ROUNDUP: Law and Humanities 05.01.2014


Awards season: The American Bar Association has announced the finalists for the 2014 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts. The ABA awards the Silver Gavel to those artists in film, nonfiction, fiction, and other arts who most closely meet the association’s objectives in advancing public understanding of law and the justice system. This year, the 47 members of the screening committee reviewed 169 entries, selecting 19 finalists for the Standing Committee to review. The ABA began giving out the Gavel Awards in 1958. Among the finalists: See the complete list of finalists for 2014 here. The ABA will announce winners on May 15.


Curtain going up: The Elevator Repair Service will be performing Arguendo,  a play based on the landmark case Barnes v. Glen Theatre (501 U.S. 560 (1991)) at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, New Haven, CT, from June 18-22. Here’s part of the syllabus for the case:

Respondents, two Indiana establishments wishing to provide totally nude  dancing as entertainment and individual dancers employed at those  establishments, brought suit in the District Court to enjoin enforcement  of the state public indecency law  —  which requires respondent dancers to  wear pasties and a G-string  —  asserting that the law’s prohibition against  total nudity in public places violates the First Amendment. The court  held that the nude dancing involved here was not expressive conduct.   The Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that nonobscene nude dancing  performed for entertainment is protected expression, and that the statute was an improper infringement of that activity because its purpose  was to prevent the message of eroticism and sexuality conveyed by the  dancers.

The play “[uses] verbatim oral arguments and breathtaking projections by celebrated visual artist Ben Rubin [and] introduces us to the Justices—who try to get to the bottom of this First Amendment puzzle—and the attorneys on both sides who gamely try to keep up.” The play closed recently at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC.


Holding out for a hero: The AALS Section on Law and the Humanities has issued a CFP for the January 2015 Annual Meeting. The theme is “Law and the Hero.” Here’s more from panel chair Charlton Copeland, University of Miami.

Law and the Hero.  No, this is not an apt example of an “oxymoron” in the dictionary.  The law has had, and still has, many heroes.  For example, the federal judges in the South who implemented the desegregation mandate of Brown v. Board of Education were, as Jack Bass has written, unlikely heroes who maintained a steadfast commitment to the rule of law despite facing constant political opposition and personal attacks.  Ronald Dworkin argued that judges should aim to be heroes – specifically, like Hercules, acting with superhuman wisdom and patience to, in the words of Eric Posner, “bring order to the Augean stables of our law.”  (Posner did not agree with this view of the judge, arguing that judges should avoid making controversial constitutional decisions in order to allow such decisions to be worked out in the political process.)  Atticus Finch has long been hailed as heroic lawyer, albeit a fictional one, although Malcolm Gladwell has asked whether we should rethink Finch’s heroism.

What qualities define a hero in the law?  What role do heroes play in the law?  How is our thinking about heroism and the law influenced by other disciplines, such as history, literature, and philosophy?  And who are your heroes in the law?  This program will explore these issues with both invited panelists and panelists accepted through this call.

The AALS Section on Law and Humanities invites your submissions on these questions and any others that touch upon the subject of “Law and the Hero.”  The Section will then select a number of submissions to be presented at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in January 2015.

To be considered as a panelist, please submit a statement of interest by Friday, May 9, 2014.  The statement should include a description – two to three paragraphs are sufficient – of your presentation that will address one or more of the themes highlighted in the above description and the methodology through which you will advance such themes. Please also submit a current curriculum vitae. Submit all materials to Professor Rodger Citron, Touro Law Center, via electronic mail at

Panelists will be selected by Friday, May 16, 2014. The Section hopes to have these papers published as part of an online mini-symposium sponsored by a law review, either in print or online.  All panelists will be responsible for paying their annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses. Full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools are eligible to submit papers. Foreign, visiting (and not full-time on a different faculty) and adjunct faculty members, graduate students, and fellows are not eligible to submit.


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