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May 7, 2008

In Memoriam: Roy Mersky (1925-2008)

It is with tremendous sadness that I must report the death, yesterday, of Roy Mersky, the extraordinary Director of the UT Law Library since 1965, the man whom Blair Kaufman, the law librarian at Yale, once called "the emperor of worldwide law librarianship."  He set the standard for professionalism and excellence in the field, and academic and firm law libraries throughout the U.S. and abroad are run by individuals who received their training at UT under Professor Mersky.   UT faculty, even when visiting at other U.S. law schools, routinely came back to Roy and his staff for research assistance.  (Not long ago, he said to me that even upon joining the University of Chicago Law School faculty, I should continue to feel free to call on him and the UT law library for any research needs.)  Two anecdotes:

1. A colleague recently wrote to Roy:  "I thought I would drop you a line to say, yet again, how terrific you/Tarlton Law Library/[Jonathan] Pratter are!  I am in transit in Italy but yesterday I had an urgent need for obscure medical journal pieces: asked Jon P if he could help; and almost by return, there they were in my inbox!  What astonishing service your library provides! Without exaggeration, it is a golden handcuff that strongly deters anyone moving away from UTLaw!"

2.  Recently diagnosed with cancer (not the cause of his death, as it happens), Roy wrote to the faculty, almost apologetically, just last week about the illness and his need for treatment:  "Please be assured that during my absence the Library will continue to function in an exemplary manner.    During the treatment, my energy level will be low, but I still may be able to come into the library.  In any event, I will be able to maintain supervision of library operations, through telephone calls and e-mails."  He also designated the Associate Director for Administration & Services, Brian Quigley, to make any urgent decisions in his absence.

I do not imagine there are many professionals, in any field, who in their 80s and undergoing medical treatment for a serious illness demonstrate this level of devotion to their work.

Roy also led a remarkably interesting life, marked by displays of courage of many kinds, from the battlefield (he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and received, among other honors, the Bronze Star) to civilian life, where he was harassed by the FBI in the 1950s for his "left-wing" sympathies and activities, by the reactionary Texas legislature during the 1960s for his efforts on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties, and by some of the less enlightened citizens of Texas, who phoned in death threats and burned a cross on his lawn in Austin in the 1960s after he complained about crosses on government buildings in Austin (they were subsequently removed by court order).  (Roy, who was remarkably unperturbed in describing these incidents, told me simply that in the last case, he sent his kids to stay with colleague Russell Weintraub, while he remained in his home.)

I will add links to memorial notices as they appear.  I am sure I speak for everyone in the UT Law community in extending our deepest condolences to his widow, Rosemary, and his three children and several grandchildren, who survive him.

UPDATE:  Allegra Young, former Communications Director at UT Law, kindly sent me the link to a cover story from the UTLAW alumni magazine about Roy.

ANOTHER:  A statement from UT Law Dean Larry Sager, circulated to the law school community this morning:

Throughout his career, Roy was fiercely determined to better serve the UT Law faculty, the UT Law students, and the UT Law community at large than any other law library served its constituents.  He was fiercely determined to staff the nation’s law schools with skilled law librarians schooled by their service at UT.  And he was fiercely determined to enlarge the idea of a fine library to include lectures, conferences and exhibitions of erudite bibliography and history.  He was, in sum, fiercely determined to make the UT Law Library,  his library, the most distinguished law library in the world. He succeeded.  His passing is the passing of a titan.

He was a friend, a colleague and an icon to us all.  We will miss him deeply.

ONE MORE:  The Law School's memorial notice is here.

ANOTHER:  Roy Mersky Remembered, where colleagues, friends, and admirers may post their recollections.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 7, 2008 in Memorial Notices | Permalink | TrackBack

Why Practitioners Usually Do Not Make Good Deans

Michael Froomkin (Miami) sums up the reasons here.  Most of the cases I've heard about were unmitigated disasters (for one or all of the reasons Professor Froomkin notes), which is why the most elite law schools never choose them. 

(An exception that may prove the rule is former Federal District Court Judge David Levi, who took over as Dean at Duke not long ago--but he, of course, has an unusually academic pedigree (among other things, he grew up in Hyde Park, where his father, Edward Levi, was Dean of the Law School and eventually President of the University).)

UPDATE:  Professor Geoffrey Corn (South Texas) writes:

I wonder if you have considered the experience of retired JAG officers as Deans?  Walt Huffman at Texas Tech seems to be quite successful, as does Jim Rosenblatt at Mississippi College School of Law, and John Hutson at Franklin Pierce.  I think the jury is still out on Tom Romig at Washburn.  But I think this is an interesting take on "practitioners" as Deans.

I don't have enough information about these cases, but Professor Corn may well be right that Deans with this professional background may present a different case.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 7, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 6, 2008

UC Davis Associate Dean Kevin Johnson Named Dean

The official UC Davis announcement here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 6, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

May 5, 2008

Geis from Alabama to Virginia

George Geis (contracts, corporate finance, agency & partnership) at the University of Alabama has accepted a senior offer from the University of Virginia, where he had been a visiting professor this year.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 5, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Which Schools Does Harvard Raid Most Often?

A reliable source at Harvard provides the complementary information for that which we posted about Yale.

Here are the schools which Harvard has raided for its lateral hires:

6 from University of Pennsylvania (Field, Frug, Guinier, Mann, A. Warren, E. Warren)

4 from University of California, Los Angeles (Alford, Freeman, Rubenstein, White)

4 from University of Virginia (Goldsmith, Klarman, Stuntz, Triantis)

4 from Yale University (Alstott, Benkler, Clark, Kraakman)

3 from Columbia University (Manning, Neuman, Roe)

3 from New York University (Feldman, Levinson, Sitkoff)

3 from University of Chicago (Ramseyer, Sunstein, Vermeule)

2 from Georgetown University (Halperin, Tushnet)

2 from Stanford University (Halley, Mnookin)

1 each from Boston College (Glendon), Boston University (Singer), Northwestern University (Spier), University of California, Berkeley (Elhauge), and University of Michigan (Donahue).

There is much overlap in terms of where Yale and Harvard look for lateral hires with tenure, with the differences reflecting, in part, the presence of a sizable "critical theory" group at Harvard, and the absence of such a group at Yale.  (Having participated in, and watched, lateral hiring over the last fifteen years, it is really quite hard to underestimate how very political the process is--not in the sense of "liberal" vs. "conservative" (which plays almost no role), but in the sense of its depending on personal connections, loyalties, feelings, and friendships.)  Most striking, of course, is that both Yale and Harvard do the vast majority of their lateral hiring from just a handful of law schools:  Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Penn, Virginia, and a handful of others.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 5, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

May 4, 2008

Bignami from Duke to George Washington

Francesca Bignami (comparative law, European Union law) at Duke University has accepted a senior offer from George Washington University.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 4, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Arkansas Law Professor Sues His Students for Defamation

Story here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 4, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 3, 2008

A Right-Wing Takeover of Dartmouth...Led by Conservative Law Profs???

In any case, one of the popular liberal blogs thinks it's happening, naming George Mason's Todd Zywicki (who has even gotten himself denounced by the Dartmouth Alumni Association!) and Virginia's Stephen Smith as among the culprits.  (Judging from this, it seems as if Professor Smith may be intent on joining the hall of shame of ignorant law professors bashing biology.  Sigh.  Perhaps, as the author suggests, he has abandoned these views in the interim.)   Whether it's true or not, even this publicity is likely to affect student and faculty recruitment.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 3, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 2, 2008

Which Schools Does Yale Raid Most Often?

A reader sends along a list of the law schools from which Yale has recruited most of its current faculty; I haven't checked this for accuracy, though it looks right.  Some Yale faculty left and came back, hence are listed with more than one school.

6 from Stanford University (Ayers, Donahue, Ellickson, Gordon, Romano, Whitman)

6 from University of Chicago (Brilmayer, Fiss, Kahan, Kronman, Langbein, Meares)

4 from Columbia University (Ackerman, Alstott, Merrill, Rose-Ackerman)

3 from University of Pennsylvania (Ackerman, Damaska, Hansmann)

3 from University of Southern California (Graetz, Resnik, Schwartz)

2 from Cornell University (Kysar, Macey)

2 from Harvard University (Gerken, Jolls)

2 from New York University (Brilmayer, Hansmann)

2 from Northwestern University (Brooks, Smith)

2 from University of California, Berkeley (Post, Siegel)

2 from University of Michigan (Burt, Shapiro)

1 each from Duke University (Chua), Georgetown University (Eskridge), Oxford University (Sweet), University of Arizona (Coleman), University of California, Los Angeles (Priest), University of Texas (Balkin), University of Virginia (Mashaw), and University of Wisconsin (Schultz).

If anyone cares to compile similar starts for Harvard (which has done less lateral, and more junior, hiring than Yale however), please feel free to send it along.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 2, 2008 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

What Do 1L Attrition Rates Mean?

Michael Froomkin (Miami) has sensible comments.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 2, 2008 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack