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Category: Book Reviews

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Book Review: A Brief History of Judging – From the Big Bang to Cosmic Constitutional Theory

J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, Cosmic Constitutional Theory (2012)

Opining on Justice Stephen Breyer’s book, Active Liberty, Judge Richard Posner wrote that “a Supreme Court Justice writing about constitutional theory is like a dog walking on his hind legs; the wonder is not that it is done well but that it is done at all.” Much the same could be said about Cosmic Constitutional Theory by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, the latest jurist to write about his own constitutional theory—or in Judge Wilkinson’s case, a self-professed lack of a constitutional theory.

Judge Wilkinson views all theories of constitutional laws as “cosmic” in the metaphyhsical sense. “[T]he search for cosmic theory has caused us to forget some mundane and humdrum truths, and that future generations will not look kindly on the usurpations that pursuits of unattainable ends have brought about.” Living constitutionalism, the hallmark of the Warren Court, is “activism unleashed.” Originalism—in many respects a moderating-jurisprudence born in reaction to living constitutionalism—to Judge Wilkinson is merely “activism masquerading as restraint.” Pragmatism—the approach endorsed most prominently by Judge Posner—is “activism through antitheory.” Constitutional theories are activist all the way down, to borrow another cosmic image. So, if living constitutionalism, originalism, and pragmatism are out, what is the best judicial philosophy? To Judge Wilkinson, that is the wrong question. In his view, the ideal jurisprudence is none at all. “So what is my theory?” he asks, rhetorically. “The answer is I have no theory.”

But it is not quite that simple. The sine qua non of Judge Wilkinson’s view of the judicial power is to permit the people, through self-determination and the democratic process, to rule for themselves. This very rejection of a constitutional theory is, in essence, a theory in and of itself. His anti-theory, one could call it, fails to address a number of curious constitutional counterfactuals the book raises, but does not resolve. What if other judges, applying Judge Wilkinson’s non-philosophy, had to decide divisive cases, where the will of the people was at odds with individual liberty? Think of cases involving segregation, eugenics, disenfranchisement, or criminal rights.

Elsewhere, Judge Wilkinson has written that “[w]hen a constitutional question is so close, when conventional interpretive methods do not begin to decisively resolve the issue, the tie for many reasons should go to the side of deference to democratic processes.” Judge Wilkinson punts on these important questions quite unconvincingly: outlier “[d]ecisions like BrownGideon, and Miranda represent success stories because they vindicated foundational principles essential to the functioning of our nation. But I doubt there are now Browns and Gideons waiting to be born.”

To simply shoo away any future constitutional conflicts by saying the Supreme Court has already decided the important cases is short-sighted, and as Gerard Magliocca put it, somewhat reminiscent of the 19th Century Patent Commissioner who purportedly boasted that “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” This is not the case with respect to inventions, and it is certainly not the case with respect to future unexpected constitutional crises. Further, this position does nothing to address whether a Judge Wilkinson sitting on the Fourth Circuit or the Supreme Court decades earlier would have decided cases any differently. Unexpected changes in our society—disputed presidential elections, a war on terror, broccoli mandates, and other constitutional black swans—will happen, and the Supreme Court will confront them.

More pressing, is from what, or more precisely, from where Judge Wilkinson would derive these “foundational principles essential to the functioning of our nation.” Indeed, it is quite debatable what the foundational principles of our nation are, and what makes them essential to the functioning of our nation. Originalists would say that the foundation of our nation is the Constitution as understood by the founding generation. Living Constitutionalists would say that the foundation of our nation is evolving principles that reflect present circumstances.

And what are these principles to Judge Wilkinson? Addressed almost in passing, he notes that “[o]ne foundational premise of the American experiment is that self-determination is a valuable good.” Judge Wilkinson assumes—almost as if it is incontrovertible—that the foundational principle that separates a bad (read activist) opinion from a good (read restrained) opinion is one that promotes self-governance. But he does not show why this is so, nor does he prove why this is Article III’s ideal explication of “the judicial power.”

Cosmic Constitutional Theory serves as a worthy embodiment of Judge Wilkinson’s quarter-century of minimalist jurisprudence on the Fourth Circuit, and offers salient and vigorous critiques of today’s most popular schools of constitutional thought. However, where the book falters is by failing to come to grips with the foundation of Judge Wilkinson’s own anti-jurisprudence.

- Josh Blackman, Assistant Professor, South Texas College of Law

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New Titles from Oxford University Press

OUPHere are some new titles from Oxford University Press. If you’re interested in reviewing a book, please let me know and tell me a bit about your background. If I select you as a reviewer for the book, Oxford University Press will send you a free review copy.

 

Louis Michael Seidman, On Constitutional Disobedience

 

Michael J. Klarman, From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

 

Ganesh Sitaramanm The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars

 

J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance  

 

Sanford Levinson, Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance   

 

Stephen J. Schulhofer, More Essential than Ever: The Fourth Amendment in the Twenty First Century

 

Daniel Kanstroom, Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora

 

G. Edward White, Law in American History: Volume 1: From the Colonial Years Through the Civil War

 

Gary Rosen, Unfair to Genius: The Strange and Litigious Career of Ira B. Arnstein

 

George Fletcher’s Essays on Criminal Law (Edited by Russell Christopher)

 

Albert W. Dzur, Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

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21 New and Forthcoming Books

We live by ideas.  Even in this digital data era, we the heirs of the Guttenberg legacy still derive many of our new ideas from the printed page.  Mindful of that, I have selected a variety of books that may be of some interest to the readers of this blog.  To that end, I have highlighted 21 new or forthcoming books (including two of my own) and organized them under 11 topical categories.  Consider them, read them, purchase them, or just browse the list below.  More books, more profiles, coming.         

 

Academic Freedom

—   Marjorie Heins, Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge (New York University Press, February 2013)

“In the early 1950s, New York City’s teachers and professors became the targets of massive investigations into their political beliefs and associations. Those who refused to cooperate in the questioning were fired. Some had undoubtedly been communists, and the Communist Party-USA certainly made its share of mistakes, but there was never evidence that the accused teachers had abused their trust. Some were among the most brilliant, popular, and dedicated educators in the city. Priests of Our Democracy tells of the teachers and professors who resisted the witch hunt, those who collaborated, and those whose battles led to landmark Supreme Court decisions. It traces the political fortunes of academic freedom beginning in the late 19th century, both on campus and in the courts. Combining political and legal history with wrenching personal stories, the book details how the anti-communist excesses of the 1950s inspired the Supreme Court to recognize the vital role of teachers and professors in American democracy. The crushing of dissent in the 1950s impoverished political discourse in ways that are still being felt, and First Amendment academic freedom, a product of that period, is in peril today.” —Publisher’s blurb

 

Arbitration

—    Joshua Karton, The Culture of International Arbitration and The Evolution of Contract Law (Oxford University Press, June 2013)

“This unique study investigates a theory of international arbitration culture alongside the publicly available arbitral awards, in order to make predictions about the contract law principles that international arbitrators are likely to favor. Drawing on interviews with prestigious practitioners in a range of jurisdictions, as well as case studies, conference papers, and unpublished awards, it presents a comparative analysis of arbitral and judicial responses to contractual principles. Part I presents the divergence in outcomes between national court litigation and international arbitration in relation to substantive law determinations, conducting in-depth case studies in two areas: the suspension of performance in response to non-performance, and the admissibility of extrinsic evidence to interpret contracts. Part II accounts for the conclusions of Part I with a comprehensive theory of arbitral decision-making, grounded in evidence gathered first-hand from arbitrators themselves.” —Publisher’s blurb

 

Constitutional Law

—  Josh Blackman, Unprecedented: The Supreme Challenge to Obamacare (Public Affairs Books, summer, 2013)

“Unprecedented is the first book that explores the story of the legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—pejoratively known as “Obamacare”—from its inception all the way to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in NFIB v. Sebelius. Unprecedented charts the journey of this challenge from its conception, where a small group of academics and Beltway attorneys created up a legal strategy—Congress could not regulate a person’s decision not to purchase health insurance. After its endorsement by leading Republican politicians, and buoyed by the rise of the Tea Party and its focus on the Constitution, this idea turned into a nationwide constitutional movement. Unprecedented explores how this case transformed the way we look at the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the law, with a focus on the people and organizations that laid the groundwork for this challenge, and made the unexpected outcome a reality.” — JB blurb

 

—   Nathaniel Persily, Gillian Metzger and Trevor Morrison, editors, The Health Care Case: The Supreme Court’s Decision & its Implications (Oxford University Press, May 2013)

“The book is divided into the following four topical sections:  Part I:  Reflections on the Supreme Court’s Decision; Part II:  Lines of Argument: Commerce, Taxing and Spending, Necessary and Proper, and Due Process; Part III: The Important Role of the Chief Justice; and Part IV: The Decision’s Implications.  Twenty contributors: Jonathan Adler, Samuel Bagenstos, Jack Balkin, Randy Barnett, Andrea Campbell, Richard Epstein, Charles Fried, Abbe Gluck, Michael Graetz, Jamal Greene, Linda Greenhouse, Timothy Jost, Andrew Koppelman, Jerry Mashaw, Sara Rosenbaum, Neil Siegel, Ilya Somin, Ted Ruger, Robert Weiner, John Witt, and the editors.” ­       NP blurb

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Gamification – Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter’s new book

Gamification? Is that a word? Why yes it is, and Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter want to tell us what it means. Better yet, they want to tell us how it works in their new book For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Wharton Press). The authors get into many issues starting with a refreshing admission that the term is clunky but nonetheless captures a simple, powerful idea: one can use game concepts in non-game contexts and achieve certain results that might be missed. As they are careful to point out, this is not game theory. This is using insights from games, yes video games and the like, to structure how we interact with a problem or goal. I have questions about how well the approach will work and potential downsides (I am after all a law professor). Yet, the authors explore cases where the idea has worked, and they address concerns about where the approach can fail. I must admit I have only an excerpt so far. But it sets out the project while acknowledging possible objections that popped to mind quite well. In short, I want to read the rest. Luckily the Wharton link above or if you prefer Amazon Kindle are both quite reasonably priced. (Amazon is less expensive).

If you wonder about games, play games, and maybe have thought what is with all this badging, point accumulation, leader board stuff at work (which I did while I was at Google), this book looks to be a must read. And if you have not encountered these changes, I think you will. So reading the book may put you ahead of the group in understanding what management or companies are doing to you. The book also sets out cases and how the process works, so it may give you ideas about how to use games to help your endeavor and impress your manager. For the law folks out there, I think this area raises questions about behavioral economics and organizations that will lay ahead. In short, the authors have a tight, clear book that captures the essence of a movement. That alone merits a hearty well done.

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F-Words: Fairness and Freedom in Contract Law

As I read “Facing Limits,” Larry’s chapter on unenforceable bargains, I had to pause and smile at the following line:

People often think that fairness is a court’s chief concern, but that is not always true in contract cases (p. 57).

I still remember the first time someone used the word “fair” in Douglas Baird’s Contracts class. “Wait, wait,” he cried, with an impish grin. “This is Contracts! We can’t use ‘the f-word’ in here!”Of course, Larry also correctly recognizes the flip side of the coin. If courts are not adjudicating contracts disputes based on what is “fair,” we might think that “all contracts are enforced as made,” but as Larry points out, “that is not quite right, either” (p. 57).

Pedagogically, Contracts in the Real World is effective due to its pairings of contrasting casebook classics, juxtaposed against relevant modern disputes. In nearly every instance, Larry does an excellent job of matching pairs of cases that present both sides of the argument. I don’t mean to damn with faint praise, because I love the project overall, but I feel like Larry may have missed the boat with one pairing of cases. Read More

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“Contracts in the Real World” Book Symposium

 

We are delighted to announce a book symposium for October 17, 18 and 19 here at Co-Op on Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter (Cambridge U. Press 2012), my defense of the traditional common law of contracts that offers students an interesting and entertaining way through the subject by drawing on current events.

Following are  confirmed participants.

 

Miriam A. Cherry (St. Louis U.)

Ronald K. L. Collins (U. Washington)

Erik Gerding (U. Colorado)

Susan Schwab Heyman (Roger Williams U.)

David A. Hoffman (Temple U.)

Nancy S. Kim (Cal. Western)

Donald C. Langevoort (Georgetown U.)

Tom C. W.  Lin (U. Florida)

Jake Linford (Florida State U.)

Jennifer S. Taub (Vermont)

 

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Recommended Reading: Robert Kaczorowski’s “Fordham University School of Law: A History”

Ever since the inception of the recession, we have been embroiled in a conversation about legal education–its costs, value, and flaws.  There has been much controversy, some informed and some uninformed about the need for reforms in legal education and ways forward.  Amidst this debate, legal historian Robert Kaczorowski has written a brilliant and engrossing history of Fordham Law School, one that highlights, among many issues, the struggles that law schools have with their universities about the funds they generate.  As Kaczorowski’s book “Fordham University School of Law: A History” highlights, universities see their law schools as cash cows, siphoning away their funding for the main university and taking away those funds from the law school.  Legal reform amidst that continuing state of affairs is a fraught enterprise, indeed.  Of the book, esteemed legal historian William Nelson (NYU) writes:

One of the best books ever written on American legal education.  Besides documenting the history of Fordham Law, Kaczorowski makes three major contributions to the knowledge of legal education’s history.  First, the book documents why large numbers of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century immigrants and their children needed the founding of a Catholic law school.  Second, it documents the factors that produce greatness in a law school.  Third, it traces a conflict over the funding of law school.  No other work has addressed these issues in depth.  Kaczorowski has done a remarkable job.

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On Information Justice

Like the other commenters on From Goods to a Good Life, I also enjoyed the book and applaud Professor Sunder’s initiative in engaging more explicitly in the values conversation than has been conventionally done in IP scholarship. I also agree with most of what the other commenters have said.  I want to offer plaudits, a few challenges, and some suggestions about future directions for this conversation.

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Amazing New Corporate Law & Econ Book

If you are interested in corporate law, especially economic analysis of it, you likely will enjoy an impressive new book collecting original pieces by 30 prominent corporate law scholars. Edited by Claire Hill and Brett McDonnell of the University of Minnesota, the book canvases every important topic in corporate law.

After an overview that traces the history of the economic analysis of corporate law, the book addresses corporate constituencies, governance, gatekeepers, government oversight and a few other hot topics not classified.

Within constituencies, topics consider the directors’ role, the roles of other corporate actors, including shareholders, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders along with broader notions of the public interest. 

Internal governance looks at fiduciary duties, shareholder litigation, outside directors, shareholder activism and executive compensation.  

Gatekeeper pieces address lawyers and auditors, as well as rating agencies,  research analysts, D&O insurers and investment banks.

Jurisdiction looks at both domestic federalism as well as comparative perspective.

Unclassified topics address self-dealing, behavioral economics, and market efficiency.

The scholars are the following professors:

Ahdieh,   Atanasov, Bainbridge, Black, Blair, Bodie,  Ciccotello,  Clarke, Cunningham, Darbellay, Davidoff, Fairfax,  Ferri, Fisch,  Frankel, Gilson, Griffith, Hill, Kraakman, Langevoort, Lee, McDonnell, Painter, Partnoy, Smith,  Thomas,  Thompson, Walker, and Whitehead.  

The table of contents to this impressive volume follows. Get it while it’s hot!!

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