Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wall Street Journal on jobs for law grads

Today's WSJ carried a couple of stories on the current state of the legal job market and its effect on law school enrollments. The first, Job Prospects for Law Grads? The Jury's Out, summarizes the controversy surrounding allegations that many law schools have cooked-the-books regarding the reporting of post-graduation job placement data - and the lawsuits that have followed. 

The second article, Law School Loses Its Allure as Jobs at Firms Are Scarce, reports the ensuing affect on law school applications which have dropped to the lowest point in ten years. College career counselors are reporting that more undergrads are questioning the wisdom of pursuing of advanced degrees generally, not just the JD, because of burdensome loan debt and diminishing opportunities for high paying jobs.

"I'm hearing from the students I work with that they are concerned about the value of a law degree," said Tim Stiles, a career adviser at the University of North Carolina. Students, he said, often tell him they have read press accounts about the difficulty of finding law jobs.

Some students are starting to feel they don't need an advanced degree to improve their career opportunities, college advisers said.

Business-school applications for the fall 2011 class have not been tallied yet by the Graduate Management Admission Council. But last year, the average number of applications to full-time graduate programs declined 1.8%, the Council said, the first decline since 2005.

"When the economy first went down, students saw law school as a way to dodge the work force," said Ryan Heitkamp, a pre-law adviser at Ohio State University. "The news has gotten out that law school is not necessarily a safe backup plan."


March 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

What's One of the Fastest Growing Job Titles in the U.S.?

According to Linkedin, here are the statistics:

Yes, it's adjunct professor. I am happy that out-of-work academics are getting jobs, but I have to wonder (1) how much these low-paid individuals are being taken advantage of, and (2) to what degree  does the growing reliance on adjuncts weaken the educational system. Here's the article from The Economist.


March 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2012

New "legal skills" scholarship: Using simulations to teach students about e-discovery practice

The article is called Injecting Law Student Drama Into the Classroom: Transforming an E-Discovery Class (or Any Law School Class) with a Complex, Student-Generated Simulation by Professor Paula Schaefer (Tennessee) and can be found at 12 Nev. L.J. 130 (2011) or here on SSRN. From the abstract:

Gem Finch, Boone Radley, and Pickle Harris are just three of the characters who play a dramatic – and key – role in my e-discovery focused pre-trial litigation class. I did not originally invite them into the class for the drama. I was interested in their email. In 2009, I was planning a pre-trial litigation class that would include e-discovery issues. But I could not find a pre-packaged case that included ESI – the electronically stored information that is the mainstay of e-discovery practice. The case materials included in most pre-trial litigation books involved car accidents and simple contract disputes. I knew that I needed ESI to make the course work.

So with ESI in mind, I developed a two-semester simulation. In the fall semester, I offer a group of law students a single hour of course credit (as an independent study) to email one another, following a loose script, to create a business dispute among their assigned characters. Their dispute becomes the lawsuit in my pre-trial litigation class the following semester. In that course, independent study students play the clients and the witnesses (“student-characters”), and the pre-trial litigation students are their lawyers (“student-lawyers”).

While the initial goal of the simulation was ESI, the result was (and is) a complex, realistic drama that enhances every aspect of the course. Developing a theory of the case requires more than reading a two-page summary of facts, as might be required in a typical pre-trial litigation class. The student-lawyers have to review thousands of documents, interview witnesses, and stay in constant contact with their clients. Their clients are passionate and opinionated. The witnesses have allegiances and their own motives. To meet the demands of their clients, the student-lawyers must learn e-discovery doctrine and develop the skills needed to litigate the case and address the ethical dilemmas they encounter. In the process, the student-characters gain knowledge and skills they will take to practice, too. In short, the simulation does more than generate the data for e-discovery. It makes the course into something akin to the practice of law. In this article, I explain the transformative power of a complex, student-generated simulation.


March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

When to Fire an Employee

Let’s turn that around. Ask your students why they might get fired. If they know what leads to a termination, they will know what an employer expects of them. From Fox Business, here are ten pieces of advice for employers. The article explains each one.  

No. 1: No Call/No Show (The employee doesn’t show up for work and doesn’t let the employer know ahead of time.)

 No. 2: Integrity Is Essential

No. 3: Take Action When Actionable Feedback Is Ignored

No. 4: The Proof is on the Page! (Have an expectations and agreement letter with the employee)

No. 5: Hire Slow, Fire Fast

No. 6: Fire the Un-Fired Up

No. 7: Rethinking Your Hiring Process

No. 8: Nothin' but Net (Consider the employee's net effect on your company: by being there, are they helping the company or hurting it?) .

No. 9: What Does Your Team Think?

No. 10: Where's the Drive? (Team members have to be ambitious. They have to push themselves.)



March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Google Semantic Search

This post from ReadWriteWeb discusses some changes coming to Google search.

“Google's Amit Singhal and team are bringing semantic understanding to search queries. Instead of just parsing keywords in a query like a dictionary, Google will use machine intelligence to interpret the meaning of the query and use that to find the most pertinent results. There are no specific announcements from Google yet…
Semantic search would add much more intelligence on Google's side of the transaction. The specific wording of the query won't matter so much, because Google will be able to determine the intent behind it. It will determine the probabilities of various meanings of your words and phrases and decide on the fly what results make sense. The process that gets the user to her results will be much less subject to manipulation….
With a more intelligent search engine, Google will be better for users. It's not just the interpretation of queries that will improve; the quality of results will be better since they can't be gamed with keywords.”

Interesting and exciting times for research!



March 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New scholarship: "The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective"

By Professor A. Benjamin Spencer (UVA) and available here on SSRN.  From the abstract:

Contemporary critiques of legal education abound. This arises from what can be described as a perfect storm: the confluence of softness in the legal employment market, the skyrocketing costs of law school, and the unwillingness of clients and law firms to continue subsidizing the further training of lawyers who failed to learn how to practice in law school. As legal jobs become more scarce and salaries stagnate, the value proposition of law school rightly is being questioned from all directions. Although numerous valid criticisms have been put forth, some seem to be untethered from a full appreciation for how the current model of legal education developed. Indeed, a historical perspective on legal education is sorely missing from this debate, as many of the criticisms merely echo charges that have been lodged against legal education for well over a century, but do not draw lessons from how those former critiques ultimately failed to deliver fundamental change. This Article reviews the historical development of legal education in America, including the critiques and reforms made along the way, to see what insight we can gain that will inform our own efforts to make law schools better at preparing lawyers for practice.


March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What the Client Wants: 8 Versions


This cartoon has been around for a while, and I don't know whom to credit. I saw it most recently on  the Legal Whiteboard blog (Feb. 13).



March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brian Leiter's Four Proposals For Law School Reform

Brian Leiter has suggested four major changes in legal education on his blog. I agree strongly with three of his suggestions, and I disagree with one of them.

Leiter advocates that there should be research law schools and teaching law schools, "so that we have some law schools that are Harvard and Chicago, and some law schools that are Oberlin and Reed." I agree that such a separation would solve many of the problems in contemporary law school education (Actually, I suggested this change on this blog several months ago here).  We need centers of learning that will advance knowledge in the law. Even more so, we need law schools that will turn out practice-ready attorneys to serve society. As Leiter notes, the major obstacle in the way of this reform is ABA standards.

Leiter rightly argues that there should be some type of post-tenure review. Leiter declares: "Surely one rather good reason for student anger about the high cost of law school is that it is obvious to them that some faculty don't actually do their jobs." I think all of us have seen tenured faculty at our law schools who haven’t published an article in the twenty years since they received tenure and who are accused by students of teaching from the same notes they used twenty years ago. Also, tenure entrenchment limits needed change at law schools.

Leiter proposes that law schools "Cut the number of law reviews by 75%, and turn the remaining ones over to faculty supervision, with students still working on them, but no longer vested with editorial control. This would immediately eliminate a huge amount of worthless scholarship. . ." I agree. Law schools have seen an enormous expansion in the number of secondary journals over the last twenty years. I think that this expansion is due not to a need for more publication outlets, but to the prestigious of being on a journal. In other words, students have pressured law schools to create more secondary journals so that they have something to put on their resumes. Also, the additional journals contribute to the pressure to publish on those who really should be spending most of their time teaching. Lastly, law students are not good at judging the quality of articles. They tend to look at the law school the author works for rather than the article.

Finally, I disagree with Leiter’s proposal that law school should be shortened to two years with an optional third year for those students with particular career goals. While I agree that law schools are often not using the third year effectively, I believe that it would be a disaster to eliminate it. Law students are woefully underprepared for practice under the current system. Instead, we should use the third year to make students practice ready. (In this case, I am talking about the majority of law schools, not Harvard, Yale, etc., which should be containing their academic focus.) A model for this is how Washington & Lee has reformed its third year to work on practical skills.

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Popularity of e-texts among college students grows significantly

College students have been surprisingly resistant to e-texts versus print (here, here, and here). But this latest survey shows the popularity of e-texts over traditional books is growing rapidly thanks to the widespread use of tablets.  From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

The number of college students who say they own tablets has more than tripled since a survey taken last year, according to new poll results released today. The Pearson Foundation sponsored the second-annual survey, which asked 1,206 college students and 204 college-bound high-school seniors about their tablet ownership. The results suggest students increasingly prefer to use the devices for reading.

One-fourth of the college students surveyed said they owned a tablet, compared with just 7 percent last year. Sixty-three percent of college students believe tablets will replace textbooks in the next five years—a 15 percent increase over last year’s survey. More than a third said they intended to buy a tablet sometime in the next six months.

This year’s poll also found that the respondents preferred digital books over printed ones. It’s a reversal of last year’s results and goes against findings of other recent studies, which concluded that students tend to choose printed textbooks. The new survey found that nearly six in 10 students preferred digital books when reading for class, compared with one-third who said they preferred printed textbooks.

The new survey results arrive as several new tools have emerged this year to simplify digital publishing, including Apple’s self-publishing software and Inkling’s enterprise platform for large companies.

Harris Interactive, the same firm that conducted last year’s survey on behalf of the Pearson Foundation, conducted the poll in January. Figures for age, sex, household income and other factors were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population of college students.


March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Over the Past Three Years, 45,000 Caught Cheating at British Universities

The problem is not just here in the states.

Tens of thousands of students in universities across Britain have been caught cheating in exams and coursework – and the trend is on the rise, according to a investigation by The Independent on Sunday.

Over the past three years, more than 45,000 students at 80 institutions have been hauled before college authorities and found guilty of "academic misconduct" ranging from bringing crib-sheets or mobile phones into exams to paying private firms to write essays for them.

Here is the full story from The Independent.


March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apps for Job Seekers

This article from the SFGAte discusses five apps considered useful for job seekers.

We are all aware that social media and mobile technology have changed the way we do almost everything, including looking for and applying for jobs. 

“A 2011 survey by StepStone Solutions revealed that 96% of recruiters considered social media and e-recruitment to be significant tools in terms of reaching out to a global audience, which in turn encouraged job seekers to embrace the same methods in order to establish themselves as viable candidates for work. “

Here are the 5 apps SFGate recommends and discusses:

1. LinkUp
2. Craigster
3. Pocket Resume
4. Dropbox
5. LinkedIn

Hat tip AALL (@aallnet)


March 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More On The Influence Of The Langdellian Tradition And Langdellian Bargain On Contemporary Legal Education

In The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective, A. Benjamin Spencer presents a study of the problems in legal education from a historical perspective. He traces the problems to the Langdellian tradition, and he places special emphasis on those commentators who have criticized legal education for failing to prepare their graduates for practice.

Like the Neumann article, which I discussed in two posts over the last week, there is a great deal of useful insights in Spencer’s article. He discusses the remnants of the Langdellian tradition in contemporary legal education and he concludes, "Although these contemporary reforms are appropriate moves in the right direction that will yield results on the margins, to this point they have not resulted in a wholesale change in the practice-readiness of American law school graduates, a failing reflected and explored in the 2007 Carnegie Report and other recent studies." He continues: "Law school does not routinely provide training in many of the practice skill areas—such as drafting, counseling, planning, client development, management—needed to be a successful practitioner; only a tiny percentage of law schools require clinical training and the majority of students graduate with no clinical experience; its primary pedagogical approach (the case-dialogue method) is ineffective and demoralizing; its main approach to assessment remains the final essay exam, which reflects little about the professional competency of students and comes too late to allow self-improvement; faculty incentives promote scholarship over the needs of students; many professors (particularly the more recent ones) have little or even no experience practicing law and lack membership in the bar; and law school costs so much that most graduates have mammoth, mortgage-like debts that limit their economically viable options after graduating. This is no way to produce competent legal professionals."

Concerning the law school curriculum, he asserts, "One consequence of this doctrinal approach is that the study of law is conceptualized as the study of legal rules—a Langdellian innovation—rather than a broader study of legal practice involving the study of legal regulation as a social phenomenon and training in the full array of methods and techniques that legal practitioners must be able to employ. Another consequence of this academic, doctrinal dominance is that law faculties built to deliver such curricula tend not to consist of experienced practitioners but rather career academics focused on legal scholarship." Overcoming these problems "means that the current relationship between doctrinal, practical, and professional instruction must become more integrated and balanced: Skills-based and practice-centered instruction and training should be a more substantial part of the law school experience, with substantive knowledge instruction serving as the foundation for and compliment to practical professional education. Further, to facilitate the transition from student to practitioner, doctrinal instruction must move more quickly into being taught in context from the operational perspective, rather than more abstractly through the prism of judicial opinions and the case method. Finally, students must have more opportunities to collaborate in team settings and to work on solving problems that blend legal and other issues in a single setting."

Concerning the case-dialogue method, Spencer argues, "the ability of the case-dialogue method to transmit analytical skills effectively has never been demonstrated. . . .  Additionally, the type of thinking promoted by the method is limited to certain kinds of legal analysis, neglecting some of the basic problem solving skills that today’s practitioners need to develop solutions to their clients’ problems." He also criticizes the use of the Socratic method in large classrooms because it tends to focus attention on a discussion between a few students and the professor." He adds: "Although the students involved may benefit to some extent, the method is less effective in instilling legal analytical skills vicariously to observers not involved in the discussion, creating diminishing returns as the class grows in size." Consequently, he suggests that law schools move the Socratic method to a smaller classroom.

He also thinks that "the case-dialogue method is an inefficient means of transmitting substantive information and is limited in its ability to impart the full range of competencies that students need to become successful legal professionals." He notes, "Insights from learning theory reveal that teaching focused mainly on purely abstract concepts divorced from their context—something that fairly characterizes the case method—is less effective than teaching that recognizes that we experience information in many different ways and at different levels of abstraction." From this, he concludes, "Law school learning exclusively rooted in symbolic, abstract experience is less likely to be effective in giving students the depth of understanding requisite for moving towards proficient legal practice. Further, to the extent that legal learning is exclusively at the abstract level, it becomes difficult for students to synthesize learning from different areas or to operationalize concepts for practical application and the resolution of real-world legal problems." He continues, "different types of learning experiences are possible and [] legal teaching needs to make an intelligent use of a mix of these experiences to give students the level of understanding needed for effective learning and translation into practical application." Finally, "a thorough understanding of legal principles and the ability to ‘think like a lawyer’ needs to become the foundation for the next step in professional development—developing the ability to handle complex problems of clients in a skilled and professional manner."

His final criticism is that "the case-dialogue method presents the law through the lens of (mostly appellate) litigation, and does so in a highly formalized and a contextual manner that skews students’ perspective away from the realities and complexities of raw facts, clients, and professional responsibility." His solution: A true case method, as Jerome Frank recognized long ago, would entail a study of the entire ‘case’ rather than the edited and refined representation of a dispute one finds in appellate opinions."

On student assessment, he writes, "there was and still is a gap between the professed learning objectives of many law school classes—teaching students to think like lawyers and to master certain legal doctrines—and the dominant method of measuring students’ attainment of that learning—the final essay exam, which tests more so what a student knows rather than what a student can do" There are two problems with this kind of assessment: "First, it is purely summative, in that it comes at the end of a course and attempts to measure learning after the course has been completed. . . . Second, while typical essay exams do, to some extent, engage the analytical abilities needed of a judge or an advocate arguing a legal point, such skills are not the sole or principal skills required of most competent practitioners." In the alternative, "Proper assessment is about evaluating a student’s attainment of specified learning objectives. It involves the setting of clear goals regarding what students are supposed to learn and know how to do after completing a course followed by the administration of an instrument that measures their performance against those stated objectives."

Finally, "contemporary law school faculties are dominated by tenured and tenure-track professors who are less experienced practitioners than they are highly credentialed legal scholars." He points out, "Traditional doctrinal law faculty currently maintain an obligation to contribute in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service, carrying a typical teaching load of three to four courses per year and being expected to produce scholarly publications on a regular basis. In return, this category of professors is highly compensated, in an effort to attract the most highly credentialed and most capable scholars to a school." He argues there are two reasons the traditional law faculty is problematic. "First, as just mentioned, traditional doctrinal professors are not typically hired for their practice experience, of which they tend to have little or none. . . . Second, traditional law faculty members are expensive from the perspective of the law school, as their salaries account for a large share of a law school’s budget and tend to be impervious to dramatic reductions." He concludes: "Ultimately, schools interested in moving their curriculum in a more practice-oriented direction will have to give serious thought to revising their hiring patterns to identify experienced practitioners who have the potential to be great classroom teachers."

In sum, like the Neumann article, Spencer shows how the Langdellian Tradition and "Langdellian Bargain" (discussed here) have shaped and restricted contemporary legal education. As Spencer recognizes, "Unfortunately, the fraying of the foundation for the justification and perpetuation of the Langdellian approach is not likely to usher in fundamental change with ease. Law faculty benefit from the current structure of the course delivery system and may be loathe to take on work that will compromise time for other pursuits or impose burdens without increasing compensation." "Further, the profile of current law faculty—having been educated under the Langdellian system and having had little to no practice experience—renders them less sympathetic to the urge toward practice-relevance and less competent to devise and deliver a program with such an orientation."

Some of the changes Spencer proposes include:

"Modernize the first year to include an introductory overview of the legal system and the legal profession, as well as subjects more pertinent to contemporary legal practice such as transnational law and administrative law;

Impose a live-client experience requirement, having all students participate in either a clinical course or an externship;

Extend legal research and writing education into the second year, featuring more extensive simulation training focused on certain areas such as litigation and transactional skills;

Redesign the content of traditional courses away from an emphasis on cases toward more source material and practice documents, while redesigning the delivery of courses around more group work and problem-solving exercises in the lawyer role during class meetings;

Hire full-time, part-time, and adjunct faculty who can bring more extensive and contemporary practice experience to bear on the design and delivery of the curriculum;

Develop capstone courses that enable third-year law students to synthesize their learning across courses and apply it in practice settings."

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The Grad-School Decline"

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that it isn't just law schools that are facing declining applications in light of fewer job opportunities for grads. Enrollments in graduate humanities programs have been declining for years such that we may be witnessing the end of an era.

More than 10 years ago, I decided to stop teaching graduate courses in English at Emory University.  The reasons were:

• the job market for Ph.D.’s in English was so bad that I couldn’t see participating in the system any longer;

• the steady prestige decline of the humanities at research institutions called for more faculty members to bolster their disciplines by taking on freshman and sophomore courses;

• a growing disenchantment with the research productivity agenda in the humanities.

An article in The Chronicle by Robin Wilson is forcing others to do the same.  It recounts declines in enrollment in graduate programs in the humanities at several campuses, including Emory (the  history department).  It offers three reasons for the cuts:

“Some of that is the result of an extra push to get longtime graduate students to finish up and get out the door. But universities are also purposefully shrinking graduate programs because they are reluctant to continue flooding the already swamped academic job market with more Ph.D.’s, and because institutional budget problems have reduced fellowship money for students.”

The job-market problem is the most compelling one, I think, and because of it the trimming should have happened many years earlier. What stands out to me in the article, however, is the reaction from professors interviewed in the article.

Here is one:

“‘The only place I can really use some of the research I have is at the graduate level, and now I don’t have someone to impart it to,’ says Anthony Colantuono, an associate professor of art history at Maryland . . .”

And here is another, a history professor at Emory:

“‘Training graduate students is part of the soul of what we do,’ he says. Emory’s history department has cut the number of graduate students it accepts by more than half, from a high of 16 in 2008-9 to just six this year. ‘For many people, they are defined by their ability to train grad students in a particular model,’ says Mr. Crais. ‘And without that, it is causing people a great deal of anxiety.’”

Here is the problem for humanities professors committed to graduate education.  Graduate studies in English, history, art history, etc. could never survive by themselves for very long.  Only if built upon the foundation of a solid undergraduate curriculum and steady undergraduate enrollments could it continue.  If undergrad enrollments go down, then departments need fewer professors, which leads to fewer hires, which leads to more Ph.D.’s without a job.  If professors focus too much on graduate study and not on undergraduate curricula, they veer further into specialization and insularity, making it more difficult for them to communicate the value and purpose of the humanities to people who don’t quite understand why the 4,003rd study of Macbeth is really necessary.

Graduate study shouldn’t be the “soul” of a humanities professor’s life and labor.  That’s the place for undergraduate instruction.   It’s not just a matter of principle, but a matter of practicality.  Financial conditions and cultural trends have forced that realization upon the humanities.  Graduate research and training  in the humanities, we shall realize 20 years hence, was a three-decade (say, 1975-2005) excursion, and it’s unlikely to arise ever again.


March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Citator" function added to Google Scholar

If you're starting a legal research project from scratch, the topical indexing features of Lexis and Westlaw, like Headnotes and Key Numbers, are essential.  Doing research this way helps you brainstorm about theories and analogies you might not have otherwise considered. But when you already sort of know what you're looking for, Google Scholar is a great, free research tool. One disadvantage over the paywall alternatives has been the lack of a "citator" (like Shepard's or KeyCite) to find later authorities that cite to your case.

Well, you asked for it and Google has listened. Last week it rolled out a citator function.  Here's the press release along with some screen shots showing you how it works:

Allowing users to find citing documents for an article is a key feature of Google Scholar. Ever since we added legal opinions,  legal researchers have asked us to make it easy to find significant citing decisions for a case - that is, decisions that discuss a case at some length, possibly supporting it, overturning it or differentiating it from others.

Today, we are changing how we present citations to legal opinions. Now, instead of sorting the citing documents by their prominence, we sort them by the extent of discussion of the cited case. Opinions that discuss the cited case in detail are presented before ones that mention the case briefly. We indicate the extent of discussion visually and indicate opinions that discuss the cited case at length, that discuss it moderately and those that discuss it briefly. Opinions that don't discuss the cited case are left unmarked. For example, see opinions citing Dique v. New Jersey State Police, 603 F. 3d 181.

We would like to thank Itai Gurari for his contributions in making this feature possible.

Here is hoping this update will help legal researchers quickly find the significant citations they are looking for.

Big 'ol hat tip to our buddies at the Law Librarian Blog.


March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20 Will Be “Return to Sender Day”

Do you ever feel guilty about that book you borrowed and never returned? Do you wonder if you will ever see that DVD that you lent to a friend months ago?  Then “Return to Sender Day” is for you.

RTSD was created by Sarah Kidder, a professional etiquette trainer and event planner in Oakland, California. Here is her website, complete with graphics and email templates for letters you might send to delinquent borrowers and to people who lent you items. And here is a blog posting (March 8) by Martin Snapp, journalist, Berkeley Law grad, and my college classmate. The link also takes you to a number of Marty’s recent articles.


March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Truthiness in Digital Media

The Harvard Gazette reports on “a high-octane symposium” titled “Truthiness in Digital Media: a symposium that seeks to understand and address propaganda and misinformation in the new media ecosystem.” As the title implies, the symposium dealt with issues of significant concern to judges, lawyers, and clients, all of whom increasingly incorporate information from the Web and social media when making decisions that affect others.


March 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Florida ethics committee rules no proscription against judges blogging.

As long as the posts are "neutral, nonjudgmental summaries" of their cases. Thanks to the Legal Profession Blog for this one. From the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (click here to read the full opinion).




May a judge publish a blog that reports on Florida Supreme Court and District Court of Appeal cases as they are released, where the entries are intended to be neutral, nonjudgmental, brief summaries of the facts and holdings, with a link to the full opinion of each case?






The inquiring judge proposes to publish a blog where the judge will be reporting on cases as they are released by the Florida Supreme Court and the District Courts of Appeal. It is not the inquiring judge’s intent to editorialize, criticize, or otherwise evaluate any of the opinions. Instead, the blog would only alert the reader to the release of the opinion and briefly describe what the opinion states. The blog would also alert the reader to changes in the rules of procedure and the Evidence Code.


        . . . . .


If all cases to be included in the present inquiring judge’s blog were final (i.e. no discussion of pending or impending cases would be included) nothing in the present inquiry suggests the inquiring judge would be placing on the proposed blog anything that could not be included in any other teaching activity.


It is not practicable to list all the provisions of the Code that could apply to a judge’s blog, and a judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. Moreover, the Committee does not screen, comment on or approve the content of written material or speech, and likewise will not review in advance the content of any blog. So, before publishing material on the blog, the judge should carefully examine all provisions of the Code that relate to the blog and its topics, to insure that the judge is not publishing on the blog something the judge could not ethically say in person. The Committee also advises that an interactive blog may invite inappropriate comment by the judge and therefore the judge would be well-advised to exercise caution in engaging in such activity. Additionally, the judge may consider adding a disclaimer to the blog that clarifies the judge does not endorse or vouch for the comments of others on the blog, and that such comments do not represent the views of the judge.


March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ohio benchslap for poorly written brief

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer blog:

Federal court dismisses former Bratenahl police chief's lawsuit

A federal judge ordered former Bratenahl Police Chief Paul Falzone to repay $13,619 in overpaid wages and dismissed his lawsuit against the village and village officials, but not before administering some harsh words against the poor wording of Falzone's legal filings.

U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin said Falzone's 10-page long brief, prepared and filed by Cleveland attorney J. Norman Stark, "does not contain a single heading, is littered with unsupported conclusory allegations, eschews legal analysis for paragraph-long block quotes," and has other problems.

Gwin said he was able to "piece together enough of this poorly-developed record to address in substance most of Falzone's claim"

In 2010, Falzone filed a civil rights lawsuit against the village, Mayor John Licastro and others, alleging that they conspired against him and initiated a criminal investigation with no probable cause. He also alleged he was the victim of age discrimination that forced him to retire.

Falzone was police chief from August 1994 through November 2008, when Licastro placed him on administrative leave and announced a civil investigation of Falzone and the department.

That action followed an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation into at least one gun and log books missing from the department's evidence room. Falzone said the investigation was initiated by two former police officers seeking retaliation.

A Cuyahoga County jury found Falzone not guilty of theft after a trial in January 2010.

Falzone demanded a public apology from Licastro and the Village Council after his acquittal but did not receive one. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor against Licastro last year.

Village officials denied the allegations in Falzone's civil lawsuit and asked Gwin to dismiss it with a summary judgment. They also filed a countersuit, demanding that Falzone pay back $13,619 that a state audit found had been overpaid to him.

Gwin granted the village's request for summary judgment in dismissing Falzone's case and in ordered him to pay back the money. Gwin noted that Falzone "had nothing but his own suspicions" to support his allegations of a conspiracy to drive him out of office. Gwin noted Falzone voluntarily resigned from the police department in February, 2009.

Gwin also ruled that Falzone waited too long to file an age discrimination claim.

Neither Licastro or Falzone could be reached for comment.

Falzone's lawyer, Stark, said he was surprised Tuesday to hear of the judge's criticism of his court filing.

"In all the times we met and discussed the case (the judge) never said a word, never indicated any displeasure with the way it was written at all," he said. "I would have rewritten it if he had."

Hat tip to Lou Sirico.


March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banning Bottled Water on Campus

Environmentalism in action. From the San Franciso Chronicle:

Bottled water is coming under attack on college campuses.

More than 90 schools, among them Brown University and Harvard University are banning the sale or restricting the use of plastic water bottles, unnerving the $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in the U.S. The University of Vermont is the latest to join the movement, announcing in January it would stop sales early next year.

Freshmen at colleges across the country are being greeted with stainless-steel bottles in their welcome packs and encouraged to use hydration stations where free, filtered water is available. Brown, which used to sell about 320,000 bottles of water a year in vending machines and campus stores, ended sales in dining halls in 2010. Harvard and Dartmouth College are installing hydration stations in new buildings to reduce trash.

Banning the bottle sounds like a good project for law student groups. Here’s the full article (originally from Bloomberg news).


March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

GPO Access Site Shuts Down March 16

The U.S. Government Printing Office has announced that the GPO Access website will be shut down and retired on March 16.  The Federal Digital System site (FDsys) will become the new default source for federal government publications.    Outdated links from GPO Access will redirect users to the FDsys site for the next year or so.  The e-CFR will not be found on the FDsys site, but will continue to be available at 

This post from The Goodson Blogson (Duke Law Library) provides more information about efforts to preserve historical government information through digital preservation projects.

Hat tip AALL (@aallnet)


March 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)