Posted May 15, 2020. To settle a pandemic-related financial crisis at UMass Dartmouth, law faculty are not receiving research compensation in summer 2020. I will be away from my desk, May 16 to August 15. Blog posts will be sparse, and I will not receive email. On the upside, summer 🌞! If you need to reach me, please send a message through the faculty assistants’ office (Ms. Cain and Ms. Rittenhouse). Stay thirsty.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

It'd Be a Lot Cooler If You Did.
Or, Marlan on Psychedelics and Decriminalization

Mary Jane's in Eugene, Oregon, 2017, since closed.  (Rick Obst CC BY 2.0.)
My colleague Dustin Marlan has published Beyond Cannabis: Psychedelic Decriminalization and Social Justice in 23:3 Lewis and Clark Law Review.  Prof. Marlan is a compelling voice in intellectual property scholarship, lately especially, trademark and the right of publicity.  Here he turns his attention to a libertarian priority.  The abstract:

Psychedelics are powerful psychoactive substances which alter consciousness and brain function. Like cannabis, psychedelics have long been considered prohibited Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, via the powerful psychological experiences they induce, psychedelics are now being shown to be viable therapeutic alternatives in treating depression, substance use disorders, and other mental illnesses, and even to enhance the well-being of healthy individuals. In May 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms”) — a potential major shift in the War on Drugs. Ballot initiatives for the decriminalization of psilocybin and similar substances are now reaching voters in other cities and states. What principles might justify this decriminalization — eliminating criminal penalties for, at a minimum, the use and possession — of psilocybin and other psychedelics? This Article provides background on psychedelics and a historic overview of the laws surrounding them. It then considers several potential justifications for decriminalizing psychedelics: (1) medical value; (2) religious freedom; (3) cognitive liberty; and (4) identity politics. Lastly, the Article proposes a reframed justification rooted in principles of social justice.

The article is available on SSRN and from the Lewis & Clark Law Review.  You know, in Oregon.




Massachusetts Bar honors UMass Law's Francomano, advocate for labor, public education

Francomano center. MassBar eJournal photo.
Attorney Patrick Francomano is a first-class person and excellent teacher, one of the assets that makes UMass Law a best-buy treasure for law students and the Commonwealth.  He's a tremendous public servant—and in the same vein, frequent thorn in the side of those in power through his work in labor and in school supervision.  I'm delighted to see him and the work he represents honored by the Massachusetts Bar.  From UMass Law News and the MassBar eJournal:

"Francomano draws inspiration from John Adams’s efforts to establish Massachusetts as one of the first states to grant a constitutional right to education. He believes that public education and the legal system rest on many of the same tenets, and that 'education and social justice are very difficult to disconnect.' As Francomano explained, 'If you have a well-educated society, that is going to be the foundation of a good republic and democracy.'"

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Minhaj: With tort impunity, cruise lines externalize risk, costs to workers, passengers, environment

One of my favorite comedians—saw him perform Homecoming King at intimate Cherry Lane in NYC in 2016—Hasan Minhaj (self-described "second brown John Oliver") has taken on the wide range of problems associated with cruise lines' foreign flagging and legal impunity at sea, threatening the safety and well-being of passengers with legal impacts including virtual immunity from tort liability.  (Patriot Act s4e04.)


Instrumental in this deplorable state of affairs for our part, in U.S. law, is the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C. §§ 30301–30308.  On its face the act simply invites maritime wrongful death actions into U.S. courts.  However, the act's "shortcomings" have been documented in legal scholarship for a long time; the devil is in the details, specifically, damages, which are limited by § 30303 to "fair compensation for the pecuniary loss sustained."  Note, "pecuniary," not the familial wrongful death intangibles recoverable in domestic tort law, and maybe zero for, say, an elderly retired person.  Minhaj reports that attempts to amend the law have been torpedoed in Congress.

But DOHSA is just one piece of the big, messy picture of maritime liability, or non-liability, for cruise lines.  Most civil wrongs involving passengers are sexual assaults, which can come under the lax, overwhelmed, or de facto non-existent jurisdiction of the vessel's flag home.  Same for the abusive conditions to which cruise ship workers are subject, from working hours that would never be tolerated on land, on through to the minuscule compensations available for debilitating injury, such as loss of limb.  And all that's to say nothing of the devastating environmental impact of cruise ship polluting and dumping that occurs beyond the reach of regulators.

Minhaj aptly paints the ugly picture of what happens when an industry escapes the norm-setting and deterrence mechanisms of domestic tort law.  As he suggests, the relatively affordable cost of a cruise as a vacation optionand I confess, I've gone, I've loved it, and I'd like to go againis born disproportionately by an oppressed workforce, injured passengers, and the voiceless marine environment.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Beijing internet court rules against ISP Baidu on posthumous defamation claim under PRC Tort Law

In a Chinese defamation case, the Beijing Internet Court has ruled in favor of the plaintiff and contrary to American tort norms regarding ISP immunity and posthumous defamation.

Sixth Tone reported on the suit "filed by the son of the late playwright, screenwriter, and composer Zhao Zhong" (赵忠).  The suit alleged that an anonymous user of Baidu's Baike, China's answer to Wikipedia, edited Zhao's biographical page to defamatory effect.  The edits by user "charming and beautiful woman" (Qiaonü Jiaren) criticized Zhao as a "thief" and cultural "traitor," and deleted the libretto of the opera Red Coral from his listed oeuvre.  The changes remained on the page for five years, from 2013 to 2018, until Zhao's family noticed and demanded correction.  Baidu reversed the edits.  The son nevertheless complained of negligence in Baidu's failure reasonably to moderate content and consequent reputational injury to the family.

The court ruled against Baidu.  Beijing tort lawyer Qu Zhenhong told Sixth Tone that Baidu's compliance with the defamation notice-and-takedown procedure of PRC Tort Law article 36 did not relieve the internet service provider of liability under article 6 for the defamation's five years in publication.  That approach deviates from the powerful ISP immunity of 47 U.S.C. § 230 in the United States—which has faced slowly mounting criticism both at home and in Europe.

A second deviation from American tort norms arises in the allowance of a defamation action by the family after the death of the person defamed.  Common law jurisdictions including the United States continue generally to observe the historic rule that defamation claims die with their claimants, though states are widely experimenting with the posthumous right of publicity by statute.  Cf. The Savory Tort on Defaming the Dead.

The court made clear that it approves of a family's ancillary defamation claim, not just a decedent's claim that persists after death.  "A negative social assessment of the deceased not only violates the reputation of the deceased, but also affects the overall reputation of the deceased's close relatives as well as personal reputation," People's Court News wrote in summary of the court's decision (Google translation). "Therefore, for any close relative of the deceased, they have the right to request the court to protect the right [of the] deceased, or to pursue the responsibility of infringing on their own reputation based on their close relatives."

By its publisher's description, Red Coral (Hong shan hu) "describes the story of the peoples who lived in the red coral island and fought against the troops of Chiang Kaishek. They cooperated with the Red Army and defeated the enemy with the guidance of the people's Liberation Army."  Red Coral was adapted to film in 1961 (DVD pictured).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Savory Tort home page gets new savory tort(e)

For far too long, we, writer and reader alike, have labored under the over-exposed image of a cheesy tort long forgotten.  No more.


The new cover for this blog comes from the culinary stylings of Dean Misty @PeltzSteele.  I have firsthand, real-time knowledge of the deliciousness of this heirloom tomato tort.


Monday, August 19, 2019

'The Media Method': Pop culture-oriented teaching book hits shelves (discount code for 2019 buyers!)

The Media Method: Teaching Law With Popular Culture has hit the shelf at Carolina Academic Press.  I contributed a chapter on pop-culture audiovisuals in 1L Torts to this rich volume conceived, compiled, and edited by pop-culture-in-law maven Christine A. Corcos, the Richard C. Cadwallader Associate Professor of Law at Louisiana State University.  Authors discussed the project recently at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS).  Here is the publisher's description:


Many law professors now teach courses by using examples from popular culture, but there is no comprehensive overview of ways to integrate non-law materials into the legal curriculum. In this text, more than two dozen law professors from the United States, Canada, and Australia demonstrate how to integrate fiction, poetry, comic books, film, television, music, and other media through the first year curriculum traditionally offered in U.S. law schools as well as a number of advanced courses in many subjects. The heavily illustrated book also includes best practices as well as pedagogical justifications for the use of such methods.

The front-matter online includes the table of contents.  Chapter 10 is my Torts Through the Looking-Glass.  Here is the first paragraph (footnotes omitted).


Students today view the world relative to its representations in digital media.  This digital looking glass, or mirror, of reality incorporates fact and fiction and has itself come to define our popular culture.  Accordingly, today’s students benefit from the examination and analysis of challenging subject matter in the real world relative to its digital imaginings.  Instructors in torts can promote learning by bringing into the classroom popular cultural expressions extracted from the vast audiovisual libraries of the Internet.  These demonstrative exhibits can be used to support problem analysis, to explore policy and theory, to bridge study and practice, and to raise issues in professionalism.  This chapter demonstrates the range of multimedia material available in popular culture today with relevance to torts.  My aim is to encourage instructors to build their own libraries of materials and to enhance student learning by holding up torts to the looking glass.
Use code TEACH19 for 25% off in 2019!



Sunday, August 18, 2019

Advice for New Law Students, 2019 Edition

New law students, allow me to refer you to and to recommend my 3Ps for 1Ls (2018).

This morning my pastor preached on Proverbs 15:31-33.  It occurs to me that the teaching, which deals with spiritual maturation, is especially appropriate and extrapolatable to the start of the school year, for us all, teachers and students, of any level, and, to be sure, of any faith.  Here's the NIV:

31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
    will be at home among the wise.
32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
    but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
    and humility comes before honor.

Pastor Kim pointed out that there's a difference between a "wise guy" and a wise person, and the latter takes work.  (Aug. 18.)  Verse 32 is especially intriguing: "[O]ne who heeds correction gains understanding."  

The words for "discipline" and "correction" in verse 32 vary with translations.  But I think it's fair to say (not being a scholar of these things) that the Hebrew words put a little more rebuke and reproof into the former and a little more instruction and rectification into the latter.

As is often the case with Proverbs, this is good advice that goes beyond faith and has application in commonsense life.  In our academic pursuits, we should always be open to correction.  Pastor Kim laid out correction, even rebuke, as sine qua non of learning and growing.

Pastor Kim also pointed to the word "humility" in verse 33.  The antithesis of pride, humility renders us susceptible of correction, and therefore ready to grow in knowledge, intellect, and wisdom.

Happy new academic year!  Be humble and get wise.

Mass. Superior Court dismisses nuisance claim over airport skydiving concession on Cape Cod


Chatham Municipal Airport approach (CC BY 2.0 woodleywonderworks)
The Superior Court in Barnstable, Massachusetts, ruled in favor of the Town of Chatham against a citizen group earlier this month over the town's award of a skydiving concession at the Chatham Municipal Airport, the Cape Cod Times reported.  Arguing for summary judgment, the town relied on preemption by FAA regulations in asserting that it had no choice but to award the concession for a lawful activity.  The court agreed, according to the newspaper.  The trial court arguments were detailed by Tim Wood in a story for The Cape Cod Chronicle in May.  According to Wood's reporting, the citizens argued "that skydiving is not safe and is a nuisance, with multiple flights and screaming and yelling by tandem jumpers interfering with the 'quiet enjoyment' of their property. They point to a 2012 crash of a skydiving plane into Lovers Lake after it ran out of fuel and the severe injuries suffered by a tandem jumper as evidence of the safety concerns."


Chatham Municipal Airport on Cape Cod

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Abraham & White would limit further extension
of First Amendment as tort defense

In a new article, Kenneth S. Abraham and G. Edward White, University of Virginia Law, argue against the further extension of the First Amendment ("imperialism") to constitutionalize tort law when torts are accomplished through speech.  Specifically, they study the First Amendment in defamation, privacy, and IIED before contemplating the First Amendment problems that lurk in fraud, product disparagement, product warning defect, and interference.  The interference problem has interested me since The Insider.  En route to their conclusion, the authors critically examine the truth-falsity dichotomy.  Here is the abstract for First Amendment Imperialism and the Constitutionalization of Tort Liability.
To what extent does the First Amendment impose limits on the permissible scope of tort liability? Until recently, the clear answer would have been, “only under very limited circumstances.” During the last few decades, however, the First Amendment has been so greatly expanding its empire that giving this answer is no longer possible. “All bets are off” would be a more accurate answer, because the forms of speech to which the Supreme Court has extended First Amendment protection have become impressively broad. Although existing First Amendment restrictions on the permissible scope of tort liability currently are limited, the very existence of those restrictions confirms that many torts involving speech potentially are subject to First Amendment protection. And many torts do involve speech – the duty to warn about the dangers of prescription drugs, fraud, and even some forms of simple negligence are just a few examples.

If the First Amendment of the future limited all or even many of these different constitutionally unprotected forms of tort liability, then its scope would be pervasive. We contend, however, that neither existing First Amendment doctrine nor sensible constitutional policy supports extending free speech protection to torts that are accomplished through speech, except in extremely narrow circumstances. Extending First Amendment protection to such torts would aggravate what we argue are two of the principal risks posed by First Amendment imperialism: the erosion of the cultural distinction between truth and falsity, and devaluation of the status of speech about matters of public concern. Our contention is that most of the forms of speech involved in torts that are accomplished through speech currently are, and should remain, excluded from First Amendment protection. To support this contention, we examine the First Amendment’s extension to previously unprotected forms of speech over the last three-quarters of a century, compare the new First Amendment protections to the doctrinal elements of a series of torts that always or often are accomplished through speech, and argue that it would make little sense, as a matter of tort or constitutional law, to restrict liability for those torts on First Amendment grounds.
 Hat tip @ TortsProf.

Friday, August 16, 2019

LatAm NGOs propose model of internet platform self‑regulation consistent with human rights

NGOs working on the project, from the report.
Now published online and open for comment are "Contributions for the Democratic Regulation of Big Platforms to Ensure Freedom of Expression Online," a potentially powerful document developed by a coalition of Latin American non-governmental organizations.  Here is the abstract:
This document offers recommendations on specific principles, standards and measures designed to establish forms of public co-regulation and public regulation that limit the power of major Internet platforms (such as social networks and search engines).
The purpose of this effort is to protect users' freedom of expression and guarantee a free and open Internet. Such intermediaries increasingly intervene in online content, through the adoption of terms of service and the application of business moderation policies. Such forms of private regulation affect public spaces which are vital for democratic deliberation and the exercise of fundamental rights.
The proposal seeks to align with international human rights standards and takes into account existing asymmetries related to large internet platforms without limiting innovation, competition or start-up development by small businesses or community, educational or nonprofit initiatives.
The proposal seeks to create a self-regulatory framework that will avert public regulation of the internet.  Needless to say, that will involve the voluntary collaboration of the major players, Facebook, Google, Twitter, et al.  From what I saw of their recent participation in RightsCon in Tunisia, they are game.

I'm all for seeing where the self-regulatory approach takes us, but I worry about two problems.  First, I'm not sure how long the big players will be willing to spend money on social responsibility while unscrupulous competitors bypass self-regulation and continue to reach audience across the technologically egalitarian internet.  Second, as Facebook talks about setting up its own judicial system, I worry about whether we're creating corporate nation-states that will censor anti-majoritarian expression, e.g., perceived "hate speech," with the blessing of NGOs that purport to uphold human rights.  But one step at a time....

Here via Observacom are links to the report in español, português, and English.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

My Summer Book Report


I squeezed in some leisure reads this summer:

  • Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus.  Yes, I drank the Harari Kool-Aid.  I am a true believer. Frightfully enjoyable stuff.  Sapiens is on my desk now.
  • Ian McEwan, Machines Like Me.  Poor Ian McEwan (Atonement) has taken it on the chin from scifi fans for daring to dabble in the genre in this thought-provoking book that I quite adore.  Sure, the basic question of "Data"'s humanity (cf. ST:TNG) is trodden territory, but give a guy some credit for doing his homework and bringing his signature writing flair to the table in this page turner.  It's a far better book than Solar.  We don't talk about that.
  • David Sedaris, Calypso.  Unfathomable how his books go from best to even better.  You must have David read you his audiobooks. 
  • Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.  Essential reading for the legally inclined.  Can’t wait for the movie.  Three words: Michael. B. Jordan!
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels.  For my fellow book group member who’s a LatAm aficionado, I am willing to revisit the trippy genre of my undergrad lit major once per year.  It’s always a, um, magic carpet ride, if you will.

And here is the most interesting stuff I read this summer, professional edition.  These are the categories!
·         Torts
·         Legal Education
·         Popular Culture
·         Self-Improvement

Torts

Kenneth S. Abraham & Leslie Kendrick, There’s No Such Thing as Affirmative Duty, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2018-59 (on SSRN).  OK, so maybe I didn’t actually read this 65-page paper.  Instead I read about it, and who could do otherwise?, when Anthony Sebok at Cardozo Law wrote such a great review for JOTWELL.  Abraham and Kendrick call for abandoning the Restatements’ wearisome struggle to chart the contours of affirmative duty.  Instead they would take what I would describe as a more European approach, looking at duty, affirmative or otherwise, as a function of risk creation.  I do think this approach has a bead on the doctrinally drifting direction of duty from the Second to Third Restatements, so maybe this is the future.  Sebok aptly observes that this kind of thinking jives with Stephen Sugarman’s proposed merger of intent and negligence.  Fortunately I’m less than 20 years from retirement, because I fear that by that time, torts will just be a squishy blob of relativistic uncertainty not unlike the inside of an atom.  Teaching that will be for younger minds.

Free Speech, Freedom of Information, and Privacy

Enrico Bonadio & Nicola Lucchi, Copyright and Pornography, in Non-Conventional Copyright: Do New and Non-Traditional Works Deserve Protection? 418 (Enrico Bonadio & Nicola Lucchi eds. 2018) (SSRN).  Copyright.  Pornography.  You do the math.  Seriously, worth a read, and informative multinational perspective.

Adam Candeub, Nakedness and Publicity, ___ Iowa L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2019) (SSRN).  Adam Candeub at Michigan State Law explores the right of publicity as a revenge-porn remedy.  And why not?  Tort and IP’s disfigured offspring does so much else….

Megan Deitz, Note, A Crime Remembered: The Possible Impact of the “Right to be Forgotten” in the United States for Crime Victims, Criminal Defendants, and the Convicted, 9 Ala. C.R. & C.L. L. Rev. 197 (2018).  Kudos, Megan Deitz, J.D. U. Ala. ’18.  This is what I was talking about.  Ban the box is great, but it’s not going to get us there.  And to think that I found this article through an AEJMC newsletter…  heresy!

Anthony L. Fargo, Protecting Journalists’ Sources Without a Shield: Four Proposals, 24 Comm. L. & Pol’y 145 (2019) (abstract at T&F).  Tony Fargo at Indiana University-Bloomington has pursued a range of interests in his career—he’s the founding director of the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies—but all the while remained the national authority on reporter’s privilege.  With a federal shield law a long time not coming, this articles explores alternatives in (1) whistleblower protection, (2) government transparency to disincentivize leaking, (3) legal protection for anonymous sources, and (4) encryption tech.

Giovanni De Gregorio, Secret Filming and the Right to Inform Under an European Constitutional Perspective: The Case of Alpha Doryforiki v. Greece, 2:2 Rivista di Diritto dei Media 410 (2018) (SSRN).  I’m a fan of European privacy law, but even the most committed fan has to admit that it has generated some absurd results.  Count among them the notion that investigative journalists secretly recording corruption run the risk of violating politicians’ privacy rights.  Giovanni De Gregorio reviews the latest case law.  For heaven’s sake, no one tell the bureaucrats in Texas (see Texas v. Doyle, infra).

Thomas Healy, Anxiety and Influence: Learned Hand and the Making of a Free Speech Dissent, 50 Ariz. St. L.J. 803 (2018) (SSRN).  The relationship between Judges Hand and Holmes, and especially Hand’s slow-cooking influence on modern First Amendment jurisprudence as a result, has been the intriguing study of many writings before, Healy’s included.  Nevertheless, in this compelling essay, Thomas Healy at Seton Hall Law here revisits the subject for a close look, laying out the timeline and examining exactly what Holmes’s evolving position took and did not take from Hand’s earnest offerings.

Matteo Monti, Automated Journalism and Freedom of Information: Ethical and Juridical Problems Related to AI in the Press Field, 1:1 Opinio Juris in Comparatione: Studies in Comparative and National Law (2018) (SSRN).  I am not a fan of the trend that puts “and AI” after everything, and voila!, new article, new theory, new field of law, new main dish.  All the same, this article on AI implications for journalism, with an especial eye to the problem of tort liability, is a neat, thoughtful, and very readable roundup from an unexpected source.  Don’t be confused by the title: in American parlance, this is more about free speech, or free flow of information, not FOI in the access sense.  Matteo Monti is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Law, Politics, and Development of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, a public university in Pisa.

Let's burn some books, Dark Ages style! And maybe a philosopher, too.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, c.1515–27, Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917.)
Ada Palmer, How #Article13 is Like the Inquisition: John Milton Against the EU #CopyrightDirective, BoingBoing, Mar. 24, 2019.  This.  Is.  Brilliant.  This short essay should be required reading for every human being with an internet connection.  Don’t let the title’s narrow references to copyright and the EU throw you off; the implications of this piece are breathtaking.  Ada Palmer, University of Chicago history professor and science fiction writer, analogizes internet content filtering—the kind that everyone now is clamoring for Google, Facebook, and Twitter to double down on—to the very press licensing that earned John Milton’s critical condemnation in the Areopagitica, circa 1644.  It’s a downright terrifying proposition that leaves me wondering whether our best intentions are not already about the industry of turning the internet into the most repressive thought regime in the history of human civilization.  Best not read just before bed.

Texas v. Doyle, No. PD-0254-18 (Tex. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 27, 2019) (via Texas Tribune).  I’m just going to say it, because we’re all thinking it, and something needs to be done: there’s something wrong with the water in Texas.  This case is the latest in what’s going on a decades-long saga of First Amendment challenges to the Texas Open Meetings Act (OMA).  You read that right: public officials are claiming that the open meetings act violates their First Amendment rights.  It would be funny, except they won.

Admittedly and rightly, the First Amendment calls for heightened scrutiny of criminal laws (and tort law) when violation is accomplished only by First Amendment-protected activity, such as speech.  Texas officials have long and fruitfully argued that the criminal-enforcement provisions of the OMA deprive them of their First Amendment right to communicate with one another.  Specifically, they contest the vagueness of applying the OMA to “meetings”—such as serial, or “daisy chain,” communications—alleged to subvert the OMA.

First Amendment problems in criminal law are often overcome by mere scienter; ask Michelle Carter’s counsel about that.  But it’s famously difficult to prove intent to subvert a freedom of information act, so transparency advocates have fought for enforcement mechanisms that operate shy of criminal intent.  I honestly don’t know whether this problem in Texas resulted from overzealous enforcement or opportunistic politicians in smoke-filled rooms, but the nonsense has got to stop.  I’ve seen OMA violations in other states, and I’ve seen innocent non-compliance, and I’ve never been confused about the difference between the two.

Legal Education

Lawrence J. Trautman, The Value of Legal Writing, Law Review, and Publication, 51 Ind. L. Rev. 693 (2018) (SSRN).  A business law professor at Western Carolina University, Lawrence Trautman capably offers this hefty opus, the latest entry in the legal-scholarship-matters genre.  The addition is welcome, as if more evidence should be needed to refute the snarky, anti-intellectual, and ultimately counter-factual rhetoric about the uselessness of legal scholarship (much less legal writing).  (See my own missive of some years ago for background, hat tip at UMass Law Review and Steve Zoni.)  In his abstract, Trautman “hope[s] this Article may become a required reading as one of the first assignments for all incoming first-year law students, or even before any classes begin.”  I’m down with that, but we might need an abbreviated version.

Popular Culture

Charles Duhigg, The Real Roots of American Rage, The Atlantic, Jan./Feb. 2019.  It goes without saying that everything in The Atlantic, my favorite magazine, is worth reading.  But my wife thought to point out this article to me.  I’m trying not to read too much into that.  Pulitzer-Prize winner Charles Duhigg takes a deep dive into outrage in our present social and political environment—newly salient upon the Dayton and El Paso shootings.  Building out from some groundwork in psychology by UMass Amherst’s James Averill, Duhigg establishes that ignoring our social anger or suppressing it is maybe the worst thing we could do.  He explores research that shows instead a possible way forward.

Self-Improvement

Jon Acuff, Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career (2015).  Just a couple years ago, I discovered Jon Acuff.  Yeah, I know, I got there late.  Anyway, I read the free preview, chapter 1, of his 2015 book, Do Over.  You can too.  I’m not going to read the rest, because I more or less like my job (underpaid), and I’m not really the self-help-reading sort.  Nevertheless, I liked this, as I seem to like just about everything Jon Acuff writes and says.  He makes me smile.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Student prevails in part in UMass Amherst due process disciplinary case in First Circuit

Last week the First Circuit held in favor of a student accused of a violent assault; however, the court largely upheld as constitutional the due process provided to the student in campus adjudication.

The case adds to federal appellate precedent on the requirements of procedural due process on campus.  The First Circuit's conclusions on these facts are not new water marks.  At the same time, observers predict that the multitude of circuit disagreements in this area will lead inevitably to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In the instant case, a male student was accused of a violent assault on a female student, his romantic partner, while studying abroad in Spain under the purview of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  The First Circuit ruled that the university failed to provide adequate notice and hearing prior to imposing a five-month suspension on the student, after the allegations but well before the adjudication.  Authored by Rhode-Island-born U.S. Circuit Judge William J. Kayatta Jr., the court's holding came from a unanimous three-judge panel that included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

The court affirmed judgment for the university as to the adequacy of the campus adjudication and consequent expulsion of the accused.  The student had challenged the adjudication for the exclusion of some evidence and the lack of opportunity to confront his accuser.  Constitutional rights in the context of the campus administrative process were not offended by those omissions, the court held, applying the flexible procedural due process test of Mathews v. Eldridge (U.S. 1976). It's the latter point, confrontation, that especially vexes critics and marks arguable disagreement with other circuit courts. 

The case arises against the backdrop of a heated national debate over higher education reform.  To my consternation, Title IX has become an area in which serious cases of sexual harassment and physical assault are lumped together on the nations' campuses with gross abuses of the rights of students and faculty.  Legitimate disciplinary processes have been perverted, and therefore caused to undermine civil rights law, by overzealous bureaucrats seeking to enforce politically correct group-think on students and to undermine academic freedom and faculty governance.  Purely in my personal capacity, I filed my own observations with the Department of Education in March.

The instant case is Haidak v. University of Massachusetts-Amherst, No. 18-1248 (1st Cir. Aug. 6, 2019).

Monday, August 12, 2019

Profs talk pop culture at law school conference

At the annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools in the last week of July, colleagues and I had the opportunity to share ideas about teaching law with popular culture. I learned a great deal at that session (and others).  I was able to share about my own use of audiovisual content as it's changed over the years.  I'll say more as we near publication of our book project, The Media Method.  Meanwhile, this teaser ....

Carolina Academic Press mocked up a display copy of the forthcoming Media Method.

Contributors to The Media Method include Professor DeLeith Duke Gossett at Texas Tech School of Law. Presenting at center here, DeLeith is a former student of mine. Teachers will understand the giddy pride induced by collaborating with such a colleague.