Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Love Cemetery: Restoring Access to a Slave Cemetery

Lovecemetery_2 Just read China Galland's charming Love Cemetery, which has just appeared from HarperCollins.  It  combines just about all of my interests, for it is a story about an African American cemetery in East Texas (that dates to the 1830s), which a community pulled together to clean up from 2003-06.  Garland links the account of the clean-up with her exploration of the community's history with taking land from some of its black residents.  Ah, cemeteries and land loss, memory and reparation.  Now those are some topics I'm interested in!

Here's the description from HarperCollins:

Love Cemetery is the story of one woman trying to come to terms with racism––on both personal and public levels. When China Galland visited her childhood hometown in east Texas, she learned of an unmarked cemetery for slaves––Love Cemetery. Her ensuing quest to reclaim the ground, to mark it, unearths racial wounds that have never completely healed.

Research into county historical records and interviews with local residents in Harrison County––at one time the largest slave–owning county in Texas––led Galland to the discovery of Love Cemetery, an African–American communal burial ground that the local community had been locked out of for forty years. Research became activism as she helped organize a grassroots, interracial committee, made up of local religious leaders and lay people, to work on restoring community access to Love.

Metaphorically, Love Cemetery is only one example of a much larger body of unearthed history. The author presents material that reaches back to the time of slavery and post–civil war Reconstruction, of lynchings and "landtakings" (the theft of land from African Americans). Love Cemetery shines a light on the national legacy and shame of slavery through an inspiring story of one community's reconciliation in their united effort to mark a piece of American history. The history of Love Cemetery is the history of slavery in the United States––a history that touches us all–black or white. The message of Love Cemetery is ultimately one of tremendous hope as members of both black and white communities come together to right an historical worng, and in so doing, discover each other's common dignity.

But my favorite line in the whole book:

[I]n Texas, he land belongs to the dead; descendants have a right of access to their deceased family members, regardless of how much private property they have to cross. [41]

Ah, cemetery law!

Alfred L. Brophy
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August 7, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Conservation Is Failing and How It Can Regain Ground

Freyfogle Why Conservation Is Failing and How It Can Regain Ground is Eric Freyfogle's new book from Yale University Press.  The YUP description is as follows:

Critics of environmental laws complain that such rules often burden people unequally, restrict individual liberty, and undercut private property rights. In formulating responses to these criticisms, the conservation effort has stumbled badly, says Eric T. Freyfogle in this thought-provoking book. Conservationists and environmentalists haven’t done their intellectual homework, he contends, and they have failed to offer an understandable, compelling vision of healthy lands and healthy human communities.

Freyfogle explores why the conservation movement has responded ineffectually to the many cultural and economic criticisms leveled against it. He addresses the meaning of good land use, describes the many shortcomings of “sustainability,” and outlines six key tasks that the cause must address. Among these is the crafting of an overall goal and a vision of responsible private ownership. The book concludes with a stirring message that situates conservation within America’s story of itself and with an extensive annotated bibliography of conservation’s most valuable voices and texts—important information for readers prepared to take conservation more seriously.

Propertyprofs ought to be familiar with Freyfogle's important 2003 book The Land We Share: Private Property and the Common Good.

Alfred L. Brophy
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July 25, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Are Book Reviewers Out of Print?

So asks the New York Times in this important article, which comments on the Los Angeles Times' recent decision to merge the book review and style sections of its Sunday paper.   I fear reviews are increasingly being relegated to on-line discussions.  Dedicated propertyprof readers may recall that we talk about book reviews every now and then.  And at the Law and History Review, a journal for which I have immense respect and affection, there has been some discussion of whether we should move to an all on-line format for reviews.  It would certainly cut down lag time in publication dramatically and also allow us to run more reviews.  However, taking a page out of the history of the book literature, I think that print confers status.

I have a few more (very few more) thoughts on this topic, which should be up next week in the inaugural issue of the CONNtemplations, the Connecticut Law Review's on-line supplement.  One of these days we ought to talk about exclusively on-line journals and their implications for the future of legal scholarship.

Alfred L. Brophy
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May 4, 2007 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fox on Conceptualising Home

Lorna Fox (University of Durham) has a new book out called Conceptualising Home.  Here's the blurb:

It is difficult to overstate the everyday importance of home in law. Home provides the backdrop for our lives, and is often the scene or the subject of legal disputes. In addition, in recent decades there has been growing academic interest in the meaning of home, which has prompted empirical studies and theoretical exploration in a wide range of disciplines. Yet, while the authenticity of home as a social, psychological, cultural and emotional phenomenon has been recognised in other disciplines, it has not penetrated the legal domain, where the proposition that home can encapsulate meanings beyond the physical structure of the house, or the capital value it represents, continues to present conceptual difficulties. This book focuses on the competing interests of creditors who lend money against the security of the property and the occupiers who dwell in the property, in the context of possession actions. By mapping the concept of home as it has evolved in other disciplines against existing legal frameworks, Conceptualising Home examines the possibilities for developing a coherent concept of home in law.

I've been a fan of Lorna's previous work on home, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of her book.  As many readers know, this is a subject near and dear to my heart.

Ben Barros

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March 7, 2007 in Books, Property Theory, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Call For Authors: New CAP Series on Comparative Law

Andrew J. McClurg (University of Memphis) is editing a new series of comparative law texts for Carolina Academic Press.  They are seeking authors for various subjects, including property:

Dear Colleagues:

Carolina Academic Press (CAP) is beginning a series of comparative law texts called the “Contextual Approach Series” (CAS).  I’m serving as editor.  CAP and I are looking for U.S. law professors in a variety of subject areas to serve as lead authors for entries in the series.

The goal of the CAS is to create a series of interesting, student-friendly, self-contained, accessible comparative law books that—using co-authors from the U.S. and two other countries—clearly and concisely explain how law works in practice around the world in different subject areas.  The books will be paperbound and roughly 200 pages.
The first book, Practical Global Tort Litigation: U.S., Germany and Argentina (McClurg, Koyuncu and Sprovieri) (PGTL), is in publication production and available for use as a model.  Detailed guidelines for authors in the series also are available.

As the title of the series suggests, each book will be based on a set of case or problem facts raising prototypical, universal legal issues in the particular subject area. This contextual approach is intended to bring comparative law to life and make it digestible and understandable to law students by giving them a foundation to attach the law to.

As an example, PGTL takes a simple products liability case involving a shattering glass jar through the legal systems of the U.S., Germany, and Argentina.  Other examples: a criminal law text could take a simple theft case through the U.S. and two other legal systems; a family law text could take a divorce problem through the U.S. and two other systems; a criminal procedure book could compare the handling of a search, arrest and confession in the U.S. and two other systems; a wills and trusts book could address property disposition upon death in the U.S. and two other legal systems, etc.

The three co-authors will explore and analyze issues raised by the problem facts from the perspective of their respective legal systems in side-by-side country-specific sections.

The U.S. author will serve as the lead author and will enlist, with the editor’s help, the two non-U.S. authors.  The U.S. author has primary responsibility for supervising, editing, and integrating the contributions of the non-U.S. authors.  This will require learning the relevant law of the two non-U.S. countries.  In selecting countries for study, one goal is to choose legal systems that are representative of major world regions, legal traditions or both.

Prospective authors should possess the following: (1) expertise in the relevant subject matter from a U.S. perspective; (2) excellent writing and composition skills; (3) dependability and reliability; (4) an eye for detail in consistency of organizational structure, style, formatting, and citation style; and (5) the time and resources to pursue the project to completion on deadline (roughly 18 months from signing of contract).

A lack of experience or background in comparative law is not a bar if you possess the above qualifications and an interest in studying and learning about other legal systems.  The non-U.S. co-authors are expected to provide the primary expertise regarding foreign law.  I had no prior background in comparative law before writing PGTL with Adem Koyuncu in Cologne and Luis Sprovieri in Buenos Aires.  On the other hand, as a former faculty member at the Florida International University College of Law, I did have access to international resources, which proved essential.

All subjects are open to consideration, although we are particularly interested early on in first-year courses and core upper-level courses.

If you have an interest in becoming an author in this series, please send a preliminary inquiry to amcclurg@memphis.edu that includes: (1) the subject area you would be interested in writing about; (2) a c.v.; and (3) any early ideas you might have regarding a set of problem facts and candidates for the two non-U.S. countries (and co-authors in those countries).

I look forward to hearing from you.  When I was teaching at FIU and living in Miami, I became convinced that comparative law will be a cornerstone of U.S. legal education.  Writing GPTC was one of the most interesting experiences of my academic career.  I learned more than in any year since my first year of law school.


Andrew J. McClurg
Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law
Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
The University of Memphis

Ben Barros

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September 14, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Steal This Book: They Did. And Hippie Thoughts About Property Rights


Recently I did a search for Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book.  (I know, I know, I should be working on my monument law essay, but I was taking a break.)  I've heard about Steal This Book for years, but I'd never known what it was about.  You know what: it's available to read in full text on the net.  Hmm, why doesn't that surprise me?  It's on a tenants' rights website, which propertyprof readers may find of particular interest.

What did surprise me is the content of Steal This Book.  I might have guessed it would be about opposition to property rights.  It's not what you might expect.  At least, it's not what I expected.  What I now realize is that it's sort of a how-to manual to put one over on the "system."  Some of it's mildly amusing; lots of it is downright anti-social; parts of it are really scary.  It's an artifact of the late 1960s.  Historians trying to recover the mentality of 1960s radicals will be turning to it.

I didn't know that Hoffman had written parts of it while in jail, which he identifies as "that graduate school of survival.  Here you learn how to use toothpaste as glue, . . . and build intricate communication networks.  Here too, you learn the only rehabilitation possible--hatred of oppression."  Hmm.

Listen to how dated this stuff from the introduction on property rights sounds:

The first section--SURVIVE!--lays out a potential action program for our new Nation.  The chapter headings spell out the demands for a free society.  A community where the technology produces goods and services for whoever needs them, come who may. It calls on the Robin Hoods of Santa Barbara Forest to steal from the robber barons who own the castles of capitalism.  It implies that the reader already is "ideologically set," in that he understands corporate feudalism as the only robbery worthy of being called "crime," for it is committed against the people as a whole. Whether the ways it describes to rip-off shit are legal or illegal is irrelevant.  The dictionary of law is written by the bosses of order.  Our moral dictionary says no heisting from each other.  To steal from a brother or sister is evil.

Then there are some mildly amusing lines about how to get free land:

Continue reading

September 14, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Research Canons For Property Law

PrawfsBlawg has a great new series of posts on the research canons in different areas of the law.  Here's an excerpt from Matt Bodie's post explaining the basics of the idea:

The purpose of this project is to get input from you, our readers, about the most important works of scholarship in the various areas of legal inquiry.

Unlike other disciplines, most law academics do not have an advanced degree in "law."  For students pursuing a Ph.D in areas such as economics, history, or social psychology, they must pass comprehensive exams showing that they have a broad knowledge of the most important works in the field.  It is only after comps that students go on to complete their specialized dissertation research.

Legal academia assumes that entry-level candidates and new scholars have done the background research necessary for their area of expertise.  But it is left to the individual to get this knowledge.  Certainly, the J.D. provides a baseline, and mentors are helpful in providing further direction.  But there is nothing akin to comps that sets forth a comprehensive listing for new folks to follow.  Many of us have heard the question, in the AALS interview, in the job talk, or as a new scholar presenting a paper: "Well, of course, you have read the work of Prof. X in this area, right?"  Failure to respond appropriately to this question may raise eyebrows and cast doubt on the scholar's research.

The Research Canons project is intended to fill this gap.

Property and Real Estate will be up for canonical treatment on Wednesday, 9/13.  [UPDATE: the property canons post is now up on PrawfsBlawg].  Property isn't the most cohesive of legal subjects, so I suspect the list will be all over the place.  I'll give this more thought over the next few days, but here are some of my candidates:

The Classics of the Moral and Political Theory of Property

Locke, On Property
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
Bentham, The Theory of Legislation
Marx, Communist Manifesto

Conceptualizing Property Rights

Wesley Hohfeld's Fundamental Legal Conceptions
Thomas C. Grey, “The Disintegration of Property”
Guido Calabresi & A Douglas Melamed, “Property Rules, Liability Rules, and Inalienability:  One View of the Cathedral"

Great Contemporary Work on Property Theory

Margaret Jane Radin, "Property and Personhood" and Contested Commodities
Joseph William Singer, “The Reliance Interest in Property”
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital
Charles A. Reich, “The New Property”
Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom
William Fischel, The HomeVoter Hypothesis
Ronald Coase, "The Problem of Social Cost"
Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Harold Demsetz, "Toward a Theory of Property Rights"
Lots of articles by Carol Rose and Richard Epstein -- it is hard to pick just one or two

Takings and Constitutional Property

James Madison, "Property"
Joseph Sax, "Takings and the Police Power"
Frank Michelman, "Property, Utility and Fairness"
Bruce Ackerman, Private Property and the Constitution
Richard Epstein, Takings
William Michael Treanor, "The Original Understanding of the Takings Clause and Political Process"

Ben Barros

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September 11, 2006 in Books, Law Schools, Natural Resources, Property Theory, Recent Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Reparations Pro and Con

Reparationsproandcon_1 Been at APSA and finishing up some stuff on monument law, aloha jurisprudence, and the latest on rankings (of secondary journals) and on the implications of bar pass rates for ranking of law schools.  So I've been quiet.  I'll be talking more about some of that stuff shortly.

Because Reparations Pro and Con is now available I thought I'd post a little about it.  As I said back in June when I finished up reading the page proofs,  it's a book I struggled with for a number of years and the more I think about reparations, the more complex they seem to become. Reparations talk involves lots of issues central to American history and to law.  It reminds me of the statement of Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, which was widely publicized at the time of his death in December 2002, that "If you ain't thinkin' about [hu]man[s] and God and law, then you ain't thinkin' about nothin'."  Reparations talk combines all three of those and a lot more.

My favorite parts of Reparations Pro and Con are the beginning and the end--because the beginning sets up many of the issues at stake in reparations talk and the end pulls the strings together and tries to guess where this is all going.  It's about the gap between white and black wealth and about how we view American history: as a place of opportunity or oppression?  And how we think about opportunities today, as well.  There's a lot of other stuff in between--like what role, if any, the government should play in correcting for past injustices and whether it is fair to ask those who did not commit racial crimes to help correct the vestiges of them now. For propertyprofs, there are some great meta-issues, like the judiciary's role in taking land away from Native Americans

I think the reparations movement is moving in the direction of talking about the past, rather then asking for any kind of payments. So I'm predicting we're going to see more in the way of truth commissions, like the 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission and the Tulsa Riot Commission.  Some of this may happen through the work of individual historians (like Reconstructing the Dreamland).  And I think we're going to see more in the way of businesses and colleges investigating their past (like Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and the discussion at the University of Virginia about slavery on its campus).

Of course, there's a lot more in the book, including a chapter on the case against reparations and a little bit on cemeteries (and here) and monuments.  I hope you'll take a look at it and recommend it to your local library.  Here some more on the book at Oxford's website.

Alfred L. Brophy
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September 7, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Broken Trust: You Can Say That Again!

With the arrival of Carl Christensen of the University of Hawai'i as a fellow guest blogger, I thought mention should made of Broken Trust, the recently published book by the University of Hawai'i Press, by Carl's colleague Randall Roth and U.S. District Judge Samuel King.  As most T&E folks know, Roth, King, and several other people brought to light the astonishing scope of the breaches of fiduciary duty engaged in by the trustees of the Bishop Estate, the trust established by the will of Bernice P. Bishop, Princess Pauahi.  Though the trust was explicitly for the purpose of creating and maintaining the Kamehameha Schools, by the 1990s the trustees were operating the trust as a private investment fund.  That's what the IRS charged was the case when it sought to rescind the trust's charitable status, after the scandal broke into the open.  Now, in this book, Roth and KIng describe the development of the trust, the history of the Kamehameha Schools (which is also a history of the struggle of the indigenous Hawaiians following the arrival of European settlers), and the slide into corruption, greed, and colossal mismanagement that eventually resulted in removal of all five of the trustees.  One of the delicious ironies of the tale is the fact that the land redistribution program approved by the US Supreme Court in Midkiff resulted in the infusion of billions and billions of cash into the BIshop Estate, thus providing a ready temptation for the unscrupulous trustees.  Any property professors who dabble in trusts and the fiduciary duties of trustees in their property courses will want to read this.  The T&E people are no doubt already familiar with this sad tale.

Calvin Massey

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August 22, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reparations Pro and Con at "On With Wilmer"

Wilmerleon This Saturday, August 19, I'll be on Wilmer Leon's talk show "On With Leon," on xm satellite radio (channel 169) from 2-3 EST, talking about Reparations Pro and Con.  I'm looking forward to the discussion.  One of Dr. Leon's hallmarks is reasoned discussion.  I remember a rich discussion with him about the Tulsa riot of 1921.

I expect we'll talk about all sorts of things, like: why reparations is emerging as an issue for discussion now; what the case looks like, as well as the problems with the case; and where the movement's going.  In particular I'll be talking some about the issues of monument law and cemetery access, which I think are two places where property doctrine has something to contribute.

If you have access to xm satellite radio, I hope you'll tune in at 2pm EST on Saturday.  And when the book actually hits the store shelves (or at least the amazon.com warehouse) I'll be posting a little bit more about it.  I expect reparations will be a topic much in the news in the next few months, especially after Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice releases its much-anticipated report.

Alfred L. Brophy

August 18, 2006 in Books, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Property and Russell Banks's Cloudsplitter

    I've been invited to guest blog for a while, an invitation which I am happy to accept.  I have been reading Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks's enormous and fascinating novel about John Brown and his sons.  Cloudsplitter has been in print for eight years but I'm sometimes slow to catch up.  Read (or re-read) it, as it offers remarkable insights into the nature of property (human slavery, of course, in this instance), the way some things lose their status as property, and the psychological process that produces extreme political violence, usually called terrorism. As to the latter point, Banks's fictional account of the process by which John Brown and his sons turned to radical violence in their moral quest to end slavery in America resonates particularly strongly in this era of global terrorism rooted in religious conviction. As to property, Cloudsplitter raises, at least to a property prof, questions about how things lose their status as property.  As we all know, property is not about the relations of people to things, but about the relations between people with respect to things.  How does (should) society restructure these relationships to "de-propertize" (if that's a word) such relationships?  We use ordinary legal processes to (mostly) increase the range of legal entitlement to intellectual property, and we rely on custom to create socially (if not legally) recognized entitlements to such things as a parking place from which one has cleared the snow, or a seat at a meeting.  These processes work in reverse, in theory, but how often do we actually eliminate property?  Extending the public trust doctrine to provide waterfront access is an example, but such extensions are limited by the takings clause.  Did Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation constitute a taking?  Odious thought, of course.  We start out Property by asking students to figure out where property rights come from in the first instance.  Cloudsplitter caused me to wonder whether we ought to spend a little time also in the beginning asking students to figure out when and how property rights ought to disappear.   

Calvin Massey

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August 17, 2006 in Books, Personal Property, Property Theory, Takings, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sandefur's New Book on Property Rights

Sandefur_book_picture Tim Sandefur has a new book out called Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America.  I haven't gotten my hands on it yet, but here's the publisher's description:

The right to own and use private property is among the most essential human rights and the essential basis for economic growth. That’s why America’s Founders guaranteed it in the Constitution. Yet in today’s America, government tramples on this right in countless ways. Regulations forbid people to use their property as they wish, bureaucrats extort enormous fees from developers in exchange for building permits, and police departments snatch personal belongings on the suspicion that they were involved in crimes. In the case of Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court even declared that government may seize homes and businesses and transfer the land to private developers to build stores, restaurants, or hotels. That decision was met with a firestorm of criticism across the nation.

In this, the first book on property rights to be published since the Kelo decision, Timothy Sandefur surveys the landscape of private property in America’s third century. Beginning with the role property rights play in human nature, Sandefur describes how America’s Founders wrote a Constitution that would protect this right and details the gradual erosion that began with the Progressive Era’s abandonment of the principles of individual liberty. Sandefur tells the gripping stories of people who have found their property threatened: Frank Bugryn and his Connecticut Christmas-tree farm; Susette Kelo and the little dream house she renovated; Wilhelmina Dery and the house she was born in, 80 years before bureaucrats decided to take it; Dorothy English and the land she wanted to leave to her children; and Kenneth Healing and his 17-year legal battle for permission to build a home.

Thanks to the abuse of eminent domain and asset forfeiture laws, federal, state, and local governments have now come to see property rights as mere permissions, which can be revoked at any time in the name of the “greater good.” In this book, Sandefur explains what citizens can do to restore the Constitution’s protections for this “cornerstone of liberty.”

Ben Barros

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August 16, 2006 in Books, Recent Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 4, 2006

Gregory Alexander's Global Debate Over Constitutional Property

Alexander_global_debate_constitutional_p So what has to my wondering eyes appear in my mail box?  Gregory Alexander's Global Debate Over Constitutional Property: Lessons for American Takings Jurisprudence, which has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be a late night.  (As dedicated propertyprof readers know, I'm a huge fan of Commodity and Propriety, so I've been eagerly awaiting Global Debate.  Ben Barros announced it here.)

Alexander looks at constitutional respect for property in three countries: the US, Germany, and South Africa.  He's aiming at some huge issues: does constitutional protection for private property facilitate democracy or hinder it.  That's about the meta-most of meta issues for property.  Alexander's cautious about whether making property special--I think he calls this view "uber property"--and thus removing it from the normal political process is a good idea.  The comparative project is particularly important in an area like property, because it gives us a sense of the boundaries of the field.

Alexander contextualizes the respect of cultures for private property and emphasizes the importance of contextualizing:

Constitution makers need to understand that property clauses do not all have the same valence.  Any analysis of the effects of such clauses must pay close attention to exogenous local factors, what I have called background traditions and cultures.  Any analysis that neglects these factors is the sheerest form of empty formalism. (62)

We're going to be returning to this book for insights for a long time.

Alfred L. Brophy
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August 4, 2006 in Books, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Shopping a Manuscript to a Book Publisher and Textbook Pricing: An Important Relationship

Horwitztransformation Some weeks ago I put together the reading assignments for my property history seminar for the fall.  I take a lot of factors into consideration in selecting texts: what books will teach well is of primary importance; of course I'm also interested in what's new.  I also look for classic literature, which my students need to read.  And I always take my students' pocketbook into consideration in picking books.  I know on the University of Alabama campus, the faculty and administration (as well as the students) are making a push to make sure that we consider the cost of textbooks for our students.  It's the same at many--probably most--other schools.  Faculty and administration are frightened by about rising costs, just as students are.

The prices of the books I usually use have gone up.  (I haven't taught this particular course in a while.)  One of my favorite books of all time--Morton J. Horwitz' Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860--is now $30 new.  Back in the fall of 1988 when I bought it for Eben Moglen's legal history class I paid $10.95.  (This I know because I just checked the copy on my self and it has a sticker for $10.95.)  That's do-able, but remember this is a seminar and I'd like to assign a half-dozen books. I'll still use Horwitz, of course--it's a great, great book.  How could you teach legal history with out?  Impossible, IMHO.  Thankfully, there are tons of used copies available on the internet, cheap.  So I sent an email to all my students telling them to check out their favorite internet used book dealer--half.com or amazon or whatever--and get Horwitz now, so that they'll have it in time for the fall.  And, btw, if you're a propertyprof and haven't read Horwitz' Transformation, I recommend it--particularly the chapter on property law.

Commoditypropriety_1 I also assigned Gregory Alexander's Propriety and Commodity, another brilliant book.  Dedicated propertyprof readers will recall my recent praise for Propriety and Commodity, along with Daniel Hamilton's forthcoming book on the Civil War Confiscation debates.  I sure do love University of Chicago Press books.  Alexader is also $30, but there is no substitute.  Unfortunately, there don't seem to be a lot of used copies floating around, either.  That suggests that Alexander hasn't gotten loads of adoptions, which is unfortunate.  It's a very, very important book and I'd encourage you to think about assigning it as additional reading to the first years.  I think law students could use practice reading texts other than cases and the occasional short statute (though they certainly need practice on those as well.)

Grossdoublecharacter Quite frankly, however, the economics of this caused me to re-think a couple of other assignments.  I looked around for some books that are priced for adoption.  This year, I'm branching out to the University of Georgia Press (for Ariela Gross' stunning Double Character, which was expensive when it came out in hardback from Princeton but is now priced at about $20) and the University of Kansas Press (for Forrest McDonald's Novus Ordo Seclorum, which is thankfully priced at $14.95 new, but with used copies less than $5).  Both the University of Georgia and University of Kansas price books for adoption.  That's very important and I think will become more so, as universities feel pressure to save money everywhere.

As soon as Lindsay Robertson's important book on Johnson v. McIntosh, Conquest by Law, comes out in paper (which will happen this November), I'll put it in the rotation.  I highly recommend it as a companion for the first year property class; it gives students a context for understanding that foundational property case.  I've also used in the past James Ely's terrific The Guardian of Every Other Right, which works well as a companion to the first year property class.  It, too, is priced for adoption.  As an aside, I've been enormously pleased with Oxford University Press' pricing policy.  One of the reasons that Reconstructing the Dreamland's done well in adoptions is that it's affordable--you can get paperback copies for under $5.  Plus, I think it's teachable--lots of themes in there about law, violence, and reparations that resonate with students.  It's also a short book, which is critical in getting adotions these days, as well.  Now there is Reparations Pro and Con for (just barely) under $30, as well.  (OK--product placements are over.)

All of this caused me to think about advice that I commonly give regarding shopping a manuscript to book publishers.  There are a lot of things to think about as a book author.  Of course, prestige of the press is a critical one.  Brian Leiter puts six presses in the elite group for law monographs (in alphabetical order): Cambridge, Chicago, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and Yale (with honorable mention to California).  I don't see the hierarchy exactly the same way as Leiter, but his advice on rankings is always very, very sound.  There are a lot of other things to think about, like how committed is the press to the book?  Will they get it out fast, or will it be in development for years?

And don't underestimate this: when we you're shopping a manuscript, if you're interested in getting adoptions, it's important to be sensitive to what presses typically charge for books. I certainly understand that some books are not written for a student audience.  For those, the pricing policy does not matter much, I suppose.  But if the price is right, I think there are a lot of even pretty sophisticated books that will reach a student audience.  I almost always assign a monograph to my property students and often assign one to my wills and estates and my remedies classes.  They're capable of handling pretty sophisticated works.  And one of the things we want to do is push them, too, to be better readers.

Another factor besides price that is critical in adoptions is: how long a press keeps its work in print.  I wanted to assign Don Fehrenbacher's Constitutions and Constitutionalism in the Slaveholding South, which was put out in a nice and very affordable paperback edition some years ago by LSU (along with some of Fehrenbacher's other work).  Alas, it's out of print.

Maybe later this summer or early fall I'll post a little bit on what I've learned about book publishing from serving as books reviews editor at Law and History Review.

You might also enjoy Ethan Lieb's post on cover art over at prawfs.  I hadn't thought at all about a cover as part of the negotiation process, nor as a factor in selecting a press.  (Though I know that some people are drawn to Knopf because they produced truly beautiful books.)

Alfred L. Brophy
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August 1, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lists: of downloads and of books

It's a lovely Saturday in July, which means it's time for something a little different.  Dedicated propertyprof readers know I love lists--like rankings of law journals based on citations

As a side-note here, you may recall that I've previously expressed great skepticism of ssrn downloads as a measure of quality.  And I've commented previously about bepress' strange ranking of law journals, based on submissions through bepress (another measure based on "downloads" of a sort.)  Fellow propertyprof William S. Brewbaker suggeted earlier this week that there's an inverse relationship between downloads and quality.  I tend to agree with him.  Yet, Brian Leiter is increasing my faith in lists of ssrn downloads as a measure of quality.  And so is Theodore Seto, whose study of ssrn downloads ranks the University of Alabama graduate tax law program as number six based on ssrn downloads.

But I do like these lists of books, even if they're rather odd.  I came across this one recently that lists 250 great authors of western civilization (I can't remember which blog pointed me to it--so my apologies for not giving the customary shout-out.)  Great links to the works, as well.  And human events has another list, of the 10 most harmful books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Makes for mighty interesting thinking.

My colleague Paul Pruitt and I are working on another list: the 5000 books in the University of Alabama library that were burned in the closing days of the Civil War.  Paul's suggested a great title: "Burned Books."  Not a lot of law books in there, but I'll be posting some on our progress.

Alfred L. Brophy
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July 29, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Global Issues in Property Law

Yesterday afternoon's mail brought Global Issues in Property Law  by John Sprankling, Raymond Coletta, and M.C. Mirow (published by Thomson West).  It looks like a terrific volume, which you can assign to students as a supplement to your casebook, to give students a global perspective on property.  There's everything in here from the global agreement on the moon to human rights and property to eviction of tenants in Portugal, to squatters rights, the right to exclude, nusiance, and takings.  I'm going to spend some time with this and learn about a lot about topics on which I know less than I'd like.

I'm a fan of these kinds of texts, which are reasonably priced (less than $20) and help to round out the casebook.  I think you'll want to check it out and consider it for adoption.  Also, I know it would go well in an upper-level course on transnational perspectives on property, perhaps in conjunction with Gregory Alexander's Global Debate Over Constitutional Property.

Al Brophy

July 26, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Blood and Roses

This week's New York Times Book Review has a piece by Megan Marshall on Helen Castor's new book Blood and Roses.  The book, based on 15th century documents known as the Paston letters, looks fascinating.  Here's an excerpt from the review highlighting the parts that would be of interest to property profs:

[Castor] begins by describing a "post-plague world" in which England's population was so drastically reduced by the Black Death that class boundaries broke down in the face of a major land grab, barely held in check by an already Dickensian legal system. A "parvenu gentry" emerged, made up of men like William Paston, who trained as a lawyer and used his skills to acquire an impressive fortune.

This all might sound tame, but property ownership in 15th-century England entailed risks we can hardly imagine today. Another man angling for the same estate, which generally came with income in rent from tenant farmers, could lob a flimsy title claim into court, then gather a small army of supporters and wrest the property from a rightful owner, holding the place for years as the wheels of justice ineffectually spun. Time and again this happened to the Pastons, and Castor's accounts of these skirmishes are as entertaining as a chapter from "Middlemarch" — with bloodshed.

Ben Barros

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May 9, 2006 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

New Book On Right To Housing

Rachel G. Bratt, Michael E. Stone and Chester Hartman have edited a new book titled A Right To Housing.

In the 1949 Housing Act, Congress declared "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family" to be our national housing goal. Today, little more than half a century later, upwards of 100 million people in the United States live in housing that is physically inadequate, unsafe, overcrowded, or unaffordable.

The contributors to A Right to Housing consider the key issues related to America's housing crisis, including income inequality and insecurity, segregation and discrimination, the rights of the elderly, as well as legislative and judicial responses to homelessness. The book offers a detailed examination of how access to adequate housing is directly related to economic security.

With essays by leading activists and scholars, this book presents a powerful and compelling analysis of the persistent inability of the U.S. to meet many of its citizens' housing needs and a comprehensive proposal for progressive change.

Ben Barros

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February 2, 2006 in Books, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Iglesias and Lento on Affordable Housing

Tim Iglesias (University of San Francisco School of Law) and Rochelle E. Lento (Dykema Gossett, PLLC) have a new book out titled The Legal Guide to Affordable Housing Development.  Here's the description:

Since at least the 1970s, the U.S. has suffered from a chronic shortage of affordable housing. Despite fluctuations in the economy, there has never been sufficient affordable housing to meet the needs, and the most vulnerable persons in our communities are victims of this shortage. While federal affordable housing development programs have been severely cut in the past several decades, state and local governments have become more deeply engaged in the problem.

Producing and maintaining quality affordable housing is not an intractable social problem but, rather, is one that requires putting together the essential pieces of the puzzle – a development concept responsive to community needs, suitable land, permissive land use regulations, adequate government funding programs, and creative public-private partnerships.

The Legal Guide to Affordable Housing Development covers the most important areas of law applicable to affordable housing development and provides a comprehensive overview of affordable housing laws. Part I covers the regulatory framework of developing affordable housing. It includes chapters on planning requirements and zoning issues, a wide variety of constitutional and statutory provisions promoting affordable housing, and building and housing codes affecting affordable housing.

Part II addresses the provision of affordable housing finance, including local, state, and federal regulation of private, local, state, and federal sources of finance; local government powers; and mixed-finance housing development. Part III surveys critical legal obligations that affect affordable housing after it has been built, including regulatory compliance and enforcement at the state and federal level as well as preservation of subsidized housing issues. It also includes a chapter on federal relocation and replacement law that concerns housing acquired for the purpose of making it affordable.

The book concludes with a valuable appendix, the Affordable Housing Law Resource List, which offers a list of web sites and other citations to (a) general reference works and technical materials regarding affordable housing development and (b) compilations and evaluations of affordable housing strategies.

The Legal Guide to Affordable Housing Development is a practical resource for attorneys representing local governments (municipalities, counties, housing authorities, and redevelopment agencies), housing developers (both for-profit and nonprofit), investors, financial institutions, and populations eligible for housing.

Ben Barros

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January 14, 2006 in Books, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rethinking Commodification

Related to the subject of my last post, Martha Ertman (Law, Utah) and Joan Williams (Hastings) have a great new book called Rethinking Commodification from NYU Press:

What is the price of a limb? A child? Ethnicity? Love? In a world that is often ruled by buyers and sellers, those things that are often considered priceless become objects to be marketed and from which to earn a profit. Ranging from black market babies to exploitative sex trade operations to the marketing of race and culture, Rethinking Commodification presents an interdisciplinary collection of writings, including legal theory, case law, and original essays to reexamine the traditional legal question: “To commodify or not to commodify?”

In this pathbreaking course reader, Martha M. Ertman and Joan C. Williams present the legal cases and theories that laid the groundwork for traditional critiques of commodification, which tend to view the process as dehumanizing because it reduces all human interactions to economic transactions. This “canonical” section is followed by a selection of original essays that present alternative views of commodification based on the concept that commodification can have diverse meanings in a variety of social contexts. When viewed in this way, the commodification debate moves beyond whether or not commodification is good or bad, and is assessed instead on the quality of the social relationships and wider context that is involved in the transaction. Rethinking Commodification contains an excellent array of contemporary issues, including intellectual property, reparations for slavery, organ transplants, and sex work; and an equally stellar array of contributors, including Richard Posner, Margaret Jane Radin, Regina Austin, and many others.

Ben Barros

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January 10, 2006 in Books, Property Theory, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)