The bar exam’s wacky and dumb cast of characters

July 17, 2014

The MBE (also known as the “Multistate Bar Exam”) is the multiple choice part of Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s bar exams.  It’s a part of many other states’ exams as well.  It is three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, with 100 questions for each session.   It is the bane of my existence, partially because the same stupid people keep showing up in the fact patterns for each question.  If you’re taking the bar, you already know about a lot of these, but the explanations are for the benefit of those who are not currently in #barprephell. This is the test that will let you be an attorney and that is absurd.


1. The adverse possession guy

So there’s this thing in real property law (think “land ‘n stuff” when I say “real property”) that says, essentially, “if you sit on a piece of land long enough, even if you don’t own it, if the owner doesn’t notice and formally try to kick you out, it’s yours now.”  Adverse possession (or, for white folks, “colonies”) takes a looooong time, like 10 to 20 years, and I guess the policy behind it is if you’re too stupid to notice that some guy is grazing like a thousand cows all over your land, you don’t deserve to own it? Idk.  We have to sit there and then analyze if this total asshole who literally TOOK SOMEBODY ELSE’S STUFF now gets to keep it because Law.  I waste time sitting there going “but it’s not yours, you douchebag” which is a waste of time because apparently *~*~*aNyTHinG iS pOsSIbLe if you just ***belieeeve***~*~*

So in essence, there are a ton of people on the bar exam who just pull this move:

This land is your laaaand
Oh, whoops it’s my laaaand
‘Cuz I just sat here
For several decaaaades

2. The guy who owns a goddamn bear

Let me explain.  There’s this concept in torts that they inexplicably like to test on which basically says “if you own a goddamn wild animal, you are responsible for anything the WILD ANIMAL does because you put it in a house instead of the WILD, you PIECE of SHIT.” There are two different ways this question shows up.

a. The guy who owns some wild animal but it’s chill
The question will start off with some ridiculously implausible situation like “a man had owned a bear for many years.  It was OLD, you guys. Like SO OLD. It had no teeth, and its claws were like little nubbins, and it would just sleep all day and it was just such a mellow bear, you guys. Like a bear rug but not yet.”  The question’s narrator basically turns into a giant Hagrid impersonator talking about Aragog (‘e’s just a big softy, ‘e is! I swearrit! Tot’ly misunderstood creatures, bears!) but you’re supposed to determine that if the bear does something to hurt someone, even if it’s just escaping and hanging out in the woods and a little girl sees it and gets scared you are STILL RESPONSIBLE because it’s a GODDAMN BEAR.  Only you can prevent strict liability by NOT OWNING A BEAR.

b. The guy who uses his own personal zoo to defend property
The concept here is a combination of that first rule, plus “you are not allowed to use deadly force to protect your property which includes setting Shark Week on intruders.” No, seriously, this is on lots of practice MBEs and is almost guaranteed to be a question on my actual bar exam which is just…why. Why does this exist.  I want to be a lawyer, not goddamn Siegfried and Roy.  The two choice ones I’ve had recently are a guy who had a declawed bobcat (a fucking BOBCAT, YOU GUYS) on his property because people were cutting across it to get places.  The question hinged on “bro if you operate a personal zoo you’re responsible for When Animals Attack” but it was still about protecting property, but it was hard to focus because BOBCAT.

The second, even better one I had recently, involved a mall security guard who owned pet rattlesnakes, and because people kept breaking into the mall, he decided to bring his rattlesnakes to the mall to help defend it.  I’m not kidding.  My test for becoming a lawyer includes “Paul Blart: Mall Cop and his Plucky Team of DEADLY FUCKING RATTLESNAKES.”  No, sir, you can’t bring your rattlesnakes to help protect the mall, and even if someone breaks in, you are liable to the person when your MALL COP RATTLESNAKE DOES THE SNAKE THING AND BITES THE INTRUDER.  Did not think I had to write this one down for you but lesson learned, y’all

3. The criminals from the 1930s

I guess the MBE can’t swear, or something, I’m not sure, but the slang these guys use is like, dad-joke level terrible plus a dash of Jay Gastby in their dialogue.  These questions test a whole bunch of stuff, usually criminal procedure or hearsay evidence stuff, but it’s just so painful to read.  I’m not expecting The Wire quality conversations, but can we seriously not use the expression “somebody finked to the cops”?  I’m gonna get this question wrong because 1. I don’t know what the hell “finked” means 2. I am the whitest girl in history and even I know “snitches get stitches.” Is that shit copyrighted or something? TRY HARDER, BAR EXAM.

Other things that have showed up on practice questions:
A gang called “The Dineros”
A criminal called “Condor”
“Bookies” (do we seriously have bookies anymore?)
Someone selling a stolen painting and calling it “fenced” goods
“Do it or the kid gets it!” THREE SEPARATE TIMES
“Shut up or I’ll knock your block off”
An actor who shot another actor who said “You’ve stolen the part I’ve always wanted to play, now you will die for it!”
A guy saying to his wife “Dear, we really did know those TVs were hot, after all, we bought them for $10 each!”


“Hi Disgusted, I’m Bar Exam”

4. The guy who never records any paperwork pertaining to his property

This can also go for lenders, owners, literally anybody.  There are certain rules for who owns rights to property, based on several things, but one of the big ones is “notice,” meaning “this is written down somewhere that someone else owns this property so you can’t buy it because it’s not for sale.” Depending on the jurisdiction/made-up law/drunk-ass set of circumstances, exactly what type of headache this is can change, but it is always a goddamn nightmare.  However, based on the bar exam, roughly 90% of the deeds, mortgages, etc. out there are never written down or filed because there are jackasses who receive the paperwork to this ENORMOUS PURCHASE and are like “fuck it, I don’t need to write that down anywhere important.  Everything will be fine.” NO IT WON’T, YOU ASSHOLE.

I have had questions where there are three separate claims on this property, and two of them forgot to record the fact that they spent like tens of thousands of dollars to acquire it because apparently they are Scrooge McDuck and just have swimming pools of gold coins because LOL what’s money is that this paper with pictures on it someone else takes care of my problems for me.  From now on, if you don’t write your stuff down, I am throwing the deed in a Hunger Games-esque arena and y’all can fight for it: whoever lives wins the deed (or if two of you are cute and theoretically in love I guess you can both win idk THAT’S MAHOGANY)

5. The guy who leaves his property to his family like it’s the Iron Throne

This is another fun part of real property law (can you tell I hate this subject most? because I dooooo) where you have to figure out what type of property rights a person in the future has.  When you normally think of a will, or any other “leave my stuff to a person” deal, you probably think of something along the lines of “my kid gets my house, my sister gets my jewelry, and here’s ten grand for a charity.”

HOWEVER, if you are a person on the bar exam, LOLOL NOPE FARRRRR TOO SIMPLE. “I leave my property to my sons, and upon their death my grandsons, and upon their death the Baratheons, unless the Baratheons have been conceived in incest between Lannister siblings, and if so, then it goes to the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good, unless all the kids can read, then let the kids dig up all the grass and throw it at each other until the Others take us all.”  FUCK YOU AND YOUR STUPID PROPERTY.  You are dead and we are all running your dirt errands and seriously everyone hates you.

6. The guy who thinks anybody’s gonna buy his bullshit story in court about what he meant to do

This one is probably my person favorite, just because it’s got a great combination of Big Brother-mind reading and astounding incredulity were it to ever actually show up in court.  As you may know, much of criminal law requires a person to have a certain intent (the “mental element”) to commit a crime.  Lots of statutes will say things like “knowingly,” “recklessly,” or “with the intent to.” This is obviously important because “oh shit I didn’t mean to do that” is actually a legit defense sometimes, but in order to test it, the questions have to be all up in the person’s head and tell you what they thought.  It is always and forever the highest octane bullshit that would get you laughed out of court if your defense attorney is dumb enough to bring it up, but for the bar exam? Absolutely crucial to getting points. Lawyer licensing, everybody!

My personal favorite is this one, which has shown up three times that I can think of offhand and probably more.  Person A thinks Person B took their stuff and brought it home with them.  Instead of a) asking them for it back b) filing a report with the police c) doing literally any other goddamn thing, this person decides “the best possible thing for me to do is to follow this person home to find out where they live, wait until The Cover of Night, and break the fuck into their house to get my coat/laptop/who cares you broke into someone’s HOUSE.”

But Wait, There’s More!

This person then realizes “oh shit, that’s not my coat/laptop/whatever,” it actually belongs to that other person, and then Person A decides LIKE A SOME KIND OF SOCIOPATH to just KEEP THE STUFF. Yep, they realize this is not their belonging, but they decide to hang on to it anyway.  The question then goes “so, Future Lawyer, what crimes can they be charged with?” and you have to answer “well not burglary because that requires breaking in with the intent to steal and they thought the coat was theirs ahahahaaa what is this what is my life” and pretend like someone would legit show up in court and say “no but seriously I thought it was mine and the best option was to pull a home invasion but then the coat was just super cute so I kept it.”

This list doesn’t include the less frequent offenders, such as “Dude with a Bow and Arrow,” “Mobster who Didn’t Mean to Kill Anyone Just Meant to Shake ‘Im Up a Little,” and my personal favorite, “Important Witness Who Dies After Saying Something Crucial to the Case Outside of Any Court Proceedings.” Two weeks, guys.  Two weeks. 


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