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Chemerinsky’s folly

[ 93 ] March 10, 2015 |


Erwin Chemerinsky has a theory, which is his.

His theory is that it’s impossible to provide a good legal education at any less than the astronomical prices currently being charged by American law schools, including his personal vanity project, the University of California-Irvine, of which he is the first dean. To wit:

There is no solution to the high cost of legal education.

Chemerinsky’s goal when he started UCI wasn’t to solve that particular problem. Far from it: instead he intended to create a “top 20″ law school. To that end he has spent a fortune hiring high-priced faculty talent, including most notably himself and his wife — a dynamic academic duo that was pulling down $600,000 in direct comp alone from the school in 2013. (Several other UCI law faculty are making close to or more than $300,000 per year).

In pursuing this precious ranking, Chemerinsky apparently convinced the school’s central administration to, for the moment at least, keep the school’s entering classes very small, in order to bolster its matriculants’ average entrance credentials: Indeed, after admitting classes of 119 and 126 in 2012 and 2013, the school ratcheted back to a class of just 89 this past fall, meaning that in its sixth year of operation UCI’s total enrollment is still just 326 students (when he started the school Chemerinsky indicated the plan was to have a school of about 600 students).

Meanwhile, Chemerinsky’s hiring binge has continued unabated: the school is now up to 43 full-time faculty — a 50% increase from just two years ago.

All this means the law school must be currently losing a whole lot of money. How much? Well those 43 faculty are costing the school close to ten million per year in salary and benefits, which means the school’s total operating costs are probably well more than double that, since you’ve still got to pay for non-faculty personnel, physical plant costs, library costs (the school was spending nearly two million per year on the latter item alone a couple of years ago), and the school’s share of the university’s indirect operating costs (that is, university-wide costs not incurred directly by individual academic units).

Meanwhile, how much tuition revenue is the school pulling in this year? UCI is playing the new favorite game of many a financially troubled law school, which is to charge crazy high sticker tuition, but then offer deep discounts off that number to the vast majority of students. Indeed almost 90% of students last year were getting discounts that averaged nearly $25,000 each, and that number is unlikely to have gone down, given how desperate Chemerinsky was to buy another entering class with high LSAT and GPA numbers (critical to the rigorous scientific method of the USN rankings system).

So those 326 students are probably paying an average effective tuition rate this year in the mid to high 20s. Let’s say $27K per capita. That’s $8.8 million dollars. UCI was given $20 million by real estate mogul Donald Bren to found the law school, but that money has probably already been burnt through in large part to buy the school’s first few classes (the original class paid no tuition, and subsequent classes paid, and continue to pay, drastically less than list price). Of course the school has no endowment to speak of beyond that original nest egg, nor is it getting anything in annual giving from its as yet almost completely hypothetical alumni base. So that pretty much exhausts the sources of law school revenues (grants and contracts, so critical to the funding of academic departments which do work that the outside world is actually willing to pay for, remain rare in legal academia).

UCI made its debut in the rankings today, tying with several other schools for the #30 spot, i.e., a very long way from the elite zip codes of “top” law schools, and still a good ways down the road from its sub-elite local competitors UCLA and USC, which are perpetually in the 15-20 range.

Always the advocate, Chemerinsky pasted a smiley face on this outcome:

“I am very proud of UCI Law’s accomplishments in building a top law school in only six years,” said Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. “We have so much to be proud of thanks to the hard work of faculty, administrators, students, alumni and supporters, both on campus and in the legal community. We are so grateful for the generosity and support we have received in building the University of California, Irvine School of Law.”

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky continued: “I expect that we will rise significantly in U.S. News rankings in the years ahead.

As a friend notes, the problem with this kind of thing is that the battle for rankings is unrelenting. Chemerinsky must have convinced the UCI administration to let him run the school at huge loss to this point, on the basis of the promise that he would get it into UCLA/USC territory, at which point they could expand to 600 students and charge $40K per year in effective tuition, rather than offering most of the class massive discounts.

Well he didn’t make it, and now he’s got a big problem, which consists of those 43 very highly-paid faculty, none of which are ready to get pushed out via buyouts (the preferred cost-cutting strategy of schools losing a lot less money than UCI is losing right now). If the class is expanded by cutting matric entrance numbers, that will also hurt the school in the rankings, so it’s all a Catch-22.

UCI’s central administrators are probably experiencing severe buyer’s remorse right now, but they are getting no more than they deserve for buying into the idea that what the utterly saturated California legal hiring market needed was yet another “prestigious” law school.

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LGM Tourney Challenge

[ 2 ] March 10, 2015 |

I have reactivated the LGM Tourney Challenge group.

Group: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Something tells me that more than two people will pick Kentucky to win this year… As always, prize to the winner.


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Scalia v. Scalia

[ 64 ] March 10, 2015 |

Like many people, I was highly critical of Antonin Scalia’s assertion that Congress would not allow a majority of the country’s health insurance markets to collect, based on its complete alienation from even the most basic facts of American politics as it is actually practiced in 2015.  But don’t take it from me!  A Supreme Court justice implicitly made a similar critique in 2012:

Scalia gesture

Let’s consider how — how your approach, severing as little as possible, thereby increases the deference that we’re showing to Congress. It seems to me it puts Congress in this position: This Act is still in full effect. There is going to be this deficit that used to be made up by the mandatory coverage provision. All that money has to come from somewhere. You can’t repeal the rest of the Act because you’re not going to get 60 votes in the Senate to repeal the rest. It’s not a matter of enacting a new Act. You got to get 60 votes to repeal it. So, the rest of the Act is going to be the law.

I presumably don’t need to tell you who asked that question.  The difference is that in 2012 Scalia had to argue that the mandate was so essential to the operation of the ACA that it couldn’t be severed from the rest of the statute, so it was in his ideological interest to tell the truth: namely, that if the mandate was struck down Congress was not going to be able to fix the statute, and without a fix the three-legged stool would collapse.  But now the truth is inconvenient, so Scalia has to “forget” that if the Court wrecks the exchanges Congress isn’t going to do anything about it.

And as you may remember, Scalia’s partisan hackery has another layer to it.  The argument Scalia made in 2012 also required him to effectively repudiate the expansive interpretation of the Necessary and Proper clause he had invoked to justify joining the majority in Raich.   Scalia had to simultaneously argue that the mandate was so essential to the operation of the statute that it couldn’t be severed if it was found unconstitutional, and yet so inessential that it was not authorized under McCulloch.  Scalia’s ad hoc war on the ACA is causing him to ignore principles he had long advocated, and his vote to inevitable vote reverse King v. Burwell will also contradict things he has long argued about statutory construction and interpretive law.

None of this is terribly unusual; I hope we’re all legal realists here.  But it makes Scalia’s relentless promotion of himself as America’s Last Honest Judge particularly intolerable.  In his votes, Alito is an even more consistent Republican party-liner, but at least he’s not nearly as pompous about it.

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Oil Train Explosions

[ 14 ] March 10, 2015 |


Too much destruction, not enough regulation. A sign o’the times.

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Man Who Will Never Be President Says Dumb Things About Politics

[ 99 ] March 10, 2015 |

Jim Webb, everybody:

President Obama had a tremendous amount of goodwill when he was first elected. I don’t agree with the notion that he got all of this resistance automatically, simply because of external factors. He put health-care reform on the table at a time when we were in a major recession. It had been a big issue in the campaign, so there was a natural momentum to want to haul that through. But there was no bill. When George W. Bush was president, people would ask me about health-care reform, and I would say, having spent four years inside an administration, “If he wants that, he should put together a bill.” Bob Dole famously said, “The president proposes, the Congress disposes.” But there was no bill. The administration was sitting back, encouraging what became five different bills, three in the House and two in the Senate. It was very confusing, and it scared the American people.

I’ve already criticized the Rahm Emmanuel theory of health care reform extensively. In addition, there’s…well, Webb is kind enough to refute his own argument:

It could have been done in a different way. I, quite frankly, would have figured a narrower bill, but an actual bill. There are counterarguments to that, and I know you’re aware of them, where they were saying that the Clinton administration had put together a 1,100-page bill and it got ripped up. But you need a bill.

So, to summarize, Barack Obama succeeded in getting comprehensive health reform passed where Truman, Johnson, and Clinton either failed or didn’t. even. try. by publicly deferring to Congress. Bill Clinton tried to ram a health care reform bill right down Congress’s throat by going public, and is was a disaster on every level. Conclusion: Obama should have followed Clinton’s model. I can’t wait for Webb’s next interview, in which he argues that the Seahawks should have traded for Tim Tebow rather than drafting Russell Wilson.

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Respecting Women Means Closing Sweatshops

[ 41 ] March 10, 2015 |


Too much of the talk around women at work these days revolves around wealthy women like Sheryl Sandberg. As Janey Stephenson argues, if we want International Women’s Day to mean something, that requires the closing of sweatshops worldwide. That will only happen if we create legal regimes that force companies to acquiesce to international labor law in their factories and that grants the rights of these usually female workers to sue in corporate nations of origin for real financial damages against their employers or the companies that contract with their employers. Without closing the sweatshops, the international exploitation of women by American corporations will continue and without empowering women and ending the race to the bottom, that international exploitation will never end.

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This Day in Labor History: March 10, 1925

[ 31 ] March 10, 2015 |

On March 10, 1925, the New York Times first reported the story of the so-called Radium Girls, as U.S. Radium Company employee Marguerite Carlough had sued her employer for $75,000 for the horrific health problems caused by her work with radium that would soon kill her. The story would garner national headlines and would demonstrate both the awfulness of working conditions in the early 20th century and the failures of the workers’ compensation system to deal with health problems caused by poisonous work.

The 1910s saw the development of two phenomena that would come together in horrible ways for workers. The first was the wristwatch, invented during this decade. The second was the entrance of radium into the marketplace. Because radium glowed in the dark, it became a popular method of painting watch faces, since it made the watches useful at night. For soldiers in World War I, these watches were a godsend and this made them popular nationwide.

The Radium Luminous Materials Corporation (later U.S. Radium Corporation) plant in Orange, New Jersey caused a lot of problems in the neighborhood. Residents complained the company’s emissions turned their drying clothes yellow. For the workers, the radium was as much a delight as it was to the consumers. With little health research into its effects on the workers, the young dialpainters suffered heavy exposure to it. They were taught to hold the paintbrush with their mouths as they worked, wetting it with their tongues and thus ingesting the radium that way. They also played with the radium paint. They’d paint the fingernails with it. One woman had a date with her beau. So she painted radium on her teeth so her smile would glow in the dark when they were alone that night.


Advertisement for radium watch.

As early as 1922, workers began falling sick. The dialpainters were the first industrial victims of radium poisoning. Katherine Schaub and her cousin Irene Rudolph started working in the new dialpainting studio at the Radium Luminous Materials plant in 1917. They were both 15. In 1920, both Schaub and Rudolph quit, finding nonindustrial jobs, although Schaub would briefly return to dialpainting the next year. By 1922, they were both 20 years old. That year, Rudolph had mouth pain. She had a tooth extracted. The socket never healed. Her jaw begin to fester with rotting bones. Other dialpainters began coming down with the same problems. Randolph died in July 1923 after a year and a half of suffering. Schaub started to have health problems in November 1923. By this time, other dialpainters such as Amelia Magggia, Hazel Vincent Kuser, and Marguerite Carlough had died or were dying. Schaub’s continued mouth problems began to be known as “radium jaw.”


Workers at U.S. Radium, 1922 or 1923.

Medical researchers began to pay more attention to these sick women. So did the New Jersey Consumers’ League, the largely women-led industrial reform movement of the Progressive Era. That era had ended, at least in the years as it is classically classified by historians, but the national and state level organization still existed. The sole paid employee of the New Jersey branch was Katherine Wiley, but she was effective. In 1923, she had successfully lobbied for a bill banning night work for women. After hearing the legendary industrial reformer Alice Hamilton talk about workplace health, Wiley began exploring this in her home state. She soon found the dialpainters. In 1924, Wiley went to the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor, Dr. Andrew McBride. He was furious that these meddlesome women were getting involved in these cases and denied that the radium companies had anything to do with the women’s illnesses.

Working with Hamilton, Wiley began trying to access the medical research. At Harvard, researchers working with U.S. Radium had done initial studies on the substance’s health effects. Wiley and Hamilton sought to acquire that data. The main researcher was loyal to the company and refused to release most of the information. But Frederick Hoffman, a researcher for the U.S. Department of Labor, did find at least some connections, although he was pretty sympathetic to the company too. All of this work did lead to the state labor department closing U.S. Radium, although it just moved to New York. Katherine Schaub kept pushing, convincing Hoffman to write to U.S. Radium about her condition. The company had her visit one of their doctors, who promptly told her that none of her illnesses had anything to do with radium.

Based on this research, in 1927, Schaub joined a dialpainters’ lawsuit organized by the New Jersey Consumers’ League in the state Supreme Court. But this was a difficult task. Not only had the statue of limitations passed since all these workers had quit several years earlier, but the dialpainters needed to prove both that U.S. Radium had caused their illnesses and that the company was negligent in their actions. The lawsuits were a struggle because workers’ compensation generally did not cover health related issues. The workers’ compensation came about as a way for corporations to cut their losses and enter a rational system for dealing with workplace health and safety because after 1890, workers were increasingly suing them successfully for compensation, a slow rejection of the doctrine of workplace risk established early in the nation’s industrial period.

Similar cases were happening at the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Connecticut (I can’t drive past this factory on I-84 without thinking of dead radium workers) and at Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois. Workers at all three plants struggled to achieve compensation. But in New Jersey, all the bad publicity convinced the company to settle with most of the workers in 1928, although it also made it very difficult for workers to prove any corporate culpability. In more conservative Connecticut, women played a much smaller role in state politics and despite a longer statue of limitations provision in the workers’ compensation law of 5 years, business controlled the state. Workers here received only relatively small settlements, even if Waterbury Clock admitted it had caused 10 deaths by 1936. In Illinois, the workers compensation system was such a mess that not a single sufferer received a cent until 1938.


Newspaper article publicizing plight of Illinois radium poisoning victims.

In the 1980s, high levels of radon were discovered in homes near the old plant in Orange. The company had long ago been purchased by Safety Light. Homeowners and the current corporate owners of the old plant sued Safety Light. In 1991, the New Jersey Supreme Court found U.S. Radium “forever” liable for the radium near its old factory. Workers laboring with radium however continued having problems, even as safety nominally improved. In the 1970s, radium workers in Ottawa, Illinois were found having radiation levels 1666 times the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved levels.

This post is based on Claudia Clark, Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935.

This is the 136th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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Sam Simon

[ 19 ] March 9, 2015 |

A crucial force behind the greatest television comedy there ever was died at age 59.  R.I.P.

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Chubby Amy Schumer

[ 105 ] March 9, 2015 |

Folks, I’m linking to this nonsense not because I think calling Amy Schumer chubby is dangerous and loony, but because a male critic felt it was appropriate to comment on Amy Schumer’s figure at all. 


“In a piece titled Apatow’s Funny-Chubby Community Has New Member, Hollywood Elsewhere writer Jeffrey Wells said: ‘With Trainwreck, director Judd Apatow is once again introducing a chubby, whipsmart, not conventionally attractive, neurotically bothered female comic to a mass audience – first Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, then Lena Dunham in HBO’s Girls and now Amy Schumer.

She’s obviously sharp and clever and funny as far as the woe-is-me, self-deprecating thing goes, but there’s no way she’d be an object of heated romantic interest in the real world.'”

Oh really?

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Florida Bans the Term “Climate Change”

[ 29 ] March 9, 2015 |


Florida banning its state employees from using the term “climate change” might be a short term political advantage for conservatives. But burying your head in the sand next to the ocean might not be a very good idea when that climate change you don’t want to admit is happening leads to rising oceans that drown you in your sandhole.

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Guess Who?

[ 89 ] March 9, 2015 |

I’ve been putting together a lecture for tomorrow’s U.S. Environmental History class on atomic nature and I came across this ad, which I just could not resist sharing with you.


Good times.

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Monday Reading

[ 78 ] March 9, 2015 |

Happy Monday!

USS Enterprise FS Charles de Gaulle.jpg

“USS Enterprise FS Charles de Gaulle” by U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman. – U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: 010516-N-6259P-003. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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