Archive for the 'Academia' Category

Top 50 Law Professors on Twitter

Posted by on Jun 15 2012 | Academia, Internet

The list was compiled by Clare Kaufman, for WorldwideLearn.com. She explains: “The following top law professors dominate the Twitter-verse, either through the wit, volume or audience. Criteria for selection for this list include the quality of the tweets, the number of followers and the most active users.” For whatever reason, I’m not on the list, although based on number of followers, I rank #40. Since SSRN downloads are already a very important item in law faculty rankings, perhaps the day will come when Twitter too will play a role in the ever-escalating status competition among law professors.

Regardless, the Top-50 list might a useful guide for folks who are looking for additional people to follow on Twitter. Not surprisingly, it is dominated by professors who specialize in technology issues. Impressively, Lawrence Lessig, @lessig, bestrides the law prof twitterverse like a colossus, with nearly 200,000 followers–which appears to be (I didn’t count) about as many as the other 49 combined.  @davekopel has only 0.7% as many followers.

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Advice for law students: Enjoy your University

Posted by on Oct 18 2010 | Academia, Federalist Society, Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

A few weeks ago, I returned to my beloved University of Michigan, for a law school class reunion. This time, I stayed an extra day, in order to speak to law students at a lunchtime event on Monday, organized by the U of M Federalist Society. Michigan Prof. Richard Primus provided some thoughtful commentary on my presentation, and the FedSoc organization was outstanding. Anyway, the extra 36 hours on campus was a great opportunity to walk many miles revisiting the immense Michigan campus, the U of M’s beautiful Arboretum, and Ann Arbor.

The campus visit reminded me of how much of the education I received at the University of Michigan took place outside the Law Quad–even though the quantity and quality of education received inside the Quad were excellent. My start as a journalist during law school was writing theater reviews, and then op-eds for the Michigan Daily.  Unlike some Daily alumni, I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize, but like all Daily writers, I benefited from the opportunity to work for a solid daily newspaper with a circulation of 18,000.

Other law school friends who got outside the Law Quad also had great experiences. One friend played interscholastic rugby. My 1L roommate found a small church in Ann Arbor, which at the time was holding services in a room at the YMCA. My roommate was a very studious fellow, even by law school standards, but the church drew him towards something more important. After serving as a JAG officer in the Air Force, he became an ordained minister.

Even if the university beyond the law school doesn’t help you discern a vocation or avocation, you’ll still find lots of theater, music, museums (including mini-exhibits in classroom buildings), guest lectures on topics other than law, and so on. Not to mention intramural and spectator sports.

Not every law school enjoys the good fortune of being located on a flagship research university campus with 41,000 students. But if your law school does share a campus with a university, it’s almost certain that there’s something there for you to enjoy. The law school experience can be all-consuming, especially during the first year. If you take the time to explore your university, you’ll give yourself a helpful mental change of pace, and have some fun. And as the Grateful Dead put it in Box of Rain, “Maybe you’ll find direction around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.”


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The Bernardine Dohrn of the early 20th century: The terrorist professor at U of Texas law school

Posted by on May 24 2010 | Academia, congress, Constitutional History, Counter-Terrorism Policy, Criminal Law, Economic LIberties, education, guns, History, Law schools, Legal professor, Militia, Rehabilitating Lochner, William Simkins

(David Kopel)

My DU colleague Thomas Russell, who used to teach at the University of Texas Law school, has a written a paper, available on SSRN, which urges the University of Texas Law School to rename Simkins Hall, a law and graduate male student dormitory named for William Stewart Simkins. Simkins taught equity, contracts, procedure, and related topics at UT for three decades in the early 20th century. He was also a founder of the Ku Klux Klan in Florida, and every year at UT he gave a formal speech extolling the Klan.

Most of Russell’s paper concentrates on Simkins’ career at UT, as well as the 1954 decision (five weeks after Brown v. Board was announced) to name the dormitory after him. I was curious to learn more about Simkins had actually done with the Florida Klan, so I read Michael Newtown’s book The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida.

The Florida KKK organized in 1867–68. Simkins later described himself at the Klan leader in Taylor, Madison, and Jefferson counties. These three contiguous counties are part of the eastern panhandle, east of Tallahassee. As far as the record shows, Simkins never claimed that any Klan actions in those counties had been carried out contrary to his orders, or that he regretted anything the Klan did in those counties. Accordingly, it is plausible to hold Simkins personally responsible Klan activity there.

Federal troops were withdrawn from Florida in July 4, 1868. From July 8 through 14, five blacks were murdered by “white regulators.” In mid-July through October 1868, the Madison County KKK murdered seven more blacks, including Randall Coleman, a leading Republican.

In Taylor County, “masked night riders paraded with KKK flags and threatened farmers who refused to join the Klan.”

Florida’s Governor Reed had purchased two thousand muskets for the state militia. On the night of November 5, 1868, while the train carrying the muskets had stopped at the Greenville station in Madison County, Klan raiders removed all two thousand muskets–destroying some, and keeping the rest. Simkins later bragged that “Every telegraph operator, brakeman, engineer and conductor on the road was a Ku Klux.”

The Jefferson County Klan coerced white farmers into refusing to sell land to freedmen, or to taking the money, and then having the Klan drive the freedmen off his new freehold.

According to Newton, Madison County was the second-worst county in Florida for Klan violence, with 25 murders from 1868–71. The victims were always members of the Republican party.

On the night before the November 7, 1870, election, “armed riders invaded” the town of Madison, “harassing black voters.” On election day in Monticello, Jefferson County, “Georgia Klansmen joined the local mob and hundreds of shots were fired in a rioutous demonstration of white solidarity,” intended to frighten blacks against voting.

The election results left the state government weakly in reconstructionist hands. The store belonging to Madison County Sheriff Montgomery was burned on December 17.

Congress passed a new, stronger Enforcement Act in April 1871, and in November, a congressional subcommittee held four days of hearings in Tallahassee about Klan crimes. Even so, another Republican’s store was torched on November 6, 1871. However, President Grant’s October declaration of martial law in nine South Carolina counties had a chilling effect on the Klan, and by 1873, Florida Klan supporters were denying that there have had been a Klan in Florida, or were claiming that if there had been one, it was no longer active.

Simkins himself happened to leave Florida for Texas in either 1871 or 1873. (Sources conflict.) He particpated in two 1894 U.S. Supreme Court cases, Reagan v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. and Reagan v. Mercantile Trust Co. He supported the Texas Attorney General’s argument that the judiciary had no power to review the reasonableness of railroad rates which had been established by the Texas Railroad Commission. The Supreme Court, in an unanimous opinion by Justice Brewer, disagreed.

That Simkins was an advocate of the unreviewable power of unreasonable government economic regulation should be no surprise. As David Bernstein explains in his book Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, the caste system of Jim Crow was founded on government power to prevent black and white people from freely choosing to engage in economic relations.

Last Friday, the University of Texas announced the formation of a special working group which will issue a report on the Simkins naming controversy by the end of June.

Simkins should have been denied admission to the Florida bar in 1870, based on his admitted role in the theft of firearms from the militia of the state of Florida, and his role in organizing and leading a terrorist organization which appears responsible for numerous homicides and many other violent felonies. In 1870, the Florida Supreme Court did not know of the evidence regarding Simkins’ terrorist crime spree in 1868–70,  but the 2010 working group will have more information.

Of course the fact that a person is an unrepentant, retired, terrorist is not necessarily a bar to being a professor at a prestigious law school–not for William Stewart Simkins at Texas in the early 20th century, or for Bernardine Rae Dohrn at Northwestern in the early 21st century.

Readers who are interested in more on the Simkins controversy may enjoy the blogging thereon at The Faculty Lounge, which has been covering the story since Russell released his paper.


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Major legal win for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus

Posted by on Apr 15 2010 | Academia, guns

(David Kopel)

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus v. Regents of the University of Colorado. Decided this morning by the Colorado Court of Appeals (a three-judge panel of Colorado’s intermediate appellate court).  In brief: Colorado’s licensing statute for carrying a concealed handgun for lawful protection is explicitly preemptive. The University of Colorado bans concealed carry anyway, arguing that there is an implicit exception applicable to CU. The Mountain States Legal Foundation brings a suit on behalf of SCCC. The trial court dismisses for failure to state a claim. The Court of Appeals unanimously reverses the dismissal, and remands the case for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals holds that: 1. The statutory claim under the Concealed Carry Act should not have been dismissed, because there is no exemption for the University of Colorado. 2. The constitutional claim under the Colorado Constitution’s right to arms provision should not have been dismissed; the proper standard of review, under Colorado case law, is “reasonableness”, which is a higher standard than rational basis. The Court of Appeals expresses no opinion on the merits of the constitutional claim.

Congratulations to MSLF attorney Jim Manley!

UPDATE: Since the comments thread is mostly a discussion of empirical/policy issues, it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Court of Appeals opinion cites the two major relevant works on either side of the issue: the Brady Center’s monograph, and my article in Connecticut Law Review. The court adds that such questions are irrelevant to its decision-making, which seems to be the proper approach for a case that (for purposes of the Court of Appeals decision) involves statutory interpretation, plus articulation of the standard of review for the Colorado Constitution right to arms. Since the statutory interpretation issue basically resolves the case conclusively in favor of Students for Concealed Carry, the trial court on remand probably will not even need to reach the constitutional question. If for some reason the trial court does need to make a constitutional decision, then the court would need to consider empirical evidence and policy issues, as does any court applying any heightened form of review.


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