing a proper academic paper as part of my graduation requirement from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. Never mind the reading for all the rest of my classes, this has easily been the most time-intensive portion of my semester and my time in law school generally.

I love jurisprudence as a subject because it takes two things that I love and combines them into a single field of study: philosophy and law. I wrote a couple of posts on the topic, but basically: jurisprudence is the study of the why and how questions of law. It’s less about interpreting statute and more about how one goes about crafting law as general principles, and whether or not there is a moral quality to it.

I’ve finished my second draft of the paper (not too soon, either, as finals are coming up here in less than a month). Now that I’m in the home stretch, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but boy, was it tough. Footnotes are no joke.

I apologize for being so woefully absent, but I’m making up for it now! Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me through the drought!

If you want to vote for me as a witness, cast your vote here! Scroll down until you see the first text box, and type in the name "noblewitness"!

Like what you read? Follow me, @anarcho-andrei! You can also find me on PALnet, Steem Romania, and the Fiction Workshop on the Writer’s Block.

Taking a New Tack

Since law school started, my presence on Steemit was pretty slim. It’s been the single most arduous undertaking of my entire life. Now that my second semester is well under way, I’ve decided to make some changes to my posting habits, so I can be present here more often

A lot of that is going to focus on commenting. I used to comment a lot, and I used to reply to people’s comments often. That’s just being polite, in my opinion; if someone reads what you have to say and leaves a comment, the courteous thing to do is respond to them. They’re not leaving flyers on your door, after all. This last year has been a lot less involved for me across Steemit and Discord, and I’m going to work on changing that.

The other part of this change is going to be in the nature of my posts. When I first joined Steemit, I composed essays about political topics, and attempted to go through a number of series based both on my own experience and other sources. I treated Steemit as a place I could lay down just the really important work; I was still on Facebook for my day to day stuff (and the memes). Since I’ve deleted my Facebook account (or so FB tells me), I haven’t had a social media outlet. So I’m going to be including simpler posts from here on. Updates about my personal life, or what’s going on that day, or any number of other social things, rather than focusing exclusively on political articles and legal essays.

Additionally, I’m going to be present on The Writer’s Block much more than I have been. For the same reasons I turned into a ghost on Steemit, I’ve been equally separated from The Writer’s Block, and I need to change that. For everyone who’s there already, expect me around more often. For those of you who haven’t ever been to the Block, it’s a community we run on Discord to help writers improve their craft and discuss the art of writing fiction. The link to join the server is at the bottom of the post.

Don’t worry. Anyone who is a fan of my Adventures in Law School series will still get all the information I’m planning on putting out. Just going to be adding a lot more content there as well.

If you want to vote for me as a witness, cast your vote here! Scroll down until you see the first text box, and type in the name "noblewitness"!

Like what you read? Follow me, @anarcho-andrei! You can also find me on PALnet, Steem Romania, and the Fiction Workshop on the Writer’s Block.

Adventures in Law School – Natural Law Jurisprudence, Pt. 1

It’s been a little while since I announced the relaunch of my series on the law and legal studies, and I think the best way to dive into any serious study of the law is to touch on jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence can roughly be understood as the philosophy of law. Rather than focusing on issues of statutory construction and interpreting the text of law, jurisprudence seeks to answer more general, foundational concerns. One of the persistent and overarching questions in jurisprudence is: what is law? This is a question that has as many answers as there have been scholars seeking to answer it, but the question should give you some idea of the focus of jurisprudence. An understanding of jurisprudence and the theories that have arisen within it provides any person studying law a greater clarity on questions of justice, ethics, and how legal frameworks should function.

There’s simply too much information to tackle in a single post on this very broad topic, so I’m going to be providing primers on various topics within jurisprudence. As natural law theory is my favorite jurisprudential theory, I’m going to start with that.

What is Natural Law Theory?

Natural law theory is a legal theory that focuses on universal rules of conduct, derived from some rule set that exists outside of man-made (or positive) law. These theories are generally normative in nature, though they contain descriptive elements. In other words, they’re concerned with what the law ought to be, and they necessarily combine moral evaluations with any evaluations of law. Unlike utilitarianism or legal realism, natural law theory does not discount the moral content of law, nor does it think this is even a good idea. For natural law theorists, law is an expression of a larger ethical framework and does not exist independently from it.

Early Natural Law Theorists

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)
While it would certainly be prudent to start with Aristotle or Socrates, classical natural law theory was condensed neatly by the Roman orator Cicero. He offered what was essentially a restatement and synthesis of Stoic theories of natural law, based heavily on classical Greek philosophers. For the Stoics, there was less interest in a comprehensive system of law than there was for a comprehensive ethical system. As stated above, for natural law theorists, law is just one part of a larger whole.

According to Cicero and the Stoics, there is universal law that binds humanity a priori, or that is true prior to being proven true. The focus of these theorists was on how one could discover this universal law. For this, the focus was on the use of practical reason. Humans had the unique feature of reason and logic, and if one applied these to the natural world around oneself, one could derive rules of conduct that applied to all people. There was also a focus on living the good life; a life of virtue. For the Stoics, this was the pursuit of knowledge and the adherence to reason, alongside other more material concerns like good health and sustainable living. Another aspect of the good life was living for the good of one’s community. For the Stoics and Cicero, an individual pursuing good according to natural law was not seeking it only for himself; he was also seeking the good of his community.

The strong emphasis on nature and deriving rules from nature also came with moral implications. The justice of a law depended heavily on whether it conformed to the natural rules one could discover with reason, and they had to comport with the virtues of the theory employed to discover them. Laws that were not in accordance with this reasoned view of human nature were accordingly unjust.

It is important to note, however, that a law being unjust did not mean that it should not be obeyed. To the contrary, in Plato’s Apology, Socrates rejects the notion that he should escape prison and avoid the sentence of death imposed upon him by the Athenian government. For this line of theory, an unjust law was still a law laid down by an authority, and whatever the injustice in this particular case, it should be followed to avoid eroding trust if this was an otherwise just authority.

Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274)
Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic scholar who synthesized prior natural law theories with Christianity. While the Stoics were deists, their natural law theory arose from a much different place of understanding than any theory based in the Christian faith. This set a wall between their view of practical reason and their set of virtues and those of Christianity.

To do this, Aquinas devised four groups of laws. First, there is the Eternal Law. This is the will of God in Aquinas’ framework, and it is the law that rules the operation of the universe. Second, there is Divine Law. Divine Law consists of the explicit commandments and proscriptions handed down by God to mankind, such as in the Ten Commandments and through the teachings of Christ. Third, there is Natural Law. Natural law in Aquinas’ view is remarkably similar to that of earlier philosophers, and it is here that he drew on them to bring them into the fold of the new Christian paradigm. Through the use of practical reason, a person could observe the natural world and derive rules of conduct inherent in nature. Lastly, there is Human Law. Human law is simply the positive law that mankind creates through its enactment of edicts and promulgates (spreads word of) in formal structures.

“Good should be done and sought and evil is to be avoided” is the best summation of Aquinas’ view on ethics, and one that he derived himself. However, on the topic of law, good refers specifically to just law. Positive law can either be just or unjust, and the metric for evaluating the justice of a law is whether or not the law comports with both the Divine Law and the Natural Law. Any legal framework should seek to be just, and thus should seek to comport with both of these legal components.

It’s important to note, though, that this does not mean that human positive law must only be natural and divine law in order to be just. Where there are no discernable specific rules of conduct, human positive law can take whatever form it wants to, so long as it doesn’t violate either the natural or divine law. For example, a law prohibiting murder is obviously just, as it comports with both the divine prohibition on murder and avoiding the evil of destroying life. A law declaring a certain speed limit on a road, on the other hand, does not comport with any specific divine rule, and the only evil that speed regulations prevent is avoiding the harm that reckless driving causes. Neither natural or divine law say what that speed should necessarily be, so it falls on human beings using practical reason to come to a reasonable speed limit.

Aquinas recognized that unjust laws were not laws in the true sense of the word. To quote Aquinas, “[i]f, however, in some point [human positive law] conflicts with the law of nature it will no longer be law but rather a perversion of law.” Whereas just laws created a moral obligation to obey them, unjust laws imposed no such obligation. This did not, however, mean that one should disobey unjust laws in every case. To the contrary, Aquinas took the same view that the Stoics before him did: unjust laws should still be obeyed if disobedience caused some greater harm to come to pass. Since evil was to be avoided, resistance to unjust laws, however morally justified, should still be avoided if the act of resisting caused some greater calamity.

That’s it for the first part of this article on natural theory jurisprudence. In the next article, I’ll be discussing later natural law theorists, particularly John Locke, before moving onto John Finnis, the man leading the modern natural law movement.

If you want to vote for me as a witness, cast your vote here! Scroll down until you see the first text box, and type in the name "noblewitness"!

Like what you read? Follow me, @anarcho-andrei! You can also find me on PALnet, Steem Romania, and the Fiction Workshop on the Writer’s Block.

Steempeak – My New Favorite Condenser

Anyone who’s been following me for a while knows how much I love Busy.org. Well there’s a new front-end on the block, and it blows Busy out of the water.

Introducing Steempeak

Thanks to @shadowspub Witness Show on SteemRamble, I was given a link to Steempeak. This is a new social media front end for Steemit, and I have to tell you: I am beyond impressed

There are a number of condensers for Steemit, some which are purpose specific. Busy is (was) my first pick for a social media front-end, whereas DLive would be my go-to for videos and live streams. All the social-media-geared front-ends have the same sort of functionality as Steemit; you can view posts, follow users, reply to comments, and upvote/downvote content. Busy is by far the most differentiated in terms of style and presentation, but at its core, it functions very much the same way as Steemit does.

This is no different with Steempeak. However, two things really seal the deal for Steempeak for me: user interface and site features.

User Interface

First and foremost, the user interface at Steempeak is lightweight. It’s not cluttered, large, or cumbersome. Everything is sleek while still being accessible and easy-to-use. Login is conducted through SteemConnect, making it exceptionally easy to log in and switch accounts. Looking at my profile page, everything is instantly recognizable.

You’ll also notice that everything is set up as tiles, the same way you’d expect to see on Instagram. This is an awesome interface feature that they’ve implemented. For me, I like having the scroll in my feed because it’s what I’m used to from Busy. However, for people that follow, say, a bunch of photographers, viewing posts and resteems in a tile grid format will be much more useful. Being able to switch back and forth between these views is a great feature to tailor the user experience to each individual user.

Speaking of tailoring the user experience, they have a checkbox visible on your profile page that allows you to hide resteems. I’ve seen plugins like this for Chrome before, and I made extensive use of them. That said, it is such a pleasure to have that feature built in to the site. When I’m scrolling my blog, I’m less concerned about what I’ve resteemed than I am with my own posts. When I resteem a post, it’s after reading and commenting on the post, so reminding me that I’ve resteemed a post isn’t particularly valuable or useful. On Steemit, it can be a way to keep track of posts you like, but you don’t need to do that using Steempeak. Of course people have different preferences, so if you like tracking all your resteems, you can view them all the way you normally would.

Site Features

I’ve already talked about a few of the site features that I really like, but boy are there a lot more to discuss. I’ll start with the Dashboard page in your user profile.

This is really where Steempeak pulls ahead of the crowd. You have a suite of tools to track everything from your posting and commenting over time, to your rewards, to your account growth, all in easy-to-understand panels that expand on click. On the left-hand side, there are more tools for you to customize your account. All of your bookmarked posts are kept under the Bookmark tab. Same goes for Drafts.

What really tickles my pickle, though, is the Templates tab. Steempeak allows you to format templates for you to save so that you can create uniform posts. As a member of the @noblewitness team, I cannot begin to tell you how useful this feature is going to be. Now I can set up standardized witness updates, which frees up time for me to focus on the content, rather than ensuring I have the formatting right.

As I mentioned indirectly, Steempeak has a bookmarking feature. You can now favorite posts and archive them for later viewing, or just keeping track of posts where you want to see responses coming up. You can accomplish this using resteems, but it’s vastly more convenient to have a bookmark feature that doesn’t clutter up your feed. For me, this is going to be a great place to keep track of witness-related posts, such as upgrading my server and keeping track of my favorite witness tools.

The text editor is very easy to use and includes tools that streamline the formatting of posts. Rather than remembering markdown, you can simply click on the respective buttons to get what you want on the page. The preview pane is off to the right side, rather than immediately underneath like it is on Steemit and Busy, which makes track your changes and edits a breeze. It’s not visible in the image, but at the bottom of the post editor are the standard options for payout and, more importantly, a button that allows you to schedule posts. That’s right; directly from the editor, you can set your dates for when you want your posts to go live.

Under the Tools tab in your profile, you have access to two things. First, it has a market ticker that allows you to track the price of Steem and SBD, as well as both to Bitcoin. Second, and more importantly, is a tool that allows you to figure out what your Guaranteed Steemit Minimum Income should be. @jarvie has a post that goes into depth about what GSMI is, but basically it’s a way to temper expectations. It reviews your average list of voters on posts, what those votes look like in terms of weight, and then projects roughly what you can expect to be making from your work based on how many posts a month you’re making. This is a really cool feature which I think addresses a big issue for a lot of new users: aligning your expectations with the reality of posting to the blockchain.

Their search function is miles ahead of anything else I’ve seen. Steemit’s default search engine uses a straightforward Google plugin. While it functions, it isn’t at all helpful. Busy’s search function is better, but it only displays user accounts based on the search criteria. Steempeak not only searches user accounts and ranks them by relevance to your search terms, but it also returns page results. While the search function doesn’t yet have filtering tools to help you narrow down your search more, or sort by age, votes, comments, or other criteria, it’s already far and away the best search tool for the chain I’ve seen on a front-end.

All in all, this is an exceptional take on presenting the blockchain in social media format. From now on, I’m using Steempeak for everything I do.

If you want to vote for me as a witness, cast your vote here! Scroll down until you see the name "noblewitness"!

Like what you read? Follow me, @anarcho-andrei! You can also find me on PALnet, Steem Romania, and the Fiction Workshop on the Writer’s Block.

Adventures in Law School – The Reprise!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about law school and my courses. Well, I think it’s about time I get back to it.

Last year, around the time that I started my first year of law school, I had the ambitious project to compile my notes into posts. I had two purposes in this: first, I wanted to share the information I was learning with everyone here on Steemit. Second, by compiling my lessons into posts, I was going to help myself recall and solidify the information. This was going to be a study tool for me.

Unfortunately, as I found out after the first week, I had no way at all to make that happen. When I wasn’t drowning in my school work and reading, I was drowning in taking care of Kate. And when neither of those were sapping my will to live, I was trying to keep myself emotionally stable after a particularly painful divorce. All of this combined into me disappearing almost completely from Steemit.

But you know what? This year is going to be different.

I’ve got Chelsea here to help me out around the house, and my workload for my classes is dramatically less than it was last year. That means more time for me to share what I’m learning on Steemit in a structured (and hopefully useful) way.

These are the topics I’m going to be covering this semester:

Criminal Procedure – Criminal procedure covers the rules of court that must be observed by the state when pursuing a criminal case against a defendant. For this course, I’m going to be focusing primarily on the protections and prohibitions on government action imposed by the Constitution of the United States.

Family Law – Family law covers a wide array of topics all relating to the disposition of formal relationships between people. This course is going to cover topics ranging from premarital agreements to custody arrangements. There may well be some topics that it won’t cover in depth, but I’m open to looking into questions that anyone may have.

First Amendment and Individual Rights – This is the second half of Constitutional Law. This course focuses on the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, how they are interpreted, and where government has the ability to act.

Evidence – The Federal Rules of Evidence are the rules that govern what is considered evidence in a civil or criminal trial, how information offered at trial can be offered into evidence, and what objections can and should be raised by the respective parties to a trial on evidentiary grounds. This course is going to cover the substantive rules that a lawyer must know to effectively present a case.

Jurisprudence – Jurisprudence is better known as the philosophy or theory of law. Discussion of what law is and why individuals have a duty to obey the law fall under jurisprudence. This course is my rigorous writing class, so I won’t have a structured curriculum to follow, but I will be posting notes and sections of my own jurisprudence writing for everyone to peruse and look through. I’d also like to open posts on this topic up for discussion.

This semester is going to be great fun, and I’m looking forward on bringing you all on this journey with me. Finally.

If you want to vote for me as a witness, cast your vote here! Scroll down until you see the the name @noblewitness!

Like what you read? Follow me, @anarcho-andrei! You can also find me on PALnet, Steem Romania, and the Fiction Workshop on the Writer’s Block.