Saturday, June 30, 2012
Kirsten Davis, the LRW director at Stetson, has been a very busy person. This spring she successfully defended her dissertation and was awarded a PhD from Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She also was promoted this spring at Stetson, to full Professor of Law. Congratulations on both excellent accomplishments!
Justice Antonin Scalia and legal writing expert Bryan Garner have written a new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. Unlike their previous book, Making Your Case, Reading Law does not focus on legal writing. But this new 567-page volume may interest readers of this blog because it covers legal analysis, albeit from a specific viewpoint, textualism, which the authors define as follows:
We look for meaning in the governing text, ascribe to that text the meaning that it has borne since its inception, and reject judicial speculation about both the drafters’ extratextually derived purposes and the desirability of a fair reading’s anticipated consequences.
The book contains a clue about the recent health care decision. Scalia and Garner write that a 1942 case, Wickard v. Filburn, “expanded the Commerce Clause beyond all reason.” Both the majority and dissenting opinions in the health care case rejected that expansive view of the Commerce Clause.
Friday, June 29, 2012
One of the hallmarks of an Institute conference is that each plenary and large-group session demonstrates active learning techniques for the engaged classroom.
In our first meeting on Monday morning, we used pair-and-share with both cold-calling and volunteering, pass-the-paper, and send-youself-a-tickler.
To pair and share, have participants form groups of 2-3, discuss a point, and then report back to the group. So in a torts class, you might have students pair up to identify a point that they'd like the professor to go over, then report it to the larger group.
Pass-the-paper involves posing a question or task, then simply passing a piece of paper along a row and having each person briefly answer the question. Participants benefit from seeing a variety of responses, and the professor may collect them as well for feedback.
Send-yourself-a-tickler has participants writing themselves a note, reminder, or insight, to be sent to them later on. So the first day of class, you might ask students to record their emotions or motivations on a piece of paper and place it in an envelope. At the end of the semester, return the envelopes to the students to remind them of where they started and where they are now.
The Institute's annual conference was held on Monday at Gonzaga, followed by a teaching retreat on Tuesday. These two wonderful days--of learning from each other and of reflecting--were a welcome break from the summer's tasks of teaching and research. Many thanks to Gerry Hess of Gonzaga and Michael Hunter Schwartz of Washburn, co-directors of the Institute. More details of specific sessions to come.
Legal writing professors are moving around this summer:
Jake Carpenter will join the faculty at Marquette in the fall, as an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing. He started his teaching career at DePaul in 2006.
Legal writing veteran David Cleveland is moving from Nova Southeastern to join the legal writing faculty at Valparaiso in the fall.
And Sarah Ricks will be taking a leave from Rutgers-Camden, crossing the Delaware River, and visiting at Penn next year.
Oops! Two television networks, Fox and CNN, got it wrong when they first reported yesterday’s decision in the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius health care case. After quickly skimming the Supreme Court decision under pressure for a scoop, reporters on each network erroneously said the individual mandate had been struck down.
These gaffes provide a cautionary tale for our students, illustrating the importance of reading an entire case carefully before relying on it.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Here are some recent changes within legal writing programs around the country:
The University of Miami School of Law’s Legal Communication & Research Skills program has moved to a directorless model with a rotating chairperson. 2010. Pete Nemerovski will serve as the chair through the 2013-14 academic year.
Thanks to a substantial gift, the LRW program at the University of Texas is now the David J. Beck Center for Legal Research, Writing, and Appellate Advocacy. The Beck Center includes the required first-year course, a new course on legal writing for foreign LLMs, upper-division courses (Transactional Drafting, Writing for Litigation, and Advanced Legal Writing), two judicial-clerkship courses, and a writing center. In addition, a Beck Center faculty member will oversee interscholastic moot court. Also, for the first time, the clinicians and writing professors will be eligible for summer research stipends of up to $5000.
And at Stetson University College of Law, the faculty voted to extend full voting rights to Assistant, Associate, and full Professors of Legal Skills with tenure and on the tenure-track. Previously, Legal Skills faculty had only limited voting rights on appointments, promotion, and tenure matters. Now, those limitations have been eliminated.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
From the opinion (after a detailed discussion of the legislative process):
As a generation of schoolchildren knows, "by that time, it's very unlikely that [a bill will] become a law. It's not easy to become a law."
The court went on to cite an internet link to the cartoon. I wonder if the reference would have been even more effective with an embedded video clip (or at least a live hyperlink) in the opinion to make viewing easier.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Someone recently asked Wall Street Journal columnist Cynthia Crossen to explain what constitutes bad writing. In her June 25 column, she focuses on three key traits: obscurity, wordiness, and overwriting. As an example of obscurity, she quotes this piece of academic prose: “The lure of imaginary totality is momentarily frozen before the dialectic of desire hastens on with symbolic chains.” Wordiness, Crossen believes, is due partly to lax editing of published works; she is “often shocked by how badly some books need to be trimmed.” As for overwriting, Crossen cites Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), whose books were fodder for contests that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien held among the literati at Oxford. The prize went to the one who could read Ros’s work the longest without laughing. Crossen provides an example: “Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue.”
While I don’t see much overwriting in my students’ work, I do see obscurity. And we work on problems with wordiness all year. Meanwhile, I regularly have to trim my own writing.
Legal writing professors are moving into some new management positions over the summer:
Elena Langan has been appointed the new Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Nova Southeastern. She had been serving as the Director of the Lawyering Skills and Values program at Nova since July 2010. Meanwhile, Olympia Duhart has been appointed Nova's new Director of Lawyering Skills and Values program. Both professors will assume their new duties as of July 1st.
This fall, Atlanta's John Marshall Law School will be opening a new branch campus, Savannah Law School. Elizabeth Megale, who has been teaching at Barry, will be joining the inaugural faculty at Savannah as an Associate Professor of Law and the Director of Legal Skills and Professionalism program.
Christine Cerniglia, who previously taught at Stetson and Atlanta’s John Marshall, has joined the faculty at Loyola New Orleans as a clinical professor. She will be the new coordinator of the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Four years ago, Atlanta's John Marshall Law School put all of its legal writing and skills professors on the regular tenure track. And this spring, Lucy Jewel became the first of the legal writing and skills professors to be granted tenure there. A hearty congratulations, Lucy!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
One last reminder: The Second Draft is the news magazine of the Legal Writing Institute. To share news of your promotions, publications, presentations, and noteworthy program developments from your school's legal writing program, send an email before next Sunday, July 1, 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have the subject line read "Program News and Accomplishments."
Hat tip to Harris Freeman and The Second Draft Editorial Board