Author: Erik Lillquist


Clone Wars: A Dilemma

Soon, the new Star Wars movie, The Clone Wars will be out. (If you want to count down the time, join my children and watch the seconds pass by in breathless anticipation here.) There is little doubt that I will soon find myself in a theater with at least my two oldest children seeing the film.

Here’s the problem: once they have seen The Clone Wars, how do I avoid showing my children Episodes I-III? As a child, I loved the first three movies (Episodes IV-VI). Even now, I still enjoy watching them, and over the last six months, my two oldest children have become huge fans of them as well. But I have strenuously avoided showing them I-III, on the ground that they range from mediocre (at best) to awful. (As an aside, I saw Episode II with Dan, and I think it may have been the worst cinematic experiences of both of our lives.) Unfortunately, my understanding is that The Clone Wars is set between Episodes II & III, so they will have an even better case for their “need” to see the other Episodes. (They already have a good idea of what happens in these films, through books and friends.) And, to be honest, I suspect that they would actually like Episodes I-III, much for the same reasons that they love those Ewoks in Episode VI. George Lucas at least certainly still knows how to please his target demographic.

The question I have been struggling with is whether, after The Clone Wars, I should still refuse to show them Episodes I-III. Remember, my objection is artistic. They already know Anakin turns evil, etc., and frankly the incomprehensibility of the rest of the plot won’t bother them. Plus, while no doubt the violence should bother me, that’s a battle my wife and I lost long ago in this particular case. So should I show them these episodes, or am I right to shield them from what I deem to be a cinematic disaster?


I Trust NFL Referees More Than I Trust Federal Judges

Or at least, I have more faith in their neutrality than I do in the neutrality of judges.

At the Volokh Conspiracy, over the weekend they were talking about the origins of the Judge-Umpire analogy famously raised by now-Chief Justice Roberts in his confirmation hearings. Roberts, of course, was trying to suggest that he was just a neutral arbiter, applying the rules as best he could. Many people understandably found this analogy to be simplistic, or silly, but Ilya Somin rightly notes that “umpring is more complex than some detractors of the metaphor realize.”

But after watching last night’s first preseason NFL game, I would go further than Somin: not only do I think that umpring and judging are a lot alike, but I think that these some of these similarities are in areas that do not refelct well on either judges or umpires, and that, when you compare NFL officials and judges, you have a lot more reason to trust the competence of NFL officials than those of judges. And that’s mainly because (unlike Somin) I think judges and umpires have similar incentives and that the incentives of NFL officials are better.

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Flight and Jury Instructions

First, I would like to thank Dan Solove and his co-bloggers for inviting me to visit. I’ve been slow getting started. Blogging, at least for me it appears, seems to be a bit like my scholarship: it tends to go to the bottom of the list of things to do when administrative tasks pop-up. As an Associate Dean, I’ve actually found that the summers in many ways can be busier than much of the rest of the year, much to my disappointment, which explains why I have been initially silent.

I thought I would start my blogging career by talking about something I at least now a little about: jury instructions and how they relate to the way in which juries actually evaluate the infomration in front of them. The New Jersey Supreme Court last week decided State v. Ingram, a fascinating (well, at least to me) case about jury instructions. The intermediate court of appeals had reversed Ingram’s conviction for First-Degree Felony Murder and other related crimes on the ground that the trial court had erroneously instructed the jury as to the relationship between the mens rea required for accomplice liability and lesser-included offenses. The Supreme Court overturned this decision, but nonetheless affirmed the reversal of the conviction on the ground that the trial court had erroneoulsy given a “flight” instruction. It turns out that Ingram had shown up for a status conference two days before jury selection, but did not show up again. At the status conference, Ingram had learned for the first time that one of his co-defendants had pled guilty and would testify against him at trial.

The decision is interesting to me for two inter-related reasons. First, it is by no means clear to me that the instruction actually used really added anything to what the jury would have assumed anyway; in other words, real jurors were likely to draw exactly the inference that the supposedly erroneous instruction told them they could draw. Second, even if the instruction had some impact, I am not sure that it made a big difference in the outcome (although I think this point is more contestable). I’ll explain both of these points after the jump.

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