Monday, December 15, 2008


Theft by Princeton

Princeton seems to have been stealing from the Robertson Foundation on a large scale. The Robertson heirs sued, and in a settlement they have been given 40 million dollars in legal fees and 50 million has been put into a new foundation. The complaint is worth recording. Of interest too is this statement about other abuses by Princeton, from page 16:

In 2002 and 2003, a Princeton employee named Jessie Washington conducted an investigation of donations to the University's Office of Religious Life and concluded:...

During my review of endowment accounts for the office of religious life, I discovered many problems with the management of the university's endowed funds. ... (T)hese problems affect every unit in the University that relies on endowment income.

2/20/03 Washington memo to Kalmbach and McDonough. Her Summary of Findings states:

I believe: 1) funding allocations are not in alignment with their intended purpose, i.e. the donors wishes have been ignored; 2) money intended for religious life -17- 925226.1 11/11/04 has been knowingly withheld;...

As one example, a $5,000 gift to maintain a chapel organ was used instead, according to a handwritten note, "to relieve general funds." Id. at Example 2. Another handwritten note states: "Dept. is not to know."

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


"Torture" in Germany

In October 2002 (from the WSJ):

"Deputy Police Chief Daschner fears that Jakob's life may be in danger. In a memorandum, he writes: "We need to ascertain without delay where the boy is being held. While respecting the principle of proportionality, the police have an obligation to take all measures in their power to save the child's life."...

n the interrogation room, Ennigkeit tells Gäfgen that a "special officer" is on his way. If Gäfgen does not tell Ennigkeit where the boy is, the "special officer" will "make him feel pain that he will not forget." On Gäfgen's own account, the formula is still more menacing: the officer "will make you feel pain like you have never felt before." "Nobody can help you here," Ennigkeit tells him, according to Gäfgen's testimony. "We can do whatever we want with you." On Gäfgen's account, moreover, Ennigkeit already begins to rough him up: shaking him so violently that his head bangs against the wall and hitting him in the chest hard enough to leave a bruise over his collarbone....

In June 2005, the child-murderer and law student Magnus Gäfgen lodged a complaint against Germany with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In his complaint, Gäfgen accused Germany of having violated his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and, more specifically, of having violated the prohibition on torture contained in Article 3 of the Convention.

On June 30, 2008, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Gäfgen's complaint and cleared Germany of the charge of tolerating torture."

Also in October 2002, interrogators at Guantanamo Bay asked for permission to use similar methods on al Qaeda terrorist Mohammed al-Qahtani. The Pentagon said no.

Now that Barack Obama has won the presidency, perhaps it is time for American interrogators to revise their practices to bring them into line with European ones.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Will There be Lawyers in Heaven?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by a line in Abraham Kuyper's "Lectures on Calvinism" (1898), one of the great (and accessible!) modern Protestant works on politics and law. In a world without sin, Kuyper wrote, "every rule and ordinance and law would drop away, even as all control and assertion of the power of the magistrate would disappear." Heaven, he suggests, is no place for law or lawyers.

We lawyers come in for a lot of abuse, much of it justified, but I'm not so sure our work will disappear in heaven. The conclusion that law and thus lawyers will be unnecessary seems to assume that in heaven we will be all seeing and all knowing, and all complexity will simply disappear. I'm not sure where that assumption comes from; it doesn't seem especially consistent with the hints of heaven, with all its richness and diversity, that we get in the Bible. The absence of sin doesn't necessarily mean the absence of complexity, and where there is complexity law and lawyers seem to have a role to play. (Professor Skeel)

Can we think of examples of situations where people of good will would find lawyers useful? Here's one. Suppose two people are making an agreement about who will do which tasks before they meet again. A lawyer is useful for making sure they've covered all contingencies and that they really understand each other. "Contracts" are useful even if nobody expects a court to have to enforce them, just to clarify meaning, and ordinary people aren't all that good at making clear agreements.

Any other examples?

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Arrest of an Oppositino Leader in Britain

It's amazing what Britain has come to. A leader of the opposition party was arrested and his House of Commons office searched by the special anti-terror police after he publicized information of government incompetence leaked to him by a civil servant. He was not accused of any crime. See

I don't worry so much about government overreaching with respect to ordinary citizens. The government has no motive there to go after a person without reason to think he did something wrong. But when it comes to going after political opponents it is time to worry.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Loony Indictments

We must expect county prosecutors to go insane (literally) once in a while. What is more depressing is that a lunatic could get a grand jury to indict. See this story on the indictment of VP Cheney and AG Gonzalez, among others.

Five of the indictments - against two district judges, two special prosecutors and the district clerk - were dismissed because Guerra was the alleged victim, witness and prosecutor. The indictments accused the five of abusing their power by being involved in a previous investigation of Guerra.

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Friday, November 28, 2008


Divine Law versus Natural Law

The distinction between divine law and natural law is that natural law can be deduced by man by introspection and observation, but divine law is revealed only by direct communication from God. One question is whether divine law can ever contradict natural law. Or, perhaps a little different: Is a sin evil because God forbids it, or does God forbid it because it is evil?

In considering this question it is useless to think about sins that are forbidden by both natural and divine law, sins such as murder, theft, and adultery (in their traditional, uncontroversial, contexts). Rather, the question becomes important in situations such as the following: Is it okay to divorce a man for wife-beating? Did God really command the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite children? Is it just for people to be damned when they never had a chance to hear the Gospel?

As these examples indicate, the question bears heavily on the fundamentals of Christianity. If God forbids sins because they are evil, we are saying that we have a reason independent from God for thinking something is evil, and that reason trumps any reason we might derive from the Bible or systematic theology. Thus, if we believe that killing children is always wrong, so a good God could not command it, we must either reject God's goodness or reject the books of Genesis (Abraham and Isaac), Joshua (the Canaanites), and Kings (I think--- David and the Amalekites).

I think it's important to believe that sins are wrong because God forbids them, not the reverse. Here are some reasons:

1. Otherwise you must reject the reliability of the Bible. This is not just a rejection of inerrancy: you must reject substantial portions,and, implicitly, all of the Bible that refrains from condemning those portions.

2. Because we are all biased when it comes to our own actions, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude our own misdeeds from being called sins.

3. Because we are all culturally biased, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude misdeeds that our own culture allows from being called sins.

4. Otherwise we have in effect replaced God with a higher divinity, the source of natural law, in which case we should move directly to worship of that divinity.

Note that if you are willing to throw out Christianity altogether, these reasons disappear. Indeed, that is the response of some people. They acknowledge, correctly, that the Christian God's law conflicts with what we think is right and wrong in our culture, and they conclude, incorrectly, that He is not God. In effect, our culture is their god.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008


The Value of Human Life in Pennsylvania

It seems economist Rafael Robb has gotten 5 to 10 years in prison for killing his wife. He gave a talk here a couple of years ago, and did seem a tough guy-- is he the one who was an Israeli paratrooper? In any case, I expect he will be a model prisoner and be out after 5 years. As an economist, I can see then that the value put on a human life by the Pennsylvania state government is a 5-year prison term.

He admitted he "just lost it" during an argument that erupted at the couple's Upper Merion Township home in December 2006. Ellen Robb had been planning to end their 16-year marriage, and her husband feared he would see less of their daughter and possibly suffer financially if they divorced.

I wonder if Professor Robb has gained financially, overall? He has lost 5 years of salary completely, plus a hard-to-estimate reduction in future salary. He will lose his tenure at Penn, but he can get a job somewhere else-- he's a good economist, and he can keep publishing while in prison-- indeed, he will have more time for research, and he's a theorist, so lack of RA's, computers, etc. won't hamper him. He has gained alimony he would have had to pay-- say, 20% of income for a 30-year period. He has also gained his half of the household assets-- perhaps 6 times his annual income.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Eric Holder and the Clinton Pardons

VC has a good post on this. I commented thus:

Right before the part of the report that the blog post quotes, the report makes some relevant points: 1. Holder admits that what he did was wrong, and just says he made a mistake in not letting the career attorneys even comment on the pardon petition, 2. It is dubious whether holder really did this by mistake, and 3. At the time, Holder was trying to get support in getting a job with the hoped-for Gore administration from Quinn, Rich's attorney. And of course granting a pardon to a thief like Rich is not the same kind of public-policy decision as whether to support a particular Texas redistricting plan; it's hard for anyone of any political philosophy to defend.

Here's what the report says:

The final question then is whether Holder's failure to obtain the Rich petition and involve the Justice Department in the pardon process was the result of incompetence or a deliberate decision to assist Jack Quinn. At the Committee's hearing, Holder suggested that it was the result of poor judgment, initially not recognizing the seriousness of the Rich case, and then, by the time that he recognized that the pardon was being considered, being distracted by other matters.\646\

However, it is difficult to believe that Holder's judgment would be so monumentally poor that he could not understand how he was being manipulated by Jack Quinn. Rather, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that Eric Holder was deliberately assisting Quinn with the Rich petition, and deliberately cut the rest of the Justice Department out of the process to help Quinn obtain the pardon for Marc Rich. This conclusion is supported by the following e-mail, which was sent by Quinn to Kitty Behan, ...


Subject: eric

spoke to him last evening. he says go straight to wh. also says timing is good. we shd get in soon. will elab when we speak.\647\


.... Assuming the ``eric'' referenced is Eric Holder, this e-mail contradicts the heart of Holder's defense. Holder claims that he was not focused on the Rich pardon until late in the process... It also suggests that Holder had reason to know that the request was remarkable, as he suggested to Quinn that he circumvent the Justice Department....

The final question is why Eric Holder would do such a thing. As discussed below, Holder had been asking Quinn for his help in being appointed Attorney General in a Gore Administration....


\648\ In evaluating Holder's motivations, one should keep in mind that the only reason Jack Quinn was hired by Marc Rich was because of Eric Holder's initial recommendation to Gershon Kekst. Holder's suggestion to Kekst that he hire a lawyer like Quinn, who could come to him and solve the problem, was a self-fulfilling prophecy.



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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Preacher Jailed for Speaking Against a Judge

Via Instapundit and Talk Left we learn that a preacher in Michigan had his probation turned into prison because he said that the sentencing judge could be punished by God with curses, fever and "extreme burning" unless he changed his ways. He's appealed, and I hope will win.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Truthfulness and Contract Law

Suppose Smith tells Jones something in confidence. Jones then reveals the message. Is it ethical for Smith to deny having informed Jones, causing Jones's revelation to lack credibility?

Or suppose Jones tortures Smith to get him to reveal his secret mission. Is it ethical for Smith to lie to Jones?

Or suppose that Smith and Jones are enemies, and Jones is a vile person. When Smith says to Jones, "What I am telling you now is the truth," is Smith obligated to then tell the truth? In both cases, a useful framework for thinking about the situation is the common law of contracts. The common law reflects fairness and efficiency, and has been thought out over many years in addressing lots of difficult situations in a consistent way.

The way to use the insights of contract law is to think of Smith and Jones as making a contract. Smith agrees to tell Jones something, and Jones agrees to do something for Smith in exchange. An implicit part of the agreement is that Smith will tell the truth.

In the case of the violated confidentiality, Jones has breached the contract by revealing the information publicly. Smith is therefore released from his obligation to tell the truth and back Jones up. If one party to a contract breaches seriously enough, the other party need not perform.

In the case of the torture, the contract is made under duress. Smith is therefore not obligated to perform his side by telling the truth.

In the case of the vile Jones, the contract is valid. Contract law does not allow breach just because the other party is a bad person.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


Science Fiction as Prior Art

In 1934, Heinlein was discharged from the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis. During a lengthy hospitalization, he developed the concept of the waterbed, and his detailed descriptions of it in three of his books constituted sufficient prior art to prevent a US patent on water beds when they became common in the 1960s[9].
(from Wikipedia, Robert Heinlein. Footnote 9 is to a WSJ article)

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


New Zealand and Tort Law; Arbitration

Over morning coffee I read Peter Schuck on tort law in New Zealand (hat-tip and link, Larry Solum). New Zealand has a no-fault system for personal injuries generally, and something similar for malpractice. Processing costs per case are of course low, but the system may illustrate a perverse effect: low transaction costs per case can lead to a high total amount of transaction costs because more claims are made. The paper doesn't compare total transaction costs per capita in the US and New Zealand, but it says "In 2006-07, the ACC had pending 1.6 million claims, ... this for a population of 4.3 million..."

I wonder what the total transaction costs are? Probably in New Zealand many claims are made that are either harder to prove fault in or too small to be worth hiring a lawyer in the US. Actually, we also need to figure in the insurance company transaction costs, since both in the US and New Zealand private insurance companies exist, although New Zealand has a much bigger free public medical care system than the US. (Another complication is that US medical care, "gold-plated", is more expensive.) Anyway, is it good or bad that lesser claims get compensated in New Zealand? Is it better to just let losses lie for them, and avoid transaction costs altogether?

There are many ideas for tort reform. I wonder if any country uses government arbitration? Here's my idea. After an accident, a policeman must be called in if there is to be compensation to anyone (the hospital or morgue will do it if the injury is severe enough). He writes a report and interviews witnesses. Each side then writes a report saying, under oath, what they claim happened. A government arbitrator looks at the reports, maybe interviews witnesses (without lawyers present), and assigns the case to one of three categories: X wins, Y wins, or Unclear. The government pays claims for Unclear cases; private insurance or the people themselves for others. Insurance companies are free to use the results for experience rating.



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Monday, June 30, 2008


The British Constitution

Cranmer writes that the hereditary peers in the House of Lords voted against the Treaty of Lisbon by a large margin (50 to 14), and it only passed because of the numerous other peers. The BBC says that the Lords voted against a referendum by 280 to 218.

If the House of Lords had voted against the measure, and the Labor government had gone to the country by setting a new election for the Commons, almost surely the Tories would have won the election. Thus, it seems this is a case in which the old hereditary lords would have enable popular opinion to win through.

In America, if Congress voted to delegate some of its power to a different elected assembly, the courts would rule the bill unconstitutional. (It has allowed Congress to delegate rule-making power to the executive branch (e.g. the EPA) and to independent commissions (e.g. the FTC), but that is different.)

Surely there must be some similar constitutional principle in Britain. Maybe it does not apply here because Britain can withdraw from the EU, so this is just like joining the WTC and agreeing not to set tariffs. Suppose, though, that Parliament voted to delegate all its power to a single person. If that person made a law, would the British courts administer that law, or would they refuse to issue penalties based on it?

That example is like the creation of the Vichy government in 1940. The French legislature by a massive majority (something like all but 3 legislators) freely delegated its authority to General Petain, amidst general recognition of its own incompetence. I don't know how the French courts responded.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


Henry VIII's Divorce: The Real Story

It is sometimes sneeringly said that the Church of England was founded because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and the Pope would not give it to him. That is the true story that lay under the surface (or, going further, perhaps the true story is that Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Emperor Charles's aunt, and the Emperor objected). The principle at issue, however, seems not to have been divorce, but whether the Church trumped the Bible, exactly the principle that split other Protestants from Rome. Here's what seems to be the story. I'd have to do library research to find if it is correct, however--- web sources are frustratingly vague.

The heir to the English throne, Arthur Tudor, married Catherine of Aragon but died some months later. His brother, the future Henry VIII, wanted to marry the widow. Church law, however, forbade a man to marry his brother's widow, based (somewhat dubiously) on a verse from Leviticus. Henry applied to the Pope for permission to break the rule, and the Pope granted that permission.

The issue was whether the Pope had the authority to grant Henry permission to break divine law.

The Papacy said Yes. Henry said No. Henry submitted the question to various university faculties, and many of them, including ones in France and Italy, agreed with him. The one Protestant university that I've read of him consulting, Marburg, replied that Henry was correct on that narrow issue, but wrong on whether his marriage was invalid, because the underlying church law was wrong.

Update (June 26): I found the key book, Edward Foxe's 1531 The determinations of the moste famous and mooste excellent vniuersities of Italy and Fraunce, that it is so vnlefull for a man to marie his brothers wyfe, that the pope hath no power to dispence therewith. I've posted it at It's out of copyright, and I think merely scanning it in doesn't count as adding enough to copyright it. It says right at the start:

NOt longe syns there were put forth vnto vs the college of doctours regent{is} of the vniuersitie of Orlea~ce, these .ij. questions, that folowe. The fyrste, whether it be leful by the lawe of god for the brother to take to wyfe that woma~ / whom his brother hath lefte. The seco~de, and if this be forbydden by the lawe of god / whether this prohibition of the lawe of god maye be remytted by the pope his dispensation
Not long since there were put forth unto us, the college of doctors regent of the University of Orleans, these ii questions that follow. The first: whether it be lawful by the law of God for the brother to take to wife that woman whom his brother hath left. The second: and if this be forbidden by the law of God whether this prohibition of the law of God may be remitted by the Pope his dispensation.

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Monday, June 16, 2008


An Indiana Spanking Case

The Indiana Supreme Court, as described by Prof. E.Volokh, have just ruled that it is ok to discipline your child. The decision was 4 to 1. But lower courts had upheld a criminal conviction for battery! I hope the prosecutor and judge in that county get unseated.

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Cambridge v. Patten

Justia has the complete collection of documents for Cambridge v. Patten, the case where Cambridge and Oxford's presses are suing Georgia State for copyright infringement. I've read the complaint. Georgia State lets professors post readings for their students, and gives them very liberal Fair Use guidelines. The presses are objecting even to single chapters being posted that way. Some interesting bits:

1. The presses are suing university administrators personally, as well as the organization.

2. The presses are not asking for any damages, just costs. The main thing they want is declaratory relief and an injunction.

I think the presses should win by law, though the law is very bad.

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Friday, May 16, 2008


Hebborn: An Example of Why Libel Laws Are Bad

Eric Hebborn's career gives us an example of why strict libel laws are bad. Wikipedia says:

In 1978 a curator at the National Gallery of Artin Washington DC , Konrad Oberhuber, was examining a pair of drawings he had purchased for the museum from Colnaghi a seemingly reputable old-master dealer in London, one by Savelli Sperandio and the other by Francesco del Cossa. Oberhuber noticed that two drawings had been executed on the same kind of paper.

Oberhuber was taken aback by the similarities of the paper used in the two pieces and decided to alert his colleagues in the art world. Upon finding another fake "Cossa" at the Morgan Library, this one having passed through the hands of at least three experts, Oberhuber contacted Colnaghi, the source of all three fakes. Colnaghi, in turn, informed the worried curators that all three had been acquired from Hebborn.[1]

Colnaghi waited a full eighteen months before revealing the deception to the media, and, even then never mentioned Hebborn's name, for fear of a libel suit. Alice Beckett states that she was told ' one talks about him...The trouble is he's too good'[4]. Thus Hebborn continued to create his forgeries, changing his style slightly to avoid any further unmasking, and manufactured at least 500 more drawings between 1978 and 1988.[2]

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Thursday, May 15, 2008


The Volstead Act and Prohibition

The Volstead Act (the National Prohibition Act, Oct. 28, 1919, ch. 85, 41 Stat. 305) was the federal statute implementing Prohibition (the constitutional amendment did not go into specifics; a law was needed for that). Surprisingly, it isn't available on the Web. Since Prohibition was repealed, the Volstead Act has been taken out of the US Code, so it can't be found there. There are various abridged versions on the Web, though. I quote from the best one below. Peter Hitchens said that Prohibition did not make possession of liquor illegal, and such seems to be the case, at least possession in one's home.

SEC. 33. After February 1, 1920, the possession of liquors by any person not legally permitted under this title to possess liquor shall be prima facie evidence that such liquor is kept for the purpose of being sold, bartered, exchanged, given away, furnished, or otherwise disposed of in violation of the Provisions of this title. . . . But it shall not be unlawful to possess liquors in one's private dwelling while the same is occupied and used by him as his dwelling only and such liquor need not be reported, provided such liquors are for use only for the personal consumption of the owner thereof and his family residing in such dwelling and of his bona fide guests when entertained by him therein; and the burden, of proof shall be upon the possessor in any action concerning the same to prove that such liquor was law fully acquired, possessed, and used.

This shows why it is important to have the full text of a law. Earlier in the Act it says that possession is illegal except in circumstances explained elsewhere in the Act.

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Monday, May 12, 2008


Shrinkwrap Contracts

Mark Lemley has a 2006 Minnesota Law Review paper, on shrinkwrap contracts that gives updates on what courts have been doing since Easterbrook's opinion.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008


Oregon Threatening People Who Post State Laws

David Post at VC writes:

The State of Oregon, bless its heart, has begun sending out cease-and-desist letters to websites like Justia and Public.Resource.Org, demanding that the sites take down copies of the Oregon Revised Statutes posted there on the grounds that the posting infringes the State's copyright in the statutes.

Hard to believe, but apparently true. [See Cory Doctorow's posting on Boing Boing, and the story from TechDirt, along with accompanying documents.

The copyright claim is (like a lot of copyright claims these days) probably about 98% horse manure. They're not asserting copyright in the text of the laws themselves, but in the "arrangement and subject matter compilation," the numbering of statutory sections, and the various "tables, indices, and annotations" contained in the documents. Lots of that stuff is simply not copyrightable -- and even as to the stuff in which there might be copyright protection, what makes the State of Oregon so sure that it, and not the various individuals who authored particular sections, owns the copyright to those contributions?

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Thursday, May 1, 2008


Copyright and Putting Up Old Books on the Net

Here is a good 2006 post from the Baylyblog about copyright and the digitization of old books that are out of copyright, e.g. Shakespeare.



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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


ABA Threatens GMU with Loss of Accreditation

Gail Heriot has a shocking WSJ op-ed telling how the American Bar Association forced George Mason Law School to admit unqualified applicants in order to retain its accreditation--- and thus its access to federal funds. Racial discrimination of this kind has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, so the ABA is acting illegally. Is there a suit to bring?
If you have ever wondered why colleges and universities seem to march in lockstep on controversial issues like affirmative action, here is one reason: Overly politicized accrediting agencies often demand it.... In 2003, the ABA summoned the university's president and law school dean to appear before it personally, threatening to revoke the institution's accreditation. GMU responded by further lowering minority admissions standards. It also increased spending on outreach, appointed an assistant dean to serve as minority coordinator, and established an outside "Minority Recruitment Council." As a result, 17.3% of its entering students were minority members in 2003 and 19% in 2004. Not good enough. "Of the 99 minority students in 2003," the ABA complained, "only 23 were African American; of 111 minority students in 2004, the number of African Americans held at 23." It didn't seem to matter that 63 African Americans had been offered admission, or that many students admitted with lower academic credentials would end up incurring heavy debt but never graduate and pass the bar.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Pattakos Free Speech Scandal at Northwestern Law School. Yet another example (from 2007) of a law school punishing unorthodox speech. Or, perhaps, for not giving patronage to minorities in this case. It's curious how law schools, with their worship of the abstract concept of Free Speech, so commonly suppress it.

There is a useful thread of emails posted. From Student Bar Association President Peter Pattakos, who was intimidated into resigning:

I have only resigned my title because the administration and the SBA Executive Board have forced my hand. The SBA Executive Board and school administration asked me to step down as SBA President with only a month left in my tenure, largely because I have expressed beliefs that are unpopular with some members of our community. Some think that my expression of these beliefs makes me unfit to perform the duties of my office. I disagree with those who have asked me to step down, and initially refused; offering instead to accept a dramatically reduced role in the SBA's decision making process in recognition of the impact of my expression of these beliefs. The administration and Executive Board did not accept my offer. I was told that if I did not step down the administration would have stripped me of any official duty that it could strip me of - they would cease meeting with me as SBA President, and would have prohibited me from representing the school at graduation, law board meetings, admitted student weekend, and other events where the SBA President traditionally plays a role. In addition, the administration would have released a letter to the public explaining these restrictions - and describing my words (discussed below) as "derogatory remarks." Cliff Zimmerman [faculty administrator] showed me two different versions of this letter; the version to be released if I stepped down being significantly kinder in its wording. The administration reached its conclusion to take this course of action without once bringing me, the Executive Board, administration members, and complaining parties into the same room. Finally, the Executive Board would have conducted a plebiscite on whether I was fit to hold what would have been left of the office of SBA President - the title. Given the costs of going through with this process, it should be clear that I have only "stepped down" from my position in the most technical sense.

To provide some background: There was a breakfast last Thursday with Chief Justice Roberts to which a number of academic and student-government leaders were invited. The administration asked me to recommend a list of 10-15 "academic and community leaders" to attend this breakfast. The administration had the final word on the invitees; this should be obvious given the nature of the event, the addition of 10 students to my initial recommendations, and the fact that my recommendations had to be cleared with the administration. I was never told that the intent was to invite the leaders of every student organization. The students at that breakfast were an undeniably diverse cross-section of the Northwestern Law community. These students were invited not as racial representatives, but because of their leadership on the law journals, in student government, and in student organizations with leadership positions open to members of any ethnicity. Nonetheless, the leader of one of the ethnicity-oriented student groups - a person I have always considered a friend - shouted me down in the Atrium for overlooking the leaders of these groups. He told me that I took the opportunity of a lifetime away from him. I should have walked away. I had been up the better part of the previous evening and early morning answering student complaints about the invitation list, and had continued to field such complaints throughout the day. During what can only be described loosely as a conversation, I stated my belief that our community would be better off if all student organizations were organized around ideas, and not ethnicity. It is this off-hand remark that is the primary justification for my being forced from office.

I've omitted the rest of his email, which consists of musings about free speech and grovelling humbly for having dared to question the orthodox position.

The postscript is useful, though:

* The complete list of students that I recommended for the breakfast: The SBA Executive Board and 1L Rep, Law Review board members, 2 Editors-in- Chief of academic journals, Federalist Society President, Fed Soc Board Member who has been exceptionally active on SBA Committees and in SFPIF, ACS President, STMS President. After two students responded that they could not attend, and in response to concerns that only two 1Ls were included in a group of 28, I recommended two 1Ls active on SBA and in student organizations. Of my 18 recommendations, at least 6 were of diverse ethnic background. The administration approved ALL of these recommendations in addition to inviting at least 10 students without my recommendation.
The `` person I have always considered a friend'' who got Peter in trouble is unrepentant about doing so, and still miffed that he didn't get to have lunch with the judge. He is Latino group leader Kevin Strom:

I'm saddened by your comments. You and I both know that is not why I was upset about the invite list. I did not say that you took an opportunity of a lifetime away from me. I said, while describing the impact of your decision, that it was not a small event, that it was the chance of a lifetime for anyone to go. I wrote down the conversation you and I had shortly after we had it, simply because I knew this might come up, and then I confirmed it with a respected 3L who was standing by during our conversation.

Here is what I have:

After Chief Justice Robert's speech to the general student body Thursday, the President of the SBA approached me during the reception. He was unaware of many of the complaints and meetings that he had sparked. He was unaware that I, and many others had spent the majority of the day with Cliff and Audra because his actions were a reflection of the administration. He asked me how I was doing. I said, "fine." He asked if I was sure, because I seemed upset. I told him that was probably not the best place and time to have this discussion. When he pushed on, I told him that I believed the way he handled the selection of "relevant student leaders" was ridiculous and unacceptable. He defended his actions saying that he chose the most relevant groups based on who would impress CJR. He said it didn't matter because "we impressed him" and the breakfast went fine. I asked how he could ignore a group like BLSA, during Black History Month, with such a huge student base, and an entire month's worth of programming. I asked him how he could ignore LLSA, another group with a month of programming that won Best Student Group of the Year last year, how we could be less relevant.

His response blew me away:

"I would dismantle all of your groups. If it were up to me there would be no LLSA, BLSA, Salsa and Apalsa, because they don't bring anything to the community, and they contribute to racial identity politics." He kept going, telling me that he doesn't get caught up in racial politics and doesn't believe in race based groups.

I responded by telling him he was doing a *'super'* job of representing the students he was elected to serve. I told him he couldn't separate his political views from his Presidential role, and those views shouldn't affect the decisions he makes on behalf of us. This is especially true when the administration makes the error of allowing one student to make unilateral decisions as to who should attend an intimate breakfast with a figure such as the Chief Justice of the U.S.

To the student body: That is what happened between Peter Pattakos and I the night the Chief Justice spoke to the student body. I was not going to publish this information to the listserv, if you've seen my personal email to the Latino Law Student Association, you know that I toned down my words and paraphrased Peter when describing what transpired. I've included that email below. Obviously the administration and SBA felt that this, along with Peter's other actions in the past month warranted removing him from the board, or at least stripping his ability to speak at any events. I'm available to answer any questions.


Kevin Strom

The SBA student leadership wanted to fire Peter too, even without faculty pressure perhaps:
In light of recent events at Northwestern Law, the SBA Executive Board has asked Peter Pattakos to step down from his role as SBA President, and he has agreed to do so, effective immediately. ... Let's hope that we all learn from recent events and continue to strive to make our law school more accepting and more open.
Dean David Van Zandt and administrators Cliff Zimmerman, Audra Wilson, and Don Rebstock wrote a letter about ``Peter's decision to resign'':
Dear Students, ... Student groups are given great latitude to create programming and opportunities for their respective constituencies and the community as a whole; students are also given wide latitude and responsibility to pursue these activities with the support of, rather than intervention by, the Law School. However, when actions undermine the Law School's mission or values or cause harm, the Law School must weigh the value of student autonomy and responsibility against the necessity to counter those actions that compromise our efforts to maintain a diverse, collegial, and supportive community.

We have investigated the chain of events which led to the omission of several student group leaders from last week's Student Leadership Breakfast with Chief Justice John Roberts. While part of the problem was administrative in nature, that mistake has been overshadowed by Peter Pattakoss subsequent comments that dismissed the value of the organizations of the uninvited leaders. Having acknowledged the serious affront to the student leaders in his comments, Peters decision to resign is the right one for himself, for the SBA, and for the Law School.

The student newspaper has the Administration claiming it had not ``played any role'' in forcing Pattakos to resign:
Both Dean Zimmerman and Director Wilson denied that the Administration played any role in forcing Mr. Pattakos to resign. Dean Zimmerman said that he simply informed Mr. Pattakos that he would not be asked to speak as a representative of the school. Although historically the SBA president has spoken to the Law Board, at Diverse Admit day, at Day at Northwestern, and at Graduation, these speaking opportunities are at the discretion of the administration....

Although Director Wilson and Dean Zimmerman both admitted that the substance of Mr. Pattakos' comments warranted further discussion, neither was yet sure how.

"We need to move forward together in a constructive way," said Zimmerman. "But I am still talking with several groups, both student and administration, about how best to address this issue."

"If we can't have candid talks about race and ethnicity, our commitment to diversity is hollow," Wilson said. "But we need to have the discussion with civility and tact."

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Saturday, February 2, 2008


A Summertown Brothel. Who would have thought it just a half-mile from our house? An Oxford Times article says:
A BROTHEL in a quiet Oxford street was run so professionally it was "like a restaurant", a court heard today.

Mother-of-two Elaine Konopka, 39, admitted helping run the brothel in Middle Way, Summertown....

"Konopka admitted working at the address on approximately ten occasions over an 18-month period. She said she was responsible for answering phones, making appointments and greeting customers." ...

"She was not a part-time receptionist, she was a fill-in receptionist. The brothel was open from 10am to 10pm seven days a week. ...

District judge Brian Loosley looked at the brothel's menu, which had services ranging from £50-£140, while considering the sentence.

Ordering her to carry out 60 hours' unpaid community work and pay £100 costs, he said: "It is quite clear this was run almost like a restaurant, with menus and various services being offered....

Neighbours tonight said they were pleased the brothel had been closed.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she thought Konopka's sentence was too lenient.

She said: "I think it is disgusting she only got 60 hours' community service.

"It is so nice not having so many strange men going in there. It was really unpleasant. It certainly attracted all sorts of men - not very nice people at all.

"Some had children's car seats in the back. You just felt upset for the wives."

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Friday, February 1, 2008


The U.K. and the E.U. Peter Hitchens has a good article, "The dangerous uselessness of 'Euroscepticism'"
The EU isn't going to give up its plan to become a Superstate just because the people of Britain (or anywhere else) vote 'No' in a referendum. Why should it? Such a vote would be silly anyway. You can't be in Europe and not run by Europe any more than you can be in Wormwood Scrubs and not run by Wormwood Scrubs. When we were bamboozled into voting for Common Market entry in 1975 (I voted 'no', but only just) we accepted the Treaty of Rome, which means, and clearly states that its target is 'ever closer union.

This has become more and more unpopular since 1975, as those who are paying attention (or are personally affected) have come to realise that the supposed crackpots of 1975 -Tony Benn and Enoch Powell - were actually quite right. Just as they warned, we were being asked to give away our national independence and this was the most important issue. Those who are dismissed as 'bonkers' almost always do turn out to be right later on, and there is probably a historical study to be done about this.

The obvious conclusion from this is that we should now leave. We were sold a fraudulent prospectus nearly 33 years ago. We have since suffered quite badly as a country, economically and politically - the full cost has been detailed by Christopher Booker and Richard North in a series of books, the best of all being 'The Great Deception' - books largely ignored by many reviewers and journals. We have held back ( quite rightly) from plunging fully into the project, so that we still more or less retain our own currency and our own legal system , our own diplomatic service and our own armed forces, so there is not too much unscrambling to do. And there is a strong, reasoned case for negotiating an amicable departure. If Norway and Switzerland, both far smaller and less globally-connected than we, can negotiate individual terms with the EU, then why can't we?

...Mexico, most certainly not an EU member, has excellent trade terms with the EU. If we want to keep the much-touted rights to live and work in the EU, we no doubt can. Norwegians and Swiss nationals have them. They even have - which we should never agree to - passport-free travel to and from EU countries. To the extent that we wish to trade with the EU, we would be under pressure to agree to EU rules about what we sell. We would no doubt have to pay some sort of contribution to obtain the 'benefits' of EU membership. But we would be able to negotiate this from a position of strength much more advantageous than the one a British prime Minister now finds himself in at Euro-summits. They want our markets far more than we need theirs. We would have no need to need to accept the supremacy over our Parliament of the European Court of Justice at Luxembourg. We would not be obliged to enact EU commission directives as British Acts of Parliament. We could issue our own passports in whatever colour we preferred (I favour a stiff-backed blue booklet myself) and (as does the USA and...Thailand) we could give our own citizens (we might let them become subjects again) greater rights to enter the country than persons from Lithuania or Romania. We could halt the absorption of our independent diplomatic service into the EU's. We could make our own individual trade agreements with the USA, and wouldn't need to get caught in trade wars between Washington and Brussels, as we frequently have been in the past. We could withdraw from the European arrest warrant system, and ignore the new 'Human Rights' commission in Vienna which is shortly to be the fount of political correctness across the EU.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


Law (a 2004 repeat) What is the purpose of law? To make people behave well. Under Holmes’s “Bad Man” theory in “The Path of the Law”, laws are for the men who will not do good without the threat of punishment. That, however, neglects other purposes of laws which are important if secondary. One is the “expressive” purpose– that expressing that something is wrong is satisfing to the public. Related to that is the educational purpose of law. Even the good man does not know everything, and the law teaches him. From Psalm 119:

97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. ... 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

But for the law to achieve this purpose, it must be a trustworthy guide. We must trust the lawgiver to be willing to learn from the law. God’s law is trustworthy. If nothing else, it tells me what God wants, and that is important in itself. Human law is less reliable. If I see a law saying that it is illegal to perform haircuts without a license, I do not conclude that unlicensed haircuts are immoral, or even unsafe, because I think the legislature is wiser than I am. Rather, I conclude that either the legislature has been fooled, or they have been bribed by the barbers to restrict entry.

The Bible is a comfort to Christians because it is a reliable source of law. It still has many difficulties– notably, knowing what law in the Old Testament is still applicable after the Resurrection– but Christians at least have a basis for right and wrong beyond what their culture teaches them. Traditionalists are less grounded, but they at least can find grounding in the axiom that their tradition is reliable. Liberals, despite the confidence they commonly show, are more at sea. They cannot retreat to their culture, since it is a recent and ever-changing one. They are at risk trying to appeal to logical principles grounded in a few generally accepted axioms too, since they often profess a relativism which rules out logic. But that, I think, is what they commonly try to do anyway. John Stuart Mill is an example. He tried to ground morality on the rule of not hurting others, and that is common today too. But the rule turns out to be empty, since anything to which anybody objects hurts them and since it is by no means self-evident that we shouldn’t hurt other people (think of the hurt caused by winning a contest with others, or by starting a new business in competition with them).

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Saturday, December 8, 2007


Takings for "Public Purposes. (recycled) Kau v. City & County. A reader sent me the depressing court opinion, Kau v. City & County, No. 23674 (Haw. Sup. Ct. June 22, 2004), which reiterates the Hawaiian judicial precedent that the government can seize your property, if it pays the market price, and give it to someone else who wants it and has more political power, even if there is no public purpose involved. It is even worse than I'd thought, because the *supposed* public purpose is to reduce land prices-- that is, pure redistribution, to hurt landowners and benefit other people.

(Click here to read more.)

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Saturday, November 3, 2007


Selective Prosecution. The Taipei Times article "Ma found not guilty in corruption trial" tells of how the KMT government in Taiwan prosecuted opposition party leader Ma for keeping for personal use much of a "special allowance" as mayor of Taipei. It seems that it has been customary for years for officials to treat the allowance as income, and Ma made no secret of doing so, in which case this seems a good example of selective prosecution for political purposes.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Antitrust Thoughts. It's the mark of a good journal article that it stimulates thought. On the strong recommendation of JV, I started reading Professor William Kovacic's "THE INTELLECTUAL DNA OF MODERN U.S. COMPETITION LAW FOR DOMINANT FIRM CONDUCT: THE CHICAGO/HARVARD DOUBLE HELIX," Columbia Business Law Review, 2007. He argues that modern antitrust law should not be viewed as Chicago School plus Post-Chicago School, but as Chicago School economics plus Harvard Law pragmatism. Areeda, Turner, and Breyer had a big impact in the way they thought about how judges can actually implement antitrust law. (Click here to read more.)

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Friday, October 5, 2007


Election Fraud and Fired US Attorney John McKay

I have read people saying that election fraud has trivial importance in the United States, so the Republicans' desire for investigations and for identity to be verified for voting is unjustified. Here's clear evidence against that. Note, too, the behavior of US Attorney John McKay, who was later fired.Click here to read more

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