October 08, 2015

Growing Support for Bankruptcy Relief for Student Debtors (Michael Simkovic)

Student loans are more difficult to discharge in bankruptcy than most consumer or business debts.  Discharge is only available if repayment “would impose an undue hardship on the debtor and the debtor’s dependents.”   11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8).

These restrictions on discharge are controversial. Supporters note the possibility of strategic filings by student debtors with low assets and high expected future incomes and the danger of such defaults driving up the costs of credit.  Skeptics argue that such concerns are empirically unsupported and that bankruptcy discharge provides an important mechanism for spreading the risks of investments in higher education. 

In policy circles, momentum seems to be building for at least some relaxation of the restrictions on student loan discharge.  The Department of Education recently released a report supporting discharge of private student loans in bankruptcy.   The report argues that federal student loans should be treated differently from private loans because federal loans are not underwritten and because income based repayment with debt forgiveness is available for federal loans.  Adam Levitin made similar arguments in the Wall Street Journal several months ago. 

Access Group announced its support for discharge of student loans after a 7 year waiting period, as long as the loans are not already eligible for income based repayment with debt forgiveness after at most 25 years.  The proposal also calls for restricting discharge for those who have previously discharged student loans in bankruptcy.

Access Group’s proposal appears to leave open the possibility of private student loans retaining current protection against discharge in bankruptcy by offering income-based repayment terms similar to those available from the federal government.

October 8, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

Another ignorant apologist for gun carnage exposed

October 07, 2015

Credibility of empirical legal scholarship

My colleague Omri Ben-Shahar asked me to share the following (I wonder if other empirical scholars will follow suit?):

Testing legal ideas by looking at data is a welcome growing trend in legal scholarship, but it is also known to carry risks of according authority to dubious and poorly tested claims. Many consumers of published empirical scholarships are not trained in empirical sciences to read the reported results critically—results that often pass only lax peer review (if at all). The enterprise is not helped by studies showing that more than a few empirical results cannot be replicated, or that there is a publication bias in favor of “surprising” results, or that empirical papers often conform suspiciously to their authors’ ideology or previously published predictions. Empirical legal scholarship is understandably in search for ways to enhance its credibility. 


A new paper by myself and Adam Chilton offers a new strategy to achieve credibility — circulating the paper before the results are known to the authors. We are writing a paper for a Journal of Legal Studies conference on Contracting Over Privacy  which will be held in Chicago on October 16-17. Our paper seeks to test the effectiveness of privacy disclosures on websites — specifically, whether requiring websites’ privacy notices to adhere to some commonly advocated “Best Practices” in their design and presentation style has any measurable effect and whether it leads people to behave more cautiously and to reveal less personal information. But we have a credibility problem. I (Ben-Shahar) recently published a co-authored book (More Than You Wanted To Know) arguing that mandated disclosures are useless and that attempts to improve them by using various best practices would be futile. Can I be trusted as an author of empirical work that merely confirms my predictions in the book?


To overcome this credibility problem, we are writing and circulating the paper before running the experiment and before knowing what the results are. The circulated draft describes the experiment and has (for now empty) boxes and charts for the results, which will be filled once the experiment is run. To strap ourselves to the mast before the data sirens sing, and to make sure that we cannot back out if the results turn out to embarrassingly refute our prior predictions, we are advance-posting the paper on SSRN with everything but the results in it. A subsequent revision will then include the results, but coming in the heels of the advance posted version it would appear more credible. Pending IRB approval, the experiment will be run next week, and the results will be reported at the conference next weekend.

October 7, 2015 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 06, 2015

Another mass shooting, and another set of pathetic rationalizations by law professors


Glenn Reynolds (University of Tennessee) leads the way as usual.  President Obama is disgusted, as well should we all be.  Reynolds's disgraceful irrationality on this subject is of longstanding.  He really is "part of the problem."

UPDATE:  A reader sends along this apt 2012 article about gun control.  He writes:  "This is an issue where there aren't really two sides to the debate that should be seriously considered.   This is an issue where there are the facts about gun control and mass killings, and then there are awful rationalizations for the carnage offered by the likes of Glenn Reynolds.  As someone who fills out the U.S. News surveys, I am factoring in to my assesment of the reputation of the University of Tennessee the "disgraceful" as you said antics of this facilitator of murder."

ANOTHER:  William Page (Florida) sends along another apt piece, noting the utter insanity of thinking that it would contribute to public safety to have armed civilians in the middle of an unfolding crime scene.

October 6, 2015 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 05, 2015

The ad is for real

Denmark needs more babies.  It's a real ad, though as some of the Danish commenters note, there is some intended humor in it.

October 5, 2015 in Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 02, 2015

Northwestern suspends the "accelerated JD" program started by Dean Van Zandt

An announcement from Dean Rodriguez here.  It's striking there wasn't more demand for it.

October 2, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 30, 2015

NYLS to start a pro bono clinic for victims of cyberharassment

September 29, 2015

USD's Fleischer on the Trump tax plan

Top 20 "general" philosophy journals

In case law professors want to know.  Note that the poll did not include a number of excellent journals (like Ethics or British Journal for the History of Philosophy or Philosophy of Science), because they only publish in particular sub-fields of philosophy, rather than more broadly.

September 29, 2015 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

September 28, 2015

Georgia alum and longtime professor gives $1 million for Chair...