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14

Does Yale Law School Owe Anything to Alito?

yls.bmpA New York Times article queries whether Yale Law School has been institutionally too harsh to its former professors and alumni who are nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Bork was a former Yale Law School faculty member and Justice Thomas was a Yale Law School alumni. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito is also an alumni.

According to the article:

Faculty members testified on both sides both times. But the school was generally opposed to their nominations, said professors, students and alumni. Justice Thomas was thought to be unqualified, and Judge Bork’s views were considered too extreme.

In his 14 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas, of the Yale class of 1974, has refused to return here, and Judge Bork, who was on the faculty for 15 years, chortles during speeches when he cites “a bit of populist wisdom” he once saw on a bumper sticker: “Save America. Close Yale Law School.” . . . .

The two earlier conservative nominees may never overcome their anger at what they considered the school’s disloyalty, said Steven Brill, a legal journalist, entrepreneur and law school classmate of Judge Alito’s.

“They both think,” Mr. Brill said, “that the law school betrayed them.”

I find the suggestion here rather odd. Is Yale Law School supposted to support every graduate nominated for the Supreme Court or running for political office? Is this a duty that a law school owes its alumni?

I think not. The faculty and students of a law school should decide on the merits of the Alito nomination without putting a special thumb on the scale because he has a connection to the school. This isn’t a betrayal because I don’t believe there’s any duty owed. Each professor and student is an individual who can make up his or her own mind. And just because many professors at a school take a particular position doesn’t mean that this is the institution’s position. In fact, if things were different — if professors and students were to feel any obligation (however slight) to support a nominee because he or she has an institutional connection — then I’d be very worried about the independence of thought at the school.

Hat tip: Althouse

4

Sex Sells Contracts: Why Not Securities Law?

markets.jpg

The ContractsProf Blog recently posted about “Sex and Contracts.” Frank Snyder notes that the post resulted in a huge traffic spike. “There’s a lesson there,” he concludes. There sure is.

I could (as this blog did) identify a case or so that directly appeals to your prurient interest in the topic. But maybe the better path is to take a step back, and consider a more academic question.

Let us assume that you, a general counsel, have just learned that your CEO is having a consensual affair with a subordinate. Also assume that the corporation has recently stated, in a regular reporting statement, that its management team is “cohesive, ethically sound, and 100% committed to shareholder value.” [Note: this is entirely hypothetical]

Putting aside other considerations, is it likely that a court or jury would find it materially misleading to have omitted disclosure of the affair?

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0

Back from the Hiring Conference

I just returned from the AALS hiring conference. Temple saw some wonderful folks, including several confessed readers of this blog.

Because of the swirl of events, I didn’t get to see others who I would have liked to, even though I did mill around the Friday night reception for that very purpose! (For a pre-conference take on whether going to such receptions makes sense, see here.) Despite Al and Mike‘s fashion tips, I admit to not wearing a tie. And that is about as much as I think I can say about the experience, as the deliberative process privilege probably applies to the rest of what went on.

11

Academic Blogging Scandal

bitchphd2.jpgA developing case about academic bloggers contains a chorus of major issues swirling in the blogosphere: the career consequences of blogging, moderating blog debates, hot-button political issues, and defamation.

The case involves Paul Deignan, an engineering PhD candidate who has a blog called Info Theory. Deignan got into a debate with the anonymous blogger Bitch Ph.D. over abortion. Deignan is pro-life; Bitch Ph.D. is pro-choice. They exchanged posts on their mutual blogs, and Deignan also placed a comment on one of Bitch Ph.D.’s posts.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed:

Then he posted a seemingly innocuous entry on the Bitch Ph.D. site: “Your linking talking points w/o analysis. Already I see several points that are exaggerated and misconstrued without even needing research…”

Feeling that this comment and subsequent ones from Deignan did not qualify as “substantive debate,” she soon deleted his comments and banned him from her site. Her policy states, “Comments are great; obnoxious comments get deleted. Deal.”

If this were all, the story would be just a typical tale of the blogosphere. But things got much uglier:

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6

Want better student evaluations?

uvabuilding.jpgI read an advertisement for the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration in the US Airways magazine recently, headlined “The best professors in the World don’t like hearing themselves speak.” The advertisement continued, “To develop great communicators and leaders we ask students to, quite simply, communicate and lead. That’s why Darden professors spend the least amount of time lecturing of any of the top MBA programs. We believe this is one reason the Princeton Review ranked our professors the #2 teaching faculty in the nation.”

So, to improve teaching scores, talk less. Hmm, something to think about as I prepare for class today.

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8

Suing Wikipedia

Wikipedia.jpgWhat happens if there’s a Wikipedia article about you that’s unflattering? What if it is in error or revealing of your private life? Wikipedia, for those not familiar with it, is an online encyclopedia that is written and edited collectively by anybody who wants to participate.

Daniel Brandt, a blogger who maintains blogs called Google Watch and Wikipedia Watch complained to Wikipedia administrators asking them to delete an entry about him. What should one’s rights in this regard be?

Here’s what Brandt writes:

There is a problem with the structure of Wikipedia. The basic problem is that no one, neither the Trustees of Wikimedia Foundation, nor the volunteers who are connected with Wikipedia, consider themselves responsible for the content. . . .

At the same time that no one claims responsibility, there are two unique characteristics of Wikipedia that can be very damaging to a person, corporation, or group. The first is that anyone can edit an article, and there is no guarantee that any article you read has not been edited maliciously, and remains uncorrected in that state, at the precise time that you access that article.

The second unique characteristic is that Wikipedia articles, and in some cases even the free-for-all “talk” discussions behind the articles, rank very highly in the major search engines. This means that Wikipedia’s potential for inflicting damage is amplified by several orders of magnitude.

Brandt muses whether he ought to sue Wikipedia:

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0

Blogging Isn’t Just for the Young

oldperson3.jpgThis AP article, available at CNN, chronicles older individuals who are blogging:

Web logs, more often the domain of alienated adolescents and middle-aged pundits, are gaining a foothold as a new leisure-time option for senior citizens. . . .

Three percent of online U.S. seniors have created a blog and 17 percent have read someone else’s blog, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Compare that to online 18- to 29-year-olds: Thirteen percent have created blogs and 32 percent have read someone else’s blog, according to Pew.

Joe Jenett, a Detroit-area Web designer who has been tracking the age of bloggers for a personal venture called the Ageless Project, said he has noticed more older bloggers in the past two years.

The title of the article is “Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes” but the article’s URL at CNN is . . . well . . . not as kindly worded:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/11/10/geezers.who.blog.ap/index.html

1

Grokster R.I.P.

grokster.gif The recent news of the Grokster settlement has generated only modest discussion, and I suppose that’s not surprising. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case came out months ago, and the big open questions left by that decision are unaffected by the settlement. Moreover, there appeared to be sufficient evidence in the record of “actual inducement” to make Grokster’s shut-down unsurprising.

Still, I would note that, according to the reports, the recording industry got Grokster to agree to pay $50 million in damages, even though they don’t expect to be able to collect. This gives the industry a big number it can use to deter future such technologies, and it’s consistent with the broader strategy of publicly signalling (through public announcements, lawsuits against end-users, education efforts, and even movie previews) that these activities are, in the industry’s view, infringing.

To some extent, this is the flip side of an earlier post I made about information regarding fair use rights. Just as some would like individuals to have greater information about their fair use rights, the copyright industries would like users to have greater information about the restrictions imposed by copyright. (Jason Mazzone has an interesting proposal about what to do when the industry overstates such restrictions).

All of this is to suggest that there seems to be a need to give individuals clearer and better information about what they can or can’t do under the copyright laws.

8

Legal Realism and Fashion Consulting: A Misunderstood Relation?

dresssuccess.jpgSome years ago a colleague gave me a copy of John Molloy’s 1975 book Dress for Success. Perhaps the fact that he asked me whether I own an iron contains a clue to his message; I’m not sure.

I found it buried in a box of books I unpacked recently and began to read the chapter “For Lawyers: How to Dress Up Your Case and Win Jurors and Judges.” It contains the following sage commentary on the behavior of judges:

Before the urban judge you should avoid the Ivy League tie. You should avoid any sign of ostentation. You should avoid any look that is with-it, chic or “in.” Urban judges tend to be quite ticklish about their newfound socioeconomic positions, even if they’ve held them for some time, and often look upon anyone coming into their courtroom as a threat to them personally. Anybody who doesn’t treat their courtrroms with respect, and that means anyone who dresses in a manner that they find is unbecoming, will be dealt with harshly. Their response may well be subconscious; no judge will ever tell you that he’s ruling against you because of your smartass tie, but believe me, many of them will.

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