Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Open records laws have a salutary purpose. But there’s also a downside. From a posting by Andi Curcio at Best Practices for Legal Education (Jan.15):
Along with 1,400 other law professors, I signed a letter opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. As a law professor, I signed this letter because of my concerns about maintaining the integrity of the legal system.
Shortly after the law professors’ letter was published, my university counsel’s office got an Open Records Act request seeking my emails.
The request, from a reporter working for a conservative political publication, sought: “a copy of each email (inbound, outbound, deleted, or double deleted) for the university email accounts of Andrea A. Curcio and [a colleague who also signed the letter] from the dates of December 15, 2016, to and including January 3, 2017, which includes any of the keywords “Sessions,” or “Jeff Sessions” or “Attorney General.””
A similar request was sent to university counsel for law professor signatories working at other public institutions.
Ugh. You can read more here.
Can Practicing Mindfulness Improve Lawyer Decision-Making, Ethics, and Leadership? by Peter H. Huang.
Monday, January 30, 2017
And the winner is “post-truth.” From the Washington Post:
The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
In this case, the “post-” prefix doesn't mean “after” so much as it implies an atmosphere in which a notion is irrelevant — but then again, who says you have to take our word for it anymore?
In a review for the Harvard Gazette, Christopher Robichaud, lecturer in ethics and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School described conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of elections and politicians – for example, the "birther" idea that Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen – as one side-effect of post-truth politics, and contrasted the behaviour of the candidates with that following the contested result of the 2000 election, in which Al Gore conceded and encouraged his supporters to accept the result of Bush v. Gore.Similarly, Rob Boston writing for The Humanist saw a rise in conspiracy theories across American public life, including Birtherism, the edited Planned Parenthood videos and movements denying climate change and rejecting evolution, which he identified as a result of post-truth politics, noting that the existence of extensive and widely available evidence against these conspiracy theories had not slowed their growth.
In 2016, the "post-truth" label was especially widely used to describe the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, including by Brogan Morris writing in Salon, Professor Daniel W. Drezner in The Washington Post, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, Chris Cillizza in The Independent, Jeet Heer in The New Republic, and James Kirchick in the Los Angeles Times, and by several professors of government and history at Harvard. Following the 2016 United States presidential election, President Barack Obama stated that the new media ecosystem "means everything is true and nothing is true".
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Hill is reporting that following Trump's signing of an order on Friday (which also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day and thus his timing offended many Jewish groups) banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries including a moratorium on Syrian refugees fleeing persecution (though no country where Trump has business interests was included on his list of banned countries) the ACLU had more than 150,000 new membership applications over the weekend and also saw a nearly seven-fold increase in donations totaling $19 million as of Sunday night (update: more than $24 million) compared to its typical annual donation amount of $3-4 million.
Perhaps an unintended consequences of Trump's executive order fiasco over the weekend (which some senior administration insiders have characterized as akin to watching the "Keystone Cops" at work - so much for Trump's reputation as a "master" businessman) is that he's creating more jobs for lawyers than at anytime since the Great Recession of 2009-10.
Updated at 3:00 a.m. EST - CNN Money is now reporting that the ACLU has racked up more than $24 million over the weekend.
The Chronicle of Higher Education “updated” President Obama’s resume and sent it around to law professors to judge his marketability in the legal education market. They put aside his credential as President. Former Professor Obama might find academic job hunting a challenging endeavor.
Here are concerns that the law professors raised: a light academic publication record; a fear that at age 55, he might be planning to retire into academia; lack of a clear scholarly agenda; as a public intellectual, too externally focused; focused on the wrong Con Law topics—today’s trendy topics are theories of judicial review and parsing Supreme Court opinions; a teacher, but not a scholar.
What does all this say about the narrowness of legal academia? You may be able to access the full Chronicle article here—it includes the constructed resume with comments.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Librarians beware.Watch what you eat. From Atlas Obscura:
As the story goes, a vagrant wandering the streets of Goldfield in 1908 was rummaging through the trash outside the local library, looking for something to eat. The best sustenance he came across was a jar of book paste.
He would have found the paste surprisingly sweet, because in addition to flour and water, it was 60% alum. Unfortunately, the concentration was deadly.
You can read more here.
This isn't just a millennial problem. A new report shows that people over 60 are now the fastest-growing demographic in the American student loan market, and many are already in serious debt. Over the past 10 years, seniors' debts have quadrupled as parents and grandparents take out loans on behalf of college-age relatives. A generation ago, it wasn't common for grandparents to be involved with paying for their grandchildren's education. But now, skyrocketing school costs have left 2.8 million over-60s in debt to student loan companies.
While classes at Charlotte Law School started last Monday, its students are in limbo concerning their short-term and long-term futures.
Charlotte Observer, Charlotte School of Law starts food drive so students get something to eat. Nope, this is not a joke.
"Cut off from millions of dollars in federal loans because of their school’s chronic failings, students at Charlotte School of Law still don’t know how they’ll pay tuition, rent and utilities. Now they are apparently running out of food. In response, one of their professors announced Friday that some faculty and other law school employees have started a food drive to make sure students of the reeling school have enough to eat."
"The government agency and the American Bar Association have both accused the for-profit law school of hiding chronic problems with admissions, curriculum and test scores from students. But the cutoff of federal money has left students pondering how they will pay for school and living expenses. There are reports that some students have stopped attending classes because they can’t afford gas for their cars. Observers say more than half the student body has already left the school."
How can we be prepare for class when we can’t feed ourselves?” said third-year student Margaret Kocaj of Charlotte. “How can we study when we have headaches because we can’t afford to eat? This is our reality now. There are no words.”
"For weeks, school leaders have been promising to list of series of alternatives to replace missing federal loans. But deadlines have come and gone. Thursday, the school sent out an email that it would release details within 72 hours."
"Sigman, along with other faculty, staff and school administrators, have stepped in to help meet the need for food. A makeshift pantry has been set up in the student commons of the College Street school."
“By remaining open the school has done more harm than good, and the results appear to be starving students who are on the verge of homelessness. It’s incredible,” a student said.
Charlotte Business Journal, Does Charlotte Law’s teach-out plan mean its closing?
"Charlotte School of Law’s leadership said this week it expected to submit a teach-out plan to the American Bar Association by the end of the day Friday."
“Given the timeline for the school and its students, we would expect the school to not only file its plan in a timely fashion, but begin executing it. Nothing in the teach-out rules bar a school from beginning to address the needs of the students in advance of the plan being reviewed,” Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions, said in a statement.
"So does that mean Charlotte is closing?
The ABA declined to offer further clarification on Friday as to whether submission of that plan means Charlotte Law will have to close its doors."
"Charlotte Law President Chidi Ogene was adamant on Tuesday that the school intended to remain open. He called the teach out plan a “fall back” and said Charlotte Law has a moral, ethical and financial obligation to its students."
"Initial reports showed that roughly 230 students have transferred — a 33% drop — from the about 700 students taking classes last fall."
"Loss of federal funds has forced the law school to lay off half of its faculty and staff to bring its cost structure into balance. It now employs roughly 35 people."
David Frakt, Update on the Charlotte Law School Faculty Firings
"The school also fired three full-time clinical faculty members, denying their requests for a reasonable opportunity to wind down their many active cases, placing them in a difficult ethical position."
"Charlotte School of Law has characterized the firings as a reduction in force, but multiple faculty members have reported to me that the administration did not comply with the contractual requirements for declaring a reduction in force, making the legality of the terminations questionable, to say the least.
Many of the faculty members are consulting with counsel and weighing their legal options. Expect multiple lawsuits by the faculty in addition to the multiple lawsuits already filed by students."
1. What is Charlotte doing about the clients of the closed clinics?
2. When is Charlotte going to fix its website to comply with ABA rules? For example, they still list the availability of federal financial aid. Likewise, personnel changes have not been made on the site.
3. Charlotte is on probation with the ABA. How does its refusal to fix its website affect its probation?
4. How will Charlotte's refusal to close affect the dischargeability of its students' federal loans?
5. Will Charlotte refund spring tuition to those students who are unable to obtain financial aid?
6. How will the transfer of students from Charlotte affect its 2017 bar passage rates?
7. Is there any possibility that Charlotte can remain accredited considering its loss of students, faculty, and clinics? And, credibility?
If you have more questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will post them here.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Friday Fun: "Doomsday Clock" predicts greatest likelihood of nuclear armageddon since height of the cold war.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with the emotional intelligence needed to recognize the traits of a narcissistic sociopath in our new president. For those who don't already know, the so-called Doomsday Clock was a project started in 1947 by a group of Atomic scientists to measure the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation. More recently, the Doomsday Clock has been used to reflect the likely imminence of global destruction from more wide-ranging threats including climate change. Yesterday the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the clock for two and one half minutes before midnight which indicates we're the closest we've been to nuclear annihilation since 1953 when the U.S. and Soviet Union each conducted competing tests of hydrogen bombs (the subsequent cold war crisis actually moved the clock further away from "midnight" after both countries installed a "hotline" and negotiated arms reductions).
The Executive Director and Publisher of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Rachel Bronson, had this statement about her group's decision to move the clock the closest its been to "midnight" in more than 60 years:
Ms. Bronson, in a post-announcement interview, explained why the board had included the 30-second mark in the measurement. She said that it was an attention-catching signal that was meant to acknowledge “what a dangerous moment we’re in, and how important it is for people to take note.”
“We’re so concerned about the rhetoric, and the lack of respect for expertise, that we moved it 30 seconds,” she said. “Rather than create panic, we’re hoping that this drives action.”
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Titley and Dr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight.
“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” they wrote. “But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Will these stories about Charlotte Law School never end? From JDJournal:
In a secret recording made by a Charlotte professor in 2015 (click here for the audio), the school’s assistant dean for student success, Odessa Alm, admitted to a group of faculty members that they worked to defer 21 students from taking the test in order to not end up with the horrendous statistic.
You can read more here.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
From the National Jurist’s preLaw:
Florida Coastal School of Law and Charleston School of Law failed to meet the gainful employment standard, with debt-to-income ratios of 21.35 percent and 20.42 percent, respectively. Both schools have one year to pass the gainful employment standard, or else they face losing access to federal financial aid.
Three other for-profit law schools — Arizona Summit School of Law, Charlotte School of Law and Western State College of Law — received a “zone” rating. Programs that fall into this slightly less substandard category must obtain a “pass” rating at least once in the next four years.
You can read more here.
From the Charlotte Observer (excerpts):
The tottering Charlotte School of Law reopened Monday – with a third of its normal teachers, a shrunken list of classes and far fewer students.
Students reported attendance at the day’s classes far below normal, especially in the first- and second-year classes which have been hit hardest by transfers.
Last week, the school laid off about two-thirds of its faculty and released a stripped down class schedule to reflect the expected loss of students. Students began transferring out after the school was put on probation by the American Bar Association in November and then, in December, cut off from a federal student-loan program that awarded the school’s students almost $50 million last year.
You can read more here.
According to Wikipedia, Turning Point USA is a politically conservative 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded on June 5, 2012 by Wheeling, Illinois high school graduate Charlie Kirk. The organization states its mission is to "identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government." It is probably most noted for its Professor Watchlist.
The Watchlist lists professors who allegedly “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” It has has generated considerable controversy. Many professors, opposing it have asked to be included. The original Watchlist included the names of ten professors involve with legal education. Here is a summary from the ABAJournal:
- University of Pennsylvania law professor Regina Austin, for espousing critical race theory.
- John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Gloria Browne-Marshall, for saying “Southern white radicals” fought the Obama administration’s health care law.
- Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, accused of comparing Trump’s tactics for gaining support to those used by Hitler.
- Ohio State University law professor Joshua Dressler, for saying that some people believed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s statement about New York values might have been anti-Semitic.
- Georgetown University law professor Gary Peller, forcriticizingthe “unmitigated praise” for Justice Antonin Scalia in a law school press release mourning his death.
- University of California at Berkeley law professor John Powell, accused of saying the Bush administration took money away from protecting levees in New Orleans because the structures were protecting black people.
- Indiana University clinical law professor Fran Quigleyat the Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Hecriticized the Indiana Republican agenda in an op-ed and wrote that Haiti represents “a tea party fantasyland” with its rock bottom minimum wage, deforestation and virtually nonexistent public safety and government health care.
- George Mason University professor Craig Willse, who opposed renaming the university’s law school after Justice Antonin Scalia.
- University of California at Los Angeles law professor Jonathan Zasloff, accused of stating on social media that Republicans were catering to their KKK core of old, angry, white Southern men with reactionary views on race.
As you can see the justifications for listing these professors are superficial, and the list seems like a very amateurish effort. And just to be clear, I have no use for this sort of blacklisting.
National Law Journal, Showdown Over Law Schools' Bar Pass Standard Set for Feb. 6.
"The American Bar Association is pushing forward with a bid to strengthen its bar passage requirement for law schools over fresh objections from nearly half the nation's law deans.
The proposal to require at least 75 percent of a school's graduates to pass the bar within two years will be considered by the ABA's House of Delegates at its midyear meeting Feb. 6 — a move the objecting deans had hoped to delay in light of the continued decline in California's bar passage rate."
"But the ABA's legal education council has already spent years debating a stricter standard and gathering public input, thus there is no reason for delay, said ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education Barry Currier in response to the dean's letter. "The fact remains that to become a lawyer in a jurisdiction, a law school graduate must pass that jurisdiction's bar exam," Currier said. "The [bar pass proposal] that the council adopted holds schools to meeting graduates' expectations in the jurisdictions where the school's graduates choose to locate."
The bar pass proposal comes at a time of intense debate over the role of the ABA in protecting the consumer interests of law students amid climbing tuition costs and falling bar pass rates. The U.S. Department of Education has faulted the ABA for not policing law schools more closely, while diversity advocates have claimed the tougher bar pass proposal will hurt efforts to usher more minorities into the legal profession."
"n addition to the bar passage proposal, the House of Delegates will also consider a change that would require law schools with a 20 percent attrition rate to demonstrate compliance with its admissions rules. The attrition rate does not include students who transfer to other schools."
I believe that, in our current legal education system, law professors are not devoting enough attention to their students. However, a few professors are going too much in the other direction by making students dependent upon them. Our job as professors is to help students become self-engaged learners, not co-dependents.
Emily Grant has written a wonderful article on this subject: Helicopter Professors by Emily Grant.
The instinct to be a helicopter professor is understandable in light of several social and cultural circumstances of today’s legal education. First, law students today are largely Millennials who were helicoptered parented and educated in a system that often focused solely on test results. Second, law professors are at times overly focused are garnering positive student evaluation scores, which may be easier to do with a little extra spoon feeding. Professors too may themselves be helicopter parents in their non-work hours, a behavioral pattern that too easily can infiltrate the classroom. Finally, law schools today are seeing a rise in students that have a consumerist attitude and in some cases lower academic credentials; those types of students expect and perhaps need additional assistance. But satisfying that need, combined with the focus on quantifying assessment practices and on improving teaching techniques, may easily cross the line into helicopter behavior.
This Article, after detailing the factors that contribute to the helicopter professoring phenomenon, provides a theoretical framework for understanding helicoptering behavior as well as guidance for avoiding the negative manifestations of such behavior. Looking to parenting literature and advice rendered about how to not be a helicopter parent, this Article outlines a teaching style to help professors be responsive to students’ needs, maintain high expectations of their students, and yet avoid the harmful helicoptering behavior that can stunt individual learning and development. Offering practical suggestions and also ways to navigate the contemporary law school environment, this Article seeks to encourage professors to be authoritative educators who help develop internally-motivated learners who become successful, self-sufficient attorneys."
The Atlantic, The For-Profit Law School That Crumbled
Charlotte Observer, Recordings shed light on Charlotte School of Law's methods to boost bar passage
The Atlantic article is a detailed analysis of Charlotte's downfall.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Women obtain 57.1% of all college degrees, but they account for just 50.8% of law school applicants.
Women who apply to law school are less likely than men to be admitted.
When women are admitted to law school, they attend schools with significantly worse placement rates (and US News rank) than men.
These are the findings of a research report from Deborah Jones Merritt & Kyle McEntee. As for reasons for these findings, they suggest these:
- Schools, especially those in the top half of the US News ranking, stress LSAT scores over other admissions factors as they fight to maintain or improve their rankings. This disadvantages women, who have lower LSAT scores (on average) than men.
- Schools award an increasing number of scholarships based on LSAT scores. Men, with higher LSAT scores than women, receive scholarships to more prestigious schools.
- Women may not negotiate as aggressively as men for scholarships. Even if schools attempt to make equal “first offers” to men and women, men may negotiate for higher scholarships that allow them to attend more prestigious schools.
You can read more here.
Professor Mark Cooney has written a helpful article in the ABA’s Student Lawyer, “It’s OK to Get Nervous.” Based on his experience as a former trial lawyer and as a professor, he offers counsel to students who are shy about public speaking, particularly in moot court arguments:
For years, I’ve told students to adopt this mantra: Always nervous, never scared. You should care enough – invest yourself enough – to feel butterflies before a big performance. But don’t be afraid. By the time you’re done preparing, you’ll have something to say, and you’ll want your chance to say it.
So be nervous before your moot-court argument, your mock trial, or your exam. Be nervous before your job interview. For heaven’s sake, be nervous before your valedictory speech. And be nervous before your courtroom appearances when you’re out in practice.
But don’t be scared. Prepare diligently and push forward. Above all, don’t shy away from new challenges. Don’t rob yourself of growth opportunities because of nervousness or misgivings about your personality type. You’re a work in progress. Allow yourself time to grow.
You can access the article here. Worth reading and passing on to your students.