Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bravo to the Green Bag!

Thanks to Inside Higher Education, Brian Leiter, my dad, and the Green Bag itself, there's a new ranking system in town: Green Bag's Deadwood Report system.

Different from HBO's 2004 Deadwood TV series, Green Bag "will [focus] on the most dully objective of measures: whether the work is being done – whether each law school faculty member is teaching courses, publishing scholarly works, and performing pro bono service."

Here's how it will work, according to the Green Bag itself:

Step 1: We will download a law school’s web pages containing (a) its list of “faculty”; (b) its current and recent course schedules and catalogs; and (c) its individual faculty profile pages containing vitas or lists of publications.

Step 2: We will compile our data. We are interested in providing information about the current state of a school’s faculty, so our focus will be on recent scholarship and recent teaching (and, in due course, recent service). A school whose faculty is heavy with people who used to be active might do well in a citation or reputation study, but it will do poorly in the Deadwood Report. After all, should today’s students be enrolling in schools where the faculty used to be engaged, or in schools where the faculty is engaged now?

Step 3: We will analyze. We are still working on the finer points of our sorting and weighing of various kinds of teaching and scholarship, but we are committed to a few basic ideas, including the following: First, we are interested in well-rounded, active faculty members, and so we will give more weight to the moderately active teacher-writer than to the hyper-writer who neglects teaching or the hyper-teacher who neglects writing. A specialist in neglecting both won’t be worth much. Second, we are interested in well-rounded, active faculties, and so we will seek to avoid perpetuating illusions of faculty strength that can result when one or two or a few members of a faculty publish and teach a great deal, while the rest do relatively little or nothing. Third, we are interested in honest, useful self-promotion by law schools, and so we will go out of our way to reward accuracy and penalize its absence.

Step 4: We will send each school’s dean our school-specific preliminary results, and invite him or her to send us a reasonably quick response identifying any inaccuracies in our work or on the school’s website.

Step 5: We will correct our errors. Then we will re-visit each law school’s website and incorporate any corrections we find there.

Step 6: We will publish our results.

Step 7: We will do it all over again for the next school year.
(Footnote omitted.) I've posted some thoughts about the ramifications about this new rankings system over at MoneyLaw (here).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why the anonymous posts?

I've been wondering why people post comments to blogs on an anonymous basis. Are they afraid of being harassed? Are they shy? Are they uncomfortable putting their names on their opinions?

So far, I've allowed anonymous posting, but most of what I've seen is just nasty stuff, which leads to my conclusion that only cowards post anonymously. If there's another reason for anonymous posting, especially on blogs like mine, please tell me what those reasons might be.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Judge Joseph T. Sneed III

Judge Joseph T. Sneed III died last week. I had the pleasure of clerking for him during the 1985-86 term, and here are just some of my recollections:
  • Roughly the first week of the clerkship, he asked me to be the clerk who would drive him around Pasadena when he was sitting in Southern California. I greeted him with pink mirrored sunglasses and drove like a bat out of hell. He always got our co-clerk Bob to drive him places after that.
  • He had seminars with his clerks almost every week, where we'd bring in slip opinions and dissect them with him. Once a law professor, always a law professor.
  • Even though he was a Nixon appointee and I was much more liberal than he, he always impressed me as being very willing to do whatever the law actually mandated (more so than some of the more liberal judges on the court, who were known for bending the law to suit their own purposes). In that sense, I always thought of him as a true conservative.
  • Judge Sneed's wife, Madelon, was a delight--a painter of some skill, she managed to make their home's dining room follow the shading of the San Francisco sun (what there was of it) with the colors that she used to decorate it.
  • We did a workload study during my clerkship year to figure out where the logjams were. They most certainly weren't in his chambers. He was an efficient writer and a tireless worker. He also didn't take most federal holidays off, so we didn't, either.
  • David Goodwin, another former Sneed clerk, and I had the pleasure of taking Judge Sneed's oral history for the Ninth Circuit's Historical Society. It's fair to say that Judge Sneed was Zelig-like in the ways in which he was at the center of some big issues in the 60s and 70s.
  • I'm still close friends with one of the Judge's secretaries--one of the luckiest things to come out of the clerkship has been getting to know Carol Brown. I've also managed to stay in touch, intermittently, with two of his externs.
  • He only spoke rarely about his daughter Carly. And she never answered my letters later on, when I was dean, asking her whether she'd speak at the law school. I would have liked to have met her, though.
  • One of my theories about judges is that they are among the most silent of movers. Judge Sneed could move through the chambers almost as quietly as a sniper, which made for some fun with one of our co-clerks, who got a bit twitchy.

Judge Sneed contributed a great deal to legal education and to the law generally. I'll miss him.