Monday, August 4, 2014
The July ABA Journal contains an informative interview with Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit. Legal advocates will be interested in Judge Posner’s comment that judges “are not good at . . . preventing personal experiences of various sorts—emotions, deeply held beliefs, etc.—from influencing decisions.” He also said that when judges lack sufficient information about a case, they “necessarily fall back on how [they] ‘feel’ about a case.” Posner also observed that he has changed his views over the years: "I'm much less reactionary than I used to be." That's appropriate, he says--judges should be willing to change their minds.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
The Law Library of Congress has a new website, Congress.gov. The new website makes it easier to search for information about federal legislation. It's pretty easy to use. Go on, have a look at www.congress.gov. It's pretty cool. And you're going to have to tell your students about it anyway.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Two sports stories caught my attention this weekend: the Colorado Rockies gave out 15000 jerseys Saturday night despite the misspelled name on the back, and the plaque for new Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux contains a grammatical error.
The plaque will probably stay as is, but the jerseys are going to be remade later this year.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Are You Going to the AALS Meeting in DC this January? Take an Extra Day to See the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta!
If you're going to Washington D.C. this January for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, plan an extra day to stop by the Library of Congress which will have a special exhibit on the Magna Carta.
The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of the 1215 Magna Carta, the first document to limit the power of the King and to uphold the rights of the individual.
An exhibit called "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" will open at the Library of Congress on November 6, 2014 and continue to January 19, 2015. It features the "Lincoln Cathedral" copy of the Magna Carta, which is being loaned by Lincoln Cathedral in England (pictured here).
Friday, July 25, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Legal writing professors often use prominent examples of plagiarism to warn their students about its dangers and how to avoid plagiarism. (Quick answer: cite whenever you use the words or ideas of others, keep good notes so you can do this, and if you plagiarize your intent doesn't matter.)
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of examples of prominent plagiarism to share with students.
Today's example lands on the FRONT PAGE of the NEW YORK TIMES. Ouch. And ABOVE THE FOLD. Double ouch.
If you can buy a print copy of the New York Times, grab a copy and save it for your classes this fall. You'll be amazed at how much space the newspaper devotes to the story, particularly the almost full page following on page A18.
If you access the electronic copy, you can play the interactive plagiairsm game and see how much of Senator Walsh's paper was plagiarized.
Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/23/us/politics/john-walsh-final-paper-plagiarism.html. If that doesn't work, go to the New York Times website and find the story on your own. Jonathan Martin, Senator's Thesis Turns Out to Be Remix of Others' Works, Uncited, N.Y. Times, July 24, 2014, at A1.
Senator Walsh is now 53 years old. According to the New York Times, he wrote the paper when he was a candidate for a Master's Degree from the U.S. Army War College, which he received in 2007 at the age of 46. The newspaper reports that the Army War College is conducting a review to determine if its former student committed plagiarism.
The story is a painful but important lesson for our students. Many of them go on to be elected in political and judicial offices. Something they do in law school can come back years later in their professional careers.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The results of the 2014 ALWD-LWI survey are now available! The report can be found on both the LWI and ALWD websites. By providing information about the field of legal writing at the country's various law schools, previous surveys have been influential in helping to upgrade the status of the field. The survey typically receives a very high response rate.
LWI president Linda Berger and ALWD president Kathleen Vinson congratulate survey co-chairs Marci Rosenthal and George Mader (pictured here) and their committee members for diligently completing a very time-consuming task.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Professor Dan Markel, the D'Alemberte Professor at Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, focused his scholarship on topics such as the proper scope of mercy, the death penalty, punitive damages, shaming punishments, and transitional justice in states recovering from mass atrocities. He was raised in Toronto and studied politics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Harvard. He did graduate work in political philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Cambridge, before returning to Harvard for his law degree, where he was an Olin Fellow and on law review. Upon graduation from law school, Professor Markel was a research fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, a clerk for Judge Michael Daly Hawkins on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C., where he practiced white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation in trial and appellate courts. At Florida State University, he primarily taught in the area of criminal law.
He was shot at his home on Friday morning, around 11:00 a.m. and died of his wounds early this morning. Here is a link to a news report about the shooting.
A memorial service is planned for noon Sunday at Congregation Shomrei Torah, located at 4858 Kerry Forest Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida. His funeral will be held in Toronto.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, students, and colleagues.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Registration is now open for the Western Regional Legal Writing Conference, to be held on September 19 and 20th at Stanford Law School. The theme of the conference is Beyond Carrots and Sticks: Motivating Students to Do Their Best Work. Register by clicking here: http://conferences.law.stanford.edu/legalwriting/
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The 2014 Scribes Annual Membership Luncheon will be held during the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Boston on Friday, August 8, 2014 from Noon to 2:00 p.m. The luncheon will be held in the Colonnade Boston Hotel, Braemore/Kenmore Rooms, 120 Huntington Avenue, Boston. The Scribes Brief-Writing and Book Awards will be given during the luncheon. Get more information and confirm your attendance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 517.371.5140, ext. 4402. RSVP's are kindly asked by July 31, 2014.
For more information about Scribes, including membership information, click here.
Monday, July 14, 2014
UMKC professors Nancy Levit and Allen Rostron (pictured here) recently posted current information for scholars seeking to publish in law reviews. Among other helpful points, their post identifies the eight schools that now accept submissions only through Scholastica.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
I always thought Katharine Hepburn mispronounced the word certiorari in the movie Adam’s Rib. As I recall, she hesitated a faction of a second and pronounced it “ser-shuh-RARE-ee” (rhyming with dairy). I thought the Anglicized “rare” was wrong for a Latin word, and that the actress was simply unaware of the legal term.
Well, the pronunciation of certiorari is a lot more complicated than I thought. In an entertaining piece in the latest Green Bag, Regent University’s James Duane (pictured at right) delved into the topic and found no set pronunciation of the term. The 2004 edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, for which Duane was an editor, presented three pronunciations without specifying a preference. So Duane decided to see how Supreme Court Justices pronounce the term. He found five pronunciations: retired Justice Stevens and Justices Thomas and Alito say “ser-shee-or-RAHR-ee” ( rhyming with Ferrari); Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Breyer say “ser-shee-or-RARE-eye” (rhyming with fair guy); former Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices O’Connor and Souter said “ser-shee-or-RARE-ee”(rhyming with dairy); Justice Kennedy says “ser-shee-or-ARR-eye,” rhyming with far cry; and Justice Sotomayor says “ser-shee-ARR-ee.” In light of this disagreement among the justices, Duane finds the most pragmatic to be Justice Ginsburg, who seems to have concluded that “certiorari simply should not be spoken aloud in polite society.” While she often writes the word, she avoids it when speaking from the bench, using the shorter “cert” or simply referring to the Court granting “review.” Justice Kagan takes the same approach.
I’ve always said “ser-shuh-RAHR-ee,” on the theory that tio is a single syllable as in nation and the final vowels should have Latin pronunciations. But now I think I’ll just say “cert.”
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Do you coach the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition or another international law moot court competition? If so you'll want to learn about how to get the DVD of the final rounds of rhe 2014 Jessup Competition in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Working on a new article this summer? Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD is seeking submissions for its 12th volume (Fall 2015). From the Call for Articles:
Volume 12 will include articles on the full range of topics that fall within the mission of LC&R: JALWD: to be a forum for discussion about legal writing and lawyering between academe and the practicing bar.
LC&R's mission is to advance the study of professional legal writing, broadly defined, and to become an active resource and a forum for conversation between the legal practitioner and the legal writing scholar. Traditionally, LC&R does not publish articles that are of interest to a purely academic or teaching audience. LC&R is dedicated to encouraging and publishing scholarship (1) focusing on the substance of legal writing; (2) grounded in legal doctrine, empirical research, or interdisciplinary theory; and (3) accessible and helpful to all "do-ers" of legal writing: attorneys, judges, law students, and legal academicians.
Submissions are due September 1. Check out the submission guidelines for more information!
Bryan Garner's June ABA Journal column reminds lawyers to write with care. Two of his suggestions are to avoid long words like subsequently in favor of shorter ones like later and to conform punctuation to The Chicago Manual of Style. Such careful writing, Garner says, can lead to a win in the courtroom. For a brush-up on style, he recommends reading Theodore Bernstein's The Careful Writer and articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic.
Friday, July 4, 2014
At the LWI conference, members got inside information about ALWD's new citation guide. It's no longer called a manual--the title of the fifth edition is the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation. Chief editor Coleen Barger and contributor Brooke Bowman explained that the new guide has eliminated the differences between it and the Bluebook. That means, among other things, that large-and-small caps are now prescribed for certain law review citations and abbreviations and citations have been standardized to comport with traditional formats. But the new guide will be easier to use than the Bluebook. Plentiful symbols clarify when spaces are needed, and law review formats are integrated into the subject matter sections but clearly labeled by a title, an identifying marginal line, and a warning symbol.
A companion site includes exercises that students who purchase the book can access. An on-line teacher's manual will be available soon and will include comparison charts between the fourth and fifth editions and between the fifth edition and the Bluebook.
Proceeds from the guide help to fund ALWD undertakings like awards and scholarships to conferences.
Pictured below are Brook Bowman and Coleen Barger presenting the new guide.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
LWI Conference Guest Blog Post: Dan Real Tells Us About Jean Sbarge's Great Presentation on "The Read Shoes"
I also had a chance to attend the presentation by Jean Sbarge and thought it was just great, including how she filmed a law partner reading and commenting on a memorandum.
Here's the post from Daniel Real:
Yesterday was the final day of substantive presentations at the Legal Writing Institute 2014 Conference in Philadelphia (#LWI2014). The week was filled with wonderful presentations on a variety of topics and presented attendees with many instances of having to make difficult decisions about which presentation to attend. Fortunately, materials associated with many of the presentations have already been added to the Legal Writing Institute Website (http://www.lwionline.org), and more are sure to be added in the coming days.
One of the unfortunate aspects of any conference is that busy schedules and travel necessities often prevent many attendees from being able to see some of the final presentations. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to stay through the end of the conference and attend presentations on the final afternoon. Although all of the presentations I attended this week were great and reflected a lot of effort on the part of presenters, and although attendance at the final couple of afternoon sessions was good, I thought it worthwhile to jot down a few thoughts about one of these final afternoon sessions that some may not have been able to stay to see.
Professor Jean K. Sbarge of Widener University School of Law gave a presentation titled, "The Read Shoes: Stepping Into the Reader's Shoes Through Video, Case Illustration, Drawing, and a Model." I found it to be a wonderfully useful presentation with some very concrete methods for assisting students with the all-important task of putting themselves into the shoes of the legal readers they are hoping to reach and using that to help craft and improve their work product.
We all tell our students -- on multiple occasions -- how important it is to "put yourself in the position of your reader and ask yourself whether this accomplishes your purposes and is effective." That's really important. But it's also a difficult skill for students to master. I've tried a variety of different exercises in the past to assist students in this regard, including some peer review work; some interactive discussions in class of a poorly crafted analysis and discussions about how the students, as first-time readers, struggle to follow it and how to improve it; etc.
I think the notion of writers putting themselves in the place of their readers is such an important concept, and I always welcome any new ideas on how to do it. Professor Sbarge had some great ones in this presentation. She presented four concrete exercises that can be used to help students to better understand how to put themselves in that position and use what they learn to improve their writing. I will highlight just two of them here.
The first exercise that Professor Sbarge demonstrated is an exercise that may be familiar to students of other disciplines: the "back-to-back drawing" exercise. This is a simple and fun exercise that would be a great icebreaker at the beginning of a semester and would provide a basis for returning and reinforcing periodically throughout the semester. The exercise is simple, and involves students pairing up for an exercise in thinking very carefully about how to communicate detailed directions to a listener/drawer. The two students sit with their backs to one another, and the "instructor" student is provided with a drawing that incorporates a variety of geometric shapes. The "instructor" student then must provide directions to the "listener" student about how to draw a replica of the provided drawing. The "instructor" student may not look at the drawing in progress, and the "listener" student may not ask questions or seek clarification. The exercise forces the "instructor" student to make decisions about how to organize the instructions, how to be clear and explicit, and how to lead the "listener" student to reproducing a drawing that the "listener" student has never seen -- all highly similar to a legal writer leading a legal reader through an analysis.
A second exercise that Professor Sbarge demonstrated involved asking students early in the semester to sit down and think of a "legal reader role model" that the student can envision as a specific audience for his/her work. The role model can be a real person (one student chose Johnny Cochran) or a fictitious person (one student chose Jack McCoy from Law and Order). The idea is for the student to really think about this "role model" and have a reason for selecting this person as the model reader. Then, throughout the semester, the student is encouraged to consider that role model when working on legal writing assignments. What would Johnny Cochran think of the way you have developed the theme for your client here? Would Jack McCoy be satisfied with that level of review and editing? Would your reader accept jumping to that conclusion without explanation of how you got there? At the end of the semester, Professor Sbarge then asked for volunteers to reflect on the semester and how their use of the legal reader role model impacted their work. Students who volunteered answers included thoughts about being motivated to review or edit one additional time or to think in a different way about effectiveness. Sure, the legal writing professor is always a great "role model" legal reader. But if students take the time to think about another concrete and tangible reader, reflect on why that reader is being chosen, and use those thoughts throughout the process, there is an added dimension of understanding about the legal reader's needs.
I know I intend to find ways to implement some of these ideas, as I will with many ideas from many presentations. It was another great week of discussions on pedagogy and scholarship, fellowship with colleagues from all over, and recharging motivational batteries. In short, another highly successful conference -- kudos to all involved in planning, execution, and presenting this week!
Daniel L. Real
Assistant Professor of Law
Creighton University School of Law