Author: Dave Hoffman

5

The Future of Law Libraries

langdelllib.jpg

Via Brian Leiter, I read this post on a controversy at Tulane’s Law Library. The Law Librarian Blog, after detailing recent staff and policy shifts, wonders whether the University administration is using Katrina as an excuse to do away with an independent academic law library:

So my question is do the actions at Tulane reasonably represent a sub rasa determination by relevant powers to subsume the law library into the operations of the University library, demoting it from an independent entity and transforming it into a subordinated department? The recent spate of firings looks to be designed to preshape the structure of the law library for insertion into the main library’s organization.

If this is true, I wonder whether Tulane would defend itself by arguing that in light of recent developments, there is less of a need for an independent law library than there used to be. Or, more provocatively, “Law Libraries. Huh. What are they good for?”

Read More

2

The Market Tells Us What To Think About Alito’s Hearings

Reading conflicting accounts of the Senate’s hearings on Judge Alito, I thought it might make sense to turn to the InTrade electronic futures market. This graph of the predicted likelihood of Alito’s confirmation is somewhat illuminating:

alitolastweek.png

The trading history indicates a small run before the hearings began, but once the questioning started, Alito made a dramatic comeback. The last price I saw quoted was 97 (i.e., the traders think he has a 97% likelihood to be confirmed).

But that isn’t particularly surprising. I data mined dug a bit deeper and found two other interesting results.

Read More

1

A “Stealth Rottweiler”

dog.jpg

Following up on a story the blawgosphere chewed on a few weeks back, Peter Lattman of the WSJ blog posts on the latest Martin Singer cease-and-desist letter controversy.

Singer’s letters usually claim that they are copyrighted and may not be published further. (The particular letter on Lattman’s radar has an interesting commentary on its recepient’s likely response. But you are going to have to go through the WSJ’s blog to find it.)

As I know almost nothing about copyright law and libel, I can’t comment on the merits of the dispute. However, I can say that Lattman has unearthed a great quote from Singer client Priscilla Presley, who apparently once said “Marty Singer is a very nice man who loves his family. But if he thinks someone has done me harm, he is a stealth rottweiler.”

A stealth rottweiler? Isn’t the whole point of rottweilers that you know they are coming?

2

Zywicki Compares Kennedy to McCarthy?

I may be misreading this post, but I think that Todd Zywicki is saying that Senator Kennedy is playing Eugene Joe McCarthy to Judge Alito’s Joseph Welch Fred Fisher when discussing the CAP issue. This seems to me a strained analogy, as the commentators to Zywicki’s post are currently thrashing out.

[UPDATE: Two really silly errors in the above post, noted by our commentators, have been corrected.]

7

Judge Alito and the Rule of Law

alito.jpeg

I was wrong.

In this post, I predicted that because of a footnote in a 1985 strategy memo, Judge Alito would be unlikely to find much rhetorical purchase by making “paeans to the rule of law” in his confirmation hearing. Indeed, given the Judge’s evident disdain for rule of law and precedent-based defenses of Roe, I thought that the footnote might force Judge Alito to “actually say that he believes Roe should be reversed.”

Today’s headline from the Times:

“Alito Tells Senators That ‘Rule of Law’ Is Paramount”.

That will teach me to try to read tea leaves. It also suggests the tremendous rhetorical flexibility of the concept of the “rule of law.” Now, Nate has already once taken Kaimi and I to task for our co-authored paper that had suggested the “rule of law” is almost entirely a contentless political slogan. Nevertheless, it it still evident to me that appeals to the “rule of law” in the context of public debate are almost always a form of constitutional puffery. Which probably helps to explain why Judge Alito’s “Footnote 10” problem isn’t much of one after all.

0

AALS Contracts Session

As ContractsProf Blog spotlighted here, today was the Contracts Section meeting at the AALS Conference. The theme was empirical studies in contract law. Section Chair David Snyder moderated a discussion of papers by: Mitu Gulati (presenting on disclosure and sovereign debt contracts); George Geis (presenting on the optimal specificity of default rules); Debora Threedy (presenting on “legal archaeology”, i.e., qualitative research on leading cases); and Stewart Macaulay.

Macaulay in particular provided a good perspective on the field, based on his long experience as one of the founders of the law and society movement. He noted the increasing prevalence of private dispute resolution for contractual disputes, and evidence (some presented today) of contracts’ lawyers lack of interest in the existence of, or changes in, governing default rules. The message of his talk – somewhat implicit – was that there would be surprisingly few economic consequences were contract law to pick itself up and disappear off of the face of the earth. That is, the hierarchical model of American legal education, which posits that judges (and professors?) generate law, lawyers interpret it, and clients follow it, bears little to no relationship to observed experience. Obviously, Macaulay said it better than I could, and certainly this isn’t a novel idea (he’s said it before, in many places and in many forms) but it was a good thing to be reminded of as I begin to get ready to teach the second semester of my contracts course.

1

Court Grants Padilla Petition

As How Appealing and SCOTUSBlog have reported, the Supreme Court has granted the SG’s motion to transfer Jose Padilla to civilian custody. The Court’s order disposes of the issue without substantive comment.

As one of my colleagues observed, you can just imagine the Chief Justice raising his eyebrows when reading Judge Luttig’s (astonishing) opinion denying the transfer below. Luttig’s decision, you may remember, refused to order something that both parties at the time wanted — i.e., transfer the prisoner to civilian custody — reasoning that the transfer would undermine the rule of law in the context of an issue of “surpassing” national importance. The Chief Justice’s implied reply: “Chill.”

0

AALS

I’m in D.C. for the AALS conference currently, and hoping to see at least a few of our readers at tonight’s happy hour. I’m also pleased to report that I’ve finished the hard part of grading (I’ve still got to do error-checking) so I’m free to return to blogging/teaching/writing full time (in no particular order).

Although I know that only a few of you are lawyers, I thought I’d share my delight that my students did real well on the exam, which was a tough, 24-hour, take home. A few of them even spotted and dealt with what I think is a very interesting (although on the test marginal) issue: whether a merger clause precludes judicial consideration of pre-contract notification (under Hadley) of otherwise unforseeable damages.

In other news, the WJS blog broke this spicy securities law story. Think that perhaps the relationship discussed is in trouble?

10

Ads You Can’t Escape

trasnpass.jpg

I received my monthly subway pass over the weekend, which SEPTA refers to as my “Transpass.” It looks something like the image on this post, except that the January pass is embossed, for the first time, with an advertisement for a local latino newsweekly. The back of the card contains more information about the weekly, along with (now) very fine print about the terms and conditions of subway riding.

I know this is just the sort of thing that rational people ignore. But it drives me a little crazy. I’d prefer to avoid as much persuasive messaging as I can, and I very much dislike new advertising on previously uncluttered surfaces. I don’t want my fruit tattooed with ads; and I think I ought to be able to get onto the subway without paying the mental tax of ignoring an ad.

I just came back from NY, whose metrocards are blessfully free of advertising. So I was wondering: are other transit agencies also trying to turn their tickets into a profit center?