Showing posts with label legal education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label legal education. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Law class visits Constitutional Court of Portugal

Law students and Dean Sam Panarella (left)
visit the Constitutional Court.
© RJ Peltz-Steele

Since last week, ten talented U.S. law students have been making the most of Lisbon, Portugal, in UMass Law's first class abroad.

In our maiden venture, we are studying comparative data protection law in the United States, European Union, and Portugal. We have been treated to superb lectures by law faculty of our partner institution, the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP).

Today, a UCP faculty member welcomed us to the home of the Portugal Constitutional Court, where he also serves as Vice-President. Justice Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro spoke to us there about constitutional conflict in the EU legal system.

The justice had instructed students to prepare by reading Digital Rights Ireland, a 2014 case in the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), and the "Metadata Ruling," a 2019 decision of the Constitutional Court of Portugal. In Digital Rights, the CJEU had struck down an EU directive on data retention as inconsistent with fundamental rights under the European Charter. 

Justice Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro addresses law students.
RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The case marked a recognition of the CJEU's own power of judicial review. But it also raised a confounding question. The CJEU lacks authority to review national legislation directly. So what would become of national, domestic laws that had been enacted already pursuant to the stricken EU directive? 

The Portuguese Constitutional Court in Metadata construed Portuguese constitutional law in harmony with the EU Charter to strike down as well the problematic provisions of Portuguese law that had been enacted pursuant to the directive. The responses of the Portuguese and other national constitutional courts to Digital Rights thus marked a pivotal point in the evolution of the EU's peculiar brand of "federalism" (to jam a square peg into a round word).

All of the law students in the class deserve praise for being good-natured and flexible in the face of a fluctuating itinerary for this fledgling Portugal project. They all assert, nonetheless, that they are here first and foremost for this remarkable learning opportunity, and not for myriad other benefits, for example, to see Taylor Swift at Benfica Stadium at what are by U.S. standards bargain ticket prices. That was icing.

UMass law students with me at Universidade Católica Portuguesa
© Prof. Sofia Pinto (licensed)
 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Global Law Classroom unites law students online

Law faculty around the world are organizing the Global Law Classroom to debut in the fall semester of 2024.

Global Law Classroom (GLC) brings together law students from participating countries via Zoom to study and discuss contemporary issues in comparative and international law. GLC started as a project of the European Legal Practice Integrated Studies program (ELPIS), under the EU Erasmus umbrella. 

The program was conceived and is coordinated by Melanie Reid, associate dean of faculty at the Duncan School of Law, Lincoln Memorial University. I've participated on the plenary faculty and as contributing faculty on the environmental law team and human rights team, developing academic modules in those areas. My students in three-credit-hour Comparative Law in the fall will participate in the GLC for one-third of their class-hours.

Besides human rights and environmental law, modules include criminal law, cybersecurity, anti-discrimination, and artificial intelligence, as well as an introduction to global lawyering and a negotiation exercise on climate risks.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

My writing is 'not very good,' and other reasons you can't get ahead in our not-really-a meritocracy

Pxhere CC0
A purported mentor once told me that probably I couldn't find a job in academics because my "writing is not very good."

'Tis the season when the law professor should be writing exams, yet is inundated and distracted by requests for recommendation letters to aid students on the career track. The distraction has caused me to ponder the futility of it all. Aside from the fact that my laboriously and meticulously drafted letters scarcely will be read, I'm saddened by how little a person can do to move the needle on ultimate potential in our supposed meritocracy.

In the 20-aughts, I was looking for my second job in academics, hoping to leave Arkansas and the curse of flyover country. My job search took five years. I lost count of how many applications I put in. It had to be more than there are law schools in the United States.

At some point, through a program I won't identify, as not to identify the person, I was paired with a mentor, an academic at a U.S. News "top 10" law school. After a couple of telephone counselings in which he told me nothing I did not know already, he suggested that maybe I needed to accept that I could not score a job because my "writing is not very good."

That was hurtful. Not because it wasn't a fair consideration to put on the table; it was. It was hurtful because it was his go-to conclusion, and rather the end point of the short arc that was his mentorship. There were countless other explanations for my struggle in the job market. He blew past all of them to rest on one: I suck.

Implicit in the suggestion was that he was at a top-10 school because he was so much better at the job than I. That's what hurt. And as I've matured in my career, I've come to realize how wrong he was.

I have a lot of experience now on the hiring side of hiring, almost three decades, at least in legal academics. And I've worked out a formula, though sometimes I tweak the apportionment, I feel like about describes the factors at play in getting a job, certainly in legal academics, but maybe anywhere:  

  • 60% privileges; 
  • 30% right-place-right-time; and 
  • 10% merit.

I'm not one of these "privilege walk" organizers who use loaded questions to make people feel guilty about socioeconomic advantages, and then to feel good about having felt guilty, and then relish telling everyone how privileged I now know I am, without actually doing anything to make the world better. But I do try to be conscious of privileges, especially the ones that I have and did nothing to earn.

I did not start at the bottom of the ladder. That I'm not a person of color, thus not subject to unfair biases manifesting as implicit assumptions about aptitude and potential, nor followed by security in stores and distrusting of police; that I went to K12 in reputable suburban school districts with dedicated teachers and was a child of two parents with college degrees: these factors have worked immeasurable benefits in my life, no thanks to anything I did.

I didn't start at the top, either. My divorced, usually single parents were college educated thanks to community-college access and the military. My family was the typical penniless-20th-century-immigrant story, and my parents and grandparents were victimized by ethnic discrimination with real socioeconomic consequences. I was able to go from public school to a first-rate undergrad with mostly private-schooled kids only because I earned a full scholarship.

On the inside of hiring in academics—I can tell another time cringe-worthy stories of before academics—I have seen it all, and candidate merit is only weakly indicative of outcome.

Because of the prevalence of liberal politics in academics—I do not suggest that preferences ordinarily run in these directions in the job market in general—I had a dean who announced the race (not mine) and gender (not mine) of an intended hire at the beginning of the search process; and I've had colleagues announce, also in advance of a search, that they would vote against any candidate of a certain race (mine) or gender (mine). I've likewise heard colleagues openly favor or disfavor candidates based on perceived sexual orientation (minority favored) and religion (belief disfavored). So to pretend that these factors are not in play, whether or not they are verbalized, would be willfully ignorant.

But race, gender, etc., are easy targets to exemplify pernicious discrimination. There are other factors that are more subtle, yet equally well effect socioeconomic exclusion, and thus indirectly race discrimination. And these factors are embraced by persons both liberally and conservatively minded.

When I was at a "tier 3" law school looking for a job, a colleague at a "tier 2" school—who knew I was looking for a job—asked me whether I might recommend anyone—not me—to fill an open position at her school. I was disqualified presumptively for the open position, because I did not do a judicial clerkship after law school. My colleague iterated this hiring expectation as if it were a self-evident sine qua non. She assumed I knew my place, and I was in it. One does not advance to tier 2 without a clerkship on the resume. "We prefer people who've clerked at the Supreme Court," she said breezily.

I didn't do a judicial clerkship after law school for various reasons. A big reason was that I was sick over the profound debt I had incurred paying for law school 100% with loans. 

I had turned down full scholarships at two other law schools to pay full freight at a top 10, because I hoped the top 10 would open doors the others could not. I could not see, after law school, how I could take a job in which I would struggle to make monthly payments, or worse, postpone them, with interest accruing. For the same reason, I didn't go back to journalism after law school, which had been my plan. I also did not have anyone in law or legal academics to advise me on the value of a clerkship—an opportunity, perversely, that one never has again—for my later career.

I was the beneficiary of many privileges at that time in life. Not among them was the luxury of choosing a clerkship or any job because it would be a smart resume builder, rather than because it would pay my bills. Not among them was having anyone to model a career in legal academics, or tell me what to do to get there. And yet, with no undergrad debt, I already was much better off than most of the students I teach now. I did not yet have a family to take care of. I was able to put every spare dime from my attorney earnings into paying off my debt.

My top-10 choice paid off some, because I would not otherwise have scored my first job in academics. A key faculty player in hiring had gone to the same law school I did. The hiring school was in urgent need of an immediate start, and I was willing to quit my job and move halfway across the country at Christmas. The hiring school was especially vexed over poor student writing skills, and I was a former journalist and capable copy editor. There it is: 60% privileges, 30% right-place-right-time, and 10% merit.

Yet I would be limited thenceforth by not having clerked, and by other, similar factors. I never volunteered abroad, as many aspiring academics do. I wanted to—because of my family ties, a passport was a privilege I did have—but, again, I had to work 50 weeks per year to pay on my debt.

At my attorney job, I had little to no mentorship; it was all about billable hours. I had no role models to show me how to navigate in that world. I had no business contacts; no matter how hard I worked, I never would have made partner. The media lawyer I worked for when I started left for an in-house position after a year, and I was reassigned to the grind of mass-tort discovery.

In my first academic post, I had little to no mentorship in my professional development at my "tier 3" school. I had not even a scholarship requirement for my first years, when I was a contract instructor, not tenure track. I did not know to publish, what to publish, or where. I wrote and published only because I wanted to, about whatever I wanted. It was the law-professor equivalent of being a journalist; if you have writing in your heart, it's a compulsion.

I did not know that the choices I was making, from starting as an instructor rather than an assistant professor, to the lack of an overarching research agenda, to everything from subject matter to placement strategy to the titles of my articles: all was part of a portfolio that I had only one chance to do right. I didn't.

Sometimes a student comes to me and expresses a desire for an academic career. My heart breaks. I have a rehearsed presentation to explain, as gently as I can, that the student already is behind on that goal: by definition, as we are having the conversation at a "tier 4," or bottom tier, law school. An academic career probably is foreclosed because of "poor" choices the student already has made unwittingly, such as having a family and living on a budget.

Mostly, the track is foreclosed by circumstances beyond the student's control: Urban childhood. Weak K12. No jobs for youth. No college counseling. Ailing parents. Delayed higher education. Being the wrong race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation and identity for whatever is in fashion.

Even the brightest and most determined candidate cannot cause 10% merit to control the outcome.

The "mentor" I mentioned at the top: I take nothing away from his merit. But does he appreciate why he is where he is? Does he think that when he submits an article for publication, its merits are the principal driver of an offer? Does he think that when he submits a job application, his hard work is the principal driver of an invitation?

He's a white man who started adulthood before I and in the "Morning in America" Reagan heyday. I don't want to say what college he went to, but suffice to say, it's one you've heard of in connection with Presidents and Supreme Court Justices. Law school too. Maybe he was plucked from child labor in an Appalachian mine to be gifted with these opportunities, but odds are not. He then clerked for a federal appeals court, and then for the U.S. Supreme Court. He diversified the resume with a short stint abroad. He worked briefly in public and private sectors. He won a teaching fellowship in the top 10, and never worked lower: from there to tenure track, named professorship, center director, etc.

Brilliant bloke. 10%. 

But not that brilliant. 60% privileges, 30% right-place-right-time.

I think my writing is very good.

Friday, April 12, 2024

UMass Law inaugurates comparative law study abroad

UMass Law School has announced a two-week study abroad program in Lisbon, Portugal, in partnership with Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP), focused on U.S.-EU comparative law.

I'm quick to call out my employer when it does something bone-headed, so I should be willing to give praise when it does something right. This is the latter.

In 28 years of university teaching, I've consistently had to persuade deans that internationalism matters. Some, not always nor wholly to their discredit, have been so absorbed by the burdens of making the world better locally that they have not had the bandwidth to think about other cities and states, much less countries.

Some have just been fools. Like the one in Arkansas who told me that "our students don't care about that" to reject my proposed partnership with a Mexican school when Arkansas had the fastest growing per capita Latino population in the country, a new Mexican consulate was opening in Little Rock, and we supposedly cared about diversity.

It was a shock, then, to find that the new top dean this academic year at UMass Law, Sam Panarella, believes that international engagement is a vital component of being a good law school. Thanks to his leadership in just his first year as dean, 10 students from UMass Law will journey to Lisbon this very year to study the comparative law and policy of U.S. and EU data protection.

Rhode Island and the south coast of Massachusetts, where UMass Law is located, are home to the largest Portuguese-American population in the United States by a wide margin. So the program is a welcome and logical fit for 14-year-old UMass Law School. The program is made possible, especially for students, by generous support from the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at UMass Dartmouth, which does important work in its cultural niche.

We plan to repeat the Lisbon program in future years, in other areas of comparative focus, taking advantage of the varied expertise of law faculty at UMass and UCP. There are hurdles to overcome. But I'm hopeful that this is just the beginning of UMass Law's portfolio on international engagement.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Free torts textbook ready for academic year 2024-25


TORTZ: A Study of American Tort Law is complete and revised for the coming academic year 2024-25.

The two-volume textbook is posted for free download from SSRN (vol. 1, vol. 2), and available in hardcopy from Lulu.com at cost, about $30 per volume plus shipping.

This final iteration of the book now, for the first time, includes its final three chapters: (16) interference and business torts, (17) government liability and civil rights, and (18) tort alternatives.


TORTZ TABLE OF CONTENTS

Volume 1

Chapter 1: Introduction

A. Welcome
B. The Fundamental Problem
C. Parameters
D. Etymology and Vocabulary
E. “The Pound Progression”
F. Alternatives
G. Review

Chapter 2: Intentional Torts

A. Introduction
B. Assault

1. History
2. The Restatement of Torts
3. Subjective and Objective Testing
4. Modern Rule
5. Transferred Intent
6. Statutory Torts and Harassment

C. Battery

1. Modern Rule
2. The Eggshell Plaintiff
3. Knowledge of a Substantially Certain Result
4. Common Law Evolution and Battered Woman Syndrome

D. False Imprisonment

1. Modern Rule
2. Problems

E. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

1. Dynamic Intent
2. Modern Rule
3. The “Heart Balm” Torts

F. Fraud

1. Fraud in Context
2. Modern Rule
3. Pleading Fraud
4. Exercise

G. The “Process” Torts

1. Innate Imprecision
2. Modern Rule
3. Majority Rejection of Malicious Civil Prosecution

H. “Prima Facie Tort”

1. Origin of Intentional Tort
2. Modern Rule

Chapter 3: Defenses to Intentional Torts 

A. Introduction
B. Defenses of Self, Other, and Property
C. The Spring Gun Case
D. Arrest Privilege and Merchant’s Privilege
E. Consent

1. Modern Rule
2. Scope of Consent
3. Medical Malpractice
4. Limits of Consent

F. Consent in Sport, or Recklessness

1. The Problem of Sport
2. Recklessness

Chapter 4: Negligence

A. Introduction
B. Modern Rule
C. Paradigmatic Cases
D. Historical and Theoretical Approaches to Negligence

1. Origin
2. Foreseeability
3. Custom
4. Augmented Standards
5. Economics

a. Introduction
b. “The Hand Formula”
c. Coase Theorem, Normativity, and Transaction Costs

6. Aristotelian Justice
7. Insurance and Loss-Spreading

E. Landowner Negligence, or Premises Liability

1. Theory of Duty and Standards of Breach
2. Common Law Tripartite Approach
3. Variations from the Unitary Approach in the Third Restatement
4. Applying the Framework, and Who Decides

F. Responsibility for Third-Party Conduct

1. Attenuated Causation, or “the Frances T.  Problem”: Negligence Liability in Creating Opportunity for a Criminal or Tortious Actor
2. Vicarious Liability and Attenuated Causation in the Employment Context: Respondeat Superior and “Direct” Negligence Theories

G. Statutory Torts and Negligence Per Se

1. Statutory Torts
2. Negligence Per Se

a. Introduction
b. Threshold Test
c. Three Mile Island

H. Medical Negligence
I. Spoliation of Evidence

1. Introduction
2. Minority Rule
3. Recognition or Non-Recognition of the Tort Approach
4. Majority Approach

J. Beyond Negligence

Chapter 5: Defenses to Negligence

A. Express Assumption of Risk (EAOR)
B. EAOR in Medical Negligence, and the Informed Consent Tort

1. Development of the Doctrine
2. The “Reasonable Patient” Standard
3. Modern Rule of Informed Consent
4. Causation in Informed Consent
5. Experimental Medicine

C. “Implied Assumption of Risk” (IAOR)

1. Everyday Life
2. Twentieth-Century Rule
3. Play and Sport
4. Work

D. Contributory Negligence

1. Twentieth-Century Rule
2. Complete Defense
3. Vitiation by “Last Clear Chance”

E. Comparative Fault
F. IAOR in the Age of Comparative Fault

1. The Demise of “IAOR”
2. Whither “Secondary Reasonable IAOR”?
3. Revisiting Mrs. Palsgraf at Gulfway General Hospital

G. Statutes of Limitations
H. Imputation of Negligence

Chapter 6: Subjective Standards

A. Introduction
B. Gender

1. The Reasonable Family
2. When Gender Matters

C. Youth

1. When Youth Matters
2. Attractive Nuisance
3. When Youth Doesn’t Matter

D. Mental Limitations

1. General Approach
2. Disputed Policy

Chapter 7: Strict Liability

A. Categorical Approach
B. Non-Natural Use of Land
C. Abnormally Dangerous Activities

1. Defining the Class
2. Modern Industry

D. Product Liability

1. Adoption of Strict Liability
2. Modern Norms
3. “Big Tobacco”
4. Frontiers of Product Liability

Chapter 8: Necessity

A. The Malleable Concept of Necessity
B. Necessity in Tort Law
C. Making Sense of Vincent
D. Necessity, the Liability Theory

Chapter 9: Damages

A. Introduction
B. Vocabulary of Damages
C. Theory of Damages
D. Calculation of Damages
E. Valuation of Intangibles
F. Remittitur
G. Wrongful Death and Survival Claims

1. Historical Common Law
2. Modern Statutory Framework

a. Lord Campbell’s Act and Wrongful Death
b. Survival of Action After Death of a Party

3. Problems of Application

H. “Wrongful Birth” and “Wrongful Life”
I. Punitive Damages

1. Introduction
2. Modern Rule
3. Pinpointing the Standard

J. Rethinking Death Compensation

Volume 2

Chapter 10: Res Ipsa Loquitur

A. Basic Rules of Proof
B. Res Ipsa Loquitur (RIL)

1. Modern Rule
2. Paradigmatic Fact Patterns

Chapter 11: Multiple Liabilities

A. Introduction
B. Alternative Liability
C. Joint and Ancillary Liability
D. Market-Share Liability Theory
E. Indemnification, Contribution, and Apportionment

1. Active-Passive Indemnity
2. Contribution and Apportionment
3. Apportionment and the Effect of Settlement

F. Rules and Evolving Models in Liability and Enforcement
G. Review and Application of Models

Chapter 12: Attenuated Duty and Causation

A. Introduction
B. Negligence Per Se Redux

1. The Problem in Duty
2. The Problem in Causation
3. The Problem in Public Policy

C. Duty Relationships and Causation Timelines

1. Introduction
2. Frances T. Redux, or Intervening Criminal Acts
3. Mental Illness and Tarasoff Liability
4. Dram Shop and Social Host Liability
5. Rescue Doctrine and “the Fire Fighter Rule”

a. Inverse Rules of Duty
b. Application and Limits

6. Palsgraf: The Orbit and the Stream

a. The Classic Case
b. A Deeper Dig

D. Principles of Duty and Causation

1. Duty
2. Causation

a. The Story of Causation
b. Proximate Cause in the Second Restatement
c. Scope of Liability in the Third Restatement
d. Proximate Cause in the Third Restatement, and Holdover Rules
e. A Study of Transition: Doull v. Foster

E. The Outer Bounds of Tort Law

1. Balancing the Fundamental Elements
2. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)

a. Rule of No Liability
b. Bystanders and Borderline NIED

3. Economic Loss Rule

a. The Injury Requirement
b. Outer Limits of Tort Law
c. Loss in Product Liability and the Single Integrated Product Rule

Chapter 13: Affirmative Duty

A. Social Policy
B. The American Rule
C. Comparative Perspectives
D. Bystander Effect, or “Kitty Genovese Syndrome”

Chapter 14: Nuisance and Property Torts

A. Trespass and Conversion
B. Private Nuisance
C. Public Nuisance and the Distinction Between Private and Public
D. “Super Tort”

Chapter 15: Communication and Media Torts

A. Origin of “Media Torts”
B. Defamation

1. Framework and Rules
2. Defamation of Private Figures

a. Defamation Proof
b. Defamation Defense

3. Anti-SLAPP Defense
4. Section 230 Defense
5. Constitutional Defamation

a. Sea Change: New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
b. Extending Sullivan
c. Reconsidering Sullivan

C. Invasion of Privacy

1. Framework and Rules

a. Disclosure
b. Intrusion
c. False Light
d. Right of Publicity
e. Data Protection

2. Constitutional Privacy and False Light
3. Demonstrative Cases

a. Disclosure and Intrusion
b. Right of Publicity
c. Bollea v. Gawker Media

4. Data Protection, Common Law, and Evolving Recognition of Dignitary Harms

Chapter 16: Interference and Business Torts

A. Business Torts in General

1. Tort Taxonomy
2. The Broad Landscape
3. Civil RICO

B. Wrongful Termination
C. Tortious Interference

Chapter 17: Government Liability and Civil Rights

A. Sovereign Immunity

1. Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA)
2. Text and History of the FTCA
3. Discretionary Function Immunity

B. Civil Rights

1. “Constitutional Tort”
2. Core Framework
3. Official Immunities
4. Climate Change

C. Qui Tam
D. Human Rights

1. Alien Tort Statute
2. Anti-Terrorism Laws

Chapter 18: Tort Alternatives

A. Worker Compensation

1. Introduction and History
2. Elements and Causation
3. Efficacy and Reform

B. Ad Hoc Compensation Funds

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Florida A&M moves to fire Latina law prof who spoke on public concern; Hispanic law students resist

You may review and sign on to a letter of the FAMU Hispanic American Law Student Association opposing Reyes's termination here. 

Prof. Maritza Reyes
My colleague Professor Maritza Reyes, who is tenured at the Florida A&M (FAMU) College of Law, is fighting alongside students and other allies to save her job and to preserve academic freedom.

Reyes has been notified of the school's intent to dismiss her for doing her job in faculty governance. Reyes commented, professionally and appropriately, in a community email discussion of the abrupt, contentious, and institutionally embarrassing resignation of the law dean at FAMU in February.

FAMU apparently did not like what Reyes had to say. In a plain violation of academic freedom, the school proferred the email discussion as the reason to terminate a tenured professor.

I have written many times, since 2011, about the failure of universities to recognize academic freedom in spaces "penumbral" to published research and classroom teaching, namely faculty governance. In the same vein, Professor Keith Whittington wrote recently about the importance of protecting "extramural" academic speech.

Reyes is an accomplished and highly respected law teacher—thus, just the sort who attract condemnation in the academic culture—who is treasured by generations of students and has especially made a difference for persons of color in law schools and legal practice. She is FAMU's first and only tenured Latina law professor. In 2022, she founded the Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy ("GO LILA") Workshop, which she discussed in 2023 for AALS Women in Legal Education.

Students and alumni are leading the resistance to Reyes's termination. Please review and consider signing on to the following letter.  You can share the letter further with this link: https://forms.gle/VUnYPKiMwyWtMDJx8, or via The Savory Tort.

(This post revised and updated on Mar. 19, at 5:40 p.m.)


Dear President Larry Robinson and Provost Allyson Watson:

We, the undersigned members of the Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) Hispanic American Law Student Association (HALSA), joined by fellow students, alumni, allies, and friends, respectfully request that you rescind your intent to dismiss College of Law Professor Maritza Reyes (Professor Reyes) from her tenured position. For the past fifteen (15) years, Professor Reyes has been a caring professor and has made excellent contributions to the school, especially its students. Professor Reyes has also served as HALSA's faculty advisor for many years.

Professor Reyes is an accomplished teacher, scholar, and member of the legal academy and community. She began her employment in the FAMU College of Law as a tenure-track assistant professor of law in 2009, earned tenure in 2015, and is now a tenured, full professor of law (the highest faculty rank). FAMU has evaluated Professor Reyes's record during many formal evaluative processes, including applications for promotion to associate professor, for tenure, and promotion to full professor; annual reviews; and, most recently, post-tenure review. Professor Reyes has demonstrated consistent excellence and productivity in scholarship, teaching, and service. She has too many accomplishments to list here, including being recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record for her service to our community. You are well-aware of her many accomplishments including through all of the above listed evaluations.

We were heartbroken and outraged to learn that Provost Allyson Watson (Provost Watson), by letter dated February 16, 2024 (the "Notice"), informed Professor Reyes of the University's intent to dismiss her from her tenured position. According to FAMU Regulation 10.120(2)(c), the "Contents of Notice" must include the following information: "A list of documents or written explanation on which the charges are based; and a statement that documents shall be available to the employee upon request." The documents Professor Reyes received consisted of emails that were sent to the entire College of Law Community during the period of February 1, 2024 to February 5, 2024. The entire College of Law Community (faculty, staff, and students) received the emails after then College of Law Dean Deidré Keller (Dean Keller) opened this email forum on February 1, 2024 to provide notice of her resignation effective immediately. Several professors, including Professor Reyes, and three students participated in these communications and sent emails to the entire College of Law Community. The use of email forums/listservs to the entire College of Law Community was not prohibited. Professor Reyes's emails were informative, professional, and timely. They helped bring transparency and accountability regarding Dean Keller's resignation, a matter of institutional and public importance. The Tallahassee Democrat initially reported about Dean Keller's resignation on February 2, 2024. Subsequently, Dean Keller provided her letter of resignation to this newspaper, which published it in a second article on February 6, 2024. These materials were readily available online via the newspaper's website.

In response to Professor Reyes's contributions via emails about Dean Keller's resignation, Provost Watson issued a Notice of intent to dismiss Professor Reyes from her tenured position. It seems to us that Provost Watson targeted Professor Reyes for the content of her speech and sought to silence her voice and future contributions in the FAMU College of Law. In a matter of days, Provost Watson charged Professor Reyes for dismissal without allowing her an opportunity to respond to a formal complaint, go through an investigation, receive meaningful due process, and get a report. To us as law students, the way Provost Watson has handled this situation screams of injustice and lack of due process.

Many students and alumni describe Professor Reyes as an exceptional educator who made a lasting and meaningful impact on their law school experiences and legal careers. She always set high standards and would provide the guidance and skills necessary to reach them. She also inspired students to achieve their individual levels of excellence. Some of us made it through difficult situations during law school thanks to her unwavering support. Professor Reyes has also been an advocate for student organizations. Therefore, if your intent to dismiss Professor Reyes comes to pass, you will harm past, current, and future FAMU College of Law students by taking away an excellent professor who has been our teacher, mentor, advocate, ally, supporter, and friend. You will also harm the law school, including with negative publicity. You have already disrupted the high-caliber teaching law students expected to receive when they registered for Professor Reyes's courses. You abruptly replaced her with less-credentialed and less-experienced instructors who had never taught in a law school before. Many of us will be further traumatized by Professor Reyes's dismissal. We cannot remain silent in the face of such injustice.

There are currently twenty (20) tenured professors (associate and full) in the College of Law. Professor Reyes was the first and thus far only Hispanic professor hired in the tenure track and subsequently tenured in the FAMU College of Law. She has served as HALSA's dedicated, supportive, and highly competent faculty advisor. According to the FAMU College of Law American Bar Association 2023 Standard 509 Required Disclosures, Hispanic students make up 25% of the total law student body. It is important that Hispanic students be appropriately represented in the law school. While this letter is spearheaded by HALSA's Board, we are being supported in our efforts by students and alumni of diverse backgrounds who appreciate and respect Professor Reyes's teaching, mentoring, and support.

There is a strong sense among the student body that an injustice is happening in view of all of us. On February 27, 2024, students met with FAMU College of Law Interim Dean Cecil Howard and protested the intended dismissal of Professor Reyes. Interim Dean Howard responded that the decision was made by Tallahassee Administrators to whom students should voice their protests. This is what we are doing via this open letter. We have distributed this letter widely for signatures by students, alumni, allies, friends, and supporters of justice everywhere. Please hear us when we tell you that the intended dismissal of Professor Reyes is a grave injustice. You have the power to stop this intended wrong. Please do so!

We respectfully demand that you keep Professor Maritza Reyes in the tenured faculty position she earned. She has done nothing warranting dismissal. We also demand that you grant Professor Reyes's request for a public meeting regarding her intended dismissal.

[Sign.]

Thursday, February 29, 2024

ABA adopts academic freedom standard, but 'Crossroads' convo shows, not everybody gets it

Is the American Bar Association (ABA) "Doing Enough to Promote Viewpoint Diversity?," panelists were asked at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Ky., on February 3.

No, I say emphatically. So I was pleased that my take was represented on the panel by Kentucky attorney Philip D. Williamson and South Texas College of Law Professor Josh Blackman.

Having made a quantitative assessment of 10 years of ABA amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, Williamson listed positions to which the ABA has committed itself. The ABA has taken positions, such as on Roe and Dobbs, that are not related to the practice of law or legal professionalism, and about which there is rational disagreement among lawyers. 

ABA briefs also take "diametrically opposed" positions, Williamson said: favoring stare decisis in Dobbs, but disfavoring it on juror unanimity; favoring state power in a Republican administration, favoring federal power in a Democrat administration; regarding tribal classifications as political rather than racial, and then, under the Trump travel ban, arguing nationality classifications as racial rather than political. One might ask, Williamson posited, "Why does the ABA care about this at all?"

The only common thread in ABA positions, Williamson said, is consistency with liberal politics. Would right-of-center lawyers feel welcome in the ABA?, Williamson asked. "No." There might be one amicus in the pile that aligned with a red-state attorney general, Williamson said, but it's "hard to find."

Williamson also criticized ABA policy on racial classifications as hypocritical. Until recently, the ABA had numerical quotas based on race in composing panels for continuing legal education (CLE) programs. The ABA backed down when the Florida Bar resisted awarding CLE credits upon a policy it viewed as unconstitutionally racially discriminatory.

Williamson observed that for ABA diversity purposes, "Asian" regards a Bangladeshi person and a Chinese person as "interchangeable." "Maybe we could fine tune how we think about race," Williamson said, "rather than how fast you sunburn in Miami." You won't read that in the ABA coverage of the event.

Williamson, Thomas, Blackman, and Rosenblum
RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Chicago attorney Juan R. Thomas said he welcomes viewpoint diversity, subject to one condition: He paraphrased James Baldwin: "We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist." (The quote is widely attributed to Baldwin, but I cannot find an original source.)

We can debate which Super Bowl team is the better, Thomas said, but not whether they play football.

I admire Thomas quite a bit, and the Baldwin quote is a self-evident truth. But it's also a red herring.

Blackman asked in response—also omitted from the ABA coverage—"if I can't oppose qualified immunity because it's not grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment, that makes me a racist?"

Thomas, who is a minister besides lawyer, also voiced a "dirty secret," that "not all people of color are progressives." He should have directed the observation to the ABA, not to his co-panelist adversaries. Their very point was that the ABA should be wary of taking politically charged positions over which reasonable, informed people disagree.

To Thomas's point, a lawyer commenting from the audience said something that resonated with me: that he personally opposes lawmakers making abortion decisions for women, but he believes that Roe was wrongly decided as a matter of federalism. That's the unpopular conclusion that I, too, came to, many years ago. I refrain from voicing it in the liberal circles of academia.

My position on affirmative action is similar. I champion socioeconomic equality and fully acknowledge systemic racism, but I so abhor government classification based on race that I cannot countenance official discrimination as a purported redress of discrimination. I rather would redress systemic inequalities through socioeconomic amelioration.

I said as much once out loud, and the r-word charges upended my life and career. An ABA accreditation site team at the time was fully informed of the matter and brushed it under the rug. One rocks the boat at one's hazard at an ABA-compliant school.

Which brings me to an interesting point and an occasion for the ABA discussion: At the time of the caucus meeting, the ABA had just signed off on new legal education Standard 208, which requires ABA-accredited law schools, such as the one where I work, to "adopt, publish, and adhere to written policies that protect academic freedom."

That only took 70 years since the Second Red Scare.

I'm keen to see whether the ABA really will follow through. ABA accreditation of law schools is nothing but a pricey protection racket. Entry costs are steep to join the club, but once you're in, you can do no wrong—almost: woe to the unfortunate straggler left to hang in the wind to prove the legitimacy of the system. The ABA is terrified of losing its monopoly power over legal education, as it did over judicial confirmation.

The kicker-quote in the ABA's own coverage of the caucus program does not induce confidence: "'I would be proud to be the last member standing of an association that fights against oppression,' [attorney and author Lauren Stiller Rikleen] stated."

Right, because that's what this is about. Standing for equality and rule of law makes me pro oppression.

The ABA Midyear panel on "Are the ABA and the Legal Profession Doing Enough to Promote Viewpoint Diversity?" comprised Williamson, Blackman, Thomas, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum. Senior U.S. Sixth Circuit Judge Danny J. Boggs moderated.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Frum invokes Judge Learned Hand on self-doubt to build case for 'uncanceling' Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson, 1912
Library of Congress
In the March Atlantic David Frum pleaded for the "uncanceling" of Woodrow Wilson and gave a shout out to the great Judge Learned Hand.

Frum exhibited his usual eloquence in pleading for understanding that people are complicated and we ought not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Wilsonianism has guided American foreign policy for a century and has done a lot of good in the world, Frum argued persuasively. One cannot pretend away that legacy in an eagerness to embrace the admittedly ample evidence of Wilson's racism and bigotry.

We ought be wary as well, Frum observed, that right and left both are eager to "cancel" Wilson. The left for his racism, of course. The anti-regulatory right, meanwhile, sees Wilson as a forefather of both globalism and the administrative state. Besides his vision for what would become the United Nations, Wilson signed the Federal Trade Commission Act into law in 1914. With the Chevron doctrine presently withering in the Supreme Court, lefties, be careful what you're canceling.

An aside on the subject of left and right: The Economist published a fabulous opinion piece last week that's a balm for classical liberals such as myself who have been rendered ideologically homeless by the ironic Republican embrace of "the state [as] savior." (Every American libertarian, by which I mean most Americans, should read it, so it's unfortunate that it's paywalled.)

In the course of his reasoned plea, Frum further observed:

We live now in a more polarized time [than Wilson's], one of ideological extremes on both left and right. Learned Hand, a celebrated federal judge of Wilson’s era, praised "the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." Our contemporaries have exorcised that spirit. We are very sure that we are right. We have little tolerance for anyone who seems in any degree wrong.

Hear, hear. The line comes from Hand's famous "Spirit of Liberty" speech in 1944. Read more at Judicature.

Torts students know Learned Hand for his also famous formula to describe rational choice as a weighing of burdens against the risk of loss. Hand was prolific, and his subtle influences can be traced through many fields of American law in the 20th century. Indeed, see The Atlantic in 1961.

Just yesterday, as it happens, I was talking after class with a 1L Torts student about the imperative that legal education empower a student to challenge one's own assumptions. I know what you're thinking, but it was she who made the point. "We should question ourselves," she said. "We should never stop questioning."

Wise woman.

Speaking of wise women, hat tip @ my wife for spying The Economist item.

Incidentally, the cover story of the March Atlantic concerns police response to mass shooting events, focusing on, but definitely not limited to, the Deputy Scot Peterson matter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In June 2023, Peterson was acquitted on all charges after a trial in which authorities alleged felony child neglect and criminal negligence. In January 2024, a Florida court denied a defense motion to dismiss civil suits by 17 families against Peterson, clearing the matter for trial.

Frum's article is Uncancel Woodrow Wilson, The Atlantic, Mar. 2024 (online Feb. 2, 2024) (subscription).

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hart, legislative counsel, talks public service career

Attorney Kevin Hart speaks to students today, Feb. 20, at UMass Law School about his career path in public service in Massachusetts state government, and earlier, in the Town of Bridgewater.

Hart is now chief counsel for the Joint Committee on Transportation in the Massachusetts legislature. He graduated from UMass Law in 2015. He came to UMass Law with a BA from Stonehill College and an MPA from the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University.

Hart was the second teaching assistant I hired at UMass Law in Torts I and Torts II. (The first is doing well too.) He wrote a characteristically excellent research paper on the modern inutility of the historical negligent-delivery-of-telecommunication cause of action.

I'm not saying that my teaching causes meteoric career success. I'm just observing correlation.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Kyiv law school strives for normalcy

The dean of a Kyiv, Ukraine, law school spoke to American Bar Association (ABA) lawyers Thursday via Zoom about teaching law in a war zone.

I once had a class halted by a (false) fire alarm. That was a hassle.

I've never had a class disrupted by an alarm warning of an incoming hypersonic missile.

Dean Volodymyr Venher
Zoom, Feb. 15, 2024
Volodymyr Venher has. He's dean of the law school at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (KMA). Alarms happen once or twice a week, he told the ABA Seasoned Lawyers Interest Network. Russian attacks target civilian infrastructure.

"Sometimes it's really scary," Venher said.

Kyiv has a protective barrier that includes U.S. Patriot missiles, Venher said. But some Russian missiles get through. Two weeks ago, he said, a missile struck 300 meters from his apartment. He lives on the 11th floor, and the building shook, loosening bricks and concrete.

A KMA professor in biology was killed at her home in January.

Kyiv has it a little worse than Lviv, which sees fewer missile attacks, Dean Venher said. But Kyiv is "paradise," Venher said, compared with Kharkiv, where Russia has targeted universities.

This missile attack on a residential complex in 2023 killed five.
State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

Faculty and students at KMA Law carry on. Venher said that to endure the constant threat of war, it helps to maintain some semblance of normalcy. His law school ceased operation for only one month, he said, in March 2022. Classes resumed online in April and in hybrid form for the start of a new academic year in September 2022.

Naturally the school was worried about what enrollment would look like. But students wanted normalcy, too. Of an admitted class of 120 in fall 2022, 110 turned up in person to start the year, Venher said. There are occasional setbacks in loss of electricity and internet outages. The internet problem was solved when the school bought two Starlink subscriptions, Venher said.

KMA, 2009
Роман Днепр via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
Law faculty try to continue both their teaching and research, Venher said. Many focus their work on what it will take to rebuild Ukraine after the war. Some focus on humanitarian needs. Some, including Venher, focus on the law of war and problems of accountability.

There is a mental toll. After missile strikes, one can see people's unhappiness, Venher said. Many people are afflicted with depression and survivor guilt.

"The human brain can adapt to anything," Venher said. "We hope for a better future."

KMA Law is keen to connect with partners abroad. Connecting electronically with the outside world helps to keep spirits up and maintains a status quo ante, a connectedness that would have been ordinary before the war. Venher said that the school welcomes even opportunities for law students to practice speaking English with their counterparts elsewhere. The school is keen too for faculty to find opportunities to present research and expertise.

The school also welcomes resources. A French benefactor recently donated a collection of law books, and the school could use more legal resources in English and French. Under the circumstances, the school cannot afford pricey legal database subscriptions, Venher explained. So students and researchers are more dependent than usual on hardcopy resources.

The school website provides guidance on financial contributions.

This story was updated on Feb. 19 at 9:30 a.m. when I confirmed the death of KMA Prof. Lyudmyla Shevtsova.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Foul-ball injuries persist at baseball games

Pixabay CC0 1.0 via Get Archive

The American Museum of Tort Law (AMTL) hosted a Zoom panel Thursday on the problem of foul balls injuring baseball fans.

(UPDATE: Video posted, Feb. 27.)

American tort law students usually are acquainted with the so-called "baseball rule." The "rule" represents the legal supposition that fans who attend baseball games understand and accept the risk that a foul ball might fly into the stands and cause injury. More accurately stated in contemporary terms in American tort law, the "rule" is that a professional baseball enterprise does not have a duty to avert injuries that are part of the game of baseball.

You can tell from my quote marks that I don't like the characterization of "the baseball rule" as a rule, because it's not. The "rule" is oft stated as such in popular culture and too often in law. But it does not represent a consistent "rule" of decision in tort cases. Plaintiff lawyers have circumnavigated it many times, justifiably so. And if the "rule" were a rule, it would be a bad one. Horrific injuries happen too often, such as shattered eye sockets and blinding. Two children were critically injured in the minor leagues in the past season.

You can see the problems even on the face of the "rule." Not everyone who goes to a baseball game knows that there is a danger of being hit by a foul ball, especially the risk of substantial bodily harm in a line drive with a 100-mph exit velocity. Baseball clubs put up some nets specifically to protect fans from these injuries in some places, such as behind home plate, but the nets fall far short of full coverage. Fans sitting in unprotected seats might not see the difference. Certainly fans might not know the scope of potential injury. Finally, the assumption-of-risk doctrine that animates the "baseball rule" was crafted to preclude lawsuits by sport participants. The doctrine has been extended tentatively and sometimes dubiously to fans.

As in many tort cases, the functioning of the tort system in foul-ball cases is being disrupted by arbitration clauses in baseball ticket terms and conditions, and by non-disclosure agreements in settlements. Secrecy impedes tort's norm-setting and deterrence functions. If fans don't understand the danger and frequency of foul ball injuries, they're unlikely to find out from reported cases.

Hosted by Melissa Bird for the AMTL, the panel comprised Ken Reed, Jordan Skopp, and Greg Wilkowski. Reed is Sports Policy Director for League of Fans, a Ralph Nader project that covers the foul-ball problem. Skopp, a New York realtor, is the activist-founder of the grassroots Foul Ball Safety Now!, which hosts a trove of information. Wilkowski is a Chicago lawyer presently representing plaintiffs in a class action against the Peoria Chiefs (e.g., Journal Star).

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Lawyers on social media delight, inform, raise ethics questions about attorney-client relationships

An attorney panel earlier this month shared the joys and hazards of lawyers addressing the general public through social media.

A hat tip to Mississippi attorney Kye C. Handy, Balch & Bingham, for introducing me to California attorney and influencer Reb Masel on TikTok, the J.D. genius behind Reading Iconic Court Transcripts and other legal commentary.

@rebmasel i dedicate this one to Kohl’s cash #transcripts ♬ original sound - reb for the rebrand
Reb Masel's Rebuttal
(Spotify, Apple, YouTube)
Reb Masel hosts the Rebuttal podcast at Spotify, Apple, and YouTube. Read more about her at Tubefilter, where she said in fall 2023 that she practices in defense-side civil litigation "for now." If you must know more about Pepperdine Law alumna Reb Masel in the muggle world, the Daily Mail wrote about her in 2022.

Handy served on an ethics panel at the Next Generation and the Future of Business Litigation program of the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) of the American Bar Association (ABA) at the 2024 ABA Midyear meeting in Louisville, Ky., earlier this month.

A key takeaway of the panel for attorneys: be careful you don't create an attorney-client relationship through social media posts. If giving legal advice, disclaim, disclaim, disclaim.

Florida attorney Richard Rivera said that ethical obligations may arise merely from a viewer's subjective belief that an attorney-client relationship exists. I presume there is a reasonableness check on that, but the objective measure would be lay perception, not the knowledge and experience of the attorney. Thus, a social media post can trigger an attorney's duties of confidentiality and timely response to questions.

Accordingly, Washington attorney Matthew Albrecht warned attorneys to keep up with their inboxes in all media. If a viewer or listener reaches out through a web form, social media direct messaging, etc., asking a question in response to a post, failure to respond promptly can be an ethics violation.

Moreover, an attorney must be wary of questioners who overshare, Albrecht said. They might post comments on a public website that compromise their cases, and the attorney may be obliged to delete the comments to protect the prospective client. A questioner also might provide information that puts the attorney in conflict with prior or existing clients. So an attorney with any online presence should have and adhere to a careful policy for receiving and processing incoming communications.

I wish I could count on a response from a doctor's office when I ask a question. Clearly, the bar for attorneys is higher.

Probably needless to say, some attorneys give advice in mass media that might be accurate in context and not run afoul of ethics rules, but might at the same time invite trouble in problematic misunderstanding. For example, many online videos present Texas lawyers schooling viewers on the use of force in defense of property under the state's generous castle laws. Handy shared one video by a lawyer who described a property owner vs. trespasser confrontation in which the property owner might lawfully "beat her ass."

To inform professionalism, Handy recommended to law students and new lawyers the podcast Young Lawyer Rising from the Legal Talk Network, an ABA partner.

The ABA TIPS panel comprised Albrecht, Handy, Rivera, and D.C. attorney Josephine M. Bahn.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Culp's critical perspectives endure in Chang lecture

Prof. Chang
Seattle Law

Professor Robert S. Chang delivered the inaugural Jerome M. Culp, Jr. Critical Theory Lecture at Duke Law School February 1.

Chang is professor of law and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law. He spoke on, "How Do We Come to Participate in the Struggles of Those Who Are Not Us?" The lecture is posted at Panopto and on YouTube (embedded below, at bottom).

Chang traced contemporary racial differences in American history from the burning of Jamestown, Va., in the 17th century to the Civil War, Chinese exclusion laws, and, ultimately, the legal battle over affirmative action. Born in Korea, Chang's work emerges from ethnic perspective and personal experience growing up in small-town America.

My alma mater, Duke Law doesn't need me to do public relations. I mention the Chang lecture because of Professor Culp, for whom the lecture series is named. Culp was the first person of color to earn tenure at Duke Law, where he taught from 1985 until his death in 2004. He was, as Duke recounted, an internationally acclaimed critical theorist.

Culp also was my torts professor. As I tell students today, at that time, I didn't well understand Culp's MO. I suffered the common 1L affliction of wanting to know just what I needed to know. I yet saw law as learnable vocation, not profession, law school as mere trade school, not intellectual engagement with law and society. Culp didn't seem to be doing his part to make me a billboard attorney who could litigate a car accident.

I got past those hurdles. In time, I had the immeasurable good fortune of knowing Culp as a fellow academic. I came to understand that his 1L pedagogy was a cleverly subtle and seductive inculcation in critical theory. I came to appreciate him as one of my best law professors. His pedagogy powerfully shaped my approach to teaching torts, not to mention thinking about law and society in general. Culp is one of three academics to whom my Tortz textbook is dedicated.

The start of the Chang lecture video (from 2:05 to 7:50 at Panopto; YouTube cued and embedded below) features Professor Culp himself, some 20 years ago, complemented by affecting images, talking about his own life and how it motivated him to study and teach law.


To be clear, I'm not wholly in agreement with Chang on the merits of his talk, even if Culp might have been. Chang concludes that the U.S. Supreme Court decision contra affirmative action in 2023 represents an "intensification" of white racial identity and resurgent white supremacy. Chang's conclusion contains a kernel of concerning merit, but also provocatively overstates the matter.

I rather agree with what Professor Josh Blackman told an ABA program on viewpoint diversity at the Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Ky., last week: there has to be room to express a view of what the Fourteenth Amendment means, even if contra the acceptable "woke" ideology, without being branded "racist." 

Critical theory to me is, let's say, critical for exposing fault lines in our society that run contrary to our values and demand remediation. Accordingly, critical approaches form vital threads in my teaching.

But critical race theory does more harm than good when it muddies the distinction between malevolent racism and systemic inequality. And many adherents to critical theory (not necessarily Chang or Culp) go a dangerous measure further, encouraging generalizations about persons' intentions based on their skin color. I can't sign on to that.

Nevertheless, that some critical perspectives sit poorly with me doesn't mean we should avoid discussing them. Chang's lecture is a superb and coherent survey of race and American history with thought provoking implications for our time.

A nephew of mine (as a matter of fact, a young man who is racially Korean and grew up in small-town America) recently suggested to me that adults of my (13th) generation can sometimes be wrong.

I'm considering the possibility.