Monday, July 8, 2013

What Will Your Next Author's Footnote Reveal? Or Not Reveal?

It's summer in North America and that means scholarship-time for legal academics.  No matter what the subject of your in-progress/forthcoming/almost finished article, take time to read a brief essay by Ronald Collins and Lisa Lerman, Disclosure, Scholarly Ethics, and the Future of Law Reviews: A Few Preliminary Thoughts By Ronald K.L. Collins & Lisa Lerman, 88 Wash. L. Rev. 321 (2103), available here.

They argue that your author's footnote might need a bit of expansion to disclose any direct or indirect compensation or involvement in your subject.  Disclosure is not the norm in law reviews, especially when it comes to academics as opposed to practioners.  The comparison is even more stark when it comes to the practices in other disciplines.  

 

800px-Adriaen_van_der_Spelt_-_Flower_Still-Life_with_Curtain_-_WGA21657
Flower Still-Life with Curtain
by Adriaen van der Spelt
1658

But their suggestion, if rare, is hardly new.  Indeed, they quote from the AALS "Statement of Good Practices by Law Professors in the Discharge of their Ethical and Professional Responsibilities":

A law professor shall disclose the material facts relating to receipt of direct or indirect payment for, or any personal economic interest in, any covered activity that the professor undertakes in a professorial capacity . . . . Disclosure of material facts should include: (1) the conditions imposed or expected by the funding source on views expressed in any future covered activity and (2) the identity of any funding source, except where the professor has provided legal representation to a client in a matter external to legal scholarship under circumstances that require the identity to remain privileged under applicable law. If such a privilege prohibits disclosure the professor shall generally describe the interest represented.  

And, perhaps less surprising perhaps, it's something Justice William O. Douglas recommended almost half of a century ago.

They provide some scintillating examples worth consideration.  These might make you reflect not only on your own ethical responsbility to disclose, but perhaps also upon the missing disclosures in sources upon which you rely, as in the Second Amendment area which we discussed.   

And it is certainly worth passing on to your school's law review editors.

RR

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