Nell Jessup Newton, currently Dean of the law school at the University of Connecticut, will be the new Dean of the University of California, Hastings, from which she graduated nearly twenty years ago. The Hastings press release is here.
Dean Newton succeeds Mary Kay Kane, a leading authority on civil procedure, who was Dean for 13 years. During that time, Hastings recruited some leading "doctrinalists" (broadly construed), including Roger Park (evidence) from the University of Minnesota and, most recently, Geoffrey Hazard (legal ethics, civil procedure) from the University of Pennsylvania; the Hastings group in the civil procedure and evidence areas (Kane, Park, Hazard, Marcus, Faigman, among others) is now probably one of the two or three best in the country.
Like many large, state law schools, Hastings has been treated badly by U.S. News; probably only Wisconsin has fared as badly at the hands of the U.S. News criteria that reward a school for being small and private. U.S. News to the side, I've often heard folks remark that Hastings is an underperforming law school; when you consider that it's part of the prestigious University of California system, and located in one of the three great American cities (the other two being, of course, New York and Chicago), surely it should be unambiguously top 20 or better? In particular, Hastings has been remarkably indifferent to interdisciplinary legal scholarship, having no substantial presence in law and economics, or law and philosophy, or legal history, or empirical legal studies (though some of their distinguished evidence faculty have done important work related to psychology and the rules of evidence). The recent recruitment of the leading feminist legal theorist Joan Williams from American University suggests that, perhaps, this will change, though Hastings does face the obstacle of being a free-standing law school, without a university and its departments on which to draw.
Could Hastings accomplish what NYU did in the 1990s, i.e., exploit its location to recruit a first-rate interdisciplinary faculty? That must surely be one of the challenges facing Dean Newton as she takes the helm. As Dean Newton remarked: "I am excited about the opportunity to lead Hastings as it secures its place as one of the best law schools in the country." Many in the legal academy will watch with interest.
Fifteen years after turning down Jessica Litman for tenure, the University of Michigan Law School has now made her a tenured offer. In the interim, Professor Litman has taught law at Wayne State University, and become recognized as a leading expert on copyright law and other aspects of intellectual property.
UPDATE: Professor Litman has accepted the Michigan offer.
W. Kip Viscusi (law and economics, torts, products liability), who Directs the Empirical Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School and may be best-known outside the academy for his work on behalf of the tobacco companies in the smoking litigation, and his wife Joni Hersch, who is currently an adjunct professor at Harvard (and was previously a professor of economics at the University of Wyoming), have both accepted tenured appointments in the law school at Vanderbilt University.
When Merle H. Weiner was hired as a law professor at the University of Oregon, she was told that one of her duties was to write articles and books — and she did just that, publishing extensively on her areas of expertise, one of which is domestic violence.
But Weiner found out this year that even if the university expects her to publish, she was on her own when she faced a threatened suit over one of her articles, even though the university never contested the quality of the article and even though she had obtained legal opinions that she would prevail in court — if only someone had agreed to pay the bills necessary to fight.
When no one would commit to paying the anticipated legal bills, the journal that published Weiner — also unable to pay for a defense — removed from its electronic archive the reference that led to the threatened lawsuit. While the University of Oregon’s lawyer had urged her to have the journal do just that as a way of avoiding a suit, Weiner opposed this action as giving in to a threat and denying her the right to publish her work in full.
She said that the incident has hurt her ability to do her work on domestic violence and raises issues for any scholar who may publish on works that might lead someone to want to sue them.
“Any time any alleged batterer wants to threaten suit, I’m going to have to defend myself, no matter how unmeritorious the suit is,” Weiner said. “If my institution wants me to be doing my job, they need to be standing behind me.”
The American Association of University Professors agrees that in cases like this, colleges should provide a defense for their professors. And Oregon’s Faculty Senate is now considering whether to ask the university to change its policy of not providing such defense....
The article in question, published last year in the University of San Francisco Law Review, concerns the handling of child custody suits under international law in cases where one possible home for a child may not be safe. The article made two brief references to a court dispute in one such case and one of the parties to that dispute threatened to sue.
When she learned of the threat, Weiner said, she wasn’t worried because she felt that she had her facts right.
“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that my university would leave me hanging, that any of this would have transpired,” she said. As both Oregon and San Francisco wavered on defending her, she wanted an outside expert to verify that she would win in court. Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the law school at the University of Richmond, reviewed all the materials and provided an analysis that Weiner had a strong defense. He also wrote in his analysis that the case raised academic freedom issues and urged those involved to consider that when deciding how to proceed.
The University of Oregon, however, viewed the matter in a different way....
“The Board of Higher Education does not view an academic staff person’s general obligation to produce scholarly works as a specific assignment. As a result, the board and university do not participate in the specific relationship between a faculty member and the faculty member’s publisher of scholarly materials,” the statement said. “Also as a result, the State of Oregon has not historically provided legal representation or advice regarding matters related to faculty members’ scholarly publications.”
As for the law review, David Scopp, its editor in chief, said that the decision to remove the references from Weiner’s article was “dictated by in-house counsel” at the university and did not reflect any review of the accuracy of those passages.
Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, said that under his group’s policies, the university should have backed Weiner. The events that transpired with regard to her article were “blatant censorship” and “an obvious infringement on academic freedom,” he said.
Bowen said that with some conservative groups encouraging students or others to look for reasons to sue professors, faculty members “are vulnerable and need protection.”
I imagine that any scholar whose work might be deemed controversial by anyone will think twice before taking a job at Oregon after this craven capitulation by the university.
My contribution to the Indiana Law Journal symposium, "How to Rank Law Schools," has been put on-line at SSRN by the student editors, and can be downloaded here. I generally don't put fluff on SSRN, but since the editors have placed it there...
The University of Toronto Faculty of Law has chosen Mayo Moran, currently an Associate Professor there, as its new Dean. The University news item is here. I'm afraid Professor Moran is unknown to me, so I've no idea what the significance of this appointment is. Comments are open, if anyone has insight.
Story here. I had earlier reported on academic freedom issues involving Professor Bradford, though this latest turn of events does make me wonder about these allegations and whether they really had merit.