Saturday, June 24, 2006

McComb, Mississippi in 1961 and 2006

Bearden I have been over in McComb, MIssissippi, for the last few days, attending the University of Mississippi's William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation's annual conference on teaching civil rights.  McComb was a center of much civil rights activism in the early 1960s, and the conference brought together superstar academics (like James Campbell of Brown University and John Dittmer of DePauw) with soliders from the civil rights movement.  It was a great conference and particularly good for getting college profs talking with elementary and secondary history teachers and both of those groups with activists.

One of the many highlights for me was a graduation ceremony on Thursday night for nine people from the class of 1962 at Burgland High School in McComb.  Outstanding article from the Clarion Ledger here. This is a story that should have received more coverage in the media than it did, in my opinion.  Why a graduation ceremony forty-four years late?  The answer takes up back to the fall of 1961 when sixteen year old Brenda Travis was arrested for attempting to integrate the Grayhound Bus station in McComb.  Travis spent 30 days in jail for that offense.  After she was released from jail, her classmates at Burgland High asked at a school meeting in the gymnasium if Travis would be let back into school.  When the principal, Mr. Higgins, called for the person who asked the question to come to his office, about 120 students walked out in solidarity with Travis.  They then marched to city hall, where they were arrested, along with Travis.  For the second offense, Ms. Travis spent six months in the state reform school at Oakley.

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June 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Alexander on Global Constitutional Property

Gregory S. Alexander (Cornell Law School) has posted The Global Debate Over Constitutional Property: Lessons for American Takings Jurisprudence on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The question whether to include a property clause in a new constitution or charter of entrenched rights has been highly controversial in recent years. Some nations, such as Canada, have decided not to include property as an entrenched rights, while other nations, such as South Africa, have included property clauses in their new constitutions. This book examines the questions of whether and why property should be made the matter of constitutional protection from a comparative perspective. Several insights emerge from this perspective. One is that a society's background legal and political traditions and culture has at least as much effect on the security and stability of property holdings as a constitutional property clause (or the absence of such a clause) has. At the same time, while historical legal traditions and culture exert a strong influence on property, they are not determinative. Constitutional text may matter. One area in which text may matter is the role of the social-obligation aspect of property. Comparing American takings law with its counterparts in other countries, notably Germany and South Africa, suggests the importance of text in the scope and coherence of the social-obligation norm in constitutional property jurisprudence. Comparative analysis further discloses several doctrinal practices that American takings law might borrow from other jurisdictions that have the potential for contributing to the construction of a more coherent and transparent takings jurisprudence.

Ben Barros

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June 23, 2006 in Recent Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rankings of Law Journals: The View from the Customer (i.e., Author): Or, What's the bepress ranking of law reviews mean?

Libraryrows I posted the substance of this last May.  (So this may sound vaguely familiar.)  Given recent discussions I've had with colleagues about bepress' list of the "100 most popular general student law reviews," I think it's time to repost it (with slight revisions).

I've been following the discussion of bepress vs. ssrn over at prawfsblawg and orinkerr (and of ssrn  recently over at prawfslawg). And that, in addition to a question from a reader about what I make of the bepress list of 100 most popular reviews, has caused me to do a little searching around the bepress website.  They're the folks who run ExpressO, which is a service that will (for a pretty modest fee) submit your article to a bunch of law reviews.

Comments I've seen on the web (like Dave Hoffman's quick study) and conversations I've had suggest that people are increasingly using ExpressO.  Sure makes life easy to pay someone a few hundred dollars (preferably from your expensive account) rather than mailing or even emailing a bunch of journals on your own.  I'm sort of old fashioned (and notoriously cheap) so I tend to do this on my own. Maybe that's not such a hot idea.  I'd be interested in hearing what propertyprof readers think.  So if you're an author: ExpressO or Express-No, as my colleague Dan Filler asked earlier this year.

I did, however, find some interesting statements on the bepress website, which I think are important to users of ExpressO (that is, authors and law reviews that receive their submissions).  In addressing law review editors, ExpressO is trying to get them to use their service.  They make the revealing--and I think true--statement that "Law reviews not on the delivery route run the risk of being overlooked." If you're a law review editor, I think it's a mistake to turn down submissions--you probably ought to take them via email, US Postal service, ExpressO, courier--any method that gets the manuscript in your hands.  Law reviews should not be turning away good manuscripts.  Those that are diligent about getting good manuscripts can get some good press.

Here's the data I'm interested in:

ExpressO provides useful statistics such as the median number of submission for other law reviews in your subject area, where your law review ranks in volume, and to what other law reviews your authors typically submit.

Now that data has the potential to tell a lot about what authors think about different journals.  Of course, it's only useful to the extent that representative people are using ExpressO and in a way that is representative of their submission patterns. There's some reason for thinking that the submissions through ExpressO aren't quite representative of the submissions process in general.  Why do I say this?  Take a look at this table, which lists (it seems) the 100 most popular law reviews based on submissions through ExpressO. It's called the "100 most popular general student law reviews."  Hmm. Wisconsin is number 1, Stanford is number 42, Columbia is number 45, Harvard is number 57, Yale is number 60.  Wisconsin's a very fine journal; I enjoy reading their articles (including their recent symposium on the New Legal Realism--especially Thomas Mitchell's Destabilizing the Normalization of Rural Black Land Loss: A Critical Role for Legal Empiricism) and I'd be honored to publish with them.  But most popular in terms of submissions?  In terms of recent citations by journals, they're behind 37 other strong performers, like the Houston Law Review.

Don't Overlook Ranking Law Reviews by Citations
I think it makes more sense to focus on issues like law review citation rankings and the US News reputation rank of the review's parent institution.  I have a paper on that here--and the executive summary here.

There's a lot of useful information at the ExpressO website, including a number of tips on submitting to law reviews (here, here, here, and here). Some of the advice is to move towards summer submissions for at least some reviews and towards submitting later in the fall for some. Important, if true.

Alfred L. Brophy
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June 21, 2006 in Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Linden and Rockoff on Economic Impact of Megan's Law

Leigh L. Linden (Columbia University - Department of Economics) and Jonah Elliott Rockoff (Columbia Business School) have posted There Goes the Neighborhood? Estimates of the Impact of Crime Risk on Property Values from Megan's Laws on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

We combine data from the housing market with data from the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry to estimate how individuals value living in close proximity to a convicted criminal. We use the exact location of these offenders to exploit variation in the threat of crime within small homogenous groupings of homes, and we use the timing of sex offenders' arrivals to control for baseline property values in the area. We find statistically and economically significant negative effects of sex offenders' locations that are extremely localized. Houses within a one-tenth mile area around the home of a sex offender fall by four percent on average (about $5,500) while those further away show no decline. These results suggest that individuals have a significant distaste for living in close proximity to a known sex offender. Using data on crimes committed by sexual offenders against neighbors, we estimate costs to victims of sexual offenses under the assumptions that all of the decline in property value is due to increased crime risk and that neighbors' perceptions of risk are in line with objective data. We estimate victimization costs of over $1 million - far in excess of estimates taken from the criminal justice literature. However, we cannot reject the alternative hypotheses that individuals overestimate the risk posed by offenders or view living near an offender as having costs exclusive of crime risk.

Ben Barros

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June 20, 2006 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Supreme Court Decision on Scope of Federal Wetlands Regulations

The Supreme Court decided the Rapanos case today.  Justice Scalia's plurality opinion held that the Clean Water Act does not extend to areas, like drainage ditches, where waters are not permanent.  Justice Kennedy's concurrence may turn out to be the key opinion in the case.  Good discussions of the case are available at Scotusblog (here, here and here), the Volokh Conspiracy, and The Pacific Legal Foundation's Rapanos Blog.

Ben Barros

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June 19, 2006 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Universities as Developers

Related to the subject of earlier posts (here and here) on university expansions, the Philadelphia Inquirer has a story on a major redevelopment project being undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania:

The Schuylkill is just 330 feet wide at Walnut Street, but by other measuring sticks, Center City and West Philadelphia are far more distant neighbors. The west bank's tangle of rail lines, its grimy industrial remains, the roaring expressway - all have served to further cleave the city.

That divide could begin to narrow next year, when the University of Pennsylvania embarks on an epic riverfront redevelopment project. It is expected to take more than two decades, cost $1.94 billion and, as high hopes go, ultimately meld Center City and West Philadelphia into one big, lively city core.

Endorsed by the university trustees on Thursday, Penn's plan is to revitalize 40 acres from Walnut Street to just below South Street on the campus' eastern edge. On what is now an eyesore of a site, office towers, condos and research centers would rise amid new athletic fields and recreation spaces, shops and restaurants. There is even talk of an elegant pedestrian bridge arcing the Schuylkill.

The story is very positive, and doesn't suggest that the project will involve eminent domain or displacement of residents.  Still, it's a big project, so there must be some controversy somewhere.  If not, more power to Penn.

Ben Barros

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June 19, 2006 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Roark's Requiem on the Nomos of the Louisiana Civil Law

Lacivilcodenealauction_1 Close readers of propertyprof will recall that Ben (and I in the comments) wrote a little bit about Marc Roark's The Constitution as Idea: Defining Describing Deciding in Kelo in April.  Roark's latest, Opening the Barbarian's Gate or Watching Barbarians from the Coliseum: A Requiem on the Nomos of the Louisiana Civil Law, is now up on bepress.

Roark has some great titles, for sure.  Here's his abstract:

Comparative Law tends to focus on the differences and similarities present in different legal systems. Such analysis has led some to conclude that a third legal system has appeared in the West and in particular in Louisiana. The idea of a mixed jurisdiction, they claim, combines certain elements of Civil law and Common law into a hybrid system. This article challenges the supposition that a legal system’s core identity can be of a mixed nature. Rather, this article suggests that the proper way a legal system should be viewed is through its normative values as depicted in the narratives the system spawns – a Nomos that directs the purveyors of the system towards the sources and identity that the system enchants. Focusing primarily on Louisiana, Part I of this article describes three normative elements that narratives tell about the Louisiana civil law: its frenchness, its distinctiveness, and its dependency on a Code. Part II then tells two narratives that demonstrate how these narratives are revealed, even when they are not completely accurate. Part III challenges the readers to inhabit the nomos.

Roark's interested in how legal traditions evolve and uses the laboratory of Louisiana to test how the civil and common law influence each other.  (The barbarians in the title is a reference to the way that "barbarians" influence societies they come in contact with--and how they cause those other societies to, in Roark's words, "get better or disorganize."  There are some narratives about the Louisiana system--the prevalence of a Code, its connections to French law, and its distinctiveness from other legal traditions.  Lot to think about here--and a lot of it is beyond the usual scope of propertyprof.   But I want to focus on one part of his paper: his discussion of Louisiana's slave law.  Roark uses those key elements to ask about the origins of Louisiana's slave law.  Basically, as I understand it, does the Code Noir fit with the narratives about Louisiana law more generally?  He finds even though the source of slave law was often the Spanish legal system, that they were applied in the Louisiana system using characteristically Louisiana principles, like considerations of humanity.  There's a lot to think about in this paper.  I always enjoy reading about legal traditions and thinking about how those traditions evolve.

Endnote: The photo of the Louisiana Civil Code is from our friends at Neal Auction (the Code was in lot 757).

Alfred L. Brophy
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June 19, 2006 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)