Understanding Law by Doing Anthropological Fieldwork

Francis Snyder, The Contribution of Anthropology to Teaching Comparative and International Law in The Trials and Triumphs of Teaching Legal Anthropology in Europe (Marie-Claire Foblets, Gordon Woodman and Anthony Bradney eds., 2015), available at SSRN.

Empirical approaches to law are commonplace now, but once they were rare and occasionally looked down on by classically trained lawyers who favored doctrinal methods of analysis. Francis Snyder’s engaging paper on the contribution of anthropology to teaching comparative and international law raises questions and issues on empirical law. Economics and law is probably the best known and most widespread combination of social science and law, although law and society was the first entrant to this new academic field. Law imports many concepts and methods from sociology, psychology, history and others. And yet legal education still struggles with how to incorporate these other disciplines into its syllabus. How then is legal education affected by incursions from other fields? For American readers the research discussed by Snyder takes place outside the US although recent work on legal ethnography by Eve Darian-Smith, The Crisis in Legal Education: Embracing Ethnographic Approaches to Law brings it firmly back onshore.

Snyder came to anthropology indirectly, first as a political scientist interested in one-party government in Mali, second as a research assistant for a Chinese law professor, and thirdly in doing a PhD in Paris on comparative law and legal anthropology (p. 1). These early experiences fed through into his teaching of comparative law in Canada. It was while at Warwick, the home of law in context, that Snyder introduced the anthropological framework into EU law and its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the key common policy of the EEC. Instead of analysing rules and decisions, Snyder examined the formation of CAP from the ground up, how the different political actors negotiated with each other, and how the policy impacted on farmers and consumers. In extending this into food policy, students were required to negotiate, draft and apply rules in relation to the regulatory regime for lamb meat. This was part of Warwick’s drive to incorporate non-legal materials into legal subjects. (See the Law in Context series by CUP for further examples.) These approaches were reinforced by the tackling of bigger topics such as globalisation and China and establishing a new journal, the European Law Journal, which encouraged alternatives to black-letter law. Continue reading "Understanding Law by Doing Anthropological Fieldwork"

 
 

Tax Havens and the Rise of Inequality

Gabriel Zucman, The Hidden Wealth of Nations (2015).

Tax literature is bitterly divided on the role that tax havens play in global economy. The negative view of tax havens paints them as parasitic, poaching revenue from other jurisdictions. The positive view suggests that tax havens facilitate low-cost capital mobility, mitigating some of the distortive effects of taxation.

To date, this extensive scholarly debate has produced very little information on tax havens themselves. This is hardly surprising, since tax havens are well known to be secrecy jurisdictions. This aspect of tax havens forces scholars who write about them to resort to financial modeling or available country data – data which is rarely on point. Zucman’s book is a unique breed in this context. In order to address the role of tax havens in global economy, Zucman actually collects and interprets the necessary data. Zucman assesses the wealth held in tax havens based on a long lasting anomaly in public finance: that in the aggregate, more liabilities than assets are recorded on national balance sheets, as if a portion of global assets simply vanishes into thin air, or as Zucman put it: “were in part held by Mars.” Zucman meticulously collected macro-economic data of multiple jurisdictions, and discovered that roughly the same amount of assets missing from national balance sheets shows up as ownership interest in investment pooling vehicles (such as mutual funds) organized in tax havens. Continue reading "Tax Havens and the Rise of Inequality"

 
 

Property as a Vehicle of Inclusion to Promote Human Sociability

Daniel B. Kelly, The Right to Include, 63 Emory L.J. 857 (2014), available at SSRN.

Quite often, “private property” brings with it characterizations of individualism, isolation, and exclusion along with images of fences, gates, locks, boundaries, and barriers. In fact, a “keep out” sign has often been identified as a symbol for the essence of private property rights and their function. Professor Daniel B. Kelly reminds us that such images and characterizations miss a huge portion of the utility served by property law that fosters the capacity and motivation to hang a different sign—one that says “come on in.” Professor Kelly’s recent article, The Right to Include, 63 Emory L.J. 857 (2014), catalogs and analyzes the range of legal options available to owners to include others in the use, possession, and enjoyment of real property.

In recent property law literature, the “right to exclude” has gotten most of the ink. In fact, Kelly explains that, “[i]n delineating the bundle of rights that characterizes property, courts have not identified the right to include as a distinct attribute of ownership,” (P. 868) and most scholars have only hinted at the importance of this separate strand of rights within ownership. Professor Kelly’s work is a welcome rectification of this imbalance of affection. If indeed human beings are dependent on each other to survive and flourish, then finding ways to facilitate inclusiveness in relation to property is vital to nourishing our “interaction imperative.” Kelly thoroughly explores the rules and doctrines in property and related fields of law that have emerged to ignite inclusion and spur human sociability. Continue reading "Property as a Vehicle of Inclusion to Promote Human Sociability"

 
 

Why Insurance Contracts Might be the Trick to Police Reform

Joanna C. Schwartz, How Governments Pay: Lawsuits, Budgets and Police Reform, UCLA L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN.

How do lawsuits deter misconduct? That is an issue that Professor Joanna Schwartz has written about before, and her latest article on the topic, How Governments Pay: Lawsuits, Budgets and Police Reform, could not be more timely. Over the past year, our county has witnessed dramatic instances of police abuse and the public is understandably demanding reform. Schwartz’s terrific article explains why civil rights actions may fail to instigate reform, and suggests how insurance contracts, of all things, can play a role in fixing this problem.

To understand how lawsuits deter, consider a reckless driver. You know, the type that takes corners too fast, sends texts while on the interstate, and whips past school buses with flashing lights. What will it take for the driver to finally reform herself? Well, first of all, she’ll probably get a bunch of tickets. If she gets tired of paying the tickets and fears losing her license, she’ll probably start driving more carefully. Aside from the tickets, however, the driver may end up getting sued when her reckless behavior finally causes an accident. Even though her insurance company will likely pick up the tab for any judgment, the company is likely to jack up her premiums after it pays the damages. In the end, the driver’s recklessness is going to cost her a lot of money. And this will probably convince her to become a safer driver. Continue reading "Why Insurance Contracts Might be the Trick to Police Reform"

 
 

Health Care in the Shadow of the Law: The Impact of Abortion Jurisprudence

Johanna Schoen, Abortion After Roe (2015).

The Supreme Court’s latest abortion case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, involves a challenge to a Texas law targeting not women seeking abortions but the clinics that provide them. Yet, as Johanna Schoen’s Abortion After Roe reminds us, we know little about how abortion regulations affect those who deliver reproductive health services. Schoen carefully documents how the Court’s abortion jurisprudence has transformed what goes on in American clinics. While historians and legal scholars have often focused on the effect of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on access to abortion, Schoen, by focusing on law’s impact on abortion providers, tells a far more nuanced story.

Throughout Abortion After Roe, Schoen focuses on the experience of providers and patients at independent abortion clinics. While the story of Planned Parenthood and other major abortion providers deserves scholarly attention, Schoen persuasively uses the experiences of independent clinics to understand the complex relationship between feminist politics, potential profit, and legal interference that dictated practice at many American clinics. The vast majority of clinics that opened their doors in the 1970s were independent, and by telling their story, Schoen provides a valuable picture of how the medical practice and business of abortion care developed over the course of several decades in an increasingly hostile climate. Independent clinics also often challenged the strategic priorities of the political pro-choice movement. Their experiences expose the disconnect between the reality of abortion care and the rights won and lost by pro-choice lawyers. Continue reading "Health Care in the Shadow of the Law: The Impact of Abortion Jurisprudence"

 
 

Can We Talk Money?

One subject that almost never gets attention in major law-review articles is the attorney’s fee. Fees are the underbelly of the law, the bane of theory, the antithesis of high-minded and selfless lawyering, the grubby acknowledgement that lawyers need to eat — and that sometimes they eat very well, indeed. Of course, fees are also what make the legal world go ’round. Among their other effects, fees drive decisions about access to justice: if the lawyer cannot get paid, the lawyer is unlikely to pursue a claim. When a lawyer brings a claim, concerns about fees can affect the lawyer’s decisions about whether and when to settle, and which claims to file or abandon. In particular, the contingency fee is an especially critical component in ensuring both access and law enforcement in a legal system that operates without effective legal aid in civil cases but relies heavily on private enforcement of rights (i.e., the American legal system).

Frank discussion about “the critical role that profit, capital, and risk … play in setting the terms of justice” are, as Tyler Hill points out in his impressive student note, few and far between. The conversation is perhaps most advanced in the field of aggregate litigation. The picture that legal ethicists and law-and-economics scholars often paint is not a pretty one. The divergence between the interests of a group of plaintiffs and the lawyer who represents them can be great. The fear — borne out more by a few anecdotes of near-mythic proportion than by hard empirical evidence — is that lawyers will collude with defendants and sell out the interests of a class in return for a fat fee. Even without collusion, however, the lawyer is usually the largest stakeholder in class-action or other aggregate litigation; to believe that lawyers’ concerns over the collectability and size of their contingency fee have no impact on lawyers’ conduct during litigation is to expect that lawyers possess a level of virtue that even Diogenes would have found admirable. Continue reading "Can We Talk Money?"

 
 

The New Eliminativism

Scott Hershovitz, The End of Jurisprudence, 124 Yale L.J. 1160 (2015).

This article exemplifies — in a very clear and accessible way — a new position that appears to be emerging among philosophers of law in the anti-positivist tradition. Previously one would have described positivists and anti-positivists as providing different answers to the following question: What grounds the existence and content of legal norms? For positivists, the answer was social facts. For anti-positivists, the answer was a combination of social and evaluative (particularly moral) facts. No one doubted that there are distinctively legal norms (legal rights, obligations, privileges, powers) that together constitute the law of a community — and that these norms are different from the norms of morality and prudence.

Notice that even though anti-positivists considered the existence and content of legal norms to depend on the confluence of social and moral facts, they generally treated legal norms as distinct from moral norms. Consider Ronald Dworkin’s anti-positivist theory of law, as presented in Law’s Empire. Under this theory, the law of a jurisdiction is the set of norms that would be accepted after a process in which “the interpreter settles on some general justification for the main elements of [legal] practice” and then reforms it by “adjust[ing] his sense of what the practice ‘really’ requires so as better to serve the justification” (P. 66). In particular, the interpreter attempts to come up with a justifying connection between past political decisions and present coercion (P. 98). Continue reading "The New Eliminativism"

 
 

A Lesson from the History of Italian Opera: Some Copyright Good/More Copyright Useless

Michela Giorcelli & Petra Moser, Copyright and Creativity – Evidence from Italian Opera (2015), available at SSRN.

Today opera fans in the United States are rich, old, and increasingly rare. But it wasn’t always that way. In the Eighteenth Century, opera was the closest thing to mass entertainment, especially in Italy. And that fact provides a platform for economists Michela Giorcelli and Petra Moser to say something interesting about the effect of copyright law on creativity. Giorcelli and Moser’s Copyright and Creativity – Evidence from Italian Operas, is a paper I liked, lots.

Giorcelli and Moser’s paper is a natural experiment using historical data surrounding an “external shock” – viz., Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of northern Italy between 1796 and 1802. The northern Italian states of Lombardy and Venetia adopted copyright laws in 1801, as a direct consequence of French rule. Six other Italian states studied by Giorcelli and Moser only began adopting copyright laws during a period that began a quarter-century later. Giorcelli and Moser collect historical data on 2,598 operas that premiered across the eight Italian states in question between 1770 and 1900, the most fertile years of Italian opera production, and a period that both precedes and follows the adoption of copyright by Lombardy and Venetia. Continue reading "A Lesson from the History of Italian Opera: Some Copyright Good/More Copyright Useless"

 
 

Making “Admin” Visible

Elizabeth F. Emens, Admin, 103 Geo. L.J. 1409 (2015).

Who prepares your taxes? Pays your bills? Handles disputes with insurance companies? Orders toner for your home printer? Creates shopping lists? Schedules playdates?

If you do any of these tasks, you are doing what Elizabeth Emens would call “admin.” Not to be confused with “chores,” such as taking out the garbage or doing the dishes, admin involves tasks that we generally associate with office work. Unlike activities that would be considered hobbies, admin isn’t usually done for its own sake, but to get something else done. As Emens succinctly puts it, “admin seems to many people like wasting time, even killing it.” If you’ve ever complained about “wasting time” on the phone or sitting around waiting for a repairperson to arrive, you were complaining about time spent doing admin. Continue reading "Making “Admin” Visible"

 
 

Challenging the Academic/Activist Divide

Michal Osterweil, Rethinking Public Anthropology Through Epistemic Politics and Theoretical Practice, 28 Cultural Anthropology 598 (2013).

One intervention that has stayed with me from my first Law & Society Association meeting (Amsterdam, 1991) involved a British scholar who, midway through the conference’s feminist stream, spoke out against the assumed divide between academic and activist work. Scholarship, she commented, could be politically engaged work also. I was reminded of her words reading Michal Osterweil’s timely article on public anthropology and politics in which she explores how anthropological work might extend and enrich its political practice through both the engaged scholarship it carries out and by expanding the sites it recognises as theory-producing.

Osterweil starts by challenging the division in anthropology between activist research and cultural critique; she describes the former as working with and on behalf of marginalised communities, while the latter addresses politics in the realm of text and theory. Arguing that both are important as scholarly political practices, Osterweil challenges the presuppositions about action and politics underpinning the distinction between them. What gets counted and recognised as action or political also underlies a further, perhaps more fundamental, division, namely between academic and activist practices, as these get posited as two fundamentally different and separate spheres. As Osterweil puts it, there is a working assumption that academia comments upon the world it observes but remains steadfastly apart from. Imagining other worlds thus gets relegated to the academic sphere of intellectual imagining; outside practice, and so never able to flourish, or take hold, within it. Continue reading "Challenging the Academic/Activist Divide"

 
 

Reviving the Original Scope of Intellectual Property, Internationally

Rochelle Dreyfuss and Susy Frankel, From Incentive to Commodity to Asset: How International Law is Reconceptualizing Intellectual Property, 36 Mich. J. Intl. L. 4 (2015).

In this article Professor Rochelle Cooper Dreyfuss of NYU Law School and Professor Susy Frankel of Victoria University of New Zealand tackle how international dynamics have shaped domestic intellectual property law and make an authorial appeal for policy reform through domestic and international institutions. In so doing, Professors Dreyfuss and Frankel exemplify the strong engagement with cutting edge conceptual and theoretical issues which Professor Erin Delaney and I hope will be the hallmark of our new Jotwell section.

Their article presents an elegant argument about current intellectual property debates. In the nineteenth century, intellectual property law was exclusively about incentives promulgated by national governments for domestic innovation and creation. International intellectual property treaties from the nineteenth century supplemented these national incentives through harmonization of legal rules to staunch leakage of works across borders through piracy. In contrast, the 1994 TRIPS Agreement, as part of the regime of free trade under the WTO, transformed intellectual property into a commodity. While trade traditionally has entailed the movement of goods, the WTO envisions a world in which patents, copyrights, and trademarks are themselves the object of cross border exchange. And more recently, with the negotiations over ACTA and TPP, intellectual property has transformed from a commodity to be traded to an asset in which companies invest to realize a return. Each shift has made intellectual property rights more privatized with little scope for consideration of the public interest and for the exercise of national sovereignty. Continue reading "Reviving the Original Scope of Intellectual Property, Internationally"