Saturday, January 31, 2009


David Mills isn't just a lawyer. He's a  very clever cartoonist, er, courtoonist.

[Yes, it's okay that we posted the image here. David's website says, "Feel free to post excerpts of Courtoons (including the images) on other websites and blogs, but please link back to the Courtoons website. Duplication for personal use is also fine.  Other use without written permission from David E. Mills is prohibited."]

And here's the link to Courtoons. Enjoy!








hat tip: Hether Macfarlane


January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

urban-rural rivalries

The December 2008 issue of the Eighth Circuit Bar Association's newsletter calls a Second Circuit judge to task for suggesting that the Eighth Circuit was not sufficiently sensitive to the problem of guns and urban crime. The district judge's sentencing discretion was at issue in United States v. Cavera. During oral argument, the en banc court was considering whether national disparities in sentencing were justified due to the "greater damage inflicted by guns in urban areas," in part because of their greater population density. A second circuit judge observed, "Having a gun is a serous problem in New York City. Maybe in the Eighth Circuit they worry about cow-tipping or something."

The newsletter authors took issue with the judge's statement, calling him "misinformed" after a text search of Eighth Circuit opinions revealed no cases dealing with cow-tipping.


January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is the Apostrophe in Danger?

Birmingham, the second largest city in England, has decided to ban apostrophes from street signs.  For example, Queen's Street will now be Queens Street and St. Paul's Sqare will become St. Pauls Square.  Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves) must rally the Apostrophe Protection Army!  Click here to read more.

Hat tip to David Austin



Other signs in Britain are making up for that loss.
Here's one:
And here's another:


January 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Metaphor databases

This article in the January 23, 2009 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses two online databases that compile and index thousands of metaphors.  As you may know, metaphors are one of the most effective rhetorical devices for explaining ideas to an audience - whether it be law students or a court - because metaphors build a bridge between the difficult concepts one is trying to explain and concepts the audience already understands.

The databases referenced in the article can be found here and here.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Open source online research tools

Here's one I just came across called PreCYdent that appears to have good depth and breadth when it comes to federal and state judicial decisions.  Ironically, there happens to be an interview today with the founder of the site courtesy of the Law Librarian Blog

Open source means it's free - and in this legal marketplace, most attorneys are looking for ways to retain clients and keep them happy by delivering services, such as legal research, at a competitive price.  Open source research tools may be the wave of the future.

FYI - PreCYdent also happens to be on Facebook.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

call for proposals

Call for Presentations: Summer Conference of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning

"Implementing Best Practices and Educating Lawyers: Teaching Skills and Professionalism Across the Curriculum"

June 23-24, 2009; Spokane, Washington

The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops on techniques for teaching skills and professionalism across the law school curriculum. Building on the energy generated by the publications of Carnegie's Educating Lawyers and CLEA's Best Practices for Legal Education, the Institute's summer conference provides a forum for dedicated teachers to share with colleagues innovative ideas and effective methods for modern legal education.

The Institute invites proposals for 75-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme, Implementing Best Practices and Educating Lawyers: Teaching Skills and Professionalism Across the Curriculum." The workshops can address teaching and learning in first-year courses, upper-level courses, clinical courses, writing courses, and academic support. The workshops can deal with innovative materials, alternative teaching methods, ways to enhance student learning, evaluation of student performance, etc. Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop and when they return to their campuses. Presenters should not read papers, but should model effective teaching methods by actively engaging the participants. The co-directors would be glad to work with anyone who would like advice in designing their presentations to be interactive.

To be considered for the conference, proposals must be limited to one page, single-spaced, and include the following:

.         The title of the workshop;

.         The name, address, phone number, and

.         email address of the presenter(s); and

.         A summary of the contents of the

.         workshop, including its goals and

.         methods.

The Institute must receive proposals by February 20, 2008.    

Submit proposals via email to Professor Gerry Hess, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning at  The conference is self-supporting.  The conference fee for participants is $395, which includes materials and meals during the conference (two breakfasts, two lunches, and one dinner).  The conference fee for presenters is $175.

Pleasant and reasonable accommodations are available near Gonzaga University School of Law, the site of the conference. Presenters and participants must cover their own travel and accommodation expenses.  For more information, please contact:

Gerry Hess

ILTL Co-Director

(509) 313-3779

Michael Hunter Schwartz

ILTL Co-Director

(785) 670-1666


January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

and then I said to the appellee, hey man, I won't be paying your attorney's fees

How best for a brief writer to topically organize a brief and get his points across? Here’s an interesting take. As this writer (by profession, a jazz musician, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) informed the court, “Appellant respectfully submits this reply brief utilizing rap/rhyme in the argument topics to better emphasize strong concept points.” The points are reproduced below just as they appeared in the brief (in other words, it’s not my punctuation or spelling):

Regarding frivolous filings, one thing is clear,
Notice to show cause and proper service before you appear.

And if Industrial vs. Marquardt is any measure,
Its the frivolous allegations, not the venue of your endeavor.

But the allegations, how could they be frivo-lous?
Erlandson has a seizure the only day she deals with us.

A domestic relations exception, I was supposed to know.
Appellee would know too, so why did he spend so much doe?

Appellee dissed 814.04 for his 3 grand justification.
But he forgets that 977.08 puts the brakes on his compensation.

Appellee under statute was paid his compensation.
He seeks reimbursement and costs for outside re-numeration.

The case was submitted to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which reversed the fee award, so it appears this writer did something right. The brief is available online here. And if you want to learn more about multisyllabic rhymes in rap ("hallmarks of all the dopest flows"), click here for guidance from Flocabulary, Hip-Hop in the Classroom.

hat tip: Ray Ward, the (new) legal writer blog


January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2009

lone stars, climate change, and scholars on the horizon

At least two regional conferences for legal writing professionals are on the horizon . . .

The first is the Lone Star Regional Legal Research and Writing Conference, scheduled for May 29-30, 2009, in Texas. Nancy Soonpaa (yes, our own Nancy Soonpaa) asks that anyone who plans to attend--or who is leaning in that direction--send her an e-mail so that conference organizers can develop a rough estimate of attDcp01156endance.

And just a little farther out, it's the 2009 Central States Regional LRW/Lawyering Skills Conference, "Climate Change: Alternative Sources of Energy in Legal Writing," will be held on October 9-10 at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Central States is also planning a Scholars’ Forum, which will be held on October 9 in conjunction with the conference.  At the end of the Scholars’ Forum and just before the welcome reception for the conference, conference attendees will be able to participate in an hour-long discussion on getting published and giving effective presentations. 

hat tips: Nancy Soonpaa (Texas Tech) and Alison Julien (Marquette)


January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

the moral obligation of legal writing

Sammons "Lawyers have a moral obligation to write well." That's the provocative thesis of a recent essay by Mercer's Griffin Bell Professor of Law Jack Sammons, in The Complete Lawyer. Sammons observes that morality and language are "inextricably linked," and he posits that "the language of the law is used well when it is used honestly to persuade another person; when the identification between writer and reader that persuasion seeks is an accomplishment of the conversation itself rather than a recognition of a shared identity formed prior to it . . . ."

Sammons's essay ends with "praise and a plea":

My praise is for those professors of legal writing—the newest, most challenged, and most challenging teachers in legal education—who have accepted the protection of our living speech through their students as their own moral obligation.

My plea is to those true teachers of the law, the mentors of our apprentices, to encourage those in their charge to make the language of the law their own, to keep it alive, and to see in their work with words, however mundane it may at times seem, an opportunity for an expression of self—and in this to come to appreciate the moral obligations we have as lawyers towards our living speech.

To read the full essay, click here.

hat tip: Linda Berger


January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

legal visual semiotics

Some legal writing professionals may find this announcement of interest:

Editors:  Anne Wagner, Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy and Richard Sherwin
Publisher: Springer SBM
Expression of interest should be addressed by e-mail to    
Please make sure that the document clearly indicates on a separate page your name, affiliation, and contact information.
Date of submission: Abstracts of 2 pages to be submitted by 15 February 2009    
Decision for authors: 15 March 2009    
Full paper submission: Full papers to be submitted by 15 December 2009    
Final version of selected papers: Revised and final version of paper to be submitted by 15 March 2010
Length of chapters: Between 7,500 words and 10,000 words    
All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.
The visual is above all a means of communicating and understanding. In general terms, symbols, images and gestures have the potential to convey multiple levels of meaning and often represent concepts that are challenging to articulate explicitly due to their complexity, novelty or lack of specificity. When we have recourse to the visual, the subtleties and possibilities of communication      increase exponentially.

The overall aim of the proposed two volumes is to fill the gap between law, semiotics and visuality. As an original project, its aim is to provide a comprehensive analytical overview of legal visual semiotics. The two volumes will endeavor to adopt a comparative perspective with a view to identifying a common ground for semiotics analyses of the converging and/or merging aspects of law and the visual.

The project seeks to harness the diverse and innovative work to date in the fields of visuality and semiotics, anchoring them in the legal context. It will seek to bring together the cumulative research traditions of these related areas as a prelude to identifying fertile avenues for research going forward.
Contributions should reflect the interdisciplinary nature of legal semiotics research. They should focus on:    
- Theories and conceptualization of legal visual semiotics
- Pictorial semiotics and law
- Visuality of legal language
- Media and the law
These might include but are not limited to analyses on:    
- Interface between text, images and oral signs
- Globalisation, time, space and place and its impact on media and law
- Law and architecture, specifically architecture and criminology
- Law and landscapes
- Cartoons and the law
- Gesture and the law
- Dress codes and the law
- Religion and law: e.g. images, icons, representation of the sacred, etc.
- Legal construction, interpretation of legal subjects and objects through the mediation of images e.g. cultural objects and the law; the body as a legal object etc.
- Aesthetics and the law: e.g. aesthetics and psychoanalytic jurisprudence; Deleuze, art and law;  painting and the law; murals and the law; aesthetics and indigenous representation of customary law, specifically native American and African
- Digital technologies and law: e.g. surveillance and law, specifically use of images for forensic evidence; law, advertising and the production of meaning etc.
- Digital media, law and culture: e.g. technology in the courtroom and the law classroom; digital images and law, internet and the law, including pornography
- Media, culture and the law: e.g. cinema, popular culture and law; representation of law and/or legal events in media, specifically the representation of human rights, criminal trials in films and/or historical documentaries; representation of victims, perpetrators etc.


January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

checking the official version

If you use Westlaw to look up the case of Trustees v. Schroll, 120 Ill. 509, 12 N.E. 243 (1887), you will read the Illinois Supreme Court declare that "Appellants sue for a doby of land."  And then you might wonder, just what is a doby of land?  Or what did the term mean in 1887?  A dictionary will explain that "doby" is often understood in the southwestern U.S. as "adobe."  12pcaamcq08casfz6rqca8w5nkwca1l4ucm And "adobe" can mean the clay, a structure made from the clay, or the land the clay comes from.  But in Illinois?  Not much adobe here.  At this point the wise researcher goes to the official version of the case, only to discover that Westlaw inverted the consonants, and the court was merely referring to a "body" of land. One more good reason to check the official version of a case.

hat tip:  Prof. Emeritus Bob Beck, Southern Illinois University


January 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Global Legal Skills Conference IV - Georgetown University Law Center

Save the dates to attend the Fourth Global Legal Skills Conference, which will be held June 4-6, 2009 at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.   Calls for papers were due back in November and hopefully you sent in a proposal.  But even if you didn't, the conference is well worth attending.  I started the Global Legal Skills Conference several years ago at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where we held the first two conferences.  The third conference -- called by some the best conference they ever attended in their lives (and they go to a LOT of conferences) -- was held in Monterrey Mexico (where we will meet again in February 2010).  Click here for some photos from that conference.

Craig Hoffman of Georgetown University Law Center is organizing this conference (and finding out how much work it is, I think!) and it all seems to be very much under control for another great conference in June.

Save the dates (June 4-6, 2009), and see you there!  And here's a Legal Writing Prof Blog Exclusive News Flash -- A special celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute will be held at the conference on the evening of June 4, 2009.

Mark Wojcik

January 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)