August 05, 2014

Summary of proposed changes to ABA regs governing law schools

NLJ has a useful account, but it seems an exaggeration to describe this as a "makeover."  Some (like the pointless increase in required clinical hours for law students) will raise the cost of legal education, but others (no minimum student-faculty ratio, no requirement of private faculty offices [!], greater latitude in granting variances from the other regs) may, at the margins, reduce costs, but only at the margins--the majority of law schools, who want to compete for students and faculty are not going to let their student-faculty ratios go sky-high or stop providing faculty their own offices.  My guess is that, in the end, this is all much ado about nothing, except for the windfall for experiential teachers.   The real changes afoot are being brought on by the declining applicant pool, which is affecting, in differing ways, 90% of the law schools in the country; most are contracting, some are increasing the teaching loads of their faculty, and a handful will probably close, barring a sudden turnaround.


Posted by Brian Leiter on August 5, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

August 04, 2014

Government has been systematically misstating the increase in the cost of college

A good piece of reporting; I would be surprised if the same weren't true with the increased cost of law school as well.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 4, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 02, 2014

Still more on international law and Gaza

This is a useful summary of the legal debate.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 2, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 31, 2014

Leila Sadat's "Crimes Against Humanity Initiative" to be taken up by U.N.

Story here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 31, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 30, 2014

Petition in support of Hanoch Sheinman

I would urge readers to sign this well-crafted petition in support of Prof. Sheinman, drafted by lawyer/philosopher Matthew Kramer (Cambridge) and philosopher Sergio Tenenbaum (Toronto).

UPDATE:  An editorial in Haaretz criticizes the Bar-Ilan Dean, rightly so.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 30, 2014 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 29, 2014

Another Israeli legal academic in the news, this time for sending an e-mail expressing some recognition of the suffering in Gaza (but not only there)

I am grateful to Prof. Ariel Katz (Toronto) for translation of the pertinent parts of this news item concerning Prof. Hanoch Sheinman, a well-known legal philosopher at Bar-Ilan University.  Prof. Sheinman sent an e-mail announcing another exam date to his students.  The message opened by expressing the hope that the message,

finds you in a safe place and that you, your families and friends...are not among the hundreds of people killed, thousands injured, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or forced to leave their homes during or as a direct result of violent conflict in the Gaza Strip and the surrounding area.

The Dean at Bar-Ilan was “shocked” and called the email “highly offensive”. The Dean announced that the,

Letter from Professor Scheinman - both content and style – is contrary to the values ​​of the University and the Faculty of Law. The Faculty of Law champions the values ​​of pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression, but the inclusion of positions [such as those expressed in Prof. Scheinman’s email] in an administrative notice sent by Professor Scheinman to students regarding examinations is not an exercise of academic freedom or freedom of personal expression in every way acceptable. This is abuse of power by a lecturer who exploits his position as a jurisprudence teacher to send messages reflecting his views, which are highly offensive to the feelings of students and their families.  

I agree with the Dean that this is not an issue of academic freedom, but his response to the benign recognition that many people are suffering and Prof. Sheinman's hope that his students are not among them is bizarre.  As Prof. Katz wrote to me, "I guess this is what it looks like when a democracy is losing its mind."

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 29, 2014 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 23, 2014

12 Israeli international law scholars weigh in on the legality of cutting off electricity and water to Gaza

A propos the debate noted last week, 12 Israeli scholars have weighed in on the legal question.

(Thanks to David Enoch for the pointer.)

UPDATE:  My colleague Eric Posner weighs in, disagreeing with the preceding legal analysis.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 23, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 22, 2014

Bargain tuition leads to notable initial applicant pool for new U North Texas law school

Story here.  At roughly 14K per year that's going to put some real pressure on SMU and Texas Wesleyan (now Texas A&M) which are significantly more.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 22, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 17, 2014

More on a controversial legal opinion about Israel's options in Gaza: Professor Bell responds and corrects the record (UPDATED: Prof. Enoch replies)

Avi Bell (Bar-Ilan & San Diego) writes:

I saw your posting on my short paper on Israel’s legal duties to supply electricity to the Gaza Strip.

I understand that you have been in contact with David Enoch, who may not have fully appraised you of the facts.

I have written about the legal subject several times in past years: here and here, for example.

None of the material I have written on the subject is classified, and it has always been open to all to read, and reflective of my opinion of the law.

Several days ago, an article appeared in Haaretz written by a reporter who had not contacted me that incorrectly reported that I had “authorized” steps by Israel in a report prepared for a classified Knesset committee on the subject (apparently the English translation of the article dropped the claim that the work was classified). I have not produced a classified report. I have no position in the Israeli government allowing me to authorize any steps; I work for the state of Israel only in the sense that I am a faculty member of a state school. I do not have the security classification to participate in classified Knesset committee hearings. I did not prepare any writing for a committee hearing on the subject. In fact, I did not know, and still do not know if there ever was a Knesset committee hearing on the subject, or if one was even planned.

I found out about the newspaper article by receiving a carbon copy of a posting David Enoch made in a Hebrew University listserv to which I have no access as I am not a member. In the posting, David criticized me for the content of the “classified report” (apparently, the reporter was referring to the second of the above short pieces) and, in the last part of his posting, addressed to me directly, demanded that I deny the content of the newspaper article (about which I had not known until receiving the copy from David), lest he be forced to respond, creating unspecified consequences in the international academic legal community.

I invited David several times to have a substantive discussion about the piece in a forum which was open to us, without the threats. Repeatedly, he did not assent. All our mails were addressed to each other and the listserv. After four rounds, the moderator of the listserv informed me that none of my mails had been or would be posted on the listserv. I forwarded that email to David. I did not hear from him thereafter.

I did not refuse to forward David any of my writings, and I presume he is sufficiently skilled in Google to find them on his own in any event.

I believe that the legal opinions I wrote are more reflective of mainstream thinking on the subject than David appears to think, though, of course, in the best spirit of academic exchange, I think there’s nothing wrong with us disagreeing about what the law says. Likewise, I don't think there's anything wrong with out-of-the-mainstream views. I welcome feedback on my legal analysis, and have received a number of interesting comments so far, some in agreement, and some not....

As a matter of policy, I would suspect that most people – including most Israelis – would oppose a policy of Israel suddenly cutting off Israeli-supplied electricity and water to the Gaza Strip (which, if memory serves, is about two-thirds of the electricity and one sixth of the water used by Gaza). In fact, I think many of the policy arguments against cutting off electricity and water have merit, but that, of course, is not the question I addressed in either of the pieces. In fact, several weeks ago, I was asked in an interview whether I support cutting off electricity to Gaza, and I unequivocally answered that I would not recommend doing it. The fighting, and its adverse effects on innocent civilians, is nothing less than a tragedy, and I am chary of recommending too strongly courses of action that seem likely, no matter what is done, to result in harming the innocent.

You can do with this information as you wish. On the one hand, I think it is important to protect my good name from David’s attacks. On the other hand, I...don’t want to get into a mud-slinging fight. I did feel it important to convey to you an accurate picture of events because your opinion is valuable to me, and I hold you in highest possible esteem, as I’m sure you know.

UPDATE:  Professor Enoch writes in response:

Avi Bell denies many things – not the important ones, though, and mostly not anything I said. I did not, for instance, say that his opinion was classified, or that he holds governmental office, or that he has authorized such drastic measures, or that he supports it as a matter of policy. What he doesn’t deny – what he seems proud of – is that he’s written, on different occasions, that cutting off the water and electricity supply to Gaza is permissible as a matter of international law.   


This is not just a matter of the quality of the legal analysis (though it is that too, of course, as people in the field who have read the text and are working on a response assure me). Bell knows what he’s doing – he’s making this point in public settings, as the issue is being debated, with the clear aim of increasing the likelihood of Israel taking these measures. His 3-page opinion has now been posted online here (published on the website of a forum in which he is a member, and so, I suspect, with his permission), and here you can see an interview on Israeli television where he’s making the same claims again (starting around minute 26). All of this is in Hebrew, I’m afraid, so here are my translations of some of the main points:  


-          The title reads: “Israel is permitted to stop supplying power and water to the Gaza Strip”.

-          “Electric power does not count as a basic humanitarian need and therefore Israel is permitted to stop supplying it.” And later on “There is good reason to believe that unlike food and medications, electricity does not count as a humanitarian need according to the laws of war, and that therefore Israel is not even under an obligation to allow third parties to supply electric power to the Gaza Strip.”

-          “Still, several legal arguments have been voiced against the implementation of these sanctions by Israel. Subjecting them to scrutiny shows that none of them is valid.”

-          “Although international law forbids ‘collective punishment’, the denial of access to water and electricity does not constitute such punishment.”

[English version here.] 

I have no interest in conducting a civilized, academic discussion with Bell, or in reading his “scholarship” on the matter. Life’s too short (it tends to be shorter, by the way, with no water and electricity). What I have an interest in is exposing the moral horror (and with the help of experts in the field, the legal incompetence) of his relevant texts, thereby minimizing to the extent possible the chance of the implementation of the measures he deems permissible.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 17, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 16, 2014

Controversy over an Israeli scholar's "legal opinion" justifying cutting off water and electricity to Gaza

David Enoch, the leading legal philosopher in Israel, who teaches on both the law and philosophy faculties at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes:

Apparently, one of the measures considered by the Israeli government against the Hamas in Gaza is to cut off Israeli supply of water and electric power to Gaza (which pretty much consists of all of the supply of water and power to Gaza). Israeli government lawyers are apparently opposed to such measures.

Here ends the good news, though, because right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset have found the legal scholar who would write an opinion permitting such practices: Professor Avi Bell, from Bar Ilan University and the University of San Diego School of Law, has written such an opinion. (Though he refused to share it with me, I now have a copy, and I’ll be happy to share it with anyone who may be interested; I should say, though, that it’s in Hebrew). An item about this appeared in the daily Haaretz.

Israeli academics working in international humanitarian law are working, of course, on detailed documents refuting the legal technical claims made in Bell’s opinion. But I don’t think this is enough. I think that the legal academic community should do what it can to make it clear that there are consequences of such abuse of legal pseudo-scholarship and status in the service of gross immoralities – if nothing else, in terms of reputation.

UPDATE:  Prof. Bell replies.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 16, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink