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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On being assigned a role in other people's ideological dramas

Why is it that people obsessed with some ideological dispute feel the need to assign everyone else a role in their personal drama -- either as heroic and scrappy rebels or as minions of the Evil Empire? Why does it not occur to such fanatics that others might simply be indifferent to the fanatic's particular obsession -- that others are bored bystanders who are not going to buy a ticket to the fanatic's peculiar summer epic?

Take that guy Scott Greenfield over at Simple Justice. He writes this about me:

Rick Hill is old guard, the establishment. While others from Paul Campos who has been branded a turncoat and marginalized despite his becoming beloved by the miserable children, and Brian Tamanaha and Bill Henderson, who are leading the charge for change, Hill is firmly planted in inertia. He was so far from the edge that he couldn't see it with a telescope. And yet, with this post, he admits to his epiphany.

Good grief, this guy can't even spell my name, but he feels comfortable casting me in the role of the law school's Czar Nicholas, the Reactionary Academic Defending the Status Quo!

The truth is that I have not played any role whatsoever in the Great Law School Wars. I am obsessed with a lot of stuff -- for instance, federalism, anti-intellectualism, ending exclusionary zoning and increasing residential densities, expressing impatience for Randy Barnett's theory of federalism, etc. But on the current fight between law school reformers and "the old guard" (whomever they are), I've been just a bystander. I have no pedagogical theories to speak of, I do not blog on pedagogy, and I have never taken a position on Paul Campos' views.

To the minor extent that I have expressed any view whatsoever on the relations between bar and academia, I have just urged the kids to play nice together and even suggested that roughly a third of every law faculty should be composed of "pure" lawyers with decades of practice experience -- guys like Mike Gerrard (Columbia) or Ross Sandler (New York Law School). That sounds sort of Greenfield-esque, no?

But Scott needs a poster child for Bad Law School Reactionary who has contempt for practice, and "Rick Hill" will do in a pinch. As I say, good grief. I am not asking that Scott read anything I write. I am just asking that, if he is going to act as Central Casting for his blockbuster about virtuous reformers versus nasty reactionaries, then he ought to ask me to audition first before casting me as the one of the latter.

Posted by Rick Hills on May 23, 2012 at 08:35 AM | Permalink


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Yaw rite, I shoulda uzed infantile. Have a nice day

Posted by: Downtown Lawyer | May 25, 2012 2:58:09 PM

So A writes a description of B and B says it is a mischaracterization. A then explains his error by saying that is what he "heard" about B but doesn't divulge just how it is that he came to hear this information before posting it. B's concern about the mischaracterization is overshadowed by his complaint about the spelling of his name which A utilizes to deflect any attention to the issue of what he "heard"
Come on guys, this barely makes it to the level of juvinile. Based on this foolishness, I would not wish to be taught by B or represented by A

Posted by: Downtown Lawyer | May 24, 2012 10:40:06 AM

I'm pretty sure Greenfield's simple justice isn't trying to compete with or offer the same thing as a blog like "Sentencing Law and Policy."

Posted by: hiding in the shadows | May 24, 2012 10:19:07 AM

I stopped reading Greenfield a long time ago. There is just nothing there of substance. Go to Sentencing Law and Policy or Crime and Consequences for good analysis. Dorf on Law is always excellent. It's important to distinguish the junk blogs from the worthwhile.

Posted by: anon | May 24, 2012 8:29:59 AM

Ah! I'm so glad I checked back to see what others comments were left here, to find this teachable moment. You like teachable moments, Rick?

Commenter "Enough!" calls me a "well-known blowhard." I could be angry or hurt at this ad hominem attack, but instead I shrug. By posting my thoughts in the blawgosphere, I invite critical scrutiny, and anticipate that many will think what I write is crap and that I am a blowhard. There are people who agree with me and people who disagree. There are friends and enemies. That's what comes of taking a stand and expressing idea. And if someone calls me a blowhard, so what?

Putting aside the issue of anonymity, which raises a host of collateral problems, the fact that someone thinks ill of me is a risk that comes with the territory. If you can't handle being characterized in a way that doesn't comport with your self-image, then you have no business playing pundit on the internet.

You did something valuable in your "privileged cluelessness" post, and then undermined it here, squandering the bigger message because your feelings were hurt. What a waste.

Posted by: shg | May 24, 2012 7:46:32 AM

Greenfield is a well-known blowhard. This reader (a practitioner, by the way - not a lawprof) pays him no mind. Neither should you.

Posted by: Enough! | May 24, 2012 12:01:23 AM

SHG writes: "One of the complaints practicing lawyers have of lawprofs is that they are overly sensitive, particularly to tangential issues, and the only time they show up is to defend their honor no matter how petty the point. Emphasizing my misspelling of your name might be considered petty, for example. I corrected it when you pointed it out, by the way."

I am glad practicing lawyers do not share this personality trait.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | May 23, 2012 9:47:54 PM

I see that my description and misspelling of your name hurt your feelings deeply, and for that I apologize. If you noticed my reply to your comment at SJ, I deferred to your self-assessment, despite what I was told about you. It wasn't important, and certainly not worth disputing, since the gist of my post was to applaud your insight.

One of the complaints practicing lawyers have of lawprofs is that they are overly sensitive, particularly to tangential issues, and the only time they show up is to defend their honor no matter how petty the point. Emphasizing my misspelling of your name might be considered petty, for example. I corrected it when you pointed it out, by the way.

Another complaint is that as soon as they feel attacked, they circle the wagons and seek the comfort of their own kind. Posting here about how mean I was to you, for example, might be considered seeking succor from the professoriate.

But one of the worst complaints is that the professoriate confuse the tail with the dog. Take the anon comment above at 4:56:

"Please don't give Greenfield legitimacy by even referencing him here."

Consider the arrogance to think that legitimacy comes from being referenced here, as if the legal world revolves around lawprofs and that practicing lawyers secretly desire academic approval. There are many things practicing lawyers want, but being loved by lawprofs is not among them.

Clearly, there is still a long way to go before cluelessness is overcome. Dunning-Kruger notwithstanding. In any event, Rick, I thought I said many nice things about you. Too bad you obsessed on the things that bothered you. If it makes you feel better, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.

Posted by: shg | May 23, 2012 5:35:55 PM

Please don't give Greenfield legitimacy by even referencing him here.

Posted by: anon | May 23, 2012 4:56:48 PM

I read your original post, Paul Campos' post, Scott Greenfield's post and your subsequent post. I thought Scott's post was pretty on target and you've blown out of proportion whatever mistakes Scott may have made about your actual positions on pedagogy. Put another way, I think you're missing the point. And your obsession with his spelling error is unbecoming. I also agree with Scott in that your analogy between isolated ivory tower professors and anonymous commenters is what the kids these days refer to as an epic fail.

Posted by: hiding in the shadows | May 23, 2012 2:37:30 PM

Fair enough! As I say, I really had no interest in being a provocateur on this question.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | May 23, 2012 11:24:15 AM

I just thought that I and the other Paul were making nice. Really, all I did was (a) apologize for being a jerk to a student; (b) recognize that professors in general -- not law profs in particular -- are especially prone to being jerks, not only to their students but to people in general; (c) offer the observation that anonymous bloggers are also so prone; and (d) amuse Jeff by my corny earnestness, which last, I hope, is atypical, brought on by a spasm of guilt for being a jerk to a paying customer and generally nice person, the aforesaid student.

As for the "movement," I just have not focused much on it. I've downloaded Brian Tamanaha's book to my Kindle and read through most of it: I like it and agree with it. But the idea that I'd join any "movement" for anything -- even something in which I believed -- is wacky. I'm allergic to movements. I became an academic to avoid movements. If such a movement ever started to succeed, then I'm afraid, out of sheer cussedness, I'd start making fun of it.

I DO, however, plan to get a "ticker" for my classes.

Posted by: Rick Hills | May 23, 2012 11:12:41 AM

Rick, not to ruffle any feathers, but did you take the same view of this comment to your post: "This post is a remarkable act of introspection and self-interpretation. That someone in Rick Hills' position is willing to engage in it is itself a sign of real progress." Because it struck me in rather the same way, as an effort to position your individual actions as evidence that the "movement" was succeeding, as opposed to simply being evidence that you are and already were capable of self-reflection. I didn't comment on it in the post because I had no interest in starting a fight with that particular commenter in the middle of such a splendid rapprochement between you two, but since you posed the question...

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | May 23, 2012 10:35:31 AM

Mr. Greenfield has long had a complex about law professors, who he believes, no doubt correctly, don't take him seriously. Were he not in the grips of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, he might have realized that his blog provides evidence for the reasonableness of that posture.

Posted by: Brian | May 23, 2012 10:30:49 AM

If Scott does hold auditions, may I suggest that potential representatives of The Establishment sing "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof? Or does that impart too much legitimacy/empathy to the position?

Posted by: anon | May 23, 2012 8:57:03 AM

Dude, from one guy with a hard-to-spell last name to another, I feel your pain.

Posted by: Sam Bagenstos | May 23, 2012 8:50:48 AM

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