July 29, 2016

Culture Court: A Law and Film/Lit/Media/Radio Related Website

Lawrence Russell's Culture Court website discusses film, literature, and other media that have law-related themes. Check it out here.


Yes, we've been watching the Republican and Democratic Conventions, and they've been interesting--even historic. But what about what's been going in London? At Whitehall, the ginger furred Larry the Cat is still in possession of Number 10 even as Prime Ministers come and go. David Cameron Brexited. Enter Theresa May. Larry Remained.

A four-footed rival appeared, however. Tuxedo cat Palmerston has taken up residence at the Foreign Office, and things are not going well between Larry (not, frankly, a great PM name--why not Winston, or Churchill, or Atlee) and Palmerston (now, there's a great Foreign Office moniker). The two have staked out territory and exchanged undiplomatic paw punches.  Palmerston seems to be getting the better of these skirmishes. Not only did he manage to infiltrate No. 10--he had to be ousted by security--but once outside he stared down an officer. He also dispatched Larry to the vet for emergency care, although it seems he might be missing some fur himself. Tough moggy, that Palmerston. I wonder what would happen were he appointed to oversee Brexit negotiations. Do EU cats all speak the same dialect of Feline?

Larry also used to mix it up with the former FO kitty, Freya, who was eventually sent off to the country to avoid future spats.

Meanwhile, the Treasury has acquired its own fluffy--Gladstone (also a great name). Apparently, the 18-month-old has been around for about a month. The Houses of Parliament have been questioning why they don't have their own mousers. More coverage on the "diplocats" from CNN here.

Will Palmerston continue to tick Larry off? Will Parliament get its own felines? Will members of the Commonwealth demand pawrity? I smell a TV series, complete with furry politicians carrying out intrigue behind doors that are only partially closed (a cat would never allow a door to be left completely closed). Maybe some dog assistants and mouse minions. House of Claws. 

Houdini, waiting for the premiere of House of Claws. "Don't call me until it airs. And order pizza."

Update: The Cabinet Office is probably getting its own feline, and His or Her Furriness will probably be called Cromwell. I would have gone with Melbourne or Churchill, but that's me.

Ekins on the Constitution as an Object of Interpretation

Richard Ekins, University of Oxford Faculty of Law, is publishing Objects of Interpretation in Constitutional Commentary (forthcoming). Here is the abstract.
This paper argues that the central object of constitutional interpretation is the Constitution, which is an intentional lawmaking act rather than a text floating free in the world, and that the point of such interpretation is primarily to understand the meaning that those who made the Constitution intended to convey by promulgating the text in question. The paper develops these claims by way of a critique of Cass Sunstein’s recent argument that there is nothing that interpretation just is, contending that he misunderstands the way that intention works in language use in general and that the alternatives to intentionalism that he outlines each fail. The radical interpretive choice for which he argues is ruled out by the nature of the Constitution. The final part of the paper considers the various ways in which one might understand the Constitution as an object requiring interpretation and outlines the significance that this understanding has for interpretive practice.
The full text is not available for download from SSRN.

Joe Biden To Make Appearance On Law & Order: SVU Episode

Current Vice President Joe Biden is the latest in a series of political figures (including the late Senator Fred Thompson, who actually became a regular on three of the Law & Order franchises), who will make a tv appearance. The White House has announced that the Veep (not to be confused with Veep's Selina Meyer) is in Gotham (not to be confused with Gotham) to film a cameo that will be part of an upcoming Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode (not to be confused with Law & Order, Law & Order:  UK, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, or Law & Order: LA. 

Although my tone in this post is a little flippant, the theme of the episode Mr. Biden will guest on is not. The episode will feature the backlog of untested rape kits that currently plagues a number of jurisdictions and thus endangers sexual assault prosecutions. Mr. Biden will play himself in a press conference in the episode, recognizing Olivia Benson's work in the area. More here from the Wrap, here from the CBC.

July 28, 2016

Wald on Lawyers' Identity Capital

Eli Wald, University of Denver College of Law, is publishing Lawyers’ Identity Capital in volume 22 of the International Journal of the Legal Profession (2016). Here is the abstract.
Lawyers’ commodification of personal identity is nothing new. For generations now, white male lawyers have benefitted from positive racial and gender stereotypes regarding their competence and loyalty to clients and firms to secure job offers, promotions and elevated status within the profession. Yet the concept of identity capital – the value one derives from one’s personal identity – warrants attention for two related reasons. While prevalent, lawyers’ use of identity capital has historically been implicit. As explicit and visible use of identity capital grows, however, lawyers must reckon with the meaning of and consequences of using identity capital in their practice. In addition, because women and minority lawyers are increasingly criticized for undermining professional standards by actively using identity capital or by passively allowing its commodification, fairness dictates that the profession comes to terms with the relationship between merit and capital. This essay examines the commodification of women and minority lawyers’ personal identity in the context of the ongoing commodification of lawyers’ personal identity more generally. Specifically, it explores several qualities of identity capital that ought to inform both the decision-making of individual lawyers who either actively deploy it or passively tolerate its commodification by others in representing clients and of the profession as it assesses the use of identity capital by its members: inevitable and avoidable uses of identity capital, the desirability of lawyers’ commodification of personal identity, active and passive uses of identity capital, the impact of identity capital exchanges on third parties, the interplay of merit and identity capital and the appropriate terms of identity capital transactions.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Pultizer Prize and MacArthur Grant Winner James Alan McPherson Dies

Acclaimed writer James Alan McPherson has died at the age of 72. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1977 for his work Elbow Room. He was the first African American writer to win the prize.

Professor McPherson, who taught at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop for many years, retiring in 2014, as well as at the University of Virginia, was also a graduate of Iowa, receiving a master's degree in fine arts, after graduating from Harvard Law School. One can find that legal training reflected in his writing. As Sam Roberts notes in the New York Times obituary for Professor McPherson, he "would invoke the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and infuse his literature with the principles of diversity propounded by Albion W. Tourgée in his brief in 1896 against segregated railroad cars in Plessy v. Ferguson."

The James D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded James Alan McPherson one of the first "genius grants" in 1981.

A selected bibliography is below:

Beavers, Herman, I Yam What You Is and You Is What I Yam: Rhetorical Invisibility in James Alan McPherson's "The Story of a Dead Man," 29 Callaloo 565-577 (Autumn 1986).

Beavers, Herman, Wrestling Angels Into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

McPherson, James Alan, Conversations With Ralph Ellison (1995).

Wallace, Jon, The Politics of Style in Three Stories by James Alan McPherson, 34 MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 17-26 (Spring 1988).

Brexit and Popular Culture

Popular culture references and comparisons are beginning to emerge in the wake of Brexit. Steve Peers @StevePeers invokes a Star Trek: The Original Series reference for a job for Nigel Farage, who has stepped down as the leader of the United Kingdom Independent Party.

Any of the jobs done by any of those guys in red shirts

Oh, feel the burn (not Sanders, or Switzerland, which is not a member state of the EU).

David Allen Green @David Allen Green quotes both Arthur Conan Doyle and Samuel Becket in tweets about failure to invoke Article 50 of the TEU.

David Allen Green ‏@DavidAllenGreen [tweeted July 4] “The curious incident of the Article 50 notification.” - There was no notification. “That was the curious incident,” remarked Holmes. The line occurs in the short story, "Silver Blaze." Here's the excerpt.

Gregory: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention.
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: That was the curious incident.

Holmes notes that a watchdog that alerts on the presence of strangers did not do so when someone approached on this occasion. Thus, the dog knew the person who approached it, This observation has now become so obvious a deduction for pop culture detectives on tv and in film whenever a dog is in a scene that if either a professional or amateur sleuth doesn't mention the dog's behavior, viewers automatically know that the detective is an idiot (and that the screenwriter has never read the literature, or seen any mystery or detective movies or tv over the past 50 years). It would be interesting and novel to substitute a cat or a ferret for the dog in some of these scripts. Monkeys and parrots have been done, BTW (Columbo: Death Hits the Jackpot (1991)) and Perry Mason: The Case of the Perjured Parrot (1958)).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has also become a Tony-winning Broadway Play.

David Allen Green ‏@DavidAllenGreen Jun 25 ESTRAGON: Well, shall we Leave? VLADIMIR: Yes, let's Leave. (They do not send the Article 50 Notification.)

(Parodying Waiting for Godot). Mr. Green has retweeted it numerous times. He is understandably quite fond of it; it's clever, but also, we've been Waiting For Brexit for a month. It's sort of like Waiting To Brexhale.

And this long hommage to Samuel Beckett, from a number of Tweeters: