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May 31, 2009

Judge Sotomayor, Legal Realist Redux


Posted by Brian Leiter on May 31, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 29, 2009

Advertising Opportunities on This Blog and the Law School Ranking Site Starting in June

Beginning June 1, this blog, and the law school ranking site, will have advertising spots available.  (I will be running them independently of Blog Emperor Caron, with whom I've enjoyed working these past several years, but the changing economics of the blogosphere necessitated going my own way.  Aspen will be running regular ads on both sites, but there will be other spots available.)

Both site have site meters (here and here)--in addition to the daily visits and page views, do take note of the average visit length, which is unusually high (over a minute on this blog, over 2 minutes, sometimes over 3 minutes, on the law school ranking site).  Visitors to these sites are actually reading, rather than just clicking through.  There is no better way to reach legal academics than through advertising here or on the law school ranking site, and no better way to reach current and prospective law students than through advertising on the law school ranking site.   Advertising spots are available to promote books, journals, institutions, special programs, and conferences, among other possibilities.  Please e-mail me with questions.

There will be at least two spots available in the left-hand column of this blog (which will be redesigned come Monday) and at least one spot available on the law school ranking site.  The specs for the ads are as follows:

Width: 175px
Height: 325 px
Format: jpeg or gif

Rates are as follows:

June, July & August:  $250 per one-month spot on either site, or the same ad on both sites for $350.

September through May:  $400 per one-month spot on either site, or the same ad on both sites for $600.

Please contact me with any questions.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack

Bone from BU to Texas

Robert G. Bone, a leading scholar in both the civil procedure and intellectual property fields at Boston University, has accepted a senior offer from the law school at the University of Texas at Austin, where he will start in 2010 (perhaps as soon as January). 

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 29, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

May 27, 2009

The Much More Interesting Line from Judge Sotomayor's Berkeley La Raza Law Journal article

Earlier today, Jess Bravin, the Wall Street Journal Supreme Court reporter, asked me to look at the piece, which I did, and it seems to me the line that is getting most of the attention from easily excitable white male conservatives--"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life"--is actually not nearly the most striking line in this short (and rather thin) article.  In context, it's quite clearly a play on a line attributed to Justice O'Connor, and it is followed by references to notorious decisions involving sex and race discrimination by Holmes and Cardozo, in which, of course, female or minority judges would have surely done better.

But in the same paragraph where the much-quoted line appears, she refers to the views of Martha Minow, who is quoted two paragraphs earlier, and this, it seems to me, is the really interesting bit of the article:

I accept the proposition that...as...Professor Martha Minow...states 'there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives--no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging."  I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.  The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others.

She goes on to cite, in support, just a bit of the massive empirical literature confirming the apparent causal influence of race and gender on judicial decision-making.  

In both this article, and her 1996 Suffolk University Law Review piece on "Returning Majesty to the Law and Politics," Judge Sotomayor sounds refreshingly Legal Realist notes, of a kind we ordinarily only hear from one other sitting judge, Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit.   To be sure Judge Sotomayor does not go as far as Posner, who calls the U.S. Supreme Court (quite correctly, of course) "a largely political court," though by the same token, Posner doesn't go as far as endorsing Professor Minow's strong claim that there is "no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging." 

William O. Douglas was our most famous Legal Realist Justice.  Will Justice Sotomayor be our first and most important Critical Legal Studies Justice?  (I jest, of course:  her judicial opinions are not nearly as provocative as these short law review items.  For a more skeptical view from an academic to her left, see the comments of Professor Turley from George Washington.))

(Mr. Bravin's piece is here.  It's nice to see Legal Realism get some press!)

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 27, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 26, 2009

Vanderbilt's Chris Guthrie Named Dean

No press release yet, but I was forwarded the e-mail announcement.  That was certainly quick, and may set a world's record for selecting a new Dean!

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 26, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

May 25, 2009

In Memoriam: John Cribbett (1918-2009)

The well-known property scholar was also a longtime Dean and Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 25, 2009 in Memorial Notices | Permalink | TrackBack

May 23, 2009

Foreclosure Defense Fellowships at Miami

An interesting idea.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 23, 2009 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

May 22, 2009

Journalists May be the Dumbest People on the Face of the Earth, Part 361

Someone just sent me this item from the California Lawyer by a "reporter" named Lawrence Hurley.  I can't recall ever having spoken to Mr. Hurley, but if I did, he just made some things up anyway:

University of Chicago Law School professor Brian Leiter hates U.S. News and World Report's law school rankings. The influential rankings, published every March, suffer from a flawed methodology, according to Leiter: They fail to emphasize the importance of teaching.

This is absurd, and I'm sure I never said it.  U.S. News has a flawed methodology--that's obvious--but the flaw has nothing to do with failure to take account of teaching, which can't be very meaningfully measured or compared.  (Princeton Review tried, and it's better than nothing, maybe, but not much.)

Leiter got so annoyed with the magazine's approach that in 2005 he started his own rankings system. He relies on fellow law professors' input about the quality of faculty and future job prospects for graduates. "U.S. News needs more competition," Leiter says.

U.S. News does need more competition, but I first produced a set of law school rankings a dozen years ago, and they were featured on the front page of the National Law Journal at the time.  Only the current ranking site started in 2005.

Robert J. Morse, U.S. News and World Report's director of data and research, responds wearily. "[Leiter's] no better than us, but he thinks he is."

Since this is inconsistent with anything Mr. Morse has ever said, I'm going to assume this is just more fiction-writing by the "reporter."  Whatever the merits and flaws of the metrics I have used, they, quite obviously, suffer from none of the flaws of the U.S. News methods:  mine can't be gamed, the data is real, and there is no inexplicable weighting of multiple factors to produce an overall nonsense number.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 22, 2009 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

May 20, 2009

The Most "Conservative" Law Faculties?

My comment the other day that Sai Prakash's move from USD to Virginia give UVA the strongest "conservative" public law group of any law school in the country prompted one reader to ask about other "conservative" faculties.

Bear in mind, of course, that terms like "liberal" and "conservative" operate as indexicals:  what they refer to depends on the speaker.  From a global or cosmopolitan standpoint, the vast, vast majority of law faculties in the U.S. are conservative or "on the right" on most major issues (except perhaps some issues of so-called "identity politics" or "diversity").  But from within the US, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" pick out different concerns:  conservative law faculties are friendlier to market-based solutions, rather than government regulation; to judicial restraint rather than aggressive judicial review; to "originalist" theories of interpretation rather than "moral" or "evolving standards of decency" readings of the constitution; to cost-benefit analysis; to restrictive, rather than, capacious interpretations of individual rights; to federalism and limitations on federal power; and so on.

I'll focus on the "public law" groups, that is, those faculty working in those fields where ideological purity is most visible, such as constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, parts of international law, criminal procedure, and legislation and stautory interpretation.  In the private law areas, positions on the right (pro-market solution, anti-regulatory, etc.) probably dominate most places, certainly at the elite law schools (hence the right-wing complexion of US law schools from a global perspective).

Among the top law schools, Northwestern University and University of Virginia are clearly both the farthest to the right and with the most prominent scholars, but Harvard University isn't far behind (with Goldsmith, Manning & Vermeule, among others).  University of Notre Dame is right up there, and so too George Washington University, University of San Diego, and George Mason University.  Chapman University and Brigham Young University would also have to be mentioned as centers of conservative legal scholarship, though probably not as prominent as the preceding.  Most, but not all, of the top law schools have at least a couple of prominent legal scholars "on the right"--e.g., Epstein & E. Posner at Chicago, Baker & Rodriguez at Texas, Bainbridge & Volokh at UCLA, Barnett & Rosenkranz at Georgetown, Benjamin & Young at Duke, Bobbitt (on some issues) & Monaghan at Columbia, among others--and certainly the American right is better-represented on U.S. law faculties than the social democratic left, but that just speaks, again, to the indexical character of the terms "left" and "right," or "liberal" and "conservative."  (Chicago, if anything, tilts "left" these days in the public law areas, a big contrast, obviously, from 30 years ago, when the faculty was both less ideologically and intellectually diverse--which no doubt explains why Justice Scalia is so upset!  Even in the private law areas, where economic and marked-based ideas dominate, most of my colleagues are, best as I can tell [and it is frankly not obvious in most cases], relatively liberal in the American sense of that term.)

Of course, it is probably worth remembering that in most areas of scholarship and legal study, political ideology sheds almost no light on the substantive, analytical issues serious scholars and students must grapple with.  If there were more law in "constitutional law," or if constitutional law issues did not loom so large in public consciousness, there would probably be less obsession with the whole issue of "liberal" and "conservative" faculties. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 20, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 19, 2009

New St. John's Dean

Michael Simons.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 19, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack