Friday, September 30, 2011

Binder on Forty Years of Environmental Law

Denis Binder, Chapman University School of Law, has posted Perspectives on 40 Years of Environmental Law.  Here is the abstract:
Environmental Law is 40 years old as a distinct body of law. This article is my historical perspective from 4 decades of teaching Environmental Law, emphasizing the early issues that set the foundations for today's Environmental Law, as well as the background in Administrative Law, Land Use Planning and Natural Resources Law that were the seeds of Environmental Law, the issues that blossomed, the issues that disappeared, and those that remain with us. The article contains kudos to the pioneers in the area. We note the changes in paradigms from resource exploitation to resource conservation and from the Master Builder to the Environmentalist.

New in Law & Society Review

The new issue of Law & Society Review (September 2011) contains several articles that may be of interest to blog readers.

“No Hints, No Forecasts, No Previews”: An Empirical Analysis of Supreme Court Nominee Candor from Harlan to Kagan," by Dion Farganis (Elon University—Political Science) and Justin Wedeking (Kentucky—Political Science), covers the period 1950 through 2010 and challenges conventional wisdom about the confirmation process. The abstract follows and the full article is available to subscribers here.  

Criticism of Supreme Court confirmation hearings has intensified considerably over the past two decades. In particular, there is a growing sense that nominees are now less forthcoming and that the hearings have suffered as a result. In this article, we challenge that conventional wisdom. Based on a comprehensive content analysis of every question and answer in all of the modern confirmation hearings—nearly 11,000 in total—we find only a mild decline in the candor of recent nominees. Moreover, we find that senators ask more probing questions than in the past, and that nominees are now more explicit about their reasons when they choose not to respond—two factors that may be fueling the perception that evasiveness has increased in recent years. We close with a discussion of the normative implications of our findings as well as an outline for future research into this issue.

"From Programmatic Reform to Social Science Research: The National Tax Association and the Promise and Perils of Disciplinary Encounters" by Ajay K. Mehrotra (Indiana--Law) and Joseph J. Thorndike (Tax Analysts), may also be of interest. The abstract follows and the article is available here.
 This article uses the history of the National Tax Association (NTA), the leading twentieth-century organization of tax professionals, to strengthen our empirical understanding of the disciplinary encounter between law and the social sciences. Building on existing sociolegal scholarship, this article explores how the NTA embodied tax law's ambivalent historical interaction with public economics. Since its founding in 1907, the NTA has changed dramatically from an eclectic and catholic organization of tax professionals with a high public profile to an insular, scholarly association of mainly academic public finance economists. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative historical evidence, we contend that the transformation in the NTA's mission and output can be explained by the increasing professionalization and specialization of tax knowledge, and by the dominant role that public economics has played in shaping that knowledge. This increasing specialization allowed the NTA to secure its position as a bastion of scholarly tax research. But that achievement came at a cost to the organization's broader civic mission. This article is thus a historical account of how two competing professional disciplines—tax law and public economics—have interacted within a particular organizational field, namely the research and analysis of tax law and policy.

Finally, consider the abstract of "Politics, Prisons, and Law Enforcement: An Examination of the Emergence of “Law and Order” Politics in Texas," by Michael C. Campbell (Northern Illinois--Sociology). The article, which pivots on the period 1978-1989, is here.

This article examines the rise of “law and order” politics in Texas, providing an in-depth archival case study of changes in prison policy in a Southern state during the pivotal period when many U.S. states turned to mass incarceration. It brings attention to the important role an insurgent Republican governor and law enforcement officials played in shaping crime policy. Law enforcement's role is considered within a broader examination of political strategy during a period of intense socioeconomic volatility. The findings suggest that within particular political contexts, especially those with low levels of political participation, law enforcement agents might play a key role in shaping punishment.

Q & A with Lawrence Friedman: on teaching in history depts. and law schools

Note to readers: This is a part of a series of questions and answers with Lawrence Friedman.

Question from David Pye, PhD University of West Georgia:  I am wondering about the difference, if any, between teaching a Legal History survey in a law school and in a history department.

Answer from Lawrence:
The question about the difference between teaching a legal history survey in a law school as compared to teaching it in a history department is a very good question.  I wish I knew the answer.  I have always taught in a law school, although my course is cross-listed and I have some history students.  I would imagine there are differences in academic culture-- the things the professor would refer to, the traditions she would invoke, and so on.  Also, teaching mostly law students, one can assume they know certain terms; you don't have to define "tort."  But I imagine what really makes a difference is not the students, or the department, but the individual instructor.  As I said in another response, there really isn't a canon for American legal history.  In my own course, I spend a lot of time on family law, and on criminal justice; and I know that many people who teach legal history  (in law school or not) basically skip these subjects.  On the other hand, I go very lightly on the constitutional convention, the founding fathers, and big Supreme Court cases; and I pay shockingly little attention to the intellectual history of American law (such as it is).  Other people feel very differently and design their courses accordingly.

CFP: Comparative Legal History

“Definitions and Challenges,” the second biennial conference of the European Society for Comparative Legal History, will be held July 9-10, 2012, at the Vrije Universitet Amsterdam.  The call for papers explains:
Vrije Universitet Amsterdam
Comparative Legal History is a relatively young discipline. It focuses explicitly on the comparison of legal ideas and legal institutions in divergent legal traditions. The European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH) was founded in 2009 in order to promote such comparison. Its Inaugural Conference (Valencia, 5-6 July 2010) showed that it is not always easy to find material which is suitable for serious comparison and to establish the criteria which have to be met in order to come to grips with this material.

The Second ESCLH Conference, which will take place on 9-10 July 2012 at Amsterdam and will be hosted by the VU University, aims at addressing this fundamental problem. Under the heading “Definitions and Challenges” it will try to delineate the landmarks which fruitful legal historical comparison requires and to trace the specific problems that a comparative-historical approach of the various branches of law may encounter. The keynote address will be delivered by David Ibbetson, Regius Professor of Civil Law at the University of Cambridge.
More information is here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reid, The Devil Comes to Kansas: A Story of Free Love and the Law

The Devil Comes to Kansas: A Story of Free Love and the Law has been posted by Charles J. Reid Jr., University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota).  Here's the abstract:
State v. Walker (1887) is an important but hitherto neglected landmark case in the development of the right of privacy. The case involved the "autonomistic" or "free-love" marriage of Edwin C. Walker and Lillian Harman, daughter of Moses Harman, the radical newspaperman.

Edwin and Lillian, who rejected state control over marriage, proclaimed themselves married in the fall of 1887, although they declared that their union was neither permanent or exclusive. Prosecuted for illegal cohabitation because of their refusal to obtain a marriage license, they and their defenders developed a vocabulary that would profoundly influence the future path of American law.

Their supporters in the radical press began to speak of the right of women to control their own bodies, woman's right to reproductive autonomy, and a right of sexual privacy. Indeed, it was in the midst of this controversy that the expression "freedom of choice" was used, probably for the first time, in its modern meaning by Lillian Harman writing from prison.

The Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled on the appeal of their convictions, was, in contrast, a deeply conservative and Christian group of men who were publicly known for their religious fidelity and who brought their religious feelings to bear in the case.

Thanks to the survival of both a substantial body of newspapers and the personal papers of the three justices who ruled on the appeal, it is possible to reconstruct a vivid account of this first skirmish in the American culture wars.

Regulating Work in the Antipodes, 1788-2007

Gordon John Anderson, Victoria University of Wellington, and Michael G. Quinlan, University of New South Wales, have posted The Changing Role of the State: Regulating Work Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand 1788-2007, which originally appeared in Labour History (November 2008).  Here is the abstract:
The state has played a conspicuous role in the history of labour in Australia and New Zealand both as a focus for struggles and where the labour movement achieved a degree of influence that garnered the interest of progressives in other countries. The state is a complex institution and its relationship to labour has been equally complex especially when the differential impacts on different groups such as women are considered. The principal aim of this paper is to trace state regulation of work arrangements (not only those pertaining to industrial relations) in both countries over the period of European presence. Although there are significant similarities, a number of differences are identified and we also try to indicate how recent research and debate on the historiography of the state can provide new insights.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Law and the Constitution: Antidote to Declining History Enrollments?

The Cornell Daily Sun discusses steps taken by Cornell's history department to reverse declining enrollment in its courses.  According to the story, one step was to create a minor.  Another was to offer "new 1000- and 2000-level courses intended to appeal specifically to freshman and sophomores."  One of these was “History of Law: Great Trials,” which drew over 100 students in its first offering.  In addition, Richard Polenberg agreed to revive his "American Constitutional Development" course.

New reviews from the Law & Politics Book Review

Readers may be interested in the latest batch of reviews from the Law & Politics Book Review.

Eric B. Easton (University of Baltimore School of Law) reviews The Free Press Crisis of 1800: Thomas Cooper's Trial for Seditious Libel (University of Kansas Press), by Peter Charles Hoffer ("due a prominent place among First Amendment case histories"). [here]

Stephen M. Feldman (University of Wyoming) reviews The Language of Law and the Foundations of American Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press), by Gary L. McDowell ("On the one hand, it is a brilliant history, meticulously researched, but on the other hand, it is marred by its blatant political goal."). [here]

Jeannine Bell (Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington) reviews Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells Us About Hate Speech (New York University Press), by Kevin W. Saunders (aiming "not just to demonstrate the similarities between these two types of speech, but also to suggest how examining the legal treatment of obscenity in the United States can guide the sanctioning of hate speech"). [here]

Michelle D. Deardorff (Jackson State University) reviews The Myth of American Religious Freedom (Oxford University Press), by David Sehat ("an engaging exploration of the continuous and seemingly irreconcilable debates over the meaning of the free exercise clauses found in the federal Constitution and in numerous state-governing documents"). [here]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Q & A with Lawrence Friedman: on essential readings in legal history

Note to readers: This is a part of a series of questions and answers with Lawrence Friedman. If you have a question you've wanted to ask him, please post it in a comment, or email me

Questions from Readers
Would love some legal reading recommendations from Lawrence Friedman. Any books that he thinks are essential for understanding US legal history? Thanks.

I second that comment, and would also ask for his recommendations on English legal history, if he has any.

Answers from Lawrence:   
It's hard to think of "essential" books for American legal history; and of course I don't dare mention any of mine.  I would say, Willard Hurst's Law and the Conditions of Freedom, his 1956 lectures.  In some ways it's dated; and in some ways so well accepted that a reader thinks, of course, what's the big deal; but I think a careful reading still is very worth while and useful. 
Controversial but terribly important:  Robert Gordon's article, "Critical Legal Histories." 
The field doesn't have many general syntheses-- there's mine, and Kermit Hall's-- but it's really rich in excellent books on various subjects.  I always find Stuart Banner's work intriguing and thought provoking; and his latest book, on property law, is especially good.  I could list books I particularly liked but it would be a long list, and people I left out could feel insulted.  The field is in great shape, in many ways.  But very little is "essential" in the sense that I think the question intends.
British legal history:  here I nominate Douglas Hay, Albion's Fatal Tree.  A model of brilliant and insightful history.  And then there's always Pollock and Maitland.

Yale Legal History Forum

Here's the line-up for the year's Legal History Forum at the Yale Law School:

FALL 2011:

Thursday, September 22
Naomi Lamoreaux, Yale University, Department of Economics and History

Tuesday, October 25
Mark Weiner, Rutgers School of Law

Tuesday, November 15
Melinda Miller, University States Naval Academy


Tuesday, February 7
Daniel Hulsebosch, New York University School of Law

Tuesday, February 28
James Masschaele, Rutgers University, Department of History

Tuesday, April 10
Allison LaCroix, University of Chicago Law School

 The above simply represents the legal history presented at Yale in the Legal History Forum.  Two historians will be presenting this fall in Yale's Legal Theory Workshop: Clifford Ando (University of Chicago Classics) and Mary Dudziak (USC Law and History). 

Yablon on Madison's Full Faith and Credit Clause

Madison's Full Faith and Credit Clause: A Historical Analysis has just been posted by Charles M. Yablon, Yeshiva University, Cardozo School of Law.  It appears in the Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 1, p. 125, 2011.  Here's the abstract:
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) created a new wave of interest in the Full Faith and Credit Clause and its apparent contradictions. Important recent scholarship has shown that American lawyers in the eighteenth century often viewed the term “full faith and credit” as referring to an evidentiary rule. This interpretation ameliorates, but does not actually resolve, the apparent conflict between the first sentence of the Clause, which seems to create a mandatory rule of sister state deference, and the second sentence of the Clause, which seems to give Congress plenary power to abrogate that rule. Rather than seek a chimerical general understanding of the Clause, this Article focuses on James Madison to provide a new and strikingly different historical account of the creation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. It shows how the Full Faith and Credit Clause was part of a broader plan by Madison and others to curb the ability of states to take acts that were harmful to one another and to the nation, particularly those which, by interfering with vested contract and property rights, jeopardized the country’s economic well-being. Madison purposely sought a Clause that would embody a vague but dynamic deference obligation that could be increased by Congress over time.

Madison’s actions and writings regarding the Full Faith and Credit Clause strongly suggest that he would have considered congressional actions to weaken or abrogate existing deference obligations not just unwise and unjust, but unconstitutional. Unlike powers which appropriately belonged to the federal legislature irrespective of how they were exercised, Madison’s justification for the powers granted under the second sentence of the Clause was based on how Madison expected those powers to be used, namely, to “provide for the harmony and proper intercourse among the states.” What emerges from this analysis is a picture of the Full Faith and Credit Clause that has significant similarities to the “one way ratchet” interpretation which has been used to argue that the DOMA is unconstitutional, but one in which the presumed constraints on congressional action are the product of national interest, political virtue, and natural law as well as the language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Davies on the Generosity of David Dudley Field

Ross E. Davies, George Mason University School of Law, has published The Judiciary Funded: The Generosity of David Dudley Field in Green Bag 2d, 14 (Summer 2011): 433-452, and on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Library of Congress
In mid-1894, shortly after the death of David Dudley Field (one of the most powerful and famous, and least-loved, American lawyers of the 19th century), lawyer-journalist Irving Browne published an implausibly laudatory anecdote about Field, based on a letter in which Field claimed to have engaged in a longstanding act of secret philanthropy that was wholly out of character. An experienced observer of public affairs in 1894, or in 2011, surely could be forgiven for doubting the veracity of such a self-serving, out-of-character story, told only posthumously by a friendly journalist, and with no evidence to back it up. The Gilded Age was, after all, a time when politicians and power-mongers like Field could rely on select reporters and editors to serve as virtual publicists – mixing innuendo with truths, half-truths, and non-truths (often supplied by unidentified sources) in news stories that boosted their favorites. Neither Browne nor anyone else seems to have made any effort to verify Field’s story, even though there were seemingly easy ways to do so. It is perhaps for those reasons that Browne’s parable of the secretly saintly David Dudley Field, revealed only post-mortem in all the glory of his selfless kindness and generosity, was largely ignored at the time and has been ever since. But the story is true, or true at least as to Field’s initial generosity. And there is evidence to back it up.

Justice as a Sign of the Law

[Here, courtesy of the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog, is word of a new exhibit.  Five items are now viewable on-line.  This link will bring up all the posted installments at any given moment.]

How is it that the figure of a woman, draped, holding scales and sword, has been so widely recognized as a symbol of the law for more than 500 years?

This question is at the heart of the latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library's Rare Book Collection: "The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law."  Using images from books printed between 1497 and 1788, the exhibit traces the roots of the iconography of Justice, a remnant of the Renaissance, that remains legible today. The exhibit features eleven volumes from the Law Library's Rare Book Collection, along with four emblem books on loan from Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The shifting attributes of Justice, displayed in the exhibit, reflect the complex relationships between judgment, sight, knowledge, and wisdom. In the 1400s and 1500s, a blindfold on Justice signified her disability; today the blindfold is commonly understood as a sign of justice's impartiality.

The exhibit is curated by Judith Resnik (Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School), Dennis Curtis (Clinical Professor of Law Emeritus, Yale Law School), Allison Tait (Gender Equity & Policy Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Women Faculty Forum), and Mike Widener (Rare Book Librarian). The exhibit draws heavily on Resnik's & Curtis' new book, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (Yale University Press, 2011).

The exhibit is on display through December 16, 2011 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street. It is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Love, Leadership, and Bad Behavior: This Week in the Book Pages

The one that caught my eye in the New York Times Sunday Book Review was Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown and Co.), by biographer Mary Gabriel.  From the review:
It gives an entertaining and balanced portrait of Marx, Engels, their colorful milieu of exiles, freaks and revolutionaries, and the little-known Marx family, dominated by Karl’s political obsession. It also details illicit love affairs, the deaths of children and financial struggles, all based on vast research and narrated with empathetic passion. At the same time, it is too long by 200 pages and often undermined by flagrantly purple throbbings, minor mistakes and portentous overegging.
The NYT gives top billing, however, to Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now (Free Press), by Touré.

Here's the first paragraph of the review, by Orlando Patterson:
Much has been written on the benefits that accrued to the generation of African-Americans reaping the rewards of the civil rights revolution. But we have heard surprisingly little from those in the post-civil-rights age about what these benefits have meant to them, and especially how they view themselves as black people in an America now led by a black president. In his new book, Touré’s aim is to provide an account of this “post-black” condition, one that emerged only in the 1980s but by the ’90s had become the “new black.”
Patterson describes the book as "one of the most acutely observed accounts of what it is like to be young, black and middle-class in contemporary America," and the author's voice as "often humorous, occasionally wary and defensive, but always intensely engaging." For more on the book, listen to the podcast, here.

Also reviewed: film critic Roger Ebert's memoir (here), and Laurence Bergreen's biography of Christopher Columbus (here).

In the Wall Street Journal book pages, you'll find a review of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics (PublicAffairs), by political scientists Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith (here). It is "a lucidly written, shrewdly argued meditation on how democrats and dictators preserve political authority." Here's a bit more:
One might presume that a badly handled natural disaster greatly shortens time in office. It does—but only in democracies. Dictators, the authors argue, should view mass death by natural disaster as good politics. This is a jarring assertion, but consider that the higher the death toll in a democracy, the less likely an incompetent government is to be re-elected. The higher the death toll in an autocracy, however, the more money leaders can extract from foreign governments and aid agencies, money that is then used to strengthen the position of government loyalists.
Also in the WSJ: reviews of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution (Quirk), by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese (here); and Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 (Knopf), by Paul Hendrickson (here).

The Washington Post covers The Magnificent Medills: America's Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor (Harper), by Megan McKinney, and Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson (Knopf), by Amanda Smith.  Critic Jonathan Yardley describes the first as a "good book about Joseph Medill and his descendants," "predatory newspaper barons whose influence on American journalism was considerably more malign than salubrious." The second is "a rather less good book about Medill’s granddaughter," who in Yardley's view was hardly the "titan" claimed.

Also reviewed in the Post:

Journalist Ron Suskind's Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (Harper). The review is mixed ("In the end, I wondered if the author himself were the real confidence man, the ultimate untrustworthy narrator.").

Nassir Ghaemi's "psychological history," A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness (Penguin Press).  According to the review, Ghaemi uses profiles of eight arguably mentally ill leaders and a control group of "normal" ones to argue that "[i]n times of crisis, we are better off being led" by the former than the latter. 

This week the New Republic covers Steven Brill's Class Warfare (Simon and Schuster). In reviewer Richard Kahlenberg's estimation:
Brill’s portrait of school reform in America is highly seductive. It would be very nice to believe that if only unions would get out of the way, we could make enormous strides with fairly simple changes in school governance and human capital policies. But like the film Waiting for Superman before it, Class Warfare is highly misleading and often simplistic.
For other reviews, see our earlier round-ups, here and here.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, you'll find coverage of Hughes After Howard (Sea Hills Press), an insider's account of Hughes Aircraft Co. after the departure of its eccentric founder.  According to the review, the book should appeal to historians, scientists, and engineers.

Also covered: American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (Knopf), by Michael Kazin (here).

A new issue of the New York Review of Books is out. Mark Danner's essay "After September 11: Our State of Exception" is open access. Subscribers may also want to check out Russell Baker's "Anarchists and Capitalists," a review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (Yale University Press), by Vivian Gornick, and The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century (Random House), by Scott Miller. 

There is some good stuff in the Nation this week. Subscribers may read "The Truth About the Civil War," by Eric Foner ("Too many Americans have fallen prey to narratives that erase the role of slavery in the war’s origins and legacy.") and Aziz Rana's take on Malcolm X, by Manning Marable ("A biographer's flawed attempt to rediscover the politics in the decidedly political life of Malcolm X.").

The UK magazine History Today offers short reviews of The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327 (Oxford University Press), by J. R. Maddicott (here); Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and the Legends (Jonathan Cape), by Tom Segev (here); and The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Belknap Press), by Daniel Blatman (trans. Chaya Galai) (here), among others.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Round-Up

  • An on-line exhibit of the portraits of the judges of the District Court for the District of Columbia is now available here.
The Weekend Round-Up is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Hartog to Deliver Inaugural Lecture at Oregon Law

Our friends at Oregon Law write that Hendrik Hartog, the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty, professor of history, and director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University, will serve as the inaugural distinguished lecturer for the Law, Culture and Humanities Initiative. His visit will take place on September 28 and 29 and culminate in a presentation from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Knight Library Browsing Room, on his forthcoming book, Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age.

To attend or for further information, please contact or

Look for the complete schedule of Oregon's Law, Culture, and Humanities Initiative in the near future.  The initiative "provides opportunities for faculty to integrate humanistic-based studies with the study of law, and to explore the increasingly diverse and rich scholarships in areas that include (but are not limited to) legal history, law and political science, law and literature, law and anthropology, and law and philosophy."

FDR's Inner Circle: The Webcast

Tomorrow, from 2:00 on, you may listen live, via this link, to a webcast of a forum, "FDR's Inner Circle: Domestic Policy," at the Henry A. Wallace Center at FDR Presidential Library.
The program's panelists include Alan Chartock (moderator), President and CEO, WAMC, Northeast Public Radio; Adam Cohen, author of "Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America"; Linda Lotridge Levin, author of "The Making of FDR: The Story of Stephen T. Early, America's First Modern Press Secretary"; Joseph E. Persico, Historian and Franklin D. Roosevelt biographer; Allida Black, Executive Editor, fdr4freedoms Digital Initiative and Board of Governors, Roosevelt Institute; and Ellen Chesler, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute and former Director, Eleanor Roosevelt Initiative on Women and Public Policy, Hunter College.

Friday, September 23, 2011

DC Area Legal History Roundtable

The D.C. Area Legal History Roundtable is an informal gathering of scholars who live or work in and around Washington, D.C. It first met in 2006 at George Washington University Law School and later at the law schools of American University, Catholic University of America, George Mason, and Georgetown University, as well as at the Federal Judicial Center.  The George Mason University School of Law is hosting this semester's session, to be held Friday, October 14, from 12 noon to 4 pm.  We hear the following from Adam Mossoff, who is sharing the the organizational honors with Ross Davies and Joyce Malcolm:
"Among the confirmed speakers and commentators is Clare Cushman, editor of the Journal of Supreme Court History, who will be discussing her forthcoming book, Courtwatchers: Eyewitness Accounts in Supreme Court History (Rowman & Littlefield).  Lyle Denniston from SCOTUSBlog  and Todd Peppers (Roanoke College) will comment on Ms. Cushman's presentation.  In a law and war panel, Paul Halliday (University of Virginia) will be discussing his widely heralded research into how the writ of habeas corpus was employed in English cases from 1500-1800 and Jeffrey Morrison (Regent University) will be speaking on George Washington and warfare.  John Yoo (UC-Berkeley) may also come, schedule permitting, to speak on military commissions in the Reconstruction Era, a topic of which he has addressed in his scholarship.  Lastly, in the history of intellectual property panel, Tomas Gomez-Arostegui (Lewis & Clark Law School, visiting George Washington University) will be speaking on the development of copyright doctrines at common law and Joshua Miller, a recent LLM graduate from George Washington University, will present his research into the historical understanding of the Copyright and Patent Clause in the Constitution."
For more information, please contact Professor Mossoff at

Q & A with Lawrence Friedman: on collaborating

Note to readers: This is a part of a series of questions and answers with Lawrence Friedman. If you have a question you've wanted to ask him, please post it in a comment, or email me

Question from Karen Tani:  I've noticed that in addition to writing his own major works, he has co-authored a fair amount over the years. This strikes me as unusual for a historian.  I'd like to know his view on when collaboration is fruitful for a historian, why he thinks more people don't do it, and what he enjoyed about writing with other scholars.

Answer from Lawrence:
On collaboration:  I've always enjoyed working with other people.  You have to distinguish between collaborating with students-- after all, you can tell them what to do, and you as the senior author have what Hollywood directors call "final cut-- and working with colleagues, where you have to treat your co-author as an equal (which he or she usually is). 
I've done both kinds of collaboration; and found them profitable.  Obviously, it depends on who you collaborate with.  Some people can be very difficult, and you have to choose carefully.  But I feel I learn a lot from my collaborators; and it really does make the work easier in some cases.
A lot of my work is mildly quantitative; and student help is extremely useful; they're good at numbers, and they can do the heavy lifting, so to speak. 
Why don't historians collaborate?  You know, I never thought about it; but I realize now that they don't, because I can't think of my books in our field that are collaborations (other than source-books).  I think historians might collaborate if they worked more (as some of course do) in the law and society tradition.  But there's also a general reluctance, which frankly I don't understand completely.  Law professors also shy away from collaboration.  Maybe they're afraid people will think the other guy had all the bright ideas.  There's no particular credit for collaborating in the legal academy.  Yet in the hard sciences, collaboration is the norm.