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Friday, December 13, 2019

Kennesaw State pays cheerleader $ 145,000 for having knelt

I missed this controversy from 2017: Five cheerleaders at Kennesaw State knelt before a football game in September 2017, causing the school to alter the pre-game routine and keep the cheerleaders in the tunnel during the anthem. It eventually was revealed that this change came from the political-hack then-President, under pressure from Republican state officials. The school reversed course one month later and the President resigned one month after that. One of the cheerleaders sued; on Thursday, the school settled for $ 145,000.

The resolution is an interesting one, because college athletes stand in a weird position. FIRE's story insists that "[s]tudent-athletes are students first, athletes second, with expressive rights fully protected by the First Amendment." But there are ways in which student-athletes look like employees who represent the university at public events, giving the school a bit more control over their speech. This settlement suggests that, at least in this case, those involved took the former view.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 13, 2019 at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Can An Impeachment Be Repealed?

Suppose Republicans retake the House of Representatives in 2020. In the new House, they promptly repeal of what they consider the unjust impeachment of President Trump. Can they do that?

The answer, I think, is yes. It's never been done before, but I am hard pressed to see why the House is bound by an impeachment passed by a prior one. This is different from an impeachment and a conviction. The Senate's judgment in impeachment trials is final. The impeachment itself, though, is not different from any other House resolution. (There is an analogy here to the Senate's Censure of Andrew Jackson in 1834, which a different Senate expunged three years later.) I doubt, though, that a repeal of an impeachment will mean that people will say that President Trump was not impeached.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on December 12, 2019 at 09:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Evidence that Jews do not run Hollywood

I have written that The Goldbergs (a show we love and watch regularly) struggles with how explicitly Jewish it wants to be. This week's Christmas-themed episode might have been its most Jewish. It showed gifts wrapped with blue-and-white paper with Stars of David; visible Happy Chanukah bunting; and a Menorah with candles. Best of all, it showed Beverly lighting first-night candles.

Then she blew them out.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 12, 2019 at 07:29 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)


I have not weighed in on the dispute over the administration's new order on anti-Semitism and Title VI. I do not like the new regs in my guise of free-speech advocate, because it appears to have potential to incentivize schools to restrict a lot of protected speech (including naked anti-Semitism) for fear of losing federal dollars.

But I do not understand the supposed apprehension that David Schraub describes: Jews do not want to be described as having a distinct national origin because it highlights "otherness," non-Americanness, and the historic charge of disloyalty. Schraub argues that "[i]f Jews are deemed “just” a religious group, then they are not covered by Title VI. Publicly funded programs, under this view, could discriminate against Jews with impunity." But this is incomplete. Schraub ignores the word "race" in Title VI, which seems to capture Jews without having to get into existential debates about nationality and the disloyalty they imply. SCOTUS has held that Jews are protected under § 1982 and Iraqi-born Muslims under § 1981. Lower courts have relied on that case law to hold that Jews are protected as a racial group (defined by "ethnicity and ancestry") under Title VI and Title VII (although other courts disagree). The point is that reading Title VI to protect Jews is neither unusual nor dangerous.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 12, 2019 at 07:22 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law for the Twenty-First Century

A new book on labor law for a new century - Rick Bales and Charlotte Garden's labor of love - is a must for anyone interested in the future of our job markets. Thirty-five contributors have written chapters about issues ranging from public sector innovations, combatting union monopoly power; independent contractors and joint employers; international labor law and much more.

The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law for the Twenty-First Century

Posted by Orly Lobel on December 12, 2019 at 12:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

JOTWELL: Pfander on Sohoni on universal injunctions

The new Courts Law essay comes from Jim Pfander (Northwestern-Pritzker), reviewing Mila Sohoni, The Lost History of the "Universal" Injunction, 133 Harv. L. Rev. (forthcoming), which shows the long SCOTUS practice of issuing universal injunctions (without calling them such).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 11, 2019 at 12:37 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Final Reflections on VAP/Fellowship Interview Series

Now that my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors has ended, I wanted to reflect on the broader lessons that I learned from these interviews.  Your takeaways may differ, so I hope you chime in in the comments if you think there are different or additional takeaways that prospective candidates and/or hiring committees should have.  But I’ve been on the hiring side for a long time and there were still a number of things that surprised me when I dug into the VAP/fellowship world.

**Before I dig into these reflections, a quick note that Howard Wasserman was nice enough to create a category for VAP and fellowships to the left, so you can now find all of these interviews and posts in one place.  Please remember also that the AALS has a new site devoted to providing information about the law teaching market.  Now onto my final reflections:

1.  It is *really* hard to get many VAPs and fellowships these days, way harder than I would have guessed. I imagined these programs as a chance for candidates coming from practice to kick start their writing, and I think some programs do work like that.  But several of the top programs seem to require that their fellows have several papers before they even start the fellowship.  These programs get enough applications (75+) that they can be this picky, and my guess is that this competition in turn drives the Ph.D. + fellowship trend that we see in Sarah’s data.  It’s obviously hard to write several good papers in practice, so it’s not surprising that candidates are doing a Ph.D. program to write an initial set of papers and then doing a top fellowship to bring their scholarship back into the law world, write even more, and make additional connections.  That’s a long on-ramp though, and it likely comes at the cost of other things such as practice experience.

That said, I don't want to overstate the requirements.  Plenty of programs said that their VAPs typically only have one paper when they apply to the program, which is still a lot but obviously easier to prepare than two or three papers.  And several programs stressed that they care most about the idea for the paper you plan to write while in the VAP program, so having a really good idea for your next paper may compensate for not having a CV full of published papers when you apply. 

2.  As a hiring chair, I have often marveled at how much the law teaching market has changed/improved from when your academic pedigree was the main criteria. On the hiring side, we look at what you’ve written, not where you went to law school, and I think many academics pat themselves on the back for using this criteria.  I worry though that we’re ignoring the impact of the VAP/fellowship programs on our decision making.  Sure, maybe whether you went to Harvard/Yale/Stanford doesn’t matter much to hiring committees anymore, but I think these credentials do matter when it comes to getting a fellowship.  Writing matters a lot there too, as I note above, but when fellowship candidates don’t have many fully polished pieces, hiring decision makers in many programs will fall back on old proxies – where you went to law school, who’s recommending you, etc.  So I worry that we’ve essentially replicated the old hiring system, just earlier in the process.  Not entirely – as noted above, candidates need one or more papers to get a VAP, and the quality of those papers have a lot of weight – but when candidates are less polished and have less developed scholarly identities, it’s easy for the old criteria to creep back in.  And now they matter at a stage of the process that’s a lot less transparent.  As a hiring committee at Richmond, we can debate these issues among our whole faculty and decide how we want to address them.  Decisions on which VAPs and fellows to hire, in contrast, are made by a fairly small number of people and are not typically subject to a lot of debate by a school’s faculty. 

3.  Fellowships really vary in how well they prepare candidates for the market. On the hiring side, I think we tend to lump these programs together (“well, they did a VAP…”), instead of really looking at the details of each program.  We know candidates look different after they have (i) time to write and (ii) good mentoring, and yet the programs really differ in how much time and mentoring the VAPs/fellows get.  On the hiring side, that means we should have higher expectations for the fellows who have been blessed with lots of time and good mentoring and a bit more forgiving of fellows who have struggled to write while juggling high teaching loads and little mentoring.   On the candidate side, *please* ask questions on these points during the VAP/fellowship interview process.  I get that it’s hard to suss all that out, and you may not have a ton of options.  But you should still try to ask hard questions about what percentage of your time will be free to write (if it’s less than, say, 40% over the year, I would worry).  A teaching load of one doctrinal course per semester is different than a teaching load of two (or even one) legal writing sections per semester.  And ask current or past VAPs how many people read their draft, how many people listened to their job talk and provided feedback, and how many people discussed their research agenda with them. 

This is even more true when it comes to less formal programs.  For the most part, I interviewed the directors of established, long-standing programs.  But plenty of schools hire visitors when they have a curricular hole, and these visitors can often be people who hope to go on the teaching market someday.  My instinct is that these less formal positions likely involve a higher teaching load and far less mentoring than the more formal programs.  Really ask the hard questions here.  If you don’t have significant time to write and your goal is ultimately get a tenure-track law job, the position likely isn’t worth your time. 

4.  No matter how much support you get from your own school, a VAP or fellowship is still an entrepreneurial process. There’s a certain amount of sitting in your office and writing, but you also need to take the initiative to reach out to people in your field, go to conferences, introduce yourself to people, etc.  I talked with one program director who told me, “we're looking for go-getters, and go-getters go get.”  I want that on my tombstone—“go getters go get.”  What this person meant by that, based on the rest of the discussion, is that they want fellows who take the initiative in asking for what they need, whether it’s comments on a paper, connections to people in their field, or anything else.   Even the best fellowship won’t hand you these things, and most fellowships are not the best fellowships.  You have to be a go-getter who is going to go get—send that email to the scholar you don’t know but whose work you admire or ask a scholar to go to coffee with you at a conference.  Make the first move, even if it feels horribly awkward.  Most law professors are friendly people, and we’re happy to help new people in our field.

5.  I was surprised that basically all of the programs said that they don’t consider curricular area in selecting VAPs and fellows, at least if the VAP or fellowship itself does not have a curricular focus. I knew that a program like the Climenko or Bigelow wouldn’t have explicit curricular preferences, but I guess I expected that these programs would think more about which curricular areas are in demand on the tenure-track hiring side and give high-demand areas more of a thumb on the scale.  Having been on our hiring committee for many years, I will say that even though people talk about “the market” for law professors, there isn’t a single hiring market.  Instead, there are many mini-hiring markets in various curricular areas.  Picking on my own curricular area (I’m a corporate law person), the hiring market in corporate law looks really different than the hiring market in federal courts or con law.  Given that it can be difficult to hire a great person in corporate law or other high-demand areas, I wish fellowships sought out people in those areas more and dialed back a bit on some of the other areas where there just isn’t as much curricular demand.    But I admit my corporate law bias here, so maybe I am wrong!

6.  Finally, a caveat. My interviews were all with people who had a strong incentive to paint their program in the best light possible.  I get that.  Hiring standards might not be quite as high as the interviewees made them out to be; additional factors probably come into play even if they didn’t want to admit them publicly.  I don’t have any illusion that I got the 100% unvarnished truth about these programs.  So we should take everything in the interviews with a grain of salt.  Hopefully though they are still valuable in shedding light into this process.

For now, I’m knee deep in the hiring process on the entry-level side, but I’m open to continuing this project next summer.  Let me know what additional information about fellowships or law faculty hiring more generally might be helpful!   


Posted by Jessica Erickson on December 10, 2019 at 08:30 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (8)

Marvin Miller and the Hall of Fame (Updated)

Marvin Miller--the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and the creative force behind the modern economics of baseball and all professional sports--was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. The election comes seven years after Miller's death. And, although I did not know this, against his express wishes.

Miller was passed over several times by various committees between 2003 and 2010, likely because the powers-that-be wanted to deny Miller the honor, at least while he was alive. In 2008, Miller, askedtthe Baseball Writers Association of America, the main selection body, not to nominate him again; he declared himself "unwilling to contemplate one more rigged veterans committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering the pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sports writers and especially to those baseball players." Miller was no doubt especially angry that in 2007, former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Miller's chief antagonist, was elected just before his death. Despite the request, Miller was nominated in 2010, then posthumously in 2014, 2018, and this year.

There is an interesting debate about how the Hall should handle those wishes. On one hand, it is a museum designed to tell the history of baseball and to recognize those who made the game--that history cannot be told without Miller. On the other hand, the Hall of plaques does more than tell a story; it singles people for a unique honor, an honor that should be bestowed only if both parties wish. Miller's children have made clear they will not attend and accept induction in their father's place. And it is hard not see the election as one final power play against Miller--selecting him against his wishes, but when he could no longer decline appear and make his own case.

Speaking of Miller and Kuhn, Slate's Hang Up and Listen uses Miller's election as an excuse to parse Flood v. Kuhn, especially the bizarre Part I in which Justice Blackmun rattles off a laundry list of historic players from a bygone era. Several tidbits on this.

That part of the opinion was written for only three of the five Justices who formed the majority (Blackmun, Stewart, and Rehnquist). Chief Justice Burger and Justice White refused to join that part of the opinion, White expressly because an paean to baseball and a recitation of players had nothing to do with the case and no place in a judicial opinion.

The list includes only two African-American players--Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. And they are from a different baseball era. The white players all played in the 1900s-1930s. Based on a quick glance, it appears no one on the list began his career beyond the early '30s. The latest player is Hank Greenberg, who retired in 1948, but debuted in 1930. Robinson and Campanella played from the late-'40s to mid-'50s. Blackmun's original draft did not include any African-Americans; he added Robinson, Campanella, and Satchel Paige at the insistence/request of Justice Marshall. But Blackmun could not (or did not bother to) match anyone to the era that is the focus of the rest of the list, although several historically great Negro League players (e.g., Josh Gibson) were contemporaries of Ruth, Gehrig, etc.  Marshall then dissented in the case, so he did not join the list at all.

Finally, there was some horse-trading among the Justices about who to include. That still does not explain how Moe Berg made the list.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 10, 2019 at 03:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2)

Does the Disqualification Clause Present a Political Question?

The draft articles of impeachment from the House of Representatives call for the President's removal from office and his "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust, or Profit under the United States." Does this mean that he can (assuming there is a conviction) be barred from being elected again as President? The answer is unclear. Suppose, though, that the Senate applies the disqualification penalty and says that the presidency is covered. Can this decision be reviewed by a court?

The answer, again, is unclear. The Supreme Court held in United States v. Nixon that the impeachment trial process raises non-justiciable political questions--the Senate has the final word. Is that true in determining the scope of the sentence? You could say so if you think that a sentence is part of the trial. But you can also understand those as separate phrases that should be treated differently. Or you could say that the application of a sentence is different from the lawful scope of a sentence.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on December 10, 2019 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, December 09, 2019

Segall on the role of law professors

Eric Segall has an excellent post at DorfonLaw about the proper role for law professors in controversial legal and political disputes. The obvious trigger was the four prawfs who testified at the impeachment hearings. But Eric expands it to participation in congressional testimony, confirmation hearings, amicus briefs, letters on public matters, etc. And blogs--he questions whether writing publicly, in our professional (and professorial name) about matters beyond our scholarly expertise either trades on the professorial name or dilutes it.

Two thoughts. First, Eric references the letter that 2000 law professors signed arguing that Brett Kavanaugh's demeanor at his hearing was not judicial and should have been disqualifying. I did not sign for the reason Eric offers for not signing--the question of Kavanaugh's demeanor did not call for any scholarly expertise and was really a cover for political opposition to Kavanugh's appointment.* I had a heated debate with my wife and overly engaged daughter, who did not buy the distinction or the idea of trading on my position to suggest expertise on a contentious political matter on which I could speak not as an expert but as a "concerned citizen."

[*] Which I shared. And which I offered in emails to several Republican Senators (not my own, because I chose not to waste my breath), using my name but not my title or position.

Second, a blog, like other social media, strikes me as a different medium of work. I am trading less on my position and expertise and more taking an opportunity to write for a regular audience about things that interest me and about which I know something (even if I do not know as much about these things as I do about universal injunctions). Regular readers of the blog know and expect that some of what I write about is going to be non-expert interests (baseball, Judaism) or personal matters (family, etc.). And you understand that this is part of the forum and what I like to do here. That is different than using my professorial cache (such as it is) to talk about a non-expert matter to a new, unfamiliar audience in a different forum, such as the op-ed page of the The New York Times or an advocacy letter to a congressional committee.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 9, 2019 at 03:11 PM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

What the "Legal Scholars Letter" Suggests About the Signers' Views on Constitutional Interpretation

From TaxProfBlog, I learn of a letter published on something called Medium and titled "Letter to Congress from Legal Scholars." I am less interested in what it says on the primary subject of the letter--whether "President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct"--and more in what it offers by way of insight into the views of some 765 individuals (so far) affiliated with law schools, including full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars, on American constitutional interpretation. In general, and imperfectly, I try to avoid making statements about others' motivations or thinking, because we see through a glass darkly on such questions and because it is rarely necessary to draw conclusions about others' motives or thinking when we can focus instead on their words and actions. But for present purposes, I do write with the assumption that the signers believe the contents of the letter, and that their beliefs extend past the bottom line to embrace at least the major arguments made in the letter and the legitimacy as sources of the sources they rely on. I cannot say this is an accurate assumption as to any particular signer. But it seems to me that to assume anything else would be disrespectful. On that assumption, I think we can identify in the letter at least the following propositions about constitutional interpretation. They are hardly shocking propositions; there is no "gotcha" spirit to this post. But it is always interesting to take a sounding of the basic views on constitutional interpretation of a large number of American legal scholars, some of whom teach and/or write on constitutional law.  

1) The views of the "Founders" are at least relevant to constitutional interpretation. Having offered the statement that the president engaged in impeachable conduct, the letter proceeds: "We do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office." It states that President Trump's conduct "is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution." It cites the Founders' "keen[ ] concern[s]" about corruption in presidential dealing with foreign governments and their "thinking on impeachment." These views and concerns are repeatedly given a strong role in the letter's account of what impeachment is for and what it means. Obviously they think the Founders' views are highly relevant to the interpretation of the Constitution. Although I leave it at "relevant," it doesn't seem unfair to say that the letter suggests that the Founders' views are not only relevant, but of great importance in understanding the Constitution and its individual provisions. As a side note, it is interesting that the letter refers solely to the "Founders" and not to the ratifiers of the Constitution.

2) The Federalist and the constitutional convention--apparently including Madison's notes of the convention--are relevant sources of constitutional interpretation. In its assertions about what the constitutional text concerning impeachment means, its purposes, and its applications, the letter links three times to the proceedings of the constitutional convention and once to the Federalist. One can therefore assume that the letter's signatories believe these are relevant sources of constitutional interpretation. (This does not necessarily mean they believe they are relevant interpretive sources for judges.) As a side note, it appears that the letter implicitly weighs in on the reliability, at least in broad terms, of James Madison's notes of the convention--a point that has recently and prominently been questioned by the legal historian Mary Sarah Bilder--since it appears to link to Max Farrand's use of Madison's notes. I am not sufficiently familiar with the specifics of Bilder's work to say how her criticisms would apply to the particular portions of Madison's notes that the letter relies on as authority. Whether or how much one should rely on the Federalist has, of course, long been a question for constitutional interpreters, and the letter apparently settles on the view that one can rely on it at least to enough of an extent as to make it one of one's primary sources in a letter to Congress about the constitutional meaning of impeachment.  

3) At least where it is specific, constitutional text is exclusive. To repeat and extend the quote I used above, the letter argues early on, "The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only 'Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors' warrant impeachment." This seems to suggest a conclusion that, at least where the Constitution provides specific textual instructions or grounds and omits others, that text--glossed, as we have seen, by the views and concerns of the "Founders"--is authoritative and exclusive. I do not draw any conclusions from this proposition about what the signers might think about the nature of more vague or open-ended constitutional text or about the existence or non-existence of unenumerated rights. I am a little curious how the proposition the letter adheres to would apply to the arguments of Professors Ackerman and Amar about the non-exclusivity of the quite specific instructions set out in Article V concerning constitutional amendment. One would think that as a logical matter the signers would be disinclined to share Ackerman or Amar's views, although surely that question would require a good deal more airing.

4) Oaths, office, and the "public trust" matter. The letter includes within the scope of impeachable conduct a president's "betray[al]" of his oath of office, at least where it involves threats to American democracy. It goes on to assert that "[i]mpeachment is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust," and that treason and bribery, the "two specific bases for impeachment named in the Constitution" (with "high Crimes and Misdemeanors presumably read as non-specific bases), involve grave abuses of the public trust because they "include conduct undertaken not in the 'faithful execution' of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason)." While these assertions must surely be read in light of the specific circumstances, I think they can properly also be read more broadly, to suggest the importance of the oath of office, of faithful execution, of the concept of public office itself, and to suggest that faithful execution of the oath does not include actions undertaken (strictly?) for personal gain as opposed to for purely public-regarding and office-centered reasons. Again, this is not a "gotcha" post and I do not understand these propositions to be terribly controversial as such. I do find them interesting, nonetheless, for a few reasons. The most important is the recognition of something (at least on my reading of these subjects) more than strictly positivistic, textualist, or power-related in the action of office-holders, but rather a recognition of the importance of the concept of office, of oath-keeping, and of particular virtues in the holding and performance of one's office. It is a topic I find fascinating and have written about. The letter also suggests the influence of recent legal writers, including my blog-mates Ethan, who has written about oaths and faithful execution, and Richard, who has written about oaths. Whether the logic of this focus on oath, office, and faithful execution might have more interesting or controversial applications is not something I'm in a position to opine about. But I would be curious about two questions. One is how these propositions should be understood to apply to judges, who also take oaths of office (both constitutional and statutory), and in particular whether a judge who rules for reasons of, say, a general and personal sensibility concerning justice rather than for more channeled and textually constrained legal and constitutional reasons is in violation of his or her oath. The second is whether the presidential oath and the faithful execution of public office are only violated by certain kinds of personal gain. The letter focuses on bribery--understandably, since it is one of the specific grounds for impeachment. But one can violate one's oath and one's duty of faithful execution in other ways than bribery. Does a president who acts, not with the public good and the faithful execution of his or her office first and foremost in mind, but for things like the good of his or her own re-election of party fortunes similarly violate the oath and his or her constitutional duty? If so, is that impeachable as well?

5) "Extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office" is not a basis for impeachment. That last question may be answered in part by the opening argument of the letter, quoted above, which states that neither profound policy disagreements nor extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office are "available" bases for impeachment. That suggests at least some implicit limitation on the kind of conduct that falls within the scope of violation of the oath or of the duty of faithful execution, or conversely suggests that only some forms of execution are faithless, and that some extremely distasteful forms of execution of the office of the President can nevertheless be "faithful execution." Without suggesting that the letter itself says more about this topic than it actually does, it seems to me that this proposition necessarily has some implications for other questions that have been raised around the current impeachment controversy. One member of Congress, for instance, has argued that the articles of impeachment should be broadened to include "[the President's employment of] racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, transphobic, xenophobic language instigating enmity and inciting violence within our society" and "'the adverse impact his racism is having on the countless African-American victims who believe that, too often, one party ignores us and the other takes us for granted." A newspaper writer, saying he had consulted on the question with "legal experts," recently called for eight articles of impeachment, including "conduct grossly incompatible with the presidency" such as "[lying] constantly, eroding the credibility of the office." Without wanting to presume too much and with due acknowledgment that the devil is in the details, it seems to me that the logic of the legal scholars' letter suggests that some or many of the signatories would feel compelled to disagree with such arguments and hold these to be "unavailable" bases for impeachment.  

Again, to be perfectly clear, I am interested only in the propositions offered or strongly implied in the letter. I draw no firm conclusions about what its signers actually believe, although the contents of a document that one signs and offers to Congress ought to be pretty good evidence of just that. I understand that some people may feel free to sign letters or amicus briefs--even when those letters or briefs not only make clear that they are writing as legal scholars but add that they "do not reach" the conclusion(s) offered in the letter "lightly"--with which they do not fully agree or as to which they agree only with the bottom line while taking various views on all the stated "considerations" that lead to that bottom line. I believe such a position to be inconsistent with either scholarly or civic integrity, but I imagine views on that will differ. And certainly there is room for friendly argument and further thought--by me, by others, and perhaps by the signers themselves--about what the letter and its arguments mean and imply for constitutional interpretation, both as to impeachment and as to other constitutional questions, although I would think they must mean something. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on December 9, 2019 at 12:30 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Legislatures creating universality

As I discuss in a forthcoming piece, the combination of remedial particularity (no non-particularized injunctions) and departmentalism (the executive can ignore judicial precedent about a law's constitutional validity, at least until the matter reaches court) leaves an essential role for the legislature. The only way to stop the executive from enforcing or threatening to enforce a constitutionally dubious law, even one declared invalid by SCOTUS, is to repeal that law.

That was the task of the Commission to Examine Racial Equity in Virginia, which last month released its Interim Report identifying dozens of state laws for repeal; these include the anti-miscegination law at issue in Loving, some education laws enacted during Massive Resistance to Brown, and some laws targeting the "feeble-minded." Josh Blackman comments.

The action is symbolic, because any enforcement effort would fail. Any government official attempting to enforce would be sued for damages (qualified immunity would be lost, because the invalidity of these laws is clearly established by SCOTUS precedent), injunctive relief, and attorneys fees. And the line attorney litigating the case likely would be sanctioned (although I doubt it would be by contempt, as Josh suggests). But there is a substantive component, if read as the legislature checking the executive in some manner.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 7, 2019 at 12:51 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 06, 2019

Students finding interesting issues (Further Updated)

I gave my Evidence exam earlier this week. In the study/review lead-up, several students asked me a similar question (not sure if all were using the same commercial materials or if they all were talking):

A party calls an adverse party and is allowed to ask leading questions on direct under 611(c)(2). Can the party ask that witness about specific instances of untruthful conduct to impeach under 608(b), which is ordinarily allowed only on cross. In other words, when a party is allowed to ask leading questions under 611(c)(2), does that convert direct into cross for all purposes?

I presented the question to the Evidence Prof listserv. No one knew of case law raising the issue or the certain answer. One person said my students deserve a pat on the back for identifying and thinking up this issue.

The prevailing view among professors is that the party can ask about 608(b) specific instances. This derives from three things: 1) 607, which allows a party to impeach its own witnesses, from which it follows that all methods of impeachment are available; 2) 611(c)(2), which contemplates "direct" examination that functions like cross; and 3) because the party could have waited for the other side to call that witness and then cross examined the witness on specific instances, it should be able to do the same thing when it calls that witness itself for strategic reasons.


Update: A reader emailed me to say that, despite the language of 608(b), courts allow specific-instances evidence on direct. The reasoning is that 607, allowing a party to impeach its own witnesses, trumps the limitation in 608(b)--all methods of impeachment are available to impeach any witness at any time--your own on DEX or the other party's on CREX.

But I wonder if the limitation-to-cross continues to apply in one situation: When Pty II uses its witness to impeach Pty I's witness. So imagine the following:

Tom has testified, called by Pty I. On the plain language of 608, Pty II could impeach Tom on specific instances of conduct in the following ways:
   • On CREX of Tom, ask him about Tom's untruthful acts: 608(b)(1)
   • Call Ira; on direct, ask him about Tom's character for truth under 608(a). But not specific instances of Tom's conduct under the text of 608(b)(2), because this would not be on CREX.
But under the approach courts take to reconcile 608(b) and 607), could Pty II ask Ira, on direct, about Tom's specific instances of untruthful conduct under 608(b)(2)? I understand allowing 608(b)(1) evidence on direct if I am forced to impeach my own witness. But the rationale for that extension does not extend to 608(b)(2) evidence in the Tom/Ira situation I describe here.
Further Update: My original emailer says the answer is no, Pty II can't ask Ira about Tom's specific instances. That owes to the prohibition on extrinsic evidence in 608(b), not the cross-examination requirement. Ira testifying to Tom's specific instances would be extrinsic evidence. Which makes sense.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 6, 2019 at 11:26 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Another study shows handwriting > computers

New in the Journal of Legal Education, from Colleen Murphy and Christopher Ryan, Jr. of Roger Williams Law and Yajni Warnapala of the Roger Williams Mathematics Department. The study looks at performance in required 2L Con Law and Evidence courses at Roger Williams. It also contains a piece from Murphy's 1L Civ Pro class, showing that students who were given the option of using a laptop but were shown a memo describing the studies comparing handwriting with computer notetaking were more likely to elect not to use computers.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 5, 2019 at 06:45 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A Marshall Court Myth

One standard story about John Marshall is that he began the practice of having the Supreme Court (or at least the Court's majority) speak in one voice through a single opinion. Turns out this is not true. You can find Supreme Court opinions in 1799 written by Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth that are self-styled opinions of the Court. This practice was far less common until Marshall took over and did not occur in major cases, but the break between Marshall and his predecessor is not as sharp as we are sometimes told. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on December 4, 2019 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 02, 2019

The Case for Teacher-Created Supplemental Learning Guides

The following post is by Leslie Y. Garfield Tenzer (Pace) and is sponsored by West Academic.

There is a chasm between doctrinal classroom learning and commercial study aids. In the classroom, particularly first year, faculties aim to rewire student neurons, training them to "think like a lawyer." In contrast, commercial outlines, flashcards, and the like, detail the black- letter law, encouraging students to memorize rather than analyze.

Commercial outlines have been a valued supplement to learning for decades. A growing number of today’s students, however, are finding these materials critical to academic success. One cause for this over-reliance may be that commercial materials tend to deliver information through bullet-points. This design promotes memorization, a skill essential to most undergraduate lecture-type classes, and therefore one with which college graduates are familiar.

I find it ironic that the skill that earned many students the grades necessary to get into law school is quite different from the skills necessary to earn top grades in law school. Study guides are undoubtedly helpful to students seeking to understand critical legal concepts. Commercial outlines serve the purpose of providing a basic explanation and aid with memorization. As a student, I enjoyed the benefit of a Gilberts outline to provide structure for my personal study guides. But while these types of materials provide a solid backdrop for learning legal concepts, few succeed in developing the kind of thinking inspired by Socratic teaching.

To encourage analytical learning outside of the classroom, many faculty are creating supplemental learning materials or extra assignments. My colleague Michael Mushlin and Judge Lisa Smith, Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York, developed a series of supplement assignments designed to take 1L Civil Procedure students beyond the technical knowledge of the Federal Rules as a way to help students appreciate the analytical rigor essential in the courtroom. Students are asked to draft a complaint, conduct a deposition, and engage in other lawyering skills. Providing students with a contextualized experience at the beginning of their law school careers, students learn that law school demands more than pure memorization of the law. You can read more about their experience here.

Another colleague, Bridget Crawford, created a series of prompts for her Federal Income Tax students to answer in between classes. The questions are designed to guide students through critical tests included in the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. According to Professor Crawford, "Sometimes forcing oneself to slow down and write out answers to questions enables students to read a complex statute differently and more carefully than any of us might on our own. I created this worksheet as an exercise in close reading and statutory interpretation. Those are fantastic skills that will help a lawyer in any area of the law."

Other professors are developing materials that are designed for their students but are also available on a more national scale. Beth Wilensky and Nancy Vettorello found that there was not enough time to cover both the law and the skills necessary to succeed in their Legal Practice at the University of Michigan School of Law. They created a series of YouTube videos on fundamental legal skills concepts. Asking students to watch the videos on their own time, allows for more supervised analytical learning. "Students seem to like the videos," according to Prof. Wilensky, "both because they get a break from reading and also because they appreciate having access to the videos after the class ends." Professor Vettorello noted the added benefit of using class time to have students write, enabling her to comment immediately on their writing. “Frankly it tested my ability to describe and explain suggested changes -- when I made a suggestion and was left with blank stares, it was obvious that my feedback was not detailed enough or that I was using terminology that was not getting through.” Both professors find the experience invaluable. “It's like being able to sit next to them while they write, which is fascinating, informative, and even humbling.” An added benefit is to those outside the Michigan classroom. The videos are getting national traction, with well over 1,500 hits since their posting in 2016. A sample video is available here.

In 2018, out of my desire to combat what I call "flashcard learning," I created the podcast “Law to Fact.” In each episode, I have the opportunity to explore a particular concept with a member of the legal academy, a sort of “portable office hours” students can download at their convenience. The deep exploration of doctrinal issues such as the rule against perpetuities with Shelby Green or skills like how to read a legal opinion with Orin Kerr offers students the chance to observe the analytical component of law school learning. The podcast has been enthusiastically received by students and professors, with over 125K downloads to date.

It is the enthusiasm on the part of the “Law to Fact” guests that I find most encouraging. In every instance, faculty members, many of whom I have never met before, have been generous with both their time and their passion. We teach because we want students to learn not just the law, but how to think like lawyers. In an era where more and more students are inclined to believe that mastery of the material means memorizing the law, I argue it is incumbent upon law faculty to acknowledge reliance on commercial study guides and provide a proper context for their use. Doing so can be as easy as explaining the when, why, and how to use commercially prepared study aids to accomplish ideal learning. And, for those of you who haven’t done so in the past, I encourage you to create the type of supplemental material you believe will best prepare your students for success on exams, on the bar, and ultimately, as attorneys.

Finally, I welcome anyone interested to join me on an episode of Law to Fact. As those who have already participated can attest, it is a fun easy 1⁄2 hour exercise, and one that benefits those studying the law. You can reach me at [email protected].

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 2, 2019 at 02:08 PM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (2)