May 12, 2010
Dean Walter Pratt Stepping Down At South Carolina
Walter Pratt Jr., the dean of the University of South Carolina School of Law, will be stepping down next year. He has been dean since 2006. He joined the law school after a distinguished career on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame and it was high profile hire at that time. We can only hope that the reason for Dean Pratt's departure was not that the law school dropped from US News #87 to Third Tier, in this year's sweepstakes (notwithstanding the inference one could draw from the link above.) This tough economy has made it very difficult for aggressive deans to make as much progress as they'd like; the money simply isn't there.
May 11, 2010
I think even I could muster some enthusiasm for the Kagan nomination......after reading this and this. I just hope Chicago in the early 1990s (the Chicago "of yesteryear" as it were) didn't beat the Upper West Side liberalism out of her!
Casebook Authors of the World Unite!You may not be in chains, but you may lose your royalties. I am glad to see that Professor Bainbridge is developing some class consciousness!
May 10, 2010
Kagan's Scholarly Record
Paul Campos (Colorado) has taken a break from his usual routine of cheerleading for state university professors to be fired for their views in order to chastise Elena Kagan for her limited scholarly productivity; he says a bit about the substance of her work, but not much. Mark Tushnet (Harvard), on the other hand, comments on the substance and what he says is consistent with what I've heard from other scholars. Indeed, although Kagan was not included in the recent scholarly impact study (which is almost fully updated, just a few edits remaining), if she had been, she would have ranked in the top ten (but not the top five) for "scholarly impact" in the administrative law category (as well as ranking in the top half of the HLS faculty overall). That would suggest that Tushnet's view of the merits is a bit closer to the truth than Campos's ability to count what she's published. (On the other hand, the rejoinder of the empty suit Marty Peretz is enough to make one sympathetic to Campos's position!) Kagan did get tenure at Chicago (well before my time) based on rather limited scholarly productivity, and I have the impression it was a close case. Smarts in conversation goes a long way here, as does good teaching, and no doubt the school's lack of tenured women at the time was a non-trivial consideration. On the other hand, as I've noted before, Chicago declined to hire her back with tenure (also before my time) after her stint in the Clinton Administration, since the bar for tenure from the inside is almost always lower than the bar for a lateral appointment with tenure. She then took a visiting appointment at Harvard, produced the important piece Tushnet discusses, and was subsequently granted tenure at Harvard, a school with notoriously lax standards (at least prior to Kagan's tenure as Dean, ironically enough!). Is any of this significant? Not as far as I can see. Justice Scalia was no scholarly heavyweight at the time of his nomination to the Supreme Court (I am trying to be polite about this), and he has turned out to be an important and influential jurist. It is unlikely that Kagan will prove more conservative than Justice Stevens, whom she replaces, but beyond that, it's hard to predict. Everyone knows that age discrimination was the decisive factor in the end favoring Kagan: Judge Wood is both more skilled and more reliably liberal, yet she is also ten years older than Kagan. My grandchildren may well be living under a Kagan Court before this is over!
UPDATE: This analysis of her first major article is also illuminating and a bit worrisome.
ADDENDUM: A colleague elsewhere asks whether it was a typo when I wrote that, "It is unlikely that Kagain will prove more conservative than Justice Stevens...." Bearing in mind that terms like "liberal" and "conservative" function as indexicals like "this" or "I" (what they refer to depends on the speaker), the answer is no, it was not a typo! But I guess this is why my prospects for the next vacancy are dim. Alas.
Obama Taps Former HLS Dean Kagan for the "Super-Legislature" Known as SCOTUS
Story here. I have it on good authority that the snub to my previously infallible predictions was intentional, lest the right-wing crazies realize the powerful influence this blog has on the Obama Administration. Drats.
Kagan and Obama would have met when she was an assistant professor and then tenured professor here in the early-to-mid-1990s.
Now that Judge Posner has let out the secret (in How Judges Think) that SCOTUS is a "largely political court," I am sure we will see a careful grilling of the nominee on her moral and political views, which she will now have the opportunity to deploy for 25+ years.
May 9, 2010
The Marquette Embarrassment: Discrimination Maybe. Incompetence Definitely.
As the New York Times reported last week, Marquette University offered Seattle University Professor Jodi O'Brien the deanship of its College of Arts and Sciences...and then rescinded the offer. Professor O'Brien teaches sociology, is openly gay, and writes about sexuality and marriage. Some of O'Brien's supporters argue that Marquette withdrew the offer because she is a lesbian; Marquette's party line is that it backed out of its offer after the President and and other university management read her work. They claimed that they found negative statements about marriage and family and believed she'd be unable to advance the university's mission.
Marquette is a Catholic university. Under Wisconsin law, it has the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation as long as the position is clearly linked to the religious teachings of the institution. Perhaps the dean of arts & sciences fits this rule - though it's a close call at best. (The school can, of course, hire based on ideology.)
Whether or not Marquette's offer withdrawl was in fact inspired by sexual orientation discrimination, or perhaps homophobia, or most generously, its discomfort with O'Brien's ideology, one thing is certain: there is some serious incompetence over in University Hill. When you're the provost of a religious school, your institution is skittish about certain hot-button issues involving homosexuality, and you're hiring a lesbian scholar who focuses centrally on the relationship between homosexuality and marriage and religion...you'd probably want to circulate your candidate's cv to upper management before extending an offer. You owe it not only to the institution, but to the candidate.
Whatever Marquette's rights, the university will is being rightfully punished with public shaming. And the embarrassment, as well as the possible lawsuit, are richly deserved.
May 7, 2010
Elena Kagan: Friend of the White Man
That's the latest criticism to arise regarding her tenure as Dean at HLS: that she overwhelmingly appointed white men to the HLS faculty. The White House response is amazingly lame: they produce statistics about offers to visiting professors, which included more women and minorities. On the other hand, it is true there were at least two women and one African-American (of whom I'm aware) who were offered tenured positions and declined them during her tenure. Of course, all those white guys to whom Professors Charles et al. call attention were connected to another 'diversity' effort, one popular with the "nobody loves us" academic right:
She successfully hired numerous top scholars in many subfields, and from across the political spectrum. Under her tenure, Harvard arguably managed to surpass Yale and Chicago as the law school with the most productive faculty (I say this despite the fact that I’m a Yale Law grad, and a longtime admirer of Chicago). At the very least, she did a great deal to regain the ground that Harvard lost to its rivals in the 1980s and 90s.
She did this in part by pushing for the hiring of top conservative scholars like Jack Goldsmith and John Manning. In a hiring market characterized by a degree of hostility to non-leftwingers, productive right of center scholars were an undervalued asset similar to the undervalued high-OPS hitters that Beane relied on in his early years with the A’s.
While I'm not sure about the productivity bit (no source is cited, not even me!), I concur with Professor Somin's bottom line that Dean Kagan brought 'back to life' a faculty in need of renewal. Though we should note, of course, that it wasn't like either Goldsmith or Manning were obvious victims of 'hostility': Goldsmith had held tenured posts at Chicago and Virginia, Manning at Columbia, and they both had more than their share of opportunities. Indeed, with top law schools like Northwestern actually practicing affirmative action for legal scholars on the right, and with multiple legal scholars on "the right" at every leading law school in the U.S., it may be time for conservative legal academics to abandon the persecution complex. If anyone has cause for complaint these days, it's those on the actual left (you know, the one to the left of liberalism)...but I'm not complaining, being a happy diversity hire, both intellectual (I was only the second philosopher on the Chicago law faculty--where was the outcry, I ask, where?) and political.
Perhaps most importantly, it should count in favor of her tenure that Dean Kagan tried (albeit unsuccesfully) to do something about Harvard Law School's embarrassing weakness in law & philosophy! I am sure she has the philosophically-minded vote in the Senate locked up.
May 6, 2010
Richard Epstein is Not Joining the NYU Law Faculty Full-Time......no matter how many times NYU keeps trying to mislead folks on that front (since this has come up with prospective students more than once, let me try to set the record straight). Richard has been a visiting professor at NYU part-time for a number of years while on a phased "retirement"plan here (Richard is not the 'retiring' kind!). When that concludes, he will become a 'professor' at NYU starting this fall, spending about half the year at NYU, and then teaching in the Spring Quarter here at Chicago, as a 'Senior Lecturer.' End of story. NYU is fortunate to continue to get half his time; we are fortunate to continue to have him as a a member of the teaching faculty here. Students at both schools will no doubt benefit greatly.
Yet More Thoughts on the Harvard Racist E-Mail Controversy...
May 5, 2010
Berkeley No Longer a "Public" Law School
Not surprising given the California turmoil, and the reluctance of the state to subsidize professional education any longer:
By way of partial comparison, the comparable tuition/fees for Chicago law students are not quite $45,000 this year; the 2010-11 rates have not been announced.
[T]otal resident fees for Berkeley Law students during the 2010-11 academic year will be $44,220 and the estimated total resident fees for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years will be $49,347 and $51,815 respectively.
The estimated fees are contingent upon projections of competitors’ fees. Since 2007, Berkeley Law has limited its fee increases so that its resident fees will not exceed its policy benchmark of 90 percent of market rate. Thus, please note that fee levels are subject to change.
For nonresident students, total nonresident fees will be $52,220 for the 2010-2011 academic year. During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years, the proposed nonresident fees will be $54,830 and $57,573 respectively. Nonresidents should note that it is possible to establish California residency for tuition purposes during the first year of law school.