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February 14, 2008

Nevada's Howarth Named New Law Dean at Michigan State

The MSU press release is here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 14, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

February 13, 2008

Steven Gey

Steven Gey, a distinguished First Amendment scholar at Florida State University, has been suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease for the last year.  His colleague Dan Markel has posted a remarkable statement from Professor Gey about his illness, remarkable both for its candor and its humor.  I hope everyone will read it, and also consider supporting the fund-raising efforts organized by faculty and students at Florida State (there is information about that at the link, above).

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 13, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

William & Mary President (and Law Professor) Nichol Forced Out for Upholding the Constitution

News story here and statement by President Gene Nichol here.  This is pretty embarrassing for William & Mary, and I imagine many faculty and students there are outraged (faculty and students at other state universities in Virginia should be worried too!).  Nichol, who was previously Dean of the Law School at the University of North Carolina, will return to teaching law at William & Mary.

From the statement by President Nichol:

I have made four decisions, or sets of decisions, during my tenure that have stirred ample controversy.

First, as is widely known, I altered the way a Christian cross was displayed in a public facility, on a public university campus, in a chapel used regularly for secular College events -- both voluntary and mandatory -- in order to help Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other religious minorities feel more meaningfully included as members of our broad community. The decision was likely required by any effective notion of separation of church and state. And it was certainly motivated by the desire to extend the College’s welcome more generously to all. We are charged, as state actors, to respect and accommodate all religions, and to endorse none. The decision did no more.

Second, I have refused, now on two occasions, to ban from the campus a program funded by our student-fee-based, and student-governed, speaker series. To stop the production because I found it offensive, or unappealing, would have violated both the First Amendment and the traditions of openness and inquiry that sustain great universities. It would have been a knowing, intentional denial of the constitutional rights of our students....

As the result of these decisions, the last sixteen months have been challenging ones for me and my family. A committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign -- on the internet and in the press -- has been waged against me, my wife and my daughters. It has been joined, occasionally, by members of the Virginia House of Delegates -- including last week’s steps by the Privileges and Elections Committee to effectively threaten Board appointees if I were not fired over decisions concerning the Wren Cross and the Sex Workers’ Art Show. That campaign has now been rendered successful. And those same voices will no doubt claim victory today....

I add only that, on Sunday, the Board of Visitors offered both my wife and me substantial economic incentives if we would agree “not to characterize [the non-renewal decision] as based on ideological grounds” or make any other statement about my departure without their approval. Some members may have intended this as a gesture of generosity to ease my transition. But the stipulation of censorship made it seem like something else entirely. We, of course, rejected the offer. It would have required that I make statements I believe to be untrue and that I believe most would find non-credible. I’ve said before that the values of the College are not for sale. Neither are ours....

I wonder whether the Board of Visitors has any idea how much damage they have done to the College by forcing out a President under these circumstances?   No one who has a choice wants to have anything to do with a university that can't withstand external political pressures that affect basic constitutional values. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 12, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

Is the "Rule of Recognition" a Conventional Rule?

I know you folks have been wondering!

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 11, 2008 in Jurisprudence | Permalink | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

Nussbaum Declines Harvard, Brown Offers, and Will Remain at Chicago

I am particularly pleased to report that Martha Nussbaum (ancient philosophy, political philosophy, ethics), who holds appointments in the Law School, Philosophy Department, and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, has declined the senior offers from Harvard University and Brown University.  I look forward to working with her in making Chicago the destination of choice for philosophically-minded law students.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 10, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

"Superdelegates" and the UnDemocratic Party

This line in this article caught my attention:

Superdelegates, created in 1982, were intended to restore some of the power over the nomination process to party insiders, tempering the zeal of party activists. About 15 to 20 percent of the delegates at Democratic conventions are superdelegates.

The "zeal of party activists" is a reference to what I believe used to be called the preferences of the voters.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 10, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2008

Two Senior Hires for Rutgers-Newark: Ball from Penn State, Green from LSU

The Law School at Rutgers University, Newark has made two senior hires this year:  Carlos Ball, a leading scholar writing about gay rights and sexuality and the law, who is currently at Dickinson School of Law at Pennsylvania State University (and, before that, taught for many years at the University of Illinois); and Stuart Green, a well-known criminal law theorist (and the first theorist to write systematically about white collar crime), at Louisiana State University.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 8, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

February 6, 2008

Law Schools at Possible Risk of Not Meeting ABA's (Expected) New Bar Passage Accreditation Standard

MOVING TO THE FRONT from February 4:  Based on feedback about the proposed new standards, Professor Caron has revised his presentation of the data and the schools that might be affected.

Blog Emperor Caron has the details.

UPDATE:  Comments at Caron's site by Mark Scarberry and Eric Mitnick make clear that the risk of losing accreditation under the new standard is not as great as Caron's chart makes it appear, because the new ABA standard excludes those retaking the bar exam, while Caron's chart includes them.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  More clarifications about the proposed standards and their import here.  The standards, of course, appear to be the product of right-wing pressure on the ABA from the Bush Education Department, which has oversight of the ABA's authority to act as an accreditation agency for law schools.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 6, 2008 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

Ranking Cases by Authority

Tom Smith (San Diego) writes regarding the new search engine he has been developing; he explains:

It is the link to the new legal search engine created by PreCYdent, a startup I and Antonio Tomarchio, a mathematical engineer from the Politecnico di Milano, founded.  Most of our engineers are grad students or recent grads of the Politecnico and two prominent computer
scientists from there are our scientific advisors.

You may be interested in how we can rank cases by authority.  This involves something far more sophisticated than mere citation count.  We use math analogous to what Google uses to rank web sites, but adapted to the peculiar features of the legal citation network.  When
we add law review articles to our database, we will be able to provide a far more accurate rating of the authority of law review articles than is presently available.

The authority ranking also does a much better job (according to our tests) than Westlaw natural language in recalling authoritative cases in response particular queries.  This makes it easier to use.

The site is free and that is an important principle to us.  We believe anybody should be able to access public domain legal materials without paying a fee, and find what they are looking for -- that's what the search technology is for.

This is just the alpha site.  There are plenty of rough spots.  There is a feedback button on the upper right of the results pages, so users can tell us what works and what doesn't.

Professor Smith is interviewed by Joe Hodnicki here about the new site, which will no doubt be of interest to lawyers and legal scholars.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 6, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack

February 5, 2008

Signing Bonuses for Junior Faculty?

A colleague elsewhere writes:

I've just heard from my Dean that at least one law school is offering signing bonuses ($25,000) to entry-level candidates. I've never heard of this before. Is it becoming common? And, whether it is or not, should it? It is a way to attract candidates without distorting the pay scale. Certainly other blandishments -- reduced teaching loads, sabbaticals, higher travel/RA allowances, book budgets, and so forth -- are by now unexceptionable. I can imagine that a school might prefer a one-time payment to a long-term commitment, and a rookie teacher might like the extra cash for travel or a downpayment on a house or something of that sort. But it feels a bit odd, and I'm not sure law schools want to go the path of major firms. Any reaction?

Comments are open; non-anonymous postings very strongly preferred.  Post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 5, 2008 in Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack