Prof. Rick Hasen of UCLA, an expert in election law, had an op-ed in Friday’s New York Times that argued that in the wake of the 2020 election and its aftermath, including the January 6th attack on Congress, “[w]e must not succumb to despair on indifference. It won’t be easy, but there is a path forward if we begin acting now, together, to shore up our fragile election ecosystem.”
Unfortunately, I disagree. The fact that there is no path forward unless X, Y, and Z happen does not mean that X, Y, and Z will happen. It could well be that there is no path forward. And no path is likely to be available until a significant portion of the American public fundamentally change their present views about their society and their fellow citizens. Continue reading “No Exit”
The United States, like most democracies, takes pride in being governed by the “rule of law”; it aspires to be what John Adams once called “a government of laws and not of men.” There’s a sense, in this imagery, that law is something distinct from human beings; that it’s a sort of machine, that operates autonomously to generate answers to legal questions.
Of course, as the legal realists recognized, that’s all transcendental nonsense. Laws do not apply themselves, they are written and interpreted and applied by human beings. But a rule of laws that is subject to the whims of individual decisionmakers is no rule at all. Believing in the rule of law requires a sort of leap of faith. It requires a form of trust that other actors in the system, even ordinary citizens, will generally coalesce around the same outcomes and interpretations.
And that sort of trust — any sort of trust in institutions, including law — is breaking down. Faith in courts to provide the law, and faith in lawyers to be able to say what the law is, will fade with it. And after that, in the words of Felix Frankfurter: “first chaos, then tyranny.” Continue reading “The Last Bastion”
Our Student Contributor for January is 2L Daniel Kafka. Daniel is a Milwaukee native who grew up in the Story Hill neighborhood, near what some of us still call Miller Park. He is eager to practice litigation, particularly business litigation, but may also harbor an interest in transactional law. His non-legal interests include fantasy novels, disc golf in Estabrook Park, and storyboarding a video game he hopes to create with some friends. He lives with his partner Abigail and his dog Nero (an English Bull Terrier) in the Murray Hill neighborhood. Welcome Daniel!
Our Student Contributor for December is 3L Matt Rademacher. Matt is originally from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Before entering law school, he was an Army Engineer; he deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-11 to perform route clearance, and finished his Army career as a Captain. In law school he has developed an interest in municipal law, and outside of the legal realm he enjoys reading about military history, and has been an historical reenactor since roughly age 8. Welcome Matt!
Our Student Contributor for November is 3L Nicholas Bergosh. Nicholas is from Pensacola, Florida, but was born in San Diego, California, and spent a significant part of his life there. He is interested in business law, but also wants to continue working with a sports agency. He is a sailor in the United States Naval Reserves and plans to reenlist after his contract ends in 2023. Welcome Nicholas!
After a bit of a hiatus, our guest bloggers are returning! This month we are excited to welcome 3L Vanessa Flores to blog with us as our Student Contributor. Vanessa is originally from Ecuador but called Chicago home before coming to Marquette. She is interested in civil litigation and will be doing that after graduation. When not studying law, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her cats, Simba and Bolt, and exploring Wisconsin with her boyfriend and his dogs. Welcome Vanessa!
Can legal formalism help save democracy? That is a question posed by a very interesting draft paper posted by Will Baude of the University of Chicago last week, “The Real Enemies of Democracy.” Baude’s paper is a response to Pam Karlan’s 2020 Jorde Symposium lecture, “The New Countermajoritarian Difficulty,” in which Karlan laments the recent Supreme Court’s failure to take action against anti-majoritarian forces that dilute the votes of, or outright disenfranchise, millions: the Electoral College, the filibuster, campaign finance, gerrymandering, and anti-suffrage laws.
But Baude has his eyes set on a different horizon: “I worry that democracy faces far worse enemies than the Senate, the Electoral College, or the Supreme Court. Those enemies are the ones who resist the peaceful transfer of power, or subvert the hard-wired law of succession in office.” And he suggests a different bulwark to hold them back: “The shield against them may be more formalism, not less.”
I agree with Baude’s sense of the threats, but I think the hope that formalism—or even the rule of law generally—will save us is misplaced. It was often said of the Soviet Union that it had an extremely rights-protective constitution; better than that of the United States, even. But of course the problem was that the Communist Party was not really bound by it. Formal guarantees mean nothing with the will to back them up. Law without faith is dead. Continue reading “Democracy’s Self-Perpetuating Illusion”
Our Student Guest Blogger for October is 2L Liz Simonis. Originally from Milwaukee, Liz spent five years working in agriculture around the Midwest before moving back to the Cream City. Her legal interests are primarily in intellectual property and corporate law, but after spending six months in China, she has developed an interest in water law as well, including its ability to influence international relations. Liz has recently been awarded the AWL Foundation Scholarship by the Association for Women Lawyers. Congratulations Liz!
Former student guest blogger and current 2L Monica Reida recently appeared on Ipse Dixit, a podcast on legal scholarship that has a wide audience among law professors, to discuss their fascinating new paper, You Must Roll 18 or Higher for Your Claims to Succeed: Common Law Trademarks, Unauthorized Merchandise, and the Podcast “The Adventure Zone”. You can listen to the podcast episode here. Monica is returning to the Faculty Blog for a couple of posts about the paper, which is available now on SSRN. Congratulations Monica!
Our student guest blogger for August is 3L Robert Maniak. Robert was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and after high school enlisted in the Marine Corps. He and his wife Gina were recently married in June, with relatives “Zoom-ing” into the ceremony. After graduation, he is interested in pursuing a career in civil litigation in Wisconsin. Welcome Robert!
Our student guest blogger for January is 1L Robert Ernest. Before attending law school, Robert worked in youth ministry and ran his own business renting out bounce houses. He has a B.A. in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, and in his free time enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking, and rock climbing. Welcome Robert!
Our Student Guest Blogger for December is 1L Monica Reida. Prior to going to law school, Monica worked as a journalist, contributing to Barista Magazine, OnMilwaukee, NewCity, and Gapers Block, where she was the politics editor from 2013-2015. She has a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University, with a concentration in public affairs reporting. Monica is also the author of a chapter in the recently-released book Midwest Architecture Journeys, edited by Zach Mortice and published by Belt Publishing. According to the publisher, Midwest Architecture Journeys contains “dozens of essays written by architects, critics, and journalists” that “take[ ] readers on a trip to visit some of the region’s most inventive buildings,” but also “includes stops at less obvious but equally daring and defining sites, such as indigenous mounds, grain silos, parking lots, flea markets, and abandoned warehouses.” Monica’s chapter, “Please Return Again,” is about the public library in Waterloo, Iowa. We’re looking forward to hearing more about the chapter and Monica’s experience in getting it published. Welcome, Monica!