May 30, 2012

Nasty Popular Culture Attorney Association, General Division

Greedy Associates ( nominates three fictional lawyers, Tom Hagen ("The Godfather"), John Milton ("The Devil's Advocate"), and Maurice Levy ("The Wire") as the most evil attorneys ever. Criteria? Corruption, immorality, and all-around nastiness (without redeeeming social value, of course). Which lawyers are your candidates for Most Evil Fictional Advocates Of All Time?

The History of Mandatory Copyright In Palestine and Israel

Michael Birnhack, Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law, has published Mandatory Copyright: From Pre-Palestine to Israel, 1910-2007, in A Shifting Empire: 100 Years of the Copyright Act 1911 (Uma Suthersanan & Ysolde Gendreau eds.; Edward Elgar, 2012, forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

The development of copyright law in Mandate Palestine and then Israel during the past century is a story of gradual absorption of a foreign concept, constantly searching for direction and guidance, slowly distancing itself from the original British roots. Copyright law was imposed first by the Ottomans (1910) and then by the British (1920, 1924), but both foreign transplants were premature for some time. Foreign players and technological developments were instrumental in the initial integration of copyright. Later on and more so in its new status as an Israeli law, the legal (trans)plant took a life of its own: although emerging from British sources, it was affected by international commitments, Continental notions of authors' rights, then by American utilitarian-instrumentalist concepts, and finally by the reconceptionalisation of copyright as a subject of global trade, all mixed up with various original Israeli additions. Thus, current Israeli copyright law is a complex patch-work. Here I retell these developments as a story of an on-going search for theoretical and legal guidance. The discussion offers a case study of legal transplants, by providing a legal-historical discussion of copyright law in one particular region.
The discussion begins with the Ottoman and British copyright laws, and then surveys copyright law since the establishment of Israel (1948). I trace the continental impact on the law and then a growing tendency towards Americanisation, culminating in the Copyright Act 2007, with a fair use regime.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link. 

Rudolph P. Byrd, Paul Fussell Pass From the Scene

Two recent losses in academe. Rudolph P. Byrd of Emory University passed away in October 2011. Audrey Williams focuses on the impact his work and teaching had on students, colleagues, and the larger world here. On May 23, Paul Fussell died. Jay Winter pays tribute here.

Selected Byrd Bibliography

I Call Myself an Artist: Writings By and About Charles Johnson (1999).
Jean Toomer's Years With Gurdjieff: Portrait of an Artist (2010).
Traps: African-American Men on Gender and Sexuality (2001).
The World Has Changed: Conversations With Alice Walker (2011).

Selected Fussell Bibliography

Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars (1982).
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1992).
The Great War and Modern Memory: 25th anniversary edition (2000).
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1990).

May 29, 2012

The Origins of Law and Culture

Robin Bradley Kar, University of Illinois College of Law, has published On the Early Eastern Origins of Western Law and Western Civilization: New Arguments for a Changed Understanding of Our Earliest Legal and Cultural Origins (Part 1) (Part 2) and (Part 3), in the University of Illinois Law Review. Here is the abstract for Part 1.

Western law and Western civilization are often said to be parts of a distinctive tradition, which differentiates them from their counterparts in the “East” and explains many of their special capacities and characteristics. One common version of this story, as propounded by the influential legal scholar Harold Berman, asserts that Western civilization (including its incipient legal traditions) began in the 11th century AD with a return to the texts of three more primordial traditions: those of ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel. The basic story that Western civilization finds its origins in ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew culture is, however, so familiar and so pervasive that it has rarely — until recently — been questioned in the West.
This Article develops a novel set of arguments, rooted in recent findings from a broad range of cognate fields, to suggest that this standard story is nevertheless incomplete and even potentially misleading. If we are genuinely interested in understanding our origins in a way that will shed light on why the West has exhibited such distinctive capacities for large-scale human civilization and the rule of law, then the story we commonly tell ourselves starts abruptly in the middle and leaves out some of the most formative (and potentially transformative) dimensions of the truth. Western law and Western civilization are not just the outgrowths of three particularly creative cultures, which straddled the transition from human prehistory into human history and developed in either Southeastern Europe or the Near East. Rather, the West appears to be descended from a much deeper cultural tradition, which extends all the way back to some of our first human forays out of hunter-gatherer modes of subsistence and into settled agricultural living. The tradition in question began not in Greece, Rome, or Israel, however, but rather in and around the Indus Valley — which is a region that spans the Northwestern portions of the Indian subcontinent.
From approximately 4500 BC until approximately 1900 BC — and hence long before the rise of ancient Greece, Rome or Israel — the Indus Valley region gave rise to one of the very first large scale civilizations in our natural history as a species: the so-called “Harappan” Civilization. This civilization was also part of a much larger and highly integrated social complex, with strong ties to ancient Bactria and the eastern parts of modern day Iran. (Because this region does not correspond to contemporary political boundaries, I call it the "Eastern-Iran-Bactria-Indus-Valley" Region.) In this Article, I argue that this ancient socio-cultural complex is most likely the actual source of a range of important Western traditions. Through an unbroken chain of cultural transmission that has operated through an immense number of generations, we have likely inherited an important set of traditions from this ancient socio-cultural complex, which have specially equipped us to produce and sustain large-scale civilizations with the rule of law. If this is true, then our failure to understand our deep genealogical relationship to this ancient socio-cultural complex has limited our self-understanding in critical respects. It has also prevented us from realizing useful aspects of our traditions — including, in some cases, those aspects that make our current traditions in the West so capable of supporting large-scale human civilizations with the rule of law.
We live in an era in which it is, moreover, especially important to decipher the deepest origins of Western law and civilization. Scholars within the emerging “legal origins” tradition (e.g., Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny) have now produced an impressive body of empirical work, which suggests that we can explain a broad range of features of modern societies in terms of the origins of their laws. This literature suggests that legal origin variables can have strong effects on issues as diverse as corporate governance structure, labor regulations, the robustness of capital markets, and even literacy and infant mortality rates.
The present Article argues that this literature may nevertheless be working with legal origin variables that fail to track our deepest and most genuine lines of relevant descent. After developing a special methodology to discern the relevant genealogical facts, I use this methodology to propose a new (and fundamentally changed) account of the most plausible phylogenetic structure of the Indo-European legal family (including the socio-cultural traditions needed to support legal systems, along with the special psychological attitudes that animate these traditions). This novel account traces many of the most important developments of this family of traditions deep into human prehistory. A proper understanding of this new family tree should have important empirical implications: this work can, for example, be used to help explain why certain exportations of Western-style legal institutions have worked so well while others have not. Inquiries of this kind should have special urgency today, given the massive exportations of Western law and Western legal institutions to so many other parts of the world and given the increased pressures toward westernization that are being felt around the globe.
The origins story that I develop in this Article should, however, also have broader implications for a much wider range of cognate fields, which have typically presumed a primarily Greco-Roman or Judeo-Christian origin for key developments in the West. The revised origins story that I will be telling should therefore be of more general human concern. 

Download the articles from SSRN at the links. 

May 27, 2012

Barthes, Deconstructed

The New York Times's Sam Anderson on a new, and complete, translation of Roland Barthes's Mythologies.

May 26, 2012

Henry's Man In Rome

One of the less known, and less understood, stories about Henry VIII's "great matter" is exactly how the king and his advisors pursued the issue of an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon before the authorities at the Vatican. Henry could certainly be a tenacious, single-minded, and supremely selfish man, and the way in which he held on, for years, to the idea that he could have both his annulment and continued (fairly) amicable relations with her nephew Charles V, demonstrates all these qualities. How, though, did the actual negotiations proceed? Who carried out the instructions to secure the termination of Henry's relationship to his first wife? Who was Henry's "man in Rome"?

In Henry's Man In Rome (Palgrave, 2012), Catherine Fletcher investigates the identity and the activities of Gregorio Casali,who gets only an occasional mention in the literature of the time. She also illuminates the reasons for the ultimate failure of his delicate mission, which is part of an event that set in motion the establishment of a new church and led to the birth of a great queen. She introduces us not only to the work of a forgotten Italian diplomat of the period, but to the very sensitive activities of an emissary entrusted with a delicate matter such as the disentangling of a royal marriage and a diplomatic alliance. She also depicts life in the Rome of the early to mid 1500s (sometimes none too glamorous or safe, even for the wealthy). Casali's brother, a man "young, virtuous, and lovable, and not little esteemed by His Holiness," according to a member of the Mantuan diplomatic corps, is murdered in 1533.

A meticulously written and exciting look behind the scenes of Henry VIII's attempt to obtain that dissolution of his fateful marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and a worthy addition to the shelf of Renaissance biography and history.

[Based on an advance review copy of Catherine Fletcher, Henry's Man in Rome, Palgrave, 2012. British title:  The Divorce of Henry VIII. Copy courtesy of the publisher].

May 24, 2012

George V, Come Into the Court!

Robin Callender Smith, University of London, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law, has published The Missing Witness? George V, Competence and Compellability and the Criminal Libel Trial of Edward Frederick Mylius. Here is the abstract.

A criminal libel trial in 1911 set the monarch against one of his subjects. Edward Mylius repeated a rumour that accused King George V of marrying Queen Mary when – secretly – the King had already married someone else and had three children. The criminal charge, the process used to bring the issue to court, the advice to the King of the relevant Ministers (including Winston Churchill as Home Secretary) and the trial itself stretched the boundaries of fairness. The legacy of the trial created a lingering problem. Can the monarch ever be required to face the direct scrutiny of examination by being required to appear as a witness in his or her own court to support a personal complaint?
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

Nineteenth Century Novelists and Crime

Elizabeth Burney, University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, has published Crime and Criminology in the Eye of the Novelist: Trends in Nineteenth Century Literature at 51 Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 160 (2012). Here is the abstract.

Many leading novelists of the 19th Century were deeply concerned with crime and its causes, reflecting concerns of the period and often raising ideas which find resonance with modern criminological theories. The structural causes of crime; the negative effect of ill‐treatment and harsh punishment; labelling theory; the possibility of redemption and desistance; the ingrained flaws in individual characters which result in a propensity to crime and deviance, enhanced by bad influences and criminogenic environments; the social pressures (labelled ‘strain theory’ by criminologists) which drive outsiders to gain wealth and status by illegitimate means – all these can be found in fiction of the period. This article takes examples from English, French and Russian literature to illustrate these themes. The article also links fiction to the development of perceptions about crime and criminals as the century progressed.
The full text is not available from SSRN. 

May 23, 2012

The Lawyer As Trickster 2.0

John Denvir, University of San Francisco School of Law, has revised his work "Guile is Good: The Lawyer as Trickster." The original was a top ten download in several categories. The revision is available here from SSRN. Here is the original abstract.

What is the lawyer’s genius — the talent that distinguishes us from other professions? Movies and television suggest that it is more than legal knowledge and technical skills; it is the way lawyers use creativity and cunning to outwit their adversaries. Lawyers in films and television act much like the Trickster figure in mythology and folklore. Moreover, study of the professional lives of the best real life lawyers reveals these same trickster talents. The paper argues that lawyers should embrace the trickster identity because it celebrates the valuable contributions lawyers make to the public good.

May 21, 2012

Interpreting Nat Turner's "Confessions"

Christopher L. Tomlins, University of California, Irvine School of Law, has published Demonic Ambiguities: Enchantment and Disenchantment in Nathaniel Turner’s Virginia as IC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-22. Here is the abstract.

This paper conjoins three texts – the “Confessions of Nat Turner,” Walter Benjamin’s “Capitalism as Religion,” and Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation.” Benjamin and Weber provide interpretive prisms through which to examine Turner’s confession. Though quite unlike each other, each glances at the demonic – a matter of some significance when one considers the meaning of the “full faith and credit” held due the decision of the Southampton (Virginia) County Court to hang Turner for his attempted 1831 slave rebellion. Like guilt/debt, the dual meanings of Schuld that, for Benjamin, confirmed the existence of a religious – specifically a Christian – structure in capitalism, the conjunction of faith and credit has its own demonic ambiguity, simultaneously sacralizing (faith) and secularizing (credit) the authority of the law. In capitalism as religion and as law, these demonic ambiguities fuse together in an overwhelming simultaneity that is at once economic and juridical, moral and psychological, profane and sacral. This simultaneity – and Turner’s attempt to disrupt it – is the paper’s chief concern.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. 

May 19, 2012

Harry's Law Cancelled

NBC has cancelled the David E. Kelley legal drama "Harry's Law," starring Kathy Bates as former corporate attorney turned street lawyer Harriet Korn. The series ran for two seasons.

A Law and Pop Culture Research Guide

The Law Library staff at IIT's Chicago-Kent College of Law maintains a Law and Popular Research Guide, and updates it regularly. Check it out here.

May 16, 2012

The Finalists In the Harper Lee Prize Winner Contest

Vote for this year's Harper Lee Prize winner here. (From the ABA's Journal's blog).  In the running: Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness; Robert Dugoni's Murder One; David Ellis's Breach of Trust.

Baby, Esquire

Alyssa A. DiRusso, Samford University Cumberland School of Law, and Letitia Van Campen have published Law and Literature Junior: Lawyers in Books for Young Children at 11 Whittier Journal of Child & Family Advocacy 39 (2012). Here is the abstract.
Are children’s perceptions of lawyers an open book? The genre of law and literature has demonstrated the power that popular texts hold in shaping societal perceptions of law, but little attention has been given to little readers. This Article explores the perspectives children have of lawyers and how books for young children may reflect or affect those perspectives. A unique collaboration between a law professor and a children’s librarian, this Article reviews a variety of books intended for preschool and early elementary readers. Several themes and narratives emerge from these texts, telling stories of lawyers as historical heroes or workaday joes. The books promote ideals – realistic or unrealistic – relating to the transience of legal practice, the motivation and character of lawyers, and the diversity of the legal profession. The relative absence of relatable fictional lawyers in books for young children is also notable. Outside of books, the relationships between lawyers and children are too often less than positive. Lending greater attention to the books that shape perspectives of lawyers may foster happier endings to these real-life stories.
 Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Feminism and the Museum

Yxta Maya Murray, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, has published Feminist Engagement and the Museum in volume 1 of the British Journal of American Legal Studies (2012). Here is the abstract.

One day in the summer of 2011, Los Angeles law professor Yxta Maya Murray visited the Tate Britain and was shocked to see there Cathy Wilkes' installation (We are) pro-choice, a phantasmagoria involving a "weeping" naked mannequin sitting on a toilet, as well as a ladder and some banged up kitchenware. Murray gleaned that something feminist was in the offing, but couldn't tell quite what that might be. It seemed evident that Wilkes was making a case that women are miserable in today's brutalist western-capitalist society. However (she wondered), were there any other, more hopeful, conclusions to draw from the work? Pro-choice sent her off on a six-months long adventure of trying to understand this amazing art – intellectual travels that drew her to the lands of French/Bulgarian feminist Julia Kristeva, U.S. legal theorist Drucilla Cornell, and to the strange ways of Irish Wilkes herself. In the resulting essay, Murray asks the following questions: What is this suffering that Wilkes' describes in (We are) pro-choice? How does art help us understand subordination that might be reversed through legal reform? And what kinds of radical changes have to be made to museum law and policy that would allow art institutions to help us liberate the oppressed?
Download the article from SSRN at the link. 

May 15, 2012

The Legal Historian and the Text

Steven Wilf, University of Connecticut School of Law, has published Law/Text/Past at 1 Irvine Law Review 543 (2011). Here is the abstract.

How might legal historians read text? What is particular about their modes of reading as opposed to those employed by readers in other disciplines? This essay will analyze the distinctive features of legal texts such as those stemming from the pervasive reliance upon conventions or boilerplate as part of a bricolage construction, the focus upon legitimizing gestures to official authority, and the normative, almost instrumental nature of many legal texts. While other sorts of texts might be more expressive, statutes, for example, always include a sanction. Drawing upon numerous examples, the paper identifies an expansive array of texts, including extra-official legalism; rituals, procedure, and nonverbal texts; and imagined law. While seeking to provide sharp, analytic definitions of what is a legal text, it will forge a path somewhere between establishing a new dichotomy of text/context and, alternatively, proclaiming that everything is text (il n’y a pas de hors-texte). Without making a fetish of the problem of reading, I underscore the ways text might be chimerical, indeterminate, multivocal, slippery, and generally untrustworthy. Text has come to mean too much and too little.
Let me make clear what this paper is not about — it is not a guide to literary techniques for reading, a meandering meditation on the craft of history, or a manifesto for the importance of close readings. But I will situate the problem of text reading in our own historiographic milieu as legal historians. It is not simply the breakdown of the binary construct of law/society that leads to a more self-conscious understanding of how to read a legal historical text.
Legal history is particularly subject to a postmodern sensibility, which erodes interdisciplinary borders, jurisdictional boundaries, and divisions between official and extra-official justice, and which contributes to disintermediation and the loss of the interpretive monopolies of professional elites.
What is the role of the legal historian in this new world?
Download the full text from SSRN at the link. 

Ideas For Summer Reading, the used books search service, offers two interesting collections to examine. Guile and Mischief: Tricksters in Literature is a provocative look at deceivers in fiction and includes titles from folklore, the classics, and novels. 39 Books for a John Buchan Collection pays homage to the lawyer, adventurer, and diplomat who wrote so many thrillers. Buchan's famous The Thirty Nine Steps was recently remade for tv, and stars Rupert Penry-Jones and Lydia Leonard. The Hitchcock adaptation starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll appeared in 1935.

Great reading ideas for the summer.

Conference On Law and Psychoanalysis

An announcement of a conference on law and psychoanalysis, to be held from May 16 to May 18, at the Universidade Federal do Parana (Brazil). Information from our colleague Dr. José Calvo González.

May 11, 2012

Rhyme Time

An Atlanta attorney may be in trouble after a rhyming email he sent to the special referee in charge of his client's divorce got opposing counsel's dander up. A, Todd Merolla sent a "'60 line poem in a Dec. 23 e-mail that began, "Twas the week before Christmas, in the Matrimonial Part,/ All the creatures were stirring, putting their horse in front of the cart./The fee applications were pending, bills demanding to be paid,/In hopes that Drew's resolve, soon would fade.'" The referee, Frank Schellace, has indicated that the poem didn't annoy him, but he has forwarded it to the grievance committee in charge of lawyer discipline to decide if Mr. Merolla's, um, unorthodox document, crossed a line. More coverage here at the ABA Journal.

May 10, 2012

Italian Society for Law and Literature Holds Its Fourth Annual Conference

The Italian Society for Law and Literature (ISLL) announces its Fourth National Conference, to be held May31 and June 1st. Here are the flyer and description of the conference. Thanks to José Calvo González, Professor at the University of Malaga, for the information.

May 8, 2012

The Third International Conference On Law, Translation, and Culture

From Le Cheng, City University of Hong Kong, an announcement concerning the Third International Conference on Law, Translation, and Culture

The Third International Conference on Law, Translation and Culture (LTC3) invites researchers of divergent cultural and language backgrounds from different disciplines and across jurisdictions. The themes include but are not limited to the following strands:
Strand I: Language for Specific Purposes (LSP)
  1. Language for legal purposes
  1. Language for sci-tech purposes
  1. Language for business purposes
  1. Corpus linguistics and LSP
  1. Discourse analysis and LSP
Strand II: Translation/Interpreting for Specific Purposes (T/ISP)
  1. Trainings on legal translators and court interpreters
  1. Ethics of legal translators and court interpreters
  1. Fundamentals on legal translation and court interpreters
  1. Corpus and T/ISP
  1. Machine-based specialized translation
Strand III: Multiculturalism
  1. Legal cultures
  1. Business cultures
Individual proposals should be submitted to Changmi WANG ( before 30 Nov 2012. Panel proposals should be submitted to Xingcan MENG ( and Le Cheng ( before 15 Dec 2012.
All selected papers (6 pages) will be included in the Proceedings of LTC 2013 to be indexed by CPCI-SSH. Full-length papers based on the presentation are invited to the Special Issues with International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse, andInternational Journal of Legal Translation and Court Interpreting.
Important Dates
  • Individual abstract submission: 30 Nov 2012 (300-500 words)
  • Panel proposal submission: 15 Dec 2012 (800-1000 words)
  • Notification of acceptance: 31 Dec 2012
  • Early-bird registration: 1 -31 Jan 2013 (RMB1,500 /Sterling Pound 150)
  • Full paper submission (6 pages; optional): 31 Mar, 2013
  • Acceptance of full paper: 30 Apr, 2013

Conference ChairXingcan MENG (Zhejiang Sci-Tech University)
ConvenersLe CHENG (City University of Hong Kong)Changmi WANG (Zhejiang Sci-Tech University)
OrganizerSchool of Foreign Languages, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University
Multicultural Association of Law and Language
RCPCE, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
CTL, City University of Hong Kong 
School of Foreign Languages, China University of Political Science and Law
Zhejiang Sci-Tech University

May 4, 2012

Errol Morris On Naming

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris discusses "What's In a Name" for the New York Times here, here, and here.

May 3, 2012

UT's Law and Lawyers In Popular Culture

The University of Texas Law School's Tarlton Law Library staff have reorganized the Law and Lawyers in Popular Culture collection, available here. In addition to links to the library's print and media collection, the materials available include bibliographies of writings on law and literature, film, and popular culture, Marlyn Robinson's "A Brief History of the Legal Thriller," and a section called "Mason and Associates," a bibliography on lawyers on television.

"Scottsboro Boys" Gets Its West Coast Premiere

Coverage here of a San Diego production of the musical Scottsboro Boys, an interpretation of the trial of nine black teenagers accused (and eventually convicted) of the rape of two white women in 1930s Alabama. The production, at the Old Globe in Balboa Park, is the West Coast premiere of Kander and Ebb's musical; it premiered world-wide in 2010 in New York.

Scottsboro Boys is not the first interpretation of the real life story of these nine young men's trial and condemnation. In 1976, NBC broadcast a docudrama, Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys, which starred Arthur Hill as Judge Horton, who set aside the verdict against the defendants. The film generated a famous defamation case by one of the complaining witnesses, Victoria Street.

More on the Scottsboro case from Douglas Linder of UMKC Law here and here.

May 2, 2012

BBC Plans New Versions of Shakespeare's History Plays

The BBC is broadcasting new versions of four of Shakespeare's plays over the summer: Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. These versions will feature some of the best (and biggest) names in UK acting, from Jeremy Irons to Patrick Stewart. Mr. Irons will be featured as Henry IV and Mr. Stewart as John of Gaunt. Other big names involved in the productions are John Hurt, David Suchet, and Michelle Dockery. Said Pippa Harris of Neal Street Productions, which is producing the films, "There are so many themes in these four plays which seem fitting to be showcased in this particular year – themes about monarchy, England and politics."

More here from The Guardian.

More On Thucydides, Law, and History

Darien Shanske, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has published Thucydides and Law: A Response to Leiter. Here is the abstract.

Thucydides is the author of the most harrowing account of societal breakdown in antiquity. Brian Leiter has recently made the provocative claim that Thucydides’s analysis of such breakdowns indicates that morality is of little import in guiding behavior, including legal behavior. Yet Thucydides also narrates events, particularly in Athens, which indicate that something resembling morality can continue to guide action, including legal action, even at the worst of times. Thucydides provides tantalizing clues as to why he narrates events that only sometimes follow the path predicted by Leiter. In particular, Thucydides (accurately) portrays the law that suffuses Athenian life and saves Athens itself as, for the most part, informal and infused with moral concerns. Leiter’s reading of Thucydides is therefore not only limited, but misses implicit arguments that challenge Leiter’s larger realist project.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.