Friday, January 24, 2020

Consumer Reports: Leaked White House plan to slow progress on fuel economy standards will hurt consumers' health and finances (Michael Simkovic)

From Consumer Reports:

"A Trump administration plan to lower automotive mileage targets for future model years that could be approved in a matter of weeks would result in hundreds of dollars in [annual] added costs for consumers, according to a new U.S. Senate analysis. . . .


The proposed regulation, called the Safe Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, will determine not only how much consumers pay for cars and fuel in the future but also how much carbon dioxide will be emitted by personal vehicles. Transportation (air travel as well as autos and trucks) is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., outstripping factories and all other sources.


The intent of creating future fuel-efficiency targets is to reduce greenhouse gases, but consumers also stand to gain if vehicles are more efficient because they will spend less money to fill up their gas tanks.


The Trump administration has argued that the previous targets for model years 2021-26, put in place under President Barack Obama, are too difficult for the auto industry to meet and would ultimately lead to higher vehicle prices, which in turn would reduce car sales and keep consumers in older, less safe cars.


Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy at Consumer Reports, says the evidence suggests that automakers have more than enough affordable technology to meet the Obama targets. Since 2017, when the current fuel-economy improvement program began, vehicles have become safer and more reliable, as well as more efficient, she says.


According to the CR analysis, Consumers, under the Trump administration plan, would spend an average of about $3,200 more per vehicle on fuel over the lifetime of their vehicles. Cumulatively, all American consumers would lose about $300 billion, according to the CR analysis. . . .


The administration plan to lower fuel-economy targets has been challenged by California and other states that want to fight climate change and reduce air pollution.


The auto industry has been split on the Trump administration’s approach. Companies such as General Motors and Toyota have backed the federal government in a lawsuit that would change the rules so that California and other states cannot have their own clean-air rules. Ford, Honda, and two other automakers haven’t joined that suit and instead negotiated a deal with California to produce more efficient vehicles." 


Jeff Plungis, Fuel Economy Rollback Plan Would Cost Consumers, Analysis Says, Consumer Reports, Jan. 23, 2020

January 24, 2020 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lateral hires with tenure or on tenure-track, 2019-20

These are non-clinical appointments that will take effect in 2020 (except where noted); I will move the list to the front at various intervals as new additions come in.   (Recent additions are in bold.)  Last year's list is here.  Feel free to e-mail me with news of additions to this list.


*Bryan Adamson (civil procedure, civil rights, media law) from Seattle University to Case Western Reserve University.


*Mario Biagioli (intellectual property, history of intellectual property, science and technology studies) from the University of California, Davis (Law and Science & Technology Studies) to the University of California, Los Angeles (joint in Law and Communications).


*Shawn Boyne (criminal law & procedure, comparative law) from Indiana University, Indianapolis to Iowa State University (to become Director of Academic Quality and Undergraduate Education [ISU does not have a law school])


*William Wilson Bratton (corporate law) from the University of Pennsylvania (where he will become emeritus) to the University of Miami.


*Kimberly Clausing (public finance, tax, international trade) from Reed College (Economics) to the University of California, Los Angeles.


*Raff Donelson (criminal procedure & law, jurisprudence) from Louisiana State University to Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law (untenured lateral).


*Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (criminal law & procedure, evidence) from the University of the District of Columbia to American University.


*Paul Gowder (constitutional law, political and legal theory) from the University of Iowa to Northwestern University.


*Thea Johnson (criminal law & procedure, evidence) from the University of Maine to Rutgers University (untenured lateral).


*Ali Rod Khadem (Islamic law, business law) from Deakin University to Suffolk University (untenured lateral).


*Brendan S. Maher (health law, ERISA) from the University of Connecticut to Texas A&M University.


*Goldburn P. Maynard, Jr. (tax law & policy) from the University of Louisville to Indiana University, Bloomington (Business School) (untenured lateral).


*Derek Muller (election law) from Pepperdine University to the University of Iowa.

Continue reading

January 23, 2020 in Faculty News | Permalink

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

An open letter regarding a controversial tenure decision at USC Law

The letter is here, and includes many prominent signatories (the letter is accepting more signatories as well).  The case concerns Shmuel Leshem, who was denied tenure in 2013; the controversy concerns the solicitation and use of confidential journal referee reports as part of the tenure process.  I would agree, for the reasons given in the letter, that that is not a proper use of such referee reports.  I do not know what role they played in the adverse tenure decision at USC, but the fact that they were even solicited and considered is surprising.

January 22, 2020 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A preview of what Hein citation rankings might look like (courtesy of Ted Sichelman)

Recently, Professors Paul Heald (Illinois) and Ted Sichelman (San Diego) released law school faculty rankings that combined SSRN downloads and HeinOnline citations (here). (I'm skeptical about the value of SSRN rankings, as I've noted many times in the past:  e.g., here and here).  In their study, Heald and Sichelman included Hein-only rankings, combining both historical (all-time) and recent (2016) citations. In order to get a better estimate of recent scholarly impact, plus to get an initial view of what the US News citation rankings will look like, Professor Sichelman has kindly provided me rankings just based on Hein citations over a 5-year period (2012-2016).

Total scores were calculated based on 2 x mean + median (like the Sisk et al. methodology). Although U.S. News has not decided on its ultimate approach, it appears likely it will use a similar metric. Additionally, like US News plans to do, Professor Sichelman has included pre-tenure faculty. 

Some differences between Heald & Sichelman's data (which Professor Sichelman used to construct the rankings below) and US News are the following:   (1) Heald & Sichelman used spring 2016 faculty whereas US News will use fall 2019 faculty; (2) about two-thirds of the schools responded to Heald & Sichelman's requests for faculty name variants, whereas presumably a much higher fraction responded to US News's requests (those schools not responding effectively reduce their citation counts); and (3) Hein will use a slightly different citation identification methodology for the US News rankings than Heald & Sichelman's. All of these differences will lead to some shifts in the US News rankings from what appears below.

Continue reading

January 21, 2020 in Rankings | Permalink

Thursday, January 16, 2020

David versus Goliath: Law professor sues New York Times Company over misleading and allegedly defamatory headline (Michael Simkovic)

Professor Lawrence Lessig recently sued The New York Times Company for defamation for incorrectly suggesting in a headline and lede that Lessig advocated soliciting donations from a convicted sex offender.

The New York Times wrote: "A Harvard Professor Doubles Down: If You Take Epstein’s Money, Do It in Secret . . . It is hard to defend soliciting donations from the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, has been trying."

What Lessig actually said was more nuanced and subtle and had more to do with not being too quick to scapegoat fundraisers when donors turned out to have done disreputable things.

Read Lessig's complaint here.  From the complaint:

"Defendants published their headline and lede despite their both being the exact opposite of what Lessig had written and despite being told expressly by Lessig pre-publication that they were contrary to what he had written.  When Lessig brought the matter to Defendants attention post-publication, they refused to remove or edit their headline or lede to reflect the truth. . . . Defendant's publication destroyed [Lessig's efforts to spearhead a national dialogue dedicated to developing best standards for accepting and retaining donations from individuals and corporations who engage in wrongdoing] and has harmed Lessig's reputation more generally.

Defendant's actions here are part of a growing journalistic culture of click-baiting. . . . Defendants are fully aware that many, if not most, readers never read past the clickbait...The use of this tactic represents a uniquely troubling media practice as it relates to the harm to and destruction of the reputation of the target of the clickbait."

Although the full New York Times article provides more detail about Lessig's position, the headline and lede were anything but subtle or nuanced, essentially taking a few of Lessig's comments out of context and mischaracterizing them for shock value and humor at the expense of Lessig's reputation.  As Lessig's complaint notes, the headline and lede are all many people read.

Continue reading

January 16, 2020 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Van Horn discusses the legacy of corporate funding for the "Chicago School" of law & economics (Michael Simkovic)

Pro-market, a blog at the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, recently published a retrospective by Robert Van Horn discussing the early financial and intellectual ties between the Chicago school of law and economics and powerful corporate interests, and the controversy such ties engendered.  The University of Chicago's work on anti-trust law is often credited with facilitating a waive of M&A, permissive review, and the rise of large corporations and reduced government efforts to regulate them.

It should  be noted that the fact that corporations funded scholarship which supported free-market policies that were in corporate interests does not by itself mean that the scholarship or policies were per se flawed or contrary to social welfare--the answer to that question ultimately turns on the substantive merits. Nor should a scholar changing his views in response to contradictory empirical evidence be attributed to nefarious motives.

It may, however, suggest that certain ideas and perspectives are more heavily funded than others. In a match that is intellectually close to even, or perhaps even where one sides views may more closely reflect reality, funding may tip the balance.

Robert Van Horn, Corporations and the Rise of the Chicago Law and Economics Movement, Pro-Market, January 15, 2020:


"From its birth in 1946 onward, corporations made possible and crucially supported the rise of the Chicago law and economics movement. Aaron Director, who at one point had advocated for curbing corporate power and vigorously enforcing antitrust law, spearheaded the effort to create a [more corporate friendly]“new liberalism.”. . .

[Chicago Professors] Wallis, Aaron Director, and Milton Friedman all gave lectures on the topic of “Conservative Economics” to businessmen. 

In the months that followed their lectures, businesses sent numerous laudatory letters. The Volker Fund, the Foundation for Economic Education, the Rockefeller Building, the Chamber of Commerce, Wealth Incorporated (NYC), and others requested copies of their lectures. Unsolicited copies were mailed to corporations, such as Standard Oil of Indiana, and periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal, which published an abridged version of Wallis’s lecture. Presently appreciative letters arrived in response to the mass mailing. General Motors, Sunkist, and Kellogg were among those that expressed gratitude, and some corporations requested to know more about “conservative economics.” 

From the time of its birth in 1946, there has been a dynamic, mutually beneficial relationship between the Chicago law and economics movement and corporations. The close relationship between Chicago law and economics and the corporate world began when Aaron Director returned to the University of Chicago to lead the Free Market Study (1946-1953)—or the “Hayek Project,” as Henry Simons and Wilber Katz (then Dean of Chicago Law School) called it—and work in the Chicago Law School.

From 1946 throughout the 1950s, corporations made possible and crucially supported the rise of Chicago law and economics through funding and advice, and corporations praised scholarly publications of Chicago law and economics that championed a free market economy. They especially extolled those that challenged the status quo antitrust positions of many government officials and economists that undermined corporate power. 

The Free Market Study examined the legal foundations of capitalism and sought to create a reconstituted [libertarian] liberalism to countervail [progressive economics], giving birth to Chicago “neoliberal” ideas in the early 1950s. Milton Friedman self-referentially used the term “neoliberalism” in 1951. Reflecting later on why the Chicago Law School agreed to the “Hayek Project,” Director asserted: “It was…decided that Chicago was the only place that was likely to accept such a project, and it was also decided that the law school was the only part of the University of Chicago that would accept such a project.”

Once the Free Market Study got underway in the fall of 1946, its members convened regularly to debate how to reconstitute liberalism and create a competitive order and thereby counter collectivism. In a New York Times interview, Director indicated that one criterion for assessing the success of the Free Market Study was its ability to exert political pressure to engender policy change. . ..

[Chicago] saw antitrust law as a centerpiece of the investigation of the legal foundations of capitalism. . . .

Continue reading

January 15, 2020 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Judge erases 200K+ in student loan debt for 2004 law school graduate

Monday, January 13, 2020

Blog highlights from 2019, 4th quarter: October, November, December

Friday, January 10, 2020

What is a realist theory of law?

This programmatic essay, which was written for translation into Portuguese and Spanish for legal philosophy journals in South America, may be of interest to some readers.

January 10, 2020 in Jurisprudence | Permalink

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Blog highlights from 2019, 3rd quarter: July, August, September

On look-see visits

A pleasingly candid account of one scholar's experience, by Tess Wilkinson-Ryan (Penn).   When I visited at Chicago in Autumn 2006, my kids were 10, 7 and 4, and they, and my wife (who was practicing law in Austin), stayed in Austin, and I commuted roughly every other week back to Austin.  (My father lived nearby in Austin, which sure helped in this situation!)   It was an ordeal, but the nice thing about the quarter system is it was a short-lived ordeal.

January 7, 2020 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Monday, January 6, 2020

Blog highlights from 2019, 2nd quarter: April, May, June

Friday, January 3, 2020

Blog highlights from 2019, first quarter: January, February, March