Category Archives: Jotwell

New Jotwell Section: Property

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Property, edited by Donald J. Kochan, Professor & Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, and Tanya Marsh, Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Property section is Property Law, Law & Economics, and Means for Reaching Distributive Goals by Ezra Rosser. Continue reading "New Jotwell Section: Property"


Attention Jotwell RSS Feed Readers

This week Jotwell is having its first-ever fund-raiser. Regular visitors to the site probably already noticed a large yellow popup informing then of this fact, but people who get Jotwell via the RSS feed or by email will have been denied that experience. There is no reason for the hundreds of people who read us via the RSS feed–or by email–to be left out.

So here’s the pitch: Please will you make a small donation to support this journal? All the faculty who write for and edit Jotwell do so for free, but even so, producing the journal is not costless: we need to pay for our server, for our student editors, and for various types of technical and design support, including a coming makeover to keep up with a procession of software updates. This adds up.

We don’t charge for Jotwell and we don’t run any ads, and we would like to keep it that way. If every Jotwell reader donated just $7 a year, we’d cover all of our costs…but alas not everyone is generous.

If you can afford it, please don’t be a free rider. If you like us lots–or even just some–please make a small donation? Of course, if you want to make a large one, we would not say no to that either.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

A. Michael Froomkin
Jotwell Editor-in-Chief


What We Like

Annie BrettA. Michael Froomkin

Annie Brett & A. Michael Froomkin

Jotwell began on October 27, 2008 with the goal of identifying new and interesting legal scholarship. Over the past seven years, Jotwell has recruited more than 300 Section and Contributing Editors who are leading academics (or in a few cases leading practitioners) and asked them each to write a short essay once a year identifying one of the best examples of recent scholarship relating to the law in their respective fields. This year, we wanted to reflect on where Jotwell is, and attempt to measure how well it is achieving its goals.

Jotwell has two objectives. On the one hand, we wanted to provide a service for persons who are not trying to be expert in a particular sub-field of law but still would like to keep up with the major developments in it. Given the proliferation of law reviews,1 and the resulting evolution away from having a few top journals act as the gatekeepers for high-quality scholarship,2 it is increasingly difficult for legal academics to know what is happening in their own fields, let alone what is most important and relevant in other fields. We expected, therefore, that some of the reviews would inevitably be of work by famous scholars and/or work appearing in top-ranked journals. On the other hand, we hoped also that our reviewers would be moved to call attention to significant work published in less prestigious journals and works authored by younger academics and others who were not yet widely recognized.

Although these goals were communicated to Jotwell’s Contributing Editors, and are noted in our author guidelines, we did little behind the scenes to enforce or even incentivize adherence to either goal. Instead we let Jotwell’s editors determine on their own what works of current scholarship they believe are worth recognition. Our thinking was that having assembled such a talented group of contributors we should leave it to them to decide what they liked and wanted to recommend.

Continue reading "What We Like"

  1. The number of law reviews increased from approximately 60 in 1960 to 616 in 2010. Alena L. Wolotira, From a Trickle to a Flood: A Case Study of the Current Index to Legal Periodicals to Examine the Swell of American Law Journals Published in the Last Fifty Years (June 21, 2011), available at SSRN. []
  2. Although no longer seen as gatekeepers for quality scholarship, the top journals are effectively gatekeepers in a different sense: the institutional affiliations of the authors. For example, in the 2014-2015 issues of the Harvard, Yale and Stanford law reviews, over 60% of the scholars published were at schools in the top 10, while less than 15% were from schools outside the top 20 (N = 106). See also Reza Ibadj, Fashions and Methodology, in Rethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Interchange (forthcoming), available at SSRN (finding that 71% of articles published in top 20 law journals were authored by academics at top 20 law schools). []

Jotwell 2015 Summer Break

Jotwell is taking a short summer break. Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 1. However, even while we’re on break, we’ll be accepting submissions, editing them, updating the site’s theme, and preparing new sections we plan to be launching in Fall.

If you like Jotwell, share — help us find more readers. Tell a friend about Jotwell. And if you are an academic reader, please consider recommending Jotwell to your students. Continue reading "Jotwell 2015 Summer Break"


Jotwell Winter Break 2014

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume Monday, January 5, 2015.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.

(If you have a moment, please could you vote for Jotwell at the ABA Law Blog 100 competition (look under “profs”)? Do it now, before you forget.)

Update: You may need to Login or register before you can vote.


Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters -Program and Links to Papers, Part Two

Sat Nov 8


9:30 – 10:45 Counterpoint:
James Chen, Modeling Law Review Impact Factors as an Exponential Distribution
Patrick Woods, Stop Counting (Or At Least Count Better)

11- 11:45
Benjamin Keele, Improving Digital Publishing of Legal Scholarship
[via remote participation]

Mark Tushnet, The Federal Courts Junior Scholars Workshop (originally submitted as a contribution to Jotwell).


2:15- 3:00
Frank Pasquale, Symbiotic Law & Social Science: The Case for Political Economy in the Legal Academy, and Legal Scholarship in Political Economy
[via remote participation]

3:15 – 4:00
James Grimmelmann, Scholars, Teachers, and Servants



Accepted papers from scholars unable to attend:

Angela Mae Kupenda, Personal Essay–On the Receiving End of Influence: Helping Craft the Scholarship of My Students and How Their Work Influences Me


Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters -Program and Links to Papers, Part One

Friday Nov 7

1pm Welcome
Vice-Dean Patrick Gudridge, Welcome
A. Michael Froomkin, A Little About Jotwell

1:15 – 2:00
Steven L. Winter, When Things Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong Part II

2:15- 3:00
Patrick Gudridge, Past Present (Revised Version)

3:15 – 4:30 Counterpoint
Jeanne Schroeder and David Carlson, Improving Oneself and Ones Clients; Not the World
Neil Buchanan, Legal Scholarship Makes the World a Better Place

4:45 – 5:30 Keynote Address
Margaret Jane Radin, Then and Now: Developing Your Scholarship, Developing Its Audience

5:30- 6:30
Reception, Faculty Lounge


What Belongs in the Academic Legal Canon?

Should there be an academic legal canon? Are we condemned to “repetition and recycling of a handful of ideas” without one? Those are among the questions raised by Steven L. Winter in his paper When Things Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong Part II which leads off the Jotwell Conference tomorrow afternoon.

If that isn’t sufficiently provocative, Appendix One of Prof. Winter’s paper offers a first draft of what a legal scholarship canon would look like, noting that “Most of the articles and books on my list can be characterized as classics, though I assume that among any group of well-read law professors there will be disagreements with respect to both omissions and inclusions.”

What works would you add to his list?


Jotwell Legal Scholarship Conference Next Week

Our 5th Anniversary conference on “Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters” is coming up late next week. In the United States, the role of scholarship is under assault in contemporary conversations about law schools; meanwhile in many other countries legal scholars are routinely pressed to value their work according to metrics or with reference to fixed conceptions of the role of legal scholarship. We asked contributors to write addressing at least one of three broad topics: improving the craft of legal scholarship, improving the reach of legal scholarship, or when and how legal scholarship matters.

The program promises to stimulating to say the least. The papers are or will be available online. Papers discuss what makes legal scholarship great (or terrible), what legal scholarship is good for, how to make it more accessible, what role metrics should play in the sorting of legal scholarship, and how best to make more of the good stuff. The Keynote will be by Margaret Jane Radin, which she has titled Then and Now: Developing Your Scholarship, Developing Its Audience.

It’s already clear from the submissions that there will be controversy. Consider, for example, the opening words of Improve Yourself; Not the World by Jeanne L. Schroeder & David Gray Carlson (footnotes omitted),

We question the common assumption that most legal scholarship should be oriented towards policy, or to quote the title of this session, at improving the world. Jurisprudential, critical and doctrinal scholarship should have equal prestige with policy-oriented scholarship because they more closely relate to the practice of law. Consequently, we start with one policy recommendation : “Lay off the policy recommendations.”

Policy oriented scholarship is what French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, called a “university discourse.” This terminology is ironic, referring to what academics tend to do, not what they should do.

We’ll post some more teasers in the coming days. Meanwhile, it’s not too late to Register.


Jotwell 2014 Summer Break

Jotwell is taking a short summer break. Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 2. However, even while we’re on break, we’ll be accepting submissions, editing them, updating the site’s theme, and of course getting ready for Jotwell’s 5th Anniversary Conference on Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters. Please note that Registration for Jotwell’s conference is now open.

If you like Jotwell, why not share — help us find more readers. Tell a friend about Jotwell. And if you are an academic reader, please consider recommending Jotwell to your students.

We have a Jotwell Flyer that you can print out and post, or perhaps even hand out at Orientation.


We’ll be back in two weeks — after the US Labor Day holiday.


Program and Registration Information for “Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters”

We’ve posted a draft program for our conference on “Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters” and also have opened up a registration page for the conference.

We hope to see you Nov 7 & 8, 2014 at the University of Miami School of Law.

If you are planning on coming, you can take advantage of the UM rate at local hotels. The main conference hotel is the Sonesta in Coconut Grove, but the UM discount also applies to the other hotels on the list.


Reminder: Jotwell Conference Submission Deadline is May 20

Legal Scholarship We Like And Why It Matters” is the subject of Jotwell’s 5th Anniversary Conference. If you’d to participate, we need your paper proposal.

The submission deadline is TODAY, May 20th.


Call for Papers: Legal Scholarship We Like, and Why It Matters

Legal Scholarship We Like,
and Why It Matters

University of Miami School of Law
November 7-8, 2014

JOTWELL, the Journal of Things We Like (Lots), is an online journal dedicated to celebrating and sharing the best scholarship relating to the law. To celebrate Jotwell’s 5th Birthday, we invite you to join us for conversations about what makes legal scholarship great and why it matters.

In the United States, the role of scholarship is under assault in contemporary conversations about law schools; meanwhile in many other countries legal scholars are routinely pressed to value their work according to metrics or with reference to fixed conceptions of the role of legal scholarship. We hope this conference will serve as an answer to those challenges, both in content and by example.

We invite pithy abstracts of proposed contributions, relating to one or more of the conference themes. Each of these themes provides an occasion for the discussion (and, as appropriate, defense) of the scholarly enterprise in the modern law school–not for taking the importance of scholarship for granted, but showing, with specificity, as we hope Jotwell itself does, what good work looks like and why it matters.

I. Improving the Craft: Writing Legal Scholarship

We invite discussion relating to the writing of legal scholarship.

1. What makes great legal scholarship? Contributions on this theme could either address the issue at a general level, or anchor their discussion by an analysis of a single exemplary work of legal scholarship. We are open to discussions of both content and craft.

2. Inevitably, not all books and articles will be “great”. What makes “good” legal scholarship? How do we achieve it?

II. Improving the Reach: Communicating and Sharing

Legal publishing is changing quickly, and the way that people both produce and consume legal scholarship seems likely to continue to evolve.

3. Who is (are) the audience(s) for legal scholarship?

4. How does legal scholarship find its audience(s)? Is there anything we as legal academics can or should do to help disseminate great and good scholarship? To what extent will the shift to online publication change how people edit, consume, and share scholarship, and how should we as authors and editors react?

III. Improving the World: Legal Scholarship and its Influence

Most broadly, we invite discussion of when and how legal scholarship matters.

5. What makes legal scholarship influential? Note that influence is not necessarily the same as “greatness”. Also, influence has many possible meanings, encompassing influence within or outside the academy.

6. Finally, we invite personal essays about influence: what scholarship, legal or otherwise, has been most influential for you as a legal scholar? What if anything can we as future authors learn from this?


Jotwell publishes short reviews of recent scholarship relevant to the law, and we usually require brevity and a very contemporary focus. For this event, however, contributions may range over the past, the present, or the future, and proposed contributions can be as short as five pages, or as long as thirty.

We invite the submission of abstracts for proposed papers fitting one or more of the topics above. Your abstract should lay out your central idea, and state the anticipated length of the finished product.

Abstracts due by: May 20, 2014. Send your paper proposals (abstracts) via the JOTCONF 2014 EasyChair page at

If you do not have an EasyChair account you will need to register first – just click at the “sign up for an account” link at the login page and fill in the form. The system will send you an e-mail with the instructions how to finish the registration.

Responses by: June 13, 2014

Accepted Papers due: Oct 6, 2014

Conference: Nov. 7-8, 2014
University of Miami School of Law
Coral Gables, FL

Symposium contributions will be published on a special page at Authors will retain copyright. In keeping with Jotwell’s relentlessly low-budget methods, this will be a self-funding event. Your contributions are welcome even if you cannot attend in person.


New Jotwell Section: Lex

Today we inaugurate a unique new Jotwell section. Unlike our ordinary single-subject Jotwell sections, the Jotwell Lex Section will feature a selection of legal topics that do not necessarily have the publishing volume to carry a section of their own. The Lex section’s initial list includes Art & Cultural Property Law, Education Law, Election Law, Energy Law, Environmental Law, Immigration, and Librarianship & Legal Technology, with a stellar cast of founding Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Lex section, on Immigration Law, is Local Prosecutors as Deportation Gatekeepers by Jill Family.

Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Jotwell Winter Break 2013

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume Monday, January 6, 2014.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.


ABA Journal Puts Jotwell in Blawg 100

Vote for Jotwell

The ABA Journal has listed Jotwell as one of the top 100 law-related blogs of 2013, and invites readers to vote for which of the 100 is their favorite.

We’re starting late, as the contest has been going for a while, but readers are invited to vote for Jotwell as their favorite law blog — look in the “News/Analysis” category. Balloting ends Dec. 20. Please vote, as a good result will help publicize Jotwell’s reviews of legal scholarship to the circa 550,000 lawyers who read the ABA Journal.

This may also be an occasion to remind readers that we have a nice Jotwell Flyer that you can print out and post to tell colleagues about Jotwell. And, of course, we welcome your writing — see our Call For Papers.


(Most) Comments Are Closed (Updated)

wikiOver the past few weeks, Jotwell has been hit with an increasing flood of multi-lingual spam comments. This grew to the point that the flood coming in was beyond our server’s limited capacity to cope, and we were down most of today. The source appeared to be a botnet, as the IP numbers exhibited no discernible pattern that we might have blocked.

In order to bring the site back up and discourage the attackers we’ve turned off comments just about everywhere in the Jotwell family of sites. Unfortunately, it seems possible that we will have to keep comments off until (or unless) we figure out a better solution.

For those who care about such things, the hardest hit section was Classics which alone garnered more than 87,000 spams recently, followed by Cyberlaw and Jurisprudence. The next group, almost tied, consisted of Criminal Law, Administrative Law, Health Law and IP Law.

Update 11/8/13: As an experiment, we’re re-opening comments on the most recent articles. Comment availability may fluctuate depending on botnet conditions….


Jotwell Summer Break

Jotwell is taking a short summer break. Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 3.

Thank you for reading — now please consider helping us find more readers. Tell a friend about Jotwell. And if you are an academic reader, please consider recommending Jotwell to your students.

We have a Jotwell Flyer that you can print out and post, or perhaps even hand out at Orientation.

Jotwell Flyer - click for hi-res


Technical Difficulties

We’re having some intermittent, random, issues with Jotwell’s server, and as a result the Jotwell family of web sites may be slow at times until we resolve them. Some services, especially the special formatting for mobile devices, likely will be turned off during some of testing periods, but we will bring tham all back once things return to normal.

Meanwhile, while debugging is going on, if the site is down or slow, please try again later in the day.


Changes at Jotwell

• Brian Tamanaha has stepped down as co-Section Editor of the Jurisprudence Section but will remain a Contributing Editor; Robin Kar will be stepping up to co-edit the section with Brian Bix. Brian T. has been a great editor and he leaves the section in excellent shape and in capable hands.

• This week we rolled out version 1.3 of the Jotwell theme; few if any of the many changes under the hood should be visible to readers, but if you notice anything more odd or out-of-place than usual, please let us know.

• One major consequence of the new theme is that we will be able to have a group of mini-sections sharing virtual real estate in a new section we plan to call ‘Lex”. These mini-sections will provide a home for topics in law which, due to a smaller scholarly production, might not merit publishing a review every month. We’re only just starting to put this together – suggestions for topics we should cover and for people who might be managers of mini-sections are both welcome – so it likely will be a few months before this section debuts.

• Jotwell’s student editors will soon be graduating or heading off to other summer employment. Advertisements for a Miami Law student to serve as summer editor will be going up soon, but any Miami Law student who reads Jotwell and responded to this message would have an inside track.


Jowell Winter Break 2012

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume Monday, January 7, 2013.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.


If Code Is Law, Then Coders Are Lawyers

E. Gabriella Coleman, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking (Princeton University Press, 2012).

Legal academics who write about norms risk becoming armchair anthropologists.  But the armchair is precisely the place anthropologists avoid; good ethnography cannot be done alone.  As one of my college professors said, “The specific antidote to bullshit is field work.”

E. Gabriella Coleman has spent much of her career doing field work with a computer.  Her first monograph, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, is based on an extended study of free software programmers.  She lurked on their email lists, hung out in their IRC chat rooms, went to their conferences (she even helped organize one herself), and spent countless hours simply talking with them about their work.  The result is a fascinating study of a community substantially defined by its tense engagement with law. (More recently, she has been closely observing the anarchic carnival-esque collective paradoxically known as Anonymous, with equally fascinating results. Continue reading "If Code Is Law, Then Coders Are Lawyers"


An Unexpected Remedy: Eminent Domain as a Potential Solution to the Mortgage Crisis

Robert Hockett, It Takes a Village: Municipal Condemnation Proceedings and Public/Private Partnerships for Mortgage Loan Modification, Value Preservation, and Local Economic Recovery, 18 Stan. J. L. Bus. & Fin. (forthcoming 2012) available at SSRN.

It is quite rare to come across a law review article that offers not only a theoretical diagnosis of a major socio-economic problem but also a plan for solving that problem in practice.  Putting forward a real, well-reasoned, and detailed policy proposal is always an act of scholarly courage, which inevitably exposes the author to all kinds of criticism.  This is especially true where the proposal targets a complex issue in which stakes are high, arguments are heavily ideology-driven, and powerful special interests dominate the agenda. Robert Hockett’s recent essay takes on precisely such a controversial issue: the nation’s continuing problem with underwater mortgages.  Since it was posted on SSRN several months ago, this essay has been making serious waves in policy-making circles (and earning its author no love from Wall Street).

Hockett starts with an incisive diagnosis of the root causes and structural dynamics of the mortgage crisis plaguing the nation since 2007. Five years after the bursting of the latest real estate bubble, mortgage debt overhang continues to be one of the primary factors impeding broad economic recovery in the U.S. and, consequently, globally. As Hockett argues, underwater mortgages – or loans on which the homeowner owes more than the current market value of the house – function as the principal drag on the U.S. housing market and the entire economy. Homeowners whose mortgages are underwater default at accelerating rates, leading to mass foreclosure, property degradation, and consequent asset devaluation. Moreover, such homeowners also don’t spend their money on purchases of goods, which depresses the consumer demand that is so vital to a robust economic recovery. According to Hockett, as of the beginning of this year, nearly a quarter of all mortgages in the U.S. were underwater, with an even higher concentration of underwater loans in certain especially hard-hit counties and cities. In effect, these are the loans that, while not technically in default, teeter on the edge of the abyss – and the more of them fall, the wider that abyss gets. Hockett argues that the only practical long-term solution to this problem is to write down the principal on underwater mortgages to post-bust market value levels.  That would effectively force the necessary adjustment in asset values and erase the crippling legacy of the pre-2007 real estate bubble. Continue reading "An Unexpected Remedy: Eminent Domain as a Potential Solution to the Mortgage Crisis"


Perry on Powers

Stephen R. Perry, Political Authority and Political Obligation in 2 Oxford Studies In the Philosophy of Law (Leslie Green & Brian Leiter eds., forthcoming 2012) (Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Law, Public Law Reseach Paper No. 12-37, forthcoming) available at SSRN.

A right to rule is the mark of a legitimate state or, put differently, of legitimate political authority. The correlate of this right to rule is a general duty, borne by all within a relevant territory, to obey the law laid down by the state – all of the laws, whatever their content. The right to rule excludes any right on the part of citizens to “pick and choose” which among the laws that apply to them to obey. The duty is a defeasible one, which must yield in case the duty-bearer is so circumstanced that a great evil could be avoided only by disobeying the law’s command. But, extraordinary cases aside, the general duty prevails. Such is the traditional view that this paper wants to reorient.

One problem with the traditional view is that it encourages the assumption that there is an acid test of state legitimacy: is there or is there not a general duty to obey? The legitimacy of political authority is thus tied to the existence of a general duty that there is good reason to doubt. The general duty dignifies silly regulations and fussy requirements that it seems morally innocent to ignore. Moreover, each of the theories that have traditionally been marshaled to justify such a general duty of obedience – gratitude, consent, tacit consent, hypothetical consent, fair play, necessity, expertise, association – come up short. On the traditional view, legitimacy can be established by establishing the general duty, and it can be rejected if the general duty lacks a persuasive ground. Continue reading "Perry on Powers"


A Preference for Strict Liability?

Joseph Sanders, Matthew B. Kugler, John M. Darley and Lawrence M. Solan, Torts as (Only) Wrongs? An Empirical Perspective (Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No 302, 2012) available at SSRN.

A long-enduring question in tort scholarship concerns the purpose of tort law.  One camp, anchored by the powerful scholarship of John Goldberg and Ben Zipursky, argues that tort is a law of fault and wrongs, and strict liability is sort of that weird cousin no one likes to talk about much. 1

In a compelling new sociological study, however, Joseph Sanders tests the idea of tort as wrongs (and only wrongs), and adds to the scholarly debate about tort’s rationales.  Sanders persuasively argues that—far from being “at the margin of tort law” 2 —from the public’s perspective, strict liability reigns supreme.  In four discrete studies, Sanders assessed whether the public believes fault or wrongdoing is a requirement for tort liability.  His thoughtful article presents some surprising findings that should have those of us in the academy taking another look at the purpose of tort law. Continue reading "A Preference for Strict Liability?"


New Jotwell Section: Health Law

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Health Law, edited by Associate Dean Kathleen Boozang of Seton Hall Law and Professor Elizabeth Weeks Leonard of The University of Georgia School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Health Law section is Can the Power of the FDA Be Reprised? by Kathleen Boozang.

Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Public-Sector Unions, Public Employees: May You Live in Interesting Times

Joseph E. Slater, Public Sector Labor Law in the Age of Obama, 87 Ind. L. J. 189 (2012)

In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to grant collective-bargaining rights to its public workers. The next half-century witnessed the rise of public-sector unions. As union density declined in the private sector, it increased in the public sector such that, by 2010, 7.6 million public-sector employees belonged to a union as compared with 7.1 million private-sector union workers. Many celebrated the public-sector union as the big success story. The fortune of public-sector unions and their members seemed, however, to turn on a dime with the 2010 mid-term elections. The past two years have witnessed some of the most pernicious attacks on public employees and their unions in the past half-century. Too contrived to be ironic, among the first and most virulent of these attacks began in Wisconsin.

Here’s where Professor Joseph Slater’s latest article, Public Sector Labor Law in the Age of Obama, begins. Professor Slater tackles four big issues: (1) recent political attacks resulting in legislative changes in the context of the current economic crisis and debate over public employee pensions; (2) bargaining and legal issues created by the current economic crisis; (3) the debate over whether and to what extent certain categories of employees (specifically Transportation Security Administration employees, police, and firefighters) should have collective-bargaining rights; and (4) the Missouri state constitutional requirement that employees have a right to bargain collectively. Continue reading "Public-Sector Unions, Public Employees: May You Live in Interesting Times"


Costing Financial Regulation

Bruce R. Kraus & Connor Raso, Rational Boundaries for SEC Cost-Benefit Analysis, 30 Yale J. on Reg. (forthcoming 2012), available at SSRN.

Debates about the costs and benefits of regulation, and about particular rules, are a very visible feature of lobbying about proposed financial regulation and of challenges to final rules. Industry opposition to the Dodd-Frank Act has focused on arguments about the costs of regulations envisaged by the Act. For example, in the summer of 2012 the US Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness published a report by Anjan Thakor on the Economic Consequences of the Volcker Rule which argued that the rule would adversely affect bank customers as well as banks. The report argued that reductions in the risk of banking and of costs to taxpayers could be achieved “with greater efficiency by making judicious use of capital and liquidity requirements.” Senator Richard Shelby introduced the Financial Regulatory Responsibility Act of 2011 (FRRA) in Congress with a promise that it would hold “financial regulators accountable for rigorous, consistent economic analysis on every new rule they propose.” Bruce Kraus and Connor Raso are concerned that the SEC’s ability to regulate, and even to carry out its mandates under Dodd-Frank, will be severely compromised by these developments.

In this paper Kraus and Raso argue that, by failing to provide its own interpretation of the National Securities Markets Improvement Act’s requirement that the SEC consider the impact of its rules on “efficiency, competition and capital formation,” the SEC allowed commentators and the courts to define the agency’s obligations with respect to cost-benefit analysis. The authors critique court decisions which have addressed the SEC’s obligations to consider the impact of its rules on “efficiency, competition and capital formation,”(in particular Business Roundtable v SEC), and argue that the SEC should now “affirm its substantial and long-standing expertise in financial economics, and insist on the agency’s right, derived from that expertise, to discern and define the boundary between economic analysis and policy choice.” Kraus and Raso discuss the SEC’s composition as a multi-member, bi-partisan agency which must, as a result, engage in compromise, even log-rolling, although its ability to do so is compromised by the Sunshine Act. The structure of the SEC is thus important in thinking about how the SEC should act, and the authors argue that the requirement that the SEC engage in cost-benefit analysis should not be interpreted to “invalidate the predictable results of such a system.” Kraus and Raso approve of the SEC’s March 2012 issuance of Guidance on Economic Analysis in SEC Rulemakings, but they urge the SEC to think of “involving economists more completely in the policymaking process” as more than “a procedural change.” They argue that “the economic analysis will be more compelling if it influences (rather than merely describes and rationalizes) the substance of the rule.” Continue reading "Costing Financial Regulation"


Not My Welfare State, or the Taxpayer’s Lament

Molly C. Michelmore, Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics, and the Limits of American Liberalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

Molly Michelmore’s new book could not be more timely. This summer the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s controversial individual mandate provision, through a majority opinion that links healthcare directly to the federal government’s tax power. Meanwhile, the lead-up to the presidential election has been riddled with references to tax burdens (and evasions), social welfare spending, and government “dependency.”

Historians and social scientists have much to add to this conversation, but little faith that they will be heard. A recurring theme in post-World War Two U.S. political history is how greatly the government has assisted working- and middle-class Americans (especially white men and their families) and how rarely those Americans have acknowledged that fact. This paradox persists today. Most Americans will rely at some point on a means-tested government support program, such as food stamps or Temporary Aid to Needy Families.1 Many more will accept Social Security benefits, tax credits, and other government subsidies.2 Yet these same Americans often resent the “welfare state.” In Michelmore’s words, “Americans hate government, but demand and expect, almost as a matter of right, the privileges, security, and mobility that government offers.” (p. 2-3) Continue reading "Not My Welfare State, or the Taxpayer’s Lament"


Federal Crimes, State Courts, and Palmore

Michael G. Collins & Jonathan Remy Nash, Prosecuting Federal Crimes in State Courts, 97 Va. L. Rev. 243 (2011).

In 1973, the Supreme Court in Palmore v. United States upheld Congress’s creation of an “Article I” court in the District of Columbia—the D.C. Superior Court—against a claim that Congress lacked the power to invest non-Article III federal courts with the authority to entertain criminal prosecutions arising under federal law. One of the linchpins of Justice White’s analysis for the 8-1 majority was his observation that, “Very early in our history, Congress left the enforcement of selected federal criminal laws to state courts and to state court judges who did not enjoy the protections prescribed for federal judges in Art. III.” As White explained, if it did not violate Article III for Congress to allow state judges to entertain federal criminal prosecutions, then it would be far harder to understand why, in at least some circumstances, non-Article III federal criminal adjudication—especially in a tribunal acting as a quasi-state court— should not also be permissible.

And yet, as Michael G. Collins and Jonathan Remy Nash persuasively demonstrate in Prosecuting Federal Crimes in State Courts, the historical record to which Justice White alluded in Palmore is “sketchy at best.” Instead, Collins and Nash’s article offers a compelling mix of historical, legal, and policy-oriented explanations for why the scattershot exceptions from the earliest years of the Republic may in fact prove the rule—that state courts generally do not (and should not) have the power to entertain criminal prosecutions arising under federal law. And whereas Collins and Nash’s article comes in response to a series of recent proposals to expand the federal criminal jurisdiction of state courts, the true significance of their analysis may be the extent to which it deprives Palmore (and, as such, federal criminal adjudication in non-Article III federal territorial courts in general) of perhaps its strongest analytical underpinning. Continue reading "Federal Crimes, State Courts, and Palmore"


The U.S. Supreme Court As Fact Finder?

Allison Orr Larson, Confronting Supreme Court Fact Finding, 98 VA. L. REV. 1255 (2012).
Mark KendeMatthew Shimanovsky

Mark Kende and Matthew Shimanovsky

Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. made headlines during his confirmation hearings by comparing judges to baseball umpires. Now imagine that umpires had the ability to secretly obtain expert and other opinions about whether a pitch is a ball or strike.  That is the question raised by Allison Orr Larson’s important new article, Confronting Supreme Court Fact Finding. Larson’s article shows how U.S. Supreme Court justices are actually doing more of their own fact-finding, rather than just acting as the nation’s highest appellate court of law.  Following Kenneth Culp Davis, she calls these findings “legislative facts,” to contrast them with “adjudicative facts.”  The article usefully explores the causes and consequences of this significant development.

Larson shows that some justices have used “in house” fact finding, beyond the crucible of the adversary process and cross examination, in 90 of 120 of the most important cases decided in the last 15 years.  Of those 90 cases, 47% cite to 4 or more sources outside of the briefs.  Larson says that the Internet has been instrumental in permitting such fact finding.  The Internet allows each justice to bolster an opinion, counter a scathing dissent, or justify overturning previous case law. Continue reading "The U.S. Supreme Court As Fact Finder?"


Prisons, Poverty And Power

Yes, yes, I know this is the Journal of Things We Like.  And I like, like, like Ian Haney Lopez’s essay, “Post Racial Racism: Racial Stratification and Mass Incarceration in the Age of Obama.”  But to understand why I like it so much, I have to say a word about something I also liked, but not as much as I had wanted to.

A great deal of attention has been paid to Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  The attention is well deserved; Alexander is a great writer with an eye for a compelling narrative.  But truth be told, I was left feeling a bit dissatisfied when I finished reading.  How does the New Jim Crow racism actually work, structurally speaking, when it comes to mass incarceration?  Is subconscious bias (by police) and naked political gain (by the architects of the war on drugs) really the entire story?  Isn’t there a deeper, more coherent structural story to tell here with regard to cause? Continue reading "Prisons, Poverty And Power"


Implicit Bias: Moving from Theory to the Courthouse

Jerry Kang, Mark Bennett, Devon Carbado, Pam Casey, Nilanjana Dasgupta, David Faigman, Rachel Godsil, Anthony G. Greenwald, Justin Levinson & Jennifer Mnookin, Implicit Bias in the Courtroom59 UCLA L. Rev. 1124 (2012).

Having a total of ten authors for one article would make this rather exceptional even without regard to the topic. That these authors participated together in a symposium on implicit bias is not a surprise. But what is unusual, if not exactly surprising, is that they together wrote this one article. This is not the typical scenario for the papers delivered at a conference. The ten include legal academics, scientists, researchers, and a sitting federal judge. Six are law professors, though two of them hold joint appointments. One is a research consultant for the National Center for State Courts, two are psychology professors and one is a federal district court judge. They all come to the study of implicit bias from their respective points of perspective but the article is a fully integrated article.

The question the article begins to answer is: What, if anything, should we do about implicit bias in the courtroom? The scientific literature on implicit bias and the role implicit bias might play has been the subject of considerable legal literature. Part I provides a clear, straightforward introduction to the science involved in understanding that implicit bias exists, what it is, and how it works. The article defines implicit attitudes and stereotypes as biases “not consciously accessible through introspection.” Accordingly, their impact on a person’s decision-making and behaviors does not depend on that person’s awareness of possessing these attitudes or stereotypes. Consequently, they can function automatically, including in ways that the person would not endorse as appropriate if he or she did have conscious awareness. If you remember, Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential campaign gave a vivid example of implicit bias that gets disclosed unintentionally. While speaking at an NAACP meeting,  Perot addressed his audience several times as “you people” or “your people.” Especially since the topic of the speech was crime and illegal drugs, many perceived Perot as expressing a stereotypical view of African Americans as being identified with crime and drugs. He had no incentive to be avowedly racist and there is no indication that he was conscious of the obvious inference listeners drew based on the language he used. Continue reading "Implicit Bias: Moving from Theory to the Courthouse"


Linking Financing To Decisionmaking In The U.S. Patent System

Michael Frakes & Melissa F. Wasserman, Does Agency Funding Affect Decisionmaking?: An Empirical Assessment of the PTO’s Granting Patterns, 66 Vand. L. Rev. (forthcoming, 2013), available at SSRN.

As patent law has grown in social and economic importance, a growing number of scholars have given attention to analyzing the structure of the patent system.  The number of patents issued per year has increased significantly in the past few decades, and, in at least some fields, the breadth of products or activities on which these issued patent claims read has also increased.  Scholars studying the system have given the design and functioning of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) increased scrutiny on a number of fronts.  Among its many duties, central is the PTO’s power and obligation to decide whether the rights to control a putative invention belong to the patent applicant, to a different applicant, or to the public.

Although patent prosecution is an ex parte proceeding, the patent examiner stands between the applicant and the public in deciding who shall receive the entitlement to use, or exclude others from using, the invention.  Due process norms usually require such decisionmakers to be unbiased and free from conflicts of interest.  However, since 1991, the PTO has been paid to make this decision from fees paid by one of the parties to the decision:  the applicants or patentees.  Not surprisingly, senior PTO officials have on more than one occasion referred to applicants and patentees as the office’s “customers.” Might this financing arrangement affect the agency’s interpretation and application of the law?  Most scholars have assumed that it does to some extent, but this extent and the operation of this assumed bias has been underexamined.  Until now. Continue reading "Linking Financing To Decisionmaking In The U.S. Patent System"


The Anatomy of a Will Contest

Gerry W. Beyer, Will Contests – Prediction and Prevention, 4 Estate Planning & Cmty. Prop. Law J. 1 (2011), available at SSRN.

Gerry W. Beyer’s Will Contests-Prediction and Prevention starts with a discussion of reasons to anticipate a will contest. He points out society has come to accept nontraditional families as a societal norm and yet the likelihood of a will contest increases when a decedent makes bequests that pass outside of what we define as a traditional family. Thus, for example, from a planning standpoint the best option for a testator involved in a same-sex relationship is to create a will because the intestacy laws will not make provision for the surviving partner. The article points out that even when the testator plans in advance, the likelihood of this will being challenged by a blood relative is much higher than when bequests are made to traditional family members.

Professor Beyer points out that historically, no-contest clauses have been used as a weapon to deal with the potential threat of a will contest. Even so, Professor Beyer points out that no-contest clauses are becoming less reliable as a deterrent because enforceability may be called into question. With that in mind, Professor Beyer offers an alternative solution — an incentive not to contest the will: In exchange for not challenging the will for a period of 2 years after the date of death, the beneficiary would receive a gift. Such a provision may be especially valuable for states where no-contest clauses are not enforceable. Continue reading "The Anatomy of a Will Contest"


New Jotwell Section: Torts

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Torts, edited by Gregory Keating, William T. Dalessi Professor of Law and Philosophy at the USC Gould School of Law and Catherine Sharkey, Crystal Eastman Professor at New York University School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Torts section is Insurance as Safety Regulator by Catherine Sharkey.

We intend to continue to add other new sections in the coming months — Health Law is next, with more to come. Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Meet the Editors

Torts Section Editors

The Section Editors choose the Contributing Editors and exercise editorial control over their section. In addition, each Section Editor will write at least one contribution (“jot”) per year. Questions about contributing to a section ought usually to be addressed to the section editors.

Professor Gregory Keating
William T. Dalessi Professor of Law and Philosophy
USC Gould School of Law

Professor Catherine Sharkey
Crystal Eastman Professor of Law
New York University School of Law Continue reading "Meet the Editors"


Judicial Independence, But From What?

Jed Handelsman Shugerman, The People’s Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America (Harvard University Press, 2012).

I think history is most fun to read when it upsets the conventional understanding of something in the present day. That’s a hard trick to pull off. Most conventional understandings are pretty close to the truth – otherwise they would have been abandoned already. And if you want to buck the conventional wisdom about something in the present, you’re more likely to succeed simply by explaining why it’s wrong in the present rather than by detailing its past. It takes an unusual combination of insight and luck to find a topic you can make readers see completely differently by writing its history.

Before I read Jed Shugerman’s The People’s Courts, I would never have guessed that judicial elections were that kind of topic. Like most lawyers, I suppose, I thought judicial elections were a little silly at best, and sometimes downright pernicious. How are voters supposed to know who the good judges are? And worse, how can elected judges prevent politics from leaking into their decisions? The last thing we want is for a judge to be keeping an eye on his reelection when he’s deciding, say, whether a notorious murderer’s rights have been violated, or whether a popular new law is unconstitutional. If you’ve ever been in a state with contested judicial elections and seen the TV commercials in which the candidates all claim to be the toughest on crime, you start to worry about the intrusion of politics. I imagine that’s the conventional understanding of judicial elections. It was certainly mine. Continue reading "Judicial Independence, But From What?"


Big and Innovative? The Future of Law Firms (Not Only the American Ones)

Bernard A. Burk & David McGowan, Big But Brittle: Economic Perspectives on the Future of the Law Firm in the New Economy, 2011 COLUM. BUS. L. REV. 1 (2011) available at SSRN.

Until the recent global financial crisis, elite law firms had been growing in size and number of offices for decades, both in the United States and across the world. Accordingly, the reasons behind law firm growth have fascinated legal scholars as well as social scientists studying the legal profession. Many theories have been formulated and tested by empirical research. Burk and McGowan’s article not only provides an excellent summary of these competing theories, but also proposes two new perspectives, namely, (1) relational capital and internal referral network; and, (2) technological innovation and transaction cost. Both are familiar theories in other research areas but neither had been applied to explain the growth of law firms.

In this essay, Burk and McGowan examine the evolution of large law firms in America from the late nineteenth century to the 2008 economic recession. Until the 1960s, most elite law firms have had a simple “partner-associate” two-tier structure following the Cravath System, which emphasized the long-term training of associates, the “up or out” rule of promotion, and the lockstep system for partners. Lateral hiring of partners were rare. As a result, firm growth was steady, featuring what Galanter and Palay have called law firms’ “internal growth engine.” From the 1970s to the mid-2000s, however, law firm growth entered an “explosive” era – the growth rate of elite firms jumped from 5% per year to 8% or more (p. 11). By the mid-1980s, the number of American law firms with more than a hundred lawyers had increased from a dozen to more than 250. The growth in size was accompanied by the expansion of geographic locations and lateral mobility. By 1988, over a quarter of the 500 largest American law firms had acquired more than half of their partners laterally. The lateral movement of associates had also become more frequent. As a result, the Cravath System was significantly eroded. Meanwhile, the formal structure of large law firms had become more complex – two-tier partnership was more commonly adopted, with an increasing proportion of non-equity partners and a higher leverage (i.e., associate-partner ratio) in most firms. Continue reading "Big and Innovative? The Future of Law Firms (Not Only the American Ones)"


Is Critical Citizenship Critical?

Angela M. Kupenda & Michelle D. Deardorff, Negotiating Social Mobility and Critical Citizenship: Institutions at a Crossroads, 22 U. Fla. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 335 (2011).

It is a good thing when those of us in education are urged to be more thoughtful about what we seek to achieve through our teaching and scholarship. An analysis of the possible impact that education can have moves beyond the standard questioning of pedagogy, and speaks to the societal value of education as transformative, not just for the student and future graduate but also for society. Such higher order questions, as I like to call them, are not typically the stuff of faculty meetings, but they are at the core of a recent article by Professors Angela Mae Kupenda and Michelle Deardorff.

In their article, Negotiating Social Mobility and Critical Citizenship: Institutions at a Crossroads, the authors juxtapose two seemingly inconsistent struggles faced by institutions of higher education – improving the socioeconomic possibilities of our students versus preparing students for what they theorize as “Critical Citizenship.”: Continue reading "Is Critical Citizenship Critical?"


Introducing the Court

Linda Greenhouse, The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press 2012).

The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction is indeed a very short book (far shorter than most law review articles), but it is no “Supreme Court for Dummies.” To the contrary, it is a sophisticated, yet accessible, addition to Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series.

This much the author’s identity gives away. Though she now teaches at Yale Law School and no longer covers the Supreme Court full time, the fabulous Linda Greenhouse remains one of Court’s most astute students. (And she continues to write an opinion column for The New York Times website, which should never be missed for its insights on the current Court.) Continue reading "Introducing the Court"


Good Things Come in Small Packages

Margaret H. Lemos, Interpretive Methodology and Delegations to Courts: Are “Common-Law Statutes” Different?, in Intellectual Property and the Common Law (Shyam Balganesh ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Slightly off the mainstream of employment law scholarship is Margaret Lemos’s Interpretive Methodology and Delegations to Courts: Are “Common-Law Statutes” Different. This is a terrific, creative piece in only 14 pages. I am especially pleased to be able to highlight it on Jotwell because it will appear in a chapter entitled Intellectual Property And The Common Law (Shyam Balganesh ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012), and therefore might well be missed by most employment law types.

Professor Lemos starts with a commonplace of statutory interpretation, asks why, and comes up with answers that make one reconsider fundamental beliefs. What more could one ask?

The commonplace is that the normal methods of interpretation (whatever they happen to be at the time) are inapplicable when it comes to “common law statutes.” The paradigmatic example of such a statute is the Sherman Act, which is generally viewed as an enabling act — an authorization by Congress to the courts to create jurisprudence of “restraint of trade” largely unconstrained by common law precedents, textualist fussiness, or any need to discern legislative intent. In contrast, “normal” statutes, such as Title VII, are subject to a process of “statutory interpretation,” which these days requires an elaborate parsing of words in order to determine what the enacting Congress intended by the language it chose. Continue reading "Good Things Come in Small Packages"


Erie, Swift, and Legal Positivism

Caleb Nelson, A Critical Guide to Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 54 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. (forthcoming 2013) available at SSRN.

Philosophy of law can get lonely. Most law professors, not to mention lawyers, don’t care whether legal positivism or some kind of anti-positivist alternative is correct. It is surprising, therefore, that philosophers of law so rarely discuss Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, since Erie suggests that the philosophy of law can be relevant to legal practice.

Legal positivism is identified, in part, by the social fact thesis: the law of a jurisdiction is fundamentally a matter of social facts concerning officials (or the general population) within the jurisdiction. In his opinion in Erie, Justice Brandeis rejected the regime of Swift v. Tyson, in part, because he thought Swift was incompatible with this thesis. In Swift, Justice Story opined about the common law prevailing in New York without deferring to the decisions of New York state courts. That sounds anti-positivist. Story apparently understood the common law to be binding in New York independently of social facts about New York (or, indeed, any other jurisdiction’s) officials. Continue reading "Erie, Swift, and Legal Positivism"


Estate Planning Is Better Than Xanax

Mark Glover, A Therapeutic Jurisprudential Framework of Estate Planning, 35 Seattle Univ. L. Rev. 427 (2012).

Sometimes a will is not just a will.  In Mark Glover’s recent article, he illuminates the psychological power that the law of wills and the process of estate planning can have.  Although I’ve long suspected many of us who work in the world of trusts and estates do so for psychological reasons (what drives us to attempt to control death?), I’ve never seen the connection between psychology and the law of death made so persuasively and concretely.

Professor Glover begins with a useful introduction to therapeutic jurisprudence.  It seems a gentle and unobtrusive movement; it largely suggests that, all other things being equal, the law should tilt toward rendering positive psychological consequences rather than negative ones.  Fair enough.  The model requires an analysis of the impact of laws on people, noting both the negative and positive psychological effect of the constructs law has created.  An analysis should lead to an adjustment in the law if the primary goals of the law could be accomplished in a way with better net psychological impact. Continue reading "Estate Planning Is Better Than Xanax"


New Light on the Old World and Commandeering

Jud Campbell, Commandeering and Constitutional Change, 122 Yale L. J. —, (forthcoming 2013) available at SSRN.

Some of the best constitutional history papers have a single conceptual move that makes you see the world differently.  Once you understand some previously unappreciated legal rule or piece of historical context, everything falls into place.  Jud Campbell’s forthcoming article in the Yale Law Journal, Commandeering and Constitutional Change, is just such a paper.

The topic is “commandeering”—i.e., whether the federal government can force state officers to execute federal law.  The Supreme Court has said that it cannot, because commandeering is inconsistent with state sovereignty.  Campbell’s central insight is this:  At the time of the Founding, commandeering was the Anti-Federalist position, not the Federalist position.  The Anti-Federalists thought that it was much better for state sovereignty to have federal law executed by their own officers.  They did not want a corps of officers in the states with federal paychecks and federal allegiance, and they were willing to accept commandeering, as opposed to voluntary cooperation, as the price of state execution. Continue reading "New Light on the Old World and Commandeering"


The Pain of Others

Imagine an interrogation chamber, twenty-five years from now. Rather than a dungeon or a prison cell, this space resembles the radiology suite of a hospital. A detainee is strapped to a gurney, electrodes attached to strategic parts of his body, rolled into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, and there held immobile for the duration of the interrogation. Whenever he refuses to answer a question or gives an answer believed to be untruthful or incomplete, the detainee receives an electric shock. As the interrogation intensifies, so does the pain. Suddenly, however, the interrogation stops. The signal has been given from the observation room that the subject’s pain level has reached the threshold for “torture” established by the Geneva Convention.

What does it mean for criminal law, and for international humanitarian law, that we can see and measure the pain of others?

More generally, to what extent can scientific discoveries and technological advances solve (or dissolve) pressing moral debates? Continue reading "The Pain of Others"


Top-Ten Lists And Five-Star Reviews: Ratings, Rankings, And Creativity

James Grimmelmann, Three Theories of Copyright in Ratings, 14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 851 (2012).

Until about a year ago, as the New York Times recently reported, Todd Rutherford had a successful business working with writers to help them market their self-published books on the Internet.  Rutherford’s previous career had involved more traditional publicity efforts — talking up his clients’ work in the hope that a reviewer at a newspaper or a blog would take notice.  But eventually he realized that it made more sense to “cut out the middleman and write the review himself.”  And so was born, a business that, depending on how much the author was willing to pay, would write one, twenty, or even fifty online reviews singing a book’s praises.  “Before he knew it,” the Times reported, “he was taking in $28,000 a month” and had to hire freelancers to keep up with the demand.  Rutherford may have been particularly up-front about the nature of his business practices, but he was by no means an outlier; one estimate is that about one-third of online reviews purporting to be by actual consumers are marketing schemes rather than genuine reviews.

Rutherford did not, apparently, assert a proprietary interest in his company’s reviews; in any event, the service later foundered when Google, and then Amazon, took notice.  But one might suggest that the inherently creative nature of the reviews – at least one of the freelancers admitted that she hadn’t actually read the books she “reviewed” – would put them squarely at the heart of copyright law’s scope of protectability.  If this is the case, does that suggest something troubling about ratings?  Or about copyright law more generally?

A recent article by James Grimmelmann seems to pose a simple question: Are ratings copyrightable?  But what makes this short piece especially thought-provoking is the way in which Prof. Grimmelmann uses this question as a way of interrogating various fundamental doctrines of copyright law: the idea/expression dichotomy, the originality and creativity requirements, and the nature of fact versus opinion among them. Continue reading "Top-Ten Lists And Five-Star Reviews: Ratings, Rankings, And Creativity"


The Uniform Sister-wife Act: Ensuring A Fair Share of the “Marital Pie ”

Adrienne D. Davis, Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules, and Bargaining for Equality, 110 Colum. L. Rev. 1955 (2010).

Adrienne Davis’s recent article, Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules and Bargaining for Equality, is a must read for family law scholars, marriage equality scholars, as well as anyone interested in understanding the limits of contemporary analogies made between gay marriage and polygamy.

Davis begins her analysis by highlighting the fundamental difference between these two frequently compared marriage forms. She argues that gay marriage proponents’ commitment to dyadic two-person marriages makes their quest starkly different from polygamy proponents’ quest for social recognition of a marriage model that recognizes the affective and cooperative links between multiple marriage partners. Continue reading "The Uniform Sister-wife Act: Ensuring A Fair Share of the “Marital Pie ”"


Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

Peter Decherney, Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet (Columbia University Press, 2012).

Peter Decherney has written an excellent book about the ways in which copyright laws have shaped and responded to the movie industry in the US.  Professor Decherney, who, not incidentally, was instrumental in achieving the first context-specific exemption for ripping DVDs (for use in teaching film studies, renewed in the 2009 cycle), has a sharp eye for the way the movie industry has exploited and reacted to law as part of its business models over time.  He suggests that the usual reaction of the industry to legal rulings has been self-regulation either to confirm or to avoid the formal law, depending on what works best for the people in charge.

History repeats, not just in the oft-told story of new media relying on unauthorized copying from old media—plays into films, for example—but also in the smaller details.  The relationship between technological measures designed to prevent copying and unauthorized copying, for example, goes back to the start of moviemaking, when different producers used film with different sprocket holes in order to preserve their control over their own preferred, often patented, technologies.  This incompatibility didn’t deter copying, though.  Instead, it led people who wanted to show movies to make their own copies to fit on their own equipment, just as technical protection measures still do today. Continue reading "Just a Little Bit of History Repeating"


On Becoming Relevant: The Role of Legal History in Legal Scholarship

Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Changing the People: Legal Regulation and American Democracy, 86 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1 (2011), available at SSRN.

A while back over at the Legal History Blog, there was a brief discussion about the relevance of legal history to the legal academy.  On the heels of this discussion, Pierre Schlag posted a typically hilarious paper on SSRN about the faculty workshop that in part demonstrated the irrelevance of legal history, or at least the inability of legal scholars to access historians’ questions.  This is probably the main source of anxiety/frustration of legal historians who work in the legal academy, despite the (apparently “whiggish”) historical turn in constitutional scholarship.  History these days seems to be relevant to legal scholarship only in the context of debates over original meaning/intent.  What makes this particularly frustrating for historians is that the quality and quantity of legal history, produced by professionally-trained historians, has increased dramatically in recent years.  The last two decades, in particular, has witnessed the emergence of a bountiful body of scholarship, that is both theoretically and forensically rich, and that engages some of the biggest questions about law: its nature and function, and its relationship to various other macro-institutions such as society, the market, the polity, the state, and democracy.  (For starters, just look at the work by the contributing editors to the legal history section here.)  And yet we still find it difficult to engage our colleagues and convince them of the importance of our work; for many institutions we remain a “luxury.”  Historians have long worried about our declining ability to reach popular audiences.  Apparently, we are losing some colleagues too.

This is where I find Tabatha Abu El-Haj’s recent article heartening.  What struck me immediately about the article was how Abu El-Haj framed it.  In a seven-page introduction she spends two paragraphs on legal historiography; her main target is law and democracy scholarship.  Consciously or not, Abu El-Haj has offered an example of how to smooth the ground between historian and legal scholar.  Translating between disciplines, Elizabeth Mertz has told us, is a project fraught with misunderstanding.  But, perhaps because of her training in a law and society program, Abu El-Haj appears to have both the fluency and willingness to attempt an effective translation.  In this article, for example, she uses “the repertoire of democratic political practices” in the past to expose and undermine two major assumptions of modern law and democracy scholarship. Continue reading "On Becoming Relevant: The Role of Legal History in Legal Scholarship"


Negotiating Globalization’s Influence: The Indian Perspective

The importance of India as a site for activity and study with regard to the legal profession and globalization is underscored by the attention it currently generates in the legal and popular press1 But it also is an area characterized by uncertainty.  In fact, even as I write, there has been an additional development regarding the practice of law by foreign law firms: the Indian Supreme Court issued an interim order on July 4, 2012 that reinforced the uncertainty surrounding the authority for and confidence of global law firms to serve clients with interests in and related to India.  In light of this, I was delighted to learn that the subject had been taken on by Mihaela Papa and David Wilkins, both of Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession.  Their new article, “Globalization, Lawyers, and India:  Toward a Theoretical Synthesis of Globalization Studies and the Sociology of the Legal Profession,” promises to “draw[] together globalization literature with the scholarship on the sociology of the legal profession . . . [to] provide a new lens through which to analyze economic, political and social transformations occurring in the Indian legal profession.” (P.2)  My interest in the article was piqued not only by the topic, but also because Wilkins, the highly-regarded Professor of Law and chair of Harvard’s Program on the Legal Profession, is spearheading its GLEE project (Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies), which “investigates the impact of globalization on the corporate legal sector in major emerging economies and the effect of changes in this sector on other parts of the legal order, including legal education and the provision of legal services to underrepresented populations.”  This paper is an early product of GLEE and, as such, reveals promises of the larger study.

The article does not disappoint and offers a thoughtful addition to the growing body of work on globalization and the legal profession.  Papa and Wilkins begin by framing their investigation of India’s legal profession within the literature on globalization, and identify three “social processes commonly identified by globalization scholars in other areas [as] help[ful] to explain the changes currently taking place in the Indian legal profession:  economic globalization, globalization of knowledge, and globalization of governance.” (P.3)  In doing this, they offer a terminology for analysis that reveals the importance both of differentiating and connecting these three core processes. Continue reading "Negotiating Globalization’s Influence: The Indian Perspective"


One Engagement – Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation

Colleen Murphy, A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

For anyone interested in a critical, practical, and political exploration of reconciliation, Colleen Murphy’s book is a wonderful resource. It is a fast-paced and well-written book that compels the reader to keep going. And, it is useful in the everyday world.

In Canada, over the past thirty years, almost 600 indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been slain.1 Between 2000 and 2008, there were 153 new cases. Most of the disappearances and deaths occurred in the western provinces in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.2  The majority of these women and girls were mothers. Some were students. Almost half of these cases remain unsolved. Time and time again, these women and girls are described as sex trade workers and addicts as if somehow that designation defines them all or explains them away. What is so disturbing is that their murders and disappearances seem to have become normalized – a part of Canada – but in the background or in the shadows. Continue reading "One Engagement – Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation"


Jotwell Summer Break

Jotwell is taking a short summer break.

Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 4. We will be posting more frequently during the academic year.

Thank you for reading — now tell a friend about Jotwell. And if you are an academic reader, please consider recommending Jotwell to your students.


SCOTUS in Focus: Two Takes on Cameras in the Federal Courts

• Nancy S. Marder, The Conundrum of Cameras in the Courtroom, ___ Ariz. St. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2012), available at SSRN.
• Lisa T. McElroy, Cameras at the Supreme Court: A Rhetorical Analysis, ___ BYU L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2012), available at SSRN.

Television cameras in the courtroom probably have been debated since there have been cameras to bring into the courtroom, with periodic spikes in attention around high-profile cases–O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial or Bush v. Gore or this term’s Supreme Court arguments on the Affordable Care Act. In the past two decades, a communications revolution has turned that occasional spike in attention into a constant drumbeat. More attention from more outlets is focused on the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court. And video is ever-more accessible, as people can watch on a multitude of devices in a multitude of places, and ever-less obtrusive, so courtroom actors can easily be recorded without knowing it.

Yet, as Nancy Marder puts it, “the revolution has been stopped cold at the steps to the U.S. federal courthouse.” And the Justices themselves have erected and manned the barricades–rejecting calls for more open and immediate coverage of oral arguments in the obviously unique ACA cases, fighting Congress over who wields power to decide whether to allow cameras, and even jumping into disputes over cameras in the lower federal courts in high-profile cases. Continue reading "SCOTUS in Focus: Two Takes on Cameras in the Federal Courts"


Expanding Our Vision — and the Law’s Coverage — to Include “Marginal Workers”

A strange tension exists in U.S. labor and employment law.  On one hand, the number of laws granting rights to employees has increased considerably in recent decades.  On the other hand, many have argued that these laws have fallen far short of their expected goals and have failed to adequately protect a significant number of workers.  In Marginal Workers, Ruben Garcia goes further than any previous work in describing the various ways in which these laws fail to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the country.

Marginal workers are those who “fall through the margins of different laws that are supposed to protect them, but lack the political power to fix the holes in the legislation.”  (p. 4).  This includes, among others, immigrant workers in post-Hoffman Plastics limbo, temporary workers, noncitizens, and a variety of low-wage workers who are covered by statutes (including the FLSA, Title VII, and the NLRA) but often get inadequate protection from them.  This includes, but is not limited to, those who should be covered by the statute, but who have been improperly classified as independent contractors or as exempt from the FLSA or NLRA.  The default “employment at-will” rule means that even at best, employment laws are a “patchwork quilt with some rather large holes.” (p. 6). Continue reading "Expanding Our Vision — and the Law’s Coverage — to Include “Marginal Workers”"


What Do We Want from Open Government – and What the Heck is “Open Government”?

• Harlan Yu & David G. Robinson, The New Ambiguity of “Open Government”, 59 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. 178 (2012).
• Jennifer Shkabatur, Transparency With(out) Accountability: The Effects of the Internet on the Administrative State, 31 Yale L & Pol. Rev. — (forthcoming), available at SSRN.

Jotwell prefers that its contributors “like” one piece of scholarship at a time.  But (a) I have to atone for submitting my contribution late, and (b) the two manuscripts that have caught my fancy most recently are wonderfully complementary and deserve to be attended to jointly.

Literally from Day One, a welcome mantra of the Obama Administration has been “open government,” to which the Administration has variously linked the adjectives, “transparent,” “participatory,” and “collaborative.”  As both conceptualized and practiced, however, the very idea of “open government” is highly ambiguous.  Even its arguably most straightforward aspiration – transparency – is rife with uncertainties.  Two important steps forward in understanding the Obama open government “moment” are The New Ambiguity of “Open Government”, by Princeton doctoral student Harlan Yu and Yale law student David G. Robinson, forthcoming in Discourse, the online journal of the UCLA Law Review, and Transparency With(out) Accountability: The Effects of the Internet on the Administrative State, by Jennifer Shkabatur, an SJD candidate at Harvard Law School, forthcoming in Vol. 31, No. 1, of the Yale Law & Policy Review.  Each is a significant contribution to a much undertheorized domain. Continue reading "What Do We Want from Open Government – and What the Heck is “Open Government”?"


The Mounting Challenge to Assertions About “The Nature of Law”

•  Brian Leiter, The Demarcation Problem in Jurisprudence: A New Case for Skepticism, 32 OJLS 1 (2011).
•  Dennis Patterson, Alexy on Necessity in Law and Morals, 25 Ratio Juris 47 (2012) available at SSRN.
•  Frederick Schauer, On the Nature of the Nature of Law (2011) available at SSRN.

A number of prominent contemporary legal philosophers identify as their central task the search for the necessary features of the nature of law. Joseph Raz writes, “The general theory of law is universal for it consists of claims about the nature of law, and about all legal systems, and about the nature of adjudication, legislation, and legal reasoning, wherever they may be and whatever they might be. Moreover, its claims, if true, are necessarily true.”1. Scott Shapiro’s Legality is an extended treatment of the nature of law: “When asking about the nature of law…we want to know which properties law necessarily possess in virtue of being an instance of law[.]”2.

Along similar lines, Julie Dickson insists that a general theory of law must “consist of propositions about the law which are necessarily true, as opposed to merely contingently, true,” because “only necessarily true propositions about law will be capable of explaining the nature of law.”3. This search for the nature of law is not limited to legal positivists. Anti-positivist Robert Alexy pursues the same project (though contesting their answers): “Thus, for the question, ‘What is the nature of law?’ one may substitute the question “What are the necessary properties of law?”….Essential or necessary properties of law are those properties without which law would not be law.”4.

The most puzzling aspect of this project is not the answers these various theorists produce in the pursuit of their quest but the assumption upon which it hinges: that law has a nature. Prior to embarking on a search for the nature of law one would think that the first order of business is to set forth an argument establishing that law has a nature. Without such an account, it is unclear what is being sought or whether there is something to be found. Despite the apparent necessity to tackle this preliminary question, theorists who pursue this aim have heretofore largely assumed it.5. Continue reading "The Mounting Challenge to Assertions About “The Nature of Law”"


Why We Need a Progressive Account of Violence

James Forman, Jr., Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow, 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev., 101 (2012).

It seems fair to say that in current criminal law and criminology discourse, Jim Crow analogies are all the rage. The dialogue, and especially Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, is an important and necessary intervention in the national conversation about crime and punishment. Alexander’s book makes the case that the modern U.S. criminal system operates to impose de jure and de facto second class citizenship on African Americans in a strikingly similar manner to Jim-Crow-era laws. The New Jim Crow has received an enormous amount of publicity and has successfully inserted questions of racial hierarchy into what are often insular debates over dessert, deterrence, and appropriate crime management. As much as the Jim Crow dialogue illuminates often ignored or deliberately down-played racial aspects of the U.S. penal state it, like all analogies, is an imperfect comparison. It therefore has a tendency to obscure other factors important to the understanding and critique of mass incarceration—factors like cultural discourses of violence that transcend race, the relationship between incarceration and class and labor, and the role of criminal law in perpetuating and maintaining neoliberal political and economic structures.

This is where James Forman Jr.’s article comes in. In a move that many of his friends and colleagues viewed as head-scratching, Forman, a staunch critic of the American carceral state, decided to set forth a critique of the Jim Crow critique of mass incarceration. Many progressives have a strong instinct that they should stand by the Jim Crow narrative, especially now that it is gaining so much traction. Despite this, Forman makes the case that understanding the limits of the analogy explains why the racial critique of mass incarceration, which has existed for decades, has not succeeded in radically changing support for tough-on-crime measures, even among many African Americans. Forman also argues that concentrating solely on a reductionist racial picture of the criminal system deflects attention from the many other ways that system reflects and reproduces social inequality. In the article, Forman lists six objections to the analogy, but here I want to concentrate on two larger themes of his paper, antiessentialism and accounting for violence. Continue reading "Why We Need a Progressive Account of Violence"


Structural, not Substantive, Due Process

Nathan S. Chapman & Michael W. McConnell, Due Process as Separation of Powers, 121 Yale L.J. 1672 (2012).

Great scholarship in American constitutional law ranges from the conceptually original to the historically meticulous.  The most cited articles of all time contain far more of the former than the latter. This year’s scholarship contains a rare piece that is both conceptually groundbreaking and a deep historical dive.  An article of interest to multiple audiences, Nathan Chapman and Michael McConnell’s Due Process as Separation of Powers merits kudos from both conceptualists and historicists.

Chapman and McConnell note that due process, the “oldest phrase and the oldest idea in our Constitution,” has, perversely, become “the most unrecognizable in modern interpretation,” a phrase used to “subvert the separation of powers” by giving courts “a super-legislative power to change rather than enforce and interpret the law.”

The authors demonstrate that Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process, when applied by courts to constrain legislative power, had a very specific original meaning lost to both the judiciary and modern readers. This meaning is contrary to recent scholarly conclusions that (1) due process only applies to judicial process, (2) substantive due process enables judicial review of legislative policy choices violating judicial notions of property or liberty, even under proper procedures, and (3) substantive due process is contemplated under the Fourteenth but not the Fifth Amendment. Continue reading "Structural, not Substantive, Due Process"


The Negative Externalities of Claiming Property

Peter S. Menell & Michael J. Meurer, Notice Failure and Notice Externalities, (Boston Univ. School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-58, 2011), available at SSRN.

In Notice Failure and Notice Externalities, Peter S. Menell and Michael J. Meurer coin a new term—a “notice externality.”  In the process, they do nothing less than turn the conventional story about property rights and externalities on its head and reconceptualize many of the inefficiencies of contemporary intellectual property regimes.

The externality part of the term should be familiar by now, given the extent to which economic thinking has permeated intellectual property discourse.  An externality arises whenever one party’s conduct has consequences for other parties that are not considered—read “internalized”—by the decision maker.  In some of the classic examples, the externalities are negative: the conduct of sending pollution out a smokestack generates negative externalities for neighbors.  In other classic examples, the externalities are positive: the conduct of inventing new technologies generates benefits for all those whose lives are improved by using the technology. Continue reading "The Negative Externalities of Claiming Property"


New Jotwell Section: Family Law

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Family Law, edited by Janet Halley, the Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Melissa Murray, Professor, U.C. Berkeley School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Family Law section is A Hug From the State: Recognizing Stillbirths by Melissa Murray.

We intend to continue to add other new sections in the coming months — Torts and Health Law are next, with more to come. Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


A Hug From the State: Recognizing Stillbirths

In the not too distant past, it was taboo for women (and men) to speak openly about miscarriages, infertility, or anything having to do with the delicate business of giving birth.  More recently, however, the social anxiety around these topics has receded.  Many of us now speak openly about the pain of a miscarriage or an unsuccessful round of IVF.  Indeed, some find it cathartic to broadcast their grief to a wider audience, blogging about their experiences or discussing it with friends (broadly defined) on social media.  But it is one thing to enlist friends and social media in the grieving process.  It is quite another thing to involve the state.  Or is it?

That is the question that Carol Sanger takes on in “The Birth of Death”: Stillborn Birth Certificates and the Problem for Law.  In this penetrating and thought-provoking Essay, Sanger takes on the taboo subject of stillbirth—the act of delivering a dead child—and the emergent movement that seeks to enlist law to help the parents of stillborn children deal with their grief and loss.  Specifically, Sanger considers “Missing Angel” legislation—laws that authorize the state to issue parents a birth certificate for a stillborn child.  The whole thing sounds at once macabre and incongruent—issuing a birth certificate for a child that was born dead?  But, as Sanger observes, it makes perfect sense to grieving parents, for whom the standard issue fetal death certificate fails to capture the magnitude and profundity of their loss. Continue reading "A Hug From the State: Recognizing Stillbirths"


The Player of Games

Daithí Mac Síthigh, Legal Games: The Regulation of Content and the Challenge of Casual Gaming, 3 J. Gaming & Virtual Worlds, no. 1 at 3-19 (2011) available at SSRN.

Mainstream coverage of gaming regulation has usually centered on the possible danger of violent games to children, usually accompanied by stills from the latest Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, or Mortal Kombat to instil a righteous level of outrage in the public. The underlying message in most of these stories ranges from “something must be done about this” to “ban this filth.” Thankfully, such often uninformed commentary has not been translated into legal scholarship, where the coverage has been more nuanced. With few exceptions, authors dealing with the nascent field of gaming regulation have produced a growing body of work that is both thorough and well-written. A recent addition to the group of scholars interested in games is Daithí Mac Síthigh from the University of East Anglia in the UK, and soon to join the University of Edinburgh.

In Legal Games: The Regulation of Content and the Challenge of Casual Gaming, Mac Síthigh tackles both the public perception of games regulation in the UK, and the actual practice of such regulation. He comments that most legal studies into games fall into three categories: the study of game production and development, studies into the debate on the effects of video game violence, and more rarely discussions about copyright. Mac Síthigh accurately comments that some of the higher level discussions in gaming studies, for example, the literature that studies the ludic nature of the gaming experience, has been somewhat left out of legal and regulatory commentary in general. So, Mac Síthigh’s article is in part a response against this trend. Continue reading "The Player of Games"


Is Alabama the New California? Civil Rights History through a Multiracial Lens

Recently, thousands of people participated in the forty-seventh anniversary of the historic 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery.  Now, as in 1965, voting rights were front and center: marchers protested against the recent passage of restrictive voting laws in many states, arguing that such provisions disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.  This was familiar ground for civil rights organizers in the South.  This year, however, there was a new theme: immigrant rights.  Those marching joined in opposition to Alabama’s H.B. 56, which targets undocumented immigrants in the state.  The tone, as recounted by Trymaine Lee for the Huffington Post, was one of solidarity: marchers commented on the shared struggle and shared aims of those of African, Asian and Latin American descent, of citizens and non-citizens.

Alabama is in a new phase of its own civil rights history, but this multiracial rights frontier itself is not new.  The deep South now grapples with issues of inter-group coalition building that were at the forefront in California more than a half-century ago.  In his impressive new book, The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978, Mark Brilliant demonstrates that California experienced the challenges and rewards of “multiracial civil rights making” starting in the 1940s. (p. 12.)  He chronicles the post-World War II struggles for civil rights of African Americans, Asian Americans and Mexican Americans, as they attempted to dismantle segregation and legislate antidiscrimination.  In its diverse population, California was not an outlier in the history of civil rights but rather the vanguard. Continue reading "Is Alabama the New California? Civil Rights History through a Multiracial Lens"


Mechanisms of Discrimination

Everyday Injustice is an empirical study of Latino and Latina attorneys.  The book examines the lawyers’ cultural, socioeconomic and family backgrounds: it compares and contrasts their law school experiences, socialization into the profession, career paths and ideological and professional commitments with that of their non-Latino peers; it explores the intersection of racial, class, gender and professional identities; and it documents the political leanings, activities and political values of Latino and Latina attorneys. Everyday Justice investigates shared perceptions and experiences of negative stereotyping encountered by Latino and Latina attorneys as well as their sense of marginalization and professional isolation.  It is a rich and revealing account of the professional lives of minority lawyers striving to overcome discrimination in a profession purporting to adhere to the highest standards of equality.

The book represents an important addition to the scholarship of the legal profession.  As the profession continues to struggle, notwithstanding its increased diversity, with persistent under-representation of women and minority lawyers within its elite ranks, growing scholarly attention has been given to the experiences of gender, racial and class minorities.  To date, however, insufficient attention has been paid to the experiences of the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States, Latinos and Latinas.  Moreover, following recent US Supreme Court decisions that have eroded affirmative action policies, placed procedural limitations on Title VII litigation, and restricted avenues for recovery, some commentators have expressed concern that the Court’s emphasis on the impact of affirmative action on African-Americans and Caucasians, its focus on intentional past discrimination and its inattention to Latinos, and implicit discrimination might cause it to prematurely strike down affirmative action policies altogether.  Exploring in great detail the professional lives of Latino lawyers, including their discriminatory experiences, Everyday Injustice is especially important and timely and provides a rich and detailed context against which the wisdom of affirmative action policies as well as other diversity measures may be evaluated on an informed basis. Continue reading "Mechanisms of Discrimination"


Ethical Lawyering in the Clientless World of Class Actions in Canada

It is surprising what you can learn by watching the next generation coming of age. In this way, lawyers in the United States can gain much from following the experiences of the Canadian legal community as it climbs the steep learning curve needed to formulate the parameters and protocols for complex litigation.

Civil litigation and the structure of the legal profession in Canada do not pretend to challenge American exceptionalism. There are important differences between the two legal systems. But they have enough in common that academics and others in the U.S. can gain useful insight into class actions practice by hearing how Canadians are currently struggling to meet the kinds of challenges that have long been the subject of debate in the U.S. In this fine article, Jasminka Kalajdzic explores a new subject, at least for Canadian lawyers: the special ethical concerns that arise for counsel in class actions. Continue reading "Ethical Lawyering in the Clientless World of Class Actions in Canada"


Dis-torting Discrimination Law

Sandra F. Sperino, Discrimination Statutes, The Common Law, and Proximate Cause, 2013 U. Illinois L. Rev. 1 (forthcoming 2013) available at SSRN.

As courts increasingly import principles from common law torts into discrimination cases, Sandra Sperino’s new article, Discrimination Statutes, The Common Law, and Proximate Cause, is a welcome addition to a growing body of work pushing back against this trend. Her focus is on the Supreme Court’s recent forays into proximate cause in connection with federal employment statutes. Laying out the problems of the proximate cause doctrine and the features of statutory protections from employment discrimination, Sperino demonstrates that importing proximate cause is undesirable and an obstacle to enforcing Congress’ careful balance in enacting these statutes.

The article begins by describing what proximate cause is. Although the theoretical underpinnings of proximate cause are notoriously muddled, Sperino demonstrates that in a variety of ways, the doctrine appears to limit the reach of particular torts, depending on the type of tort at issue. As she notes, proximate cause is applied primarily in negligence actions in situations with multiple physical causes, where a potential plaintiff is far removed from the conduct of the defendant, or as a way to define the policy goals of the underlying cause of action. For intentional torts, proximate cause plays a much more limited role, in part because the actor’s state of mind makes the actor more blameworthy, and we are willing to extend liability farther. Continue reading "Dis-torting Discrimination Law"


New Section Editors

I’m pleased to announce that three distinguished scholars have agreed to become Jotwell Section Editors.

  • Paul Horwitz of the University of Alabama School of Law has stepped up from Contributing Editor to Section Editor in the Constitutional Law section.
  • Eli Wald of the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, has joined the Legal Profession section as a Section Editor, replacing Tanina Rostain, who continues as a Contributing Editor.
  • Leigh Osofsky of the University of Miami School of Law has joined the Tax section, replacing George Mundstock.

Serial Litigation in Administrative Law: What Can Repeat Cases Tell Us About Judicial Review?

Emily Hammond Meazell, Deference and Dialogue in Administrative Law, 111 Colum. L. Rev. 1722 (2011).

In Deference and Dialogue in Administrative Law, Emily Meazell takes up the topic of serial administrative law litigation.  These repeated rounds of challenges and remands, which Meazell finds are particularly prevalent in contexts of risk regulation, provide a new lens on court-agency relationships.  Meazell closely reviews several instances of such litigation, spanning topics as diverse as endangered species, potential workplace carcinogens, and financial qualifications of nuclear plant operators.  She argues that such close examination reveals a process of dialogue, with agencies ultimately (if not immediately) responding to judicial concerns and courts in turn acknowledging administrative responses.

According to Meazell, serial litigation merits attention because it demonstrates that judicial review may not function as we think it does.  In particular, Meazell flags two features of serial litigation that deserve particular note.  The first is that agencies frequently considered new information and evidence on remand, even though that might entail greater effort and new rounds of notice and comment.  She argues that serial litigation thus can provide an opportunity for agencies to refine their analyses and gain greater expertise over time.   The second is that, despite their initial sometimes stern rejections of agency determinations, courts often ultimately took quite a deferential stance. From this Meazell concludes that, when viewed over the long lifetime of some of this litigation, hard look review resembles more the soft look of constitutional rationality review than the more searching scrutiny administrative law cases and scholarship claim it to be. Continue reading "Serial Litigation in Administrative Law: What Can Repeat Cases Tell Us About Judicial Review?"


Judging Guilt by the Content of their Character

Janice Nadler & Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Moral Character, Motive, and the Psychology of Blame, 97 Cornell L. Rev. 255 (2012).

The law, Stanley Fish has written, “wishes to have a formal existence.” 1. By formal, Fish meant self-contained, autonomous, and self-declaring. In other words, the law wants to deny license to the interpreters of the law to seek recourse outside the law, to the tenets of philosophy and psychology, and to the facts of social scientific research. Of course, the law does not, because it cannot, succeed in preventing lawyers, or those from other disciplines, from rendering judgments about psychological processes or behavior. Tort law relies on economics and economics relies either on moral philosophy or psychology to ground its understanding of human behavior. The same is true for criminal law, and it is especially true in insanity cases. What the law wants – if it is acceptable to speak of the law without subjects but with intent – is to control the production of legal meaning.

Janice Nadler and Mary Hunter-McDonnell have written a provocative and insightful essay that explores the limits of the law’s formalism by focusing on how non-lawyers actually perceive guilt and assign blame. They are less interested in saying that certain people, contrary to the law’s instructions in criminal trials, combine assessments of guilt with perceptions of bad character. Rather, they say that to be in a position of judgment over another requires that one’s mental processes leap over the law’s formalism and merge guilt with character assessment. Indeed, they go further and suggest that any character information that jurors have which they perceive to be negative influences the corresponding interpretation of the action under review. If these studies can be replicated over time (and Nadler and McDonnell cite other literature to this effect), then policymakers need to address the implications of this study. Continue reading "Judging Guilt by the Content of their Character"


Federalism and Child Labor Revisited

Logan Everett Sawyer III, Creating Hammer v. Dagenhart, Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. (forthcoming) available at SSRN.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918) is one of the most reviled judicial rulings in American history. The ruling struck down a federal law banning the interstate transportation of goods produced in factories employing child labor, holding that it exceeded Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause. Right from the start, critics denounced Hammer as an unprincipled decision with awful real-world consequences, an attempt to legislate “laissez-faire” ideology form the bench. To this day, the case is often invoked to discredit efforts to enforce limits on the commerce power. Several critics have recently used analogies to Hammer to attack the case challenging the individual health insurance purchase mandate.

Logan Sawyer’s excellent article, Creating Hammer v. Dagenhart, is an important challenge to the conventional wisdom about Hammer. Sawyer questions the long-dominant view that the ruling lacked a basis in precedent, and demonstrates convincingly that it was not the product of “laissez-faire” thinking. Continue reading "Federalism and Child Labor Revisited"


The Same Old Song?

Last semester, I taught Comparative Intellectual Property Law in London, and I enjoyed the opportunity to think about different ways of structuring IP regimes. One of the more interesting differences is the use of jury trials in U.S.intellectual property litigation. Other countries are much less likely to have juries pass on such questions as the obviousness of an invention, the confusion created by different trademarks, or the similarity of two copyrighted works.

Whether juries are capable of making these determinations is ultimately an empirical question, and it is one that Jamie Lund from St. Mary’s University School of Law has sought to answer. Her recently posted paper on the “lay listener” test in music composition copyright cases suggests that our trust in juries may be poorly placed. I like her article, An Empirical Examination of the Lay Listener Test in Music Composition Copyright Infringement, lots. Continue reading "The Same Old Song?"


Equality vs. Fairness

Nina W. Chernoff, Wrong About the Right: How Courts Undermine the Fair Cross-Section Guarantee by Imposing Equal Protection Standards, Hastings L.J. (forthcoming 2012), available on SSRN.

Americans know that there is something wrong with a guilty verdict rendered by “an all-white jury.”  But translating that something into a constitutional issue, never mind a constitutional right, is not straightforward. Indeed, it has become downright complicated and, as Nina Chernoff argues, totally wrong.

Often, the first impulse when faced with the “all white jury” problem is to conceptualize the problem as one of equality.  It seems discriminatory–unequal–when the person on trial is a member of a racial minority and is not “represented” on the jury.  And indeed, this may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  But not necessarily.  The Equal Protection Clause, as presently construed in American constitutional doctrine, generally requires discriminatory intent.  On the other hand, persons accused of crimes are afforded rights in the Bill of Rights that are not grounded in equality, but in fairness. The Framers of the Constitution, most of whom had committed the crime of treason during the Revolutionary War, were quite invested in fairness of process. For example, the Sixth Amendment guaranteeing an accused person assistance of counsel, confrontation of the witnesses against one, and a speedy and public trial.  The Sixth Amendment also guarantees an “impartial jury.”  In common parlance, this is a “jury one one’s peers.”  In constitutional doctrine, it requires that the jury members be “drawn from a fair cross-section of the community.” Continue reading "Equality vs. Fairness"


A Radical Perspective on the Mundane

Annelise Riles, Collateral Knowledge: Legal Reasoning in the Global Financial Markets (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

What if it turned out that much of the crucial work that law does in the world operates in a register that is not captured by most legal scholarship? What makes legal reasoning and legal technique so resilient and so abidingly “legitimate,” even while other forms of expert knowledge, like those underpinning government fiscal policy, quantitative risk modeling, and the rational actor model unravel (as they did in the midst of the recent financial crisis)? How much of the work of building and maintaining global governance is accomplished under the radar, by the routinized practices of law – and to what extent can grand political ambition leverage these underappreciated tools in the service of its own ends? These are the challenging questions that Annelise Riles poses in this rich and elegantly-written book. For those not familiar with her argument, it merits serious attention.

The focus of Riles’s book is contracts for collateral. Riles spent years conducting field work and follow-up studies in the Japanese derivatives markets, tracking daily back office routines underlying collateral contracts. Riles argues that the legal construction of collateral is interesting for two reasons. The first is the curious fact that at the height of the recent financial crisis, when the great conceptual edifices of international finance shook, collateral – the very notion of it, its enforceability and its legitimacy – was never seriously questioned. In her words, “collateral seems to have survived the tectonic shifts in market ideologies of the last few years with its reputation intact when so much else of what once was unquestionable dogma – free markets, self-regulation, the innate brilliance and rationality of derivatives traders – now seems like a quaint mythology from a strange other world” (page 1). The book is partly devoted to trying to understand just what it is about collateral contracts that makes them so robust. She suggests, provocatively, that the wonder is not that the financial system broke down in fall 2008; the wonder is that it ever operated at all, across time zones, across differing institutional processes and national contexts, across technical glitches, and across the logistical complexities of global markets. The book is full of surprising and counterintuitive examples of the important role that legal technique plays in that system. Continue reading "A Radical Perspective on the Mundane"


For Love or Money? Legal Treatment of Golddiggers

Ruth Sarah Lee, A Legal Analysis of Romantic Gifts, Harvard John M. Olin Fellow’s Discussion Paper No. 43 (2012).

Under what circumstances should courts permit a donor to undo what appears to be a completed gift – particularly when the gift is embedded in a real or imagined romantic relationship?  After surveying existing law, Ruth Sarah Lee concludes that traditional doctrine does not adequately deter donees from subtly misleading donors into making generous gifts that the donor would never make if the donee had been honest about his or her intentions.  Although the article’s focus is on a subspecies of lifetime gifts, its conclusions suggest possible application to testamentary gifts, and to how courts might approach doctrines of undue influence and tortious interference.

Although the conventional wisdom is that gifts are gestures of altruism, love, or kindness, that conventional wisdom does little to explain why a donor makes particular gifts.  Much recent scholarship recognizes that gift-giving helps build relationships, in part by enhancing trust between donor and donee.  Gifts, particularly gifts that require the donor to learn about the donee’s individual preferences, or gifts that are particularly expensive, perform an important signaling function:  they indicate to the donee that the donor has an interest in a long-term relationship.  As Ms. Lee points out, “[i]f the donor expected only a short-term relationship with the donee, he would not expect enough in return, in terms of affection or trust, for the gift to be worth its cost.”   If gifts were freely revocable, they would lose that signaling advantage, because the donor would not be making the same sort of commitment to a relationship with the donee.  Nevertheless, as Ms. Lee indicates, engagement gifts are routinely treated as revocable at the donor’s behest if the marriage does not occur.  Courts invoke either the theory that the gift was conditioned on occurrence of the marriage, or that the theory that the gift was given only as consideration for the marriage. Continue reading "For Love or Money? Legal Treatment of Golddiggers"


Summer Publishing Schedule — and New Sections Coming Soon

Jotwell moves to its summer publishing schedule this week. Reviews will post on Mondays and Thursdays during June, July, and August (with a short annual summer break at the end of August).

We’ll return to a more frequent publication schedule when the new academic year begins in September.

In the next few months we’ll also be adding three new sections: Family Law, Health Law, and Torts, with still more to follow in the future.


Responsive Regulation and Large Business Tax Compliance

Leigh Osofsky, Getting Realistic about Responsive Tax Administration, 66 Tax L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2012) available at SSRN.

Leigh Osofsky’s paper, Getting Realistic about Responsive Tax Administration, studies an important feature of tax collections procedure, the IRS’s Compliance Assurance Process (CAP). CAP is a program—piloted in 2005 and extended to all large business taxpayers in 2011—by which the Service reviews the compliance of large business taxpayers prior to the filing of a tax return. The goal here is to resolve all tax positions before the return is filed, and to thereby move from a post-return filing audit system to a pre-filing cooperative conversation between taxpayer and Service. According to Osofsky, supporters tout several supposed benefits of CAP: it reduces IRS resource spending on large businesses, letting the IRS focus its energies on other areas; it helps taxpayers minimize uncertainty and hence compliance costs; it provides the Service with real-time data on compliance issues; it may encourage strong tax compliance norms; and it discourages impermissible tax planning by offering incentives for choosing compliance. Osofsky doesn’t think current empirical evidence is strong enough to allow us to rely on this story. She presents an alternative story: Increased resource wastage by taxpayers resulting from insufficient scrutiny and revenue losses to the government that offset IRS cost savings may mean that CAP is not as appealing as its supporters claim.

As an investigation of CAP, a little-known tax administration procedure for dealing with large business taxpayers, Getting Realistic is already an interesting and timely piece. However, the paper’s true uniqueness lies in its evaluation of CAP in the broader theoretical context of “responsive regulation” and “responsive tax administration” approaches. Responsive regulation is broadly used to denote approaches emphasizing a shift away from traditional, top-down regulation towards more participatory, bottom-up regulation. Osofsky describes its central tenets as including a notion that regulators should use persuasion to obtain compliance, an emphasis on procedural justice to encourage more compliance, and a notion that punishment should only be meted out only after cooperation hasn’t worked. In the tax administration context, the theory emphasizes the importance of understanding diverse taxpayer motivations and of trust building between taxpayers and Service, rather than traditional audit-style penalties. It also focuses on reciprocity and service as ways to increase compliance. Continue reading "Responsive Regulation and Large Business Tax Compliance"


Crime in Suriname

The November 2011 issue of the Law and History Review is devoted to an illuminating symposium on new directions in the study of slavery, edited by Rebecca Scott.  The symposium includes an amazing article by Natalie Davis.  Since this is a blog devoted to enthusiasms, indulge me as I indulge myself.

I am a historian today in large part because of Natalie Zemon Davis.  Back 44 years ago, as an undergraduate at Carleton College, I had just decided that I would try to be a music major because I had decided, in my naiveté, that historians were boring people.  And then I was talked into going to hear a visiting speaker — a Professor Davis from Toronto — who made sixteenth century strikes in Lyons sound so fascinating and who, unlike anyone I had heard to that point, took her audience into the process of thinking reflexively about history. I was hooked.  I changed my major. Continue reading "Crime in Suriname"


Plausibility Pleading and Employment Discrimination

Charles A. Sullivan, Plausibly Pleading Employment Discrimination, 52 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1613 (2011), available at SSRN

In a sea of law review articles analyzing the potential impact of the more rigorous federal pleading standard of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, Charles Sullivan’s Plausibly Pleading Employment Discrimination stands out for a number of reasons.  As an initial matter, Sullivan grapples with an important question plaguing the civil rights community and the employment bar: does Swierkiewicz v. Sorema—the unanimous 2002 opinion that took a lenient approach to pleading discrimination cases—remain good law post-Iqbal?  Sullivan argues that Iqbal did not overturn Swierkiewicz, leaving intact the ability of plaintiffs to plead employment discrimination without alleging a prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas test.

But Sullivan then considers the alternate view: assuming arguendo that Iqbal did overrule Swierkiewicz, what should plaintiffs do to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under this more rigorous pleading regime?  Sullivan offers a variety of approaches, each with strengths and weaknesses. This willingness to explore the proverbial edge of the envelope makes this article a compelling read.  It combines pragmatism, creativity, and boldness at a time when many are struggling to make sense of the impact of the new federal pleadings standard in the civil rights arena.  Given the importance of pleadings as an access to justice issue, this article provides an invaluable perspective. Continue reading "Plausibility Pleading and Employment Discrimination"


A Tax Scholar’s Take on Legal Education Reform

Bradley T. Borden & Robert J. Rhee, The Law School Firm, 63 S.C. L.Rev. 1 (2011).

Students are graduating from law school with unprecedented amounts of debt and are confronting an uncertain job market. Editorials in the New York Times condemn law schools for failing to teach lawyering. The 2007 Carnegie Report calls for law schools to increase skills and professionalism training so that law school graduates can be better prepared for practice. And the ABA is considering revisions to the law school accreditation standards that would increase the emphasis on what students learn, rather than on what we teach.

By now, we are all familiar with the many criticisms of legal education. Given this backdrop, I want to highlight a tax academic’s scholarship, not on tax law, but rather on the broader topic of legal education reform. Brad Borden, a prolific scholar in the field of partnership and real estate taxation, is the co-author (together with Robert Rhee) of The Law School Firm. The article suggests an alternate model for legal education that could better connect law schools with law practice. Continue reading "A Tax Scholar’s Take on Legal Education Reform"


Using the NLRA to Nip Anticipatory Retaliation in the Bud

Michael C. Duff, New Nip in the Bud:  Does the Obama Board’s Preemptive Strike Doctrine Enhance Tactical Employment Law Strategies?, (forthcoming Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal), available at SSRN.

I’m still fascinated by employment retaliation cases.  Not so much traditional labor law.  I’ve generally lost interest.  But Michael C. Duff’s forthcoming essay on the possible implications of the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in Parexel International serves as a reminder to me (and others) that the NLRA might still have some role to play in addressing retaliation even in non-union workplaces.

Parexel involved an employee who claimed she was fired for complaining about what she believed was employer favoritism on the basis of nationality.  Her complaint was internal, the workplace was non-union, and she had not yet mentioned her concerns about favoritism to her co-workers, let alone sought to rally their support.  These facts take the case outside the range of the typical charge of interfering with the right to engage in concerted activities.  Moreover, as Duff chronicles, existing Board precedent was only somewhat helpful to the employee’s claim that she had been fired for exercising her right to engage in protected concerted activity.  Yet, the Board found the employer had violated by Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA by seeking to prevent protected concerted activity.  In other words, the employer violated the Act by trying to nip concerted activity in the bud. Continue reading "Using the NLRA to Nip Anticipatory Retaliation in the Bud"


Dueling Visions of the Social Security Disability Adjudicatory System

The Social Security Administration’s administrative appeals system is touted as one of largest administrative judicial systems in the world.  No one claims it is one of the best.  Professor Richard Pierce, writing in the Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, proclaims that it is seriously broken, and he has suggestions for how to fix it.  One might say radical suggestions.  Dubin and Rains, writing an Issue Brief for the American Constitution Society, take issue with Pierce, rebutting his assertions and defending the basic system as it is, warts and all.  One might believe that publications of the Cato Institute and the American Constitution Society would be hopelessly biased, and of course they do represent different views of the American polity, but to read these two pieces, whatever your political inclinations, will inform you about one of the most important issues in administrative law – how to deal with a mass administrative justice system that seems to be running amok.

To establish that the system is broken, Pierce provides statistics on the increase in disability determinations, the total cost involved in paying for disabled workers, and the role that pain and other non-objective causes of disability play in the increase in disability findings.  Pierce’s theme is that the use of administrative law judges and formal adjudication to re-decide what professionals determined on the basis of paper records is responsible for the breakdown, because their use is needlessly inefficient, results in non-uniform determinations, is skewed in favor of granting benefits, and is unconstitutional to boot.  Why use formal hearing adjudication for what is basically a medical determination?  Pierce suggests that the justification is to allow ALJs to assess the credibility of the claimants on the basis of their demeanor, but he then cites to an important law review article, Olin Wellborn, Demeanor, 76 Cornell L. Rev. 1075 (1991), that concludes that empirical evidence suggests that one cannot determine truthfulness (or falsity) on the basis of demeanor.  Ipso Facto: we don’t need formal adjudications for disability determinations.  The fact that there are wide disparities between ALJs in the outcomes of cases suggests that the hearings are not accurate determinations of the truth.  Moreover, under the current system, the claimant, usually represented by counsel, appears before an ALJ who, according to judicial decisions, is supposed to aid the claimant in making his case, but there is no one to represent the “other side.”  This hopelessly skews the system.  Finally, Pierce argues from the recent case of Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, 130 S.Ct. 3138 (2010) that having ALJs decide these cases is unconstitutional because they can only be removed for cause by persons who also can only be removed for cause, violating the prohibition announced in that case on limiting the President’s ability to remove an officer by creating a double for-cause removal system.  Although he provides several possible responses to the problem, his apparently preferred suggestion is simply to eliminate the ALJ review altogether, using the funds saved to review the continued eligibility of current beneficiaries. Continue reading "Dueling Visions of the Social Security Disability Adjudicatory System"


Rationalizing Heuristics

Mark Kelman, The Heuristics Debate (Oxford 2011).

Many readers are aware of the field of law and behavioral economics, which adopts insights from cognitive psychology to examine and critique prescriptions of rational choice theory for law and policy.  For those seeking a wider understanding of the background, cognitive psychology scholarship has an excellent resource in Professor Mark Kelman’s new book.  As its title suggests, the book synthesizes academic research on the use of heuristics in individual decision making.  Here, I summarize the book, putting out tantalizing teasers to encourage you to read this important volume as well laying out some of its implications for jurisprudence and legal policy.

In addition to the book, I recommend the Stanford Law School symposium devoted to Professor Kelman’s book that you can watch on YouTube after a judicious search of “heuristics debate Stanford.”  But it would be an error to take a short cut and not read the book as well. Continue reading "Rationalizing Heuristics"


The Pretense of Necessity in Constitutional Theory

Andrew B. Coan, The Irrelevance of Writtenness in Constitutional Interpretation, 158 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1025 (2010).

Good legal advocacy often involves characterizing hard cases as if they were easy, and describing indeterminate precedents or statutory provisions so as to imply that they clearly point in the direction of the advocate’s preferred outcome. And because the great majority of normative or prescriptive legal scholarship is committed by individuals trained and proficient as legal advocates, much of the scholarly output of the legal academy shares the same characteristic. Outcomes that are chosen are claimed to be compelled, and prescriptions that are desired are treated as inevitable. And because advocates whose favored outcomes rest on debated moral or political premises are reluctant to acknowledge the contested nature of the assumptions that drive their outcomes, it is common to see outcomes that are thought to be normatively desirable couched in the language of inevitability, and outcomes thought to be normatively undesirable described as impossible or simply logically flawed.

These pathologies are nowhere more apparent than in the domain of normative constitutional theory, where normative arguments and premises are frequently concealed in the language of linguistic, legal, or institutional necessity. A useful corrective has been provided by Andrew Coan, who attempts, with considerable success, to show that masking morally and politically normative theories of constitutional interpretation in the supposed nature of language itself, or in the inescapable implications of having a written constitution, is largely flawed. Continue reading "The Pretense of Necessity in Constitutional Theory"


What’s in a Name? The Value of That Which We Call Attribution

Christopher Jon Sprigman, Christopher Buccafusco, & Zachary Burns, Valuing Attribution and Publication in Intellectual Property (Va L. & Econ. Rev Research Paper No. 2012-02), available at SSRN.

We all like to get credit where credit is due, but how much is it really worth to us? In another installment of their provocative series of IP experiments, Sprigman and Buccafusco team up with Burns to test that question specifically in the context of online photography.

The setup is similar to their past papers – subjects are given the opportunity to sell their chance at winning a prize in a creativity contest. The amount they are willing to sell for stands as a proxy for how much they think their IP might be worth. In the past, these experiments demonstrated a tendency for those who owned IP to fall prey to an “endowment effect” and those who created the IP to a “creativity effect,” both of which artificially inflated subjects’ perceptions of the IP’s value, thus leading to market inefficiencies and higher transaction costs. Sprigman and Buccafusco then argued that this differential supports the use of liability rules over property rules for IP, as liability rules tend to mitigate the costs incurred from such irrational holdouts. Continue reading "What’s in a Name? The Value of That Which We Call Attribution"


Police Discretion? It’s the Department, Stupid.

Nirej Sekhon, Redistributive Policing, 101 J. Crim. L. & Criminol. 1171 (2012).

For observers of the police, an arrest is a black hole of decision-making.  I don’t mean the official reason for an arrest, since a legal basis can almost always be found in the vast criminal codes of most American jurisdictions.  Rather, the mystery lies in the “real” reason for the arrest, this particular exercise of police discretion.  Why this person, and not that one?  Why an arrest, rather than a citation, a warning, or ignoring the problem?  Why arrest on this street corner, and not another one?  Even if you could interview the arresting officer, it’s unlikely you’d get the full story.  Good policing usually involves a mix of training, street smarts, and experienced-based hunches.  Unsurprisingly, defendants often challenge the bases of these choices.  Those police discretion cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court are striking in two respects.  First, the Court has decided to curb police discretion only in the broadest sense; if any substantive law permits arrest, so too does the Fourth Amendment.  Second, as Nirej Sekhon points out in his article Redistributive Policing, the Court has focused nearly exclusively on the individual officer.  Yet it is police departments, which mandate policies and manage their rank and file, that deserve equal attention and, when warranted, blame.

The role of police departments in shaping arrest decisions is considerable.  While top brass can’t micromanage a cop’s split second judgment on the beat, police administrators can set priorities and dictate changes that have enormous practical consequences.  A familiar example is the implementation of quality of life policing in New York City in the early 1990s.  With William Bratton newly installed as the head of the New York City Transit Police, Transit cops tackled the rampant crime and disorder of the city’s subways with a radically different approach.  Transit cops–and later those in the NYPD–were directed to enforce misdemeanor laws that they had previously dismissed as minor, such as public urination, fare evasion, and public drinking.  To hear the NYPD tell it, this was the beginning of the city’s Cinderella story that led to a dramatic crime drop and transformed grimy dens of vice like Times Square into tourist destinations worthy of Disneyland. Continue reading "Police Discretion? It’s the Department, Stupid."


No Conflict About this Non-Essentialist Reading

Karen Knop, Ralf Michaels and Annelise Riles, From Multiculturalism to Technique:  Feminism, Culture and the Conflict of Laws Style, 64 Stan. L. Rev. 589  (2012).

This engaging article is motivated by the complexity of framing (forget resolving) concepts of culture, by concerns that at least some feminists have become bogged down in their efforts to theorize veiling, clitoridectomy, and polygamy, among myriad other issues, and by a commitment to reasoning from law.  In addition, deep into the piece, the authors explicitly state that they chose the direction of the piece in part to highlight that feminists tend to prioritize culture and leave unaddressed the role of economics in constructing tensions, identities, and concerns.  Even if the article wasn’t so nicely written, even if it didn’t hold hints of something very interesting and hopeful, I would have been captivated by these motivations.

The authors drive the piece in surprising directions.  Part I outlines feminism’s engagement with culture as concept.  Part II situates a specific dispute (although in stylized form) that gives rise to a “clash” of cultures.  Part III illustrates how the technique of conflict of laws assists in reasoning through the particular dispute.  Part IV addresses possible objections and in Part V the authors argue that the approach delineated provides an intellectual style that might be adopted by feminists or cultural theorists.

Four reasons to read the piece… Continue reading "No Conflict About this Non-Essentialist Reading"


Making the Case for Soft Law

Chris Brummer, Soft Law and the Global Financial System: Rule Making in the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press 2012).

Every once in a while I read something and say to myself “this one’s a keeper” in the sense that it goes to the shelf to be drawn on again as an important source of knowledge.  This book earned that status early in the read and it earned it again and again as the read went on.  Indeed, I may be this book’s ideal reader for the very reason that I’m a domestic business law academic.  To be sure, the book follows from and addresses a number of international law literatures and so addresses itself in the first instance to the international legal cohort, both to international law writ large and the group’s business and financial subset.  But the learning curve is much steeper for me than for those primary addressees.  Here we find the whole cast of international financial characters–bankers, cops, securities and insurance regulators, auditors, politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, and their international and domestic organizations–all carefully and neatly laid out with their histories, structures, and outputs juxtaposed and categorized.  My revelation lay not in the fact that I’d never heard of them (although I must admit that one or two were new to me), but in the fact that my institutional knowledge was full of holes, particularly as regards the book’s comparison to other, treaty-based international organizations.

When I picked up the book I wrote down three general observations, touchstone points to assist in evaluation.  They are:

  1. Globalization implies downward regulatory pressure.
  2. Soft law will always disappoint you.
  3. Reputational sanctions are unreliable.

First, globalization and downward regulatory pressure.  More particularly, what’s the interface between the book’s account and regulatory competition–race to the top, race to the bottom, law as product, or whatever you want to call it?  In fact, there’s not much in the book about downward competitive pressure.  It’s more a background factor that pops up on the screen when pertinent.  Even so, I think it’s an important part of what the book is about.  I think back fifteen years or so to a discourse that posed international regulatory competition as against international regulatory co-ordination. The competition side of the binary was heavily theorized where the co-ordination side was not.  The competition side drew on economic theory going back to Tiebout and had negative things to say about co-ordination, which it cast as rent seeking.  There wasn’t a whole lot on the coordination side.  Since then international lawyers have been slowly filling in the picture.  This is where I locate the book.  For me it fills in the empty set with an exhaustive description of the international co-ordinative effort.  Theory can now start over. Continue reading "Making the Case for Soft Law"


Adopting a “Child-Centric” Model of Paternity for Nonmarital Children

Camille M. Davidson, Mother’s Baby, Father’s Maybe!– Intestate Succession: When Should a Child Born Out of Wedlock Have a Right to Inherit from or Through His or Her Biological Father? 22 Colum. J. Gender & L. 531 (2011), available at SSRN.

One of the most important and interesting conversations among inheritance law scholars has been the role genetic connection should play in establishing parentage and rendering a nonmarital child eligible to inherit from her father.  The advent of easy and reliable genetic testing has crystallized the issue and focused scholars on which paradigm we should adopt now that we no longer need “surrogate” rules in intestacy statutes, e.g., acknowledgement by a putative nonmarital father, to help establish whether a child is likely that man’s child.   There is a spectrum in terms of potential paradigms, running from a purely genetic model at one end where a DNA test establishing paternity would make a nonmarital child eligible to inherit even if she had no relationship with her father to a purely functional approach where the father’s behavior and intent would be the linchpin of whether the child is eligible to inherit, regardless of her genetic connection.  I would characterize the former  model as a “child-centric” model where the interests of the nonmarital child trump that of the father and his other marital children since the nonmarital child does not have to rely on the father to take any affirmative action like acknowledgement in order for the child to be eligible to inherit.

In her recent article Mother’s Baby, Father’s Maybe!-Intestate Succession: When Should a Child Born Out of Wedlock Have a Right to Inherit from or Through His or Her Biological Father?, Camille Davidson argues for the adoption of such a child-centric model of establishing paternity in the area of inheritance law. She highlights some of the historical antecedents of our current patchwork of state laws on defining paternity.  Davidson also adopts a comparative lens in evaluating how states should embrace the genetic connection between a nonmarital child and her father as dispositive of not only of paternity but of her eligibility to inherit from him.  In so doing, Davidson makes a compelling argument for this approach and adds an important voice to the academic conversation in this area of inheritance law. Continue reading "Adopting a “Child-Centric” Model of Paternity for Nonmarital Children"


The Jim Crow Foundations of Agricultural Governance

Kimberley S. Johnson, Racial Orders, Congress, and the Agricultural Welfare State, 1865-1940, 25 Studies in American Political Development 143 (Oct. 2011).

Kimberley S. Johnson’s recent article, “Racial Orders, Congress, and the Agricultural Welfare State, 1865-1940,” is part of a valuable turn evident in recent scholarship on governance in the twentieth century. Bringing together politics and race to understand agricultural policies and institutions, Johnson asks, “[w]hen does race matter; and how does race matter when thinking about the shaping of the American state?” (P. 144) The answer? Race has shaped agricultural policy in some surprising and not-so-surprising ways.

In her study of the “agricultural welfare state,” Johnson examines the shifting ways in which the federal government provided farmers with services and subsidies in the decades following the Civil War. Responding to scholarship centered on interest group relations and partisan politics, Johnson stresses the importance of considering the political machinations involved in agricultural policy in the specific historical context in which these programs were designed and implemented. She describes in detail the numerous agricultural programs that came out of Congress in the years before the New Deal, and examines how their design and implementation occurred against a backdrop of legalized white supremacy in the rural South. The segregated nature of Southern agriculture combined with the power of Southern Democrats in Congress meant that national agricultural programs reflected the assumptions and preferences of powerful southern interests in maintaining racial hierarchies and allowed local authorities significant discretion in the distribution of assistance. Although the federal government consistently acknowledged its role in protecting farmers from economic dislocation, racial calculations, she argues, destroyed early on any possibility that the federal government would establish universal agricultural benefits as a matter of right. Continue reading "The Jim Crow Foundations of Agricultural Governance"


Toward Real Criminal Justice

William Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (Harvard University Press, 2011).

William Stuntz, who died last year, was the preeminent criminal procedure scholar of his generation.  His early work on criminal procedure doctrine was breathtakingly insightful, providing deep explanations of the Court’s decisions and new ways of thinking about the law of search and seizure, interrogation, plea bargaining and sentencing.  His recent book, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, weaves together his earlier doctrinal perspectives with brilliant analysis of criminological data, legal and cultural history, and the sociology of criminal justice, all in an effort to explain why our criminal justice system suffers from unnecessary mass incarceration, horrendously long sentences, racially imbalanced charging and sentencing, and a host of other flaws.

Stuntz attributes the current state of affairs to a number of factors, not all of which are obvious.  He is particularly bothered by the loss of local influence over crime policies.  He argues that until the mid-twentieth century police, prosecutors, juries and judges were very responsive to the community and that, outside the South, this attention to local morés resulted in a relatively lenient, non-discriminatory punishment regime.  Today, in contrast, police and prosecutors are more distant from their polity, most cases do not go to trial (making them invisible to the public), and when cases do go to trial juries and judges have much less flexibility in imposing punishment, all of which contributes to more punitive outcomes. Continue reading "Toward Real Criminal Justice"


Womb as Wedge: What We Can Learn from Revisiting the Political History of the Abortion Controversy in the US

Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions about Backlash, 120 Yale L.J. 2028 (2011), available at SSRN.

Sitting in Toronto or maybe Bristol, we have a tendency to watch American politics with both fear and amusement, rather like (or so I hear) some people watch Jersey Shore or Keeping up with the Kardashians: Who are these people? Why do they behave this way?

This is delightfully, smugly, self-satisfying. It is neither analytic nor strategic. And when, inevitably it seems, our relatively open access to abortion (as Carol Sanger has called it, the “luxury of legality”) starts to be challenged, it might leave us rather less than prepared. Greenhouse and Siegel’s article illustrates how a slow burn, not the blast of Roe v. Wade, led to the bitter struggle over reproductive rights in the U.S. today. Continue reading "Womb as Wedge: What We Can Learn from Revisiting the Political History of the Abortion Controversy in the US"


Labor Speech is Corporate Speech

Citizens United remains in the public consciousness long past the normal half-life for a Supreme Court decision.  The notion that “corporations are people” has become a punch line in a variety of contexts—proof of the absurdity of the Court’s opinion.  While the decision itself simply freed corporations from the constraint of political action committees in their election-related spending, it has engendered continued outrage and cynicism at both the political process and corporations themselves.  The fact that the opinion extended these rights to unions, as well, has received much less attention.  Perhaps more importantly, the decision has ramifications for the future of corporate and union political activity that are yet to be fully developed.  Two labor law scholars explore these ramifications in articles seeking to extend the principles of Citizens United to familiar labor law doctrines, with creative and thought-provoking results.

For Charlotte Garden, the Citizens United decision offers the opportunity to extend the argument she began in an early article1: namely, that union speech deserves greater constitutional protection. In her Citizens, United piece, Garden uses the opinion as a springboard for reconsidering two significant restrictions on union speech: the prohibitions on union secondary activity and the objection rights of employees covered by union security clauses.  She argues that the distinction between “public-issue” picketing and boycotts (by groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church) and “economic” picketing and boycotts (by unions) is vulnerable in light of Citizen United, which held that the corporation’s motive is irrelevant to First Amendment protection.  Because both corporations and unions cannot be stopped from engaging in political speech, Garden suggests that union campaigns may be protected if they take on more public-interested oriented themes.  And she also points out that since Citizens United overrode the concerns of objecting shareholders to corporate political speech, that opinion undercuts the protections for employees who object to paying union dues that fund political speech. Although acknowledging that the analogy is “not an exact one,” Garden argues that protecting union objectors but not shareholder objectors is a tough distinction to maintain, given that in both cases speech rights are pitted against administrative burdens, but with differing results. Continue reading "Labor Speech is Corporate Speech"


Artificial life but real inheritance?

Kristine S. Knaplund, Synthetic Cells, Synthetic Life, and Inheritance, 45 Val. U.L. Rev. 1361 (2011).

Kristine Knaplund’s well-written and researched article, Synthetic Cells, Synthetic Life, and Inheritance, discusses the legal and regulatory implications of new advances in synthetic biology that may one day lead to the creation of synthetic human gametes or embryos that are made without the use of existing genetic materials.  The article first discusses the current state of assisted reproduction in the United States and the various techniques that are currently available for individuals with fertility problems.  Next the article examines the existing regulations that may apply synthetic gametes and either encourage or prohibit research in this area.  Finally, the article tackles the question of who will be the legal parents of a child created using synthetic gametes.

Prof. Knaplund notes that assisted reproduction is “big business” in the United States, with the exchange of eggs (ova) alone being worth $4.5 billion in the United States.  The use of in vitro fertilization, where the egg and sperm are joined in a Petri dish and later implanted in a woman’s uterus, was first successfully used in 1978 and since then over 3 million babies have been born worldwide using assisted reproduction technologies (“ART”).  Cryopreservation (freezing) of sperm, ova and embryos is commonly used today and preimplantation genetic diagnosis is used to screen for certain genetic or chromosomal diseases.  If a synthetic sperm or ovum were created, the user could select for genetic characteristics that are not present in the intended parents. Continue reading "Artificial life but real inheritance?"


The Other Carceral State

Alexandra Natapoff, Misdemeanors, 85 S. Cal. L. Rev. (2012) (forthcoming).

Mass incarceration is much in the news lately, and rightly so. With a prison population that surpasses that of the gulags during the reign of Stalin (not to mention the world’s highest incarceration rate — four times the average), it is fair to say that “[t]he scale and the brutality of our prisons … are the moral scandal of American life.” (Adam Gopnik, New Yorker, Jan. 30, 2012). And yet, Alexandra Natapoff’s new article, Misdemeanors, strikingly reminds us that there may still be some competition for that title. Prisoners may own the criminal justice system, but there is still plenty to be said about the millions of renters who spend just an evening or two in its company every year.

Gaining purchase on those transient offenders is no simple feat. Although there is respectable data about felony charges and dispositions in the United States, it is virtually impossible to discern what happens in low level courts. I know this to be true from my own experience: in 2009, I published an article titled Manufacturing Crime that attempted to document the vibrancy of charging what I termed “obstinacy offenses.” In focusing on crimes like “failure to appear,” “false statements,” and “dissuading a witness,” particularly at the state level, I tried to demonstrate that a new breed of process crime was emerging, one intended to penalize simple slights against the justice system itself rather than legitimate efforts to obstruct justice. In the course of researching that article, however, time and again I encountered a shocking dearth of information about minor offenses. At best, all I could marshal was anecdotal or small-scale empirical evidence from a single jurisdiction.

Professor Alexandra Natapoff, wrestling the same problem, comes out much farther ahead. She starts her article by observing that there are roughly ten times as many misdemeanor prosecutions per year than felony cases filed; in 2008, roughly 80% of the over 21 million criminal cases filed in state courts were for misdemeanor offenses. She adds that 13 million people cycle through local jails per year, and that roughly 60% of the jail population at any time are held pre-conviction. In the end, though, she is vexed by the same lack of information: she would like to report even a statistic as simple as how many misdemeanor convictions are entered each year (not to mention for what types of crimes, and carrying what sentences), but lamentably such data is lacking. Luckily, the object of her paper is less to document the exact nature of misdemeanor offenses than to present a compelling case that “petty” crimes deserve our care. Indeed, she argues that “[t]he casual attitude toward petty convictions in general…is exquisitely expressed by the fact that the criminal system often fails to count them.” Continue reading "The Other Carceral State"


No Option: Thinking Through Elections

For the most part, I prefer less choice.  More choice can lead to less time and less pleasure.  Think about the decision to stay in or go out for dinner.  You look in your cupboards and there isn’t much.  Perhaps a can of tomato and rice soup.  So, you think, maybe it’s a good idea to go out.  But where?  Sometimes brainstorming the options alone is daunting, and after generating a list I simply decide to stay in.  And that’s a good outcome.  In a less ideal case, I’ll spend several hours on the internet, reading reviews of restaurants, looking at menus and prices, calling friends for views, only to become so daunted by the options and by the lack of an obvious “winner” that I’ll stay home.  I will never regain that time.  Worse yet, I do all that research – the internet research and calls – and I chose something.  But when I go to the restaurant it’s a disappointment.  I spend the night wondering if I could have made a better decision.  Cream of tomato soup with rice, and three extra hours, would be preferable.

In “Choosing Tax: Explicit Elections as an Element of Design in the Federal Income Tax System,” Heather Field approaches the issue of the role and value of explicit tax elections.  Apparently more than 300 explicit tax elections litter the Internal Revenue Code.  Field explains that an explicit election is a case where multiple possible tax treatments might apply to a single economic event. Continue reading "No Option: Thinking Through Elections"


The Search for Slowness

Jason Webb Yackee & Susan Webb Yackee, Administrative Procedures and Bureaucratic Performance: Is Federal Rule-making “Ossified”?, 20 J. Pub. Admin. Research & Theory 261 (2010).

Administrative law scholars widely consider it to be a fact that the rulemaking process has become substantially burdened with analytical requirements, a burden that either has caused agencies to retreat from rulemaking or has significantly delayed agencies’ ability to adopt new rules.  Lamentation about this ossification of rulemaking pervades much scholarship in administrative law and underpins many scholars’ prescriptions about procedural reform.

In a recent article in a leading, peer-reviewed public administration journal, Jason Yackee and Susan Yackee try to measure the ossification of rulemaking, statistically analyzing the time needed to complete all non-routine rules initiated by every federal agency over nearly a two-decade period.  What they find stands in stark contrast with the prevailing view among administrative law scholars and draws into doubt whether the ossification effect is real. Continue reading "The Search for Slowness"


Documenting What Really Goes on in the Workplace

Emily A. Leskinen, Lilia M. Cortina, and Dana B. Kabat, Gender Harassment: Broadening our Understanding of Sex-Based Harassment at Work, 35 Law & Hum. Behav. 25 (2011).

Scholars who opine on issues of workplace discrimination know that the lifeblood of their scholarship is the work of those who conduct studies that capture and document the phenomena about which they write.  Those researchers who conduct such studies with an informed eye toward the law are thus invaluable to employment discrimination scholars, and it was with great interest that I read Gender Harassment: Broadening our Understanding of Sex-Based Harassment at Work by Emily A. Leskinen, Lilia M. Cortina, and Dana B. Kabat, 35 Law & Hum. Behav. 25 (2011).  The study, in the authors’ own words, seeks to “challenge[] the common legal and organizational practice of privileging sexual advance forms of sex-based harassment, while neglecting gender harassment.”

Citing to eminent scholars who have contended that gender harassment should be subsumed within the broader category of cognizable sexual harassment, the authors explain that gender harassment has been defined as “a form of hostile environment harassment that appears to be motivated by hostility toward individuals who violate gender ideals rather than by desire for those who meet them.”  Simply put, it is “hostility that is devoid of sexual interest.”  Proffering some much needed empirical support for the notion that gender harassment is at least as deleterious, if not more so, than its actionable counterpart, the authors advance ideas that may not have entered cultural consciousness, but that need to be properly understood by legislators, judges, advocates, scholars, and all others who shape and affect the law of workplace discrimination.  So, for example, the authors’ research enables them to posit that sexual harassment, in what they call “traditionally male domains,” mostly consists of gender harassment absent any sexual advances.  This compelling finding necessitates a shift in the popular conception of what sex-based harassment in the workplace truly looks like.  Moreover, the authors’ research enables them to posit that the negative personal and professional impact of gender harassment in the workplace on women is immense. Continue reading "Documenting What Really Goes on in the Workplace"


Love and War

Rose Cuison Villazor, The Other Loving: Uncovering the Federal Government’s Racial Regulation of Marriage, 86 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1361 (2011).

Legal historians: Find a window to read Rose Cuison Villazor’s “The Other Loving,” published in the NYU Law Review last fall. Although Villazor, Associate Professor of Law at Hofstra, does not identify primarily as a legal historian, she has written more than one historical work well worth a read. An earlier article examined alien land laws in the United States, telling the story of Oyama v. California (1948), which held unconstitutional a provision of California’s Alien Land Law that discriminated against owners of property bought by parents who were ineligible to become U.S. citizens. This more recent article, in turn, explores how immigration, citizenship, and military statutes and regulations in the period around World War II interacted to produce federal anti-miscegenation law, with both domestic and extraterritorial effects. Carefully researched and engagingly written, Villazor’s article seeks to challenge the conventional view that legal restrictions on marriage have traditionally been the sole domain of state, not federal, law—with implications for historical scholarship and for current political debates.

Villazor opens the piece with the story of Helene and John Bouiss, a half-Japanese, half-German woman and her white American husband, who in the spring of 1946 arrived in Seattle, Washington aboard a military ship, having been married at sea by the captain days earlier. Despite the passage of the so-called War Brides Act the year before, officials stopped Helene at the border on the ground that immigration law prohibited the entry of persons ineligible to become U.S. citizens. At the time, U.S. law put citizenship off-limits to persons identified as belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, including Japanese. Helene, a Swedish citizen on the basis of a prior marriage, was a person of “mixed racial blood,” including that of a citizenship-ineligible group, in the eyes of the relevant immigration regulations; she was therefore covered by the prohibition. Her marriage to a U.S. citizen soldier honorably discharged from the military did not help; nor did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the exclusion. (The case never made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.) Continue reading "Love and War"


Pluralism Reimagined

Jan Smits, “A Radical View of Legal Pluralism” in Leone Niglia, ed, Pluralism and European Private Law (Oxford, 2012), available on SSRN.

Legal Pluralism is both a phenomenon and a response to that phenomenon.  We live in a world with a plurality of legal orders.  There are municipal legal systems and international law.  These are the most familiar forms of law, the most comfortable types of legal orders.  Then there are international or “supranational” legal orders like the European Union.  Finally, there are private and transnational legal orders that traverse the boundaries both of “law” and the very notion of a “system” (think of Lex Mercatoria or Sports law).

Jan Smits has been writing about legal pluralism for some time.  His work is always interesting.  This chapter is both intelligent and provocative because Smits takes legal pluralism to a new place and gives it a dimension no one has yet considered. Continue reading "Pluralism Reimagined"


Regulation and Theory: What Does Reality Have to Do With It?

Christine Parker & Lyn Aitken, The Queensland “Workplace Culture Check”: Learning from Reflection on Ethics Inside Law Firms, 24 Georgetown J. Legal Ethics 399 (2011).

Australia is the home to some of the world’s most interesting and provocative legal profession developments.  For example, Australian jurisdictions were among the first jurisdictions to permit nonlawyer ownership of law firms.  Not long thereafter, the Australian regulatory scheme was amended to permit outside investment in law firms.  As a result, Australia became the site of the world’s first publicly traded law firm.  Australia has been on the forefront of other lawyer regulation developments such as the proactive use of ex ante systems of regulation.

As commentators and jurisdictions elsewhere discuss and debate the proper scope of lawyer regulation, many look to Australia’s experiences in the hopes that they will provide valuable information and lessons.  Those actively following the Australian developments include the American Bar Association (ABA), the UK Legal Services Board, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is the front-line regulator for solicitors in England and Wales. Continue reading "Regulation and Theory: What Does Reality Have to Do With It?"


Defending Freedom of the Press as an Institutional Guarantee: A Guide in Dealing With Historical and Jurisprudential Obstacle Courses

Randall P. Bezanson, Whither Freedom of the Press?, Iowa L. Rev.  (forthcoming), available at SSRN.

Randy Bezanson’s recent short piece, Whither Freedom of the Press?, is an instructive example of how to get around an obstacle—two obstacles, really. The first is the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010). In the course of striking down a law prohibiting the direct use of corporate or union treasury funds for electioneering communications, the Court stated that “the institutional press has [no] constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers.”

The second obstacle is actually more formidable. In a recent article in the University of Pennslyvania Law Review, Freedom of the Press as an Industry, or for the Press as a Technology?: From the Framing to Today, Eugene Volokh takes on the view of some writers, including Justice Stevens in his dissent in Citizens United, that the Press Clause of the First Amendment provides some form of protection to the press as an “industry” or institution. Volokh argues that the Press Clause protects the press only “as a technology”—that it secures only “the right of every person to use communications technology,” and grants no special privileges to the professional or institutional press as such. Skillfully marshaling extensive historical sources, Volokh concludes that the evidence “point[s] powerfully toward the press-as-technology reading” of the Press Clause, “under which all users of mass communications technologies have the same freedom of the press” and journalists qua journalists have no unique privileges. Continue reading "Defending Freedom of the Press as an Institutional Guarantee: A Guide in Dealing With Historical and Jurisprudential Obstacle Courses"


Protecting the True Objects of Decedent’s Bounty—Pets Included

Frances Foster, Should Pets Inherit?, 63 Fla. L. Rev. 802 (2011).

I have never had a pet (yes, very sad), so I must admit that in my Estates & Trusts course, I covered the cases involving gifts to pets with some amusement.  After reading Frances Foster’s provocative article, Should Pets Inherit?, I will never teach those cases in quite the same way again.  Building on many scholars’ (including her own) critiques of U.S. inheritance law’s focus on relationships based on blood, adoption, or marriage to the exclusion on those based on caregiving and affection, Professor Foster expands the universe of beings who should inherit to include non-human family members—pets.

Professor Foster briefly summarizes the rich literature showing that U.S. inheritance law excludes many people Americans consider nearest and dearest to them, including nonmarital partners, friends, and individuals with whom they share a de facto parent-child relationship.  As a result, inheritance law often conflicts with and defeats decedents’ wishes to provide for individuals with whom they shared affectionate and supportive relationships.  She points out that the law’s exaltation of family status over affection and support is so entrenched that attempts to give property to persons the law does not consider “family” are deemed “unnatural.”  In my opinion, many would find few bequests more “unnatural” than dispositions to a pet, which the law deems to be property and as such, cannot inherit under the common law.  As Professor Foster points out, bequests to a pet may be used as evidence of testamentary incapacity. After all, who in their right mind would leave property to a pet?  However, Professor Foster persuasively demonstrates that given the vast majority of pet owners’ inclusion of their pets in their definition of family and their desire to provide for their pets after they pass, the law should allow and facilitate inheritance by pets. Continue reading "Protecting the True Objects of Decedent’s Bounty—Pets Included"


Interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

David Marcus, When Rules are Rules: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Institutions in Legal Interpretation, __ Utah L. Rev. __ (forthcoming), available on SSRN.

The debate over how best to interpret legal text is not limited to the Constitution and controversial statutes, although the expansive literature about interpretation in those contexts might lead one to think that is the case.  There are plenty of other legal texts to argue about, and David Marcus’s article, When Rules are Rules:  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Institutions in Legal Interpretation, focuses on none other than the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Shocking as it may seem (maybe because we are all kicking ourselves that we did not notice this first), there is not much written about how judges should interpret the Rules.1 Moreover, recent Supreme Court decisions, namely Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, demonstrate that reasonable people can disagree about how best to interpret even the most basic and simply-stated Rules.  What’s missing is a unified theory of how judges should interpret the Federal Rules, and Marcus’s article is here to save the day.

Marcus puts forward a theory of rule interpretation that respects the unique nature of how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure came to be and how they continue to evolve.  The old adage of a parent loving each of her children equally—and appreciating their differences—applies here.  The rules are one of many “textual” children, and they cannot be interpreted as an agency regulation or a constitutional provision might be. Continue reading "Interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure"


A Drive for Efficiency May Not Drive Inefficient Discrimination From the Marketplace

Lesley Wexler, Wal-Mart Matters, 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 95 (2011).

In Wal-Mart Matters, 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 95 (2011), Lesley Wexler challenges the law and economic orthodoxy that suggests that inefficient employment discrimination tends to be driven out of the marketplace.  The typical rationale is that employers who discriminate will have higher costs of production based on their inefficient discrimination and will necessarily be less competitive than their competitors.  Professor Wexler describes how systematic sexual discrimination can exist indefinitely even when an employer’s successful business model focuses almost exclusively on efficiency and providing the lowest cost goods in the marketpalce.  Wal-Mart Matters is an article that I like lots because it discusses employment discrimination and law and economics in challenging a point of orthodoxy and explaining why the orthodoxy may not be convincing or correct in a particular situation.  To be clear, the article is not an exhaustive treatment of the issues and does not appear intended to be.  However, it makes the reader think  about how a theoretical point regarding markets may not work as well as expected in a real-world market.  The subject matter is of particular interest to me because I teach employment discrimination and have taught law and economics.  However, the article ought to be of interest to a wide variety of law professors and legal commentators.

The article is timely, but its title is a little unfortunate.  Given the article’s timing, its title may suggest to some that it is about the Wal-Mart litigation that was decided by the Supreme Court this past year.  Though Wal-Mart and its practices are at the core of this article, the litigation is only a point of departure.  Rather than analyze the substance of the class action against Wal-Mart, Professor Wexler asks that the reader assume that the allegations of sex discrimination in pay and promotion that are at the core of the litigation are supported or supportable.  Professor Wexler then examines how a widespread practice of seemingly irrational sex discrimination could exist at Wal-Mart given law and economics principles that claim that irrational discrimination will be driven out of the marketplace and given that Wal-Mart appears to follow a practice that focuses on efficiency as a business model. Continue reading "A Drive for Efficiency May Not Drive Inefficient Discrimination From the Marketplace"


In Praise of a Comparativist Rubric for Administrative Law

Francesca  Bignami, From Expert Administration to Accountability Network: A New Paradigm for Comparative Administrative Law, 59 Am. J. Comp. L. 859 (2011).

Administrative law scholars in the United States who seek to borrow ideas from approaches tried by other liberal democracies face a substantial problem: each country’s government is structured differently.  There is no recognized metric for evaluating how administrative law will play out in a state with a different structure of government. The lack of such a metric is especially troubling as governments seek to take advantage of flexible regulatory approaches that harness the knowledge and incentives of stakeholders in the regulatory process.  A fascinating article, “From Expert Administration to Accountability Network: A New Paradigm for Comparative Administrative Law,” by Professor Francesca Bignami, provides a first stab at providing such a metric.

Professor Bignami criticizes the traditional characterization of administrative law, as “organization of public administration” and “judicial review of administrative action,” for its inability to “engage with contemporary debates on the desirability and future possibilities of administrative law.”  To surmount this inability, Bignami begins to “develop . . . a comparative framework by recasting administrative law as an accountability network of rules and procedures through which civil servants are embedded in their liberal democratic societies.”Bignami breaks down the concepts of accountability network into four sets of relations: those between civil servants and elected officials, organized interests, the courts and the general public, respectively.  The accountability network description is “well equipped to capture such phenomena in administrative governance as: the political objectives of the bureaucracy; the role of organized interests in providing new mechanisms of regulatory control, and the ability of the public to hold the bureaucracy accountable. Continue reading "In Praise of a Comparativist Rubric for Administrative Law"


Tinkering with the Machinery of Justice

Stephanos Bibas, The Machinery of Criminal Justice (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).

Ordinarily I would use space in Jotwell to bring attention to up-and-coming scholars. The author whose work I praise here, however – Stephanos Bibas – arrived long ago. But Bibas’s new book, The Machinery of Criminal Justice, is so humane and thoughtful an analysis of the reforms needed in our criminal justice system that I find myself drawn to giving him still more good press. I do not agree with every jot-and-tittle of his analysis nor every recommendation for reform that he makes. But his vision is a powerful one, he defends it with clarity and grace, and every idea he expresses is capable of starting an important conversation. Bibas’s argument turns on three central ideas: (1) the system pretends to a mechanistic efficiency deaf to the emotions and meaningful expressions that undergird any sound system of criminal justice; (2) lawyers and other experts have hijacked the system to serve their own needs, displacing defendants, victims, and even judges; and (3) the political forces at work are skewed toward undue penal harshness and elite control rather than adequately balanced by informed lay participation.


Bibas argues that our system undervalues positive emotions and distorts negative ones. The positive emotions that are undervalued are remorse, apology, and forgiveness. The negative ones that are distorted are the retributive emotions. Continue reading "Tinkering with the Machinery of Justice"


Heroes, Tragedies, and Our Failed Community

Robin West, Tragic Rights: The Rights Critique in the Age of Obama, 53 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 713 (2011), available at SSRN.

No one talks about what is wrong with rights anymore.  Rights critique, suggests Robin West, has been on a sharp decline since the 1990s and has been particularly muted under current American administration.  This silence, West argues, is both strange and undesirable.

While she offers some hypotheses to explain these observations, West’s focus is not a post-mortem on the critical rights movement of the 1980s.  Instead, and put simply, her aim is to reinvigorate the rights critique in light of both current political, social and economic context and the ways in which rights claims are currently being configured in response to this context. Continue reading "Heroes, Tragedies, and Our Failed Community"


The Law of Aging

Hendrik Hartog, Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Modern medicine, the rise of the welfare state, and profound cultural shifts have transformed old age in the industrialized world. Or have they? Hendrik Hartog’s history of inheritance disputes from 1850 to 1950 excavates a world both familiar and foreign.  Then, older people who dreaded loneliness and destitution promised generous bequests of property in exchange for care and solicitude from younger adults. In turn, younger adults sacrificed opportunities—independence, mobility, marriage, fortune-seeking—to remain close to home and to provide arduous and intimate care in the hope of recompense, often in the form of real estate.

Disappointment, resentment, and recrimination predictably ensued—at least in many of the cases Hartog describes. He takes us deep into the lives of middle-class New Jersey families, as revealed in trial transcripts from law suits brought by frustrated would-be heirs. Hartog first explores the world of the aging adults who attempted—with varying degrees of calculation and desperation—to exercise control over their “retirement” years, particularly their anticipated physical and mental decline. Continue reading "The Law of Aging"


Tax Ethics: Advice from the Past

Michael Hatfield, Legal Ethics and Federal Taxes, 1945-1965: Patriotism, Duties, and Advice, 12 Fl. Tax Rev. 1 (2012), available at SSRN.

Major cases in the news from tax shelter promotions to corporate accounting abuses have once again put the ethical obligations of  lawyers, and specifically tax lawyers, onto center stage (or at least in the wings).  Congress passed increased standards for return preparers and the Treasury has followed with increased preparer standards in Circular 230.

It is within this framework that I read Professor Michael Hatfield’s article, which examines the ethical debate and discussions by some of the leading scholars and practitioners during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  These tax lawyers were at the forefront of discussions regarding the modern income tax.  Professor Hatfield’s historical examination provides us with insight into what they were thinking, and provides us with food for thought as we examine modern ethical problems. Professor Hatfield’s point is just that, to provide us with food for thought.  He does not attempt to draw conclusions from this debate regarding what we should do now.  Instead, he carefully and thoroughly outlines the debate at the time and leaves us with opportunity to draw our own lessons from the analysis.  What is clear from the article is that the leading tax lawyers of the time were as conflicted as we are today on many issues, especially the question whether tax lawyers had a special “duty to the system.”  Interestingly, however, they were almost universal in their agreement on two major points: (1) that the payment of taxes was a civic duty, one which had a strong patriotic element, and (2) tax lawyers had a duty to be proponents, reformers, and educators about the tax system. Continue reading "Tax Ethics: Advice from the Past"


State Interpreters

Oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will consume three days of the Supreme Court’s schedule, an unusual assignment of the Court’s time. But the constitutional challenge, assuming it fails, will be just the first act in a long performance.  Abbe Gluck’s tremendous essay recently published in the Yale Law Journal takes up some of the fascinating potential statutory interpretation questions waiting in the wings.

These questions arise from the mix of institutional design choices involving the states in the Act (and in other legislation). The choices include provisions implemented only by the federal government, provisions implemented only by the states, and, of particular interest, provisions involving both sets of actors. Gluck trains on this last category, noting that the Act “appears to deploy the [state-federal] relationship strategically – as a way to expand the federal presence into several key areas of traditional state control – and somewhat paradoxically, also expressively, as a way to acknowledge the states’ traditional authority over health insurance.” (pp. 584-5) Continue reading "State Interpreters"


Law in the Books vs. Law in the World: The Case of Copyfraud

Jason Mazzone, Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law (Stanford Law Books, 2011).

So what does my frustration with the New York Mets have to do with copyright law?  A surprising amount.  And I say this even though the Mets have done a lot of things to make life difficult for their fans.  Over the years, I’ve watched my ballclub pay insane money to a series of pitchers who could not pitch, hitters who could not hit, managers who could not manage.  I’ve endured a seemingly endless string of Subway Series failures against the hated Yankees. I’ve celebrated the demise of the awful Shea Stadium, only to see it replaced with a new ballpark named for a bank that combined greed, arrogance, and ineptitude at a scale nearly sufficient to destroy the American economy.

And yet, from an IP geek like me, the ways in which the New York Mets have abused the copyright laws of the United States are even worse. Continue reading "Law in the Books vs. Law in the World: The Case of Copyfraud"


A Modest Proposal on Preservation

William Hubbard, Preservation Under the Federal Rules: Accounting for the Fog, the Pyramid, and the Sombrero, available at Lawyers for Civil Justice.

William Hubbard’s Preservation Under the Federal Rules: Accounting for the Fog, the Pyramid, and the Sombrero is an elegant, important, and provocative argument about what the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should say about duties to preserve documents and electronically stored information. And it could not be timelier. The Judicial Conference’s Civil Rules Advisory Committee is actively considering rules that, for the first time, would expressly address preservation obligations and the consequences of not doing so. This effort is driven by a perception that—at least for a small percentage of the federal caseload—preservation burdens have contributed to spiraling costs in civil cases. Hubbard joins a distinguished list of authors who have written about preservation issues, but his paper seemed to attract the attention of a number of rulemakers at the Civil Rules Advisory Committee’s most recent meeting in November 2011.

Many have argued that the current Federal Rules, which are mostly silent on preservation obligations, need to be revised to expressly address preservation issues. As for what a federal preservation rule would look like, discussions have largely centered on three main questions: trigger (when does the duty to preserve arise), scope (what types and sources of information should be subject to preservation) and sanctions (what are the consequences of failing to preserve). Hubbard offers policy suggestions for all three. Continue reading "A Modest Proposal on Preservation"


Public Criminal Law at its Best

Guyora Binder, Making the Best of Felony Murder, 91 B. U. L. Rev. 403 (2011). available at SSRN.

“Making the Best of Felony Murder” is the culmination of a series of articles (and one book review essay) that have addressed the felony murder rule in American states and precedes a monograph to be published by Stanford University Press later this year. [The Origins of American Felony Murder Rules, 57 Stan. L. Rev. 59 (2004) (ssrn); The Culpability of Felony Murder, 83 Notre Dame L. Rev. 965 (2008) (ssrn); Meaning and Motive in the Law of Homicides, 3 Buff. Crim. L. Rev. 755 (2000); Felony Murder (Stanford University Press, forthcoming 2012).]  Binder has saved the best for last, and offered us not only a reading of the felony murder rule destined to help wake us up from a particularly telling pedagogic mystification, but a model of history and political theory as analytic tools for reconstructing doctrine.

Throughout this project, Binder challenges the view that felony murder rules are an archaic survivor of a hoary English common law approach to homicide liability (and criminal liability more generally) which endure in contemporary law despite clashing severely with the principles of modern criminal law liability because of their popularity with elected legislatures and prosecutors.  In addition to being a core “lesson” in first year criminal law classes, this view of felony murder arguably anchors a broader modernist conception of criminal law theory first laid down in the 1930s by criminal law scholars such as Herbert Wechslerand Roland Perkins, and refined in our era by giants such as our own Sandy Kadishand Frank Zimring. Continue reading "Public Criminal Law at its Best"


On (Not) Explaining Law’s Reason-Giving Power

David Enoch, Reason-Giving and the Law in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law, (Leslie Green & Brian Leiter, eds., Oxford University Press, 2011), also available at OUP Proofs.

A number of prominent legal positivists in recent years (including Jules Coleman and Scott Shapiro) have taken it as an urgent project – and have taken it as their project – to “explain law’s normativity.”  By that, they report that what needs to be explained is the way that law gives us reasons for action.  There is always something a little ironic when legal positivists try to explain the normativity of law, for it is generally considered to be foundational to that approach to law that it denies any necessary moral content to legal systems in general or valid legal norms in particular.

In “Reason-Giving and the Law,” David Enoch has worked as much to “deflate” the problem of law’s reason-giving as to resolve it. His basic point is that there is nothing that remarkable about the giving of reasons for action. Continue reading "On (Not) Explaining Law’s Reason-Giving Power"


Feminist Judgments

Rosemary Hunter, Claire McGlynn and Erica Rackley eds. (2010) Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice (Hart Publishing, Oxford).

‘Before rules, were facts: in the beginning was not a Word, but a Doing. Behind decisions stand judges; judges are men; as men they have human backgrounds.’ (Llewellyn 1931, p. 1222) Gender-neutralised, the sentiments contained in Llewellyn’s famous words and the article which they introduce still hold – the human background of judges is important, and ‘doings’ or ‘tangible realities’ rather than words and abstractions, are what makes law dynamic, purposeful, and responsive (if slowly) to an even more dynamic social context.

How, then, might law be different if judicial decisions were routinely made by feminists? What would a ‘female-gendered mark on the law’ actually look like? (p. 8). Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice begins to answer these (and other) questions. It presents twenty-three alternative feminist judgments for actual cases, and commentaries to accompany the cases, written by feminist academics and activists. All of the cases were decided in England and Wales, and most (though not all) were decided relatively recently and reflect current law. The idea of re-writing judgments from a feminist perspective has a Canadian precedent in the Women’s Court of Canada (see Majury 2006) while the idea of rewriting judgments (not necessarily feminist) has a US precedent in two books edited by Jack Balkin (2002; 2005, but see Majury 2006, n14). Whereas the Canadian cases focus on equality jurisprudence under the Canadian Charter of Rights, the cases in Feminist Judgments deal with a very broad range of legal matters: consent to medical treatment, same-sex marriage, capacity to marry, the defence of provocation, refugee law, manslaughter by neglect, trespass to property, custody to children under family law, pregnancy discrimination, consent to bodily harm, evidence and many more. Some of these areas are framed by British and European equality and human rights law, but many rely on development of the common law or interpretations of statutory provisions. Some of the judgments affirm the decision made in the existing case but do so using a different reasoning process, while others reject the original decision. Continue reading "Feminist Judgments"


The Boundaries of Legal Professionalism in England & Wales

As a current PhD student, whose research interests include legal professionalism and large law firms, I wish Andrew Francis’ latest book had been written several years ago. In just 228 pages, the book positively canters through many of the research themes I spent months compiling for my own literature review.

For example, by the end of chapter one, a novice reader will be made aware of the size, entry routes and recent reforms to the English and Welsh legal market, to name but a few topics. By the end of the first page of chapter 2, the reader will be introduced to many historical, and current, writers on a range of issues relating to legal professionalism – no mean feat in a mere 20 pages. Continue reading "The Boundaries of Legal Professionalism in England & Wales"


The Failings of Donor Intent

In his May, 2011 article, Who Are The Beneficiaries of Fisk University’s Stieglitz Collection?, Alan L. Feld presents an intriguing case study. Charitable giving is not new, nor are the issues of donor standing, beneficiary standing or the doctrine of cy pres.  In fact, the issues arising from the obsolescence or dis-utility of charitable gifts recently have captured the attention both of the general public and the academy.  Professor Susan N. Gary’s article entitled, The Problems With Donor Intent: Interpretation, Enforcement, and Doing the Right Thing, 85 Chi-Kent L. Rev. 977 (2010) presented a comprehensive analysis of the legal issues implicated in a variety of noteworthy failed charitable gifts.

By focusing on the Stieglitz Collection, a muti-million dollar collection of artwork housed and maintained at Fisk University in Nashville, Professor Feld’s article serves as an important complement to the somewhat longer piece by Professor Gary.  Professor Feld raises important issues including the role of the state’s attorney general in overseeing charitable trusts, fidelity to the all too often enigmatic intent of the donor, the tension between the doctrine of cy pres and literal interpretation of conditions on gifts, the importance of determining the charitable beneficiaries, and questions of who has standing to sue to enforce charitable purposes.  Professor Feld presents compelling reasons for expanding the legal standing of the beneficiaries of a charitable trust. Continue reading "The Failings of Donor Intent"


New Comparative Constitutional Scholarship on Enforcing Second Generation Rights

The Texas Law Review recently published an important symposium on Latin American constitutionalism. Many of the articles make important contributions to the field of comparative constitutional law, not least because the English-language literature in the field has been dominated by discussions of constitutional doctrine in Europe and North America. (Not surprisingly, the part of the literature on creating constitutions has had a wider geographical range.)

The two articles I have singled out deal with a phenomenon of growing importance outside the United States, the judicial enforcement of social and economic – so-called “second generation” – rights. Interpreting constitutions adopted or amended substantially much more recently than the U.S. Constitution has been, constitutional courts around the world have moved past the question on which U.S. scholars typically focus – whether courts should enforce second-generation rights – to consider how to do so. Or, perhaps more precisely, many courts have embarked on projects of enforcing second-generation rights, and their performance allows scholarly evaluation, informed by actual experience in additional to theoretical speculation, of judicial enforcement of second-generation rights. Continue reading "New Comparative Constitutional Scholarship on Enforcing Second Generation Rights"


Aggression v. Atrocity in the History of International Law: From the Tokyo Trial to the Vietnam War

Samuel Moyn, From Antiwar Politics to Antitorture Politics, available at SSRN.

Columbia University history professor Samuel Moyn (visiting at Yale Law School in the spring term of 2012) has recently posted his paper From Antiwar Politics to Antitorture Politics on SSRN, a paper I heard him present at a November session of the Critical Analysis of Law workshop at my law school, the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.  I write about it here on JOTWELL because it is an excellent paper, which law professors might not otherwise hear about, offering an extremely thoughtful intervention on the recent history of international law.

Moyn’s thesis is that international law in the human rights era has moved from a Nuremberg-informed concern with the crime of waging aggressive war to a preoccupation which he thinks first developed in the later stages of the Vietnam War with crimes committed in the conduct of war itself, with the means and methods of warfare so familiar to us now in post-9/11 debates about the detainment and torture of prisoners in the “War on Terror.”  Until My Lai in 1969, Moyn argues, Americans were shockingly cavalier about illegal military acts committed in the Vietnam War that were widely known to be occurring – mistreatment of POWs (direct military shootings and torture of suspected South Vietnamese subversives), search and destroy missions that made little or no effort to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and massive aerial bombardments, including unauthorized bombings in Cambodia and Laos.  When American lawyers entered the debate about the legality of the war, Moyn shows that they paid little attention to crimes committed in the conduct of the war.  Here he focuses on the activities of “The Lawyers Committee Concerning American Policy in Vietnam” between 1965 and 1969.  This group concentrated on aggression and the legality of American intervention in Vietnam and nowhere addressed the law governing the conduct of warfare.  Things did change.  Moyn gives a central place in his story to Richard Falk, a member of this group and an academic lawyer who eventually became very vocal in his opposition to the war, including an emphasis on illegal methods of conducting it.  The second person who features prominently in his paper is a more conservative critic, Telford Taylor, a military man who had been a prosecutor at Nuremberg, whose popular book Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy (1970) condemned the war.  Taylor made the allegations of war crimes committed in Vietnam “respectable,” as he could not be seen as relying on spurious accounts from the far left or dismissed as a Communist sympathizer.  Taylor followed the post-My Lai trend of emphasizing war crimes, casting doubt on the whole idea of aggressive war from Nuremberg.  Taylor appreciated that “unlike at Nuremberg where it was obvious who had started World War II, the Vietnam era showed that one man’s aggressor was another man’s victim (and vice versa).” Continue reading "Aggression v. Atrocity in the History of International Law: From the Tokyo Trial to the Vietnam War"


The End of “Notice and Consent” as Meaningful Privacy Protection

Scott Peppet, Unraveling Privacy: The Personal Prospectus & the Threat of a Full Disclosure Future, 105 NW L. Rev. (forthcoming 2012), available on SSRN.

Scott Peppet’s article Unraveling Privacy: The Personal Prospectus & the Threat of a Full Disclosure Future has offered a fundamental challenge to reigning privacy paradigms in cyberlaw.  The old privacy law assumed that the right set of laws could help individuals hide embarrassing facts or disable invasive tracking.  The encroaching “full disclosure future” ensures that those who try to maintain secrets look like they have “something to hide.”  We used to be afraid of shadowy watchers collecting incriminating “digital dossiers;” now we worry over not measuring up when rivals reveal better “personal prospectuses” than our own.  Peppet’s elegant interweaving of social science and law renders us unable to rely on old privacy paradigms like “notice and consent” online.

Something to Hide

Traditionally, privacy law experts have assumed that a combination of markets and law can preserve privacy.  Firms will compete to offer more or less privacy.  Data collectors will provide customers with various “privacy settings” that tailor online services to optimize self-disclosure.  Some have proposed “personal data vaults” to manage the emanations of sensor networks that track movements and actions in real space.  Jonathan Zittrain’s classic article on “privication” proposed that the same technologies used by copyrightholders to monitor or stop dissemination of works could be adopted by patients concerned about the unauthorized spread of health information. Continue reading "The End of “Notice and Consent” as Meaningful Privacy Protection"


The Copyright Law is An Ass: A Brash New Installment in this Fascinating Ongoing Series!

Yvette Joy Liebesman, Downstream Copyright InfringersKan. L. Rev (forthcoming), available on SSRN.

This article is a fine example of smart and accessible copyright scholarship that identifies and clearly describes a perplexing aspect of the current law, and then succinctly proposes sensible solutions.  The somewhat startling problem that Saint Louis University Law Prof Yvette Joy Liebesman identifies is this: A consumer who purchases authorized downloads of musical recordings, intending to behave legally and in consummately copyright law compliant manner, may actually be guilty of copyright infringement if the songs she purchases in digital format turn out to infringe the copyrights of other songs, such as by including unauthorized samples of vocal or instrumental riffs.

Liebesman points out that based on the ways the pertinent statutory provisions of the Copyright Act were written and interpreted, had the same people purchased the same songs, but with the copies embedded in vinyl or written on a compact disk, they would not be vulnerable to liability infringement for owning them.  But the recording industry has been so eager to frighten off prospective unauthorized downloading of music that it persuaded Congress and the courts to construct a legal regime under which even legal downloaders are at risk, facing strict infringement liability for completely innocent acts of (e.g.) purchasing songs from iTunes and loading them on an iPod.  This group of potential defendants includes me, and most of you reading this. Continue reading "The Copyright Law is An Ass: A Brash New Installment in this Fascinating Ongoing Series!"


Access to Courts and the Democratic Order

In this comment on the Supreme Court’s October 2010 Term, Judith Resnik links together three cases – two of them among the Term’s blockbusters and a third that traveled beneath the radar screen – to explore issues of access to courts in modern America.  The blockbusters – AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes– have evident connections, as a host of commentators have already noted (and undoubtedly will continue to note in myriad forthcoming articles).  Concepcion held that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts a court’s ability to invalidate as unconscionable under state law consumer-contract clauses that required consumers to waive the right to obtain classwide arbitration.  Wal-Mart held that a class composed of female employees (perhaps as many as three million in total) could not be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.  In adopting constrictive views of Rule 23(a)’s “commonality” element and Rule 23(b)(2)’s injunctive-class-action element, Wal-Mart reduced the scope of federal class actions. But its holdings or dicta on a number of other points – requiring a “rigorous analysis” of Rule 23’s elements, suggesting a need for opt-out rights whenever class members seek monetary relief, and crushing the use of sampling methods to prove individual class members’ damages – have contributed equally to a sense that the Court has sounded the death knell for class actions.

Although too melodramatic a take-away from either Concepcion or Wal-Mart, the death-knell concern fits neatly into a storyline that has been building since the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, as well as two cases in the October 2009 Term (Shady Grove Orthopedic Assocs. v. Allstate Insurance Co., and Stolt-Nielsen S. A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp.): federal courts are exercising increasing control over the availability of class actions, whether in court or in arbitration.  And that storyline feeds into the larger storyline of an anti-consumer, anti-employee, pro-business Roberts Court. Continue reading "Access to Courts and the Democratic Order"


Law in the Neighborhood of Morality and Convention

Nicholas Southwood, The Moral/Conventional Distinction, 120 Mind 761 (2011).

Law is related both to morality and to convention. Differently related, surely.  But how, exactly?  That should be easier to explain if we could say how morality and convention are related to each other.  But how easy is that?

Even as children, almost all of us understand the difference between saying that something is wrong, and saying that something “just isn’t done around here.”  We would say that rape is wrong no matter how commonly it occurs; but we wouldn’t say that passing the decanter of port to the right was wrong even if we found out that, where we happened to be, doing so breaches a hallowed custom.  Not wrong, strictly speaking, anyway, if we mean morally wrong.  We all understand the difference, at least until we’re asked to explain it.  (“And which kind are legal judgments?” –one might wonder: see answer below.) Continue reading "Law in the Neighborhood of Morality and Convention"


Thinking About Post-Anarchism

Thomas Nail, ‘Constructivism and the Future Anterior of Radical Politics’, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies 2010: 1, 73-94

Amongst those who favor equality, there is, it might be said, a reluctance to confront its norms, premises and institutional tendencies. Yet, as a discourse and governance project, it is at least arguable that equality bears (or embraces) conventions of calculation, orderliness, categorization, legitimacy (as a precondition for equality or its result), boundaries and top-down assumptions of implementation and accomplishment. Unsurprisingly, critiques of equality, particularly more anarchist ones, tend to prefer difference, freedom, anti-identity politics, an aesthetic of non-equivalence, and open-ended non-institutional action.

Nail’s (2010) article, invested in building a new radical praxis, poses a way through and between these constructed polarities. While Nail doesn’t address equality directly, the issues he explores are hugely important to thinking more openly, and reflexively, about equality within the context of a radical change politics. At the heart of Thomas Nail’s article is the claim that radical politics needs to rebalance its focus; the almost exhaustive interest in cataloguing and pouring over what is wrong in the present needs to be supplemented more fully with greater interest in the social renewal posed by contemporary social experiments. Continue reading "Thinking About Post-Anarchism"


Lawyers v. Businessmen: Where Are the Bad Men?

Christine Parker, Robert Rosen & Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen, The Two Faces of Lawyers: Professional Ethics and Business Compliance With Regulation, 22 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 201-248 (2009), available at SSRN.

In the glamorous/murky/elite/financially rewarding world of commercial law is it clients or lawyers who are the bad guys?  Put another way, does business corrupt law or do lawyers corrupt business?  This is the question that lies at the heart of Parker, Rosen and Nielsen’s paper.   Since the Savings and Loan scandals via WorldCom, Enron and latterly UK’s own Hackgate, corporate wrongdoing is often accompanied by the question, Where were the lawyers?  And as Big Law turns increasingly, well, ‘big’, the “is law a business or a profession” question is posed increasingly nostalgically, usually with deliberate exaggeration and answered only with speculation rather than evidence.  It is refreshing, therefore, to report on a study which is deals with the relationship between law and business empirically and with imagination which also deals with conceptually important questions.

Indeed, it is a central premise of professionalism that lawyers that they apply their specialist knowledge in the public interest.  That is lawyers should act to encourage lawfulness on the part of their clients.  They should encourage compliance.  Professional ethics courses tend to concentrate on the idea that it is a Holmesian ‘bad man’ client that pushes lawyers into ethically grey areas.  In particular that client (usually a businessman or criminal defendant–sometimes both) exploits a lawyer’s duty to zealously defend their client’s interests.  Corporate clients, as sophisticated players, with deep pockets and repeat business on offer, are able, so the theory goes, to corrupt their lawyer’s into finding ways of playing the system to the client’s advantage.  In simple terms the theory is lawyers good/clients + markets bad.  And, of course, markets win.  Parker and her colleagues ask the question: Is this an empirically testable proposition? And, once tested, is it an accurate proposition which is borne out by the evidence?  For those of you with short attention spans the answers are yes it’s testable and no, it’s not an accurate proposition. Continue reading "Lawyers v. Businessmen: Where Are the Bad Men?"


Parchment and Obligation

Daryl Levinson, Parchment and Politics: The Positive Puzzle of Constitutional Commitment, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 657 (2011).

Presidents of the United States do not unilaterally extend their term of office, jail all their opponents, or rule by decree. The Supreme Court does not (or at least does not usually) declare its favored candidate to be President. Congress does not abolish the Supreme Court or create an official religion. Why not?

In an important new article, Parchment and Politics: The Positive Puzzle of Constitutional Commitment, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 657 (2011), Daryl Levinson reminds us that these familiar facts about our world are deeply perplexing and that the usual explanations for them are manifestly inadequate. Continue reading "Parchment and Obligation"


Law and Borders, Revisited

Marketa Trimble, The Future of Cybertravel: Legal Implications of the Evasion of Geolocation, 22 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J, (forthcoming 2012), available on SSRN.

Fifteen years ago, David Post and David Johnson published what some still regard as the seminal paper of cyberlaw scholarship:  Law and Borders: The Rise of Law in Cyberspace.  Post and Johnson argued that because cyberspace was defined, in a way, by the very absence of territoriality, cyberspace should be governed by laws and lawmakers not tied in traditional ways to territorial states.  That paper provoked a reply, Against Cyberanarchy, by Jack Goldsmith, and those two positions – “cyberspace is different”; “no, it isn’t” — have pretty much defined the landscape of cyberlaw ever since.  Later scholars have had little choice but to explore the implications and details of staking out intermediate positions.  When and how does cyberspace differ, and what do we do about it?

Marketa Trimble’s article approaches this topic by revisiting a species of the territorial question that prompted Law and Borders.  How can and should the law address behavior online by people who are physically located in one place but who wish to create or manage online identities in other places?  Trimble calls this the challenge of “cybertravel,” a phenomenon that is hardly new but that has taken on renewed significance as Internet technologies (and governments) have caught up to the many ways in which cybertravelers can be in more than one place at a time. Continue reading "Law and Borders, Revisited"


Trademark Dilution and Corporate Personhood

Sandra L. Rierson, The Myth and Reality of Dilution, 2012 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. __ (forthcoming), available at SSRN

It’s become almost passé to decry our federal trademark dilution laws.  The laws – first passed in 1995 and amended in 2006 – protect “famous trademarks” against uses that are likely to dilute their distinctiveness, without regard to any confusion among consumers or competition between the parties.  Early critics warned that passage of the anti-dilution statute marked a turning point in trademark law:  by giving famous trademark holders rights against even non-confusing uses of their marks, the law created “property”-like rights in trademarks.  The initial commentary on the statute focused mainly on the costs associated with this increasingly absolutist approach to trademark rights.

After several years of witnessing the dilution laws in action, however, the nature of the commentary has shifted.  Scholars have gone from a state of wary watchfulness to one of bemused head-scratching, as they have unpacked the theoretical underpinnings of the doctrine and observed its treatment in the courts.  Dilution laws, it turns out, are a solution in search of a problem, and have had little practical effect.  We have learned that consumers can handle linguistic clutter, so the supposed harm from dilution – the gradual whittling away of a mark’s distinctiveness – lacks empirical support.  We’ve heard that the fear of famous trademark holders – that third parties have an incentive to adopt their mark in entirely unrelated markets – defies reality, in which businesses have little interest in replicating someone else’s utterly irrelevant mark.  And we’ve been told that the dilution claim has made virtually no difference in the outcome of trademark litigation.  No doubt because good old-fashioned trademark law gives owners rights to prevent uses in widely disparate markets, the owners of famous trademarks didn’t need this new statute to protect them against use of their marks even on unrelated products. Continue reading "Trademark Dilution and Corporate Personhood"


Open Government and the Implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act

Kimberly D. Krawiec, Don’t ‘Screw Joe the Plummer’: The Sausage-Making of Financial Reform (2011), available at Duke Law Scholarship Repository.

Much recent scholarship on financial regulatory reform since the global financial crisis critiques the substance of new standards and rules. For this paper (the draft is dated September 2011) Kimberly Krawiec chose to examine the process which produces rules of financial regulation (this is the sausage-making of the paper’s title). The current administration, like governments of other countries, has emphasized the importance of transparency and open government and of opening up decision-making to citizen participation, so an academic study like this paper, which examines citizen participation in rule-making, is timely and important.

The paper’s case study is of the Volcker rule, which restricts proprietary trading and ownership interests in hedge funds and private equity funds by banking entities. Professor Krawiec chose to focus on the Volcker rule because it “had the potential to illuminate questions of whose voice gets heard on a major issue of financial reform as the sausage is really getting made”. The Dodd-Frank Act left significant discretion to regulators with respect to the details of this rule (and others): key terms and the contours of the exceptions to the bans are not clearly defined. Professor Krawiec explains that the exceptions were a necessary component of a compromise between those who thought that Dodd-Frank should do more to rein in large financial institutions and those who were sympathetic to complaints from financial institutions. She also points out that much of the trading the Volcker rule explicitly permits shares objective characteristics with proprietary trading, such that the motive for the trading is the distinguishing characteristic. Continue reading "Open Government and the Implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act"


The Short-Run Inelasticity of Constitutional Law

Richard H. Pildes, Is the Supreme Court a ‘Majoritarian’ Institution?, 2010 Sup. Ct. Rev. 103 (2010).

In the large and ever-growing category of articles I wish I’d written, the latest entry is Rick Pildes’s withering critique of a standard line about the Supreme Court.  The standard line holds – roughly speaking, and its imprecision is one of the article’s main points – that the Court “cannot and does not stray too far from ‘majoritarian views’ ….  If the Court does, larger political forces bring the Court back into line; the Justices, knowing this, do not wander far.” (p. 105).  In the context of the Court’s recent Citizens United decision, Pildes exposes the ambiguity and fragility of this view.

Pildes traces the thesis of a majoritarian Court back as far as a book by Dean Alfange in 1937, although the same claims were clearly articulated by James Bryce in his neglected classic The American Commonwealth, first published in 1889.  Whatever its origins, the thesis is usually associated with Robert Dahl’s classic 1957 article, which Pildes contrasts with the nearly contemporaneous identification of the “countermajoritarian difficulty” in Alexander Bickel’s 1962 book on the Court.  Pildes argues that later commentators have taken the Dahl article and run too far with it, overreacting against a romanticized image of the Court as heroic guarantor of minority and individual rights.  Thus Pildes offers a partial rehabilitation of Bickel as against, not Dahl himself, but rather Dahl’s successors. Continue reading "The Short-Run Inelasticity of Constitutional Law"


The Benefit of an Exterior View: Looking at Lawyers from an Outsider’s Perspective

Susan Segal-Horn and Alison Dean, The Rise of Super-Elite Law Firms: Towards Global Strategies, 31 Serv. Indus. J. 195 (2011).

Two years ago I had an opportunity to attend the “Future(s) of Professional Services Programme” organized by Harvard Law School and Oxford Said Business School.  It was a terrific conference in many respects, not least for its interdisciplinarity, bringing together scholars from business and law whose work focused on professional service firms. As a lawyer studying law firms in the context of globalization, the insight of the business scholars was enlightening: by placing law firms in the larger context of professional service firms and by bringing the framework of management and strategy to bear on the study of law firms, legal scholars gain a new perspective from seeing the same picture from a different vantage point.

In truth, conversations with law firm leaders and others that have informed my own work on globalization and the legal profession indicate that decisions about law firm globalization and strategy are neither so clean nor logical as some of the management and strategy school research suggests. Rather, law firms’ activities with regard to globalization often are as much reactive and opportunistic as strategic. Nonetheless, the analysis of the business school scholars reflects the reality of regulation outside of the US, in that regulators involved in international as well as foreign regulation of their domestic legal profession increasingly are not trained as lawyers and have little incentive to treat lawyers particularly differently than other professional service providers (see, for example, Laurel Terry, The Future Regulation of the Legal Profession: The Impact of Treating the Legal Profession as “Service Providers). Continue reading "The Benefit of an Exterior View: Looking at Lawyers from an Outsider’s Perspective"


Undiplomatic Immunity

Felix T. Wu, Collateral Censorship and the Limits of Intermediary Immunity, 87 Notre Dame L. Rev. 101 (2011), available at SSRN.

Section 230” contains the single most important provision in all of Internet law:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Felix Wu’s Collateral Censorship and the Limits of Intermediary Immunity — his first article as a law professor — offers a perceptive new interpretation of this enigmatic sentence. It has always been clear that Section 230 protects intermediaries — the Googles, Facebooks, Comcasts, and bloggers of the world — from being held liable for user-generated content. But consensus in the core gives way to controversy in the penumbra: just how far does or should the immunity reach? Continue reading "Undiplomatic Immunity"


Access to Global Media in Middle and Low Income Countries: A Responsible Study

Media Piracy in Emerging Economies (Joseph Karaganis, ed., 2011).

For those of us who study intellectual property law or the relationship between law and the Internet, these are interesting times.  So interesting, in fact, that it is difficult to keep up and to have a real sense for how the activities regulated by intellectual property law are evolving around the world.  Now, thanks to Joseph Karaganis and the team of researchers whose efforts he has coordinated to produce Media Piracy in Emerging Economies (“MPEE”), we have a much clearer picture about how interesting, and puzzling, the times in which we live really are.

A little background.  It is no secret that economic globalization and developments in digital technologies are interrelated but independent forces shaping the character and quality of human life around the globe.  These forces have pulled the industries in the United States, Europe and Japan that produce capital-intensive film, music, software, video games and related media in different directions.  Globalization has led to increased market access for media goods produced by these industries, but the growth of digital networks and related technologies have undermined these industries’ traditional production and distribution practices.  To manage these divergent forces, media industry executives have invested heavily in influencing intellectual property law and policy. Continue reading "Access to Global Media in Middle and Low Income Countries: A Responsible Study"


“Living Turned Inside Out”: True Facts and the First Amendment

Ashutosh Avinash Bhagwat, Details: Specific Facts and the First Amendment (2011), available at SSRN.

Imagine two speech scenarios.  In the first, a noted scientist publishes a paper offering specific, detailed, and accurate empirical evidence concerning the genetic structure of a rare and fatal disease.  Few people suffer from the disease, and even fewer will understand the paper, but it represents a great leap forward in understanding the underlying nature of the disease.  The paper does, however, include patient information that is supposed to be confidential under federal privacy laws.  In the second, a newspaper published a letter to the editor by a local crank charging that the climate change movement is a worldwide conspiracy in which scientists are deliberately lying to the public.  The letter is a poorly supported rant.  Which speech deserves greater protection under the First Amendment?

Although he would offer some protection to both, Ashutosh Bhagwat argues, in a new working paper, Details: Specific Facts and the First Amendment, that the second speech—the false, unhelpful work of what Holmes would have called a “poor and puny anonymity”—deserves more protection than the paper that may revolutionize understanding and treatment of a variety of genetically based disorders, a Nobel Prize in waiting.  His answer is not outrageous, and some may find it unsurprising.  But even recognizing that the question exists is important. Continue reading "“Living Turned Inside Out”: True Facts and the First Amendment"


Taking Sovereignty Seriously

David Hasen, Tax Neutrality and Tax Amenities, __ Fla. Tax Rev. __ (forthcoming 2011), available at SSRN.

As with many areas of law, a canon of sorts has grown up around the field of international taxation.  Pursuant to this canon, income disappearing “through the cracks” of the international taxing regime, and the resulting loss of tax revenue, has been singled out as one of the single largest problem plaguing the international fiscal order.  This has led to concerted efforts to recapture this disappearing tax base through multiple types of enforcement or punishment, most famously through a blacklist campaign led by the OECD against so-called uncooperative tax havens.

What may surprise some, however, is that this canon appears to rest primarily on a single, somewhat dated, premise arising from the public finance literature: that of tax “neutrality” – or the idea that the tax law should not change where and how capital invests around the world as compared to what would occur absent taxes.  Neutrality, it was argued, was the sine qua non of the international tax regime in that it would prevent “distortions” to international capital flows, thus maximizing worldwide efficiency; increased worldwide efficiency would mean increased worldwide growth, making all countries better off – the supposed common goal of all.  Given that neutrality would benefit the entire worldwide tax regime, the argument went, it was appropriate or even necessary to punish countries which did not adopt “neutral” policies in their tax laws as well. Even critics of this approach seemed to base their analysis in neutrality terms, effectively ceding the battleground before a shot was fired. Continue reading "Taking Sovereignty Seriously"


Into the Heart of Darkness

The GW Center for Law, Economics & Finance, under the leadership of the redoubtable Lisa Fairfax, last spring held its first Junior Faculty Business and Financial Law Workshop. I was one of the old fogies called in to do commentary. It was a successful event. The papers were strong and I was glad of the opportunity to acquaint myself with their authors.

One of the papers has loomed particularly large in the memory—From Graham-Leach-Bliley to Dodd-Frank: The Unfulfilled Promise of Section 23A of the Federal Reserve Act, by Professor Saule T. Omarova of North Carolina Law. Continue reading "Into the Heart of Darkness"


Online Retailers’ Tax-Free Lunches

The recent shuttering of Borders reminded us all of the huge competitive advantages that online merchants enjoy over brick-and-mortar retailers. Foremost among these advantages is the ability to exploit Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), and avoid collecting use tax on sales so as to achieve a practical 5 to 10% price advantage. Quill held that a state could require use tax collection only from a seller with a “physical presence” in the state. Michael Mazerov’s Amazon’s Arguments Against Collecting Sales Tax Do Not Withstand Scrutiny (2010) presents a complete analysis of the issues here. (An earlier version was published at 54 State Tax Notes 728 (2009).)

Mr. Mazerov carefully dissects all of the arguments against taxation using Amazon as a case study.  He starts by looking at the argument that multistate tax collection would unduly burden interstate sellers. He points out that Amazon already collects tax in every state of the union but one for customers like Target. Amazon even collects value added taxes on foreign sales. Supporting U.S. states presumably would require only “the flip of a (software) switch.” Continue reading "Online Retailers’ Tax-Free Lunches"


Summer Break 2011

Jotwell is taking a short summer break.

Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

See you then.


Regulating Cyberspace: Can Online Ever Equal Offline?

Chris Reed, Online and Offline Equivalence: Aspiration and Achievement, 18 Int’l J. L. Law & Info. Tech. 248.

Works of pure theory in Anglophone European internet law scholarship are fairly rare, and those that exist often come from scholars whose background is in a field other than traditional law, e.g. sociology, politics or criminology. While some of this work is excellent, it may lack a full understanding both of the nuances of legal analysis and the realities of commercial legal culture. For all these reasons, it is to be warmly welcomed that in what one might call the second stage of his distinguished career, Chris Reed, one of Europe’s leading researchers into the more commercial and practical aspects of internet law, has decided to turn his years of experience in helping both draft and critique European internet and e-commerce laws towards theorising how to regulate for the on-line world, in the form of a series of pieces which so far include Taking Sides on Net Neutrality, The Law of Unintended Consequences–embedded models in IT regulation and more recently, How to Make Bad Law: Lessons from Cyberspace. The latest of these pieces (which are destined eventually to form a book on regulation, I believe)1 appeared in late 2010 and takes on the near cliché of internet law that “what is legal offline should also be legal online,” or more formally, the principle of equivalence. While it is something of a kneejerk assumption in many domains, notably freedom of speech, that this approach is axiomatically mandatory, Reed dissects the desirability, applicability and most interestingly perhaps, the failures of the principle in the context of the history of (mainly European) internet regulation.

Reed defines equivalence as a starting point as “an approach in which all laws and regulations should, so far as possible, be equivalent online and offline. In other words, the same legal principles should regulate an online technology activity as those which applied to the equivalent offline technology activity.” Reed’s first point is that this should not be confused with the similarly-popular notion of technology neutrality. “Technology neutrality addresses the choice between the available substantive rules which could be used to implement … legal principles,” while equivalence, in his view, is about choosing those legal principles for regulating the online world in the first place. Equivalence therefore takes precedence in the regulatory toolkit and is arguably the more important issue to get right. Reed also muses as to whether a distinction is needed between “technology indifference”–which is an “attempt … to define a rule in such a way that it applies equally well to the activity whatever technology is used to undertake it” and a concept he does not name but  I will call technology non-discrimination which is “a legislative aim that the rules should not discriminate between technologies and should continue to apply effectively even if new technologies are developed.” A good example of problematic regulation which might have been elucidated by applying these concepts lies in the recent controversial redrafting of the part of the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive dealing with cookies (art 5(3)), where despite frequent claims to technology-neutrality the results have been nothing of the kind either initially or after reform. Continue reading "Regulating Cyberspace: Can Online Ever Equal Offline?"


New Jotwell Section: Equality Law

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Equality Law, edited by Dean Kim Brooks of the Dalhousie University – Schulich School of Law and Professor Sonia Lawrence, Director, Institute for Feminist Legal Studies York University – Osgoode Hall Law School. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Equality section is Do Not Cease from Exploration: A Report at the Nexus of Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System by Dean Kim Brooks.

We intend to continue to add other new sections in the coming months. Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Cybersecurity through Information Theory

Derek E. Bambauer, Conundrum, 96 Minn. L. Rev. ____ (forthcoming 2012), available at SSRN.

It is rare to find satisfying cybersecurity scholarship. This is not the fault of the talented scholars who have written in this field. I am a fan of the work of many who have tried to lead us to legal and geopolitical solutions to the problems of viruses, worms, botnets, cyberwar, and cyberterrorism. But these individuals have had their considerable talents stymied by cybersecurity’s fundamental knowledge problems. To make a useful contribution, an author must understand technical concepts famous for their complexity, from TCP/IP to BGP, and be able to untangle complex relationships like the ones between the FBI and NSA and the United States and China. Even worse, cybersecurity scholars can never know whether they have the details right, because these topics are shrouded in layers of official and de facto secrecy.

For these reasons, I have never felt entirely satisfied by a single work about cybersecurity, at least not until now. Derek Bambauer has written a fine article about this topic entitled Conundrum, available on SSRN and forthcoming in the Minnesota Law Review. This useful article points the way to a more interesting and more useful new way forward for cybersecurity scholarship and discourse. Continue reading "Cybersecurity through Information Theory"


New Jotwell Section: Courts Law

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Courts Law, edited by Professor Howard M. Wasserman of Florida International University College of Law and Professor Adam Steinman of Seton Hall University School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Courts Law section is Evidence Meets Civil Procedure by Howard M. Wasserman. Expect other new sections in the coming months.

Please note our Call For Papers, and get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


New Jotwell Section: Legal History

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Legal History, edited by Prof. Kunal Parker of the University of Miami School of Law and Christopher Schmidt of the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Legal History section is A Global History of Law, Empire, and Geography by Richard Ross. Expect other new sections in the coming months. Please get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Winter Break 2010

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume early in January.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.


New Jotwell Section: Classics

Jotwell is an online journal devoted to reviews of the great recent writing related to the law that top scholars in the field believe deserves a wide readership.

The Classics section, however, is a little different: it provides a home for the occasional review of classic works of law, especially those unjustly neglected.  (To qualify as a ‘classic’ for this purpose the work must have been published at least 50 years before the review.)  Unlike Jotwell’s other sections, the Classics Section doesn’t have a board of editors, nor will we attempt a regular publication schedule.   We’ll publish something appropriate only if and when someone is moved to write it.


Summer Break

Jotwell is taking a short summer break.

Posting will resume on Tuesday, September 7.

Thank you for reading, and for your support.


New Jotwell Section: Worklaw

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Work Law (Labor and Employment Law), edited by Professor Samuel Estreicher of New York University School of Law and Professor Jeffrey Hirsch of the University of Tennessee College of Law. Together they have recruited a great team of Contributing Editors.

Expect other new sections in the Fall. Please get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


New Jotwell Section: Jurisprudence

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Jurisprudence, edited by Prof. Brian Bix of the University of Minnesota School of Law and Prof. Brian Tamanaha of the Washington University School of Law. Together they have recruited a stellar and international team of Contributing Editors.

Expect other new sections in the coming weeks and months. Please get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


New Jotwell Section: Trusts & Estates

Today we inaugurate a new Jotwell section on Trusts & Estates, edited by Prof. Bridget J. Crawford of Pace Law School and Prof. William LaPiana of New York Law School. Together they have recruited a great team of Contributing Editors.

This is the first section to join Jotwell since we started publishing in November, but it is only the first of many. Expect Jurisprudence and Work Law soon, with several others already planned to follow in the coming months. Please get in touch if you have suggestions for a new section, or if you have a review you would like to contribute to Jotwell.


Winter Break

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume early in January.

I am tremendously grateful to our authors and readers who together have made Jotwell’s launch such a great success. Thank you for reading, and for your support.


Welcome to Jotwell

Welcome to Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). Here you will find leading academics and practitioners providing short reviews of recent scholarship related to the law that the reviewer likes and thinks deserves a wide audience.

Jotwell is a special type of law review housed on a set of inter-linked blogs. As a law review, Jotwell has only one mission: to bring to readers’ attention great recent scholarship related to the law. As a blog we invite your comments, and hope that some of our reviews will spark a conversation.

On the Jotwell main page you should expect new content once or twice a week, although as we add more sections contributions may become more frequent. Each of the subject-specific sections will have something new at least once a month. In any case, every time a new review appears in any of the subject-specific sections, an excerpt with a link to the full text will also appear here on our front page at

There are three ways to read Jotwell.

  1. You can visit this page, the main Jotwell site, which aggregates all the sections; or you can sample just the sections you like, choosing from the list in the right column.
  2. If you use a newsreader, you can sign up for the RSS feed for the main Jotwell section, or select among the feeds for the subject sections by choosing the link to the RSS feed found in each section.
  3. Or, if you prefer to get your updates by e-mail, you can click here to request a message every time we have new article, or click on the email link found in every subject section for a more tailored, and less frequent, reminder.

Please send your comments and suggestions, and do feel free to comment on the articles as well. We hope you will make Jotwell part of your regular reading and that you will find things you like (lots).


Call For Papers

Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) seeks short reviews of (very) recent scholarship related to the law that the reviewer likes and thinks deserves a wide audience. The ideal Jotwell review will not merely celebrate scholarly achievement, but situate it in the context of other scholarship in a manner that explains to both specialists and non-specialists why the work is important.

Although critique is welcome, reviewers should choose the subjects they write about with an eye toward identifying and celebrating work that makes an original contribution, and that will be of interest to others. First-time contributors may wish to consult the Jotwell Mission Statement for more information about what Jotwell seeks, and what it seeks to achieve.

Reviews need not be written in a particularly formal manner. Contributors should feel free to write in a manner that will be understandable to scholars, practitioners, and even non-lawyers.

Ordinarily, a Jotwell contribution will

  • be between 500-1000 words;
  • focus on one work, ideally a recent article, but a discussion of a recent book is also welcome;
  • begin with a hyperlink to the original work — in order to make the conversation as inclusive as possible, there is a strong preference for reviews to focus on scholarly works that can be found online without using a subscription service such as Westlaw or Lexis. That said, reviews of articles that are not freely available online, and also of very recent books, are also welcome.

Initially, Jotwell particularly seeks contributions relating to:

We intend to add more sections in the coming months.


Authors are responsible for the content and cite-checking of their own articles. Jotwell editors and staff may make editorial suggestions, and may alter the formatting to conform to the house style, but the author remains the final authority on content appearing under his or her name.

  • Please keep citations to a minimum.
  • Please include a hyperlink, if possible, to any works referenced.
  • Textual citations are preferred. Endnotes, with hyperlinks, are allowed if your HTML skills extend that far.
  • Authors are welcome to follow The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18th ed. 2005), or the The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d Ed.) or indeed to adopt any other citation form which makes it easy to find the work cited.


Jotwell publishes in HTML, which is a very simple text format and which does not lend itself to footnotes; textual citations are much preferred.

Contributors should email their article, in plain text, in HTML, or in a common wordprocessor format (Open Office, WordPerfect, or Word) to and we will forward the article to the appropriate Section Editors. Or you may, if you prefer, contact the appropriate Section Editors directly.


Jotwell Mission Statement

The Journal of Things We Like (Lots)–JOTWELL–invites you to join us in filling a telling gap in legal scholarship by creating a space where legal academics will go to identify, celebrate, and discuss the best new legal scholarship. Currently there are about 350 law reviews in North America, not to mention relevant journals in related disciplines, foreign publications, and new online pre-print services such as SSRN and BePress. Never in legal publishing have so many written so much, and never has it been harder to figure out what to read, both inside and especially outside one’s own specialization. Perhaps if legal academics were more given to writing (and valuing) review essays, this problem would be less serious. But that is not, in the main, our style.

We in the legal academy value originality. We celebrate the new. And, whether we admit it or not, we also value incisiveness. An essay deconstructing, distinguishing, or even dismembering another’s theory is much more likely to be published, not to mention valued, than one which focuses mainly on praising the work of others. Books may be reviewed, but articles are responded to; and any writer of a response understands that his job is to do more than simply agree.

Most of us are able to keep abreast of our fields, but it is increasingly hard to know what we should be reading in related areas. It is nearly impossible to situate oneself in other fields that may be of interest but cannot be the major focus of our attention.

A small number of major law journals once served as the gatekeepers of legitimacy and, in so doing, signaled what was important. To be published in Harvard or Yale or other comparable journals was to enjoy an imprimatur that commanded attention; to read, or at least scan, those journals was due diligence that one was keeping up with developments in legal thinking and theory. The elite journals still have importance – something in Harvard is likely to get it and its author noticed. However, a focus on those few most-cited journals alone was never enough, and it certainly is not adequate today. Great articles appear in relatively obscure places. (And odd things sometimes find their way into major journals.) Plus, legal publishing has been both fragmented and democratized: specialty journals, faculty peer reviewed journals, interdisciplinary journals, all now play important roles in the intellectual ecology.

The Michigan Law Review publishes a useful annual review of new law books, but there’s nothing comparable for legal articles, some of which are almost as long as books (or are future books). Today, new intermediaries, notably subject-oriented legal blogs, provide useful if sometimes erratic notices and observations regarding the very latest scholarship. But there’s still a gap: other than asking the right person, there’s no easy and obvious way to find out what’s new, important, and interesting in most areas of the law.

Jotwell will help fill that gap. We will not be afraid to be laudatory, nor will we give points for scoring them. Rather, we will challenge ourselves and our colleagues to share their wisdom and be generous with their praise. We will be positive without apology.

Tell us what we ought to read!

How It Works

Jotwell will be organized in sections, each reflecting a subject area of legal specialization. Each section, with its own url of the form, will be managed by a pair of Section Editors who will have independent editorial control over that section. The Section Editors will also be responsible for selecting a team of ten or more Contributing Editors. Each of these editors will commit to writing at least one Jotwell essay of 500-1000 words per year in which they identify and explain the significance of one or more significant recent works – preferably an article accessible online, but we won’t be doctrinaire about it. Our aim is to have at least one contribution appear in each section on a fixed day every month, although we won’t object to more. Section Editors will also be responsible for approving unsolicited essays for publication. Our initial sections will cover administrative law, constitutional law, corporate law, criminal law, cyberlaw, intellectual property law, legal profession, and tax law — and we intend to add new sections when there is interest in doing so.

For the legal omnivore, the ‘front page’ at will contain the first part of every essay appearing elsewhere on the site. Links will take you to the full version in the individual sections. There, articles will be open to comments from readers.

The Details

Learn more about Jotwell: