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Give the people what they want

[ 164 ] April 20, 2013 |

Further thoughts on the relationship between violence as political theater and the social forces that enable it.

Teenage Wasteland

[ 5 ] April 20, 2013 |

A fantastic bit of reporting from David Remnick.

Fear hits a homer

[ 256 ] April 19, 2013 |

I just saw on the Twitters that both the Bruins and the Red Sox have had their games tonight postponed, no doubt because the entire Boston area remains locked down.

Almost 1 million people in metropolitan Boston remained under siege Friday as police conducted a massive manhunt for one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

The region felt as if it had been gripped by martial law: Police armed with rifles patrolled deserted streets in Boston, Watertown, Cambridge, Waltham, Newton, Belmont, and Brookline, and residents hunkered inside, under authorities’ unprecedented order.

“It is important that folks remain indoors,” Governor Deval Patrick said this afternoon at a press conference. “Keep the doors locked and [do not] open the door unless there is a uniformed, identified law enforcement officer on the other side of it requesting to come inside.”

Authorities shut down all MBTA service, halting subways, trains, and buses. City and town halls were closed. Public works canceled trash pickup, keeping garbage trucks off streets. Courthouses kept their doors closed.

From Dudley Square to the Seaport, Cambridge to Kenmore Square, businesses shuttered. Streets remained empty, sidewalks abandoned, entire office blocks uninhabited.

While I appreciate that police work is made easier by completely immobilizing the population of a major metropolitan area, this sort of massive over-reaction to the failure to apprehend one 19-year-old amateur terrorist (I doubt Al Qaeda types and the like would consider knocking off a 7-11, shooting a security guard, and carjacking an SUV to be the smart play a few hours after having their faces spread all over the internet) is what gives the performers of what are essentially bloody publicity stunts ever-more motivation to engage in their crimes.

. . .

Meanwhile, in Chicago yesterday:

Man 34 shot in Old Irving Park

A man, 34, was dropped off at Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital with gunshot wounds to his torso about 12:20 a.m. . The man was shot south of the intersection of Irving Park Road and Avondale Avenue

37 year old man shot in West Pullman

A 37-year-old man was shot about 10:15 p.m. in the 12300 block of South Emerald Avenue about 10:15 p.m. Someone saw a car speeding from the scene and the shooting may have been a drive-by . Police responded to a call of a person shot and found the man on the sidewalk bleeding from his body and arm.

2- 19 year olds shot in West Pullman
At about 5 p.m. in the 12000 block of South Lafayette Avenue, two 19-year-old men were shot in the legs

16 year old shot in Woodlawn
About 7:15 p.m., a 16-year-old boy was shot in the left thigh on the 1500 block of East 62nd Street. The boy was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where his condition has been stabilized

Man shot in Austin during Robbery

A man, whose age wasn’t available, was shot about 4 p.m. in the South Austin neighborhood on the West Side. He was robbed of some cash and shot in the left shoulder in the 100 block of North Mason Avenue and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with a wound to his left shoulder

44 year old man shot in Garfield Park
About 3:10 p.m. a 44-year-old man was shot in the 3000 block of Carrol Avenue in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. He was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in serious condition

36 year old man shot in Logan Square
About 1 p.m. a man was shot in the 3500 block of West North Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood. The 36-year-old was shot in the stomach more than once while standing on a sidewalk,. He’s in stable condition at Mount Sinai Hospital.

This seems like quite a coincidence

[ 178 ] April 17, 2013 |

If somebody is trying to pull off a cut-rate imitation of the post-9/11 craziness, they seem to be succeeding.

Of course it may well be a coincidence, and the kind of thing that wouldn’t have gotten much attention if not for Monday’s bombing.

Amnesty for academic sock puppets?

[ 65 ] April 17, 2013 |

Oh my:

Twenty years ago, I paid a visit to Prof. Michael Broyde in his Emory University Law School office, to ask him to help me understand the Jewish legal doctrine of lashon hara–telling bad things about someone. I was interested in the relationship between this proscribed behavior and the practice of journalism. He told me that, unlike defamation in U.S. law, lashon hara is considered wrong even if the bad thing is true.

A couple of days ago, Broyde found himself on the wrong end of such journalistic lashon hara. In a punctilious piece of investigative reporting, the Jewish Channel’s Steven I. Weiss made out a case that Broyde had invented an elderly rabbi called Hershel Goldwasser to engage in some classic online sock puppetry.

Specifically, Weiss alleged that Broyde used the Goldwasser character to 1) praise himself to other scholars; 2) attack rabbinic authorities he disagreed with–including Atlanta’s most respected orthodox rabbi; and 3) gain access to a listserv of his rabbinic rivals that he wouldn’t have had access to under his own name. In his correspondence to scholarly journals, “Goldwasser” said that Broyde had been a “one-in-[a]-million” student of his in high school and that because of the relationship Broyde sent him drafts of his brilliant articles to review — thereby explaining his frequent reference to them.

Not only could Weiss find no independent confirmation of Goldwasser’s existence but he ascertained that his communications came from the same Comcast and Emory IP addresses that Broyde uses. At first, when confronted with the evidence, Broyde denied inventing Goldwasser. (“Not my character…He’s a rebbe [teacher] of mine from many years ago who’s deceased [and] made aliyah [moved to Israel] ten years ago, or something like that, maybe more, I don’t remember.”) But shortly after Weiss’ story appeared, he admitted responsibility in an email of apology to one of the rabbis on the invaded listserv.

How much of this kind of thing is out there, just waiting to be uncovered? (A few weeks ago, LGM readers were treated to the amusing spectacle of law professor Brian Leiter’s various sock puppets traipsing across the internet discussing, among many other things, the awesomeness of Brian Leiter).

Perhaps it’s time to convene a Truth and Reconciliation blog panel, which will grant amnesty to the purveyors of sock puppetry, in return for a full and frank confession, and a promise to mend one’s narcissistic ways.

On a related note, consider this suggestion, made just a couple of days ago by Broyde’s Emory Law School colleague Dorothy Brown: ($$$)

The question that needs to be asked is: What makes for successful lawyers in the 21st century and how would a new rankings system reward law schools that did the job well? Although U.S. News does not seem to care, lawyers, law schools and consumers should. The current market for lawyers rewards value added. Given this, law schools must develop leaders who are problem solvers and collaborative workers — leaders who have the integrity to say no when no one in the room wants to hear it. If a rankings system could take that into account, society as a whole would be better off . . .

We are facing some of the most intractable problems of recent history. A ranking system that rewarded those law schools that instilled integrity, developed leaders, and graduated problem solvers would be good for the country. We must find a better test to teach to.

This is the conclusion to an op-ed which is devoted to describing how structural changes in the market for legal services are eliminating jobs for lawyers.

Nothing illustrates the essential emptiness of so much of what goes on in legal academia as recommendations (and they are legion) of this sort. Do graduate programs in other disciplines advertise that they are going to “add value” by turning their charges into social leaders chock full of moral integrity, who also possess amorphous “problem solving” skills? I guess the military academies make similar claims at the undergraduate level, but leaving aside whether those claims actually have any plausibility, those institutions immerse 18-year-olds in a 24/7 experience, as opposed to spending a few hours per week attempting to convey legal doctrine to 25-year-olds surfing Facebook.

Seriously, how exactly are law professors supposed to “instill integrity” in law students, or “develop leaders?” In what way are we qualified to perform these amazing feats, even assuming such miracles could be produced in law school classrooms? And even if we assume enough can openers to make this a plausible educational mission, how is any of this going to get anybody a job?

NY Post claims 20-year-old Saudi being held in Boston blasts

[ 49 ] April 15, 2013 |

Obviously our invasion of Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 attacks failed to prevent more terror.

Update: NY Post report of arrest denied by police.

From NBC News:

Federal officials told NBC News that Boston police were guarding a “possible suspect” who had been wounded in the blasts, but they cautioned that there was no information at the federal level to consider that person a suspect.

On a possibly related note, I flew on Thursday and there was clearly heightened security, at least at DIA. A line that normally would have taken five to ten minutes to get through at the security checkpoint took 40 minutes. (On second thought this is idle speculation. I’ve talked to three other people who’ve flown in the last two days, and while one encountered what seemed like heightened security procedures, the two others didn’t).

Catholic University of America to slash overall budget by 20%; plunging law schools apps to blame

[ 19 ] April 15, 2013 |

Last November CUA’s law school announced that the managing partner of Kirkland and Ellis’s DC office would become the school’s dean the following July. In January the school revealed the new dean was taking over immediately, and that staff were being laid off.

Now comes word that the university as a whole will cut operating expenses by 20% (!) because the cash cow that was its law school is being ground up into hamburger by, among other things, the availability of employment statistics regarding outcomes for CUA law school graduates.

Those statistics reveal that 88 out of 246 2012 CUA law grads had a legal job (full-time long-term employment requiring bar admission) in February of 2013, not counting two people who were employed by the school itself.

The law school accounts for about 10% of the university’s overall enrollment, so the mind reels at the extent to which the rest of the university has been depending for its solvency on encouraging the law school to produce massively indebted graduates who are unable to get any sort of legal job in what is at present the worst place in the country to try to get a job as a lawyer (Washington DC).

This naturally raises the question of how many other universities depend on their law school’s graduates to cross-subsidize the rest of the campus to a similar extent. A friend who is in a position to know tells me that quite a few law schools are now actually running operating deficits, although university budgets are so byzantine in regard to cross-subsidization via the charging of “indirect expenses” and the like that it’s often very difficult to untangle the actual financial situation. We law faculty are of course encouraged by our administrative overlords not to worry our pretty little heads about these matters, not that most of us require much encouragement of that sort anyway.

Another friend makes a prediction:

My suspicion is that law schools will close when they appear to need long term subsidization. I got into a row a few times at Prawfs over this, but when you read most schools tenure guidelines as an implied contract, it starts to jump out that cost cutting would be extraordinarily hard in any department – with seniority rules, the need to show financial crisis etc. The easy out is actually to “pull the plug” on the whole department. That is why I think a few colleges could quite abruptly make the decision to simply close the law school.

I do find amusing the idea that some professors have that everyone will take a nice round 10% pay cut. You never can really sell an across the board pay cut – someone always has alimony, kids in school, impecunious parents, a big mortgage, and if it is hell to make it stick. Look how fast law firms push out partners having a bad year… The idea that senior faculty will take one for the team, or junior faculty, many of whom have big student loans – is not that realistic. The problem is that it does not look very easy to layoff tenured faculty and oddly, tenure seems to be one of the few areas in US law where the idea of constructive dismissal may actually apply (I did some research a while back.)

My own sense of the situation, which I have expressed before, is that when the first reputable college jumps and announces that its law school is closing there will be a rising wave of followers. The interesting question is how far are some schools from that point – if enrollment is way down in August/September it could start sooner than many people think.

I note your comment about lack of transparency. The late Dick Gordon told me, when he was Dean of Georgetown, that he took the decision to move to Capitol Hill so that he could segregate the finances better – that the murkiness was in overhead allocation for shared facilities – registration fees, campus upkeep, heating plant, you name it. Some departments pay essentially nothing for their use of campus facilities and office space, lecture halls, gyms, registration services, while law schools often pay inflated charges, and the law school Deans don’t necessarily know how inflated.

Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Law school is now for rich kids

[ 22 ] April 9, 2013 |

While looking over the latest debt numbers for law graduates, it’s striking how high these numbers have gotten; conversely, it’s also how many people are graduating with no law school debt at all. Nationally, about 15% of the class of 2012 graduated with no law school debt, but this percentage varied widely between schools, from a high of 30% to a low of 0% (32% of UC-Irvine’s initial class graduated with no debt, but this is a special case as the entire initial class paid no tuition).

You don’t have to be an ethnologist to detect a certain pattern in the distribution of these percentages as they relate to, among other things, matters of socioeconomic status. For example, here’s a half dozen schools with especially high percentages of graduates who incurred debt:

Thomas Jefferson 98%
Phoenix 97%
Western New England 96%
Regent 98%
Appalachian 96%
Texas Southern 100%

Now here are six schools that had relatively low percentages of graduates taking out any law school loans:

SMU: 70%
Penn: 71%
Fordham: 72%
Texas: 74%
Emory 76%
Vanderbilt: 76%

Note that the estimated cost of attendance at the schools with lots of debt-free graduates is on average quite a bit higher than that at the schools where essentially everyone is graduating with law school debt. So how is it that, for example, nearly three out of ten graduates of Fordham manage to graduate without taking out any law school loans?

The answer, of course, is that lots of really rich kids go to Fordham (and SMU and Vanderbilt, etc.). These schools have become staggeringly expensive to attend: For instance, Fordham now charges just under $50K per year in tuition and fees, and has a nine-month estimated cost of living of over $25,000. (Federal loan programs only allow people to borrow living expenses when they’re enrolled in school, so summer expenses aren’t covered for most students.

Fordham also gives out very little in the way of scholarship money: two-thirds of the class gets nothing, and the median grant for those who do get tuition breaks is $10K, meaning that the school’s effective tuition rate is around $46K per year.

Yet three out of ten Fordham grads are coming up with $240K in cash to pay for three years of tuition and cost of living expenses in mid-town and environs. What happens to the rest?

The 72% of the 2012 graduating class that took out loans during law school took out an average (mean) total of $134,350 over the course of law school. But this total is misleading. First, a significant minority of that 72% are borrowing only minimally. From what I’ve seen at various schools, about 10% to 15% of the graduating class takes out relatively small loan totals, to cover for example part or all of their living expenses, while parents pay the full cost of tuition. In addition, until last summer it was possible to get $25,500 in interest-free subsidized Stafford loans over the course of law school — the government paid the interest pre-graduation — and I know some people who took out such loans purely for the arbitrage opportunity, and then paid them off at graduation.

So probably about 60%, roughly speaking, of the Fordham class took out really large loan amounts. This means the median amount borrowed among the 72% of the class that borrowed was quite a bit higher than the mean. And as of last year, all such loans accrue interest as soon as their issued, and average rate of about 7.5%. What this means is that the median amount owed in law school loans by the more than half of Fordham grads who took out significant loans was probably more on the order of $200,000 — and this doesn’t include other educational debt, or consumer debt.

Now it’s true that one third of Fordham’s 2012 class got high-paying big firm jobs (how long they’ll hang on to those jobs is a different question). But for what should be obvious reasons, it’s unlikely that the distribution of such jobs was random between the 60% or so of the class that’s incurring massive debt totals, and the 40% that’s incurring no or relatively little debt.

This back of the envelope calculation leads to the conclusion that around half of the 2012 class at this highly-ranked school is basically screwed (100 of the class’s 466 graduates were either completely unemployed nine months after graduation, or working in short-term and/or part-time “jobs” funded by the school itself, to pump up the school’s putative employment rate). And that half is likely to largely overlap with the three-fifths of the class that doesn’t come from major money.

A very similar story can be told about the graduating classes at Emory and Vanderbilt and Texas and SMU — hyper-expensive schools catering in large but all too limited part to the children of the one per cent, where the large majority of the graduating classes don’t get anything close to a high-paying entry level job, or in some cases any job at all. (A commenter points out that UT is not hyper-expensive relative to these other schools, at least for in-state residents. Although even for in-state residents annual COA is $53K a year, which will produce nearly $190K in debt if fully debt-financed. Out of state COA is $70K per year).

And, comparatively speaking, these are among the best law schools out there, in terms of “investment value.” Compared to Thomas Jefferson et. al., these schools feature good outcomes — in the sense that breaking your ankle is a good outcome relative to getting your leg amputated.

Dynamic bass player available

[ 70 ] March 21, 2013 |

Is “Big Bottom” in G?

dynamic bass player

Latest law graduate debt figures

[ 24 ] March 13, 2013 |

US News has published the debt figures for the law school graduating classes of 2012. A few notes:

(1) These figures are mislabeled “average indebtedness of 2012 graduates who incurred debt.” That’s incorrect. These figures represent the mean amount of federal educational loans taken out over the course of law school by graduates who incurred debt. The distinction is significant, because the reported figures don’t include interest accrued during school. How significant? The #1 school on the list, Thomas Jefferson, reported 98% of its graduates taking out a mean of $168,800 in federal loans. A student who borrows that amount will have $201,000 in federal loan debt at repayment, six months after graduation. So you can tack about 17% onto these figures to get a true sense of what people owe on their law school loans when they get their bar results. (Note too that these figures don’t include undergraduate debt).

(2) The increase in indebtedness over the past few years is startling, though not surprising, given the very rapid run-up in tuition. Compare these figures to the class of 2008:

Total number of schools where the mean total of law school loans taken out was at least $100,000:

2008: 47 of 191 reporting schools

2012: 123 of 193 reporting schools

The mean total of law school loans taken out at the median school increased by 33% between 2008 and 2012, from $84.5K to $112.6K.

In 2008 there were 15 schools at which the mean total of loans taken out was less than $50,000 (this is the figure that Brian Tamanaha gives as a reasonable amount of money for most law students to borrow under current circumstances; Tamanaha’s thoughts on the new debt figures are here). In 2012 there are two, one of which (UC-Irvine) charged no tuition to members of the class of 2012, but is now charging nearly $50,000 per year to its new admits. The other school is Southern, which almost certainly misreported its data.

The UC-Irvine data are interesting, because they indicate how high the direct costs of going to law school are in an expensive urban area even if law school is “free.” UC-I gave full three-year tuition scholarships to everyone in its initial entering class, yet those students who borrowed any money still finished with around $58,000 in debt (including interest) by the time they graduated.

(3) There are some very striking differences in how fast indebtedness has risen at different schools. For example, mean debt at Columbia has risen “only” 13%, while at TJSL it has gone up by astonishing 60% in just four years. It’s also notable that fully one in five Columbia graduates incur no law school debt at all, even though only a handful of Columbia graduates get large discounts on tuition, and the non-discounted cost of attending the school is now nearly $250,000. This suggests that the relatively modest increase in mean debt loads among Columbia graduates is to some extent a reflection of the mean SES of the student body at Ivy League schools.

For the record (contains Brian Leiter content)

[ 117 ] March 12, 2013 |

Updated below.

Updated again below.

Back story can be found here, here and here.

(1) On the evening of February 28th, 2013 Prof. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School sent creepy pseudonymous email messages to at least two people who had criticized him anonymously in comment threads at The Faculty Lounge. Leiter used his paduren@gmail.com email account for this purpose.

(2) Two days later, again using his Peter Aduren alt, Leiter attempted to “out” one of his TFL critics on JD Underground, with a post that was quickly deleted by the administrator.

(3) That same day, Leiter used his University of Chicago email account to sent a threatening email to a third pseudonymous TFL critic.

(4) Also on that day, Leiter published a post on his law school blog, boasting that he was going to do what he could to try to get an “insolent” and “impertinent” young associate at a law firm, who had sent Leiter a pointed but otherwise inoffensive one-sentence question via email, in trouble with the firm’s partners. In that post, Leiter also threatened to out lawyers who engage in “unprofessional” behavior, by abusing the privilege of internet anonymity.

(5) The next morning a poster started a thread at Top Law Schools, linking to Leiter’s post, and suggesting that Leiter “has too much time on his hands, and is kind of an imperious, self-important asshole to boot.” Literally within minutes after this post went up, Leiter registered pseudononymously at TLS (you have to register to read the forum on which the post appeared), using his aduren gmail account to do so. Shortly afterwards Leiter contacted the site’s legal counsel, asking TLS to remove the post. TLS refused to do so.

(6) After conversations with some of his targets, I looked into this series of events and determined via triangulation that Leiter got the email addresses he used to contact them from The Faculty Lounge. I determined that Leiter’s co-blogger Dan Filler was an obvious candidate for having given Leiter access to the critics’ email addresses, and in at least one case an IP address as well.

(7) Early last week I contacted Filler and asked him whether he had had anything to do with Leiter’s acquisition of the email addresses of his targets. He didn’t respond. I then made the information above public.

(8) Filler finally responded on Friday, by giving a statement to Above the Law that didn’t address the question of whether he had given Leiter access to the information.

(9) Over the weekend, numerous commenters at TFL asked the site’s bloggers to address this issue. Finally, on Monday morning the site’s bloggers posted this.

Comment: I remain unaware of any plausible alternative explanation in regard to how Leiter acquired the emails of the three people he harassed between February 27 and March 2. This of course suggests that yesterday’s statement from TFL is inaccurate in some way. It could be inaccurate because:

(a) One of the signatories is being untruthful.

(b) The statement is less definitive than it sounds. As someone in the comment thread suggests (btw unlike Leiter when I use the word “someone” in such a context I mean someone other than “myself” — I haven’t commented in that thread) the phrase “identifying information” could be construed to exclude IP addresses and email addresses, if the latter were just screen names.

(c) Either a former or guest TFL blogger who retains admin privileges transmitted the information to Leiter.

Of course Leiter could resolve the suspicions hanging over current and former TFL bloggers by revealing who gave him the email addresses. Short of that, the precise details of what happened are likely to remain unclear.

Going forward, I would like to pay no more attention to this sad and disturbing matter, but I’m putting up this post to help clarify a series of complex events, since unfortunately it’s quite likely that Leiter will continue to engage in this kind of thing, and it would be good for his future correspondents to be forewarned.

Update: Paul Horwitz has a post at Prawfsblawg (which he’s not allowing people to comment on) in which he upbraids me for initially suggesting that Dan Filler was the person who most likely leaked the email addresses to Leiter, and then moving to stronger statements in which I asserted that Filler “apparently” transmitted the information to his co-blogger. The latter statements were a product of what can only be described as Filler’s extremely suspicious behavior in this matter: When contacted, he simply refused for several days to address what pretty much everyone except for Brian Leiter and his numerous sock puppets now recognizes was at the least a serious breach of internet privacy norms. When he finally did speak to the issue, Filler gave, as Scott pointed out, a remarkably lame response, that only intensified doubts about his conduct. In short it took Filler six days to issue an actual denial (if one chooses to interpret yesterday’s TFL post as that).

Now there are other explanations for Filler’s conduct besides direct guilt: perhaps he’s covering for someone else at TFL, or perhaps he just doesn’t know how to handle this kind of squalid controversy (in which case I suggest he might not want to continue to hang around Brian Leiter.) And I do acknowledge that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Leiter got the emails from some source other than TFL (though no one has even suggested how this could have happened, given the known facts).

If at some point in the future Filler is cleared, I will of course give that event as much publicity as I can. Until then, he’ll have to live with what remain well-founded suspicions regarding his conduct in this matter.

Update II: Cross-posted from comments at TFL:

I wish to emphasize here for the internet version of posterity that Brian Leiter, whose latest update on his blog regarding this matter reads very much like the work of a mentally unstable individual [link added by SEK] does not deny that he is “Peter Aduren,” author of pseudonymous messages to TFL commenters, who, quite understandably in my view, perceived those messages as harassing and threatening. The question of who outed these commenters to Leiter is a secondary issue which, while important, is not nearly as important as Leiter’s ongoing behavior.

I hope that someone at Chicago has the good sense to intervene, and to get him the kind of help he seems to need.

More evidence that claims of a law graduate employment crisis are seriously exaggerated

[ 31 ] March 11, 2013 |

There are always plenty of jobs for scrappy kids who network and hustle.

. . . speaking of which a correspondent sent me a photo he took this weekend of an ad Temple’s law school has put up in Philadelphia’s main commuter terminal.

It’s in the “Suburban Station” SEPTA regional rail station…essentially the underground center city regional rail (i.e. commuter rail) stop for Philadelphia.

It’s right under city hall. All the commuters from the main line will pass through during rush hour.

I don’t have a link to the photo of the ad itself, but it reads in large block letters (pretty sure Don Draper wasn’t involved):

FUTURES MADE

92% CAREER PLACEMENT
RATE FOR BEASLEY SCHOOL
OF LAW GRADUATES

The most recent nine-month employment statistics for Temple law grads indicate that 54% of the class got a real legal job, very generously defined (full-time long-term employment requiring bar admission; of that 54% figure, nearly a quarter are working for firms of 2 to 10 lawyers — an unknown number of these jobs are either very transient or essentially fictional, as when a couple of new grads rent office space to start a “firm,” while another 15% are in state and local clerkships that are often one-year way stations to legal unemployment). All in all, it would clearly be an exaggeration to claim that even half the class got jobs that present any reasonable prospect of leading to real legal careers.

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