Monday, January 11, 2010
Off to the Big AppleAs the Supreme Court gets back in action today, so too do most law school semesters. And this Spring, I am a visiting professor at Fordham Law School in NYC. I hope to find time to blog about a few sentencing issues specific to the Big Apple, though I doubt my work in this cyber space will be nearly as different as my work in real space over the next few month.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Will any new electronic device be especially blog-friendly?
I am going to go off-topic just a bit to seek reader reflection on whether any of the new and in-development mobile electronic devices seem especially blog-friendly for blog authors and blog readers. I love both my (first-generation) Amazon Kindle and also my new Droid, but neither device makes blog posting easy or enjoyable. And though I can read others' blogs on both devices, I also much prefer blog reading on a traditional PC.
Thus, as I read this new New York Times piece headlined "A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing," I find myself particularly interested and concerned about whether any new form of electronics will be distinctively blog-friendly. Here is the start of the NYT piece:
You’ve heard of Amazon.com’s Kindle. And you probably know that Apple is likely to introduce a tablet computer this year. Soon you may also be hearing about the Alex, the Que proReader and the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid.
Those products are part of a new wave of slender touch-screen tablets and electronic reading devices that dozens of companies, both well known and unknown, brought to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
Some of these gadgets allow people to read for long periods of time without eye strain and without killing the batteries. Others focus on allowing their owners to surf the Web, watch video and play casual games without being tethered to a bulky laptop and its traditional keyboard.
“There are a billion and a half Internet users on the planet today, and a lot of them are primarily using it for entertainment and social networking,” said Glen Burchers, director of global consumer segment marketing at Freescale, a chip company hoping to power the new tablets. “The PC does a good job on a lot of things, but it’s just not the ideal device for surfing the Internet or reading.”
Perhaps because I am old and have a status quo bias, I do think it is the case that the PC right now is the best way to both write and read blogs. But perhaps readers have others experiences, and I hope folks will share thoughts on this tech-topic.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Could commentor Supremacy Claus really be . . . Ralph Nader?I am pretty sure the answer to the question in the title of this post is "no," though this new piece in The Connecticut Law Tribune perhaps suggests that a (too) frequent commentor on this blog and famed activist Ralph Nader have more views in common than one might readily assume. The article is headlined "Ralph Nader Calls Out Legal Profession," and here is how it begins:
A University of Connecticut School of Law moot courtroom was a fitting setting last month, as consumer activist, politician and lawyer Ralph Nader sought to put the legal profession on trial.
Warrantless eavesdropping, the war in Iraq, corporate wrongdoing -- Nader is a man with quite a few bones to pick. But his chief complaint was that America's lawyers have done too little to stand in the way of government policies he labeled unconstitutional. He noted the strong reaction of Pakistan's lawyers last year when that country's leader threatened the integrity of its justice system. "Did you see our beloved profession up in arms here?" Nader asked. "Lawyers in Pakistan were marching. Where were our lawyers?"
The UConn law school chapters of the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild brought Nader, a Winsted native, to Hartford. The event drew roughly 100 law students, as Nader urged future jurists to observe a duty beyond zealous representation of their clients. "A lawyer's role is to look out for the administration of justice," he said.
Nader placed much of the blame on America's system of legal education, which he said has spent too much time teaching substantive law and too little encouraging students to think critically about why the law is what it is.
This last sentiment which I have highlighted seems quite similar to a key theme in many of Supremacy Claus's (too) frequent rants.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Orin Kerr gamely (and finally) admits that blogs can be legal scholarship
Way back in 2006, I had the joy of participating in an exciting conference at Harvard Law School entitled "Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship." The papers for the conference, which were all absolutely fascinating, can still be accessed here. In my contribution, which was titled "Scholarship in Action: The Power, Possibilities, and Pitfalls for Law Professor Blogs," I made the argument that blogs can be a new and useful form of legal scholarship. But Orin Kerr was part of a group of "traditionalists" who contended that, though valuable for other purposes, blogs were not (and should not be seen as) a form of legal scholarship.
I remind everyone of this history of blogs as scholarship debate as a prelude to linking to Orin's new post here titled "Rethinking Blogging-as-Scholarship." Here is part of Orin's game admission of a (partial?) change of heart:
Fast forward to the present, and I now think my old self was wrong. Or at least a bit off. I now think blogging actually does provide an effective way to present new scholarly ideas in many cases. In this post, I want to explain why my view has changed.
The main reason my view has changed is that I think the legal academic culture has changed. In the past five years, legal blogs have become an acknowledged and accepted part of the world of legal scholarship. Exactly why is open to debate. It might be because more law professors are blogging. It might be because our experience has been that what profs say on their blogs is usually the same as what they say in their articles. Perhaps the new online journal supplements have blurred the traditional paper-vs-on-line distinction. Whatever the reason, there seems to be more of a convergence between scholarly blogging and “traditional” law review articles today than existed 4 or 5 years ago. That convergence encourages more scholarly blogging and recognizes its value.
Citations in the Westlaw JLR database are an imperfect metric, but they tend to confirm the change. Consider the number of times that the phrase “Volokh Conspiracy” and/or “volokh.com” appeared in the database. (Usually, although not always, these phrases reflect a citation to a particular post appearing in a law journal.) In 2005, the phrases appeared 24 times in the JLR database. The year 2009 isn’t over yet, with roughly 20–30% of issues schedule for a 2009 publication not yet out and on Westlaw. Still, the phrases have appeared 108 times so far in the JLR database. That’s a lot of cites. Out of curiosity, I did a quick check of my own citations — vain, sure, but at least to an interesting end — and I would estimate that about 25% of the citations to my own work in the last year have been to my blog posts rather than traditional journal articles.
In short, I think we’re seeing a shift in how law professors and legal journal editors view blogs. The old lines have blurred. Blogs have become a significant part of the scholarly conversation. I didn’t expect this to happen, at least so soon. And I don’t know whether the trend will continue. But I think the trend is a real one.
The commentors to Orin's post usefully note that it seems what has really changed is how blogs are perceived as much as whether this medium of expression has changed. Thus, I will stick to my view that thoughtful blogs always were (or could be) a form of scholarship, just like any other form of communication can be a form of scholarship if deployed effectively to that end.
Though I share Orin's sense that the perception of blogs have evolved in recent years, I have been largely disappointed that blog technology has not advanced much to better enable blogging to serve as a truly sophisticated and effective academic medium. In my "Scholarship in Action" article, I urged the development of new forms of on-line collaboration like wikis and other means to further improve on-line legal idea development, but such technologies have been slow to take hold. Instead, society has been drawn to short-attention-span on-line media like Facebook and Twitter, neither of which seem capable of supporting the thoughtful and in-depth development of ideas that are often an essential aspect of true scholarship.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
SL&P honored again by ABA Journal
I am pleased and honored to report that this blog has once again been selected as one of the ABA Journal's Blawg 100. The ABAJ's annual list of the best of the blawgosphere appears in the December issue of the magazine, and is available online at this link. Here is how the ABA Journal kindly describes this blog: "A perennial favorite, Sentencing Law and Policy doesn’t disappoint. Ohio State law prof Douglas Berman offers daily sophisticated reviews of cases in the news and headed for the spotlight."
In addition to thanking the ABA Journal for giving me this honor now for the third year in a row, I also want to thanks all the readers and commentors who keep helping me find the energy (and often the insights) to keep this blog going. I doubt I would have expected to still be blogging so much five years after Blakely and Booker first made this space so exciting; it is quite clear to me that I now maintain this blog largely because I greatly enjoy the engagement, and learn so much, from readers and commentators concerning the array of topics I discuss.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Trying out the Droid
I got a new toy today: the new Droid phone. And this post is a test of Droid-blogging.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Blogger being prosecuted for threatening judges gets transfer and restricted bailThis new article from the National Law Journal, which is headlined "Blogger Charged With Threatening 7th Circuit Judges Gets Home Confinement," reports on the latest developments in a notable federal criminal case:
U.S. District Judge Donald Walter has ordered the release of Internet blogger and Web talk show host Hal Turner, who was arrested in June for declaring in an online posting that three Chicago-based federal judges "deserve to be killed."
Turner is on his way back to his home state of New Jersey after Walter decided in a Wednesday conference call meeting with lawyers that Turner could be released under "strict conditions," including a prohibition on his speaking to the media, home confinement and electronic monitoring, said Michael Oroczo, who represents Turner. He said his client was currently in the U.S. Marshal Service's custody in Oklahoma City as he's being transferred to New Jersey....
The release order by Walter, a U.S. district judge from Western Louisiana who was assigned the case to avoid potential bias, runs counter to a decision made last month by Chicago-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Ashman, who found that Turner should remain in custody until his trial. It's not clear if a bond amount was set for the release.
Turner was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago with threatening to assault and murder three judges in retaliation for a June 2 decision they made. In a Web posting the same day, Turner called the 7th Circuit ruling, which declined to overturn laws banning handguns in Chicago and a nearby suburb, an "outrage" and said that the judges behind the decision "deserve to be killed." The judges who decided the case were Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Richard Posner and Judge William Bauer. In a second posting on June 3, Turner provided the names, work addresses, phone numbers and photos of the judges.
Walter last week also allowed Turner's case to be transferred to the Eastern District of New York, granting his request for a change of venue from Chicago to Brooklyn. Walter granted the venue change partly because he agreed the defendant would have a harder time getting a fair trial in Chicago where there was significant media coverage of the 2005 murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's mother and husband.
Turner said in his postings that federal judges in Chicago hadn't gotten "the hint" from those killings. "Memories are not so short as to erase the event from the public mind," Walter wrote in a Sept. 8 decision. "On balance, it is this court's opinion that granting the motion would best serve, not only justice, but the appearance of justice.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A great new blog for resources on criminal informants, aka snitches
CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff has done ground-breaking work on criminal informants in articles and a book, and I am pleased to learn that she has now brought her expertise to the webvia a new blog called Snitching Blog. An introductory post here provides details of the project:
Snitching Blog is about a part of our criminal system that most people know little or nothing about: criminal informants, or snitches. At any given moment, thousands of informants are trying to work off their own criminal liability by giving information to the government. These informants may be in court, in prison, on the street, or in the workplace. Police and prosecutors often rely heavily on information obtained from snitches — especially in drug enforcement but also in white collar crime, organized crime, and terrorism investigations. In fact, it is impossible to fully understand the U.S. legal system without understanding snitching. Nevertheless, there is very little public information available about this important public policy. That's where Snitching Blog comes in.
This blog does a bunch of things. It discusses how snitching works — on paper and in reality. It provides resources to individuals, lawyers, law enforcment, and legislators — check out the links on the left. It covers current events and news stories. And it lets you share your own experiences by posting a "Testimonial" — click on the link at the right.
Looks like I have another regular must-read to add to my blog browsing, especially since so many big sentencing cases have a snitching element. For example, Sasha has this recent post on the Troy Davis case, titled "Troy Davis Gets a Hearing — Recantation Redux."
Monday, August 17, 2009
The re-leaunch of CrimProf blog
I am pleased to be able to report on an exciting new development in the climinal law blogosphere. Here is the news (with links) from an e-mail I received today from Professor Kevin Cole:
My CrimProf colleagues here at the University of San Diego School of Law — Larry lexander, Don Dripps, Yale Kamisar, Adam Kolber, and Jean Ramirez — and I are happy to report that we have re-launched the CrimProf blog. You can find our introductory post here and can access the entire site at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/.
We hope to continue the efforts of the blog’s previous editors to make this site a valuable resource for criminal law and procedure teachers. Please send comments and content suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to receive daily email updates about new postings on the blog, you can “subscribe” by going to the blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/ and entering your email address in the column at the left under the heading “News Readers and Feeds."
The "new" CrimProf blog already has lots of new content, including links to lots of new criminal law papers appearing on SSRN. I made a regular habit of checking the "old" CrimProf blog, and now I suspect that site will be a daily must-read.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Who will get the first e-book into the law school classroom?
Thanks to this post by Jonathan Alder at Volokh, I see from this article that Case Western Reserve University will soon have students in certain classes getting their their textbooks via the Amazon Kindles. This Wall Street Journal report explains that Amazon "on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers." Here's more:
Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school's chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.
The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. The Kindle's current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as "experimental." Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.
Over at Law School Innovation, we have been talking about Kindle and other e-readers in the law school classroom for almost two years already (see 2007 posts here and here and here). From the get go, I have never doubt that e-books would eventually take over the law-school classroom. Because of the extraordinary costs and inconveniences of traditional law school casebooks, the issue in my view has always been, not whether e-books become common, but rather just when and exactly how they will enter the law school classroom.
Cross-posted at LSI
UPDATE: The new Kindle, known as the Kindle DX, can be seen in the picture above, and this report on its launch highlights why e-books are the future and also has a great quote from my former OSU College of Law colleague (who is now a tech rock-star):
Bezos reminded the assembled journalists at this week's launch event that the Amazon Kindle will soon be able to offer "every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."
"Eighteen months ago, we launched Kindle, and at the time we had 90,000 books available for Kindle. (We had) 230,000 books just three months ago when we launched Kindle 2," Bezos said. "We've added another 45,000 books in just the last three months. We're actually accelerating."
"The display is 2 and a half times the size of the Kindle 2," added Bezos, adding that with the "Built in PDF reader, you never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll. You just read." Also, rather niftily (just as with Apple's iPhone), "You just rotate the device and you go to widescreen mode."...
"Textbooks shine with this display," Bezos continued, telling the assembled crowd in NYC that he was "excited to announce today that we've reached an agreement with three leading textbook publishers."
As for students, Bezos confirmed that they already have five universities involved in piloting the Kindle DX this autumn, welcoming in Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve to give her own opinions on the new electronic textbook.
"We believe this will revolutionize learning," said Snyder. "As a research university, we're bound to test our hypothesis -- will the Kindle change how students work? We're going to look at these questions. To all the reporters here, can you imagine what it would be like to craft your story using paper, a typewriter, white out?"
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Too much of a good thing at the new site The Legal Workshop?
I am pleased to report on a new scholarly on-line project (which I hope will evolve to better achieve its laudatory goals). The project is the Legal Workshop, and here is its basic mission statement:
The Legal Workshop is a website providing a single online forum for cutting-edge legal scholarship from the top law journals in the country....
The Legal Workshop features “op-ed” versions of the articles published by the member journals. These concise and lively pieces are written for a generalist audience, combining the best elements of print and online publication.
Each Legal Workshop Editorial undergoes the same rigorous editorial treatment and quality screening as the journals’ print content, but readers are able to offer comments and esteemed academics have the option of submitting response pieces, which are checked for citations and substance.
By aggregating the work of multiple law reviews, The Legal Workshop is able to provide frequently updated content. New article-based content is posted every Monday and most Wednesdays and Fridays. The Legal Workshop provides a one-stop forum for readers wishing to stay abreast of contemporary legal scholarship.
Larry Solum has a terrific early analysis here, which includes these three spot-on reactions:
First, the basic idea of creating an outlet for short-form legal scholarship is to be applauded....
Second, I am a bit skeptical of the ambitious claims in the press release about reaching "the general public."...
Third, I am also skeptical about potential for the format of "The Legal Workshop" to produce pieces that will directly influence practitioners -- lawyers and judges, who are most interested in descriptive doctrinal scholarship.
The fact that there is currently only this single criminal law piece now posted on the site, and that it runs nearly 4000 words and proposes a radical change to modern habeas law, confirms all that Larry has to say about this new project. It is great to have a short-form version of this 70-page habeas article from the Duke Law Review, but I doubt that either the general public or practitioners are going to find the short-form version much more useful and accessible than the long form version.
Plus, on a very practical level, I will be much less likely to cite the short-form version of the article inbecause its cite form -- which much include this cumbersome URL: http://legalworkshop.org/2009/03/18/habeas-corpus-and-state-sentencing-reform-a-story-of-unintended-consequences -- is much longer than the cite form for the full article.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Off-line while participating in Stanford Law Review symposium about media
Ironically, I may be off-line and unable to comment on media, justice and the law for a little while because I am participating the Stanford Law Review's symposium on "Media, Justice, and the Law." The details of the event are here and here. All of the papers written for the event are really interesting; I am looking forward to an exciting event and I think a webcast should be available here.
Friday, January 02, 2009
In praise of How Appealing (and a call for more criminal justice blogs in 2009)
I suspect that all fans of the legal blogosphere already know that they must make regular stops at How Appealing to keep up with all the legal news that's worth following. But Howard Bashman's most recent two posts, both which hit on sentencing topics I likely cannot give their due, reminds me of how essentially he remains to my ability to keep up with the sentencing news of note. Here are the two posts, with titles drawn from notable major newspaper headlines:
- "Long Held in Capital Case, Man Sues to Get a Lawyer"
In addition to wanting to again praise Howard for all he does to make my life easier, I also wanted to use this post as an opportunity to encourage any and every sentencing fans and/or potential bloggers to consider starting a new criminal justice blog in 2009.
Though blogging my now seem old hat, the fact remains that many smaller criminal justice issues would be well-served by a focused blog. Recent entrants to this part of the blogosphere — sites like Pardon Power and Sex Crimes — have been so valuable and successful not only because of the insights and energies of their authors, but also because there are so many criminal justice topics that can and should be covered by smart folks from so many different perspectives.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I would like to thank the ABA, Justices and judges, sentencing commissions, criminals and their lawyers....
Of course, it is an honor just to be nominated. But, since nominations were not ever made public, it is more exciting to win again a place on the ABA's list of the best legal blogs. This poston the ABA's blog, titled "50 New Sites Make 2nd Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100," provides the basic back story:
On our second annual list of the best legal blogs, just half of last year’s honorees make a return appearance.
What explains the high turnover? For one thing, every day new legal blogs are started, and some existing blogs—including some that appeared on last year’s list—cease to be updated regularly. Plus, some of the upstart blogs are just plain better than some that made the cut last year.
This year, blogs that aren’t updated at least weekly—no matter how interesting—often didn’t make the grade. We put a premium on blogs that broke news in 2008, or were among the first to provide trenchant analysis of one or more breaking legal news stories.
All kidding aside, I am grateful and honored that the folks at ABA put this blog on its Top 100 list in the crime category for the second year in a row. The full list of the ABA Journal Blawg 100 can be accessed at this link, where one can also find links to some fun blog feature stories.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The law blogosphere continues to grow...
with the appearance of the Marquette University Law School faculty blog. I will be following this blog regularly, in part because I expect Professor Michael O’Hear to post with some regularity on federal criminal justice matters. In fact, he already has this post on the recent Carter case, titled "A Galling Case in the Seventh Circuit," which ends with these potent insights:
Those who practice criminal law in the federal courts will find much to interest them in Carter (for instance, the discussion of the use of comparative statistics in litigating sentences) but what strikes me most deeply about the case is the way it illustrates the crazy disproportionality of the federal criminal justice system. We live in a odd world when two years in prison is regarded as an extraordinary act of mercy for a first-time, nonviolent offender whose crime was largely technical in nature. It is odder still to realize that the sentencing guidelines called for more than seven years in this case–especially considering that the average sentence for violent felonies in this country is only about six years (which also happens to be about what Mr. Carter–the real crook in the story–received). Why the Department of Justice felt it would be a good use of taxpayer resources to appeal Carter’s sentence (and, if successful, to imprison her for seven years) is a mystery–this seems to me a case of carrying an attractive abstract principle (sentences should be imposed in a uniform, objective manner) to absurd lengths.
Those interested in law professor blogging also will want to check out this post, titled "Teaching, Scholarship, Service … and Blogging? Decanal Encouragement of Law Faculty Blogging."
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Reflections on the (criminal justice) blawgosphere
Here are three very interesting and thought-provoking posts about the history and state of the blawgosphere from the "practical blawgosphere":
- From Simple Justice, Are Law Professors Afraid of the Practical Blawgosphere?
- From CrimLaw, A Brief History of Blogging: Is It a LawProf's World?
- from Simple Justice, Is This What They Think of Criminal Defense Lawyers?
These posts all suggest, directly or indirectly, that there is a big divide between the blogs and blogging habits of law professors and practicing lawyers. Of course, there is a huge divide between the day-to-day work and responsibilities of law professors and practicing lawyers, but I love the blawgosphere in part because it has always seemed by a terrific cyber-meeting-space for the academy and the bar (as well as the bench and law students and non-lawyers).
Indeed, I have generally believed that most (though not all) of the law professors who blog are much more interested in the day-to-day work of practicing lawyers than most of their academic colleagues. Similarly, I have generally assumed that most (though not all) of the practicing lawyers who blog are much more interested in academic perspectives and debates over broad legal ideas than most of their practicing colleagues. In other words, I generally views most law bloggers, whether profs of practitioners, as birds of a feather.
But the posts above have led me to seriously question my assumptions about the blawgosphere (though as my posts title spotlights, my focus and hands-on knowledge is only within and among criminal justice blogs). Do readers generally see relative harmony or a big divide between bloggers in the academy and in the bar?
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Tangled up in cites
Over at Race to the Bottom, Jay Brown has this very kind and cool post, headlined "Law Blogs v. Rockers: CItations in Court Opinions." Riffing off this list from the New York Times, which details court citation counts from renown rock-n-rollers, the post puts me in terrific rock-poet company.
Early one mornin' the sun was shinin', I was surfin' the webWond'ring if courts had changed at all, if their cites were still dead--Some folks they said all the posts together, sure was gonna be roughThey never did like cyber-scholarship, using new tech wasn't snooty enough--And I kept bloggin' all the sentencing issues, cases fallin' in my sightsKeeping up with the Justices, lord knows I've not been always right,Tangled up in cites.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Will Our Courts game include sentencing (and have a Wii version)?
As detailed in this Reuters article, the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court has now "unveiled a videogame project ... to teach children how courts work, saying she wanted to counter partisan criticism that judges are 'godless' activists." Here are more details:
Sandra Day O'Connor, 78, who served as U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1981 until her retirement in 2006, said she never imagined she would be asked to address a conference about digital gaming. She said she got involved with developing the project called "Our Courts" out of concern over public ignorance about the judiciary and partisan attacks on what should be an independent institution....
She said the only way to preserve an independent judiciary was through public education, which she said was failing to produce citizens with enough knowledge about the three branches of U.S. government -- legislative, executive and judicial. The Our Courts project will have two parts, O'Connor said. The first is on online interactive civics program designed to be used by children from 7th to 9th grades either to supplement existing courses or as a distinct unit in the curriculum....
She said the web site at http://www.ourcourts.org/ should have some initial material by this September and be fully operational with interactive elements a year later.
The second part of the project will be for young people to use in their free time, O'Connor said, noting that studies showed children spend around 40 hours a week using media, including computers, television, videogames or music. "If we can capture just a little bit of that time to get them thinking about government and civic engagement rather than playing shoot-'em-up video games, that's a huge step in the right direction," she said.
The Our Courts website already has a lot of useful links, and I am very excited that Justice O'Connor see the opportunity and the value of innovative ways to share her wisdom and ensure the judiciary gets the respect it deserved. I look forward to watching this project develop (and will hope lots of sentencing content appears on-line, despite Justice O'Connor vocal opposition to the modern Apprendi-Blakely jurisprudence). Over at TalkLeft, T Chris has this fitting reaction to this news:
After kids learn how to steal cars by playing Grand Theft Auto IV, they can learn what happens after a car theft arrest by playing Our Courts.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
On Judge Nancy Gertner as blogger
Thanks to How Appealing, I discovered this Boston Globe article discussing federal judge Nancy Gertner's recent blogging Slate's Convictions blog. (Of course, regular readers know that Judge Gertner's many provocative and thoughtful sentencing opinions have long made great blog fodder.) Here are a few interesting snippets from the Globe article:
Gertner appears to be the only judge in Massachusetts who shares her unfiltered legal views in the blogosphere, according to officials in the federal and state judiciary. A favorite of the state's defense bar and plaintiffs' attorneys, and the bête noire of some in law enforcement, she is also the only jurist among nearly two dozen contributors to what Slate calls its "blogging destination for smart legal conversation and commentary."...
For the past nine years, she has also taught two courses on sentencing, one a semester, at Yale Law School, her alma mater, where she shares her insights in her characteristically chatty manner. So blogging, she says, is not a radical departure. "I saw this as the new media version of what I've always been doing," the former criminal defense lawyer said recently at her office at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse. "If this is where people are getting information, this is where we have to be."
Not everyone agrees. Bruce M. Selya, a senior judge on the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which reviews cases from Gertner's court, said he respects her and is sure she has thought out the potential ramifications of blogging. But he would never do it. "I think it would be a great strain on me to be careful not to say anything that could come back and make it seem like I prejudged a matter when it actually came before me," said Selya....
Gertner says judges are too often silent on issues they should publicly address, such as how federal sentencing guidelines have led to what she and other jurists consider unreasonably long prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders. Judges must also do a better job explaining why the judicial code forbids them from discussing cases, she said, because their silence after controversial rulings is misread as arrogance or cowardice.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Slate starts impressive (and confusing) new blog called "Convictions"
Ben Wittes, David Barron, Deb Pearlstein, Adam White, Dawn Johnson, Doug Kmiec, Diane Amann, Judge Nancy Gertner, Jack Balkin, Kenji Yoshino, Marty Lederman, Orin Kerr, Patrick Keefe, Eric Posner, Richard Ford, Tim Wu, Viet Dinh, Walter Dellinger, Dahlia Lithwick, Emily Bazelon, Phil Carter, and David Feige.
Though the content is already amazing, the blog's format and plans are quite confusing. Though I have seen two reports that the Convictions blog launched today, there are posts going back a week. In addition, what is right now the top post seems to just be "borrowed" from Jack Balkin's home blog, rather than "fresh" materials. And I cannot find any official list of contributors or any explanation of why Slate.com — which is already kind of bloggy — decided to start a group legal blog.
I have long been hoping that the "technological infrastructure" of blogs would improve and advance with new entrants, but Convictions seems to be a step back technologically. Still, this blog is clearly to be a must-read because of its participants. And, if the Slate folks ever decided to do a follow-up blog called Sentences, I hope I will be asked to join in the fun.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Where the bugged water cooler must reside
A couple of years ago, at a law blogger conference at Harvard Law School where folks debated the scholarly potential of blogs, Kate Litvak derisively described law professors blogs as a "bugged water cooler." As suggested by my paper for this conference, I have never thought much of this analogy; but this great-looking new group blog by law professors, because it is titled "The Faculty Lounge," makes me now think Litvak was perhaps on to something.
The Faculty Lounge, which is sub-titled "Conversations about law, culture, and academia," has a great group of contributors. Also, its first four category archives all involve topics dear to my heart: Blogs and Blogging, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Law School Hiring. I am already looking forward to frequently visiting TFL.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
My bloggy interview at LexBlog discussing start of OSJCL Amici
In this post at LexBlog, Rob La Gatta has put up an interview we did last week discussing, inter alia, how my blogging here (and the thoughtful comments of so many readers) inspired me to help create OSJCL Amici: Views from the Field. Here is this part of our Q and A:
Rob La Gatta: How did the idea for Views From The Field first develop?
Doug Berman: I’ve been blogging on my Sentencing Law & Policy Blog for a while, and have been inspired by the number of thoughtful practitioners who will say things in comments and through e-mails that give me really distinctive views on the federal sentencing world. Being involved with the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, I thought we ought to have an online supplement, one that avowedly focused on getting the perspective of thoughtful practitioners (rather than just providing opportunities for law professors to write smaller versions of longer ideas). That was the model.
I lucked out that there was a very capable student who had just joined the journal, who indicated an interest in getting involved in some new projects. He helped us run with it and put together a lot of the infrastructure. I’ve [also] been lucky — through my work on federal sentencing — to get to know a number of federal judges....I sent out an e-mail to a bunch of district judges and said "Hey, we’d like you to write for this." Fortunately, out of the 10 I wrote to, 4 not only wrote back, but actually wrote...and wrote really interesting stuff that, in a sense, comprised our first issue.
Monday, January 07, 2008
A shout-out to great blog work getting noticed
Scott Henson has started 2008 on fire at Grits for Breakfast, and some of the powers-that-be are taking note. Specificaly, on Friday in this post, titled "Court of Criminal Appeals Workload Declining under Judge Sharon Keller," Grits documented a caseload decline in Texas's highest criminal court and suggested that "CCA judges just don't work as hard as they used to." Within 48 hours, Grits had received and posted this thoughtful response from a judge on the court. This passage provide a flavor of the overall response:
The total number of petitions for discretionary review that were filed with the CCA in fiscal 2007 was 1,661. The court has no control over that number. Both defendants and the State have a statutory right to file such petitions. The Court granted 149 petitions–that is, it agreed to hear 149 new discretionary cases in 2007. By comparison, the total number of cases filed in the U.S. Supreme Court during its 2006 Term was 8,857, and it heard 78 civil and criminal cases.
Beyond my interest in the substantive specifics of this debate, it is great to see a serious reform advocate and a prominent judge engaging on these important topics directly in the blogosphere.
Further, as the links below document, Scott is off to a flying start in 2008 covering a number of other important criminal issues dear to my heart:
Saturday, December 08, 2007
A little weekend campaigning
This post is a weekend pitch asking readers to go over to the ABA's Blawg 100 list and vote here for this blog as among your favorite criminal justice blogs. This is my first campaign post, precipitated by the fact that I have now fallen to third in the voting behind a "blawg" that only does about one or two posts each week.
UPDATE: As of Sunday morning, I've jumped to first place. Thanks everyone, and keep stuffing this virtual ballot box on my behalf.
Friday, December 07, 2007
An intriguing new blog focused on judicial independence
l I received an e-mail from folks at the Justice at Stake Campaign announcing an interesting looking new blog. Here part of the pitch I received:
A new legal blog, Gavel Grab, [will] focus on attacks on the independence and impartiality of the courts — in judicial elections, in legislatures, and on the airwaves. We launched this week with posts on the Supreme Court’s Guantanamo cases (by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick), growing calls for a Wisconsin high court justice to recuse herself from a campaign supporter’s case, and a look at how the Terri Schiavo episode continues to ripple through the Presidential primaries. And each day our staff provides links to interesting legal stories and blog posts.
As regular readers know well, sentencing decisions are often the focal point for judicial attacks. I'll be reading this new blog regularly.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A helpful list of blawgs from the ABA Journal
As How Appealing details here, the ABA Journal has created this "Blawg 100" list. Though I am biased toward the list because I am on it (and because it describes my commentary as avant-garde), I think it is fair for me to assert that the list provides a terrific "blogroll" for lawyers looking to keep up with legal news and ideas.
Relatedly, the magazine has this feature entitled "ForeBlawggers: Seven lawyers who started the blawg revolution." I'm sold on most of ABA Journal's picks for founding bloggers, though I think a few other law professor bloggers (e.g., Althouse, Banbridge, Balkin, Leiter, Lessig) might have merited a place on the ForeBlawggers list.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Conclusive proof you are smarter when reading this blg
Saturday, October 06, 2007
My favorite and most regular blawg reads
The folks at Blawg Review have created this meme throughout the blawgosphere urging the creation of a "list of blawgs that are 'simply the best.'" Because I think a "best" label is inapt for a medium that is so diverse, I am going to categorize my list and label it a bit differently. (Also, for conflict-of-interest reasons, I am leaving off various members of the Law Professor Blogs Network, even though CrimProf Blog and White Collar Crime Prof are regular reads.) Here goes:
MY FAVORITE AND MOST REGULAR BLAWG READS
Sentencing/crim justice issues:
General (and almost exclusively) law:
General law-related chatter:
As I look over this list (and consider other blawgs that did not quite make the list), it is clear that I am especially drawn to blawgs that post frequently and that generally provide a good deal of original content (and links) concerning issues that are not being thoroughly covered in the mainstream media.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
2. Curses to any evil or misguided bloggers who harass or unduly burden court public information officiers and thereby give us not-so-evil or misguided bloggers a bad name. Upon hearing various war stories about how some bloggers have bothered CPIOs, I now better understand why not all blogs and bloggers are beloved.
3. Kudos to Dan Solove at Concurring Opinions for continuing to update his "Law Professor Blogger Census" with a new 2007 Version. I also was intrigued by his follow-up post here about "Deadwood Bloggers."
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Criminal law blog survey
Jamie Spencer at Austin Criminal Defense Blog is taking a survey here by asking readers to send him a list of their favorite criminal-law-related blogs. Suggested categories include blogs written by defense lawyers, prosecutors, professors and judges, with both established and new law bloggers encouraged to participate.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
To Chicago to go "Back to the Future of Legal Research"
I am about to head to Chicago to participate tomorrow in this conference at the Chicago-Kent College of Law entitled "Back to the Future of Legal Research." The very interesting conference schedule can be found at this link, and I am on an afternoon panel titled "Web 2.0: New Tools for Doing & Teaching Legal Research." I am heading to Chicago a bit early with tentative plans to indulge my inner Howard Bashman by attending the final game of this big-city series. Blogging likely will be light over the next two days.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Great post on legal media and blogging
A fellow named Simon, at the blog Stubborn Facts (which has a great Twain motto), has this extraordinary post (with pictures and 41 endnotes) providing comprehensive coverage of traditional/new media panels at the Seventh Circuit's recent judicial conference. Simon's long post both reports and comments on the legal media and legal bloggers in thoughtful ways; his great work justifies the time needed for a full read (including all the endnotes).
Monday, May 07, 2007
A pleasing pro-blog comment from the judiciary
As chronicled here, Howard Bashman has recently been up in arms about "Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski's take-down of blogs." Consequently, it was quite pleasing to receive from a reader this report on the thoughts of a higher authority:
I was at a gathering with Justice Sam Alito this afternoon. He spoke briefly about the dearth of useful material in law reviews, and in response, he was asked if legal blogs might be a more helpful secondary source for judges. He immediately responded that "there's a great sentencing blog" -- but he wasn't sure about the others.
I'm blushing (and thinking that this post with a photo of Justice Alito in fine form got me in good with the new guy).
Monday, March 19, 2007
More grist for the blog-scholarship debate
Today's New York Times has this interesting "Sidebar" column by Adam Liptak entitled, "When Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant." (Howard Bashman has the link and thoughtful early commentary comes from Jack Balkin and Orin Kerr and Dan Solove.) The article confirms my instinct and experience that judges find scholarly blogs much more relevant and user-friendly than traditional law review articles. Here are some excerpts:
"I haven't opened up a law review in years," said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the federal appeals court in New York. "No one speaks of them. No one relies on them." In a cheerfully dismissive presentation, Judge Jacobs and six of his colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said in a lecture hall jammed with law professors at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law this month that their scholarship no longer had any impact on the courts.
The assembled professors mostly agreed, though they differed about the reasons and about whether the trend was also a problem. Some suggested, gently, that judges might not have the intellectual curiosity to appreciate modern legal scholarship.
Articles in law reviews have certainly become more obscure in recent decades. Many law professors seem to think they are under no obligation to say anything useful or to say anything well. They take pride in the theoretical and in working in disciplines other than their own. They seem to think the analysis of actual statutes and court decisions — which is to say the practice of law — is beneath them. The upshot is that the legal academy has become much less influential.
In the 1970s, federal courts cited articles from The Harvard Law Review 4,410 times, according to a new report by the staff of The Cardozo Law Review. In the 1990s, the number of citations dropped by more than half, to 1,956. So far in this decade: 937. Patterns at other leading law reviews are similar....
Even when courts do cite law review articles, Judge Robert D. Sack said at Cardozo, their motives are not always pure. "Judges use them like drunks use lampposts," Judge Sack said, "more for support than for illumination."
The assembled judges pleaded with the law professors to write about actual cases and doctrines, in quick, plain and accessible articles. "If the academy does want to change the world," Judge Reena Raggi said, "it does need to be part of the world."
To an extent, her plea has been answered by the Internet. On blogs like the Volokh Conspiracy and Balkinization, law professors analyze legal developments with skill and flair almost immediately after they happen. Law professors also seem to be litigating more, representing clients and putting their views before courts in supporting briefs. Law reviews, by contrast, feel as ancient as telegrams, but slower.
Along with the article, the NYT provides this link to the referenced Cardozo Law Review analysis entitled "Trends in Federal Judicial Citations and Law Review Articles."
Some related posts:
UPDATE: Both the Cardozo analysis and the insights of the Liptak article reinforce my perspective that structural forces like new technologies and the unusual "marketplace" in which law professors operate have a lot to do with these trends. I discuss these dynamics in detail in my recent article "Scholarship in Action: The Power, Possibilities, and Pitfalls for Law Professor Blogs."
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Still hoping for more Cunningham coverage
As noted here, the Texas Law Review has joined the club of leading law reviews with an on-line companion. This one is called "See Also," and it has in the works some commentary about the Confrontation Clause.
As I explained in this post a few weeks ago, all the major journals with on-line companions would seem perfectly suited to foster and facilitate a quick blast of much-needed Cunningham analysis and commentary from scholars and practitioners. To date, I have not heard any news about special Cunningham coverage in the works anywhere, which could lead me to jump on the nascent anti-supplement bandwagon.
Some related posts from other blogs:
- On-line law review companions: too much of a good thing? (from LSI)
- Five Tips for Law Review Online Supplements (from First Movers)
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Exciting AFDA webcast this Tuesday
I have been working recently on an exciting new kind of web programming with Gregory Nicolaysen, the founder of the Association of Federal Defense Attorneys (AFDA). As explained here, AFDA is "an Internet-based association for criminal defense attorneys, law professors, paralegals, investigators, and all other professionals associated with the field of federal criminal defense litigation." Greg has kindly invited me to utilize (perhaps on a regular basis) the AFDA's cool Audio Webcast System.
As detailed here, my first audio webcast is scheduled for this Tuesday (Feb. 6) at 12noon EST. The plan for this webcast is to provide an "informal, 60-minute discussion covering key developments in federal sentencing." Unlike other groups seeking big bucks for such webcasts, the AFDA only charges a nominal fee for participating and the webcast is made available free to all federal court personnel, federal public defenders, and full-time law professors and students.
I am grateful to Greg and the AFDA for putting this event together, and I am eager to do these sorts of user-friendly webcasts on a monthly basis if participants report a positive experience this Tuesday.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
In praise of comments
Just a quick post to praise (and recommend) the many interesting comments to posts on the Emily Bazelon article and on my federal death penalty idea. On the many reasons I love this medium is because I get instant and thought-provoking feedback from so many informed and interested sources.
Keep up the great work, commentors.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
One effect of Saddam's execution...
has been to create an explosion in this blog's hit rate. I'm not exactly sure why: I have not blogged about the Hussien's execution since these two posts over the weekend. But, perhaps because of the robust comment thread here, it seems I have moved up to Google's first page if you search for Saddam execution video. Also, it appears that the term "uncut" in the title of this post may bedriving search traffic to this blog.
I note this phenomenon in part because I am often amazed by how consistent this blog's hit rate usually is. Most weekdays, this blog receives roughly 2000 to 2500 hits according to sitemeter, and even big sentencing events or links from other blogs rarely impact these number more than 10%. (The one exception was the week Booker was decided; I had 20,000 hits on decision day, and roughly 10,000 hits a few days thereafter. But the hit rate quickly returned to normal a few days later.)
I guess this is further proof that its a Google and utube world, we are all just living in it.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Is law blogging already passe?
Peter Spiro in this post at Opinio Juris thoughtfully examines whether "the blogging phenomenon may have peaked" in the legal arena, and a terrific set of commentors have enriched the inquiry. I discuss my reactions more fully here at Law School Innovation, but I wanted to give SL&P readers a chance in the comments to express whether they think law blogs are coming or going.
UPDATE: Anyone who wants evidence that the death of law professors may be greatly exaggerated should check out this post at the Law Librarian Blog, which documents the growth and popularity of the Law Professor Blogs Network. The chart, which you can see better at LLB, provides details on the network's expansion.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
PDs looking for a little blogosphere respect
This afternoon I received this heart-felt e-mail from a fellow blogger:
Recently there have been a slew of awards for legal blogs, the most recent being the Blawg Review Awards. The only thing the various awards had in common is that they completely ignored public defender blogs. It is something public defenders are used to, of course, being what one PD blogger described as "the dirt of the profession."
Last February I began the Public Defender Stuff blog to publish news involving public/indigent defense, and to bring together the incredibly diverse blogs of public/indigent defenders. That led to the creation of the PD Blog Guide and a daily listing of every PD blogger who has posted since the previous day's listing. Now, in response to what Blawg Review has already described as an unfortunate oversight, Public Defender Stuff is hosting the inaugural Public Defender Blog Awards.
If you could find it in your heart to throw some poor bloggers a bone, would it be possible to mention the awards on Sentencing Law and Policy? The link above will take you (and your readers) to the ballot, and voting is open until January 5. Thank you very much for your consideration.
Monday, October 23, 2006
A new blog project: Law School Innovation (LSI)
Proving my blog addiction yet again, I have decided to start a new blog: Law School Innovation (LSI). As highlighted in this mission statement, my goal is to create a forum for discussing ... law school innovations (and I am hoping LSI will develop into a group blog).
Friday, October 13, 2006
Northwestern University Law Review starting a blog
Continuing a rapid on-line scholarship revolution, Northwestern University Law Review has announced here that it is starting the "first scholarly weblog to be operated by a major law review [which] will feature legal commentary written in the form of blog posts." This project is being called the Northwestern Colloquy, and it is an intriguing variation on the high-profile on-line companions that have been developed by other high-profile law journals (as discussed here).
Some recent related posts:
- Yet another notable on-line law journal companion
- YLJ Pocket Part on the future of legal scholarship
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Yet another notable on-line law journal companion
Others in the blogosphere here and here have noted the announcement of the American Constitution Society's new affiliated journal, the Harvard Law & Policy Review (HL&PR). What I find most intriguing about this project is that it begins with the unveiling of HL&PR Online, which becomes yet another high-profile on-line companion to another high-profile law journal. Others in the booming genre (in order of appearance?) are:
- Yale Law Jounal's Pocket Part
- Harvard Law Review's Forum
- First Impressions (Michigan Law Review)
- PENNumbra (University of Pennsylvania Law Review)
CORRECTION: I received this "urgent correction" from friends in New Haven (which is now reflected in this list above):
I must request that you amend your recent [initial] post, which suggests that Harvard's Forum predates our beloved Pocket Part. Harvard's first posting is here; please observe that the URL clearly contains the date "dec05." Compare our first post; published two months earlier -- an eon in blog-time!
They may have beaten us to the punch in 1887, but we can't allow them to steal pride of place in 2005.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Is The Volokh Conspiracy The Beatles of blogging?
You have to check out Eugene Volokh's very kind (and cool) post to understand the title of this post.
What's especially cool is to draw out the parallels he sets up: SL&P involves a solo artist (like Bob Dylan) who writes many words in posts (like songs) that often seek to comment on political issues and (professional) relationships; The Volokh Conspiracy is a group endeavor that mixes long and short posts, touching on a broader range of topics, often just to have a good time/tune, though also often with deep political and social significance. (Also, to be more mundane, consider the parallel "The" status in titles.)
Monday, September 11, 2006
Another blog post about a piece about blog posts
I now see that a piece I put together about blogging for the National Law Journal is now available here. Though the title selected by the NLJ for the piece makes me cringe, I am truly grateful that the NLJ asked me to assemble some blogging thoughts for its publication. And, to return the favor, let me note that the NLJ has a lot of other interesting looking stories in this week's issue (even though the title of this post is perhaps cringe-worthy).
Thursday, September 07, 2006
YLJ Pocket Part on the future of legal scholarship
The Yale Law Journal Pocket Part has just published this on-line symposium entitled the "Future of Legal Scholarship." The symposium includes an eclectic set of pieces from an eclectic set of law professors, most of whom are well-known bloggers.
Folks interested in the "blog as scholarship" debate will be drawn to this piece from Jack Balkin, entitled "Online Legal Scholarship: The Medium and the Message." Jack's closing paragraphs echo themes I developed in my article "Scholarship in Action: The Power, Possibilities, and Pitfalls for Law Professor Blogs" (available here) presented at last April's Harvard Law School symposium. Here is Jack's astute concluding sentiment:
The wrong question to focus on is whether hiring committees should count blogging as legal scholarship. The right question is how we should re-imagine our vocation as professors of law in light of new online media. Should we continue to speak mostly to ourselves and our students, or should we spend more time trying to teach and influence the outside world? That choice will determine whether we increasingly value blogging or stick with traditional forms of scholarship. There are many possible paths to choose from, but if you don't know where you are going, almost any road will get you there.
Some related posts on law blogging and scholarship:
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Pass out the cigars, I'm a granddaddy
Thanks to Ian Best here at 3L Epiphany, I just saw this National Law Journal article entitled "Judges Cite More Blogs in Rulings: Law student survey finds 32 Web log citations in the last two years." The article provides details and commentary on Ian's latest accounting of cases citing blogs. I get this nice plug in the article:
The granddaddy of all cited blogs, Ohio State law Professor Douglas Berman's "Sentencing Law and Policy," focuses almost exclusively on development of case law in the circuits since the Booker and Blakely decisions. His blog has been cited more than any other, 24 times in 19 opinions, including Stevens' dissent in Booker, according to Best's tally.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Yet another scholarly gap-filler
As noted here a few days ago, First Impressions from the Michigan Law Review purports to "fill the gap between the blogosphere and the traditional law review article." I called this entity an interesting variation on the Harvard Law Review's Forum and the Yale Law Jounal's Pocket Part, and I wondered if other like projects are in the works elsewhere.
Now I see that the University of Pennsylvania Law Review is getting in on the act with PENnumbra, which apparently seeks to "unit[e] the public and the legal academy." Hmm.... whatever gap there was in short-form scholarship is sure getting filled up fast. I have an inkling that other such blog-journal synergies may be on the way, and now I wonder if the long-form law review may be really starting to show its age.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Updated list of law review articles citing blogs
Ian at 3L Epiphany has here updated his extraordinary compilation of law review articles citing blogs. According to Ian, there are now "489 article citations of legal blogs in this collection, with 75 legal blogs being cited."
Thursday, August 17, 2006
More meta-blogging and nice reviews
Over at the WSJ blog, Peter Lattman provides a nice plug here for my article "Scholarship in Action: The Power, Possibilities, and Pitfalls for Law Professor Blogs" (available here) that I presented at last April's Harvard Law School symposium, "Bloggership: How Blogs are Transforming Legal Scholarship Conference." And Bill Henderson at the ELS Blog follows up with this kind post.
Some related posts on law blogging and scholarship: