Saturday, November 01, 2014
Thanks for having me back. It's November, so let's pretend these posts count toward my NaNoWriMo goals. This month, as we wrap up our classes (for me, tax and family law), I will be blogging about education issues. I will also blog about some items related to my research agenda—the property transfers families make—that have appeared in the news and in my forthcoming articles. One of these articles has benefited from the generous attention and edits of Dan Markel, in whose memory I am guest blogging this month. He is missed.
Thanks to our October visitors, who may be sticking around a few more days to say good-bye.
For November, we welcome back Michael Helfand (Pepperdine), Adam Kolber (Brooklyn), Jake Linford (Florida State), Kirsten Nussbaumer (Stanford), and Margaret Ryznar (Indiana-Bloomington). And Richard Re (UCLA) continues his semester with us.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Does Teaching Torts Warp Your Brain?
Maybe something just happens after 10+ years of teaching Torts. Delve each week into human suffering...in sets a bit of desensitization. Every terrible tragedy in the news -- say, a horrible hayride accident in Maine--drives the Torts Teacher to start asking questions.
Does primary assumption of risk bar a hayride accident victim's lawsuit? (No). Has industry custom been violated? (Perhaps). There's a little voice in one ear opining, "too soon," and one in the other ear whispering, "teachable moment." Who knew, for instance, that Maine has a two-year old rec use-like "Agritourism Activities" law? (HT: Portland Press Herald). That there were attorneys specializing in hayride accidents?
Or consider a simple object encountered in daily life - say, a pencil. The Torts Teacher finds fascinating the question of how many different ways one could accidentally cause one's self fatal injury through encountering said object. (42).
The three D's for a Torts Teacher are certainly not Discipline, Dedication, and Determination. They are Death, Dismemberment, and (Permanent) Disability.
Maybe this isn't unique to my favorite first-year subject. Maybe Evidence teachers reject new science stories not adequately supported by peer review. Maybe labor law professors like Joe Slater Al Snow spend their days pondering whether, were they only in a union, they could file a grievance over some joke lobbed in their direction at the water cooler (bugged or otherwise).
Personally, the biggest effect of teaching Torts on my thinking arose after I became a parent. Baby walkers? Absolutely not. Keeping toddler in a carseat after exceeding its recommended weight? Misuse! Preschooler riding inside the shopping cart? Not on my watch. Product recalls? Reasonably, nay - vigilently!, monitored. In fact, this laptop just got recalled so I need to sign off right now.
Monday, October 13, 2014
10 Lists I Read on the Internet That Made Me Feel Stupid
Maybe I'm just still pondering College Magazine's list of "22 Reasons Why Going to Law School is the Best Decision You'll Ever Make", which, unlike anything I've written, got picked up by Huff Post. All in good fun, sure, though perhaps over-selling the case and understating the seriousness of law school as a financial proposition.
But I must not be the only person to notice that the internet seems to have been taken over by lists. There they are at the bottom and sides of the screen on my tablet, just begging to be clicked on as I strain to get up that one last hill on the stationary bike. Yes, I know, it's all about ads, and getting to put a different ad up after each click on the list. Still...
It's as if the internets think people can only think in lists. I'm all for, say, numbered blog posts, to help make it easier for commenters to point out which aspect of my argument they found the most stupid. But among the problems with these lists is that their authors seem to gravitate towards the number 10, or 12 (unlike our industry's latest booster), but sometimes getting past eight requires adding a few entries that probably didn't belong.
I'll join the fun, though. Here's a list of recent lists I find silly:
I desire only to smell it, drink it, and dream of it.
I prefer to think of myself as a being of only thought and light.
Don't care what coast animates what character. Still cry every time Mufasa dies.
Seriously, Buffalo has an NFL team? Huh.
It's so obviously the best place to live in America we didn't even try for 10 reasons.
Holy Mother Goddess, pagans can go on and on and on...
Odd that "hurts" and "pain" aren't more prominent, or at least "Riggs, I'm getting too old for this ..."
No Tweets about conferences? That's like the most exciting thing we do, dude.
Back in my day, we used to call this a "mix tape".
Guessing Joe Slater knew most of them.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Is Ex parte Young Doomed?
Among the 11 cases in which the Supreme Court granted certiorari this morning is Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, a case out of Idaho (via the Ninth Circuit) that asks "Whether the Supremacy Clause gives Medicaid providers a private right of action to enforce 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(30)(A) against a state where Congress chose not to create enforceable rights under that statute." This is the exact same question that the Supreme Court had before it--and narrowly ducked--two years ago in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, a case I've written about here previously. And the fact that the Court has once again decided to take it up does not bode well for the plaintiffs--or, as I'll explain below, the future availability of remedies under Ex parte Young.
In Douglas, a 5-4 majority vacated the Ninth Circuit's affirmative answer to that question based upon an intervening change in the administrative posture in the case--without endorsing or criticizing the Court of Appeals' ruling. But in a strongly worded dissent on behalf of himself and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, Chief Justice Roberts argued that such remedies under the Supremacy Clause should not be available, lest the Supremacy Clause provide litigants with a means of making an end-run around their inability to enforce section 30(A) (the Medicaid statute's critical requirement that states fund Medicaid at levels sufficient to guarantee "equal access" to quality providers) either directly or via 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For Chief Justice Roberts, Douglas should have followed directly from the Court's earlier decisions in Alexander v. Sandoval (limiting direct enforcement) and Gonzaga University v. Doe (limiting 1983). Taking those cases one crucial step further, the Douglas dissent would have held, for the first time, that litigants may not pursue injunctive relief against state officers for violations of federal law under Ex parte Young unless the underlying federal law is itself privately enforceable.
The reason why such a conclusion would not be inconsistent with Ex parte Young and its progeny, the Chief Justice explained, is because "Those cases . . . present quite different questions involving the pre-emptive assertion in equity of a defense that would otherwise have been available in the State's enforcement proceedings at law.” This hyper-narrow view of the scope of Ex parte Young, which was most forcefully advanced in a 2008 Stanford Law Review article by UVa Professor John Harrison, has never been embraced by a majority of the Supreme Court, and cannot be squared with any number of subsequent Supreme Court decisions. As Justice Scalia reiterated just three years ago, “[i]n determining whether the doctrine of Ex parte Young avoids an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit, a court need only conduct a ‘straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective.’" And because of these modest prerequisites, as then-Justice Rehnquist wrote in 1974, Ex parte Young "has permitted the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution to serve as a sword, rather than merely as a shield, for those whom they were designed to protect.” In other words, litigants have been able to use Ex parte Young to affirmatively and prospectively vindicate federal rights against state officers whether or not they are otherwise facing state enforcement proceedings in which those rights might provide a defense. On the Douglas dissenters' view, such remedies would only be available when such enforcement proceedings were nigh...
And yet, Douglas came within one vote of cementing this far narrower understanding of the availability of such relief. And Justice Kennedy (who joined Justice Breyer's majority opinion in Douglas that ducked the issue) has already expressed at least some support for this view of Ex parte Young elsewhere. After Douglas came out, I wrote a short essay about the bullet that the Douglas Court dodged. With this morning's grant in Alexander, it increasingly appears that any solace one might have taken from that result may well be short-lived.
[Full disclosure: I co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of former HHS officials in support of the Respondent in Douglas--which argued, contrary to the position advanced by the Solicitor General in his amicus brief, that HHS has historically understood private enforcement of the equal access provision to be a critical part of the Medicaid scheme.]
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Life is short
Thanks to Howard for the introduction and to him and all of the permaprawfs for letting me guest here this month. I had expected to thank Dan, of course, who asked in May if I would do another guest stint (my last one was a number of years ago), and so it was oddly comforting that the actual invitation from typepad to begin blogging had the subject line, "Dan Markel has invited you to join PrawfsBlawg." I have had similar messages before, automated from accounts connected with friends or family members who have passed away. I like these messages from the ether, like a friendly wave from the other side.
I didn't intend for my first post to be so sentimental, but night before last a woman in my circle of friends passed away, and her husband and other friends have been writing about her decision to end treatment that would not cure her so that she could live her remaining days as fully as possible with her family. It's a good reminder to work in the things that matter all of the time. And so, in her honor and as a reminder for all of us, here is a link to the poem that she asked her husband to read at her memorial service, On Living by Nazim Hikmet, which begins:
Living is no joke,
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel for example,
I mean expecting nothing except and beyond living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation. . . . .
Monday, September 29, 2014
As September turns to October, our thanks to our September visitors--Seema, Irina, Richard, and Jennifer--for helping kick-off the new school year.
For the new month, we welcome a slate of returning GuestPrawfs: Mark Kende (Drake), Geoffrey Rapp (Toledo), Marcia McCormick (Saint Louis), Zak Kramer (Arizona State), Orin Kerr (GW), and David Orentlicher (Indiana-Indianapolis). [Update: And Richard Re (UCLA) will continue his extended visit with us]
Friday, September 12, 2014
Kopald on health problems from WiFi
Deborah Kopald has a post at Public Citizen's Consumer Law and Policy Blog, discussing health problems associated with WiFi, namely showings of Microwave Sickness by people living/working/going to school too close to wireless hotspots. Worth a read, as she has been pushing this issue for some time.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Remembering Danny has been set-up by Dan's family and loved ones as a place to collect stories, videos, photos, memories, and more, to share with Ben and Lincoln and let them know who their father was and the many lives he touched. Please click over and share.
Also, a reminder that Florida State College of Law will host a memorial service for Dan at 3 p.m. next Tuesday, September 16, 2014, at the College of Law.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Introduction: Richard Chen
The following is by September GuestPrawf Richard Chen.
As a first-time guest blogger, I thought I’d write a short post to introduce myself. I am a visiting assistant professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, where I teach Contracts and International Business Transactions. I am also one of the 492 brave (or foolhardy) people testing the entry-level hiring market, so blogging will provide a much-needed distraction this month while I wait for schools to call.
I want to thank the team running Prawfsblawg for giving me this opportunity to participate. I was originally invited by Dan, whom I did not know but was introduced to by one of my Pepperdine colleagues. He was very gracious in our brief interaction and made me feel welcome. I wish I’d had the opportunity to get to know him, but I do feel privileged now to be joining this community that he created and that he continues to inspire.
As we indicated, one of our big goals in keeping Prawfs going is to continue Dan's tradition of having a wide range of guests from a wide range of schools and disciplines pass through this forum.
As September rolls in, Irina Manta (Hofstra) will continue with her visit from August. We welcome returning visitor Jennifer Bard (Texas Tech) and first-timers Richard Chen (Pepperdine) and Seema Mohapatra (Barry). In addition, Richard Re (UCLA) continues his extended guest stint.
And, again, we are always looking for visitors, new and old. So email Paul or me if you are interested in joining the conversation.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Introduction: Irina Manta
The following is by Irina Manta, who will be guest-blogging with us for the rest of August and all of September.
My last exchange with Dan was on the topic of my guest-blogging here, and I hope to honor his memory by contributing to the wonderful community that he started and ran in the form of PrawfsBlawg. I will mainly be talking about my work in the area of intellectual property over the next month and look forward to the exchanges that will follow. My faculty profile is available here.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Reviving the Research Canons: What Every Law Prof Needs to Have Read
Mike Madison has a really nice piece out entitled "Lost Classics of Intellectual Property Law." In it, he chides legal scholarship for failing to pay enough attention to older pieces that have come before and have laid the foundation for the discipline. His essay seeks to address this problem by setting out those "classics" that need to read, understood, and cited to provide "better and more consistent acknowledgement of earlier work." The article is actually a compilation of his earlier blog posts, including a 2007 self-described "rant" against the failure of IP scholars to understand the background literature in their field. Talking about presentations at a working-papers conference, Madison said: "By far the biggest flaw in presentations and papers by junior IP scholars (and sometimes by more senior IP scholars) was and is their evident ignorance of earlier work. And not just or even work published within the last year or last five years; I’m thinking of the fact that a lot of foundational work published ten years ago or earlier remains significant today."
The new essay called to mind a project we had at Prawfs eight (!) years ago called the "Research Canons" project. The effort was similar to Madison's -- to compile lists of the foundational works in the legal sub-fields for use by scholars in the area, particularly junior ones. At the completion of our two-month run, thanks to help from a lot of folks, we ended up with entries for 42 subject areas. We had 220 comments and links from 18 fellow bloggers supporting the endeavor. You can find a list of the subject areas, with links to the individual posts, here.
At the end of the Canons run, I expressed hope that the canons could serve as a continuing resource. However, I also recognized that "[a] weakness of blogs posts is that they seem to have a short shelf-life: once a post is more than a day old, it can be forgotten." I don't know whether folks continue to check out the Canons, but I suspect that they have been largely forgotten. So it seems like a good time to revive the project, eight years down the road, and think again about those books, articles, and chapters that are canonical -- that everyone in the discipline should have read.
So this post is intended as an announcement for the project and a request for feedback. What's the best way to proceed? I'm planning on having individual posts for individual subjects, as before. But this time, I'm thinking of asking for the following:
- Classic Canons. The pieces that form the foundation for the discipline.
- Forgotten Canons. The pieces that have not gotten the attention they deserve.
- New Canons. The pieces from the last decade that deserve canonical status.
Let me know what you think of the project, whether the old one was helpful, and what we can do this time to make it better.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Guest prawfs, unite
An email and Kelly's comment on my prior post raised two administrative issues.
First, Dan undoubtedly extended guest invitations to people for the coming months (not sure how far in advance he went, but I imagine he had people lined up for this month and next, at the very least). So if you had already agreed to guest-blog at anytime in the remainder of 2014, please email Paul Horwitz and me; we will happily continue with Dan's schedule.
Second, if you are a past guest-prawf and would like to do so again--or even simply write a single post in Dan's honor-- please email Paul and me.
Return to blogging
We remain saddened and stunned by Dan’s tragic death, although buoyed by the overwhelming outpouring of love, respect, and appreciation for everything he achieved in his career and life, including establishing PrawfsBlawg. With that in mind, we wanted to let everyone know that we plan to move forward with PrawfsBlawg and to continue the conversation and community that Dan created. Beginning this week, the remaining permanent bloggers, along with new permanent blogger Sarah Lawsky and the July holdover guests, will resume posting. Thanks to all of you for your support.
As we move forward, we also want to think about the future of PrawfsBlawg and how to both carry forward and build on Dan’s legacy. So we welcome your thoughts, comments, and ideas on how best to continue this community and this dialogue, even in the face of our loss. I should add that you can leave remarks in the comments or email any of the perma bloggers.
Monday, July 28, 2014
First MarkelFest! at SEALS
The first MarkelFest! will be at SEALS this Saturday, August 2, from 8:30-?, in Seaglass Lounge at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Drinks and lounge food are available. Continuing Dan's tradition of blog-sponsored conference get-togethers and now under a new moniker, this is co-sponsored by PrawfsBlawg and Concurring Opinions. Seaglass is located directly off the lobby of the hotel.
Come remember Dan with your best tales and stories and continue his beloved tradition of blog-sponsored gatherings. Hope to see everyone there.
FSU Memoral at SEALS
Florida State will sponsor a formal memorial program on Monday August 4, from 6:15-7:15 in Magnolia D. Approximately 50 people already have expressed interest in attending and/or speaking; Wayne Logan (FSU) will be reaching out with more details. If you have not responded and are interested in attending, please fill out this form.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Refresh Rates and Traffic Rankings in the Law Prof Blog Network
Blog Emperor Paul Caron has the latest law prof blog traffic rankings up over at TaxProf Blog. If you look over the stats closely, you'll notice that all of the members of his Law Professor Blogs Network are up between 35% and 350% in traffic over the last year, with most of the blogs increasing between 100% and 200%. At the same time, I have noticed my LPBN pages automatically refreshing when I leave the window open.
So I guess I'll lay out my views straightforwardly -- I don't see any real reason to have auto-refresh other than to boost traffic. I suppose that if I wanted to just open up the blog and let the auto-refresh do my work for me, I could be assured of getting the most recent content. But if I leave the window open to a blog, it's often because I am in the midst of working my way through the past blog posts and want to come back to it -- not to have to figure out where I was. It makes viewing a video over time impossible, as well (as Caron himself notes). And if I'm on the page of a particular post, I suppose I might like the refresh to show any new comments -- but that's a pretty niche desire. What's more likely, perhaps, is that a lengthy comment will get "vaporized" by the refresh rates, as this comment thread indicates. (A great post & comment thread, BTW!)
So is the refresh innovation a real improvement in the blogging experience, or just a way to boost traffic?
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Thoughts on Work-Life ImBalance from Those Left Behind
Friends, I suspect many of you recall the world's light dimmed in the aftermath of Andrew "Taz" Taslitz's untimely death earlier this year. Andy made the world brighter through his ebullient spirit, infectious laughter, and tireless work on behalf of improving the criminal justice system and the lawyers thrust into its maw.
Since it's summer time and many readers of the blog are just beginning their teaching careers, I thought I'd share a post of Taz's widow, Patty Sun. This is reproduced with her permission from Facebook:I'll post this on Andy's FB page because I'm not sure anyone reads mine anymore, and while this can apply to anyone, it's really addressed to law professors. In the past 4 months I have kept seeing accolades to Andy's amazing productivity - the 100+ articles, the zillions of case books, etc., and I have always told people that yes, he led a normal life, yes, he got plenty of sleep and yes, he even took plenty of naps.
But that's not really true. His life was not normal, at least not to me, and it certainly wasn't balanced. Yes, I know he genuinely loved his work and yes, I know he had a brilliant and unusual mind, and yes, I know he was cut down in his prime when he still had so much more to give.
But all of that came with a price. Not the teaching or the mentoring, but all that scholarship. A few years ago the chair of some symposium set an absolute deadline for everyone to get their drafts in, and by then, even I knew that academics never did that, so I told him to relax and finish it at a normal pace. So what did he do instead? He sacrificed an entire weekend and worked 12 hours both Saturday and Sunday, because damn it, HE was going to submit his draft in on time. So of course what happened? NO ONE else was even close to done by the deadline so the chair had to give everyone else a long extension. And did he mind? Not really, because it just freed up more time for him to do another encyclopedia entry or edit another friend's manuscript.
So what was the price in the end? In the entire time we were married we only took a two-week vacation once, and just about every vacation we did take was wrapped around one of his conferences or presentations. The furthest he went on each of his two sabbaticals was his front bedroom, because he spent every single day on his manuscripts. He turned down trips to China, to South Africa, to Japan, and most impressively to me, he twice turned down a chance to be an observer at Guantanamo. Of course he always had different reasons - S. Africa wasn't safe, the timing of the China trip was bad, etc., but I knew the real reason was he didn't want to take time away from work.
It was only the last vacation we took, to Vermont two years ago, that truly had no relation to his work, and then last year when we finally booked a 2 week cruise to Alaska we had to cancel it after they found his tumor a month before we were supposed to go.
So in the end how do I feel about his productivity? Yes, he enjoyed it, but he also killed himself trying not to disappoint people or to break deadlines.
And as I sit here with the dogs on July 4th, I think was it really that important to add one more book review to his CV or to do one more tenure letter as a favor for someone he never met? I'm glad his peers all loved him for the reliable genius that he was, and I don't know how he feels wherever he is now, but I am very, very bitter.
Yes, he was a great academic mentor and collaborator, but the price for all that frenzied output was me, and there's a part of me that will never forgive him for it, because he died right after he promised to slow down and enjoy life itself more.
So think about it, members of the "academy." All that talk about US News rankings and SSRN citations. Do you REALLY think stuff like that is life and death to your loved ones? I think most of them would sacrifice one more line on your resume for one more day of quality time with you. I know I would. But it's a bargain I can't make any more.
I know that pre-tenure and post-tenure are different worlds, but in Andy's case getting tenure didn't relax him a bit. It only spurred him on to work harder to prove, I think mostly to himself, that he really did deserve it. And it never stopped, because he could always find another reason to choose work over play, becoming active in the ABA, signing on to yet another new project where he could work with good friends or meet exciting new people, and of course lately, brainstorming ways to keep his law school competitive.
I'm not saying Freud was wrong when he said you need both love and work to be happy; in fact, my own work is one of the factors in keeping me sane now, but I believe equally strongly in the Golden Mean. I know that Mean differs for everyone, but Andy always found a reason to keep the needle tilted very far to the work end. I know that kept him happy, but love always involves other people, and anyone who cares about that other part of the equation would do well to remember that if you always decide to choose the work side of the balance you run the risk of having no balance at all.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Some good news
I'm delighted to point our readers to the direction of the NYT oped page today, where they can find Paul Horwitz's excellent essay on the Hobby-Lobby case and its implications.
I'm also thrilled to note that Rachel Harmon's recent contribution here -- about the Riley case and the fragility of policing knowledge demonstrated by the Court therein -- was selected to be included in a Green Bag/Journal of Law series called The Post (here and here); that series showcases exemplary legal writing from the blogosphere.
Congrats Paul and Rachel!
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Rotations...and Happy Canada Day
Friends, it's the first of July and therefore a great day for all the Canadians now ruling the American legal empire. Congrats to Sujit, Austen, Trevor, Gillian, et al. It's just sort of shocking that Eduardo's not Canadian in light of his overall sensibility, but perhaps being up in Ithaca now will simply accelerate his asking for what must be his birthright.
Anywhoooo, it's time to welcome back Frederick Vars (Alabama), Jeff Lipshaw (Suffolk) and Eric Miller (LLS) to the conversation for the month of July. Big thanks to all our June contributors, some of whom will linger as they get their last kicks in.
Last, keep your ears and eyes open for there will almost certainly be a Prawfs happy hour coming up at the SEALS conference in Amelia Island the beginning of August. Peace out!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Is there such a thing as "experiential" scholarship? I asked this question to some of my colleagues during a recent lunch. I asked because there has been much debate on experiential learning and what that might look like in a law class, and there has also been much debate on what relevant scholarship looks like. I was curious if others thought there was any correlation.
After a great discussion with my colleagues, the answer (like all good law school answers) is, "it depends." The discussion boiled down to three observations:1. The Target Audience - For legal scholarship to have an impact, legal scholars should keep in mind why they are writing a piece and who should read it (obviously this goes beyond, "I need to publish so I will come up with a sexy title to capture the attention of law review students"). The target audience could be practitioners, judges, policymakers, and/or academics. If scholarship is, or even can be, correlated to making students practice-ready, then it seems like the first three audiences would be the primary targets since they are actively in practice.
2. The Platform Problem - While academic audiences might be inclined to browse through law review articles, the others - judges, practitioners, and policymakers - are less and less likely to do so. If my target audience extends beyond academics, a lot of issues arise. What platform do I use to reach them? For example, if I want my scholarship to be read by practitioners, where do I publish? The ABA sections all have different periodicals that are published throughout the year. But what about the other audiences - what platform does one use to reach judges? And, of course, articles for non-law reviews would be much shorter than traditional articles. Does that mean forego the traditional law review and go straight to these other platforms (if one can be found)? I don't think so. Instead, that question leads to the third observation.
3. Expertise and Marketing - To become an expert in a certain area undoubtedly requires a lot of research and thought. Such in-depth work is reflected in traditional law review articles. Once a legal scholar becomes an expert, then the key is to market it to the target audience. Write a law review article with the target audience in mind. Once you've mastered the area, actively seek out publication opportunities that will actually reach the audience you want - write a short piece in the area for an ABA publication, turn it into an op ed, try to present at conferences where your target audience attends, become involved in drafting legislation, blog on relevant sites ... bottom line, take your expertise and, for lack of a better word, market it so that it has the practical impact desired. Perhaps this is what a lot of legal scholars already do, but I must admit I haven't done it well. Upon reflection, I think my failure to proactively market my scholarship to non-academics (most of my pieces target judges and policymakers) stems from the fact that, until recently, I was on the tenure track and it was unclear to me whether the effort and time it takes to reach out to such audiences would count as scholarship. Should it? And, more on point, would marketing scholarship to non-academic audiences help us think of ways to teach experientially or help make our students more practice-ready?
Sunday, June 22, 2014
When Is an Anti-Homelessness Ordinance Vague?
"You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?"
--Holden Caulfield, in J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
When I teach 1L criminal law, my preference is to focus not on the sensational cases of serious crime, but on the everyday workings of the system: drugs, property, and various quality of life offenses. As it turns out, teaching the principle of legality, vagueness, and other important basic tenets of criminal legislation becomes apropos and important when using the example of anti-homelessness legislation of various stripes. Many criminal law casebooks include Chicago's ban on loitering and Chicago v. Morales. I like creating a timeline of legislation, showing how cities have consistently tried (and sometimes failed) to find ways to target the poor and get them off the streets. Sit/Lie ordinances are a classic example, as is the latest bout of litigation about this, which involved ordinances that prohibit one from sleeping or living in his or her vehicle.
In Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles, decided a few days ago, the Ninth Circuit tackled a municipal ordinance prohibiting the use of a vehicle “as living quarters either overnight, day-by-day, or otherwise.” The ordinance itself is not new, but it became a convenient enforcement vehicle (pun intended) after an angry "town hall on homelessness" in 2010. As a result of the aggressive enforcement efforts, several folks down on their luck (read: petitioners) tried to craft their behavior to comply with the ordinance as best they understood it: one of them, thinking the ordinance probably applies only to public streets, slept in his car in a church parking lot. Another, in an effort to comply, slept in the street, but kept some items, such as his sleeping bag. Another petitioner, left without work after a head injury, slept in her RV parked in her church. And another one was cited despite not sleeping in his van, just because he stored many items in it.
The officers enforcing the law were not given much instruction. In a memo from 2008 cited in the decision, officers were instructed that “report must describe in detail observations . . . that establish one of the following — (i) overnight occupancy for more than one night or (ii) day-by-day occupancy of three or more days." In another memo, from 2010, officers were told to “adhere to the ‘Four C’s’ philosophy: Commander’s Intent, Constitutional Policing, Community Perspective, and Compassion,” with no further details.
The Ninth circuit found the ordinance unconstitutionally vague, because its articulation left people in serious doubt as to what behavior constitutes "living" in a vehicle. "Is it impermissible to eat food in a vehicle? Is it illegal to keep a sleeping bag? Canned food? Books? What about speaking on a cell phone? Or staying in the car to get out of the rain?" But, of course, as the court knows, middle-class folks talking on their cellphone in the car would not be targeted; the court explicitly says that the law lends itself to arbitrary enforcement and criminalization of the poor.
There are some pretty interesting things going on here. First, what is the relationship between vagueness and the potential for arbitrary enforcement? Yes, miscellaneous so-called quality of life offenses tend to be enforced disproportionately (exclusively!) against the poor. But don't we disproportionally target the poor in enforcing drug offenses, prostitution offenses, property offenses, and even some types of violent offenses? It seems that anti-homelessness bills in all their iterations seem unique to the court, and I think it might be because they are all rather clumsy ways to get around the challenges of prohibiting status rather than criminal behavior. Loitering, sitting on a sidewalk, and sleeping in your car are all things you do when you have nowhere else to go. There seems to be some sort of status/behavior continuum, by which being addicted to drugs is a status one can't help, but being drunk in public is a legitimate offense (even if you have nowhere else to go. Homeless? Don't drink.) Living in your car is vague, but sitting or lying on the sidewalk between certain hours is behavior you can presumably control and therefore a legitimate target of law enforcement. While we can dispute some of these distinctions (I know I do), you could at least make a half-decent argument that there's a free will element, flimsy as it is, that needs to be there to distinguish between a legitimate behavior prohibition and illegitimate prohibition of status.
But there's something else that seems to be going on, and that's a balance of NIMBYism and individual rights. The Ninth Circuit's Judge Kozinski, who thought that sit-lie ordinances were fine and peachy, describes the motivation of the City of Seattle right at the beginning of his decision: "Seeing the wisdom of preserving the sidewalk as an area for walking along the side of the road," he says, "the City of Seattle passed an ordinance generally prohibiting people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in certain commercial areas between seven in the morning and nine in the evening." Ostensibly, this is about legislative accuracy - hours defined, places clearly defined, all of which makes the behavior presumably easy to avoid. But the undercurrent is also that a city is right to clear its sidewalks for some of its residents by prohibiting others from blocking the way by sitting on them.
Which begs the question, how are people sleeping in their car a problem? True, the Los Angeles city ordinance, as it is, is vague. But what if the ordinance, in lieu of prohibiting "using a vehicle as living quarters", prohibited "spending the night, between midnight and 5am, inside one's functioning vehicle, no matter where it is parked, for three consecutive days"? That's not all that vague, is it? And yet, we all have a nagging feeling that, despite the clearer articulation of prohibited behavior, some people are going to get arrested and some aren't.
The real question beneath the surface is, why does it matter to the city whether someone down on his or her luck sleeps in their car? Presumably, if someone sleeps in her car, she doesn't get cold and sick; she's not drunk in the street; and she's not otherwise causing mischief or taxing our already scant welfare dollars. The response has got to be some sort of NIMBYist aesthetic distaste, which Judge Kozinski's decision in Roulette glosses over but never addresses directly. What the architects of this ordinance would really want is for the homeless population to disappear. But because these are real people, they're not going to just vanish like Holden Caulfield's ducks in Central Park. They still have to sleep and eat, and they're going to have to find ways to do it, and going one by one to eliminate these modes of survival, vague or not, arbitrary or not, is cruel and inhumane.
As a brief coda, this case didn't raise any Fourth Amendment issues, but it has always fascinated me how the Fourth Amendment makes both homes and cars into special places with special rules, in opposite ways: homes receive extra protection and cars receive explicitly less protection. Presumably, the consitution protects "people, not places", but what with the return to tresspass theory in Jones, It seems to me that the economic downturn calls for a more sensitive conceptualization of the car and its role in people's lives. What with the scholarly attention to the American cult of homeownership (see here, here, here, and here) we forget that we also have a fairly robust car culture, which impacts urban planning and even globalization. The centrality of the car to one's lifestyle is as American as apple pie. Maybe the downturn has created an important permutation in the cultural role of vehicles, meriting them more constitutional protection than would be justified by a narrow conception of them as vehicles.
Monday, June 02, 2014
Rotations and Sundry
Greetings and Happy June!
This month I'm delighted to welcome back Dean Dan Rodriguez from NW, Hadar Aviram (Hastings), and Chad Oldfather from Marquette. I'm also excited to introduce Naomi Goodno from Pepperdine, who's with us for the first time. Our May guest Kristen Osenga from Richmond will stay on for another month too. Many thanks to you all from May and earlier for joining us (again). Belated thanks also are due to Richard Re, who's joining the UCLA faculty and is going to be one of our designated Court-watchers for a while. Next, although he himself abjures all moral relevance of desert, John Pfaff from Fordham warrants our gratitude for his important (and intermittent) series on the failings of the conventional narrative of prison growth. My hope is that John's continued platform here will shift the national conversation on criminal justice matters more productively. Finally, as SCOTUS winds down its term, I imagine Jack Chin will chime in with his excellent series on the legal academy and its influence on the Roberts Court.
It's an auspicious time to be part of the conversation. Prawfs celebrated its 9th anniversary in April and now had (according to Sitemeter) the highest traffic in terms of page views that we've ever had: over 279,000 in May. We're slated to have another great book club later this month thanks to Matt Bodie's efforts. And I'm happy to report that West Academic has invested some confidence in this site with sponsorship efforts that I hope will continue and strengthen over time. Please check out their coursebook catalog through the button ad and consider getting in touch with them (Pam Siege Chandler) if you're thinking of working on a casebook!
That's all for now.
Oops, one last reminder. Carissa Hessick (a regular contributor to Prawfs) and I are going to be locking down registration for the CrimFest 14 Conference at Rutgers this week, so if you've not already registered please do so today or tomorrow. You can find the relevant information at this link. Carissa recently had a baby, so what better way to celebrate the new addition to the Hessick family than saying: Hey, I'll come hang out with that baby's mama in Newark in July!
Saturday, May 31, 2014
The month of May has come quickly to an end. Much thanks to Dan and the PrawfsBlawg team for letting me visit this month. Thanks also my very supportive colleagues at Texas Tech including reader extrordinaire, Professor Eric Chiappinelli, to everyone who read the pieces, who commented on-line, and who contacted me directly. For those interested in thoughtful commentary on legal education, the place to be in addition PrawfsBlawg and TaxProf blog this summer is a third member of the family, Law Deans on Legal Education edited by I. Richard Gershon, Dean and Professor University of Mississippi School of Law, Paul E. McGreal Dean and Professor of Law University of Dayton School of Law, and Cynthia L. Fountaine, Dean and Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law
I look forward to visiting again in September.
With best wishes,
Friday, May 23, 2014
Report from ALI Annual Meeting--and What Justice Ginsberg is Reading
I’m just back from the 91st annual meeting of the American Law Institute in Washington, DC. So much happened in a three day period that it’s hard to do justice—I know that many others have blogged and tweeted. In keeping with the theme of what I’ve been blogging about, higher education, I will report that the current state of legal education was a palpable presence and a frequent topic of conversation. Whether it was ALI President Roberta Cooper Ramointroducing Associate Academic Dean Ellen Clayton of my neighbor institution, the University of North Texas, UNT Dallas College of Law, as someone doing a remarkable thing to open a new law school to Justice Breyer's charming refusal to be drawn into either a criticism of legal education or a comment on the current complaints being made against it.
It is also my honor to pass on that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg reported that she was reading Wings of Freedom: Addressing Challenges to the University while giving its author, former president of Stanford University Professor Gerhard Casper, the ALI’s Distinguished Service Medal. I have ordered but not yet received the book, so here is the blurb:
“From affirmative action and multiculturalism to free speech, politics, public service, and government regulation, Casper addresses the controversial issues currently debated on college campuses and in our highest courts. With insight and candor, each chapter explores the context of these challenges to higher education and provides Casper’s stirring orations delivered in response. In addressing these vital concerns, Casper outlines the freedoms that a university must encourage and defend in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge.”
ALI is always inspiring--like everyone I had no idea as a law student that the Restatements were actually the product of so much collective and collaborative work. It is also a "how to" of running an event at which every attendee is used to being in charge either as a Judge, a Professor, a General Counsel or a Partner.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Introduction: Re's Judicata
Thanks to Dan and the other Prawfs for inviting me to guest blog! For the next few weeks, I'll be cross-posting some material from my new blog, "Re's Judicata," which provides offbeat commentary on the Supreme Court. My first few posts have been on topics like "Schuette and Quidditch," "Heien and the Other Rule of Lenity," and "Custom in Town of Greece and Vonnegut's 'Spruce Falls.'" This coming year, I'll start teaching criminal procedure and federal courts at UCLA; if you're curious, my papers are here. I'll look forward to your comments as we wrap up an exciting end of term!
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Outcomes Based Assessment is Coming
Thanks for all the comments about evaluation of faculty teaching—and thank you to Professor Bainbridge for the transition to the next topic—Outcomes Assessment. The days when we in legal education could say that the bar exam did outcomes assessment for us are rapidly coming to an end. Outcomes assessment (or “output assessment as it is sometimes known) is something we in legal academe will soon likely be required to do in every class, for every student. Why? Because our regional accrediting agencies already demand it and the ABA has already put forward for comments changes to Section 301 here reflecting this report by a 2008 subcommittee.
If I’ve lost anyone here about regional accrediting agencies, now is a good time to lift the veil. So long as we depend on our students using federal student loan programs to pay their tuition, we must meet the Department of Education’s standard that we provide a “quality” education. And while the DOE does not tell us, or anyone else, what “quality” is, it can require that we submit ourselves to an entity it recognizes as being qualified to do so. We all know that the ABA sets standards of quality for legal education, but unless you have a role in developing new programs, you may not be aware of your regional accreditor, but rest assured your Dean and Provost think about them all the time. For example, Texas A & M University would not have been able to acquire Texas Wesleyan Law School without the approval of the Southern Association of Schools ad Colleges. Here’s the TAMU Press Release and here’s the actual SACSCOC announcement.
So back to Outcomes Assessment— it makes sense to evaluate law schools and faculties on their results rather than their efforts (we don’t raise the grades of students because they “tried hard”) but like all assessment it can’t happen without first identifying what outcomes to measure and how to do it. Is it mastery of material in individual courses? Bar Passage? Employment in a J.D. required job? Competency in practice? Client satisfaction? Personal satisfaction? All of these are desirable outcomes for our law students, but the question legal education shares now with all higher education is which of them can be directly linked to what happens in law schools.
Luckily for us as we make the transition to outcomes assessment, there is a wealth of reference material. This piece from Prof. Gregory Munro reviews the topic of outcomes assessment at the level of the individual law school class. Since we are relatively late to the outcomes assessment party there are a lot of models out there. Here is a very interesting article by Profs. Deborah Maranville, Kate O’Neill, and Carolyn Plumb drawing lessons for legal education from Engineering’s experiences in assessing not just content outcomes but also ethical ones. Here is an article by Carolyn Grose about her experiences integrating outcome measures into her Trusts and Estate class.
At a practical level, our friends at UCHastings have put together a very helpful compilation of resources, including sample syllabi, for law professors who want to create and then assess learning objectives in their classes. The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning is a rich and frequently updated source of helpful material on all aspects of law teaching, very much including issues of outcomes assessment.
This will be a big change for us both on the level of setting individual output/outcome goals for each of our classes and then on a larger scale for our schools as a whole. But it’s a change that’s coming and for which we need to prepare ourselves. I know that these links only scratch the surface of the work being done within legal academe to address the need for outcomes measures and I invite everyone to include material they either created or know about that will be helpful to the community at large.
Another Canadian usurps power, fame and riches
My dear friend and fellow Canadian passport holder Sujit Choudhry was named dean of Berkeley Law earlier today (well, yesterday technically). That's the latest in musical chairs among Suj, who moves from NYU to Berkeley, Gillian Lester (another Canadian) who will move from Berkley to helm Columbia Law, and Trevor Morrison (yet another Canadian and former Prawfs contributor), who began this wild rumpus, when he moved downtown from CLS to NYU. These three deans hailing from Canada join others with some Great Northern lineage: Austen Parrish is now at Indiana Maurer, Doug Sylvester is at ASU (though I think he's really a Yank who merely studied in Canada), and Camille Nelson (Suffolk)--Austen tells me she was Jamaican born but grown up in Toront0. As I understand it, no school has as yet endured a coup by Paul Horwitz, Rob Howse, or myself (or Kevin Davis or Katrina Wyman ). But in Paul's case, it's merely a matter of seconds, surely. And the broader point holds: the conspiracy's insidious tentacles are far-reaching and getting stronger, and just when you least expect it, you might end up working for a Canadian, even though s/he will surely insist you're merely working with him or her.
P.S. Thanks to Steve Lubet at Northwestern (a fellow Canadian), I came across this video of how Canada sucks the life-force from the unsuspecting, rendering them giddy and unfailingly polite.
Sunday, May 04, 2014
CrimFest 2014 (aka the Sixth Annual CrimProf Conference)
Folks, I'm delighted to share some information regarding the upcoming CrimProf Conference at Rutgers-Newark that the indomitable Carissa Hessick and I have cobbled together with the help of many others.
First, the conference schedule is here. We have 18 panels and over 60 people slated to present and/or comment. If you're not on the list of presenters/commenters but would like to attend, you are welcome to do so if you're a crimprof or vap/fellow. Information about registration is below. The very modest fee of 50$ gets you breakfast and lunch for two days along with snacks/coffee. Big thanks to our hosts at Rutgers-Newark. Please note the registration fee is NON-REFUNDABLE, and the deadline for registration is June 1, 2014.
In order to register, you have to use Paypal (kudos to Carissa for figuring this out). Here's the button that should get you on your way to the registration fee:
Thursday, May 01, 2014
A Quick Hello
I am happy that Dan and PrawfsBlawg are letting me guest here this month. Thanks!
I'm Kristen Osenga from the University of Richmond School of Law. My teaching and research interests are intellectual property, interpretation, and language and the law, with a particular interest in patent law.
This month I plan on sharing some of my research and thoughts on my latest obsession -- patent trolls. Who isn't fascinated by these terrible creatures? I also want to talk about some cognitive biases I see at play in intellectual property law. Finally, this term has also been a banner year for patent cases at the Supreme Court...of course I'll be weighing in on these as the opinions come down.
And so as not to bore you all with patent law, patent law, and more patent law, I have been thinking about (and experimenting just a bit) with "flipping the classroom." Although I think this is an intriguing way to teach and allow for more problem-based learning or experiential exercises in the classroom, I am surprised at some of the skepticism and pushback I have heard. I look forward to sharing my (not so great) experiences, my plans for doing it better the second time around, and some of the debate about whether it is good for students and/or worth the excess work.
Greetings and Happy May Day!
The first of the month is upon us and with it a time to introduce our guest bloggers: Jennifer Bard from Texas Tech, Kristen Osenga from Richmond, and Adam Steinman from SHU en route to Alabama. Our cast of characters from April may stick around for a bit, but I want to thank them for their contributions thus far and note that they might just linger as they get some remaining posts out.
Hope the onset of May brings champagne, strawberries, and Maypole dances your way.
Hello—and thank you to Dan and PrawfsBlawg for inviting me to guest this month!
My name is Jennifer Bard and I am a Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law where, among other things, I direct our Health Law Program. I’ve been blogging in the “Profs” family at HealthLawProfs and more recently also at the Harvard Bill of Health. My research interests include legal & ethical issues in conducting research, the effect of increasing knowledge about the brain on the legal response to criminal conduct, and the intersection between Constitutional Law and the regulation of health care delivery and finance. Here’s where you can find some things I’ve published.
Over the next month, I look forward to blogging about issues I’ve been thinking about a lot including the future of legal education—both in terms of curricular reform and addressing the substantial challenges facing us about the cost of law school and the rapidly changing job market, current issues in higher education, and of course on-going developments in health law.
My thinking has been shaped a lot by two degrees I got after law school. The first was a master’s of public health which gave me the “prevention” model of solving. The big idea in public health is that it’s always easier to prevent a problem than to solve one—but first you need to understand its causes. The second is a Ph.D. in Higher Education that introduced me to the much larger theoretical and regulatory context in which legal education occurs.
This is a time of significant change in higher education as it faces close scrutiny from consumers and the state and federal governments representing them. For example, on Monday President Obama issued a report calling for substantial changes to the way universities both prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault. Here is the first PSA to come from the White House on this topic. Although law schools often see themselves as autonomous islands within the larger university, we are all going to see the effects of this and other related campaigns.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Of (Courtney) Love and Malice
Today Seattle Police released a note found on Kurt Cobain at his death excoriating wife Courtney Love. Based on her subsequent behavior, Love cannot have been an easy person to be married to. I've been researching Love lately for an article on social media libel that I'm writing with RonNell Andersen Jones. Love is not only the first person in the US to be sued for Twitter libel; she's also Twibel's only repeat player thus far. According to news reports, Love has been sued for Twitter libel twice , and recently she was sued for Pinterest libel as well.
Love's Twitter libel trial raises interesting issues, one of which is how courts and juries should determine the existence of "actual malice" in libel cases involving tweets or Facebook posts by "non-media" defendants. As you probably recall, the US Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment requires public figures and public officials to prove actual malice--i.e., knowledge or reckless disregard of falsity--before they can recover for defamation. And even private figure defamation plaintiffs involved in matters of public concern must prove actual malice if they wish to receive presumed or punitive damages. However, US Supreme Court jurisprudence elucidating the concept of actual malice predominantly involves “media defendants”—members of the institutional press—and the Court’s examples of actual malice reflect the investigative practices of the institutional press. Thus, the Court has stated that in order for a plaintiff to establish actual malice, “[t]here must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication." [St. Amant v. Thompson] Actual malice, for example, exists if a defendant invents a story, bases it on ‘an unverified anonymous telephone call,” publishes statements “so inherently improbable that only a reckless man would have put them in circulation,” or publishes despite “obvious reasons to doubt the veracity of [an] informant or the accuracy of his reports." Id.
These examples have little resonance for “publishers” in a social media context, many of whom, like Love, post information spontaneously with little verification other than perhaps a perusal of other social media sources. The typical social media libel defendant is less likely than her traditional media counterpart to rely on informants strategically placed within government or corporate hierarchies or to carefully analyze primary sources before publishing. Moreover, the typical social media defendants has no fact-checker, editor, or legal counsel and is less likely than institutional media publishers to have special training in gauging the credibility of sources or to profess to follow a code of ethics that prizes accuracy over speed.
The issue Courtney Love's libel trial appears to have raised is whether it constitutes reckless disregard of falsity if a defendant irrationally believes her defamatory accusation to be true. I say "appears," because one can only glean the issue from media accounts of Love's libel trial--the first full jury trial for Twitter libel in the US. The jury found that Love lacked actual malice when she tweeted in 2010 that her former attorney had been "bought off." Specifically, Love tweeted: “I was f—— devestated when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was bought off @FairNewsSpears perhaps you can get a quote[sic].” Holmes sued Love in California state court for $8 million, arguing that the tweet accused Holmes of bribery. Love contended that her tweet was merely hyperbole. News accounts of the jury verdict in Love’s favor, however, indicate that the jury found that Love did not post her tweet with “actual malice." The jury deliberated for three hours at the end of the seven-day trial before concluding that the plaintiff had not proved by clear and convincing evidence that Love knew her statements were false or doubted their truth.
The Love case doesn't set any precedents, but it raises interesting issues for future cases. According to court documents and news accounts, Love consulted a psychiatrist for an “addiction” to social media. Certainly Love’s actions in the series of defamation cases she has generated do not seem entirely rational, but there is no “insanity defense” to a libel claim. Yet the determination of whether a defendant had “actual malice” is a subjective one, meaning that it is relevant whether the defendant suffered from a mental illness that caused her to have irrational, or even delusional, beliefs about the truth of a statement she posted on social media. It seems problematic, however, for the law to give no recourse to the victims of mentally disordered defamers pursuing social media vendettas based on fantasies they have concocted. As a practical matter, this problem is likely to be solved by the skepticism of juries, who will rarely accept a defendant’s argument that she truly believed her delusional and defamatory statements. Or at least I hope so.
And in case you wondered . . . Love's first social media libel case involved her postings on Twitter, MySpace and Etsy calling a fashion designer known as the "Boudoir Queen" a "nasty lying hosebag thief" and alleging that the Queen dealt cocaine, lost custody of her child, and committed assault and burglary. Love apparently settled that case for $430,000. Love's third social media libel case involves further statements about the Queen that Love made on the Howard Stern show and posted on Pinterest. Some people, it seems, are slow learners.
Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on April 30, 2014 at 06:30 PM in Blogging, Constitutional thoughts, Culture, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Information and Technology, Lyrissa Lidsky, Torts, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
If you are seeing this, then we're back from that DDoS that Typepad blogs have been subject to for the last few days. We're relieved but still looking over our shoulders, frankly. Has absence made the heart grow fonder? Or is out of sight out of mind? We only hope that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. (Oh here, enjoy some Joni Mitchell instead.)
Monday, April 14, 2014
We're Number 8! We're Number 8!
Congrats to our blogmaster Dan for not only hitting the ninth anniversary at Prawfs (willow/pottery or leather gifts, please), but also hitting eighth in the Caron law prof blog traffic rankings, with almost two million page views As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're glad that you come to Prawfs, whether it be for our series of posts or just one particular discussion, and we hope to give you reason to keep coming back.
And while we're on the traffic rankings subject, I've noticed that the law prof network blogs now automatically refresh after a spell. How do folks feel about this feature? And does each "refresh" count as a new page view?
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Happy 9th Birthday, PrawfsBlawg!
Here are some selections from our birth-week--for some reason I had misremembered our birthday as April 9, but in fact it was April 5, 2005.
I grow old, I grow old ... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Next year, to celebrate our 10th, I'll be buying a round of Ensure shakes for all the geezers at our Prawfs-Co-Op happy hour.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
MERCY IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: CLEMENCY AND POST-CONVICTION STRATEGIES
My colleagues at the NYU Center on the Administration of Criminal Law are hosting a very interesting day of discussions on mercy and clemency in the criminal justice system on the upcoming Ides of April. Doug Berman, a frequent guest here at Prawfs, will be one of the many interesting speakers. Here's the info.
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (CLE registration starts at 9:30 a.m.)
Location: Greenberg Lounge, Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South
Keynote Speaker: White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler
Panel Discussions: The Role of Law Schools in Delivering Clemency and Post-Conviction Assistance. This panel will discuss how law schools are providing critical services to prisoners through clemency clinics and other mechanisms, and will also provide practical training on how to effectively prepare clemency petitions, post-conviction motions and provide other reentry support to prisoners. Moderator: Prof. Mark Osler, University of St. Thomas Law School. Panelists: Prof. Anthony Thompson, NYU Law; Prof. J.P. “Sandy” Ogilvy, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University; Harlan Protass, Esq., Clayman & Rosenberg; Prof. Joann M. Sahl, University of Akron Law School.
What We Can Learn About Clemency From the States. This panel will examine the different ways clemency and pardon petitions are administered in selected states with effective systems. Moderator: Nancy Hoppock, Executive Director of the CACL. Panelists: Lt. Governor Matthew Denn, State of Delaware; Hon. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., King & Spalding and former Governor of Maryland; Margaret Love, Esq., former U.S. Pardon Attorney; Jorge Montes, Esq., former Chairman of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
The Future of Clemency. This panel will discuss recent developments in federal clemency and where clemency could and should be headed in the future. Moderator: Prof. Rachel E. Barkow, NYU Law. Panelists: Amy Baron-Evans, National Federal Defender Sentencing Resource Counsel; Prof. Paul G. Cassell, University of Utah Law School; Prof. Douglas A. Berman, Ohio State University Law School; Sam Morison, Esq.; Daphna Linzer, Managing Editor of MSNBC.com.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Happy Spaghetti Tree Day!
I'm delighted to issue a warm welcome to three new voices to Prawfs (Victoria Schwartz from Pepperdine, David Orentlicher from Indiana, and Garrick Pursley from Florida State); I'm also thrilled to welcome back to Prawfs our fair hero, Dave Fagundes from Southwestern. Many thanks also for the enriching conversations spurred by our March guests , some of whom may still linger.
This month is a special one here at Prawfs. Next week we celebrate our 9th anniversary. Wtf? We've obviously become unhinged. Watch this space for more ways to waste your time.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Waldron v. Seidman, and the obligations of officials and the rest of us
"Never Mind the Constitution." That's the awesome title of this characteristically sharp and learned essay by Jeremy Waldron, reviewing in the HLR Mike Seidman's new book, On Constitutional Disobedience. Seidman's got a cheeky and funny short reply to Waldron, entitled, appropriately enough, "Why Jeremy Waldron Really Agrees With Me." I wonder if Seidman's Response will continue the apparent trend of the personal title for scholarship, e.g., Why Jack Balkin is Disgusting. If Susan Crawford's Response in the Harv. L. Rev. Forum to the review of her book by Chris Yoo is any indication, I suspect at most we can use these few data points only to identify a trend in favor of the "meta" title and not make broader generalizations just yet.
Moving past the title to something like the merits, I'll confess I'm pretty skeptical toward the general thrust of Seidman's argument (as characterized by Waldron and as evidenced in his NYT oped from last year). He is, as Waldron notes, basically a philosophical anarchist and that's a position I find largely untenable under particular conditions of a reasonable well-working liberal democracy. (Importantly, some of Waldron's work on political obligation was what led me down that path but little of Waldron's work on that subject figures into his review of Seidman.) One last mildly interesting thing to note is that Seidman's embrace of philosophical anarchism and his export of it to constitutional theory basically coincides with the thrust of Abner Greene's recent book, Against Obligation. There are differences between them, some of which are discussed here (review of Seidman by Greene) and here (review of Greene by Seidman). For those interested in these overlapping and important projects, the BU Law Review published a symposium on these two books last year, and you can find the contributions here, which I'm looking forward to exploring further, since, full disclosure, I am writing dreaming up something inspired by these various works on the moral and political obligations of prison or other corrections officials as a distinct class of officials).
Thanks to Dan and the rest of the Prawfs folks for having me as a guest blogger during March. I'm an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law and am currently doing a semester-long visitorship at New England Law | Boston. I teach criminal procedure, sentencing, constitutional law II, and First Amendment, and write at the intersection of First Amendment and criminal law, specifically "group" or "membership" crime, with an occassional dash of national security. You can find some of my representative work here, here, and, currently making its way through the spring submissions season, here.
Some of the issues that particularly interest me, and that I hope to explore during this guest blogging stint include: the role of the law professor in the "new" law school milieu of practice readiness, etc.; the role of the law professor as public intellectual, as Nicholas Kristof has recently discussed; and the abiding importance of scholarship for teaching and society, and how it can be understood and contextualized. Maybe I'll get to these, and maybe other events will unfold.
Friday, February 28, 2014
As March approaches, I just wanted to take a moment to thank our February guests, some of whom will linger as they get some remaining thoughts off their desk, and also to welcome our band of visitors for March: Erik Gerding from Colorado (with a new book to promote!), Steven Morrison from U North Dakota, Mehrsa Baradaran from Georgia, and David Han from Pepperdine. Thank you all for being part of the conversation and community here!
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Blog Post as Community
I generally experience PrawfsBlawg and othe law prof blogs the old-fashioned way -- checking out the site by clicking on the link from my "favorites" bar. The disadvantage of reading blogs this way is that you're always drawn to what's on top; you may miss something interesting that's percolating below.
Prawfs is fortunate to have a couple of blog post "communities" that have developed here, thanks to Dan and Sarah. This one -- on law review placement activity -- has over 400 comments. This one, a clearinghouse for law school hiring market questions, has over 1500 comments. I imagine participants in these communities only visiting these posts -- or at least, visiting these posts separately from the rest of the blog -- and checking in on the latest news. Most participants are anonymous, although some have handles that make their comments recognizable within the collective. Even with the anonymity, there are conversations that take place across time. There are news and opinions -- points and counterpoints and counter-counterpoints. These posts are communities which spring up each year at a certain time, like Brigadoon, and then gradually disappear, only to come to life again the following year.
These communities remind me a bit of urbanbaby, the website where anonymous posters address a wide variety of issues related to childhood. No one knows who is talking to whom, but there are distinct personalities, strong views, and collective wisdom. You may not be able to trust any one poster, but if you get enough of the same reply, and it makes sense, you can probably run with the advice. I can't vouch for urbanbaby now, as I haven't visited in some time, and it's not in the zeitgeist like it was in the mid-aughts. (Here are some NYT and NYMag articles about it.) But as a young parent, I used to call it the oracle, because you could put in almost any question and get a set of thoughtful, clever, and, yes, snarky replies. I think it shows that under the right conditions, you can have a sizeable, anonymous, online community that shares information and feels like a place you want to visit.
And if you want to check out some AALS hiring market poetry, click here and scroll down.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The myth of the trial penalty?
Every now and then, I like to spotlight some articles that unsettle the conventional wisdom, particularly in criminal law. Add this one to the file. Almost every teacher of criminal procedure is aware of the idea of the "trial penalty," which conveys the sense that defendants who exercise their right to a trial will invariably get a worse result if convicted than if they plea bargain. The leverage prosecutors have in exploiting the trial penalty dynamic was described by my friend Rich Oppel in a front page NYT story he wrote a few years back.
Comes now (or relatively recently at least) David Abrams from Penn with an article that slays the sacred cow of the trial penalty by providing, you know, data. And the data is the best kind of data because inasmuch as it's true, it is SURPRISING data. Specifically, Abrams argues that based on the study he performed (which originally appeared in JELS and now appears in a more accessible form in Duquesne Law Review), the data supports the view that in fact there's a trial discount not a trial penalty. Fascinating stuff. Abrams offers some suggestions for what might explain this surprise: possibly a salience/availability bias on the part of the lawyers who remember the long penalties imposed after dramatic trials. Regardless of what explains the conventional wisdom, the competing claims should be ventilated in virtually every crim pro adjudication course.
Since this empirical stuff is far outside my bailiwick, I wonder if those who are in the know have a view about how Abrams' research intersects with the Anderson and Heaton study in the YLJ, which argued that public defenders get better results in murder cases than court appointed defense counsel, or Bellin's critique of that YLJ study here. Anderson and Heaton basically argue that public defenders get better results because they get their clients to plea bargain more frequently than court appointed counsel and that explains the outcome. As I recall dimly, that conclusion may have been true for the murder cases but the study didn't purport to make the claim that PDs were better across the board and maybe that's consistent with Abrams' views too. It would be odd (wouldn't it?) if comparatively fewer murder cases involve a trial penalty while the many other cases do not and in fact show a trial discount. Granted, these studies took place in different cities, etc., so I am also wondering if the various studies can be reconciled. Thoughts?
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Happy Anniversary, Mirror of Justice (and Facebook)!
It's not just Facebook celebrating today, but also our friends at Mirror of Justice, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary!! (For those keeping score, Prawfs will turn 9 in April.)
Here's a taste of what's happened and what's to come. As Rick says, "In the coming days, the MOJ bloggers will be putting up "anniversary" reflections, so stay tuned. And, in the meantime, thanks to all those -- we have had more than 3 million visits over the years -- who have made MOJ a part of their surfing routines."
Saturday, February 01, 2014
Redyip's return: Angsting Thread Spring 2014 edition
So I understand Redyip is still waking up from his dogmatic winter slumber but the commenters on the prior thread are clamoring for him to brush his teeth and be on his way, so if you are an author or law review editor and want to share information about your submission experience to the law reviews, this is the place to do it. Feel free to use the comments to share your information (and gripes or praise) about which law reviews have turned over, which ones haven't yet, and where you've heard from, and where you've not, and what you'd like Redyip to bring you for Purim, etc. It's the semi-annual angsting thread for the law review submission season. Have at it. And do it reasonably nicely, pretty please.
If you're interested in asking Redyip questions, BDG might come out of the woodwork too to conduct an interview. Here's the last installation of back and forth.
Update: link to final page of comments here.
Happy February! I'm delighted to welcome Daria Roithmayr from USC (who will be blogging about her new book I hope!), as well as Randy Kozel from Notre Dame and Jordy Singer from NESL. Welcome (back)!
Many thanks also and as always to Nancy Leong and Ann Marie Marciarille for their contributions to the conversation in January. We look forward to seeing you back soon!
Thursday, January 09, 2014
A Plea for Stories...
This post is on behalf of a friend who's interested in writing a law school-based novel. (I swear it's not me; most people who know me know that I endure fiction as well as I do cats.)
In the wake of all of the media attention on law schools, a Prawf has decided that it’s time for this generation’s epic law school novel. This Prawf has no interest in writing another Paper Chase (too mean), 1L (too narcissistic) or Legally Blonde (too ditzy). No, this Prawf wants to tell a tale about what law school’s really like – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
AuthorPrawf is seeking your assistance and wants to hear from you about the following questions:
1) What was your very best experience in law school? It could be the time you got an A on an exam you thought you’d bombed, or the time you answered a question in class that no one else got, or the guest speaker who motivated you, or the great locker assignment you had 3L year. The sky’s the limit! The more specific, the better. If you can tell a vivid story, you get five gold stars.
2) What was your very worst experience in law school? Was it getting humiliated in class? Getting beat in the first round of moot court? Getting kicked out of your study group? The more specific, the better. If you can tell a vivid story, you get five gold stars.
3) Do you have any really funny stories of stuff that happened to you in law school?
4) As a law prawf, what is the most amusing story you have to tell about an interaction with a student? Do you have an email string or anything you can share?
5) As a law prawf, have you ever dealt with an honor code issue? Can you share details? (Obviously, many facts would be changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.)
If you are willing to share, AuthorPrawf will gladly give you credit in the book. AuthorPrawf will also pick the very best story shared and offer a reading at your school after publication – AuthorPrawf will even pay travel expenses. Law prawfs in Malibu, Boulder, Miami, and other awesome destinations, please apply.
This could be a really fun thread, so please post your stories here if you’d like. If your law school experience was so humiliating that you just can’t post it (even anonymously among friends), email AuthorPrawf at email@example.com. AuthorPrawf is a law prawf and a lawyer and promises to hold all stories in strict confidence unless permission is given to use them in the book (with names and identifying details changed).
Friday, January 03, 2014
Rotations and AALS Sundry
Happy new year everyone! It's a snowy day here in Manhattan, but the AALS conference is still slated to unfold this morning.
A few minor programming announcements. First, domestically here at Prawfs, I'm delighted to both welcome back Ann Marciarille (MO) and Nancy Leong (DU) to the conversation here and to express thanks to Miriam Baer (BLS) for staying along for the ride in January. Greetings and welcome back!
Also, Eric Posner is now officially unhinged-- he is doing some awesome blogging over at his new website, Ericposner.com. Needless to say, I am hoping that Eric will abandon his solo blog and instead join our ranks here at PrawfsBlawg, where there's a larger and more passionate market for his posts observing, among other things, the graphical relationship between pomposity and the social value of legal scholarship. Eric, by way of this public invitation, let me reassure you that you can cross-post your graphs and apercus.
Even more importantly, with respect to the NYC law prof world, let's talk about boozing and schmoozing. Tonight is the annual Prawfs/Concurring Opinions Happy Hour. It will take place at the Bridges Bar in the NY Hilton, where the AALS conference is taking place, and the fun will begin around 930 and continue until all the cats are dead.
Second, in addition to the typical foofaraw happening at the Hilton, the Fed Soc is hosting its free shadow faculty conference (schedule here). I'll be there later this afternoon to present a 7 minute version of my paper with Howard Wasserman and Michael McCann called, Catalyzing Fans.
Third, since I'm on the executive committee for the Scholarship Section of AALS, I want to alert readers to the very cool panel we've put together, starring, among others, Prawfs' very own Matt Bodie. Here's the info:
Many law professors publish exclusively or primarily in law reviews. Others make different choices and author books, write essays, draft amicus briefs, prepare comment letters to regulators, or blog. Some do a combination of the above. Panelists will discuss why they have chosen to disseminate their ideas outside of the conventional law review format. Why write a book? What kind of scholarship is more appropriate for a book as opposed to a series of articles? When should one try to draft an amicus brief, or prepare a comment letter to a regulator? The panel will be asked to discuss choices they have made in deciding how they disseminate their ideas and try to influence lawyers, colleagues, policy-makers and others.
The panel includes:
Speaker: Douglas A. Berman, The Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Speaker: Matthew T. Bodie, Saint Louis University School of Law
Monday, December 30, 2013
Prawfs/Co-Op Happy Hour Details
For those of you wandering into NYC the next few days for AALS, here's the critical news: the annual Prawfs/Co-Op Happy Hour will be this Friday at 930pm until midnight (at least) at the Hilton "Bridges" Bar. See you then and there, and please pass it on! As you'll see from Yelp, we're apparently prioritizing location and big pours in our selection of venue.
In the meantime, greetings and hugs for the New Year from Tel Aviv. See many of you soon, I hope.