May 26, 2018

Extremely conservative Stanford graduate complains that there aren’t enough extreme conservatives on campus (Michael Simkovic)

Few would consider Stanford University left-wing.

Stanford University hosts the controversial, conservative Hoover Institution.[1] Stanford has raised more than $40 million from conservative donors. Stanford is a major military contractor.  Stanford’s last acting president (and long-time provost) argued for affirmative action in hiring in favor of conservative faculty, deploying barely coded, neo-McCarthyist phrases like “the threat from within” to describe liberals on campus.  One very prominent Hoover Institution faculty member took the suggestion to heart, asking students affiliated with the College Republicans and Turning Point USA (which maintains "watchlists" of liberal faculty) to help him dig up dirt on a 20 year old Stanford student who the Professor thought was too liberal.  (The Professor wanted help "grinding [leftists] down" and wished to "intimidate them.")  (See also here, here, here, and here).[2] 

Some conservatives want more.

A recent Stanford law graduate and self-described “hard man,” Martin J. Salvucci, writing in the National Review, recently compared Stanford to Czechoslovakia under Soviet domination. Czechoslovakia was invaded by 650,000 heavily armed soldiers from the Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact states in 1968 when Czechoslovakia sought to become Social Democratic rather than Communist (i.e., leftist, but not authoritarian).

The Stanford graduate—who recently worked at Skadden and Klee Tuchin—explains that from his perspective, attending Stanford entailed a level of suffering just like living in a totalitarian satellite state, except that he has “nicer stuff.”

The problem, apparently, is that there are not enough committed right wing ideologues on campus:

"An almost unspoken agreement seems to exist among many students that all of us will soon be fabulously successful, so long as everyone remains a “team player” and nobody rocks the boat too earnestly. Political, moral, and religious convictions are, for the most part, accessories best deployed for instrumental purposes, rather than values to be espoused or explored for their own sake."

If this description is accurate, then it sounds like Stanford law students are well prepared for the restraint and decorum that will be expected of them at the elite law firms, banks, and corporations where many of them aspire to work.

The recent graduate also complains that the Dean of Stanford, M. Elizabeth Magill, has not endorsed his view that there should be an increase in official efforts to promote conservative views on campus.  Because of this, he accuses her of being a “gutless bureaucrat.”

Mr. Salvucci’s views highlight that ideology is a matter of perspective. For those who are sufficiently extreme, even a conservative, corporate institution in Silicon Valley, like Stanford, can seem as oppressive as life under Soviet rule.

Given the timing of Mr. Salvucci’s post—after graduation but before admission to the bar—Mr. Salvucci may be attempting to set up a test case to challenge California’s Bar’s character and fitness requirement, which mandates “fairness . . . and respect . . .”

I doubt that the bar will take the bait.

But Mr. Salvucci’s classmates and colleagues may enjoy ribbing him about this for years to come.


[1] Hoover is a think tank which selects and funds its research fellows based on their ideology and political experience. This is routine in the think tank world, but is widely condemned within academic institutions, which are supposed to select scholars based solely on the merits, regardless of politics.

[2] The Stanford professor rationalizes these activities by arguing that he was concerned about efforts to schedule counter-programming to compete with controversial political scientist Charles Murray's talk, which resulted in the talk being lightly attended.  He goes on to argue that he was defending "free speech"--which to him apparently means shielding conservative speakers from competition for students' attention.

UPDATED 7/2/2018 to include Hoover faculty member Niall Ferguson's efforts to dig up opposition research on liberal students.

May 26, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Humor, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

April 01, 2018

"Legal Monism"

As usual, Larry Solum (Georgetown) has a funny April Fool's joke entry.  (I'm not sure this gag will be as successful as the one from 2010, which led to people, especially students, asking me for the article Larry described for years afterwards!)

UPDATE:  And in the spirit of the day, several readers call my attention to this amusing piece by Columbia's David Pozen.

April 1, 2018 in Legal Humor | Permalink

March 27, 2018

Trump takes out Craiglist ad in search of legal counsel

Very funny.

(Thanks to David Zimmerman for the pointer.)

March 27, 2018 in Legal Humor | Permalink

March 15, 2018

How not to draft a contract

February 02, 2018

Harvard Law School actually advertises its SSRN ranking

It's pretty clear civilization has ended.  The SSRN citation ranking is almost as worthless as the download ranking, since it skews very heavily to just a handful of areas that are well-represented on SSRN.

February 2, 2018 in Legal Humor, Rankings | Permalink

January 08, 2018

SSRN download rankings now measure mentions in newspapers

The top 11 "most downloaded" law authors in the last 12 months are eleven tax professors who co-authored two papers on the recent tax overhaul, which garnered a prominent mention in The New York Times, leading to more than 70,000 downloads in the last month.  For 10 of these 11 tax professors, these two NYT-plugged papers constitute 95% or more of all their downloads.  The traditional #1 in downloads among law professors, Cass Sunstein, is now a mere 12th!  This has happened before with SSRN, but usually involving one author (e.g., Christopher Fairman, or Daniel Solove).   Farewell to SSRN downloads as a metric of any interest for at least a year!

January 8, 2018 in Faculty News, Legal Humor, Rankings | Permalink

October 18, 2017

Why the "trial by ordeal" actually worked

Amusing, and seemingly plausible, analysis.

UPDATE:  Daniel Sokol (Florida) points out to me that this short essay is based on a longer article published in 2010 and available here.

October 18, 2017 in Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 03, 2017

Touchy originalists!

Mary Bilder (Boston College) wrote an opinion piece for the Boston Globe about originalism and Judge Gorsuch.  This elicited the following astonishing reply from originalist Larry Solum (Georgetown) on his usually benign and informative Legal Theory Blog.  Some of the questions might have made sense were Solum the referee for a scholarly article making some of these claims; as a response to an op-ed, they are almost comical overreactions.  Take just Solum's first intervention:

Question One: You wrote the following:

Today, most originalists contend that a judge should abide by the text’s “original public meaning” — a term of art that originalist scholars have written thousands of pages trying to explain.

What is the basis for the page count?  Which articles by which originalists scholars are you discussing?  I am very familiar with the theoretical literature on original public meaning, but if this claim is correct there is a large body of work that I have missed entirely.

The basis for the "page count"?  Seriously?  One can look just at Solum's own SSRN page to find at least 400 pages of writing on this topic.  And that's just one author.  Add in Randy Barnett, Keith Whittington, the late Justice Scalia, John McGinnis, Michael Rappaport, Larry Alexander, Will Baude, and Stephen Sachs, and "thousands" seems like a plausible off-the-cuff estimate.  But why quibble about nonsense like this?

I would advise Prof. Bilder to let these questions pass in silence.

UPDATE:  Prof. Solum replies here; I will give him the final word on this matter!

April 3, 2017 in Faculty News, Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

February 02, 2017

Jerome Frank's argument for the absolute priority rule in bankruptcy

This is classic:

Courts of equity have a tradition of aiding the helpless, such as infants, idiots and drunkards.  The average security holder in a corporate reorganization is of like kind.

This comes from "Some Realistic Reflections on Some Aspects of Corporate Reorganization," 19 Virginia Law Review 541, 569 (1933).  (I owe the reference to a working paper by my colleagues Douglas Baird, Anthony Casey, and Randy Picker.)

February 2, 2017 in Jurisprudence, Legal Humor | Permalink

January 03, 2017

I answer "Ten Questions"...