Legal and Other Obstacles to Community Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans

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At yesterday’s faculty workshop, Professor John Lovett of Loyola-New Orleans gave an eye-opening presentation on his latest scholarship, entitled “The Winding Road to Recovery: Observations on Property Relations Three Years After Hurricane Katrina.” Professor Lovett detailed the devastation to single-family and multi-family housing in New Orleans. He then explained how different governmental programs — responsible for billions of dollars earmarked for rebuilding and repopulation efforts — have failed or had limited success. Continue reading “Legal and Other Obstacles to Community Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans”

Tussle of the Titans: Secunda v. Carpenter

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There was a great debate this noon between our own Professor Paul Secunda and Dale Carpenter of Minnesota. The question before the house was the meaning of Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 Supreme Court decision which struck down a state law prohibiting homosexual sodomy. Both Professors Secunda and Carpenter agree that the majority decision, written by Anthony Kennedy, was rather opaque (I regard this as kind), leaving us uncertain as to just what type of right it recognized and how similar claims might be assessed in the future.

In Professor Carpenter’s view, Lawrence should be read to recognize a fundamental right to sexual autonomy. State interference with this right should presumably be subject to strict scrutiny. Professor Secunda argues that Lawrence cannot be read in this way, but, instead, ought to be understood as a move away from strictly tiered scrutiny toward a balancing approach applying rational basis scrutiny with, I suppose, more or less “bite” depending upon the nature of the liberty interest infringed. It is my impression that the nature of this more “carniverous” form of review (I can’t help myself) would depend on some notion of what forms of human autonomy are most compelling and a regard for the need to protect discrete and insular minorities, a view that, for me, recalls John Hart Ely’s  masterwork Democracy and Distrust.

Both Professors Secunda and Carpenter argued forcefully for their positions. Continue reading “Tussle of the Titans: Secunda v. Carpenter”

What Do Reasonable Jurors Get to Decide After Scott v. Harris?

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This is my second post commenting on Dan Kahan’s talk last week about his paper, co-authored with David Hoffman and Donald Braman, entitled “Whose Eyes are You Going to Believe? Scott v. Harris and the Perils of Cognitive Illiberalism.” (It was originally one post but got long.) Scott v. Harris is the case involving the video of the police chase, a video the Supreme Court found so compelling that it ruled the denial of summary judgement to the defendant police officer was error. Kahan and his co-authors argue that Scott harmed the legitimacy of the justice system when it concluded that all reasonable people would view the video tape the same way. In fact, Kahan et al. demonstrate that a significant number of potential jurors disagree with the majority’s view.

On Friday, I tangled with the article’s proposed solution to the problem of denying those jurors their day in court. Today, I want to examine the decision itself–did the majority really rule that no reasonable juror could conclude that the force used in the case was excessive? That’s actually not the way it looks to me. Rather, it looks to me like, after a preliminary finding about dangerousness, the Scott majority pretty much threw the whole fact vs. law distinction out the window. Scott doesn’t just insult “unreasonable” jurors; even reasonable jurors get short shrift.

Continue reading “What Do Reasonable Jurors Get to Decide After Scott v. Harris?”

Imagining the Reasonable Jury

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As has already been noted here, Dan Kahan dropped by the law school earlier this week and gave three fascinating presentations to the law school community. One, which Michael commented on earlier, was on his paper (co-authored with David Hoffman and Donald Braman) criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision in Scott v. Harris, entitled “Whose Eyes are You Going to Believe? Scott v. Harris and the Perils of Cognitive Illiberalism.”

In brief, Kahan and his co-authors argue that the Supreme Court went awry in Scott by refusing to credit the views of “an identifiable subcommunity” as being within the realm of those held by “reasonable jurors.” This refusal to credit such beliefs with reasonableness, they argue, is potentially destructive of the legitimacy of the justice system.

It’s a fascinating argument, backed by a novel empirical approach to assessing the views of “reasonable jurors” in a use of force case like Scott. But I’m left with a question about the theory, and a question about Scott: Today, I want to focus on the theory: How are judges to tell when the views of “an identifiable subcommunity” are at issue, making summary judgement less appropriate? Monday, I’ll focus on Scott: I’m not certain that the Scott holding is as Kahan et al. describe it, which way may mute their concern. Continue reading “Imagining the Reasonable Jury”

The Hierarchical-Communitarian Worldview

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One thing that most fascinated me about Dan Kahan’s findings (as reported in his Boden Lecture here on Monday) was the lack of people appearing in the quadrant (on his “group-grid” framework) that would be characterized as hierarchical and communitarian (the flip of that, also apparently lacking, would be individualistic egalitarians–more on that later). The gap is striking since hierarchical communitarians are heavily represented in history among philosophers and theologians. Plato and Aristotle would both be hierarchical communitarians, as would Aquinas (pictured above) and other of the Church fathers. Further afield, in China we’d find Confucius and his dialectics and in India, Manu and the dharma shastra.

In many ways, hierarchical communitarianism would appear to be the most realistic of the four possible configurations of beliefs. On the one hand, it recognizes that natural talents are unevenly distributed. Some people are more creative than others, some more intelligent, some have higher emotional quotients and a greater capacity to work with others, etc. Some among us need more guidance from outside, some are wiser. It also, again more realistically, recognizes our interdependence. On the normative side, hierarchical communitarians would celebrate that diversity and appreciate how it contributes to a rich, well-functioning and interesting community and would therefore encourage an awareness among others of the virtues of community and diversity. Continue reading “The Hierarchical-Communitarian Worldview”

Kahan on Law Enforcement in the Inner-City

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Yale Professor Dan Kahan delivered a terrific public lecture here yesterday on his theory of cultural cognition.  I am excited to see his program today with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, moderated by Mike Gousha.  For more than a decade, Kahan has been one of the legal academy’s most original and thought-provoking writers on inner-city law enforcement.  It should be very interesting to hear him discuss the particular challenges facing Milwaukee with D.A. Chisholm, who has already initiated several intriguing new programs during his short time in office.

In preparation for the program, I have been reviewing a couple of Kahan’s classic law review articles on inner-city policing.  Continue reading “Kahan on Law Enforcement in the Inner-City”

When Police Officers Use Deadly Force, Can Judges Ever Be Trusted to Judge Them?

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That is the question that lurks behind a fascinating new paper by Dan Kahan, David Hoffman, and Donald Braman. The paper responds to Scott v. Harris, 127 S. Ct. 1769 (2007), in which the Supreme Court held that summary judgment was properly granted to a police officer in a § 1983 lawsuit challenging the officer’s decision to ram his police car into the car of a fleeing motorist. One of the paper’s authors, Dan Kahan (pictured at left), is visiting the Law School today to present the paper at a faculty workshop. (Dan will also be delivering the Boden Lecture here late this afternoon.) The paper begins by taking issue with a particular, case-specific assertion by the majority in Scott, but then opens up some much deeper questions about the roles of judge and jury in a culturally diverse democracy.

The majority in Scott relied on a videotape of the fleeing motorist, which purported to show that he was driving in such a dangerous manner as to justify the use of deadly force to stop him. The majority found the videotape sufficiently compelling that, in its view, no reasonable juror could find in favor of the motorist on his claim that the police officer had acted unreasonably in violation of the Fourth Amendment–thus, warranting a grant of summary judgment. Kahan and his coauthors, however, showed the same videotape to a diverse sample of 1,350 Americans, and found evidence of some disagreement with the majority’s view of the case. Thus, had the case been permitted to go to a jury, there is a statistically sound basis for expecting that one or more of the jurors would have had a considerably less positive view of the officer’s conduct than did the members of the Supreme Court.

Continue reading “When Police Officers Use Deadly Force, Can Judges Ever Be Trusted to Judge Them?”

Judge White Visits Her Alma Mater

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Yesterday’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha featured a conversation with Marquette Law School graduate and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Maxine Aldridge White. Judge White’s journey from growing up in the Mississippi Delta as the daughter of a sharecropper to her current position on the bench is a compelling and inspiring one. Judge White reflected on her time at the Law School and how her experience here helped shape and influence her career. In particular, she pointed to the support and guidance provided her by Professor Phoebe Williams. Continue reading “Judge White Visits Her Alma Mater”

Marquette Law School in the Early Twentieth Century

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The second installment of the symposia celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Marquette Law School was convened earlier today. The same panel of scholars from the first session returned to discuss the period from 1908 to 1940.  Joseph Ranney began by explaining how this time period saw the bureaucratization and professionalization of both legal education and the bar, and how these trends shaped the development of the Marquette Law School. In particular, Mr. Ranney noted the importance of the creation of the American Association of Law Schools, which sought to establish an accreditation process for law schools, and the transformation of law school faculties from exclusively part-time/adjunct professors to a combination of full-time and part-time/adjunct professors. Continue reading “Marquette Law School in the Early Twentieth Century”

Representing the Vengeful Client

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At today’s faculty workshop, Robin Slocum, the Boden Visiting Professor Law, gave a fascinating presentation of her latest paper, entitled “The Dilemma of the Vengeful Client: A Prescriptive Framework for Cooling the Flames of Anger” (forthcoming in the Marquette Law Review). Noting that lawyers and the legal system can sometimes become weapons for vengeance in the hands of an angry client, Robin suggested that client counseling can help both the client and the lawyer achieve better outcomes in litigation and avoid the psychological and physiological costs of such vengeance-seeking activity. Effective client counseling, she argued, should focus on uncovering the thoughts and beliefs that underlie anger in order to identify the more rational aims of litigation. In addition, Robin suggested that law schools may consider adopting courses that build lawyers’ emotional competency to engage in this type of counseling.

A Civil Conversation With the Party Bosses

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Yesterday, a packed room of more than one hundred people at the Law School was treated to the latest installment of On the Issues with Mike Gousha, featuring Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus and Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke.  Gousha began the program by asking Priebus and Wineke about what role Wisconsin will play in the outcome of this year’s presidential election.  Both party chairmen confirmed that Wisconsin is considered “in play” for the presidential election, with recent polling showing Barack Obama with a narrow 2-3 point lead over John McCain in the state.  When asked what factor(s) will determine the election, Priebus suggested that the issue of trust — that is, which candidate voters trust most — will be dispositive.  Wineke countered that the election would turn on the economy.  Both also agreed that get out the vote (GOTV) volunteer efforts will be critical to success, in the state and nationally.  Continue reading “A Civil Conversation With the Party Bosses”

Addressing the Short-Termer Problem in Corporate Governance

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Continuing our faculty workshop series, Nadelle Grossman presented a work in progress earlier this week entitled “Clarifying the Long-Term Nature of Director and Shareholder Fiduciary Duties.”  Her presentation examined the various factors that have magnified the influence of short-term institutional shareholders, such as hedge funds and activist investors, over the decisions of corporate management.  These factors include the way the market punishes firms that fail to meet their quarterly earnings targets, the incentives of money managers to maximize their own fees by boosting the share price of their holdings, and the increasing effectiveness of the shareholder franchise.  Professor Grossman argued that the increasing influence of the “short-termers” has impaired management’s ability to set a long-term strategy for the corporation.  Her thesis is that the fiduciary duties of directors and institutional shareholders should be re-examined in order to promote the adoption of business strategies with longer time frames. Continue reading “Addressing the Short-Termer Problem in Corporate Governance”