What Does It Mean To Share a Common Law School Alma Mater?

attachment.ashx (3)The recent death of Senator Edward Kennedy has led me to ponder what it means to share a common law school alma mater with someone that you don’t otherwise know.  I find that I usually feel an instant sense of kinship to people when I find that they went to the same law school as I.

Both Senator Kennedy and I are graduates of the University of Virginia Law School, albeit 18 years apart.  He finished in 1959, and I graduated in 1977.  He was also my senator from 1978 to 1987, when I lived in Massachusetts.

However, I never had the opportunity to meet him in person.  I almost did last spring when I was on the program at the UVA Law School reunion ceremonies.  The event included the 50th reunion of the Class of 1959, but Senator Kennedy was unable to attend because of his deteriorating health.

While I would like to claim that a common law school provides a meaningful bond across time, I am not sure that it does.  First of all, I’m not sure that the legal educations that Senator Kennedy and I received had much in common.

The decade of the 1960’s, which separated our law school experiences, represented a sea change in most areas of American law.  The Virginia law faculty of the 1950’s was a bastion of conservative thinking.  By the mid-1970’s, the faculty was squarely within the liberal mainstream of legal academia.

We probably had at most one or two of the same professors and one of those was the director of the law library who taught us both Legal Bibliography.  (In addition, one of my professors, Dick Howard, was a law school classmate of Senator Kennedy.)  Also, we went to law school in different buildings.  Since its founding in 1826, the University of Virginia Law School had been located on the University’s main campus (called the Grounds, never the campus), but in 1974, the year I began, it was moved to a new building located on the new North Grounds, some distance from the rest of the University.

Moreover, in 1959, the University of Virginia Law School was still very much a small, southern gentleman’s institution where faculty and even students formally entertained in their homes or apartments.  By the mid-1970’s the enrollment had almost doubled, and the institution, while still noticeably southern, had acquired a much more egalitarian manner.  In Ted Kennedy’s student days in Charlottesville, all students wore ties and jackets to every class.  By my time, the only people so attired were those with job interviews before or after class.

When I was a student, I was very much aware of the fact that Edward Kennedy (and his brother Bobby) had both attended my law school.  Kennedy was a current United States Senator and one of the leading political figures in the country, the episode at Chappaquiddick notwithstanding.  Everyone at the law school who remembered Ted and Bobby Kennedy loved to tell stories about them.  It was also well known that while he was a somewhat mediocre student, Kennedy and his friend and classmate John Tunney (also a U.S. Senator in 1974) had won the Lile Moot Court competition as students.  (The Lile competition is the UVA equivalent of Marquette’s Jenkins Moot Court, and, like Jenkins, is taken extremely seriously.)

Nevertheless, I don’t think that in most situations a common law school alma mater actually means very much.  Of course, one has a great deal in common with one’s law school classmates–many of my best friends today remain people that I met while in law school—and others who attended the same law school a few years before and a few years later.  Common professors and a common curriculum probably mean that you share a great deal in common with them.  It may also be the case that one can benefit professionally from a particular law school affiliation, especially in law firm hiring where lawyers do seem to show partially to graduates of their alma maters (if for no reason other than to reinforce the view that they went to an outstanding law school).

I have found that I am usually pleasantly surprised to find out that someone is also a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.  I had this experience in recent years with my Marquette colleague Chad Oldfather, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and new NFL Players Association director, DeMaurice Smith.  All three attended the University of Virginia, but many years after I did.  However, when I think about it, the affinity comes more from having lived in the same semi-idyllic community for several years than from common identification with the same law school.

Why is that?  At least from my perspective, the legal education that I received seems pretty generic, basically the same education that I could have received at lots of other law schools.  There was nothing sufficiently unique about the University of Virginia to give rise to special bonds that stretch well beyond one’s own personal experiences with the law school.  I certainly never got the message that there was a distinctive “University of Virginia lawyer” or that the law school imparted a distinct perspective on professional obligation or legal ethics.  Moreover, even though the institution was quite “historic,” it was obvious that neither the students nor the faculty knew much about, or cared much about, the institution’s actual history.  The halls of the law school were filled with portraits of former deans and professors that no one seemed to recognize.

My sense is that most law schools are like this.

What I find particularly appealing about the idea of the “Marquette Lawyer” is that it suggests that there is in fact something unique and uniquely transformative about attending Marquette Law School.  If Marquette is training not just competent lawyers, but lawyers who enter the profession with a distinctive commitment to legal ethics and public service, then a Marquette legal education is different from that provided by other law schools.

I can also see how that vision of the profession—and the belief that Marquette graduates represent a special corps within the legal profession–could provide a common bond that could unite graduates from across different generations.

Finally, I would be remiss in not noting that Marquette lawyers are also tied together by the presence of Professor Jim Ghiardi, whose career as a Marquette law professor began almost 65 years ago, and whose connection to the law school as a student dates back to the late 1930’s.  His career here marks a full two thirds of this institution’s history.

Continue ReadingWhat Does It Mean To Share a Common Law School Alma Mater?

Is Michael Vick a Civil Rights Martyr?

VICKpbMichael Vick’s return to the NFL last Thursday demonstrated, if nothing else, that Americans are tired of debating dog-fighting and the appropriateness of Vick’s 23 month sentence for violating federal dog-fighting laws.  Only a couple of anti-Vick demonstrators showed up at the game.  In fact, by far the largest number of demonstrators at the game were civil rights activists, many members of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.  The pro-Vick demonstrators were there to protest the harsh treatment that Vick received, and, in their view, continues to receive, from animal rights groups and the American legal system.

The national debate triggered by Vick’s arrest and conviction revealed that most middle and upper class Americans viewed dog-fighting as barbaric and properly criminal.  On the other hand, it also made many aware for the first time that there were racial, socio-economic, and regional dimensions to the debate.  While few openly called for the repeal of all dog-fighting laws, it became clear that many African-Americans and rural whites, particularly Southerners and those with lower incomes, did not view dog fighting as a particularly serious offense.  Many in these groups still find it a fascinating and exhilarating spectator sport, and, consequently, view the laws against it as trivial and unfair.  From their perspective the issue was not so much one of animal rights but the ability of the majority to impose their cultural views on a relatively powerless minority.

Although dog-fighting has been illegal in every state for some time now—Vick’s home state of Virginia outlawed “commercialized” dog-fighting and betting on dog-fights at the end of the 19th century—the sport once had a long and surprisingly upper class pedigree.  Queen Elizabeth I was a great fan of dog-fighting and prevented Parliament from outlawing the sport during her reign.  Dog-fighting, along with bear baiting, cock fighting, gander pulling, and other blood sports were quite popular in colonial Virginia and helped to unite individuals of different races and economic classes, including slaves and their masters.

Even after dog-fighting was outlawed, at least in the South there was a long tradition of law enforcement officials looking the other way, or sometimes joining in the activity.  (In that regard, it was like “moonshining.”) To this day, the kindred sport of cock fighting remains legal in Virginia (so long as it is done solely for the enjoyment of the spectators and no money changes hands), and a recent effort to abolish it in the Old Dominion failed, in part because the state’s farmers are among the nation’s leading breeders of fighting roosters.  More over, hunting, fishing, and horse racing continue to be perfectly legal although it is hard to believe that the animals involved derive much pleasure from the sport.

I spent a good part of the summer in my hometown of Pearisburg, Virginia (pop. 2200).  While I was there, the topic of conversation frequently turned to Michael Vick.  Although the town has a black town councilman which it elected in at large voting, it is predominantly white and very conservative.  Almost without exception, however, everyone seemed to view seemed to feel that Vick had gotten an extremely raw deal.

While it is true that the town is overwhelming populated by fans of Virginia Tech (Vick’s alma mater), I don’t think that that was the reason for their views.  (They would have felt the same, I think, even if he had played for UVa or West Virginia University.) For what they viewed as at best a minor infraction against an animal, Vick was punished as though he had committed a serious offense against another human being.

I am sure that nothing would please Michael Vick more than for the public to completely forget about his dog-fighting experiences.  However, as the focus of civil rights disputes increasingly shifts from issues of race to issues of culture, Vick may be a symbol of resistance for those who embrace rural, lower class Southern values instead of those of the middle-class majority.

Continue ReadingIs Michael Vick a Civil Rights Martyr?

Looking Backward and the Fallone-Boyden Debate

The post-publication history of Edward Bellamy’s 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward, 2000-1887 speaks to the issue at the core of the Fallone-Boyden debate.  My two colleagues disagree over the desirability of copyright protection for literary characters and the proper resolution of the recent legal action filed by J. D. Salinger against the Swedish author of a sequel to his novel, The Catcher in the Rye.   Fallone opposes protection, and Boyden supports it.  On this issue, I’m with Ed.

Looking Backward is the story of Julian West, a man who falls asleep in 1887 at a time of great industrial strife and who wakes up in the year 2000 when the problems of industrialism have been solved by a collectivist government that manages all industrial production for the benefit of society as a whole.  At the time of the book’s publication, Bellamy was a 38-year old writer and one-time lawyer from western Massachusetts.  Looking Backward quickly turned out to be one of the best-selling books written in the United States in the nineteenth century, selling several hundred thousand copies in the years immediately following its publication.  It was translated into dozens of different languages and was also a publishing sensation in Europe.

The novel also prompted an international debate over both Bellamy’s vision of the future and his contemporary political views.

(Bellamy supported the Populist Party in 1890, and many so-called “Nationalist Clubs” were established to advance his ideas.)  In addition, novels by other writers continuing the story of Julian West in the twenty-first century began to appear almost immediately.

At least six “sequels” were published in the United States in 1890 alone:  John Bachelder, A. D. 2050: Electrical Development at Atlantis; Donald McMartin, A Leap into the Future, or How Things Will Be: A Romance of the Year 2000;Richard C. Michaelis, Looking Farther Forward; W. W. Saterlee, Looking Backward And What I Saw; C. H. Stone, One of Berrian’s Novels [Berrian is a novelist of the future in Looking Backward]; and Arthur Dudley Vinton, Looking Further Backward.

Some of these sequels — the ones by McMartin and Stone, for example — embraced Bellamy’s vision of the future and embellished the favorable depiction of life in socialistic 2000.  The other sequels cited sought to paint Bellamy’s vision of the future as a dystopian nightmare.   

Additional sequels by other writers were a fixture of the next two decades.  Ludwig A. Geissler’s, Looking Beyond: A Sequel to “Looking Backward” by Edward Bellamy, and an Answer to “Looking Further Forward” by Richard Michaelis (1891) was a sequel to a sequel.  In Geissler’s story, the unappealing aspects of Bellamy’s year 2000 reported in Michaelis’ book are revealed to be nothing more than occurrences in one of Julian West’s bad dreams. The collectivist future was in fact a utopia, and its shortcomings were only imagined.  By the end of the novel, the technologically advanced Martians have decided to abandon their previous policy of ignoring the Earthlings because they now believe that they can learn lessons from their planetary neighbors.

Other Looking Backward sequels included Conrad Wilbrandt’s Mr. East’s Experiences in Mr. Bellamy’s World (1891, and published the previous year in German in Germany); J. W. Roberts, Looking Within: The Misleading Tendencies of “Looking Backward” Made Manifest (1893); Rabbi Solomon Schindler, Young West: A Sequel to Edward Bellamy’s Celebrated Novel “Looking Backward”(1894); an anonymously published British version, My Afterdream: A Sequel to the Late Mr. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1900); and Harry W. Hillman, Looking Forward: The Phenomenal Progress of Electricity in 1912 (1906), the latter a pro-Bellamy novel that reveals that mass electrification is the key to a peaceful, collectivist future. According to literary historian Krisham Kuman, at least sixty-two novels based on Looking Backward were published in the United States between 1888 and 1900.

All of the sequel writers made use of Looking Backward’s story line, and most employed Bellamy’s main characters: Julian West, the man from 1887, Dr. Leete, the twentieth-century scientist who awakens West and serves as his guide to the future, and Edith Leete, the doctor’s beautiful daughter with whom West falls in love (and who turns out to be the great-grand-daughter of the fiancé that he left back in 1887).  As far as I can determine, none secured a license to do so from Bellamy.

Bellamy himself re-entered the fray in 1897 with his own sequel to Looking Backward, entitled Equality, in which he addressed many of the issues raised by the authors of the less than sympathetic sequels, including the future of education and women’s rights.  Unfortunately, Bellamy’s own sequel was not nearly as successful as the previous volume, and he died of tuberculosis the next year at the age of 48.

Although the pace slowed in the twentieth century, there were almost one hundred  Looking Backward  sequels, prequels, and re-imaginings published after 1900, apparently culminating in the off-beat Edward Bellamy Writes Again, a 1997 novel by New Age Christian writer Joseph R. Myers who sought to combine the insights of Bellamy with those of the American psychic Edgar Casey.  For a more detailed discussion of the history of Looking Backward and its sequels, one can consult Justin Nordstrom, “Looking Backward’s Utopian Sequels, Fictional Dialogues in Gilded Age American Thought,” Utopian Studies, Vol. 18 (2007) and  Krishan Kuman, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (1997), and the works cited therein.

The copyright point here is that the ability to use Bellamy’s story line and characters made it possible to have a rich ongoing debate in the world of fiction over the merits of Bellamy’s vision of the future. Had Bellamy tried to control his characters Julian West and Edith Leete in the same manner that J. K. Rowling has controlled Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, or J. D. Salinger wishes to control Holden Caulfield, the intellectual life of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America would have been much less rich.

I’m not sure to what extent the Copyright Act of 1870 (in force when Looking Backward was published) protected literary characters.  Even if it did provide protection, Bellamy would have been unlikely to have used it to suppress the publication of the many sequels to his work.  As someone more interested in a better world than his own financial enrichment, he was no doubt delighted that his novel had inspired so many of his supporters and his critics to pick up their pens and continue his story.  He certainly made no effort to prevent their publication.

Legal protection against verbatim copying of the text was enough for Edward Bellamy; I don’t see why it shouldn’t be enough for Miguel de Cervantes and J.D. Salinger as well.

Continue ReadingLooking Backward and the Fallone-Boyden Debate