October 24, 2014

Walter White, Negotiator

Jennifer W. Reynolds, University of Oregon School of Law, is publishing Breaking BATNAs: Negotiation Lessons from Walter White in the New Mexico Law Review. Here is the abstract. 

Walter White could teach us many things: how to read the periodic table; how to destroy a tub with hydrofluoric acid; how to build a battery; how to make poison out of castor beans; how to build a bomb under a wheelchair; how to use the remote control of the car to operate a machine gun; and how to coordinate multiple assassinations of prison informants within thirty seconds of one another. But these are niche skills at best. Is there anything useful we can learn from Walter White?

As it turns out, Walter White can also teach us how to negotiate — or, to put it more precisely, watching Walter White negotiate in Breaking Bad helps us think more clearly about what we are doing when we negotiate. For the student of negotiation, Breaking Bad is an absolute treasure trove, producing an incredibly complex and varied array of bargaining parties and negotiated transactions, week after week. What’s so fascinating about these transactions is that they draw on familiar, foundational negotiation concepts in the service of less familiar, usually illicit ends. Put another way, when we watch Walter White negotiate, we watch a mega-criminal anti-hero implement the same “value-neutral” strategies that we teach lawyers and businesspeople. Learning to negotiate from Walter White, therefore, allows us to engage in an analytical exercise that explores the conventional wisdom around negotiation in a fresh, modern context, while implicating more critical conversations around value neutrality and other normative concerns in negotiation theory and practice.
Breaking Bad ran for five seasons. In this article, I have chosen five negotiations, one from each season, each featuring Walter White. For these five negotiations, I provide close readings that show how the negotiations demonstrate and/or disrupt foundational negotiation concepts or skills. I then suggest some possible takeaways for negotiators and analysts. The article concludes with a brief thought about ethical implications in negotiation theory and practice.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

October 23, 2014

The Condemned Woman In Sir Walter Scott's Writings

Erin L. Sheley, George Washington University School of Law, has published Doubled Jeopardy: The Condemned Woman as Historical Relic at 24 Law and Literature 211 (2014). Here is the abstract. 

This article explores how Sir Walter Scott's fictional condemned women serve as relics through which a history of evolving British legal authority becomes present and legible. It argues that Scott's treatment of gender aestheticizes a particular concept of and reaction to the condemned woman in the context of the common law tradition generally. Using the backdrop of eighteenth century penal practice, it also shows how Scott establishes the female condemned body as an object necessarily fixed in time in order to contemplate legal change through a historically controlled process. The first part of the article considers the late eighteenth century movement to abolish the punishment of burning at the stake for women convicted of treason, and the extent to which competing understandings of chivalry reified an entire history of penal practice into the body of the burned woman. The second part argues that the interrelations between archaic practice and evolved norm which characterize the precedent-based common law system are dramatized in the fixed, idealized bodies of Constance de Beverly and Rebecca of York through which Scott acknowledges the implicit need for legal change over time, while simultaneously legitimizing adherence to a chivalric tradition.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

George IV's "Great Matter"

Erin L. Sheley, George Washington University School of Law, is publishing Adultery, Criminality, and the Myth of English Sovereignty in volume 11 of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. Here is the abstract.

This article argues that in Britain over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the understanding of adultery as a tort was complicated by an accompanying discourse of what I will call “quasi-criminality.” Specifically — while formally trivialized — adultery remained linked to a threat to British kingship. The tension between the weight of relevant monarchical history and the absence of contemporary criminal enforcement created a new cultural narrative about adultery which attempted, itself, to serve a penal function. Examining the development of this discourse alongside the relevant law illuminates the complex social process through which public and private wrongs become distinguished — or conflated.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

October 22, 2014

Testamentary Manumission In New Jersey in the Early Republic

Stuart Gold, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has published The 'Gift' of Liberty: Testamentary Manumission in New Jersey - 1791-1805 in volume 15 of Rutgers Race and the Law Review (2014). Here is the abstract.

This paper explores the process of manumission by will in Early Republic New Jersey between 1791 and 1805. The paper reviews the legal mechanisms available for manumission in New Jersey during this period, and places New Jersey's manumission process in context with its sister states of New York and Pennsylvania. The primary focus of the paper is a detailed analysis of the various schemes of manumission employed by testators, as well as geographical and gender differences in detecting patterns for manumission.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Stories and Rules

Stephen Paskey, State University of New York, Buffalo, Law School, has published Law Is Made of Stories: Erasing the False Dichotomy between Stories and Legal Rules in volume 11 of Legal Communication & Rhetoric (2014). Here is the abstract.

When lawyers think of legal analysis, they think chiefly of logic and reason. Stories are secondary. As Michael Smith explains, our legal system “is not founded on narrative reasoning” but on “a commitment to the rule of law.” The article suggests that this dichotomy between “rule-based reasoning” and “narrative reasoning” is false, and that narrative and stories are central to legal reasoning, including rule-based reasoning. In doing so, the article uses literary narrative theory to show that every governing legal rule has the structure of a “stock story”: the elements of the rule correspond to elements of a story. It follows that lawyers do not rely on stories simply because they are persuasive. They do so because a story is literally embedded in the structure of governing rules, and those rules can be satisfied only by telling a story. Thus, many analytical moves we label “rule-based reasoning” can be understood as a type of narrative reasoning, in which a client’s story is compared to and contrasted with the stock story embedded in the rule.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

October 21, 2014

At Cardozo: An Important Discussion on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights, October 30, 2014

"On the Implications for Contemporary Law and Legal Scholarship on Vichy and Third Reich Judicial Discourse"

Thursday, October 30, 2014, 6 - 8pm
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue, Room 102
New York, NY 10003
Please RSVP to cardozophhr@gmail.com
On October 30th, the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights (HGHR) Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law presents a discussion "On the Implications for Contemporary Law and Legal Scholarship of Vichy and Third Reich Judicial Discourse." The event will begin at 6 pm at 55 Fifth Avenue, Room 102. There will be a reception in the lobby following the event.

The discussion will involve close readings of what passed for legal discourse in Vichy France and Nazi Germany, appraising its significance for today's legal scholarship, judges, and interpretive theory. Among specific developments to be discussed are a German court's recent description of circumcision in Jewish ritual as causing "severe physical injury," the relationship of law and morals generally, and the implications of Vichy's legal and academic discourse for the incipient renewal of anti-semitism in France.

The speakers are Prof. Otto Pfersmann, Prof. of Law, Paris-1, Pantheon, Sorbonne, and Prof. Richard Weisberg, Floersheimer Prof. of Constitutional Law and Founding Director, Cardozo Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program. 

Please RSVP to cardozophhr@gmail.com


The Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting, 2015

From AALS:


 
Humanities, History and Social Science Programs
at the AALS Annual Meeting,
January 2-5, 2015
Washington, D.C.

The AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. will include sessions on intersection of law with the humanities, history and social sciences. Renowned legal scholars will lead discussions on the latest scholarship in these areas.  

The 2015 AALS Annual Meeting will be held in Washington, D.C, from Friday, January 2 through Monday, January 5, 2015. Here is a sampling of programs being presented: 
  • Law and the Heroic
  • After the Monuments Men:  Nazi-Era Art, Modern Legal Problems
  • Legislating Belonging
  • Socio-Economics: Doing Good Research That Does Good
  • Extreme Empirical Methods
  • Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research Workshop
  • The Role of History in the Federal Courts Canon
  • How (Not to) Provide Statutory Accommodations for Religion
  • The Role Morality of the Legal Scholar
  • Transgender Equality: Prisons, Workplace, and Academic Institutions
  • The Future of Marriage
  • Working But Poor: Understanding and Confronting the Working Poor Phenomenon
  • Dead Upon Birth: The Inter-Generational Cycle of Thwarted Lives in America's Poorest Neighborhoods
The meeting will also feature screenings of films chosen for their cinematic and legal value. This year's selections are Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Hot Coffee (2011) and Anita (2013). Professor Anita Hill (Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management) will participate in a discussion of Anita and there will be commentary and discussion of all three films.

This year's Annual Meeting will feature a space for quiet contemplation.  The AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education plans on scheduling designated times for mindful movement. There will also be materials available on incorporating mindfulness into the classroom and other professional settings.

For more information on these new programs or to register for the Annual Meeting, please click here
 

 


October 16, 2014

Call For Papers: Law & Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop, June 8-9, 2015

CALL FOR PAPERS - Law & Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop

Columbia Law School, the University of Southern California Center for Law, History & Culture, UCLA School of Law, and Georgetown University Law School invite submissions for the eleventh meeting of the Law & Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop to be held at Columbia Law School Law in New York City on June 8 & 9, 2015.

PAPER COMPETITION:

The paper competition is open to untenured professors, advanced graduate students, and post-doctoral scholars in law and the humanities; in addition to drawing from numerous humanistic fields, we welcome critical, qualitative work in the social sciences. Based on anonymous evaluation by an interdisciplinary selection committee, between five and ten papers will be chosen for presentation at the June Workshop. At the Workshop, two senior scholars will comment on each paper. Commentators and other Workshop participants will be asked to focus specifically on the strengths and weaknesses of the selected scholarly projects, with respect to subject and methodology. The selected papers will then serve as the basis for a larger conversation among all the participants about the evolving standards by which we judge excellence and creativity in interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as about the nature of interdisciplinarity itself.

Papers should be works-in-progress between 10,000 and 15,000 words in length (including footnotes/endnotes), and must include an abstract of no more than 200 words. A dissertation chapter may be submitted, but we strongly suggest that it be edited so that it stands alone as a piece of work with its own integrity. A paper that has been submitted for publication is eligible so long as it will not be in galley proofs or in print at the time of the Workshop. The selected papers will appear in a special issue of the Legal Scholarship Network; there is no other publication commitment. The Workshop will pay the travel and hotel expenses of authors whose papers are selected for presentation.
Submissions (in Word, no pdf files) will be accepted until January 5, 2015, and should be sent by e-mail to: Center for the Study of Law and
Culture, culture@law.columbia.edu
.

Please be sure to include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), telephone and e-mail contact information.

For more information contact Cindy Gao, 212.854.0167
or culture@law.columbia.edu, and to see past winners go
to: http://www.law.columbia.edu/center_program/law_culture/lh_workshop.


Katherine Franke
Sarah Barringer Gordon

Ariela Gross
Naomi Mezey



Hilary Schor



Norman Spaulding
 
Clyde Spillenger
Nomi Stolzenberg


Conveners 

Melville Fuller and the Record of History

Ross E. Davies, George Mason University School of Law; The Green Bag, has published Fixing Fuller's Record: The Green Bag and the U.S. Reports, at 17 Green Bag 2d 451 (Summer 2014). Here is the abstract.

Melville Fuller, Chief Justice of the United States from 1888 to 1910, had a notably "self-effacing nature." Perhaps that is why he did not always push hard to correct errors about himself that appeared in published reports. In retrospect, this seems admirably modest in some contexts and disturbingly irresponsible in others. This article deals first with an example Fuller’s admirable modesty, which it overcomes for the benefit of modern readers. Second, this article examines an instance of Fuller’s converse irresponsibility, and suggests that the Supreme Court can and should officially correct Fuller’s error.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

October 15, 2014

David Greenglass, Prosecution Witness In Rosenberg Trial, Dies

The New York Times has published an obituary of David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg. Mr. Greenglass provided crucial testimony during the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg that ended in their convictions for conspiracy and espionage. They were executed in 1953. Fifty years later, Mr. Greenglass, who served nearly ten years in prison for his role in the conspiracy, admitted to reporter Sam Roberts that he lied on the witness stand.

Mr. Roberts published a book about Mr. Greenglass and the trial, The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair  (2001). Other books on the topic include Michael and Robert Meeropol, We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1975),

The Rosenbergs figure in E. L. Doctorow's novel The Book of Daniel (1971), a fictionalized version of the trial which is based on the Rosenberg trial (filmed as Daniel (1983)), which stars Timothy Hutton, and in Robert Coover's The Public Burning (1977). Ethel Rosenberg appears as a character in Tony Kushner's play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (1993) (revised 2014).

More about the trial here at Professor Douglas Linder's Famous Trial website.



October 13, 2014

Sing Out, Lucia!

Michela Giorcilli, Stanford University, Department of Economics, and Petra Moser, Stanford University Department of Economics, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), have published Copyright and Creativity: Evidence from Italian Opera. Here is the abstract.



This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws within Italy – as a result of Napoleon’s military campaign – to examine the effects of copyrights on creativity. To measure variation in the quantity and quality of creative output, we have collected detailed data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. These data indicate that the adoption of copyrights led to a significant increase in the number of new operas premiered per state and year. Moreover, we find that the number of high-quality operas also increased – measured both by their contemporary popularity and by the longevity of operas. By comparison, evidence for a significant effect of copyright extensions is substantially more limited. Data on composers’ places of birth indicate that the adoption of copyrights triggered a shift in patterns of composers’ migration, and helped attract a large number of new composers to states that offered copyrights.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

Shakespeare As a Political, Legal, and Religious Thinker

Robert J. Delahunty, University of St. Thomas School of Law, is publishing The Conscience of a King: Law, Religion, and War in Shakespeare's King Henry V in the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies (2014). Here is the abstract. 

Shakespeare must be considered seriously, not only as a dramatist, but as a major thinker on law, religion and government. His play King Henry V is a sustained and powerful meditation on the interrelationships of all three. In dramatizing Henry's invasion and conquest of France, Shakespeare raises the question of the ends of the polity and the nature of right rulership.

Understanding Shakespeare’s intentions depends on our view of the play's central, charismatic but elusive character, King Henry. Many audiences and critics have fallen under Henry’s spell, conceiving of him as a ‘mirror for Christian kings,’ exemplary for both piety and valor. And it seems that Shakespeare was aware of the depictions of an idealized Christian ruler found in an extensive body of literature, including the influential writings of Erasmus. Other viewers and critics, however, have seen Shakespeare's Henry as a Machiavellian Prince, who instrumentalizes religion, manipulates law, and practices cruelty and deception when the necessities of war and statecraft require them. Both visions of Henry are incomplete: Henry is too Christian to be a Machiavellian but too Machiavellian to be a model Christian king.
A third approach to understanding Shakespeare's Henry is to view him through the prism of Augustine's City of God. But although that approach yields some insights, it too is finally unpersuasive. Augustine simply does not treat of a monarch like Henry: a Christian, not a pagan, but not Christian as a ruler.
Shakespeare's Henry is enigmatic: neither an Erasmian model, nor a Machiavellian one, nor an Augustinian one, fits him well. Shakespeare seems to see more deeply into the nature of rulership than any of his three great predecessors. Like Erasmus but unlike Machiavelli, he fully realizes the horror and uselessness of war, and appreciates the damage that war inflicts even on a victorious State. Like Erasmus but unlike Augustine, he doubts that war is ordinarily just, and he believes that the ruler who sends soldiers into battle is responsible for the damnation of those who die in the sins they commit while fighting. But unlike Erasmus and like Machiavelli, Shakespeare seems to think that the decision for war does not depend solely on the personal qualities of the ruler, but is dictated by the existence of the State. The question Shakespeare does not resolve, however, is whether Machiavelli is right in thinking that after Christianity, a return to the pagan conception of princely virtue is necessary and possible.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Multilingualism and Statutory Interpretation

Lawrence M. Solan, Brooklyn Law School, has published Multilingualism and Morality in Statutory Interpretation, at Language & Law/Linguagem e Direito, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (2014). Here is the abstract. 

This article discusses some of the costs and benefits of multilingual legislation, focusing largely on Canada and the European Union. Courts interpreting these laws must take into account the different language versions, since each version is equally authoritative. Fidelity to the legislature’s will comes with very high stakes in this context, because multilingual legislative systems are most typically a means for recognizing the autonomy of minority groups, which, in exchange, cede some of that autonomy to a higher legal order. Thus, there is a special moral duty to ensure that the laws are construed faithfully at the same time that language barriers make it appear, at least on the surface, that it is more difficult to do so. Moreover, the risk of judges substituting their own values for those of the legislature when there is no single, definitive legal text, appears to become magnified in multilingual settings, creating the risk of decision making that would not stand up to moral scrutiny even in monolingual systems.

This article argues that despite the apparent difficulties inherent in multilingual legislation, it actually reduces uncertainty in meaning by creating additional data points for statutory interpreters to consider. Multilingualism does, however, lead to certain additional problems of ambiguity. These, for the most part, however, are generally resolved fairly easily. It is further argued that the European approach to interpretation, which I call Augustinian Interpretation, is likely to lead to results more faithful to the legislature’s intent than is the standard Canadian approach, called the Shared Meaning Rule. Arguments from the case law, from linguistics and from the philosophy of language are adduced to support these conclusions.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

October 8, 2014

Narrative In the Law School Curriculum

Susan Ayres, Texas A&;M University School of Law, has published Using Dramatic Narratives to Teach Domestic Violence. Here is the abstract.

The 2003 call of the ABA for teachers to incorporate domestic violence into the law school curricula remains gravely important today. Domestic violence intersects many areas — from family law, to torts, to criminal law. Along with sexual assault, it is one of the most difficult subjects to teach. Students, like the general public, find it hard to comprehend why a person batters, or why a victim stays with the batterer. While students may learn about domestic violence from case law and scholarly excerpts, the best lessons may be learned through narratives, which provide a window into the reasons for battering and the multi-faceted reasons a victim stays with a batterer. In this article, I describe a teaching approach that incorporates narratives by the award-winning, multi-racial writer, Ai (1947-2010). This valuable approach offers a picture of domestic violence that is more compelling than that of casebooks or statistics, and provides students — as future lawyers — with the ability to respond to clients experiencing domestic violence with greater empathy and understanding.
Download the text from SSRN at the link. 

Originalism Grounded

Harold Anthony Lloyd, Wake Forest University School of Law, has published Plane Meaning and Thought: Real-World Semantics and Fictions of Originalism. Here is the abstract.

This article explores how meaning and thought work in the real-world of human experience. In doing so, it explores five basic planes or levels of such meaning and thought: references, issues, rules, applications of rules, and conclusions. It also explores framing, metaphor, and narrative in constructing such planes or levels of meaning and thought as well as some basic resulting forms of thought. Additionally, it examines original meaning as a cautionary negative example of how real-world meaning and thought do not and cannot work. Given the flexibility of framing involved in the multiple levels of real-world meaning and thought, originalism cannot sustain its claims of greater objectivity when compared to other interpretive approaches.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

October 6, 2014

Engaging With the Work of James Boyd White

Announcement of a new publication from the imprint Maize Books, a division of University of Michigan Press:

Living in a Law Transformed: Encounters with the Works of James Boyd White
Edited by Julen Etxabe and Gary Watt.

From the Editors' Introduction:

In March 2013, the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (ASLCH) convened its annual conference in London. It was the first time that the conference had been held outside the United States, and, with a happy correspondence, it fell in an important anniversary year for a U.S. scholar who has profoundly influenced legal thought and practice far beyond his home horizons. 2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of the publication of James Boyd White’s The Legal Imagination, of which we will shortly say more. 2013 is also, incidentally, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the “publication” of the man himself. The present collection of essays draws together a group of scholars who have gathered in gratitude to the works, wisdom, and personal warmth of Professor James Boyd White. Contributors come from many countries—from The United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Basque Country, and New Zealand.

We are delighted that the first contribution to the collection is from Jeanne Gaakeer, who at the 2013 conference joined the roll of distinguished winners of the ASLCH’s annual James Boyd White Award. Many of the contributors to this volume had the pleasure of meeting at the London conference, and for some of us, including one of the editors of this collection, that was the first occasion of their meeting face-to-face with the man himself after several years of correspondence. For other contributors it was a welcome chance to meet again the tutor, colleague, and friend whom they know simply as Jim. Indeed, a very good thing about Jim White is that, thanks to his lack of pretension and the clarity of his communication, students and scholars can know him “simply.” Having said that, it is only through serious attention that we come to appreciate the deep challenges that lie beneath the simple things he has to say about living in the law. It is with that effort of attention, and not only to celebrate amity and anniversaries, that we present this publication of twelve essays.

The main title of our book, Living in a Law Transformed, is intended to remove the artificial barrier that we all too often erect between our life and our work. If we see work in purely metric terms of so-called human resources, as being those hours that we do not devote to love and leisure and all the rest of life, what damage do we do to true human resources? The answer is that we make a wasteland of the world of work, and thereby deaden a huge portion of our lives. Even more dangerous than that, we deaden the lives of the students, clients, and colleagues who meet us in the law. What a difference would it make for those of us who work as jurists, if we were to acknowledge that we (and our clients, colleagues, and students) are bound to live in law? What a difference might it make if we were to bring our life to work and bring our work to life? James Boyd White challenges us to ask such questions as these.

One of the threads that weaves its way through this collection is that an integration of life and law has transformed the contributors’ experience as scholars, students, and teachers, as well as our vision of law. This collection of essays therefore constitutes an invitation to encounter White’s work—and the contributors’ collective experience of their own encounters—as an experience of living in a law transformed. For just as Odysseus had to learn to recognize Ithaca at his return, White invites us to look at the law anew and to learn to recognize it as something like our own true home.

James Boyd White’s The Legal Imagination is widely regarded as the founding document of the modern “law and literature” movement. It is therefore appropriate that this collection should start and move from there. The movement takes us through narrative critique, with special attention to critical readings of law as literature. From there, the collection moves to consider the potential for meaningful experience that is to be found in the spaces and silences that exist within and around text and speech. The next group of chapters engages with extratextual sources; the authors travel with White toward an appreciation of paintings, places, movies, and even a simple stone in a stream. This leads us, finally, to the place of practice, not only in the classroom, the court, or the lawyer’s office, but wherever we live and work. Thus the journey of the book leads to hope of real transformation.

More here. 

The text is free online.

Saul Goodman's Ads



A commercial for Saul Goodman's law firm. The spinoff from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, premieres next February.

More serious fun from the creators of the show here.

The Constitutional Era in the Western Hemisphere

Matthew C. Mirow, Florida International University College of Law, has published The Age of Constitutions in the Americas at 32 Law & History Review 229 (2014). Here is the abstract. 

This essay discusses essential elements of the Age of Constitutions in the Americas. These elements are the United States Constitution and state constitutions, English constitutional practices, the French Revolution and the republic constitutions, the Cortes of Cadiz and the Spanish Constitution of 1812, and Haitian independence and the constitutions of the early republic.
Note: This is an Author’s Original version of a full article that appears in Law and History Review published by Cambridge University Press.

Download the text from SSRN at the link. 

October 2, 2014

A New Book From Marianne Constable

Marianne Constable, University of California, Berkeley, has published Our Word Is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (Stanford University Press, 2014). Here's a description of the contents from the publisher's website.

Words can be misspoken, misheard, misunderstood, or misappropriated; they can be inappropriate, inaccurate, dangerous, or wrong. When speech goes wrong, law often steps in as itself a speech act or series of speech acts. Our Word Is Our Bond offers a nuanced approach to language and its interaction and relations with modern law. Marianne Constable argues that, as language, modern law makes claims and hears claims of justice and injustice, which can admittedly go wrong. Constable proposes an alternative to understanding law as a system of rules, or as fundamentally a policy-making and problem-solving tool. Constable introduces and develops insights from Austin, Cavell, Reinach, Nietzsche, Derrida and Heidegger to show how claims of law are performative and passionate utterances or social acts that appeal implicitly to justice.
Our Word Is Our Bond explains that neither law nor justice are what lawyers and judges say, nor what officials and scholars claim they are. However inadequate our law and language may be to the world, Constable argues that we know our world and name our ways of living and being in it through law and language. Justice today, however impossible to define and difficult to determine, depends on relations we have with one another through language and on the ways in which legal speech—the claims and responses that we make to one another in the name of the law—acts.








September 29, 2014

Proceedings of a Conference on Law and Popular Culture Available

If you missed it: proceedings from a conference on Law and Popular Culture held at Tilburg University are available from Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Here's a description of the contents from the publisher's website.

Commentators have noted the extraordinary impact of popular culture on legal practice, courtroom proceedings, police departments, and government as a whole, and it is no exaggeration to say that most people derive their basic understanding of law from cultural products. Movies, television programs, fiction, children’s literature, online games, and the mass media typically influence attitudes and impressions regarding law and legal institutions more than law and legal institutions themselves. Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives enhances the appreciation of the interaction between popular culture and law by underscoring this interaction’s multinational and international features. Two dozen authors from nine countries invite readers to consider the role of law-related popular culture in a broad range of nations, socio-political contexts, and educational environments. Even more importantly, selected contributors explore the global transmission and reception of law-related cultural products and, in particular, the influence of assorted works and media across national borders and cultural boundaries. The circulation and consumption of law-related popular culture are increasing as channels of mass media become more complex and as globalization runs its uncertain course. Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives adds to the critical understanding of the worldwide interaction of popular culture and law and encourages reflection on the wider implications of this mutual influence across both time and geography.

More here from the website. The book is a little pricey (about 55 pounds) but the contributors are leaders in the field and include folks such as David Papke of Marquette University, Michael Asimow of UCLA, Jeanne Gaakeer of Eramus University, Jennifer Schulz of the University of Manitoba, Peter Robson of the University of Strathclyde, Richard H. Weisberg of Cardozo Law School, and John Denvir of the University of San Francisco. 

Re-Examining Blackstone's "Commentaries"

Jessie Allen, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, has published Law and Artifice in Blackstone's Commentaries in volume 4, issue 3, Chapter One, of Journal of Law: A Periodical Laboratory of Legal Scholarship (Summer 2014). Here is the abstract.

William Blackstone is often identified as a natural law thinker for whom property rights were preeminent, but reading the Commentaries complicates that description. I propose that Blackstone’s concept of law is more concerned with human invention and artifice than with human nature. At the start of his treatise, Blackstone identifies security, liberty and property as “absolute” rights that form the foundation of English law. But while security and liberty are “inherent by nature in every individual” and “strictly natural,” Blackstone is only willing to say that “private property is probably founded in nature.” Moreover, Blackstone is clear that there is nothing natural about the right of inheritance, “a wise and effectual, but clearly a political, establishment.” Indeed, he critiques the assumption that a legal right as central and longstanding as inheritance must be somehow “natural,” observing that “we often mistake for nature what we find established by long and inveterate custom.” At the same time, Blackstone celebrates the many features of common law that have simply been made up. Blackstone’s unflinching formal, fictional, “as if” approach invests property law with a certain materiality. The only way to actualize a make-believe vision is to act it out, to embody it in formal doctrines and practices. In comparison, the modern realist approach to law as an instrument for policy is quite abstract. This leaves realist critics of Blackstonian formalism in the ironic position of arguing for a more transparent approach to law that winds up obscuring the constructive and constructed quality of the legal system that comes through loud and clear in the Commentaries. By openly celebrating legal fictions, Blackstone reveals the truth that law is a great fabrication, not some necessary reflection of the way things are, or should be.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Graduate Student Workshop at ASLCH, March 5, 2015

From James R. Martel, San Francisco State University, on behalf of ASLCH:


All graduate students who are considering coming to the ASLCH conference, March 6-7th 2014, at Georgetown School of Law are invited to apply for the graduate student workshop that will occur one day earlier on March 5th (see http://law2.syr.edu/academics/centers/lch/graduate_student_workshop.html for application details)
 The workshop will consist of panels on the logistics of graduate student life, working on your dissertation, finding academic jobs and getting published as well as sessions where grad students will meet in small groups with mentors to talk about their own work and any challenges that they are facing.
 Applicants whose proposals are accepted may be funded for the extra night's accommodation by ASLCH and, if funds permit, it may also be able to contribute to airfare costs to and from Washington.
 For inquiries and to apply please write to George Pavlich at <gpavlich@ualberta.ca>
  

September 25, 2014

Brazilian Law and Literature

Greta Olson, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, has published Towards a Comparative and Localized Study of Brazilian Law and Literature in Direito e Literatura na Virada do Milênio/Law and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium 15-38 (Sonja Arnold and Michael Korfmann eds., Porto Alegre: Editora Dublinense, 2014).  Here is the abstract.


I am grateful to the editors of this volume for allowing me to contribute in the atypical form of a comment on the subject of the volume rather than with a scholarly essay. Composing an essay that might have made manifest in print what the title of my talk at the conference Literatura e Direito na virada do milênio/Law and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium had promised turned out to be an impossibility. In entitling my talk “Law and Literature in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany (and Brazil): Comparing Legal Systems, Literatures, and Cultural Preoccupations,” I discovered that I had promised too much. As an expatriate US American living in Germany and teaching British and American studies, I could not match the knowing I have of German, British, and American legal systems, literatures,and social issues with enough information about Brazil in a short time and without facility in Brazilian Portuguese. Thus the following has the character of a programmatic sketch rather than an analytic description.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link. 

September 22, 2014

The Representation of Canadian Law In Art and Architecture

David DesBaillets, University of Quebec, Montreal (UQAM), Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, has published Representations of Canadian Justice: The Iconography and Symbolism of the Supreme Court of Canada. Here is the abstract.

The goal of this paper would be to bridge the world of artistic and architectural representations of the law, primarily in the form of the constitutional court house, and the legal cultures and values that inspire their design. I will proceed by undertaking a comprehensive research of the Supreme Court of Canada, including its history, esthetics, architectural and design innovations, personal input of the architects, social and historical contexts, as well as some of the legal and constitutional concepts that they embody. The assumption of my hypothesis being constitutional court houses, with their often impressive artistic details and inscribed legal maxims, seem to possess a quasi-spiritual significance, being an extension of what has become in many societies, especially developed liberal democracies with strong rule-of-law traditions, the secular approximation of a religious institution and, thus, transform the courts into a kind of temple of law. However, the challenge of creating a courthouse, especially the Supreme Court, that reflects the legal traditions and social norms (the former often being in conflict with the latter) as well as the ever evolving aspirations of a dynamic and highly diverse, pluralistic society such as Canada’s is ,in many respects, an impossible one, and it remains an open question whether the image that the court conveys to the visitor, be they layperson or legal official, is ,as Gournay & Vanlaethem state in their essay found in The Supreme Court of Canada and Its Justices 1875-2000: A Commemorative Book , the most “eloquent three dimensional representation of the role the Supreme Court has assumed in the life of the nation.”
The full text is not available from SSRN. 

Law and Ritual in China

Mary Szto, Hamline University School of Law, has published Chinese Ritual and the Practice of Law in volume 30 of the Touro Law Review (2014). Here is the abstract.

While there is much literature about the contemporary practice of law in China, almost no articles discuss the rituals involved. This article describes five common Chinese rituals in the contemporary practice of law: drinking tea, banqueting, drinking alcohol, napping, and karaoke. These rituals are traced to their ancient origins in ancestor worship, traditional Chinese medicine, and Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist thought. Then they are explicated for their contemporary meaning. Properly observed, these rituals promote just governance, harmony, balance, and physical and spiritual wholeness. They should be celebrated and practiced without excess.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Lawyers, Love, and Money

Eli Wald, University of Denver College of Law, and Russell G. Pearce, Fordham University School of Law, have published What's Love Got to Do with Lawyers? Thoughts on Relationality, Love, and Lawyers’ Work in volume 17 of Legal Ethics (2014). Here is the abstract. 

In a new and provocative book, Rob Vischer has challenged the neutral partisan conception of the lawyer and the legal profession’s reductive presumption that all clients wish to pursue atomistic self-interest irrespective of the consequences to others. Vischer’s use of the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Christian theology as a foundation for an alternative, and richly relational, account of law practice is both inspiring and effective.
To debunk the presumption that clients seek narrow self-interest, which the book argues is a powerful component of the neutral partisan conception, Vischer compellingly asserts that clients are relational beings often interested in pursuing objectives that take into account the impact of their conduct on other parties and the community. The book’s main contribution is its development of a practical relational account of law practice pursuant to which lawyers can both represent clients loyally and follow a relational ethic. Based on Dr. King’s teachings regarding human dignity, agape, personalism, justice and Christian realism, Vischer puts forward a vision of law practice that calls upon lawyers to treat clients and themselves as subjects in a partnership and to offer counseling to clients that does not shy away from engaging the hard moral dimensions of the clients’ conduct.
The book’s relational framework could gain even greater traction if it offered reasons for practicing relationally not embedded in Christian theology. For example, Vischer’s anthroreligious belief that we are all created as relational human beings leads him to indicate that if institutional, competitive and ideological barriers to relational practice were removed, lawyers and clients would inevitably act more relationally. The cultural dominance of atomistic individualism, however, suggests that even with barriers removed, lawyers and clients will need some additional persuasion before adopting relational perspectives. Similarly, the book’s grounding of relationality in agapic love neglects the potential application of more open-textured concepts, such as mutual benefit, that might conceivably appeal more broadly to lawyers who do not share Vischer’s theological convictions.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

September 18, 2014

Defining Truth

Giorgio Resta, Università degli Studi di Bari, Law Faculty, and Vincenzo Zeno-Zencovich, Roma Tre University, Department of Law, have published Judicial 'Truth' and Historical 'Truth': The Case of the Ardeatine Caves Massacre at 31 Law & History Review 843 (2013).


This paper looks at the relationship between “judicial truth” and “historical truth” from a legal realist perspective. It starts from analysis of a specific case, which is used to highlight the problems arising from the “judicialization” of contemporary history. The case is taken from the Italian post-war experience and consists of a complicated set of controversies which all ensued from the same chain of events: the partisan attack on via Rasella and the Nazi massacre of the Ardeatine Caves (Rome, March 23, 1944). The judgments rendered in these cases are particularly interesting, not only because they extend over a long period of time and span the entire legal system (involving criminal and civil trials), but also because they delineate various judicial “truths” which interact with the interpretation of the same events given by historians. The paper shows how these judicial “truths” were created, how much they varied, and what is their relationship with the projects of identity-building politics. Finally, starting from the analysis of defamation cases against historians, the authors argue that courts should exercise self-restraint in reviewing the results of historical researches and should not be considered as a forum of last resort for the resolution of academic controversies.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

September 16, 2014

The Act of Killing

Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, has published Law in the Flesh: Tracing Legitimation's Origin to 'The Act of Killing', in No Foundations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice (June 2014). Here is the abstract.

The founding moment of political and legal investiture haunts the baroque and neo-baroque mind, from Shakespeare’s 'Hamlet' to Joshua Oppenheimer’s highly unsettling film, 'The Act of Killing' (2012). In the former, Hamlet finds the resources to act in the face of injustice; in so doing he precipitates a transformative political event that renews the rightful basis for state legitimacy. In 'The Act of Killing', by contrast, restless stasis remains unaltered from beginning to end. It is a state of affairs well suited to contemporary neo-baroque conditions – a time of distracted paralysis, when the availability of the cultural and psychological resources needed to go beyond terror and its purgatorial aftermath remains uncertain.
The exploration of post-secular possibilities requires new experiential sources, new interpretive and critical methods, and new interdisciplinary alliances. Phenomenology, psycho-theology, political theology, and visual jurisprudence are just some of the emerging categories (or perhaps re-emergent fields) that present themselves to us for further consideration.

Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Columbia and the Charles Beard Thesis

Ajay K. Mehrotra, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, has published Charles A. Beard & The Columbia School of Political Economy: Revisiting the Intellectual Roots of the Beardian Thesis at 29 Constitutional Commentary 475 (2014). Here is the abstract.


A century after it was first published, Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution remains a significant and controversial part of constitutional scholarship and history. Just as Beard sought to historicize the Founders as they drafted and adopted the Constitution, this article attempts to historicize Beard as he researched and wrote his classic text on the Constitution. Because Beard was both a graduate student and professor at Columbia University before and while he researched and wrote his book, this article explores the particular influence that Columbia University’s institutional and intellectual climate may have had on Beard and the writing of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.

This article contends that Charles Beard was the product of a unique Columbia tradition of inductive, proto-institutionalist research in political economy – a tradition that at its core sought to meld serious political and historical scholarship with progressive social activism. Yet, in many ways, Columbia’s influence on Beard was more reinforcing than it was revolutionary. Columbia, in other words, facilitated an evolution rather than a dramatic transformation in Beard’s thinking. His time at Columbia provided him with new scholarly perspectives and research methods, but ultimately these new views heightened his innate tension between scholarly objectivity and political advocacy, between his belief in social scientific research and his desires for social democratic reform. In short, Beard’s time at Columbia, as both a student and junior scholar, refined his personal predilections and his early upbringing and education, rather than radically converting him into a new thinker and writer.

This article was part of a special symposium on the 100th Anniversary of Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and law school.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Judge Humorous, Are You Pulling My Leg?

Mary B. Trevor, Hamline University School of Law, has published From Ostriches To Sci-Fi: A Social Science Analysis of the Impact of Humor in Judicial Opinions at 45 University of Toledo Law Review 291 (2014). Here is the abstract from SSRN.


In the legal profession, understanding — or at least, formal analysis — of humor and its impact is in its infancy. Lawyers and judges are not trained to use or understand humor, although all would acknowledge that humor, cringe worthy or otherwise, is by no means unknown in the practice of law. But for most intents and purposes, we pretend that humor is not part of legal culture. When humor is addressed in the law school or professional advocacy context, for example, it typically gets short shrift: don’t try to be funny. Resources on judicial opinion writing, in particular, generally advise that humor is inappropriate, and commentators on judicial humor have offered similar, mostly negative, assessments.
Despite this advice, humor, while not widespread, is an ever-present aspect of the body of judicial opinions, an aspect that periodically attracts attention. One of the best-known recent examples is Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co., an opinion by Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit. Multiple counsel in the case had, in Judge Posner’s view, ignored “apparently dispositive precedent” when presenting arguments. Unsatisfied with a mere holding, however, Judge Posner not only verbally compared the tactic to an ostrich burying its head in the sand, but also inserted two photographs into the opinion: one of an ostrich burying its head in the sand, and immediately following, one of a man dressed in traditional “attorney” attire burying his head in the sand. Legal newsletters and blogs picked up on Judge Posner’s opinion, but they were not the only sources to do so. The general press (the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune) did as well. And such treatment was for an opinion addressing an issue that was not a matter of public interest-forum non conveniens.
Judge Posner does not stand alone in his use of humor. There are even some indications that judicial use of humor in opinions is increasing. And in our era of rapid and widespread electronic communication, public awareness of this humor also appears to be increasing. In light of the evidence of continued use of humor in the face of advice and commentary largely counseling against its use, a reassessment of judicial humor seems warranted.
An additional reason for reassessment at this time comes to us from recent developments in the field of social science, which offers sophisticated tools for the job. In the last few decades, social scientists have greatly expanded the study of humor’s role in our society. Their theories offer new tools to assess judicial humor, to bring together the perspectives of earlier commentators on judicial humor, and to offer more comprehensive guidelines for judicial humor than have previously been offered.
The intent of this article is not to suggest that humor is always, or even often, appropriate in judicial opinions. But social science tells us that, despite the bad name humor has justly acquired based on its use in certain opinions, it may be possible for humor to be used appropriately, and even helpfully, in certain instances.
Download the text from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2014

A Reading of Kafka's "The Trial"

Robert P. Burns, Northwestern University School of Law, has published Preface for: Kafka's Law: 'The Trial' and American Criminal Justice (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Here is the abstract.
Justice Kennedy famously claimed that Kafka's great work, "The Trial," expressed the reality of the American criminal justice system, at least from the defendant's point of view. This essay, the first sections a book just released by the University of Chicago Press, first summarizes the book's argument that the Justice got it just right, and then provides a close reading of "The Trial." This reading agrees with Hannah Arendt's view that the novel is centrally about institutional issues of justice and that it provides an "organizational gothic" vision of contemporary bureaucratic governance in criminal procedure.
Download the text from SSRN at the link. 

September 9, 2014

Fellowships Available at Princeton University

Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) invites outstanding faculty members, independent scholars, lawyers, and judges to apply for appointments as resident Fellows for the academic year 2015-2016. We anticipate naming up to six fellows who are engaged in substantial research on topics broadly related to law and public affairs or law and normative inquiry, including one early career scholar working at the intersection of law and humanistic inquiry. Successful candidates will devote an academic year in residence at Princeton to research, discussion, and scholarly collaboration. Applicants must have a doctorate, J.D. or an equivalent professional postgraduate degree.

Further information and the electronic application can be found at http://lapa.princeton.edu/content/lapa-fellowships


APPLICATION DEADLINE IS 5:00 PM (EST) MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2014.

Some New Publications of Interest

William S. Hein & Co. has published Mark Twain vs. Lawyers, Lawmakers and Lawbreakers: Humorous Observations, edited by attorney and author Ken Bresler. The book includes numerous quotations, fully verified, from Twain's writings. Because Twain is one of my favorite writers, I'm looking forward to checking out this new publication. (Full disclosure: Hein is also one of my publishers).

Mr. Bresler is also the author of an article, A Lawyer Looks at Catch-22: The Best Catch There Is Is Not Much of a Catch. While the phrase "Catch-22" has entered the vocabulary, there's not much in the legal literature about the intersection between Heller's novel and the law, so Mr. Bresler's piece is a welcome addition to the scholarship. Here's a link to the work.

September 4, 2014

A Female Prosecutor at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal

Shana Tabak, American University Washington College of Law, has published Grace Kanode Llewellyn: Local Portia at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in The George Washington University Law School International and Comparative Law Perspectives at p. 7 (2013). 

Believed to be the first woman ever to figure in the proceedings of an international military tribunal, Grace Kanode Llewellyn served as a Assistant Prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo (IMFTE) in 1945-46. This short historical piece explores what is known of Kanode's professional life and her contributions to the then-nascent field of international criminal law.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link. 

Looking at the Law of Slavery and the Nat Turner Rebellion, 1829-1832

Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Berkeley, Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, has published Revulsions of Capital: The Political Law of Slavery in the Epoch of the Turner Rebellion, Virginia 1829-1832, as UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2477048. Here is the abstract.


This paper continues the pattern of work I have been pursuing on the Turner Rebellion, a slave rebellion that took place in Virginia in August 1831. During the past two years I have been engaged in preliminary explorations of different aspects of the rebellion that have resulted in a series of working papers, written to teach myself what I don’t know, and what I should. This paper was written for the same purpose; it differs from prior papers in stepping back from the rebellion itself in order to situate it in Virginia’s constitutional history, and in regard to the debate over gradual emancipation that broke out in its aftermath. Essentially, Virginia in the epoch of the Turner Rebellion is a state divided largely on east-west lines. Slavery dominates east of the Blue Ridge in the long-settled Tidewater and Piedmont; the west (particularly the Trans-Allegheny region that would eventually become the state of West Virginia) is much more recently settled and largely slave-free. This division, together with less marked local slaveholder/non-slaveholder and freeholder/non-freeholder distinctions in the east of the state, largely determines the substance and structure of Virginia’s politics. I consider two “phases” of Virginia’s politics: (1) the Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830, in which Eastern and Western delegates fought over the replacement of county-based apportionment and suffrage that privileged freehold in land by white basis apportionment and white manhood suffrage, and (2) the emancipation debate that took place in 1831-32 during the first session of the state legislature to meet following the Turner Rebellion. I also consider the analysis of the emancipation debate written in 1832 by the William & Mary professor of “political law” Thomas Roderick Dew, Review of the Debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1831 and 1832. I argue that out of the deep divisions exposed by the constitutional and legislative debates there emerged a new political and economic equilibrium, confirmed in Dew’s analysis, and centered not, as before, upon propertied hierarchy but upon property’s commodification, notably commodified labor. In the case of self-possessed white labor, commodification meant increased circulation. The same was true of enslaved labor, with the important qualification that slaves had no control over how far they were circulated. Slavery became transactional – the price of subsistence. Their commodification meant slaves were no longer harnessed to custom (in the shape of common law property claims), or to positive municipal law, or to paternal stewardship, but instead represented a capital investment on which the master-creditor might realize returns either through work, or, just as rationally, sale into the interstate slave trade. The paper concludes with a short analysis of Virginia’s contribution to that trade before and after the Turner Rebellion.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

September 3, 2014

Translations of the United States Constitution

Christina Mulligan, Brooklyn Law School, Michael Douma, James Madison University, Hans Lind, Yale University, and Brian Patrick Quinn, Independent Scholar, have published Founding-Era Translations of the United States Constitution. 

Before its ratification, the United States Constitution was translated into German and Dutch for the German- and Dutch-speaking populations of Pennsylvania and New York. Although copies of both the German- and Dutch-language translations have been preserved, they have largely escaped analysis — and public awareness — until now. This paper provides historical context for these translations and analyzes how they might aid our interpretation of the U.S. Constitution in the present day.
Supplemental to this article is an appendix containing the German and Dutch translations, as well as extensive commentary on the translations, available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2486282.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

September 2, 2014

Special Law and Humanities/Film Events At AALS, January 2015

I'd like to alert those of you planning to attend the AALS Annual Meeting in January 2015 to three interesting events taking place during that time. The AALS Film Committee is sponsoring two law and film nights during the meeting. The first, on January 2, at 7:30 p.m. (the first night of the conference), will be a screening of the classic Judgment at Nuremberg, directed by Stanley Kramer, written by Abby Mann, and starring a whole host of great actors, including Spencer Tracy as the thoughtful Chief Judge Dan Haywood, Marlene Dietrich as widowed Mrs. Bertholt, lost in denial, a young William Shatner (in his pre Captain Kirk days), Richard Widmark as the passionate prosecutor Colonel Lawson, Burt Lancaster as Dr. Ernst Janning and Werner Klemperer, two of the German judges accused of war crimes, Judy Garland as Irene Hoffman, a witness nearly overcome by the story she has to tell, and Maximilian Schell as Hans Rolfe, the defense attorney for the judges, who challenges both the prosecutors and the system of justice at every turn. Rolfe poses the ultimate question: in such a high profile trial, in which the stakes include the future of a nation, can these defendants ever get justice? The film dramatizes some of the famous "Nuremberg Trials" held after World War II, in particular those in which judges rather than political and military figures were defendants.

To introduce our film, we are honored to have Professor Harold Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School. Professor Koh served as Legal Adviser for the Department of State from 2009 to 2013, service for which he received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award. Professor Koh is an expert in the area of national security, international human rights, and foreign relations, areas in which he has written extensively. I will be moderating a discussion afterward of the film for those interested.

On Sunday, January 4th, at 8 p.m. the Committee will sponsor a showing of the 2011 film Hot Coffee, directed by Susan Saladoff. The film recounts the famous lawsuit Stella Liebeck brought against McDonald's when she accidentally spilled some of its excessively hot beverage on herself. Hot Coffee is not just a movie about the torts regime. It's also a film about public relations and the rhetoric that lawyers use in telling stories. Dennis Greene, Professor of Law, University of Dayton School of Law, will moderate the discussion about this provocative and interesting film.

Finally, on Monday, January 5th at 2 p.m. AALS will present a very special event, a Cross-Cutting program, due in great part to the efforts of members of the Law and Film Committee. Professor Michael Olivas, former President of AALS, and current Chair of the Committee, will moderate a panel on the topic Anita F. Hill,  Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, and a Screening of the Film Anita. Speakers include Professors Taunya Lovell Banks of the University of Maryland School of Law, Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School, and special guest Anita Hill, Senior Advisor to the Provost and Professor Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies, Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management. This program also includes a special screening of the film Anita: Speaking Truth To Power (2014).

Professor Hill will also be a special guest at the Section on Minority Groups Luncheon, January 5, 2015, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

I will be posting more information about these events as it becomes available.


August 28, 2014

Call For Papers: Special Issue of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law

From Anne Wagner at the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law:

CALL FOR PAPERS - SPECIAL ISSUE ON ISLAMIC LAW INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE SEMIOTICS OF LAW
Expert in Legal Semiotics and Communication, Associate Professor
You are invited to contribute a paper to a special issue of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (IJSL) in English, Guest edited by Rafat Y. Alwazna. The special issue will be devoted to deal with issues related to Islamic Law. The themes of the issue include, but are not limited to the following:

• The translatability of Islamic Law
• The linguistic aspects of Islamic texts
• Terms and concepts peculiar to Islamic Law
• Differences in the interpretation of meanings and concepts among the four Sunni Schools of Law
• Legal reasoning within the realm of Islamic Law
• Islamic culture and its influence on Islamic legal rulings

Paper abstracts should be up to 200 words, and full papers should not exceed 15,000 words. All paper abstracts should be sent to alwazna@gmail.com

Important Dates:

Deadline for paper abstract submission is 1-10-2014.
Notification of abstract acceptance is 1-11-2014.
Deadline for full paper submission is 1-5-2015.
The special issue is expected to be published in 2015-2016.

For more information about the IJSL, please visit:
http://www.springer.com/law/journal/11196

Queer Objects: A Symposium With Robyn Wiegman and Annamarie Jagose

From the Australian National University, announcement of a forthcoming Symposium:
‘The rejection of essentialism,’ David Halperin writes in How to be Gay (2012), ‘did not prevent the original founders of queer theory from asking “What do Queers want?”’. In her Object Lessons (2012), Robyn Wiegman explores the political and institutional effects of scholarly attachments to objects of knowledge. Queer theory is, for Wiegman, one of several ‘identity knowledges’ that share a commitment to social justice and that can teach us lessons about what and how we want.
More than two decades after queer theory’s emergence, presenters at this symposium are invited to engage with queer as an objectand with the object lessons of queer theory.
• Camp objects and aesthetics
• Screens and closets
• Queer knowledge: secrets and revelations
• Queer archives and ephemera
• Queer bodies and voices
• Antinormativity
• Queer as death drive / form of life.
For further information and to register your attendance please contact symposium convenor Monique Rooney:

August 26, 2014

ABA Journal Cartoon Caption Contest Open

The ABA Journal is running its September cartoon captioning contest. Submit your caption by September 14, 2014 and receive the title of Champion (for a month at least). See last month's winner here.

The Supreme Court Justice League of America

Per Steve Klepper of Balti­more's Kramon & Graham for the National Law Journal. (Requires subscription to view the entire SC effect). See more of Mr. Klepper's Supreme Court judicial action heroes here at the Maryland Appellate Blog.

August 25, 2014

Register Now For John Jay MOOC On Literature and Law of American Slavery

Registration is now open for John Jay College of Criminal Justice's MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the Literature and Law of American Slavery. It is the first ever such course offered. It begins September 30, 2014 and lasts for eight weeks. Distinguished Professor of English John Matteson, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, designed the curriculum and will lead the course instruction. More here at John Jay's webpage. 

August 18, 2014

Early Modern Ideas of Legal Pluralism

Richard J. Ross, University of Illinois College of Law & University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Department of History, and Philip J. Stern, Duke University Department of History, have published Reconstructing Early Modern Notions of Legal Pluralism in Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 109-141 (Lauren Benton and Richard J. Ross, eds.; New York: New York University Press, 2013).


Legal pluralism occurs when two or more legal orders exert control within a given territory or over a particular social group and yet are not part of a single hierarchical “system” under a coordinating authority. Most historical scholarship on legal pluralism concentrates on its shifting structures in local contexts and on its political and economic implications. By contrast, our essay probes historical actors’ uses of political and religious thought to justify or undermine plural legal regimes in the late sixteenth through early eighteenth centuries. Historians of early modern political thought preoccupied with the rise of the modern state have lavished attention on ‘centralizing’ discourses, particularly theorists such as Bodin, Hobbes, and Pufendorf represented as champions of sovereignty. Against this tendency, we emphasize how ideological support for plural legal orders could be found in a wide range of intellectual projects. These ranged from debates over the right of resistance and the divine right of rulers, through historical work on the ancient Jewish commonwealth and theological disputes over which precepts “bound conscience,” and finally to writings on political economy and the place of family.

Social scientific and jurisprudential work on legal pluralism has focused a set of canonical problems. Should we focus on jurisdictional or normative accounts of pluralism? How can we distinguish the “legal” from the “non-legal,” a dispute that centers on whether to include in pluralist models the norms of families and civil society organizations? How can we model the complex dialectic relation of state and nonstate systems of order? To the extent that this work relies on a historical account spanning the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, it assumes that a once rich medieval legal pluralism withered as European statebuilding consolidated crown control of law with the ideological support of theories of sovereignty. The intellectual foundation for — if not the practice of — legal centralism arose in this period. The frequent invocation of Bodin, Suarez, Grotius, Hobbes, and Pufendorf as the founding theorists of sovereignty and legal centralism creates the impression that pluralistic thinking was impoverished or on the wane. The central ambition of our article is to provide an alternative historical genealogy for legal scholars of pluralism. Workaday legal pluralism did not struggle against a predominantly hostile intellectual climate. Many discourses supported pluralism. And the most emphatic theorists of a powerful singular sovereign were often responding to intellectual projects that valorized pluralism.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.