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Category: Legal Theory


Why Blawging is Bad For Law

Hello Folks.

I’ve joined Co-Op today from Prawfsblawg. This is by my count the fifth time I’ve introduced myself at a new blog-home. That makes me a bit of an itinerant blogger. It is also pretty ironic, because I generally think that the institution of blogging/blawging threatens to fundamentally disrupt some very valuable aspects of how law is currently organized, administered and transmitted.

To take an example I posted on recently on Prawfs, consider what happens to the common law when the primary sources which form its skeleton — judicial opinions – become the fodder for the entertainment of an audience of millions of eager web-surfers. Yes, I’m talking about you, Howard. It isn’t that How Appealing, and like blawgs, are bad. Indeed, I visit Howard’s blawg every day, and it is an invaluable resource. It is that Howard’s popularity, and the increasing linking of opinions by the MSM-online, provides incentives for judges to write witty, funny, entertaining, short, glib opinions, instead of careful, boring, technically precise ones. That is, to the extent that lower-court judges want to be noticed and profiled by (kind of silly) websites like these, it makes sense to be more like Scalia and Douglas than Souter and Rutledge.

Some might protest: surely federal judges don’t care much about having their opinions widely publicized? They have life tenure, and they care only about not being reversed. But the motivations of federal judges seem to me to be an open question, and I think that if I could somehow chart the growth of funny and media friendly opinions, we’d see a small bump beginning with the introduction of WL and a huge increase in the last five years.

So, why is this bad?

To find out, you’ll have to visit here again, as I will be retuning to this topic soon.


Spinning Straw into Gold

LawBooks.jpgI was initially attracted to the law because I thought that the books looked cool. My father is an art historian and my mother was an adjunct English professor before she became a tech writer. My grandfathers were a rancher and a farmer respectively. I did not come from a legal background. Nevertheless, my first year of college I wrote a paper that required that I venture into the law library, and I was entranced by the look and feel of old copies of the U.S. Reports.

There was something about the heavy mustiness of the books, the calfskin bindings, and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century type faces that captured my imagination. The books just looked like they contained “lore” and “learning.” One of the great pleasures of my clerkship was going through my judge’s personal collection of rare legal books: a first edition of Blackstone, Yearbooks printed in the 17th and 16th centuries, a Restoration-era printing of the record in Charles I’s trial, and so on.

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The Philosophical Significance of the Repo Man

It is time to consider a much neglected topic in legal thought: the philosophical significance of the repo man. Aside from providing the grist for cult movies, the repo man also poses some very basic questions about the nature of the social contract and the autonomy of private law.

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