September 30, 2011

This Year's List of Ig-Nobel Prize Winners

Coverage here from the Chronicle of Higher Education. More here at the Improbable Research website. Nobel Prize winners hand out the Ig-Nobel prizes. Some are winners in both categories, like physicist Andre Geim (Nobel Prize winner in 2010, Ig-Nobel Prize winner in 2000). I wonder which one he treasures more.

Philosopher Kings and Melville's Captain Vere

Rob Atkinson Jr., Florida State University College of Law, has published Averting the Captain Vere 'Veer': Billy Budd as Melville's Republican Response to Plato, as FSU College of Law Public Law Research Paper No. 539. Here is the abstract.

This article shows how Melville’s Billy Budd, rightly one of law and literature’s most widely studied canonical texts, answers Plato’s challenge in Book X of the Republic: Show how “poets” create better citizens, especially better rulers, or banish them from the commonwealth of reasoned law. Captain Vere is a flawed but instructive version of the Republic’s philosopher-king, even as his story is precisely the sort of “poetry” that Plato should willing allow, by his own republican principles, into the ideal polity. Not surprisingly, the novella shows how law’s agents must be wise, even as their law must be philosophical, if they are to do justice. Paradoxically, the novella also shows how “poetry” can save law’s agents, particularly the more Platonic, from Captain Vere’s “veer,” a dangerous turn  from fully legal justice to false and fatal severity. 

Captain Vere has a “tragic flaw” all too common among leaders otherwise completely conscientious and competent: When faced with a range of courses - all legal, moral, and practicable - Vere invariably charts the most personally painful. Part of his “no pain, no gain” course steers him into fastidious studies that exclude both “mere” fiction and “pure” theory, ironically banishing Plato himself along with his “poets.” But Vere’s own story, with its narrator’s frequent theoretical interruptions and occasional allusions to Plato, demonstrates that the reading of just such stories may deliver leaders like him from over-harsh treatment of themselves and their most vulnerable charges. The novella, then, not only reveals Captain Vere’s “veer”; it also shows a way to avert that ever dangerous, often fatal tack. If the studious captain had been prepared to study stories like his own, his readings might have made him a vastly better guardian of his symbolic flock, particularly of Billy Budd, his most innocent sheep; had “Starry” Vere been more a philosopher-king and less a surrogate father-god, he need never have made his excruciating mistake, sacrificing his most beloved foster son to save their microcosmic world.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 28, 2011

Free Speech and the Fight Against Terrorism

Owen Fiss, Yale University Law School, has published The World We Live In, at 83 Temple Law Review 295-308 (Winter 2011).
This Essay focuses on a threat to our constitutional order — the curtailment of freedom of speech in the name of fighting terrorism. Specifically, my subject is the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which upheld the authority of Congress to criminalize political advocacy on behalf of foreign terrorist organizations. Like warrantless wiretapping, the risk of a criminal prosecution for political advocacy — for example, an utterance by an American citizen in an American forum that a foreign terrorist organization has a just cause — poses a threat to our democracy, but the danger is greater. The risk of warrantless wiretapping inhibits speech; the risk of a criminal prosecution stops it altogether.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

The Nature of Law

Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia School of Law, has published  On Open Texture of Law as Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2011-35. Here is the abstract.
This paper, prepared for the University of Frankfurt Symposium on Defeasibility in Epistemology, Ethics, law and Logic, addresses the claim of H.L.A. Hart and others that law is open-textured. It is in the nature of law, they say, that it necessarily possesses an open texture going beyond the open texture of the language in which legal rules are written. But when we examine the question of open texture in light of Hart’s claim that the open texture of law entails the necessary defeasibility of legal rules, we discover that Hart and his followers are mistaken. Both the alleged open texture of law qua law (as opposed to the open texture occasioned by the open texture of the language used by law) and the defeasibility of legal rules are contingent features of certain legal rules in certain legal regimes, but neither are necessary components of the nature of law or the nature of rules.
 Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 23, 2011

Law and Narrative

Lea B. Vaughn, University of Washington School of Law, is publishing Feeling at Home: Law, Cognitive Science, and Narrative in the McGeorge Law Review. Here is the abstract.

What is the “how and why” of law’s affinity for narrative? In order to explain why the use of stories is such an effective teaching and presentation strategy in the law, this paper will consider theories and accounts from cognitive as well as evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and, briefly, cultural anthropology. This account seeks to address “how” narrative helps us learn and use the law as well as “why” we are so compelled to use stories in teaching and in practice. 

Brain science, simplified here, suggests that the first task is to “grab” someone’s attention. Emotionally charged events are more likely to capture our attention and to be remembered. Because of their emotional content, stories and narrative (which will be used interchangeably here) seize the attention of listeners and readers, students and jurors. In turn, this emotional fixation focuses attention on context and meaning. Studies suggest that this context is the platform that allows later and successive integration of details. Thus, stories “work” because they focus attention and provide a context for learning the “details,” i.e., the law. Moreover, the same principles that apply to the success of using stories in the classroom also bear fruit in practice. Our culture, and perhaps our genetic make-up, compel us to use stories as a way to both comprehend and transmit the law.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

September 22, 2011

Lord Cornbury's Strange Practice

Wolfgang Nebodity, University of Vienna, has published Lord Cornbury and the Arcana Practice. Here is the abstract.

In 1702 Queen Anne, the second daughter born to James II and his first wife, Anne Hyde, appointed her cousin, Lord Cornbury, governor of the Province of New York. He turned out as one of colonial New York's unique and controversial figures. This was mainly due to the fact that he kept the “arcana imperii” of his queen. He claimed that “he represented a woman and ought in all respects to represent her as faithfully as he could.” Thus he acquired the rituals and rhetoric of queenship. His power depended on the role of the female monarch, both as a symbol of harmony and dynastic stability and as a potential focus for political factionalism, disunity and discontent.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

September 20, 2011

Call For Papers

From Tucker Culbertson, Syracuse University College of Law

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the Journal of Homosexuality ( ): “Trans Sexualities”
The Journal of Homosexuality ( ) invites the submission of extended abstracts for a special issue expected to publish in Fall 2012.

In this volume, we seek to not only conceptually disentangle gender and sexual identities, but to reveal the myriad ways in which their intersections can be both illuminating and perplexing. To date, in academic scholarship on LGBTQ sexualities, “transgender” too often remains present in acronym only, with very real consequences for inclusion and exclusion both in terms of transgender and transsexual personhood as well as to moving studies of gender and sexual identities, and sexual practices (including sexual labor) forward. In this special issue, we seek proposals for papers that focus critically on sexual identities and practices among transgender and transsexual individuals and their partners to begin to fill the existing lacuna in scholarship and theorizing around transgender and transsexual sexualities. To this end, we seek papers that address (but are not limited to) the following issues and topics:

Trans identities complicating binary notions of “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” sexualities (e.g., the experiences of gay trans men and lesbian trans women, making meaning of the term and concept of “hetero/homo/bi/sexuality” in the context of trans identity, how trans sexualities contribute to the “queering” of sexualities in general)

“Doing” masculinity, femininity, and androgyny as a trans person in the context of sexual identity and how sexual identities of trans people and their partners are often (mis)“read” and (mis)understood

Fluidity (or not) of sexual identities and/or practices in the lives of those who are trans and/or their sexual partners


The role of language in shaping sexual identities and/or practices among trans people and/or their sexual partners


Trans persons’ engagement with sex work and sexualized labor ·

International representations, understandings, and depictions of trans sexualities

Fetishization and commodification of trans sexualities—including the phenomenon, impacts, and effects of trans (in/hyper)visibility in the media (e.g., trans sexual voyeurism)

Intersections between trans bodies and trans sexualities ·

Trans sex, sexualities, and partnerships (and the challenges of conducting ethical scholarship around these issues considering the history of exploitive representations of transgender and transsexual lives) ·

Inclusion and exclusion of trans people within sexual rights movements and potentials for coalition building across social movements focusing on sexualities

Sexual safety and wellbeing of trans persons (and consideration of safer sex practices, sexual marginalization, sexual harassment, sexual assault, access to healthcare)

“Counting” trans people (to ensure that trans people count)—demographic studies of trans sexualities

Reviews of institutions, services, and programs that provide services and programs that include (or don’t) focus on trans sexualities

Methods for studying trans sexual identities, sexual practices, and sexual partnerships (and, further, identity and standpoint of the “researcher” and “researched”—how identity matters, considerations of cissexual and cisgender privilege)

We currently seek 1,200-1,500 word extended abstracts for proposed papers that provide a title, brief summary of your central arguments and evidence used to support these arguments, methods to investigate the topic under study (if applicable), and how your proposed paper contributes to, challenges, and/or extends existing scholarship on trans sexualities. Please be clear about the current status of the proposed paper in terms of whether it is at an incipient or advanced stage and provide a brief statement on how you intend to complete the final paper by March 2012. We seek proposals for both theoretical and empirical papers.

International work and work by trans scholars is particularly encouraged.

All abstracts and papers will undergo blinded peer review by a Special Editorial Board of interdisciplinary trans and non-trans scholars conversant with ethical scholarship on trans issues. To facilitate blind review, please prepare a cover page with your name, contact information, and proposal title, but do not include your name or other identifying information on subsequent pages—do include your proposal title at the top of each page. Send inquiries and extended abstracts to the Guest Editor of this Special Issue, Carla A. Pfeffer, at by November 1, 2011. Final manuscripts should be approximately 7,500 words (about 25 pages) and will be due in March 2012.


Guest Editor: Carla A. Pfeffer (Sociology), Department of Social Sciences, Purdue University - North Central

Special Editorial Board:

Walter O. Bockting (Psychology) Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School

Nicola R. Brown (Psychology) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada

Aaron H. Devor (Sociology) Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, Canada
Marcia Ochoa (Cultural and Social Anthropology) Feminist Studies, University of California - Santa Cruz
Tam Sanger (Sociology and Gender Studies) Childhood and Youth Research Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom

Julia Serano (Biology) Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California - Berkeley

Susan Stryker (United States History) Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Arizona State University

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz (Sociology) Department of Sociology, American University

It's Always Something: Love and Litigation At the Opera House

Sarah Lynnda Swan, Columbia University Law School, has published A New Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations: Gender and Erotic Triangles in Lumley v. Gye, in volume 35 of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender (2012). Here is the abstract.

The tort of interference with contractual relations has many puzzling features that conflict with fundamental principles of contract and tort law. This Article considers how gender influenced the structure of the tort and gave rise to many of these anomalies. Lumley v. Gye, the English case that first established interference with contractual relations, arose from a specifically gendered dispute: two men fighting over a woman. This type of male—male—female configuration creates an erotic triangle, a common archetype in Western culture. The causes of action that served as the legal precedents for interference with contractual relations – enticement, seduction, and criminal conversation – are previous instances where the law regulated gendered triangular conflicts. Enticement prohibited a rival male from taking another man’s servant, seduction prohibited a rival male from taking another man’s daughter, and criminal conversation prohibited a rival male from taking another man’s wife. 

In Lumley v. Gye, the court expanded these precedents and created a cause of action that allowed Lumley to bring an action against his male rival for essentially “taking” his contracted female employee. The gendered basis for the tort explains its most problematic aspects, including why it imposes obligations on non-contractual parties, ignores the role of the breaching promisor in causing the wrong, and treats her as the property of the original promisee. In order to remedy these problematic features, the tort should be restructured as one of mixed joint liability. Further, damages should be limited to those available in contract.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

A New Law and Culture (and Other) Blog

Pierre Schlag and Sarah Krakoff of the University of Colorado School of Law have started the blog brazenandtenured--law politics nature and culture. Among the posts: The Monty Python Example No. 1 and Kandinsky or Hart? Aesthetics No. 1.  This blog, as Hercule Poirot would say about other matters, gives me furiously to think.

September 19, 2011

Bob Dylan, Jurisprude

Michael L. Perlin, New York Law School, has published Tangled Up in Law: The Jurisprudence of Bob Dylan. Here is the abstract.

As a careful examination of Bob Dylan’s lyrics reveals a writer - a scholar - with a well-developed jurisprudence, ranging over a broad array of topics that relate to civil and criminal law, public and private law. His lyrics reflect the work of a thinker who takes “the law” seriously in multiple iterations - the role of lawyers, the role of judges, the disparities between the ways the law treats the rich and the poor, the inequality of the criminal and civil justice systems, the corruption of government, the police, and the judiciary, and more. In this paper, I seek to create a topography of Dylan-as-jurisprudential scholar, and will seek to do this by looking at selected Dylan songs in these discrete areas of law (and law-and-society):
• Civil rights
• Inequality of the criminal justice system
• Institutions
• Governmental/judicial corruption
• Equality and emancipation (political and economic) 
• Poverty, the environment, and Inequality of the civil justice system, and
• The role of lawyers and the legal process.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

The Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas Hosts a Conference On the Art and Politics of Irony

The Art and Politics of Irony  |  L’art et la politique de l’ironie

12-14 April 2012 ~ Montréal, QC

An interdisciplinary conference hosted by the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, McGill University, in collaboration with Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (SSHRC-MCRI) and the Département d’études anglaises, Université de Montréal

“The ironist does not have the new within his power . . . he destroys the given actuality by the given actuality itself.” Søren Kierkegaard

Irony makes the world new by putting the world that exists in question. Its strength lies in its destabilizing power—it is the politics of art, the art of politics, and the language of dissent. By enabling critical representations of the world as it is known, but from within and against the familiarity of our own expectations, irony gives art and discourse special kinds of access to the public sphere, especially by mining beneath the given, the actual, and the known.

In politics, philosophy, art and literature, across post-modernism, post-colonialism, and globalization, the question of irony is of expanding relevance to a range of fields of cultural formation and inquiry. Yet it remains insufficiently noticed, understood, or theorized; ironically powerful and silent at once.  What is the meaning of irony? What does it accomplish and exactly how and with what effects?  Is irony impoverished or indispensable, disenchanted or enchanting, world-breaking or world-making?

Conference organizers invite proposals for papers addressing the public and public-making function of irony across time and through a range of contexts and media. Disciplines may include but are not limited to:

Architecture and Design
Art History
Fine Arts
Gender and Sexuality
Media and Communications
Musicology and Music Performance
Theatre and Performance

Proposals for complete panels as well as for individual papers in English or French are welcome. Researchers are invited to submit paper abstracts of 250 words and brief (2 page) cvs to: Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2011

Princeton University, Program in Law and Public Affairs/Fellowships and Positions Available

From Susan Sage Heinzelman, University of Texas, Austin:
Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) invites
outstanding faculty, independent scholars, lawyers, and judges to apply
for appointments as resident Fellows for the academic year 2012-2013. We
anticipate naming up to five Fellows who are engaged in substantial
research on topics broadly related to law and public affairs or law and
normative inquiry, including one Microsoft/LAPA Fellow specializing in
intellectual property or the legal regulation of the economy. Successful
candidates will devote an academic year in residence at Princeton to
research, discussion, and scholarly collaboration. Applicants must have
a doctorate, JD or an equivalent professional postgraduate degree.
Further information can be found at



Princeton University is an equal opportunity employer and complies with
applicable EEO and affirmative action regulations.

Law and Society Fellowship Available at University of Wisconsin

From Susan Sage Heinzelman at the University of Texas, Austin:

Law and Society Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Wisconsin (one year term)

One-year fellowship for early-career scholars who work in the "law and society" tradition and who will be competing for university-level teaching jobs in the U.S. market. 

 For 2012-13 academic year, apply by 1/9/12.  

Complete information can be found at:

September 16, 2011

Third Biennial Literature and Law Conference, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

 From Andrew Majeske, John Jay College College of Criminal Justice, an announcement of the Third Biennial Literature and Law Conference. Note the date.
Third Biennial Literature and Law Conference
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, New York

  • Conference Date:
    • Friday March 30, 2012: Check In/Continental Breakfast starts at 8:30 a.m.: Activities commence at 9:00 a.m.: Activities conclude at approximately 6 p.m.
    • Thursday March 29, 2012: Keynote Speech by Professor Amartya Sen at 7 p.m. (tentative time).

  • Conference Location  
    • John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) (59th Street and 10th Avenue). The conference will take place on the newly expanded John Jay campus, near Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The facilities include a brand new, state of the art conference center.

  • Conference Theme and Overview:
    • Theme: The Idea of Justice
    • Overview: This conference aims to bring scholars of literature and law into an interdisciplinary setting to share the fruits of their research and scholarship. Generally this conference consists of approximately 12 paper panels and roundtables, two talks by prominent speakers, and a post-conference reception. The conference fee will be $75, which will be payable by credit card through a link on the conference website (details below).

  • Call For Papers and Panels
    • We invite proposals for papers and panels that address topics that relate the humanities & arts (especially literary texts (broadly conceived)), to this year’s conference theme, the “idea of justice.” Of particular interest are papers and panels that in addition engage aspects of Professor Sen’s book, The Idea of Justice, or that attempt to integrate the theory with the practice of justice, and/or that engage and compare differing notions and perspectives of justice.
    • Panel proposals should contain the names and affiliations of the speakers, the titles of their papers, a clearly identified contact person, and an overall title for the panel. Panel proposals should be received by November 25th 2011. Given the 75 minute length for the panels at this conference, the panels should include no more than three presenters plus a commentator or moderator.

  • CFP Deadline
    • Please submit abstracts (250 words or less) to Andrew Majeske,, by Friday, January 13, 2012.

  • The Daily Show/The Colbert Report
    • A limited number of “Daily Show” and/or “The Colbert Report” tickets may be available for the evening of Thursday March 29th on a first-requested basis (assuming the shows are taping that evening). We have succeeded in obtaining a small block of these for the prior two conferences. These shows are taped in studios only a few blocks walk from John Jay. We are attempting to schedule Professor Sen’s keynote address so that those attending these shows also will be able to attend the keynote address.

  • Conference Registration:
    • Conference registration will be by credit card from a link on the conference website. International participants who have are unable to register in this fashion should contact Andrew Majeske, to work out other arrangements.

  • Conference Speakers
    • Amartya Sen, Keynote Speaker: The conference’s keynote speaker is Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and, until recently, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association.  He was formerly Honorary President of OXFAM and is now its Honorary Advisor. Of particular interest to this conference is Professor Sen’s celebrated 2009 book, The Idea of Justice. His other books, which have been translated into more than thirty languages, include Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006), The Argumentative Indian (2005), Rationality and Freedom (2002), Development as Freedom (1999),  Inequality Reexamined (1992), The Standard of Living (1987), On Ethics and Economics (1987),  Resources, Values and Development (1984),  Choice, Welfare and Measurement (1982), Poverty and Famines (1981), and On Economic Inequality (1973, 1997) . His research has ranged over a number of fields in economics, philosophy, and decision theory, including social choice theory, welfare economics, theory of measurement, development economics, public health, gender studies, moral and political philosophy, and the economics of peace and war. 
    • George Anastaplo, Feaured Speaker: The conference’s featured speaker is Professor George Anastaplo from Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, whose life and career been devoted to the idea of justice, both in theory and practice. Professor Anastaplo is the author of more than 15 books, and innumerable articles, including The Constitutionalist: Notes on the First Amendment (1971, 2005), But Not Philosophy: Seven Introductions to Non-Western Thought (2002), The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle (1997), The American Moralist: On Law, Ethics and Government (1992), The Constitution of 1787: A Commentary (1989), The Artist As Thinker: From Shakespeare to Joyce (1983) and Human Being and Citizen: Essays on Virtue, Freedom, and the Common Good (1975).  Professor Anastaplo, during his Illinois Bar interview in 1950, took a principled stand against McCarthy era questions asking about his political affiliations, and whether he believed in a right of revolution—he cited the Declaration of Independence to support his view that he and all Americans believe or should believe in such a right. The committee interviewing him was not pleased with his responses, and as a consequence, he has never been admitted to the Bar. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, in his dissent in Professor Anastaplo’s Supreme Court case seeking admission to the Illinois Bar (In Re Anastaplo 1961—which Anastaplo lost 5-4), vigorously defended Anastaplo’s position on first amendment grounds and asserted, among other things, that “we must not be afraid to be free”—Justice Black arranged for this quote, and others from his dissent, to be read at his funeral.

Catching Up On the Science In "Contagion"

Tia Ghose of The Scientist checks out the science behind Steven Soderbergh's new thriller Contagion. Says Ms. Ghose in part,

Critics and scientists alike have touted the movie as a more realistic depiction of disease transmission—no movie stars turn into flesh-eating zombies, and the previously unknown disease does not kill every person it encounters. But despite some impressively realistic details, there are still parts of the movie that would be pretty unlikely in real life, several scientists say.

I Can Handle the Truth--Is Tom Cruise Playing Me?

Many people would be thrilled to be the real life model for a film character (and thrilled to get cash for the rights for their life stories, of course). But what happens when one spends years or decades believing that a character is based on one's experiences and then finds out that those beliefs might not have been well-founded? Apparently several Navy lawyers are finding that out now. They are the Navy lawyers, who have independently believed that they were, at least in part, the model for the Tom Cruise character in A Few Good Men. The New York Times' William Glaberson discusses the fall-out in this article. Says Mr. Glaberson,

Hollywood’s true-ish stories have a way of bringing out those claiming to be inspiration, especially when there are well-fitting uniforms involved. “A Few Good Men,” written by Aaron Sorkin, has fostered a particularly stubborn if little-noticed puzzle among a handful of lawyers over who inspired the main character, named Lt. Daniel Kaffee, who challenged Col. Nathan R. Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, with his oft-quoted “I want the truth” demand.

It turns out four former military lawyers around the country have said Mr. Cruise was playing a character based entirely or partly on them. Beside Mr. Bansley, three others say the character was a composite constructed from the work of those three. They can be far from humble about this.

What does Aaron Sorkin, the writer of the film, say? Says Mr. Glaberson,

In an email, he responded carefully, "“The character of Dan Kaffee in ‘A Few Good Men’ is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual.”

He should have been a lawyer.

September 15, 2011

The Open Road and the Traffic Stop

Nancy Leong, University of Denver College of Law, has published The Open Road and the Traffic Stop: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the American Dream. Here is the abstract.

American culture is steeped in the mythology of the open road. In our collective imagination, the road represents freedom, escape, friendship, romance, and above all, the possibility for a better life. But our shared dream of the open road comes to a halt in the mundane reality of the traffic stop - a judicially-authorized policing procedure in which an officer may pull over a vehicle if she has cause to believe the driver has committed even the most minor traffic violation. This paper examines the cultural texts - books, movies, songs - celebrating the open road and juxtaposes them against those documenting the traffic stop. The traffic stop, I conclude, interrupts the open road narrative closely associated with the American dream. Those stopped most frequently - in particular, racial minorities - are consequently denied full participation in an abiding national fantasy.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

September 14, 2011

CBS Orders Pilots For Sherlock Holmes and "Mommy Track" Detective Series

From the Hollywood Reporter: news that CBS may schedule a new Sherlock Holmes series; it has ordered a pilot from CBS Television Studios and producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly. In addition, the Eye is ordering a pilot based on Ayelet Waldman's series based on stay-at-home "Mommy Track"  sleuth (and former lawyer) Juliet Appelbaum. Ms. Waldman, like her detective a former attorney, will write, and Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper will produce. I really like the Juliet Appelbaum mystery novels,. Entertaining and well-written, they feature a genuinely smart woman--someone I'd like to know. First in the series: Nursery Crimes (Berkley, 2000).

Law and Happy Families

David Ray Papke, Marquette University Law School, has published Skepticism Bordering on Distrust: Family Law in the Hollywood Cinema as Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 11-20. Here is the abstract.

This article critiques Hollywood films from the last 20-30 years that relate to family law. More specifically, the films considered concern marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption – four central concerns in family law as both a subject matter and an area of practice. The films are chosen not for their depth or precision but rather for their “box-office appeal” and general popularity. While the films are not tightly connected to one another and surely do not present a unified theme, they do share a surprising skepticism bordering on distrust regarding law, legal processes, and legal institutions. Hollywood appears to have picked up a general sentiment that family should be a private sanctuary, a place dominated by warmth and love. The last thing family needs, many Americans believe, is law as an intrusion of the state. The films incorporate this sentiment and also reinforce it by teaching viewers to be leery of law in family matters.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

A Biography of James "Kaweli" Covey

Benjamin N. Lawrance, Rochester Institute of Technology, has published La Amistad’s ‘Interpreter’ Reinterpreted: James ‘Kaweli’ Covey’s Distressed Atlantic Childhood and the Production of Knowledge About Nineteenth-Century, in Slavery, Abolition and the Transition to Colonialism in Sierra Leone (Suzaane Schwarz and Paul Lovejoy eds., Africa World Press, forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

This article explores the life of Kaweli or James B. Covey via geographical phases and legal subjectivities deployed by the former child slave, seaman and interpreter. It is my first attempt to lay out his biographical timeline and physical movements. Generally, I am interested in advancing the debate about Atlantic creoles in a new direction, toward a focus on the implications of age of individual making Atlantic passages; this chapter is part of that larger project. But specifically here, I am interested in using Covey’s life to rethink what we know about the production of knowledge in the trial of La Amistad. Let us imagine for a moment what might have occurred without a Mende translator. Without a translator, the story of Cinque and the others would have remained unknown, and their attorneys would have been unable to advance the argument that they were originally from Africa. The court would have been forced to draw only on English and Spanish language texts and narratives; and it is quite conceivable that the survivors would have been returned to Cuba, and to certain death.

Kaweli, a.k.a. James B. Covey, was born circa 1820-21 of parents in the forested southwestern uplands, where today Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia meet. In infancy they relocated to the southeastern Moa River valley. At five or six he was kidnapped and sold to a Bullom chief, circa 1827-9. After three years he was resold to a European. From a coastal barracoon he became part of an illegal slave shipment in 1833. The Royal Navy captured his ship, and Covey was transferred to the Church Missionary Society. After five years in school he joined the crew of the HMS Buzzard in 1838. In 1839, while the Buzzard was in New York, he met Reverend Gibbs of Yale Divinity School, who engaged him as interpreter for La Amistad’s captives. After his detention under subpoena in the US, he returned to Freetown with the freed survivors of La Amistad.

This sketch is vague as uncertainty surrounds Covey’s life for four principal reasons. First, as epistolary evidence demonstrates, Covey was never the center of attention of the trials and remained peripheral to the white American abolitionists who championed the cause of the survivors of La Amistad. Second, and perhaps because of this, no scholar has spent more than several paragraphs on his contribution, let alone his origins and background. Third, adding confusion to the mix, as interpreter playing a pivotal role, he made multiple, and sometimes conflicting, declarations about his origins, background and experiences. And fourth, one consequence of his distressful past was a classic childhood survival technique, specifically the skillful crafting of knowledge and information for dispersal to particular audiences, especially potential protectors.

In reality, however, Covey and two others provided the invaluable service of translating the narratives of the survivors. These survivor narratives then became the knowledge basis that gave rise to the legal arguments winning their freedom. While Covey features marginally in most stories about the trial, his role in the production of knowledge could not have been more central. For that reason alone, it makes sense to reconsider what we know and do not know about him and to scrutinize the role of translator. My research reveals that there is a lot more to be said about Covey’s background than previously realized, and that this new background information provides an important avenue to reconsidering the type of expertise and knowledge he provided. Covey’s movements across the Atlantic offer insight into the place of children within the illegal nineteenth-century slave trade, the role of rescued children in Christianity’s West African expansion, and African participation in British naval patrols. While Covey is perhaps most famous for serving as an interpreter, his childhood experiences were fundamental in establishing the context of illegality and making his mediation possible.

The various sources for Covey, including polysemous “autoethnographic” texts, originate in the U.S., Europe and West Africa. I discern four phases in Covey’s childhood, which are anchored geographically: 1. his familial origins and first enslavement in Kono/Koranko/Mende territory; 2. his second enslavement, forced migration and rescue in the Gallinas region; 3. his education and service in the Atlantic, and; 4. his sojourn in North America and Freetown homecoming. But in order to contextualize these four geographical phases, I first explore the historical bases of Covey’s self-narration. From the documentary record, I interpret his self-narration as a form of subjectivity characteristic of “distress” and emanating from a supplicant. Covey’s distressed subjectivity recasts his significance: he was no simple interpreter, but rather a cultural broker whose interpreting constituted part of a broader creolizing process.

Covey’s distressful childhood and attempts to ameliorate his situation by garnering protectors’ attention may be mapped geographically. The Covey emerging from the historical record deployed what I describe as quasi-legal subjectivity, which in turn provides for a rethinking of his significance. Covey was effective in trial because he brokered experiences that mirrored his own. This article thus narrates the geographical and historical stages of Covey’s life, in order to specifically advance the idea that his experiences prior to the trial of La Amistad’s survivors are central to understanding why he was so successful in court. With this new perspective on an erstwhile peripheral character, I suggest that, rather than thinking of the trial of La Amistad as a touchstone of Anglo-American mid-nineteenth-century abolitionism, it is perhaps time to redirect our attention to African contributions to the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

September 13, 2011

The Real Life Origins of "Downton Abbey"

Julian Fellowes, who created the hit series Downton Abbey, reveals that his family's experiences inspired the series, and some of the most powerful scenes in the show. Part One's concluding scene, in which the family and its friends hear the news that Great Britain is going to war, comes from Mr. Fellowes' father's own memories of entrance into World War I. In addition, he is passionate about gender equality, which is a theme of the series. He notes that his wife, who is a niece of the current Earl Kitchener, cannot inherit his title. Mr. Fellowes mentioned in a recent interview that he finds this situation "ridiculous" and "outrageous".

September 8, 2011

Call For Submissions/Nominations: Julian Mezey Dissertation Award

From Professor Leonard Feldman, a Call For Submissions/Nominations

Julien Mezey Dissertation Award

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities invites submissions for its 2012 Julien Mezey Dissertation Award. This annual prize is awarded to the dissertation that most promises to enrich and advance interdisciplinary scholarship at the intersection of law, culture and the humanities.

The award will be presented at the Association's 2012 annual meeting, which will be hosted by Texas Wesleyan University School of Law on March 15‐17, 2012. The Association seeks the submission of outstanding work from a wide variety of perspectives, including but not limited to law and cultural studies, legal hermeneutics and rhetoric, law and literature, law and psychoanalysis, law and visual studies, legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence. Scholars completing humanities‐oriented dissertations in SJD and related programs, as well as those earning PhDs, are encouraged to submit their work. Applicants eligible for the 2012 award must have defended their dissertations successfully between September 1,
2010 and August 31, 2011. The deadline for nominations for the 2012 award is November 1, 2011. On or before that date, each nominee must submit the following: 1) a letter by the nominee detailing the genesis, goal, and contribution of the dissertation; 2) a letter of support from a faculty member familiar with the work;
3) an abstract, outline, and selected chapter of the dissertation; 4) contact information for the nominee.

All materials should be sent to:

Leonard Feldman,

Award finalists will be notified by December 1, 2011. Finalists must then submit an electronic version of the entire dissertation. The winner will be determined by early February and invited to the 2012 ASLCH annual meeting in Dallas. ASLCH will pay travel and lodging costs.

Questions should be addressed to Leonard Feldman,

Hegel, the French Revolution, and the Concept of Liberty

Andrew Norris, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Political Science, has published The Disappearance of the French Revolution in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

The French Revolution of 1789 is one of the central developments in the history of the concept and practice of political rights. Hegel recognized this, and so valued the Revolution that he claimed always to drink a toast to the storming of the Bastille on July 14th. Nonetheless, in both the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Philosophy of Right Hegel advances an enduring and influential attack upon the Revolution, one that, like that of Edmund Burke, links the Revolution’s accomplishments inextricably with the Reign of Terror of 1793 and 1794. In each Hegelian text, the Revolutionary conception of liberty is presented as being so one-sided and extreme as to be incompatible with a stable polity, and to produce, of necessity, only “a fury of destruction” (P 436/359 and PR §5A). The central line of thought here is relatively clear. The French Revolutionaries enacted a reductive, “abstract” conception of freedom as grasped by the Understanding or Verstand; this “negative freedom” (PR §5A) or “absolute freedom” (P 431/355ff) entails the absence of restriction. When made into a social policy, this can never produce a stable set of institutions, but instead only the destruction of any potential restriction - including, ultimately, those presented by the citizenry themselves. The Revolutionary government was thus destined to descend into the fury of the Terror. In the essay that follows, I do not wish to fundamentally challenge this picture of Hegel’s view. Instead, I will argue that Hegel’s elaboration of it in the Phenomenology in particular is more complicated and nuanced than it initially appears to be, and that attending to the textual details of the Phenomenology’s account allows one to see that Hegel is advancing a particular political diagnosis according which the first “victim” of the Revolution is the apparent agent of the Terror, the volonté générale or general will, a will that only “vanishes” in its own attempt to express itself in action, a vanishing that makes possible the factions, suspicion, guilt, and death of the Jacobins. In connection with this I will also propose that Hegel’s account of the Terror there needs to be read as a response to the immediately preceding account of Utility (die Nützlichkeit), and that when it is so read it shows one of its sides to be a critique of the attempt to “master” a world in which everything is considered as an object of use, a critique that bears comparison with Heidegger’s more famous reflections on the dangers of die Technik.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

A Law and Science Fiction Blog

Those interested in law and science fiction might want to check out Omphalos' SF Book Reviews, which reviews and comments on sf and books and pop culture that discuss sf. The emphasis is on legal issues.

September 6, 2011

Call For Papers--Law and Education Conference

Call for Papers

International Studies on Law and Education

Centro de Estudos Medievais - Oriente & Ocidente - EDF/FEUSP Universidade de São Paulo

Universidade do Porto

Faculdade de Direito

Inst. Jurídico Interdisciplinar


Law and Culture in Medieval /Early Modern Europe & the Atlantic World

The international peer reviewed journal International Studies on Law and Education (ISSN 1516-6821) published by the Universidade de São Paulo, the Universidade do Porto and the Editora Mandruvá of Brazil requests submissions of previously unpublished articles that treat any aspect of the interrelationship between law and culture in Medieval/early modern Europe and the Atlantic world. Studies with a strong comparative and or interdisciplinary focus are encouraged.

Submissions and any questions should be directed to Prof. Enric Mallorquí-Ruscalleda (, Assistant Professor of Medieval Iberian and early modern Transatlantic studies at Mississippi State University (USA), and coordinator of this volume.

Although the language of preference is English, studies written in any romance language, as well as German, will be considered.

The deadline for submission is the 3oth of November of 2011, and decisions regarding acceptance will be communicated no later than fifteen days later (along with necessary modifications, if applicable).

For more information about the journal, the evaluation criteria, or other relevant questions, please see:

A Conference on Jack the Ripper

Paula Marantz Cohen discusses academic interest in Jack the Ripper here in the September 4, 2011 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. She and a colleague, Fred J. Abbate, have organized a conference on the issue, which will be held October 28-29 at Drexel University.

September 2, 2011

John Grisham Novel Wins First Harper Lee Prize For Legal Fiction

John Grisham's latest book, The Confession (Doubleday, 2010) is the inaugural winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, bestowed by the University of Alabama and the ABA Journal. The Confession has received a number of very good reviews (Maureen Corrigan for the Washington Post, Barry Forshow for the Independent). Following the presentation of the award to Mr. Grisham in Washington, D.C. on September 22 at the National Press Club, David Baldacci will moderate a discussion of The Confession and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with panelists Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Linda Fairstein, author of the Alex Cooper mysteries, noted attorney Robert J. Grey, Jr., Dahlia Lithwick of and attorney/author Thane Rosenbaum.

Here are the criteria for the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

Entry must be a published book-length work of fiction that exemplifies the roles of lawyers in society, and their power to effect change.

Original publication date of submission must be within calendar year 2011.

Entry must have an ISBN and must be readily available for purchase in retail or online bookstores.

Was Thomas Jefferson the Father of Sally Hemings' Children?

It's back. The "it" is the debate over Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings and whether he fathered her children. At the Chronicle of Higher Education's blog Innovations, Peter Wood discusses a new publication, The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission, and its conclusions. The thirteen scholars involved have scoured the evidence, and, after one year of study, twelve conclude that "honorable people can and do disagree" about whether Mr. Jefferson fathered Ms. Hemings' children. "The allegation is by no means proven." The twelve scholarly jurors deliver their verdict: from skepticsm about Mr. Jefferson's paternity to "almost certainly" that he was not the father.

One scholar contributed a minority report. His assessment? "More likely than not."

The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy is available from Carolina Academic Press. Here from CAP's website is the abstract describing the book.

In 2000, the newly formed Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society asked a group of more than a dozen senior scholars from across the country to carefully examine all of the evidence for and against the allegations that Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children by Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, and to issue a public report. In April 2001, after a year of study, the Scholars Commission issued the most detailed report to date on the issue.

With but a single mild dissent, the views of the distinguished panel ranged from "serious skepticism" to a conviction that the allegation was "almost certainly false." This volume, edited by Scholars Commission Chairman Robert F. Turner, includes the "Final Report"—essentially a summary of arguments and conclusions—as it was released to the press on April 12, 2001. However, several of the statements of individual views—which collectively total several hundred carefully footnoted pages and constitute the bulk of the book—have been updated and expanded to reflect new insights or evidence since the report was initially released.
(Full disclosure: I have published several titles with CAP as a contributor and/or editor).

More about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings at these sites:

"Sampling" Legal Writing? Hip Hop and Legal Ethics

Kim D. Chanbonpin, The John Marshall Law School, is publishing Legal Writing, the Remix: Plagiarism and Hip Hop Ethics in the Mercer Law Review (forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

In this Article, I focus on hip hop music and culture as an access point to teach first-year law students about the academic and professional pitfalls of plagiarism. Hip hop provides a good model for comparison because most of our entering students are immersed in a popular culture that is saturated with allusions to hip hop. As a point of reference for incoming law students, hip hop possesses a valuable currency as it represents something real, experienced, and relatable.

Significant parallels exist between the cultures of U.S. legal writing and hip hop, although attempting direct analogies would be absurd. Chief among these similarities is the reliance of both cultures on an archive of knowledge, borrowing from which authors or artists build credibility and authority. Whether it is from case law or musical recordings, the necessary dependence on a finite store of information means that the past work of others will be frequently incorporated into new work. The ethical and professional danger inherent in this type of production is that one who borrows too freely from the past may be merely copying instead of interpreting or innovating. In the academic world, this is plagiarism. Members of the hip hop community call this “biting.” In neither culture is this mode of production celebrated.

My goals for this project are two-fold. First, as a professor of legal writing, I want to ameliorate the problem of plagiarism that I have seen growing worse each year. Second, as a scholar, I would like to contribute to the growing body of literature on hip hop and the law. This Article marks the beginning of my attempt to theorize a hip hop ethics and develop its application to the teaching, the academic study, and perhaps eventually, the reform of the law.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

September 1, 2011

Another Jack the Ripper Candidate

Retired detective Trevor Marriott suggests a new candidate as the real "Jack the Ripper": a German seaman named Carl Feigenbaum, executed in 1896 in New York for murdering his landlady. Alan Boyle writes in an article for that Mr. Marriott has lined up some old sailing records and has come to the conclusion that Feigenbaum could have been in London at the time of the Ripper killings. That, and the fact that he had the demonstrated capacity to carry out a brutal murder of a woman, makes him a likely suspect in Mr. Marriott's eyes.

Other Ripper experts are not convinced. Dr. Xanthe Mallett, a forensic anthropologist and "star" of television's History Cold Case team, considers Mr. Marriott's theory, as well as other evidence, in this article for the BBC online site. She thinks one person, perhaps Feigenbaum, could have committed one, some, or all of the killings. Jack the Ripper still holds his secrets.

Read more here from the online Metropolitan Police files and here, at Casebook: Jack the Ripper.

The Santa Clara All-Stars Retry Clarence Darrow

A group of all star lawyers and judges will re-enact People v. Clarence Darrow, as part of the University of Santa Clara School of Law centennial celebration. 

Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Alex Kozinski will play Judge George Hutton. Defense Attorney Michael Tigar will be Darrow's defense attorney Earl Rogers. 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Trott will take on the role of John Fredericks, prosecutor and politician. The juicy role of Clarence Darrow goes to U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer (yes, brother of the Supreme Court Justice).

More here at the School's website, and here, on the trial, by the Honorable Robert L. Gottsfield.