December 31, 2012

What Else You Can Do With a Law Degree

What else can you do with a law degree? Check out Comedians at Law, the website of a bunch of recovering lawyers, licensed to make you laugh. (Or try to. Getting up in front of an audience is tough, tougher than teaching). Podcasts here. Speaking of--what is the noun of venery for a bunch of lawyers? A lawsuit of attorneys? A license of lawyers? A jury of mouthpieces? Richard Eisel suggests a "brief of attorneys" and "a gavel of judges."

Speaking of other uses for a law degree, if you still haven't checked out Bloomberg Law's Stealth Lawyers series here, it's still going strong (if the link doesn't work, try searching YouTube for "Bloomberg Law Stealth Lawyers", without the quotation marks). Dare I note(quite modestly) that Bloomberg also credits my research in a video in this series called "History's Stealth Lawyers"? Check it out here

December 17, 2012

The Dred Scott Decision

David T. Hardy has published Dred Scott, John San(d)Ford, and the Case for Collusion. Here is the abstract.

Dred Scott profoundly changed American history. Intended to protect slavery, its unforeseen consequences were the election of Abraham Lincoln, the political destruction of Stephen Douglas, and the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It was also the Court's first interpretation of freedom of speech and assembly, of the right to arms, and of substantive due process. This article explores the degree to which Dred Scott was collusive -- not in the sense of both sides desiring the same outcome, but in the sense of them manufacturing a false case which each thought they could win. The defendant was John F. A. Sanford, a New York businessman who had no claim to being the Scott family's slaveholder, but who nonetheless stipulated to being such. The real slaveholder was his sister Irene, whom the Scotts initially sued in State court. When the Federal suit was brought, her name was likely omitted, and Sanford substituted, because its known destination was the Supreme Court ... and Irene was now married to Calvin Chaffee, a member of the House of Representatives, and a prominent opponent of slavery. Immediately after the decision was handed down, the Chaffees' role was exposed by the pro-slavery press and a public relations battle ensured, ending with their arranging for the Scott family's manumission. Why the pro-slavery side would have colluded is not hard to understand: given the composition of the Court, they were the likely winners. The motive for Scott's attorneys' collusion is harder to discern. His trial court attorney seems to have thought it worth the gamble because a win would enable sidestepping of the Fugitive Slave Act, a major gain given its almost-complete due process deprivations, while a loss would do limited harm -- the attack on the Missouri Compromise and on Congressional power over slavery in the territories was not an issue at the trial court level. Scott's attorney in the Supreme Court did face that issue, but had never been informed that the defendant had no real standing in the case.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

December 12, 2012

Who Done It?

The November 30th quiz at, the website of BBC Music magazine, offers up some musical mystery fun. Can you identify these fictional and real-life murderers and murder victims? You might have to register (it's free) in order to gain access to the quiz, but the material on the website (including downloads, podcasts, reviews, and essays), is more than worth the price of admission. 

December 11, 2012

A New Collection on Legal Aesthetics

Forthcoming from Walter de Gruyter:

Visualizing Law and Authority: Essays on Legal Aesthetics (Lief Dahlberg ed.; 2012) (Law and Literature; 4).

From the publisher's website:

The volume "Visualizing Law and Authority. Essays on Legal Aesthetics" brings together revised papers from the international conference "Law and the Image", held in Stockholm, 24–25 September, 2010. The participants/contributors belong to the disciplines of Art history, Cultural studies, Literary and Media studies, and Law. The contributions discuss the complex relations between law, media and visual phenomena. The common theme of the essays consists in an examination of the scopic field and of regimes of visibility in phenomenological terms, arguing that law constitutes a cognitive and aesthetic field of normative world-making. Rather than merely inverting Shelley’s dictum that the "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", the essays argue in different ways for the necessity to develop a legal aesthetics.
The most immediate way of pursuing such a legal aesthetics consists in examining law itself as an aesthetic object, for instance the power of law to produce icons, in the sense of unreadable texts or textiles (Martin Kayman, Gary Watt). Several essays focus on the way that visual art and media can be used to constitute and represent political power, but also to question it and to put it into question (Chiara Battisti, Leif Dahlberg, Elina Druker, Sidia Fiorato, Paul Raffield). Other essays investigate legal structures inherent in the artwork (and the artworld) itself (Ari Hirvonen, Max Liljefors, Christine Poggi, Karen-Margrethe Simonsen). Finally, there are two essays focusing on the use of images and imagery in the legal process, explicity arguing for the need of a legal aesthetics (Daniela Carpi, Richard Sherwin). Although diverse, the individual essays are interconnected with each other in fruitful and critical ways, making both explicit and implict references to each other.
Available in print and as an e-book.


Confucius and Chinese Legal Philosophy

Norman P. Ho, Netherlands China Law Centre; Morrison & Foerster (Hong Kong) is publishing Confucian Jurisprudence in Practice: Pre-Tang Dynasty Panwen (Written Legal Judgments) in the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal. Here is the abstract.

Most scholarship on Chinese legal philosophy has neglected the study of Confucian jurisprudence in practice. As a result of this incomplete portrayal, scholars predominantly view the premodern Chinese Confucian legal tradition as lacking a rule of law system, which has led to blaming Confucianism for much of China’s modern and historical rule of law problems. This article seeks to complicate this view by examining Confucian jurisprudence in practice: specifically, the development of pre-Tang dynasty panwen (written legal judgments). Through analysis of specific panwen from various Chinese primary sources — many of which have never been translated into English — this article will show that even in Chinese antiquity the legal system was not solely marked by codification or the lack of the rule of law, but was far more complex and diverse than most scholars have portrayed. For example, elements of case law played an important role in Chinese legal history. Indeed, it is an especially good time to build our understanding of the use of cases and the role of panwen, in China’s legal past given the Supreme People’s Court’s recent emphasis on the role of case law in contemporary Chinese jurisprudence.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

Robin West's "Normative Jurisprudence"

Hanoch Dagan, Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law, is publishing Normative Jurisprudence and Legal Realism in volume 63 of the University of Toronto Law Journal (2013). Here is the abstract.

This review article examines Robin West’s provocative new book Normative Jurisprudence: An Introduction. West provides a learned and sophisticated account of the decay of the three major jurisprudential traditions of North American legal theory: natural law, legal positivism, and critical legal studies, which leads to and is motivated by a spirited plea for the reinvigoration of distinctively legal normative scholarship. Her proposed genealogy is valuable and her preliminary blueprint for reform important. But I believe that both fronts can be significantly enriched by a more charitable reading of legal realism than the one she (briefly) provides. Thus, this review offers a competing genealogical account of the three contemporary approaches to law West criticizes, claiming that like critical scholars, promoters of institutional fit and of economic efficiency are also intellectual descendants of legal realism. Legal realism, I insist, provides a subtle conception of law as a set of institutions distinguished by the irreducible cohabitation of power and reason, science and craft, and tradition and progress. This conception, which was torn apart by the realists’ heirs, offers the key to a proper cure to the predicament West identifies by pointing out to a robust understanding of legal theory and thus of the distinctive contribution legal scholars can make in normative debates.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

December 7, 2012

New Issue of Law and Humanities Is Available

The new issue of Law and Humanities is available.

Law and Humanities
Volume 6. Number 2. 2012

Hart Publishing is very pleased to let you know that the 2nd issue of the 2012 volume of Law and Humanities is now available online.

Please see below for the table of contents, information about online access and details on how to subscribe.


Editorial by Paul Raffield and Gary Watt
Free to view – please click on the link below:

Oaths, Credibility and the Legal Process in Early Modern England: Part One
Barbara J Shapiro

‘Observe how parts with parts unite / In one harmonious rule of right’: William Blackstone’s Verses on the Laws of England
Matthew Mauger

Human Rights and Radical Universalism: Aimé Césaire’s and CLR James’s Representations of the Haitian Revolution
Philip Kaisary

Dickens and the National Interest: On the Representation of Parties in Bleak House
Jan-Melissa Schramm

Truth, Law and Forensic Psychiatry in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
Svein Atle Skålevåg

To access this issue online, read the abstracts and purchase individual papers please click here:

To subscribe and for further information about Law and Humanities, please click here:

December 6, 2012

Judges On Reality TV

Cynthia Bond, John Marshall Law School, has published "We, the Judges": The Legalized Subject and Narratives of Adjudication in Reality Television at 81 UMKC Law Review 1 (2012). Here is the abstract.

At first a cultural oddity, reality TV is now a cultural commonplace. These quasi-documentaries proliferate on a wide range of network and cable channels, proving adaptable to any audience demographic. Across a variety of types of “reality” offerings, narratives of adjudication — replete with “judges,” “juries,” and “verdicts”— abound. Do these judgment formations simply reflect the often competitive structure or subtext of reality TV? Or is there a deeper, more constitutive connection between reality TV as a genre and narratives of law and adjudication?
This article looks beyond the many “judge shows” popular on reality TV (e.g. Judge Judy, etc.) to examine the law-like operations of the genre itself, and how legal narratives dovetail with the increasingly participatory nature of our “convergence culture.” In addition, this article examines the ideologies these shows represent regarding community, and particularly the role of the legalized subject within this community. How does the prevalence of images of judges and judging on reality TV fit into previous notions that media audiences empathize with legal processes by identifying with an “on-screen” jury, embodying shared, democratic decision-making? Do these shows play on pop cultural narratives of conflicts between judges (within the show) and juries (the viewing audience)? Finally, do such shows empower spectators by engaging them in democratic “knowledge collectives,” or instead represent a neo-liberal “technology of governmentality”? Ultimately, through its enactment of a range of adjudicatory and quasi-legal narratives, reality TV emerges as a highly regulatory space. Law is a compelling narrative for recirculation in a contemporary media culture marked by contestations of authority and community, as the interrelationships between cultural producer, text, and cultural consumer shift and are redefined.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

December 4, 2012

Law, Religion, and the Peace of Westphalia

Gordon A. Christenson, University of Cincinnati College of Law, has published 'Liberty of the Exercise of Religion' in the Peace of Westphalia in volume 21 of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems (2012). Here is the abstract.

This essay takes a fresh look at the backdrop and structure of toleration and religious freedom in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and in the American Constitution, with special focus on a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision of first impression. That important decision protects inner church freedoms in ecclesiastical employment, the so-called "Ministerial Exception" to federal and state employment discrimination laws.
The Westphalian system of sovereign states spread widely after ending the Christian wars in Europe, beginning with the American Declaration of Independence. I ask whether there is any link between provisions for free exercise of religion in the Treaty and the Religion Clauses of the American Constitution and compare them structurally. The roots of religious tolerance worked out in the structure and practice of the Peace of Westphalia might have special relevance within the global community today, when ubiquitous tensions between liberty of conscience, secular ideology, and religion are faced by most sovereign states, certainly in the United States.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link. 

December 3, 2012

Law In Modernity: A New Book From Routledge

Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodogies and Sovereign Formations
Edited by Ruth Buchanan, Stewart Motha, and Sundhya Pahuja

Published May 3, 2012 by Routledge-Cavendish.

Reading Modern Law identifies and elaborates upon key critical methodologies for reading and writing about law in modernity. The force of law rests on determinate and localizable authorizations, as well as an expansive capacity to encompass what has not been pre-figured by an order of rules. The key question this dynamic of law raises is how legal forms might be deployed to confront and disrupt injustice. The urgency of this question must not eclipse the care its complexity demands. This book offers a critical methodology for addressing the many challenges thrown up by that question, whilst testifying to its complexity. The essays in this volume - engagements direct or oblique, with the work of Peter Fitzpatrick - chart a mode of resisting the proliferation of social scientific methods, as much as geo-political empire. The authors elaborate a critical and interdisciplinary treatment of law and modernity, and outline the pivotal role of sovereignty in contemporary formations of power, both national and international. From various overlapping vantage points, therefore, Reading Modern Law interrogates law's relationship to power, as well as its relationship to the critical work of reading and writing about law in modernity.

A Conference on Eighteenth Century Portuguese Studies

From Jose Calvo Gonzalez, news of another interesting conference: this one beginning today in Lisbon and running through the 5th of December. It's the Sociedade Portuguesa de Estudos do Século XVIII. COLÓQUIO INTERNACIONAL (Lisboa, 3-5 de Dezembro de 2012). More here at Professor Calvo's blog,  Iusrisdictio-Lex Malacitana.