July 20, 2009
US News Does Right by Loyola Law School
A colleague at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles reports that the magazine notified the Dean yesterday that they will resume listing the school by its proper name on the ballot, though will continue (for some reason) to list it in the magazine as Loyola Marymount University. That's a partial victory for good sense, though surely what the magazine should do is what they do for business and law schools that have special names (e.g., USC's Gould School of Law), and list the law school name in parentheses after the university name.
The New Ave Maria Law School, Formerly of Ann Arbor, Set to Open Its Doors in Florida Next Month
Story from a local paper here. The more optimistic take of Andrew Morriss (Illinois) regarding the relocated school's prospects--quoted in the article--may well be right. The big obstacle will be hiring faculty. No one with any choice will be eager to join a law school where tenured faculty have previously been terminated, probably illegally. The school will have to give assurances that they are running an academic institution, and not a Domino's Pizza fiefdom.
July 17, 2009
Forget Sotomayor, Will Yoda Be Confirmed by the US Senate?
Balkin has more.
Why Did Loyola Law School Fall in US News? Because the Magazine Changed the School's Name, and Its Reputation Score Plunged!
This really takes the cake for carelessness on the part of U.S. News. Loyola Law School in Los Angeles dropped from 63 to 71 in the overall U.S. News ranking this past spring, and for one primary reason: its reputation score among academics dropped from 2.6 to 2.3. But that kind of drop is extraordinary: the academic reputation scores move .1 in either direction all the time, without rhyme or reason, but only once in the last eight years did another school's peer reputation score drop that much. (The lawyer/judge reputation scores used to fluctuate more wildly, because the response rate was so low; U.S. News this year decided to average two years' worth of these reputation scores to make the results less [meaninglessly] volatile.)
So with only a 1 in 1,000 chance of this kind of movement, what else might explain the precipitous drop in academic reputation? Unfortunately, the explanation seems to be clear: U.S. News unilaterally changed the school's name on the survey: from "Loyola Law School" to "Loyola Marymount University." Loyola was the only school whose name was changed on last year's survey.
As the Loyola Dean wrote to his colleagues:
While we are part of Loyola Marymount University, and proud of it, we have been known as Loyola Law School for 80 years. That name has been used in all our branding efforts. Most law school professors and deans know us by that name. We use that name consistently in an effort to avoid confusion with two other schools that have “Loyola” in their names. By changing what we are called on the survey ballot, the magazine may have confused some respondents.
This is almost certainly the explanation--I have never in all my time in teaching ever heard the school called anything other than "Loyola Law School" or "Loyola Law School, Los Angeles". Pretty ridiculous! One assumes US News will fix the mistake next year.
July 15, 2009
Some Timely Summer Reading for the U.S. Senate
Maybe we could have a grown-up confirmation hearing if the Senators were to read the latest book by my esteemed former colleague, L.A. Powe, Jr., The Supreme Court and the American Elite: 1789-2008 (Harvard University Press).
Since you really wanted to know which blogs by law professors had the most traffic,
Blog Emperor Caron will tell you. But he omits the key statistic: average visit length! Could it be because mine is generally one minute thirty seconds, and his is only thirty seconds? Eat your heart out, Paul!
July 13, 2009
Li-ann Thio, Anti-Gay Visiting Professor from Singapore, Responds to NYU Critics
Scroll down here for her lengthy response. Her English is of startling poor quality, which raises another question about how in the world she was invited to be a visiting professor. The 'substance' of her response to being challenged on her anti-gay bigotry is also slightly over-the-top. Very strange.
UPDATE: A reader points out what may be a first in the history of the "Above the Law" blog: a worthwhile (and funny) comment! It's on the thread linked above (which is otherwise full of a lot of nasty abuse in the comments):
She is lucky she is at NYU instead of Chicago because the whole "stop bullying me" thing would have been laughed off by pretty much every single damn person in the building. A person basically slamming your opinion on logic and reason is not an ad hominen attack. If you can't defend yourself without playing the stop bullying me card, then you might want to revisit the strength of your own convictions. Just sayin'
If she can't handle people getting in her rankles, she surely picked the most passive, "nice" law school to try to pull that off. Good luck with that.
Her posture of being the 'victim' here is, indeed, part of the strangeness of the display.
The Mechanics of Submitting Articles to Law Reviews
July 10, 2009
US News to Rank Law Firms
No kidding. It won't have much impact, however, since there are already multiple, established ranking sources (American Lawyer and Vault primarily), and it's less clear who the target audience will be: clients, current and prospective won't care, they have far more meaningful criteria to employ in evaluating law firms; perhaps law students considering job offers, though U.S. News's timing, given the state of the legal market, isn't, shall we say, ideal; and perhaps navel-gazing lawyers.
July 9, 2009
Attention State University Faculty in Colorado: You Have Almost No Remedy if the Regents Violate your First Amendment Rights
That seems to be the upshot of this extraordinary opinion by district judge Larry Naves in the Ward Churchill case, about which more in a moment.
To recap: Bill O'Reilly and other far right pundits called attention several years ago to Churchill's offensive comparison of the 9/11 victims to Adolf Eichmann, made in the context of an article that was obviously protected by the First Amendment and by any morally sound principle of academic freedom. Political leaders and even one Colorado law professor called for him to be fired for his political speech, but university leaders took the prudent position that this would be illegal. Instead, the University of Colorado commenced an investigation of allegations of academic misconduct against Professor Churchill, which resulted in a lengthy, but rather underwhelming, report that found one actual instance of plagiarism and found that he had cited to articles he had ghost-written, and went on at some length disputing his footnoting practices in other articles. (The one plagiarism charge against Churchill that actually stuck would hardly have distinguished him among Harvard Law School plagiarists, none of whom were fired [or should have been fired for their offenses].) Various university committees were divided on the appropriate punishment for his academic misconduct (termination was the minority view), but in the end, the university regents (with one dissenter) voted to terminate his employment.
Since Churchill's work, scholarly and pedagogical, had been reviewed many times during his tenure at Colorado, and he had received promotions, salary increases, and even awards from the university, Churchill took the prima facie plausible position that he was being punished for his constitutinoally protected speech. At the conclusion of trial, a jury agreed, and found that Churchill was, indeed, fired for his offensive speech, and would not have been fired if it had not been for that speech. However, the jury gave only one dollar in damages, for reasons that are still opaque. Churchill asked the court for reinstatement, a possible, but certainly not required, remedy in this context (monetary damages are, I am told by colleagues, the more common remedy in wrongful discharge cases like this).
That brings us to the present, and the decision of Judge Naves. There is a decent summary account of the Naves decision here and an even better one here (though the latter appears not to realize the possibly catastrophic implications of the decision). Judge Naves vacates (par. 69) the jury decision (so much for the First Amendment violation!) on the grounds that the Regents, in deciding to fire Churchill, enjoy a "quasi-judicial immunity" from suit! The key paragraphs of the opinion are 22-49. Although judges, prosecutors, jurors, and administrative hearing officers are the usual beneficiaries of judicial and quasi-judicial immunity, the court is able to identify a handful of cases similar to this one. The implication seems to be that, as long as the Regents have in place procedural safeguards, they can fire faculty members for their offensive speech, though of course, they can't give that as the reason! (But remember: the jury here found that was the real reason, though that finding was vacated.) And the fired faculty member only has a remedy if they can show an "abuse of discretion" by the Regents given their quasi-judicial function (par. 47).
Signed thoughts from readers with knowledge of the legal issues raised by the finding of quasi-judicial immunity are welcome. Submit your comments only once, they may take awhile to appear.