April 28, 2009

The Art of Pun-ditry

Too good to overlook, and because I disagree with those who think puns are a lower form of intellectual life; I think good puns require esprit. Check out Joseph Tartakovsky's Pun For the Ages, in the New York Times (March 28, 2009). Mr. Tartakovsky is a law student. Of course.

April 27, 2009

More On the "CSI Effect"

Here's more on the "CSI Effect." Tamara Francita Lawson, St. Thomas University School of Law, has published Before the Verdict and Beyond the Verdict: The 'CSI Infection' within Modern Criminal Jury Trials. Here is the abstract.

In criminal law, the term CSI Effect commonly refers to the perceived impact that the CSI television show has on juror expectation and unexpected jury verdicts. This article coins a new phrase, CSI Infection, by focusing on the significant legal impact that the fear of CSI Infected Jurors has made upon the criminal justice system. The CSI Infection is the ubiquitous It factor that scholars cannot conclusively prove nor effectively explain away. Yet, practitioners overwhelmingly confirm Its impact in criminal jury trials; Its existence, Its true or perceived impact on acquittals and convictions, and how to define It permeates criminal trials. For example, litigators base their motions on It, and build their trial strategies around It, and the legal arguments of trial lawyers on both sides of the case have transformed. Specifically voir dire questions, jury instructions, as well as opening statements and closing arguments have been modified and correspondingly challenged on appeal - all because of the CSI Effect.

Moreover, the phenomenon has forced trial courts to address the evidentiary, procedural, and constitutional issues raised by prosecutors and defense attorneys who fear the perceived dangers that CSI Infected Jurors have upon the ultimate fairness of the jury trial process. Because of the CSI Effect, judges now issue rulings directed at Its operation in cases and give special jury instructions regarding Its role in jurors' decision making. Undoubtedly, the CSI Infection is creating a juridical migraine for trial courts around previously ordinary trial issues and there is no panacea to eradicate It. Notwithstanding Its presence, mandatory due process requirements remain. This article explores the cases, the experiences of litigators, the commentary of jurors, and, most significantly, the trial and appellate court rulings on important constitutional and procedural issues. Scrutinizing these legal issues before the verdict and beyond the verdict attempts to ensure that justice and fairness prevail over any improper prejudice or bias that may have infiltrated the American criminal justice system.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

April 24, 2009

The Many Meanings of Elvis

Sharon Cowan has published The Elvis We Deserve: The Social Regulation of Sex/Gender and Sexuality Through Cultural Representations of 'the King' as a Working Paper. Here is the abstract.
This paper analyses the way in which the image, masculinity and sexual identity of Elvis Presley have been recently culturally deployed by particular social groups. It explores the way in which the image of Elvis is used by lesbian drag king performers who try to queer the cultural stereotypes which form the basis of the social regulation of gender roles; and the use of Elvis's image by the U.K. fathers' rights campaign group 'Fathers 4 Justice' as a sign of unthreatening familiarity to support traditional heteronormative ideas of masculinity and gender roles. These cultural re-appropriations of Elvis raises questions for contemporary understandings of sex/gender and sexuality; as the motto of the San Francisco based Elvis impersonator 'Extreme Elvis' suggests, "Every generation gets the Elvis it deserves".

Download the paper from SSRN here.

April 23, 2009

On the American Trial

Robert P. Burns, Northwestern University School of Law, has published The Death of the American Trial (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Here's an abstract from SSRN.
This short essay is a summary of my assessment of the meaning of the "vanishing trial" phenomenon. It addresses the obvious question: "So what?" It first briefly reviews the evidence of the trial's decline. It then sets out the steps necessary to understand the political and social significance of our vastly reducing the trial's importance among our modes of social ordering. The essay serves as the Introduction to a book, The Death of the American Trial, soon to be published by the University of Chicago Press.

April 22, 2009

Fan Fiction and the RDR Books Decision

Megan L. Richardson, University of Melbourne Law School, and David Tan have published The Art of Retelling: Harry Potter and Copyright in a Fan-Literature Era as 14 Media & Arts Law Review 31 (2009). Here is the abstract.

Simple assertions that fans are harmless may be belied by the copyright cases threatened and launched by authors of popular fictional works, against fans who write secondary works based on distinctive elements of the original stories. On the other hand, it may be that authors are too possessive of their creations, seeking to control their imaginary afterlives. The story of Warner Bros v RDR Books - the Harry Potter Lexicon case - provides a vehicle to examine the conundrum. The decision of Patterson J in the US District Court seeks to navigate a fine line between original authorial control and literary activities of fans, in suggesting that, in the main, fan literature should be encouraged and protected as fair use for copyright law purposes. However, the judge faced an uphill battle in countering Rowling's insistence that she was entitled to exercise control over all products derived from her 'nominative genius'. In the decision's aftermath, Rowling has elected to support rather than challenge a new version of the Lexicon, which seeks to incorporate substantially more commentary than the original version. However, we wonder what breathing space will be left for fan fiction.

Download the article from SSRN here.

April 17, 2009

A Small Texas Town, A Big Screen Film, and a Hard American Truth

NPR has this story about the truth behind the film American Violet, premiering this month. American Violet dramatizes an ill-conceived raid on some black residents of the town of Hearne, Texas (name changed in the movie), and the aftermath of the raid. When the moviemakers screened the film for some of Hearne's residents, reports surfaced that some local officials were less than pleased, demonstrating that it's still difficult to speak truth to power.

April 16, 2009

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Dies

Eve Sedgwick, the literary theorist, has died. Here is an article from the New York Times discussing her life and legacy.

Symposium In Honor of J. Allen Smith at Rutgers School of Law (Newark)

From Jessica Silbey:

The Law & Humanities Institute is pleased to sponsor a symposium celebrating the memory of J. Allen Smith, outstanding property professor and Law and Humanities visionary who created the Institute over 30 years ago. The event, hosted by Rutgers School of Law – Newark in conjunction with its 100th birthday celebration, will begin with a welcome dinner and reception on Thursday, April 23rd and run through Saturday, April 25th. Panels will begin Friday and Saturday at 9:30 am and conclude at 4:30 pm each day. LHI has invited many of its officers past and present, as well as a host of distinguished scholars, to discuss the past, present and future of its interdisciplinary projects. Richard Weisberg, LHI's founding and current president, will be the keynoter at the dinner reception Friday evening, and scholars Peter Brooks, Martha Grace Duncan, David Haber, Judith Koffler, Anna Krakus, Saul Mendlovitz, William Page, Julie Stone Peters, Theresa Phelps, Justin Richland, Mark Sanders, Eric Craig Sapp, Daniel Tritter, Cristina Vatulescu, and Jay Watson will speak at the event.

The event is free and open to the public, although the dinners on Friday and Saturday require an RSVP and payment. Additionally, on Friday and Saturday, catered lunches will also be available at a reasonable cost for attendees.

Finally, Rutgers has secured a special rate at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark for attendees who wish to book lodgings to attend the event.

Information including registration and lodging information is available through Mr. Randle DeFalco at randman@pegasus.rutgers.edu

Here's a link to more information.

April 9, 2009

Marcus Garvey and Legal Narrative

Justin Hansford, Georgetown University Law Center, has published Jailing a Rainbow: Death by Narrative and the Marcus Garvey Case , in volume 2 of Georgetown Journal of Modern Critical Race Perspectives (2009). Here is the abstract.
The relevance of narrative in the law continues to reemerge in legal scholarship. This article uses concepts from both Critical Race Theory and Law and Economics to reassess the conviction of Marcus Garvey, the Harlem Renaissance era civil rights activist. In this case, newly discovered evidence suggests that the manipulation of Garvey's legal narrative by his opponents played a larger role in his conviction than first thought; a role decisive enough to raise concerns of unethical judicial bias and warrant possible exoneration hearings.

This paper argues that not only was Garvey unjustly convicted of mail fraud in 1923, but this injustice was also the culmination of an unholy alliance between Garvey's political rivals and Jim Crow era government officials. Together, the legal narrative they crafted contributed to Garvey's untimely death, tainted his legacy for decades, and helped to misshape the future of the 20th century struggle for racial justice.

Many scholars have noted that legal narratives often subordinate the voices of people of color. However, this study goes further, exploring how unjust legal narratives have served to warp our collective cultural and historical narrative. This larger result has had a powerful impact on the course of political events in our country. In this case, Garvey's conviction and deportation facilitated the marginalization and silencing of his philosophy of racial justice, a strategy that focused primarily on economic empowerment for people of African descent throughout the world. As a result of the silencing of this voice, nearly a century later Blacks have obtained the political and social rights favored by Garvey's rivals, but as a whole still suffer from grave economic disparities worldwide.

The federal judiciary has a storied legacy, being peopled by men and women who have defended and fought for our highest values as a nation. This case appears to be one of the sad exceptions to that rule. But most of all, it should serve as a cautionary tale to practitioners who must learn how to identify and fight the destructive use of legal narrative in contemporary contexts.

Download the article from SSRN here.

April 4, 2009

Call For Papers

Call for Contributions

Law, Language and Discourse

Editors: Anne Wagner (Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale), Jixian Pang (Zhejiang University) & Le Cheng (City University of Hong Kong) - Publisher: Zhejiang University Press

Submission guidelines and timeline

Expression of interest should be addressed by e-mail both to valwagnerfr@yahoo.com and chengle163@hotmail.com


Date of submission: Abstracts of 2 pages to be submitted by 15 May 2009

Decision for authors: 15 June 2009

Full paper submission: Full papers to be submitted by 15 November 2009

Final version of selected papers: Revised and final version of paper to be submitted by 31 January 2010

Length of chapters: between 7,500 words and 10,000 words

All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis

There is a growing interest in the theme “law, language & discourse” in the academic field, government policy formulation and legal requirements. The appeal of this book will show the actionable knowledge it could bring to this field of research and practice. This book will explore the various disciplines of law and linguistics - both oral and written.

The book will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of language and discourse study in legal settings. The themes include:

- Theories and conceptualization of legal discourse

- Legislation, Language, and Discourse,

- Linguistic issues in courtroom,

- Language issues in legal settings,

- Semiotic analysis of legal phenomena including legal terms, legal genres.

Some of the people that have accepted to participate to this important project are, just to name a few:

- Prof Angel Alonso-Cortés (Universidad Complutense)

- Prof Maurizio Gotti (University of Bergamo)

- Prof King Kui Sin (City University of Hong Kong)

- Prof Lijin Sha (China University of Political Sciences and Law)

Anne Wagner, Ph. D., Université du Littoral Côte d'Opale (France)


Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - http://www.springer.com/law/journal/11196

Editor-in-Chief of the Legal Semiotics Monographs (Deborah Charles Publication)

Founder of the forum Semiotics of law - http://www.semioticsoflaw.com/

President of the International Roundtables for the Semiotics of Law

International collaborator, International Commercial Arbitration Practices -

Consultative Board member of the Journal of Legal Cultures - http://www.legalcultures.com

April 2, 2009

Shakespeare's Historical Plays

Eric Heinze, Queen Mary, University of London School of Law, has published "Power Politics and the Rule of Law: Shakespeare's First Historical Tetralogy and Law's Foundations," at 29 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 139-168 (2009). Here is the abstract.
Legal scholars interest in Shakespeare has often focused on conventional legal rules and procedures, such as those of The Merchant of Venice or Measure for Measure. Those plays certainly reveal systemic injustice, but within stable, prosperous societies, which enjoy a generally well-functioning legal order. In contrast, Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy explores the conditions for the very possibility of a legal system, in terms not unlike those described by Hobbes a half-century later. The first tetralogy's deeply collapsed, quasi-anarchic society lacks any functioning legal regime. Its power politics are not, as in many of Shakespeare's other plays, merely latent, lurking beneath the patina of an otherwise functioning legal order. They pervade all of society. Dissenting from a long critical tradition, this article suggests that the figure of Henry VI does not merely represent antiquated medievalism or inept rule. Through Henry's constant recourse to legal process, arbitration and anti-militarism, the first tetralogy goes beyond questions about how to establish a functioning legal order. It examines the possibility, and meaning, of a just one.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

April 1, 2009

Call For Participation

Global Harmony and the Rule of Law
24th IVR World Congress
Special Workshop no. 28:
Law and Literature
Enrico Pattaro
Honorary President of ISLL – Italian Society for Law and Literature
E-mail: cirsfid.lawandliterature@unibo.it
In collaboration with:
Carla Faralli, ISLL President
M. Paola Mittica, ISLL Coordinator
The topic chosen for this 24rd IVR Congress—global harmony and the
rule of law—is one that we think lends itself to being effectively
investigated on the interdisciplinary approach that has recently been
emerging out of the field of study known as Law and Literature.
The growing interest that Law and Literature has been drawing beyond
the United States, not only in Europe but also in the East and in Latin
America, has recently prompted us to establish an association—the
Italian Society for Law and Literature (ISLL), on the Web at
www.lawandliterature.org—whose first objective is to promote reflection
on law by looking at it in connection with literature, taking also into
account the contribution that may come from the broader realm of Law
and the Humanities.
The initiative immediately got off to a good international start, with
many scholars joining who represent the philosophy, sociology, and
history of law, as well as a range of legal and literary disciplines; and
there are also in this group a number of jurists and of men and women of
letters. Indeed, from many quarters a need is being expressed to observe
the law and the different systems of law from a more comprehensive
perspective capable of affording a greater understanding of the legal
system in relation to its factual reality and to its possible functions.
Law and Literature became the subject of a special workshop in the last
IVR congress, held in Krakow in 2007 under the excellent stewardship of
François Ost and Jeanne Gaaker.
This year’s workshop is meant to proceed in continuity with last year’s as
concerns those activities and objectives that are more specifically
connected with Law and Literature, but this is done in such a way as to
contribute to the overall topic the congress is devoted to.
As is known, Law and Literature has developed around three core areas,
these being law in literature, law as literature, and the regulation of
literature by law. While this last area has not gained universal
recognition, the first two (law in literature and law as literature) have
flourished with a wealth of approaches and subjects of study, and these
(at their current stage of development) call for a deep epistemological
and methodological reflection as a way to bring to fruition the
experiences of the past and to open new avenues for the future.
In addition to the subjects more closely connected with Law and
Literature, we also have the use of Law and Literature in teaching: This
further development is valued for its ability to expand our knowledge of
law as well as the jurist’s understanding of ethics. And this is taken up
with a view to making Law and Literature a subject of academic study, as
is already happening at law schools across the United States.
For these reasons it seems important that, in taking up the specific issues
covered under the convention’s overall heading of global harmony and
the rule of law, the possibility should emerge of also exploring the new
directions just briefly outlined.
By way of a final note, it will also be possible to find a wide audience for
the work emerging out of the workshop, this by publishing the work in
international journals in legal philosophy and the general theory of law.
Two leading journals, in particular, have said the papers presented at the
workshop may be submitted to them for possible publication. They are
 Law and Literature
online at www.ucpressjournals.com/journal.asp?j=lal
 The International Journal for the Semiotics of Law
online at www.springer.com/law/journal/11196?detailsPage=description

Click here for more information about the China Law Society.

How To Get Published--Or Not

Via Electratig, and then on little cat feet to Legal History Blog, I came across this gem: Brian Morton's L'Isle de Gilligan. Mr. Morton was then Dissent's book review editor, and the piece appeared in Dissent in 1990 with the title "How Not to Write for Dissent."

Conference Of Interest At Cardozo

Cardozo Law School is hosting a program called "In Flagrante Depicto: A Program on Film In/On Trial." It runs May 7-8. PRAWFSBLAWG provides a link to the program here.