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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hiring: University of Utah: Professor and Director of Clinical Programs

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law is seeking a visionary leader to serve as Professor and Director of Clinical Programs beginning in the academic year 2019-2020. This individual will join the College as a full-time tenure-line or career-line faculty member. Rank and compensation will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Tenure-line candidates would be expected to satisfy the same standards for research, teaching, and service as other tenure-line faculty members. Relevant qualifications may include a record of success or potential as a clinical director, clinical instructor, or law professor, excellence in academics or practice, or strong scholarly distinction or promise in any relevant field.

In addition to fulfilling the responsibilities of a faculty member, the Director of Clinical Programs will be responsible for supervising and developing the structure and support for our clinical programs. In recent years, the College has been ranked second nationally in offering clinical opportunities per student (2014), sixth in public service (2016), and fifteenth in practical training (2018). By drawing on in-house clinics, clinical courses, and an extensive program of field placements, we offer clinical opportunities in an exceptionally wide range of practice areas. Over 90% of our students participate in our clinical programs, and we significantly exceed the national averages of clinical and pro bono service hours per student. The Director will lead our Clinical Programs into the next era of legal education and training. The Director will engage with the administration and faculty in strategic planning, including the pursuit of innovations in the structure and content of our clinical programs.  The Director will be responsible for teaching experiential courses, mentoring other faculty assigned to teach experiential courses, overseeing staff, advising students, and promoting the College’s clinical and pro bono service programs on a local, national, and international level.

The University of Utah is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and educator. Minorities, women, veterans, and those with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. Veterans’ preference is extended to qualified veterans. Reasonable disability accommodations will be provided with adequate notice. For additional information about the University’s commitment to equal opportunity and access see: http://www.utah.edu/nondiscrimination/. Applications must be submitted to: http://utah.peopleadmin.com/postings/79919.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 15, 2018 at 08:31 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

An interesting pedagogical observation

I have an an opportunity for an interesting pedagogical experiment this semester. My 15-person Fed Courts class has 4 men and 11 women, an unusual imbalance even for a school like FIU that has more women than men. I am curious to see whether men nevertheless dominate the conversation. The four men seemed quicker to volunteer during the first class. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the semester. I also must be conscious of waiting for hands to go up and ensuring some balance between raw numbers and hesitancy. There are panels in the class, so that will mix things up somewhat. Still, it will be interesting to watch a strange balance play out.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 14, 2018 at 10:40 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

JOTWELL: Vladeck on Caruco on CAAF as court of last resort

The new Courts Law essay comes from Steve Vladeck (Texas), reviewing Rodrigo M. Caruco (Maj., USAF), In Order to Form a More Perfect Court: Quantitative Measure of the Military's Highest Court's Success as a Court of Last Resort (Vt. L. Rev.), which considers how the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces operates as a court of last resort and what can be done to improve its functioning.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 14, 2018 at 10:28 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Notre Dame Law School hiring a Director of Trial Advocacy Program

More info here.  Take a look and/or spread the word!

Posted by Rick Garnett on August 13, 2018 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Submission Angsting and the Availability Heuristic

Slide1I have not participated in the bi-annual feeding frenzy known as the student-edited law review submission season in several years.  I may this year, plus I'm blogging, so it's hard not to read the comments on "submission angsting" post (NB: autocorrect kept changing it to "submission ingesting" which I think is clever.)

This is a curmudgeonly but data-based contribution in aid of the reduction of angst. I vaguely recall posting something like this eleven or twelve years ago, no doubt when many young law professors or aspiring law professors were still in high school.  I direct it to those of you readers angsting significantly between, say, placements in law reviews at school ranked 65 versus school ranked 75.  Or some such similar consideration.

Paul Caron over at Tax Prof Blog does us the community service every year of re-ranking the schools by their "peer assessment" number, which ranges from 1.1 at the low end to 4.8 at the top.  I am assuming for this exercise that the peer assessment is meaningful even though I have my doubts.

My doubts stem largely from the likelihood that so much of this is determined by the availability heuristic, the term coined by Tversky and Kahneman for a mental strategy in which people make judgments about probability, frequency, or extremity based on the ease with which and the amount of information that can be brought to mind.  Hence, we bias our judgments based on available information.

Having said that, here goes.  One of the most available pieces of information is the linear ranking in US News.  It's really available.  It's available to the people who send in their votes for peer ranking and it's available to authors trying to place their articles.  What is not so available (thank you Paul) because you have to pay to get it isn't just the re-ranking by peer assessment but the actual peer score.

The histogram above shows the peer assessment scores from the 2019 US News law school ranking by the number of schools at each peer score from 1.1 to 4.8.  You can draw your own conclusions, but I think trying to thin-slice differences between scores close to each other is kind of silly.  It's pretty clear that whatever peer assessment means, the top 17 are in their own world.  As between 18 and 50, yeah, maybe there's difference between 18 and 50, but I wouldn't get too worked about about the difference between 30 and 40.  That effect is even more dramatic in the 50-100 range.  The point is that the rankings are linear, but the actual data sits on a curve.  So the differences between linear rankings mean different things at different levels.  (I'm pretty sure re-grouping the data in other significant categories like entering LSAT score would yield similar results.)

It's why I find it, what?, sad? odd? unthoughtful? when schools get lauded or dinged for moving eight or ten places one way or another between about 50 and 125.  Yes, the data are meaningful when you jump from 105 to 18 or vice versa.  But not when you "sank" from 50 to 62.

Okay, that's it.  Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

UPDATE:  I'm going to close the comments here.  If this merits any discussion, it probably ought to occur at the angsting post.  

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 13, 2018 at 03:12 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Every snowflake is different

How is this complaint about NFL player protests from the head of the Broward County PBA different from the complaints from liberals (on- and off-campus) who are derided as "snowflakes" for objecting to Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannapoulos, Chick Fil-A, et al. The PBA is calling on members to boycott and not do business with the team. It is demanding that the Dolphins no-platform the players, calling on an entity to deny a speaker the opportunity to present his message. And the complaint is that the speaker's message is a "slap in the face" to the complainer, who is offended by the speech. There is no practical difference between the two situations.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 12, 2018 at 02:44 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (8)

Further Reflections on the End of Ambition

6a00d8341c6a7953ef022ad3a3f7af200bAlmost exactly three years ago, on the last day of my guest-blogging month, I posted a piece entitled The End of Ambition.  Sometimes I go back to what I wrote long ago and cringe (I was tempted to link the piece that most makes me cringe, but nah) but this one I like.  It started as a contemplation of what it's like to face the end of your career and turned into a broader assessment of what it means to grow up, to be an adult (something we've recently explored in connection with law students).

Well, here we go again, except now I'm 1000000 (Aside #1: as my friend Raffael Cavallaro said, "there are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't") and looking pretty good for 1000000. (Aside #2: if horses ruled the world, "digital" really would mean "binary".)  But when you hit 1000001, you hit the normal age for filing for Social Security, and at 10000110 you have maxed out on the value of deferring your benefits.  (For those of you who have many years yet before this becomes an issue, it involves the uncomfortable evaluation of how long past 10000110 you and/or your surviving partner think you will make it.  The longer the period, the more sense it makes to defer.)

What prompted the re-reflection is being on this blog extensively at the same time the "submission angsting" and "hiring committee" posts have gone up, and my recent pontifications (sparked by Kaci Bishop's article) on fear and failure.  What I want to do here, from the perspective of one who has achieve the ripe old age of 10 to the 110th power, is link fear and failure to ambition.  My thesis here is that there is a continuum of ambition from the macro to the micro, and our brains don't do a great job of making that clear, hence causing our nervous system to spit out fear of failure juice in many of the wrong places. 

Here are prototypes of macro ambition:  getting hired as a tenure-track law professor or being awarded tenure.  Placing law review articles have a lot to do with both (so it seems).  I do very much understand macro-ambition.  My school and professional lives were a continuous series of them - grades, class standing, university admissions, law school admissions, getting a law firm job, making partner, getting the in-house job, becoming the GC.  I've said this before - when you attempt to break into academia and then climb the tenure ladder as a superannuated newbie, the actual consequence of failure is, I think, less significant in one's life than if you start out young.  I think there is also a lower fear factor - and thus more willingness to swing for the fences. (By the way, it's been around for well over a decade now, but you can find that particular story in Memo to Lawyers: How Not to "Retire and Teach".)

Here is my prototype of the micro-est of micro ambitions. When you get to be 1000000 and you worry about the increasing number of senior moments, you do things to assure yourself that you aren't losing it.  One of mine is doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day.  Monday and Tuesday are too easy, so I do them online and see how fast I can complete them.  Wednesday through Sunday merit printing them.  I do them in ink and my goal is not to make a mistake.  I can annoy my wife no end by finishing the Saturday or Sunday puzzle perfectly and then proudly displaying it as though it is actually some kind of meaningful accomplishment. 

Now some people never stop having and acting upon macro-ambitions. Joe Biden is thinking about running for President, I'm pretty sure.  I am in the process of coming to terms with the end of mine. (Trust me, I had them and could tell you stories.) What I'm thinking now is that there isn't really an end of ambition.  It's just that most of the macros get taken over by the micros. Not going to be a CEO. Not going to be a university president. Not even going to be a lateral hire. It's now a bucket list.  Yeah, it would be cool to place an article in the Yale Law Journal.  It won't make a helluva big difference to anything, but it would be another thing to check off, somewhere between doing the Saturday puzzle completely correct in ink and being President.

The thing is the fear. I've already admitted publicly that I have the typical type-A failure dreams.  I'm not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg - ambitious goals or fear of failure - or if maybe they are the same thing.  But it has made me think about Woody Allen's observation on this in Annie Hall:  "You know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken.  Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in?  Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs."

Woody was talking about relationships, but I'm talking about fear of failure. I still get slightly (not pathologically) annoyed at myself for screwing up the crossword. If you lose the fear, do you also lose the ability to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve?

UPDATE:  I corrected my age from the original posting (h/t Dean Andy Perlman).  I am 1000000, not 100000.   When you get to 1000000, it's hard to see all those zeroes.  Another damn failure!  There goes the brain again, releasing those fear of failure juices.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 12, 2018 at 10:56 AM in Blogging, Deliberation and voices, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Flag protests and public employees

The assumption among supporters of protesting NFL players and critics of the NFL is that the league is trampling on the players' free-speech rights, that the players have a free-speech right to protest the anthem, save for the absence of state action. But the assumption is that if there were state action, the First Amendment would protect the players. Let's push on that question, with a hypothetical to which I genuinely do not know the answer:

The head of a government agency or office (it does not matter what level of government or what office) has decreed that the workday shall begin every day at 8:30 a.m. by everyone in the office standing before the flag with hands over hearts, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing America, the Beautiful. The director explains that this symbolic reaffirmation of America reminds public officers of their obligations to the Constitution and to the public they serve in performing their jobs. Must an objecting employer, who believes that America's criminal-justice policies are discriminatory, participate in this ritual?

There are several doctrinal paths competing for attention here.

1) Barnette says students cannot be made to participate in the flag salute. By extension, it should mean other people cannot be compelled to participate in other patriotic rituals. Certainly Jackson's rhetoric speaks of patriotic rituals, not only the Pledge in schools. There also is a nice question of how far the Barnette protection extends--to speaking the words of the Pledge or anthem or to all engagement in the ritual. In other words, does Barnette mean you can opt-out entirely by kneeling or sitting or leaving the room? Or does it only mean you cannot be compelled to utter the word, but can be made to stand there, even at attention?

2) Employee speech rights within the workplace are limited, under the Garcetti/Connick/Pickering line of cases. Workplace speech that is part of the job is per se unprotected, while Connick/Pickering ask whether speech (whether in or out of the workplace) is on a matter of public concern and whether the employer's interests outweigh the employee's expressive interests. But on-the-job core political speech, however offensive, that does not affect government operations is protected. Thus a deputy sheriff could not be fired for stating, in a conversation with co-workers, her hope that a second assassination attempt on President Reagan would succeed.

3) Janus can be read to accord public employees greater protection against compelled speech than they enjoy against restrictions on their own speech, a criticism Justice Kagan leveled in her dissent. Kagan also predicted that Janus was about limiting public unions, not compelled speech generally, so a rule compelling employees to speak in a way other than donating money to a union.

So what might be the answer to my hypo? There are a couple of threshold question. First is how we should understand what the protesting employee (or an NFL player) is doing. Is he seeking to opt out of having to utter the government's message? Or is he trying to make his own affirmative statement about something (e.g., police violence)? This makes a difference between whether we are in Barnette/Janus or Garcetti/Pickering. Second is how much deference the court owes the government in defining what speech is part of the job. So will the court buy the government argument that the pre-opening patriotic ritual is designed to remind employees of their public duties and obligations and thus part of their public jobs.  And, if not and we are in Connick/Pickering, how disruptive of the workplace the court deems non-participation to be. Third, if this is compelled speech, can it really be that children in school enjoy greater protection against compelled speech than adults in the workplace?

Again, I do not know the answers, although I know I believe it should come out. Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 11, 2018 at 11:41 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (3)

What SEALS Looks Like for a Compliance Scholar

The past three days were a whirlwind of fun, intellectual engagement, productive conversations, getting caught in a monsoon with friends while in business casual attire, and more at the SEALS annual meeting.

The first time I attended SEALS, I was invited to be in a discussion group on the topic of compliance.  Since then, if I have attended SEALS it has been most often to participate in a group discussing various white collars matters.  This year, however, my white collar friends focused on insider trading, which isn’t part of my current research agenda, so I thought I would forego the conference.  But I received some other interesting invitations, and the conference was fantastic as usual.

On Wednesday, I participated in a Sexual Harassment Law discussion group.  I’ve been testing out some methods for facilitating interdisciplinary work (more on that later), and the topic my Notre Dame colleagues and I have been focusing on is sexual harassment within organizations.  This discussion group gave me an opportunity to discuss the two potential theses we have identified, and I received excellent suggestions from the group both during and after the session.  On Thursday, I participated in a discussion group focused on The Ethics of Legal Education.  This was definitely more of an opportunity to learn, as my own contribution was quite nominal, but there is very good work being done by my professional responsibility colleagues.  I’m looking forward to reading some new books on the subject.  On Friday, I participated in a Corporate Governance discussion group where I presented a paper I’m currently working on, and again I received helpful comments.  The real benefit, however, of the discussion group model is the opportunity to hear what others are working on.  It allows you to think about new ideas and expand your knowledge base.  I have really come to love the model.

When I told someone what discussion groups I was participating in, I realized from his reaction that my mix of groups might look odd to some.  But for me, this is what my compliance research does.  It allows me to straddle a few scholarly areas in an effort to focus on the more precise research question of identifying mechanisms that will lead to the creation of inclusive, compliant, and ethical environments within organizations.  

Posted by Veronica Root on August 11, 2018 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Now returning: NFL games, player protests, and presidential tweets

As if on cue, Thursday's NFL preseason games included several players kneeling, standing with a raised fist, or remaining in the locker room during the national anthem. The President responded on Friday with a tweet 1) criticizing the players for being unable to define what they are outraged about, 2) urging them"be happy, be cool" because they make millions doing what they love, 3) urging them to find another way to protest, and 4) commanding "stand proudly or be suspended without pay." (capitalization, etc., corrected).

The first point is untrue because the small handful of players who protest have been very clear and explicit that they are protesting police violence and the criminal-justice system. As this piece points out, the President recognized that in a June statement asking players to talk to him about people they believe were treated unfairly by the criminal justice system so he could pardon them. I derided that statement as incoherent; I should have added not serious.

The second point skates close to the line of saying that rich people should not be allowed to complain. This is ironic coming from a rich man who ascended to the presidency by complaining. So what is it about these wealthy people that should cause them to lose the right to complain? I cannot put my finger on it.

The fourth point brings us back to that state action argument: When a public official continually talks about a specific private dispute and urges a private actor to take some action, do we get to some point where that encouragement becomes overwhelming or coercive? Is it a question of quantity and specificity--how often and how specific? Does it change when it is the President doing the urging? (By the way, hat tip to Rishi Batra (Texas Tech) for suggesting that specificity might matter during our SEALS discussion).

The third point is interesting and touches on something we discussed in the Thursday panel. During pregame warm-ups on Thursday, several Eagles players  wore t-shirts displaying various statistics about people of color and children in prison, one of the issues about which players have been protesting. Throughout this protest debacle, the NFL has been compared unfavorably with the NBA in terms of support for player protests, although the NBA has and enforces a rule requiring players to be on the court and standing at attention during the anthem. So why is the NBA not criticized, by the press or its players, for doing what the NFL is trying to do? Some of it is the perception of incompetence of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the expressly plantation mentality of some owners.

But one possible reason (H/T to dre cummings of Arkansas-Little Rock for this point) is that NBA players have worn message t-shirts and otherwise expressed themselves during their highly visible pre-game warm-ups.* NBA players have an at-the-game, high-profile, many-people-watching forum to express their political messages, therefore less need to use the anthem as a protest vehicle. NFL warm-ups are not watched in the same way and not as intimate, and players have not tried to take extensive advantage of the alternative forum. Perhaps if they do and can, it will remove pressure on the anthem as a necessary expressive moment.**

[*] Prominent examples include LeBron James and others wearing t-shirts reading "I Can't Breathe." WNBA players have made extensive use of this forum.

[**] Or, the NFL being what it is, the league will shoot itself in the foot by issuing a diktat about players having to wear team gear during all on-field warm-ups.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 11, 2018 at 07:52 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Boardroom scene in "Succession"

A question for the Corp/Bus Orgs folks out there: What did people think of the boardroom scene in Episode 6 of Succession, showing a motion for a vote of no confidence against the CEO* and the rules of order and machinations going before and after it. Worth showing in class as an example of corporate governance and democracy?

[*] Purportedly based on the real-life move against Michael Eisner at Disney.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 10, 2018 at 02:53 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Reminder: Hiring Committees

A reminder that you can announce information regarding your hiring committee either in the comments to the hiring committee post, or by sending me an email directly, at sarah *dot* lawsky *at* law *dot* northwestern *dot* edu. The FAR forms have just been submitted and will be available to committees next week, so this is a good time to contribute information about your hiring committee.

Additionally, I've made two small tweaks on the spreadsheet.

First, there's now a column with links to websites that announce positions or websites that candidates must use to apply. (Enough posts were including this information that it made sense to include this on the spreadsheet as well.)

Second, there are now separate columns indicating whether committees are looking for entry-level candidates or lateral candidates. Providing the information in separate columns makes it easier for a candidate to focus on schools relevant to that particular candidate. Not all schools apply this information, but enough do that it makes sense to include it.

(I've closed comments on this post to drive comments to the hiring committee post.)

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 10, 2018 at 11:17 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Failure, It Turns Out, is an Option, and a Pretty Good One Sometimes

Image.ashxIn my last post, I promised to talk about fear not just in the horse but in the rider.  The point, of course, has to do with the relationship of fear to learning. Kaci Bishop's (North Carolina) recently posted article, Framing Failure in the Legal Classroom, provides a nice segue.  (H/T Paul Caron.) Failing, at least in the micro, is learning, and I agree with Professor Bishop's bottom line that academic and practicing lawyers tend not to be very good at connecting the subject and the predicate in those three words.

I have four very vivid memories of the subject of failure - in the abstract - coming up during my education and career.  I'm paraphrasing most of it.  The first was when I watched the moot court competition finals at Stanford.  The esteemed federal Third Circuit judge A. Leon Higginbotham was a member of the panel.  During the post-argument comments, he said something like "a well-prepared advocate can never lose; the client may not win, but the advocate never loses."  The second was when I was interviewing for my first job out of law school (the Dykema firm in Detroit).  One of the litigation partners said to me, "One of the things we have to do here is train people how to lose."  The third was when I left the firm to join the law department at what was then AlliedSignal (now Honeywell). One of the recruiting documents I received was the 1991 annual report, which contained CEO Larry Bossidy's first letter to shareholders (he had just come over from General Electric where he was second in command to Jack Welch).  The piece I remember most was about leadership and it went like this:  "Of course there will always have to be leaders who make the final decision, but the tyrant in the corner office, the guy with all the answers, need not apply here." (This much appealed to me because, in 13+ years at the law firm, both as associate and partner, I rarely felt that I had any answers to much of anything.)  The last was an interview with Steve Kerr, who had just been installed as GE's first Chief Learning Officer, on the tension between failure and Jack Welch's famous (or infamous) "stretch goals": namely, that if you set ambitious goals for people, you can't punish them if they fail to meet them.

At the risk of TMI, I'm sixty-four years old and still have the standard dreams about failure - for example, the one about missing the entire semester of a math class that met early on Tuesday mornings and now having to take the final.  I started as a litigator, and it became clear that it was easier to give Judge Higginbotham's advice (particularly if you were the judge) than to take it.  I took losing very personally.  Looking back, and then considering what I internalized as failure even in the deal-making or business context, I see it as an illusion (or delusion) of one's own ability to control circumstances.  You can't eliminate the fear; you have to learn to cabin it or manage it (and I think that is one of the points Professor Bishop is making).

I had a couple reactions that I'll talk about after the break.

First, I do agree that failing, in the micro sense, is integral to learning.  I also think that Professor Bishop is correct in incorporating Carol Dweck's distinction between the fixed and the growth mindset.  As I interpret it, it's the difference in the affective orientation to learning that precedes any learning.  If you want to learn, you learn.  If you don't want to learn, you don't.  The fixed mindset is one that has given up on learning; the growth mindset invites it.

Second, Professor Bishop mentions classroom "failures" (i.e. that "law students have as a primary goal not embarrassing themselves in the classroom") but doesn't center her arguments on what I think is a particular aspect of law school culture: the difference between private failure and public failure.  The fear of public failure is what I recall most vividly from the very first class on the very first day of law school forty-two years ago.  It wasn't so much that I read the first case in the Dawson & Harvey contracts casebook (Groves v. John Wunder & Co.) and was mystified; it was that from the opening bell others in my 25-student small section appeared to understand it so well (yes, Robert Weisberg and Douglas Baird, I'm talking to you).

Dealing with public failure if you run a moderately interactive law school classroom is a challenge.  It is hard to be nurturing when a significant aspect of the job is the theatrics of it all.  If you believe in the non-paternalistic classroom, then you ought also to believe that your job as professor is to make the experience more compelling than what is available by way of internet, text, or Angry Birds. Nor is it easy.  Some things students say or ask in class are misplaced or wrong or distractions.  For each student that you try to accommodate gently, there's another one thinking you should have been more brutal.

My quibble, if I have one, with Professor Bishop's piece is that her focus on mindset is confined solely to that of the student.  Just as psychoanalysts need to experience their own analysis to be able to guide anybody else, I don't see how there's going to be much change in the classroom if the fixed mindset is in the mind that is behind the podium.  Over the years, one of the ways I have tried to put myself in the position of a fearful student has been to make myself learn in environments that are not my natural habitat.  The three things I've tried to pick up over the last ten years are playing the piano (I never learned to play any musical instrument) and two athletic endeavors.

All my piano failures are private and relatively trivial, ego-wise.  Not so the athletics.  To put it bluntly, I think I'm pretty agile mentally, but I really, really suck as an athlete.  My joke over the years is that I engage in athletic endeavors (golf, for example) for the massive doses of humility I get.  I think, more seriously, that the activities I've selected in the last couple years force me to confront not only fear of failure, but physical fear, and, more importantly, the delusion of control.  When you ride a horse in an indoor ring with other riders present, you are dealing with a thousand pound sentient being with a point of view, and one that often is not aligned with your own.  Several years ago I decided to start taking fencing lessons (epee).  I'm really bad.  And your opponent is waving a long thin sword around, trying to jab you with it.  Even with all the equipment, it can hurt.  Every one of my opponents' touches is a public failure, but also a learning experience.  Particularly when the opponent is a thirteen year old young woman who wins 10-2.  It's really hard to learn when you are afraid!

Even with all of this, the performance art of teaching law students causes me, unfortunately, to get in touch more often than I should with my inner smart ass and outer stand up comic. (One only need look at some of the things some students say about me in their evaluations to know that I am no paragon of virtue when it comes to making students comfortable with "failure" in class discussion.) Fear has to have its source in evolutionarily adaptive instincts that get housed deep, deep in the reptilian and pre-reptilian parts of our brains.  And, of course, what we are doing in class is the polar opposite. As the Carnegie Report observed,“[a]t a deep, largely uncritical level, the students come to understand the law as a formal and rational system, however much its doctrines and rules may diverge from the common sense understandings of the lay person.”  They are doing that because that is what we are teaching them to do!

I should conclude by observing that, contrary to some popular memes, the vast majority of law professors I've met in the last fourteen years care very deeply about the quality and effectiveness of their teaching.  Wanting to be better, wanting to learn, comes from the inside.  And there are external sources of fear.  Before tenure, there are student evaluations and classroom visits from tenured faculty that bear significantly on your career.  Even after tenure, getting lousy evaluations is like being criticized as a corporate board member from the shareholder activists.  It may not make a lot of difference, but it doesn't feel very good.

Perhaps the lesson from Professor Bishop's piece, at least for me, is to think about the failures that occur from my side of the podium.  One of those might be the failure to heed at least two tenets of Kant's Categorical Imperative: (a) to act in every instance in way that you would legislate the rule of your action as a universal rule (for you aspiring legal philosophers, the source of Rawls's "veil of ignorance" as the basis for justice), and (b) to see every other person as an end rather than a means.  To return to a theme of an earlier post, think about what that says about cold-calling on one student as a means of teaching another student!

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 10, 2018 at 09:09 AM in Article Spotlight, Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

State action and NFL protests

This morning, I participated in a discussion group at SEALS on the NFL protests; other discussants were Todd Clark (UNC Central), dre cummings (Arkansas-Little Rock), Michael Green (Texas A&M), and Arnold Loewy (Texas Tech). For my piece, I threw out some arguments under which the NFL or its teams could be deemed to act under color of state law and thus become subject to First Amendment limitations. I do not believe the arguments are especially strong, but I flesh them out after the jump. I consider two circumstances: 1) the current one, in which the NFL is seeking to stop players from protesting. and 2) an Indiana proposal that would require teams to provide refunds to fans offended by players kneeling at Colts game (this was introduced in December 2017 and nothing has been done, so I doubt this remains a live possibility).

1) Close Nexus: Private actors act under color if they act under compulsion, coercion, or "overwhelming encouragement" of state officials. There is evidence that the league and the owners have acted out of fear of President Trump's tweets and general demagoguery and a desire to appease the President. Is that sufficient coercion or encouragement? Does it matter that the tweets are targeted specifically at the NFL and even particular players? I doubt this works, but the outline of the argument is there.

2) Symbiotic Relationship. A powerful (if questionably valid) basis is when there is an exchange of mutual benefits between the government and private actor, including where the government benefits from the unconstitutional conduct. The key here is the militarization of the NFL. The military and Department of Defense have paid the NFL millions of dollars to have the league promote patriotism and the military and player participation in the ritual is part of that.* The NFL gets a lot of money, the military and government is promoted and uses this as recruiting opportunities. To the extent those arrangements depend on a clean patriotic presentation and player protests interfere with that, perhaps limiting player protests could be seen as a way to maintain its arrangement with the military. We probably need to learn more about the deals between the NFL and DOD--what each party gets and what the league is expected to do as part of the deal. Again, this is tough, especially because some lower courts do not accept this as a valid test.

[*] On the radio program I did last month, former NFL player Joselio Hanson pointed out that the players remained in the locker room during the anthem prior to 2009. That change suggests a connection between player participation and the business deal between the league and the government.

The state action arguments work better as against the Indiana proposal, which will not become law in Indiana, nor will anything similar become law elsewhere.

3) The Indiana bill creates a close nexus, as the threat of monetary liability to the objecting fans compels or coerces the team to prohibit the players from protesting. Although the trigger for the monetary loss is a private complaint rather than a government-imposed find, the obligation of the teams to respond to the private complaint is government-imposed. In the same way that tort liability and a government fine are the same for state-action purposes, a compelled refund and government fine should be the same.

4) The Indiana bill resembles landlord ordinances. Landlords are threatened with fines or loss of license for having too many tenant 911 calls for disturbing the peace (including calls seeking help from domestic violence); the solution for landlords is to evict these tenants, prompting the tenants to refrain from calling 911, thereby increasing their vulnerability to violence. Although the eviction or threat of eviction comes from the private landlord, it is prompted by the threat of fines or loss of license if they do not evict. The same is going on here--the team is threatened with financial loss to the complaining fan, so it restricts the players' (constitutionally protected) conduct that might cause the team that loss. There is an extra player in the mix compared with the landlord situation; the latter has the government, the landlord, and the tenant, while this has the government, the team, the players, and the complaining fan. But again, there should be no difference between a fine and private liability when both are compelled by the government.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 9, 2018 at 11:39 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (10)

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The First Day of Class - A Horse's Perspective

Buck_poster2During the summers, I usually spend a lot more time around horses and dogs than I do around students (or any people, for that matter).  I climbed on the back of a horse for the very first time almost to the day nine years ago at age 55, and life was never quite the same thereafter.  And about a month ago, I became responsible up here in Michigan for the care and feeding of a Half-Arabian - the other half is Hackney - with the barn name Markie (registered name: EQL Mark of Mine), below right.  (You can see the riding equivalent to a law student's first moot court oral argument here.  Last year, after eight years of coaching, I got up the guts to do what is known as a schooling show. It demonstrates the reason for my own barn name - "Tighty Whitey".  As I suppose often happens, my partner Markie saved my bacon.  Here we are a year later and a little less tighty.)

About this time of year, probably because of the impending transition back to the classroom and dealing with IMG_1934humans, it seems like I always go back to one of my favorite movies, Buck, about the horse trainer (and model for The Horse Whisperer) Buck Brannaman. I posted this several years ago on a blog called The Legal Whiteboard, but it doesn't exist anymore, so I'm resuscitating it here.

Five minutes into the movie, he's beginning a "colt starting" class, in which horse owners are learning how to get horses who've never been saddled, much less ridden, to accept the rider.  He narrates:  "Colt starting is always interesting because most of the youngsters never been saddled, never had anyone on their back, or a bit in their mouth, so there’s a lot of fear in both the horse and the human."  

Then the film cuts to his opening remarks to the owners who are themselves going to have to teach their horses:

“The way I do these colt classes, you guys, you’ll have to get ’em exposed to a lot of things that seem perfectly normal to you but it doesn’t seem normal to the horse.
“You walk up to ’em smelling like a Big Mac, you know, or somethin.’ Your diet is gonna make you smell different to the horse.
“And then you’re gonna tell the horse, ‘don’t worry, I want to crawl on you’ … in a similar posture to how a lion would attack and kill a horse. They jump right up in the middle of them and they reach their front claws around and as they’re biting down on their spine they’re cutting their throat with their claws. You’re asking the horse to let you be in that posture and crawl on him.
"And then about the time he says, ‘Alright, maybe,’ and then you say, ‘Oh one more thing. I want to strap some hides of other dead animals around you before I crawl on you.’
"Damn sure have to have some trust. He’s got to believe in you to let you do that. And amazingly enough, they’ll let you do it.”

I'm pretty sure there's a lesson there for all teachers, but particularly law professors facing a class of 1Ls on the first day.   More on the rider's (i.e. my own) fear to come.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 7, 2018 at 10:53 AM in Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 06, 2018

Two items on teaching law

Classes at FIU begin next Monday, so here are two items on what we teach.

Here are remarks by Max Stearns (Maryland, blogging at Blindspot) at a welcome event for incoming 1Ls at Maryland law. I pretty much agree with everything he suggests, with the small exception that study groups are not for everyone and I am more circumspect in recommending them.

Here is a summary (with video) of an interview by Justice Ginsburg for a Duke Law School event. One of her topics was recommending moot courts as part of legal education, both as a way to promote public understanding of the Court and a way to teach students to sharpen their arguments and positions. I do this as the end-of-semester projects in Civil Rights and Fed Courts, so I am glad to see recognition of its value.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 6, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Compliance Resources

There are quite a number of places to read about compliance, but there are three I will highlight today that are free and easy to access. 

The first is the Wall St. Journal Risk & Compliance Journal.  It provides a good round-up of materials.  The second is the Compliance & Enforcement Blog, which is sponsored by the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement at NYU.  This provides posts from practitioners and academics.  The third is the SSRN Compliance & Risk Management eJournal, which is, I believe, in its second year.

There are, of course, other places to read about compliance, but I think the above three are a good starting point.  As a side note, I’m excited to read this new article I saw in an SSRN blast last week, because it has the words “compliance” and “diversity” in the title (see here for context).

Posted by Veronica Root on August 5, 2018 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 03, 2018

Liz Magill, Stanford Law Dean, to Become UVA Provost

M-elizabeth-magill-5-400x400Liz Magill, who succeeded Larry Kramer as the dean of the Stanford Law School in 2012, will leave to become the new provost at the University of Virginia.  She will remain at Stanford until her successor is in place.

Her new boss will be UVA's new president, James E. Ryan, also a former law professor (most recently the dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education).  

Those interested in filling her shoes should contact Persis Drell, Stanford's provost, who is organizing the upcoming search.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 3, 2018 at 02:45 PM in Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching Creativity in Law School

9781531002299@2xOn the continued subject of law teaching (and one close to my heart in light of my far less practical musings on the subject of "aha moments" in lawyering and the likely differences between human- and robot-lawyers), my colleagues, Kathy Vinson, Samantha Moppett, and Shailini George of Suffolk's acclaimed Legal Practice Skills Program, have just published Mindful Lawyering: The Key to Creative Problem Solving (Carolina Academic Press, 2018).

The introduction and table of contents are available on SSRN.  It's all about how not to be a robot. Here's a taste:

What will you do when a client comes to you with a problem? Will you be ready? What approach will you take to solve it? Is knowledge of the law enough to prepare you to practice? Are you mindful? Are you creative?

Experts agree law students and lawyers need to be mindful and creative problem solvers. Many factors have coalesced to make these skills critical to the success of today’s law students and lawyers such as: critiques of the traditional law school format along with curriculum changes mandated by the American Bar Association (“ABA”), the downturn in the legal market and in the changing demographics of incoming law students, and dissatisfaction among employers in their recruits’ ability to solve problems independently and creatively, to name only a few.

Despite the importance of mindfulness, creativity, and problem solving to the practice of law, traditional law school courses or textbooks do not explicitly cover these topics. This book is intended to help you practice mindful lawyering, beginning in law school, to maximize your ability to creatively solve clients’ problems. It discusses the skills and qualities needed to succeed in law school and in practice to successfully serve clients. It will also enhance your ability to understand and retain the legal doctrine you learn in law school.

The introduction to this book in Part I provides an overview of the scope of the book and its learning objectives and outcomes. It provides a path for your journey to becoming a mindful and creative problem solver. Part II provides the scientific basis and need for mindfulness, and encourages you to embrace your law school experience mindfully. Part III explores what it means to be a creative problem solver, why creativity is important, and how to maximize your creative potential. Part IV explains the different stages of problem solving law students and lawyers can utilize to maximize their potential for success and why lawyers need to be problem solvers. Finally, Part V synthesizes mindfulness, creativity, and problem solving, including a capstone exercise to apply the concepts learned in the book; checklists to utilize; and additional resources you can consult for more information. The book’s organization into these different parts allows flexibility of use according to your needs.

Also, you can't beat the price: $25.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 3, 2018 at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Ninth Circuit affirms less-than-universal injunction as to sanctuary-city funding

The Ninth Circuit on Thursday affirmed the injunction prohibiting DOJ from enforcing an executive order and regulations stripping federal law-enforcement funds from sanctuary cities, in an action brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara.

1) The case was justiciable, considering both standing and ripeness. The plaintiffs had standing because they had policies in place that, under the executive order, would be a basis for withholding funds. That the regs might not be enforced did not eliminate the injury; it was enough that the plaintiffs' interpretation of the regs was correct and could subject them to consequences or to having to change their policies. The action also was ripe. The court pointed to statements by various Trump Administration officials warning about enforcement, with California and its municipalities as an express target, as well as a history of federal grants conditioned on compliance with certain immigration laws. The ripeness point prompted a dissent. Focusing on the order's requirement that any federal action be "consistent with law," the dissent argued that the counties do not face any imminent threat of loss of funds because they have not shown an intent to violate § 1373 and the EO did not order DOJ to enforce the funding regulations in a manner inconsistent with the law.

2) The court affirmed the injunction, but limited it to prohibiting enforcement against the plaintiffs and the State of California. While rejecting DOJ's argument that universal injunctions are per se improper, the court found that the plaintiffs did not offer sufficient evidence of an effect beyond themselves and the State. The court's analysis was inexact but it did hit on a situation in which an injunction should protect beyond the named plaintiffs. Santa Clara and San Francisco offered evidence that their law-enforcement budgets depend on money from the State, which gets some of its money from the DOJ grant program; complete relief for the plaintiff counties thus depended on the regs not being enforced against California.

But while appropriate, this should be a narrow and unique exception to particularity. And the court showed it did not recognize that narrowness when it remanded for the district court to allow the plaintiffs to offer evidence of a universal effect. Although not a party, California was a unique non-party because some of the money it would get from DOJ (and which it would lose under the regs) would be passed to the plaintiffs. No other sanctuary jurisdiction would, if stripped of funds, have the same effect on the plaintiffs' budgets; therefore, stripping funds from no other jurisdiction could render their relief less than complete. For example, if San Francisco does not get money from the State of Oregon or the City of Boston, then enforcement of the funding regs against those cities does not deny San Francisco complete relief.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 1, 2018 at 04:35 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Classroom Without Paternalism?

Slide1As my last post on cold-calling seemed to stir the pot, I'm going to close out the month by trying to do it again.  But this time without being a nattering nabob of negativism ($200 in Jeopardy! if you can identify the source of that line - answer below the break).  (As to cold-calling as a means of generating participation, by the way, I admire the alternatives suggested in Steven Baicker-McKee's subsequent "Flipping the Classroom" post.  I mean to try some of that.)

One of Douglas Levene's comments in the earlier post captures my own bias perfectly: "I figure they are all adults and will get out of the class what they put into it."

Indeed, one of my lines on the first day of class, as I am walking through my own expectations of classroom protocol is the following: "Nobody in this building will care more about and work harder at leading you to water than I will, but nobody will care less than I about whether you choose to drink." That usually comes right before or after I tell them I don't care where they sit, how they take notes, or whether they surf the internet during class.

To be clear, I am not suggesting this is the way I would run a primary or secondary school or even an undergrad class. But I do believe pretty firmly that once you are a graduate student bound, even if prospectively, to a code of ethics and disciplinary rules and within three or four years of licensure and accountability by way of grievance or malpractice, you have first to be accountable to yourself and not to your professors.  That includes deciding, in the face of the performance standards you don't control (like what counts toward getting a good grade), how you want to go about meeting the standards.  That was the source of my nattering negativity about cold-calling. I believe oral participation in a first-year contract law classroom (as opposed to a legal practice skills class) is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and something of a paternal imposition on my part if I demand it without consent.  My primary learning objectives are (a) how to translate real world narratives involving promises, commitments, and transactions into legal theories that produce legal consequences, and (b) how to use some of the rules within the contract law canon to achieve that.  (Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds Disclaimer #1:  I start the year with on-call "panels" that tend to fade out over time.  Why bother at all?  I don't know.)

Below the break, some positive thoughts about running a moderately non-paternalistic class.  I will don my Kevlar "Jim Harbaugh khakis" and leave the comments open.

220px-Spiro_AgnewSeating charts.  Why bother?  There's a reason why Kingsfield is unrolling one at the beginning of The Paper Chase.  It's so he can know where the student on whom he wants to focus his attention is sitting.  If you don't really believe in cold-calling, then there is no reason at all to have one.  Or, worse, it's just a pure power play.  "I am the professor and can move wherever I want.  You are the student and have to sit where I tell you."

I much prefer Howard Katz's suggestion in the comments to the earlier post.  Our school issues the students name cards that even I can see when they are used up in the back row.  Now, in the early days, when I'm still using the on-call panels, it means I have to spend a minute before class begins scanning the room to find where the six or seven students are perched.  That gets pretty easy because, even without a mandatory seating chart, students tend to sit in the same place all semester.  Foolish Consistency Disclaimer #2:  Sometimes I will walk into class, not see very many name cards up, and announce that anybody without a name card showing is on call.  This usually has the effect of causing the name cards to go up.  I acknowledge, however, that this is my preference - wanting to know student names.  I suppose, taking anti-paternalism to its extreme, it's really up to the student to decide whether the student wants me to know his, her, or their name.  

Laptops.  I acknowledge, with some reservations, the controlled studies indicating that as to certain matters, the mean performance of a population of students who take handwritten notes exceeds, to a statistically significant extent, the mean performance of a population of students listening to the same material but taking notes on a computer.  Here are my reservations (with disclaimer that I am not an expert in the interpretation of statistical data - I have consulted with someone who knows a lot more about this than me and am waiting to hear back, so what follows could be wrong).  First, the studies do not show what I think is a problematic counter-factual - how would the specific student taking notes one way in the study perform if the student took notes the other way?  That is, the studies only speak to the average performance of populations, not to the impact of note-taking methodology on individual students.  Second, in my quick look at the studies, I cannot see whether there was any evaluation of the homo- or heteroscedacity of the data.  In other words, are the variances consistent across all sub-populations or do they vary?  Do better students vary less than poorer students when changing note-taking styles?

My real problem with laptop bans, however, is again the paternalism of it all.  I have not handwritten anything of passing importance in probably twenty-five years.  If bored students are going to surf the internet on their laptops, and I ban laptops, they can use their phone or their Apple watches to play games, text, disturb other nearby students, or otherwise ignore me.  Short of making the classroom door look like the security entrance at the airport, I think it's an illusion of control on the professor's part. (I am still waiting for laptop ban proponents to agree that they must deposit all electronic devices outside the faculty meeting room.)

I do do some things designed to encourage more thinking and less verbatim note-taking, whether by hand or keyboard.  All Power Point slides are available on Blackboard from the beginning of the year (or from when I create it if I make up a new one). I audio record all of my classes and make the recording available through a link Media Services creates on Blackboard.  I organize classes in units.  Upon the completion of each one, I post my class notes on Blackboard as well.  All of this is in the manner of "lead you to water."

Having thought this through as writing this post, however, I have decided to abandon my former "don't care if you drink" approach with disclosure regulation.  Starting this fall, it's going to be something like this:  "I don't care what your manner of note-taking is.  Be aware that there are studies showing that the mean performance of a population of students who take handwritten notes exceeds, to a statistically significant extent, the mean performance of a population of students listening to the same material but taking notes on a computer.  I do not know what that means for an individual student.  I know that I would prefer to take notes on a keyboard, but you need to make your own decision about what is best for you."

Verbal interaction.  I would agree that my classes tend to be more about what I have to say on a subject than what students have to say.  I pose questions to the class or even to individual students all the time.  I would agree with the Socraticists that I want each student in the class individually to be processing what the answer to the question should be.  My own experience as a student, again, recalling from many years ago, is that I tuned out most of the student responses, focused on my own working through of the problem, and waited to see what the professor had to say about it.  As a student, I certainly tuned out any student questions or comments that struck me as going far afield of the point being made.

I confess to not having a lot of patience merely to have students debate an issue capable of different outcomes depending on the rule applied or the manner in which a single rule gets applied.  My consistent point is that what makes non-trivial lawsuits non-trivial is that there is sufficient play in the fact situation to point the case toward one analogous prototype or another.  Hence my ubiquitous Venn diagrams of competing issues (the above picture on trying to figure out if a conditional promise creates a bargain or a gift being an example). Sometimes it takes one of those debates to demonstrate that play, but I don't believe that there are philosophically determinate answers in the Venn diagram overlap, so the debates quickly have diminishing pedagogical returns (at least in my view).

As I mentioned above, the "flipping the classroom" techniques look interesting as a way of promoting engagement without paternalism.

Evaluation.  I do a lot of evaluation.  All of the evaluation is completely open book and open note but must be completed individually (enforced solely by Honor Code commitment as to the quizzes). In first year contracts, there are eight units in the first semester and twelve in the second.  In Business Entity Fundamentals, there are nine units.  After each unit, I post an online multiple choice quiz that is generally due one week later.  So by the end of the year, the contracts students will have done 200 multiple choice questions and the BEF students close to that many.  There is an all-essay final at the end of each semester.  The quizzes count one-third of the total grade in each semester.  I design most of the quiz questions (particularly after the first couple quizzes) so that the student should be able to read the narrative and the call of the question and then think about what the essay answer would be before looking at the proffered answers and distractors.

The point is that I create all of the multiple choice and essay questions from my class notes.  Hence, students who don't engage (whether orally or otherwise) in what is going on in the classroom are at a distinct disadvantage.

Alright.  Kevlar khakis are on.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 1, 2018 at 10:15 AM in Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (7)

Dr. Richard Pan Sued for Blocking Users on Twitter

In early 2015, in response to the Disneyland measles outbreak in California, Dr. Richard Pan, along with other legislators,  sponsored SB277, which removed California’s Personal Belief Exemption. While Dr. Pan was not alone in authoring the law – Senator Ben Allen was the other Senate author, Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzales on the assembly side, and there were quite a few sponsors – he was a lead figure, and as a doctor, his views carried weight with many of his colleagues. He became a special target for anti-vaccine activists angry at him.

Dr. Pan was the subject of many attacks, including racial slurs, death threats, and other varieties of personal harassment. Part of his reaction was aggressive blocking of anti-vaccine activists on his social media, twitter and facebook.

On July 27, 2018 Dr. Pan was sued by two anti-vaccine activists – Suzanne Rummel and Marlene Burkitt - for blocking them on Twitter. The activists, echoing the arguments in Knight First Amendment  Institute v. Donald Trump, claimed that Dr. Pan’s twitter account is a public forum and that he discriminated against them based on his viewpoints.

As far as being blocked for being anti-vaccine, the suit likely has merit under Knight.While Knight is only a district court decision and is currently under appeal, it is thoughtful, and carries quite a bit of persuasive force. Dr. Pan is a public official, and should not block users based on content, even if he disagrees with them.

A counter argument is that there is a difference between political disagreement and scientific misinformation, but this is very murky grounds when it comes to public officials: most are not scientists, and at any rate, their twitter account is not where scientific truths are determined, and they should not be able to block users according to whether they see their views as truthful.

Dr. Pan does have a potential alternative argument, if the reason for blocking is not the plaintiffs’ anti-vaccine views. I have not seen the plaintiffs’ tweet: I have Ms. Rummel muted, and do not remember interacting with Ms. Burkitt on twitter. I have, however, seen Ms. Burkitt’s posts to Dr. Pan on Facebook, and they are often not only abusive, but actually threatening. Here are two examples:

Burkitt Slug

 

And:

Burkitt Garrotted

While a public official should not be able to silence an opponent in a public forum for a different viewpoint, there may be differences when someone is threatening the official. Even here, we need to be cautious. Public officials, by the nature of their role, should expect – and are expected to endure – a certain amount of abuse and attacks. But it’s not clear they need to interact with people who threaten them on Twitter. And there is a risk that preventing public officials from blocking those who harass and threaten can deter public officials from taking positions where the opposition is aggressive, and/or encourage direct harassment as a means of making public officials give up unpopular positions. That, too, can have negative implications for the public discourse.

At any rate, the lawsuit is worth following. Dr. Pan can, of course, solve the problem by unblocking the plaintiffs and muting them instead, something that Knight  suggested was acceptable, since it allows users to interact with an account’s followers and participate in the discussion without the public official having to interact. Whether Dr. Pan decides to do that, or litigate on the grounds of harassment, the lawsuit can have important and general implications for public discourse.

Posted by Dorit Reiss on August 1, 2018 at 08:58 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)