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February 27, 2006

Blogs as scholarship and a nice plug

Thanks to Howard, I see that this week's issue of The National Law Journal has this interesting article entitled "Blogging law profs assault ivory tower; Is it scholarship, or a cyber chit-chat?".  Needless to say, I think blogs (at least some of them) are a form of scholarship, but Texas Professor Kate Litvak apparently does not agree.  She is quoted as saying: "They have nothing to do with scholarship."

Joyfully, this morning I can respond to Kate's assertion by noting that the Ohio Supreme Court is apparently in the camp that thinks blogs have at least something to do with scholarship.  In its big Blakely decision today (basics here), the Ohio Supreme Court gives this blog this nice little plug in footnote 3:

See, also, Douglas A. Berman's legal blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, at http://sentencing.typepad.com for updates on Blakely and current source material on sentencing.

I cannot help but also note that traditional law review articles do not appear to be cited anywhere in the opinion.

UPDATE: Dan Solove has terrific additional coverage and commentary on the NLJ article here at Concurring Opinions.

February 27, 2006 at 11:32 AM | Permalink


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The first of my monthly law blog columns for The Legal Intelligencer here in Philadelphia was published this week. It can be found at

Luke Debevec

Posted by: Luke | Feb 27, 2006 1:55:17 PM

Your blog (I can't say the same of others I've read) is a wonderful blend of scholarship and chit-chat. Scholarly enough to be a valuable resource. Chit-chatty enough to keep things interesting.

Posted by: a lawyer | Feb 27, 2006 2:56:22 PM

Scholarship by other means. The fastest law journals lag at least six months; plenty of decent ones, a year. And that doesn't count the time it takes the author to write the article. Speed may not matter for purely academic writing (except to stake a claim to having been first with a new idea), but for legal writing that is relevant to both academics and practicing lawyers, like sentencing scholarship, speed is important. A blog is fast, maybe off the cuff and not thoroughly considered, but lightning fast.

Most of us who write material for traditional publications benefit from conversations with peers to air ideas. A good blog gets ideas aired, too, without waiting for the next conference where peers from scattered institutions can get together.

This blog provides, among other things, a forum for ideas relating to sentencing. Anyone with a real scholarly or practical interest in sentencing would be remiss if he or she missed it. There is no wonder, then, that the Ohio Supreme Court cited it. If a judge, scholar or advocate needs to check the latest in thinking and developments in sentencing, this is the place to go first.

The fact that some blogs are good for only titillation, gossip, fear-mongering, or spreading wacky conspiracy theories, should not condemn all blogs.

I note that Prof. Litvak has been critical of traditional law journals. Her faculty profile includes the following: "Two of her three published articles came out in peer-reviewed outlets, and she wants to encourage law students to abandon the corrupt system of law journals for worthier pursuits." ( http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/profile.php?id=KVL64 ) The touchstone of scholarship for her seems to be peer review, a position with which I, for one, tend to agree (although I question her use of the word "corrupt"). A blog, like traditional student-edited law reviews, is not peer-reviewed. Unlike traditional law reviews, however, good blogs offer peers the opportunity to respond in posts, criticizing or reinforcing new ideas and approaches. Peers can tell their peers and their students and junior colleagues that certain blogs really do need to be read frequently, just as they do for certain traditional law reviews. And so can courts, which is what the Ohio court did.

Phillip C. Zane
Practicing Lawyer and Occasional Scholar
Antitrust, federal white collar crime, and intellectual property.

Posted by: Phillip C. Zane | Feb 27, 2006 3:56:37 PM

My extensive comments are at In Defense of Law Blogging: Part Two
[Prof. Jim Maule]

Posted by: Jim Maule | Feb 28, 2006 9:59:48 AM

Blogs are still becoming what blogs can be. Sites like yours are helping define what possibilities exist for blogging, and we've not seen all of them yet, IMO, by a longshot. Journalists say blogs aren't as credible as journalists, but when bloggers get the scoop and the readers, the journalists' opinions no longer matter. The same is true of blogs and law reviews, or even peer reviewed journals - they're losing standing every time a knowledgeable expert launches a blog and starts to tell the public things they used to tell only 20 or so specialist readers. Welcome to the 21st century!

I'm sure the transition is frustrating for her, but someone should warn Ms. Litvak that jealousy is an ugly character trait.

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