John McDill Fox and the Idea of Catholic Legal Education

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Legal Education, Marquette Law School History, Religion & Law5 Comments on John McDill Fox and the Idea of Catholic Legal Education

John McDill Fox was the first member of the Marquette Law School faculty to have attended Harvard Law School and the first to be hired as a dean at another law school.  With his colleague Carl Zollman, he founded the academic field of aviation law, and unlike his faculty colleagues at Marquette, he believed that there should be such a thing as a distinctive “Catholic” legal education.

Fox was born in Milwaukee on January 3, 1891.  Both of his parents had deep ties to the legal and political history of Wisconsin.  His father, Dr. William Fox, was a surgeon and the grandnephew of William Fox, one of the signers of the 1848 Wisconsin Constitution.  His mother, Narcissa McDill, was the daughter of Alexander McDill, a former Wisconsin congressman.

Fox was initially educated in public schools in Milwaukee, but at age nine, he was sent away to enroll in the preparatory department at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.  At age 14, he moved up to the college and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1909.  After graduating, he accepted a position as a teacher at St. Edward’s College, a small Roman Catholic institution in Austin, Texas.  Even by the standards of the early twentieth century, becoming a college professor at age 18 was quite precocious, although it is likely that Fox taught primarily in the school’s college preparatory division.

In the fall of 1910, he enrolled at Harvard Law School where he was a member of the John Marshall Law Club (an organization that sponsored moot court competitions but was essentially social) and one of the founders of the Harvard University Wisconsin Club.  He graduated in 1913, and was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts.  He began practice in Boston, initially as a lawyer in the offices of the firm of Whipple, Sears, and Ogden, a prominent local law firm.  However, after a year there, he began his own practice, specializing in admiralty law.  In 1914, he married Elsa Sonnenmann, the daughter of a Neenah, Wisconsin tobacconist who had emigrated to Wisconsin from Germany after the turn of the century.

In 1916, the Foxes returned to Milwaukee, and after securing admission to the Wisconsin bar in June, Fox established his own admiralty law practice in the city.  In the spring of 1919, Fox was hired to teach a course in maritime law at the Marquette Law School.  That same year, new Association of American Law School rules required all member schools to have at least three full-time faculty.  Because Marquette had previously relied upon a full-time dean (in 1919, Max Schoetz) and part-time faculty, it was necessary to appoint two new full-time faculty members.  One of the appointments went to Fox. (The other went to the little remembered Willis Lang.)

From 1919 to 1930, Fox taught a variety of courses at the law school.  He also served as faculty adviser to the law review for many years, and regularly published book reviews for that publication.  He also contributed a number of articles to the journal on topics ranging from trusts to chattel mortgages, and from bar admissions to the role of law review articles in litigation.  In the 1920’s, Fox and his colleague Carl Zollman developed the field of aviation law as a serious academic discipline (although most of the scholarly writing was done by Zollman).

Fox was also the teacher of a popular bar review course in an era when the diploma privilege had not been extended to Marquette (and, in fact, both Fox and Marquette Dean Max Schoetz wanted the diploma privilege abolished).  It appears that in the fall of 1923, Fox also tutored the famous athlete, performer, civil rights activist, and then law student Paul Robeson, who was on leave from Columbia Law School so that he could play football for the Milwaukee Badgers, then a member of the National Football League.

Although Mrs. Fox was a Lutheran, Fox himself was a devout Roman Catholic, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and a frequent speaker on Catholic subjects.  While he did not publish his views on the topic during his time at Marquette, Fox had strong views on the subject of Catholic legal education.  An advocate of a distinctive Catholic approach to law study, this position placed him somewhat at odds with his colleagues Schoetz and Zollman.  Although a Catholic himself, Schoetz regularly pointed to the non-denominational character of the law school, emphasizing that while Marquette University was a Catholic institution, the law school was not.  (Zollman, the author of several works on the law of religious institutions, was also an ordained Lutheran minister.)  When Schoetz was killed in a collision with a railroad train while on his way to the 1927 Law School Commencement, apparently no thought was given to replacing him with a Roman Catholic, and the position instead went to Schoetz’s law partner, Clifton Williams, who was a Quaker.

In 1930, the Catholic University of Washington, D.C., which was committed to the idea of a distinctive Roman Catholic form of legal education, had an opening for a dean, and Fox was offered the position.  The June 19, 1930 article in the Milwaukee Journal reporting that Fox had accepted the position also noted that Fox planned to retain his house in Milwaukee where he would spend the summers.

Catholic University had spent the previous two years searching for an appropriate dean, and the university’s rector, Bishop James H. Ryan, was initially delighted with the choice of Fox, reporting to the university trustees “that the Law School has again been put on the road originally outlined by the late Dean Robinson, to produce a learned, scholarly, and cultured Catholic bar.”  At the time of his appointment the law school at Catholic University was on life support.  It was clearly the least successful school in the District of Columbia, and in the year prior to Fox’s appointment, it had neither admitted a new student nor graduated an existing one.

As dean, Fox dramatically raised the law school’s standards.  He instituted a requirement that all entering students have a baccalaureate degree, at a time when only seven other law schools had such a requirement.  (Marquette, like most law schools in 1930, required two years of college work for entering students.)  He also increased the requirements for graduation and required all students to spend at least 18 hours a week in the law library.  He abolished the moot court, but replaced it with a law club and a legal aid society.

In regard to making the law school more scholarly and more distinctively Roman Catholic, he incorporated the Washington-based Riccobono Seminar of Roman Law into the law school.  He also placed a new emphasis on the development of what he called “theophilosophical” jurisprudence as the underpinning of the law course at Catholic University.

Writing to one of his former professors, Harvard Law School’s Joseph Beale, shortly after assuming the office of dean, Fox observed: “This being a Catholic University, we are stressing wherever possible Scholastic Philosophy and Neo scholasticism. We feel that there has been no attempt on the part of the Catholic law schools to do anything in this regard heretofore, except possibly by certain selected courses in what is usually called “natural law,” or “Jurisprudence.” Our plan is to integrate what we can into the various courses, rather than segregate the subject matter.”  Although he did not mention Marquette in his letter to Beale, he was clearly describing his former university which did in most years offer a course on national law taught by a priest from the Marquette Theology Department.

Fox’s activities at Catholic University were not limited to religious matters.  He established an aviation law institute at Catholic and served on the Aeronautical Law Committee of the American Bar Association.  Additionally, in 1932, he was one of the founders of the Academy of World Economics in Washington, D.C., and he later served on the National Council on Naturalization and Citizenship

Unfortunately, Fox’s effort to turn his new law school into a Roman Catholic Harvard fell victim to his problems with alcohol which apparently plagued him throughout his adult life.  In 1934, he was placed on probation by the University because of issues related to excessive drinking, and when the problems persisted, he was asked to resign in 1935.   When he failed to do so, he was discharged, and the locks were changed on his office door at the order of the same university rector who had praised his appointment five years earlier.  To the embarrassment of both Fox and the university, the “locking out of his office” incident was widely publicized by newspapers throughout the region.

After his discharge as dean, Fox remained in Washington and went to work as a trial examiner for the Food and Drug Administration.  He issued a number of important rulings in that capacity, and was still in that position when he died unexpectedly on April 18, 1940, at the age of 49.  He was survived by his wife and three daughters.

By the time of his death, he appeared to be largely forgotten at Marquette, although the Marquette Law School had actually taken a “Catholic turn” in 1934 with the appointment as dean of Francis Xavier Swietlik, who held undergraduate, graduate, and law degrees from Marquette.

The Native American Mascot Issue Will Just Not Go Away

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Intellectual Property Law, Race & Law, Sports & Law, Wisconsin Law & Legal System17 Comments on The Native American Mascot Issue Will Just Not Go Away

WISCONSIN.  In Wisconsin, the legislature is considering a bill that would give Native Americans the right to formally object to the use of a disparaging nickname by a high school in their school district.  Under the Democratic-sponsored bill, anyone who objects to the use of a race-based team name, mascot, symbol, or logo in their school district can file a complaint with the state superintendent of education.  A hearing would then be heard to determine if the name or mascot was being used in a way that was “discriminatory, or promoted student harassment or stereotyping.”  If the finding is that the use was discriminatory, the district would have one year to eliminate all use of the name or image.  If it failed to do so, the district would be subject to daily fines of $100 to $1000.

On February 25, the bill passed in the State Assembly by a vote of 51-42.  However, before passage, it was amended to exempt from the bill’s coverage any school that uses a federal-government recognized tribal name as its nickname or any district that obtains permission to use its name or logo from a federally recognized tribe.  (Consequently, the Auburndale High Apaches would not be covered by the bill.)  At the moment, the bill appears to be bottled up in the Senate where a vote has yet to be scheduled.

During the current academic year, there are still 38 Wisconsin high schools that use Native American team names, including the above-mentioned Auburndale and the all-Native American Menominee High School.  No school uses a racially-related team name referring to a group other than Native-Americans.

THE NATION’S CAPITAL.  In Washington, D. C., the Supreme Court’s refusal late last year to review a lower court holding dismissing the 1992 Lanham Act challenge to the Washington Redskins trademark filed by Native American activist Suzan Harjo has not ended the Redskins problems.  Harjo’s suit was ultimately dismissed on the basis of laches—Harjo and her fellow complaints had waited too long to challenge the 1967 trademark registration by Pro Football, Inc., the corporate name of the Washington NFL team.

However, a new effort to invalidate the Redskins trademark on disparagement grounds–Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.—is currently pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  The plaintiffs in Blackhorse are all young Native American adults who are claiming that because of their age, they had no previous opportunity to object to the mark and thus are not bared by the lower court ruling in the Harjo litigation.  More recently, a second action has been filed by different plaintiffs attacking the legitimacy of six derivative versions of the Redskins trademark—including one for Washington Redskins Cheerleaders—filed since 1992.  These actions are seeking to deny the Washington team the right to use the name “Redskins” but they are trying to prevent the team from being able to license the mark.

NORTH DAKOTA.  Finally, the debate continues in North Dakota over the right of the University of North Dakota to continue to use the name “Fighting Sioux” for its athletic teams.  The NCAA has adopted an approach that prohibits the use of Native American team names and logos unless the tribal group bearing the name in question approves.  (More generic team Native American names like Indians, Braves, or Redmen are limited to those colleges like UNC-Pembroke or Haskell University that were founded as colleges for Native Americans.)

The problem in North Dakota is that one of the state’s two Sioux tribes (the Spirit Lake Sioux) has authorized the use of the name but the other (the Standing Rock Sioux) has not.  The State Board of Higher Education had ordered the University to begin phasing out the nickname on November 30 unless it secured the permission of both tribes.  However, the situation has reached a standstill, and the University is still using the name.  (The Fighting Sioux ice hockey team is one of the favorites in the current NCAA championship play-offs and the team squares off against Yale in a first round game on March 27.)

At the moment a number of Native-Americans are fighting to allow the University to continue its use of the name.  A petition signed by 850 members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is currently in circulation as pro-nickname members of the tribe try to force their leaders to schedule a plebiscite on the issue on the reservation.  (The Standing Rock Sioux also elected a pro-nickname council president last year.)

At the same time, eight members of the Spirit Lake Sioux have filed suit against the state arguing that they will be harmed if the University of North Dakota drops the Fighting Sioux nickname and that under an earlier settlement agreement between the NCAA and North Dakota, approval of the name by the Spirit Lake Sioux was sufficient for its continued use.  Their request for an injunction was denied by the state district court, but the appeal in Davidson v. State is currently before the North Dakota Supreme Court.  Apparently no action will be taken until the court rules.  Oral argument in the case is scheduled for tomorrow (March 23).

SAT Scores and Affirmative Action

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Race & LawLeave a comment» on SAT Scores and Affirmative Action

sunsetIn her majority opinion in the landmark civil rights case Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 342-44 (2003), Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle. We see no reason to exempt race-conscious admissions programs from the requirement that all governmental use of race must have a logical end point. . . . From today’s vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation’s span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.

Although O’Connor and her colleagues upheld the constitutionality of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program at issue in Grutter, her opinion reflected a belief that affirmative action programs would draw to a close at some future point.

Data released by the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT exam, at the end of August suggests, however, that the end date for affirmative action is probably still a long way off.

Once again, Non-Hispanic whites and Asians scored significantly higher on the SAT than African-Americans and Hispanics, and the pattern of scores provides no evidence that the gap is closing.  Over 1.5 million college-bound seniors took the test, the largest number in history.

The SAT now consists of three sections — writing, critical reading, and mathematics — each of which is scored on a scale that ranges from 200 to 800.  Since April 1995, the targeted median score on each test has been 500 (rather than 450 as it was before).  Consequently, the range of combined scores is 600 to 2400, with an “average” score being 1500.  The actual average for the 2008-09 academic year was 1504, essentially the same as it was the previous year.

For the test as a whole, Asian students scored 1633 compared to 1581 for non-Hispanic whites, with most of the disparity resulting from a significantly higher mathematics score.  Other groups did not do nearly as well.  The scores of Native Americans and Eskimos averaged 1448; Hispanics, 1364; and African-Americans, only 1273.  Males of all races, who counted for only 46.5 percent of test takers, outscored females, 1523 to 1496.

Much of the discrepancy in racial performance is due to socio-economic factors that adversely affect black and Hispanic adolescents.  Low family incomes, single-parent homes, low levels of education in the family, and the lack of role models who have achieved academic success all contribute to poor test performance. For example, students of all races with family incomes of $200,000 or more averaged 1702 on the SAT; those with family incomes of below $20,000 scored 1321.  Students whose parents had at least one graduate degree averaged 1683; those who parents had not finished high school scored only 1281.

With this kind of disparity in SAT scores, only affirmative action programs can guarantee that African-Americans and Hispanics will be proportionally represented at America’s more selective colleges and universities.  Although we may reach Justice O’Connor’s sunset at some point, right now we are clearly still in the middle of the day.

Constitution Day

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Federal Law & Legal System, Higher Education, Marquette Law School1 Comment on Constitution Day

imagesSome portions of the Constitution are the subject of frequent discussion. Concepts like “due process,” “equal protection,” “freedom of speech,” and the like are headline-grabbers. Phrases like “Commerce … among the several States” do not resonate quite as much with the general public, but are certainly familiar to lawyers.

A glance at the Constitution reveals that there is much more to the document, some of it mysterious. There is, for example, talk of “Emoluments,” “Letters of Marque and Reprisal,” and “Corruption of Blood.” Indeed, large portions of the Constitution make at best infrequent appearances in public discourse. There is, one might say, an Overlooked Constitution. Continue reading “Constitution Day”

Ask God What Your Grade Is

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Religion & Law1 Comment on Ask God What Your Grade Is

This morning I have mostly questions.

A student has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles City College, claiming that he was giving a class-assigned speech on same sex marriage (which he apparently opposes) and his instructor interrupted him calling him a “fascist bastard.” The instructor then dismissed the class without allowing the student to finish and, on his evaluation sheet, did not enter a final score. Instead, he wrote that the student should  “ask God what your grade is.”

I have to admit that there is part of me that admires the attempt to recruit divine assistance at grading time, but this is a serious matter. It does not appear that the college is defending the instructor and claims that it will take appropriate steps to deal with the instructor and protect the student. It says, however, that the instructor’s privacy must be respected and any disciplinary action may not be made public.

A few things interest me. Continue reading “Ask God What Your Grade Is”

Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy

Posted on Categories Higher Education1 Comment on Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy

Stanley Fish’s most recent column in the New York Times (The Two Languages of Academic Freedom, Feb. 8, 2009) is a good read. Fish tells the story of Denis Rancourt, a tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa. Professor Rancourt is (or perhaps, was) a serious scientist, at least if his profile page at the university’s website is accurate. Under the heading “Main Discoveries and Contributions,” he lists the solution to the Invar Problem of metal physics, the derivation of the fundamental quantification relation of X-ray diffraction, the reactive diagenetic Fe-oxyhydroxide phase in lake and marine sediments, the description of the phenomenon of superferromagnetism, and advances in Mossbauer sprectroscopy methodology and in layer silicate crystal chemistry and geosensors. He lists scientific publications with titles as opaque to a lawyer as the aforementioned “discoveries and contributions.” He was tenured at the U of O in 1984 and far be it from this old lawyer to second guess his academic qualifications.

What gets this obscure Canadian professor a column in the New York Times is not his solution of the Invar Problem of metal physics, but rather the fact that he is a self-professed and practicing academic anarchist. His profile describes himself as “an activist, anarchist, and critical pedagogue.” If his anarchistic activism were limited to speaking and writing, he would be just another campus radical. What got him headlines and an official Recommendation of Termination of Employment from his $120,000 professorship was his pedagogical activity. For example: Continue reading “Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy”

Lessons for Law School Deans Regarding Catholics in Political Life

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Legal Education, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Religion & Law12 Comments on Lessons for Law School Deans Regarding Catholics in Political Life

Let me again extend my appreciation to Deans Kearney and O’Hear for the opportunity to serve as December’s guest alumnus blogger of the month, and to all of you who joined the conversation in the comments section. I’ll be right there with you starting tomorrow. 🙂 Let me also take advantage of my month’s unique position on the calendar to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

My final post is, in fact, the abstract of a piece I have just posted to SSRN. Earlier this year, you may have seen that Fordham’s law school received some heat from Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, for its decision to confer an award on pro-abortion Justice Stephen Breyer.  The story led me to do some investigating, drawing in part on my own experiences as a Marquette student, and voila, an essay emerged. I hope to begin shopping it around to law reviews in the spring submission season. Continue reading “Lessons for Law School Deans Regarding Catholics in Political Life”

Careful Whom You Email!

Posted on Categories Computer Law, Higher EducationLeave a comment» on Careful Whom You Email!

Want to email professors asking them to take a stance on a particular college-related issue?  Not a safe idea if you attend Michigan State University.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”) reported last week that a member of the student government at M.S.U. was found guilty of violating the university’s “spam” policy, which prohibits the sending of an unsolicited email to more than 20-30 recipients over two days. 

The student emailed a hand-picked group of 391 faculty members (roughly eight percent of the total at M.S.U.), asking them to speak up about a proposal by the school administration to change the calendar.  What is truly mind-boggling about the decision to discipline that student is that the administration had itself solicited comments on the change from the faculty; the email was designed to encourage the faculty to take advantage of that offer.

At least this violation of a network’s terms of use policy wasn’t found criminal.

Professor Fired for Humiliating Students for Plagiarism

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Labor & Employment Law, Legal Education5 Comments on Professor Fired for Humiliating Students for Plagiarism

Writingcomp From the Daily Texan a couple of weeks ago:

Texas A&M International University in Laredo fired a professor for publishing the names of students accused of plagiarism.

In his syllabus, professor Loye Young wrote that he would “promptly and publicly fail and humiliate anyone caught lying, cheating or stealing.” After he discovered six students had plagiarized on an essay, Young posted their names on his blog, resulting in his firing last week.

“It’s really the only way to teach the students that it’s inappropriate,” he said.

Young, a former adjunct professor of management information systems, said he believes he made the right move. He said trials are public for a reason, and plagiarism should be treated the same way. He added that exposing cheaters is an effective deterrent.

This seems like a shaming method of punishment. Does it actually matter whether it works as an effective deterrent or is the medicine much worse than the disease?

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.