Author: Melissa Waters


Levit Named Interim Dean at Tulsa

Congratulations are in order for my dear friend Janet Koven Levit, who was just named Interim Dean at the University of Tulsa Law School. I have had the great privilege of visiting and speaking at Tulsa Law School on a couple of occasions, in particular as a panelist at a terrific symposium that Janet hosted a few years back on international law and the Supreme Court. Kudos to Tulsa for having the good sense to appoint Janet to this new role, and all the best to Janet and the law school as they move forward together!

(IntLawGrrls has more on Janet’s appointment here).


Here’s a trivia question for you: What is soon to be the world’s first “carbon neutral” state?

Answer: The Vatican, which has just announced a partnership with Klimafa, a Hungarian start-up company, to help restore an ancient forest by planting trees on a 37-acre tract of land along the Tisza River in Hungary. The tract will be renamed, appropriately enough, the “Vatican climate forest,” and will reportedly offset all of the Vatican’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2007. The project is part of the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to “go green”, in keeping with Pope Benedict’s admonition to the international community to “respect and encourage a ‘green culture’”.

To my mind, this is a terrific example of the positive, creative role that emerging transnational public-private partnerships of all kinds can play in finding solutions to problems as intractable as global climate change. And this is a particularly intriguing example of a transnational public-private partnership, encompassing cooperative relationships between the Vatican, the Hungarian government, and private industry. As Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times points out, this is a win-win for all concerned: The Vatican gets to set an example for the international community, and gets some great press for its efforts. Hungary (whose government scientists will be consulting on the reforestation project) gets abandoned, denuded land restored as native forest. The project will be great for the local “climate” (it will provide much-needed jobs in the area), and will have a beneficial impact (if only symbolically) on the global climate, as well. And last (but certainly not least, in my mind), the Hungarian start-up “gets the Vatican’s seal of approval and free publicity for its first project.”

Of course, the carbon offset idea is still novel and the subject of fierce debate among environmental law and policy experts – a debate that I am not even remotely qualified to take up. But I am intrigued by the emergence of transnational public-private partnerships of this kind: It strikes me as an extraordinarily important phenomenon, and one that has the potential to transform the way that international law and policy is created and implemented.

Does anyone know of academic research (legal or otherwise) being done on the emergence of these sorts of transnational public/private partnerships? I’d like to learn more about it.


AALS Call for Papers: New Voices in Human Rights

From the AALS International Human Rights Law Section:

The International Human Rights Law Section is reminding interested individuals that it will repeat its popular “New Voices” program to assist faculty members and other scholars who have not previously had an opportunity to present a scholarly paper at an AALS annual meeting. The program will be Friday, January 4, 2008, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. This is considered by many to be a “prime time slot” at the AALS annual meeting, during which new scholars will summarize recent scholarship and academic works in progress. Individuals who are interested in being considered for the “New Voices” panel should submit an abstract of one to three pages describing their research or scholarship.

Abstracts of one to three pages of a topic for presentation should be submitted by Wednesday, October 10, 2007 to Mark E. Wojcik at The John Marshall Law School, 315 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604, or by email (preferred) at This is an extension of the previous deadline, which was September 26, 2007. Abstracts will be reviewed by a special committee and selections made for the final program presentation. We hope to maximize the number of possible presenters.

A completed paper is not necessary, only the abstract setting forth the main ideas of the presenter. The committee hopes that eliminating the requirement of submitting a finalized paper will encourage the submission this year of more “works-in-progress” and will also allow the final papers to incorporate comments and answer questions raised during the “New Voices” panel. This is expected to be a popular and supportive panel to promote human rights scholarship. Proposals chosen will have about 10 minutes to present their paper, to be followed by discussion of all the presentations.


“Bad Thai cops to endure Kitty shame”

This one was just too good to pass up — both for the headline, above, and for the story itself. From the Associated Press:

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands featuring “Hello Kitty,” the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said Monday.

Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — among other misdemeanors — will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day, said Police Col. Pongpat Chayaphan. …

The striking armband features Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts.

“Simple warnings no longer work. This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” said Pongpat, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

“(Hello) Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps,” Pongpat said.



Call for Papers on Property

Ben Barros of PropertyProf Blog asked me to cross-list the following Call for Papers. All you junior property scholars out there, have at it!

Eric Claeys and I have organized a junior scholars property works-in-progress panel for the AALS meeting in New York. Here are the details:

Call For Submissions

AALS Property Law Section Junior Scholars Works-In-Progress Panel

The AALS Property Law Section invites junior property scholars to submit works in progress for a junior scholars panel at the upcoming AALS Annual Meeting in New York The panel will take place on Sunday, January 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. At the panel, paper authors will have the opportunity to present their papers and receive commentary from senior scholars knowledgeable about their paper topics.

Submissions: Two papers and an alternate will be selected for the panel by blind peer review. Papers should be submitted by e-mail to by September 15, 2007 with the subject line “Property Junior Scholars Panel.” To facilitate blind review, authors should place their names and other identifying information on a separate cover page. Authors also should alter or delete references within the text that would reveal their identities to a referee. During the selection process, papers will be judged by how successfully they establish their contributions in a scholarly manner and by how substantially those contributions add to current property law and scholarship.

Eligibility: The panel is open to scholars who (a) currently have a permanent or visiting appointment at an AALS member or fee-paid school; (b) have been teaching for six or fewer years; and (c) do not yet have tenure. Papers that have been accepted for publication may be submitted for consideration, but only if they are early enough in the production process for the author to fully incorporate comments provided at the panel.

Please direct any questions to the panel organizers, Ben Barros ( and Eric Claeys (

Ben Barros


“Judges Behaving Badly” in Clerkship Hiring

The Wall Street Journal blog has an entertaining post/discussion this week about the frenzied market for judicial clerks. (My thanks to Brian Leiter for calling my attention to the WSJ post.) The post discusses a recent survey conducted by Judge Richard Posner, Christopher Avery, Christine Jolls, and Alvin Roth as part of an update to their 2001 Chicago law review article on the federal clerkship hiring process. (The paper is available for download at SSRN.) The authors surveyed recent graduates at Yale, Chicago, Harvard, and Stanford who applied for clerkships in 2004 or 2005. The survey offers up all sorts of interesting (though not particularly surprising) statistics, suggesting that the 2003 changes to the clerkship hiring guidelines have been less than successful: Over a third of those surveyed received interview offers before the “official” guidelines permit, one quarter interviewed with judges before they were supposed to, and 12% received job offers from judges who had jumped the gun on the official start date for offers. On the WSJ blog, recent law graduates have weighed in with their own horror stories about the clerkship hiring process.

The clerkship hiring frenzy is certainly not a new phenomenon. I’m reminded of the experience of a Yale law school classmate back in the late 90s. The student got a call from a judge who said, “IF I were to make you an offer right now – and I’m not saying that I am – but IF I were to make you an offer right now, how long would it take you to accept it?” Dumbfounded, the student replied, “Uh, well … I suppose I could let you know within the hour?” Dead silence on the other end of the line. The student said, “Judge X? Are you still there, Judge X?” Another long pause. And finally, the judge replied, “Hold on. I’m THINKING.”

I told this story to my father, who as a federal judge in Arkansas had been hiring clerks for over twenty years. (For the most part, he opted out of the process entirely by hiring (generally superb) clerks from the University of Arkansas. As a trial judge, he took the view that his clerks should have a feel for the people and a respect for the local culture – and that gave local graduates a decided edge.) My father was amazed that other federal judges would engage in (in his words) “such nonsense.” “I just don’t get it,” he said, shaking his head. “Why do they care so much who they hire? The job is not rocket science — any decent lawyer can do it. And besides … you’re a bunch of damn kids!”


Having obstetric/gynecological surgery anytime soon at one of the hundreds of teaching hospitals around the country?

Then be forewarned that, while you are under general anesthesia, medical students may be performing “practice” pelvic exams on you without bothering to first notify you or obtain your consent. Instead, the hospital assumes that you “consented” to the exam when you signed the general pre-operative surgery consent form, even though these forms typically do not mention the procedure. A few years ago, a short-lived media firestorm led to federal hearings on the issue; the American Association of Medical Colleges (which represents most of the nation’s medical schools and over 400 teaching hospitals) issued a statement condemning the practice as “unethical and unacceptable.”

But according to my colleague Robin Fretwell Wilson, who has done extensive research on the issue, the practice lives on at many teaching hospitals around the country. Incredibly, many doctors justify the practice by simply asserting that women will not consent if asked. Since medical students need to practice pelvic exams, they argue, the needs of the medical establishment should trump a woman’s right to be asked for permission before unnecessary medical procedures are performed on her. (In fact, their assumption that women won’t consent if asked is dubious; one study indicates that at least 50% of women do give permission when asked in advance.) According to Professor Wilson, some teaching faculty bluntly assert that poor patients who receive free or subsidized care at a teaching hospital “owe it to the facility and society” to participate. For more information on the controversy, see Professor Wilson’s article, Autonomy Suspended: Using Female Patients to Teach Intimate Exams Without Their Knowledge or Consent (available for download here at SSRN).

If you live in the great state of Virginia, you’re in luck. Thanks to Professor Wilson’s hard work and advocacy efforts, the Virginia legislature just enacted legislation requiring specific informed consent for the practice. (California has also enacted similar legislation.)

By the way, if you’re a man thinking that this issue doesn’t affect you, you might think again. If you ever go in for prostate surgery, think twice before you sign that general consent form: You may be signing up for a free rectal exam or two (or three), courtesy of whatever medical students happen to be on rotation that day.


Rural Rhetoric

I’ve spent some time over the past few days reading through the various law review reprints that tend to collect on my desk during the school year. The reprint that I read this morning was so entertaining and intriguing that I just had to mention it. It’s “Rural Rhetoric,” by Lisa Pruitt at UC Davis, published recently in the Connecticut Law Review (download it here). Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

This Article investigates law’s constitutive rhetoric about rural people, places, and livelihoods. Specifically, it considers five categories of judicial opinions that discuss the legal relevance of rurality: judicial self-identification as rural; definitions of rural; line-drawing between rural and urban; taking judicial notice of rural characteristics; and idealized portrayals of the rural. … This collection of judicial narratives reveals that law’s portrait of rurality has been greatly influenced by popular perceptions of the rural that persist in our national consciousness, including nostalgia for our rural past. Such nostalgia is reflected in judicial assumptions that rural areas are safe and that rural people are neighborly. It is also evident in idyll-ising rhetoric about rural land. In addition, the long-standing notion that law should play less of a role in rural livelihoods persists, apparently based on assumptions that rural people are self-sufficient, rural communities self-contained.

The cases surveyed illustrate not only how legal rhetoric constitutes, maintains, and transforms the rural, but also how this rhetoric demonstrably influences outcomes. With respect to some issues, law’s rhetoric – and therefore law itself – lags behind reality, due in part to out-dated assumptions about rural communities. Other legal rules have evolved to reflect rural realities, changed as they are in recent years. While this Article lauds courts for the attention they have paid to the dimension of place in legal analysis, it nevertheless argues that judges should be more careful not to rely on stereotypes in making and applying legal rules. Judges should pay closer attention to rural realities, including the differences among the many places and people they label “rural.”

Like me, Professor Pruitt grew up in a little old country town in the beautiful Ozark hills of Arkansas, so this is an article that she was born to write. It makes for fascinating reading. I should admit that I might be a bit biased in Professor Pruitt’s favor — not only because she hails from the great state of Arkansas, but also because she had the good sense to discuss an opinion written by my father, the late H. Franklin Waters, who was a federal judge in Arkansas for over twenty years. In Horton v. Taylor, he took judicial notice of the enormous importance of decent country roads to rural voters, and of the resulting pivotal role that road grader operators play in the political fortunes of Arkansas’ county judges. (County judges are the chief elected officials in rural Arkansas, and are judged by voters almost exclusively on their ability to maintain and improve county roads). Taking into account the peculiar circumstances of rural life in the Arkansas hill country, he held that road graders “were so closely linked to the county judge that they became his alter ego for purposes of political patronage, meaning that the judge could terminate and hire them at will.” The Eighth Circuit didn’t buy it — presumably, as Professor Pruitt notes, because “sitting far from rural Arkansas, the court was skeptical that a position as menial as road grader operator could be so significant.”

But my father knew whereof he spoke. Shortly after he was appointed to the federal bench, he took a trip down to the tiny west Arkansas farm town of Slatonville, where he was born and raised. One of the old-timers in town stopped him and said, “Well, Franklin, I hear you’re some kind of damn big shot these days. Can you help us get somebody out here to blacktop these here roads?” My father had to confess to his former neighbor that he couldn’t be of much help. In the vocational hierarchy that still predominates in the country’s last remaining, wonderful rural places, the federal judge remains a far less powerful individual than the county judge.

Kudos to Professor Pruitt for crafting a delightful and truly original piece of scholarship.


Is This The Beginning of the End for U.S. News Undergrad Rankings, and Will Law School Rankings Survive the Collapse?

The New York Times reports today that the presidents of dozens of liberal arts colleges have agreed to stop participating in U.S. News’ college rankings survey. According to the report, the Annapolis Group, an association of liberal arts colleges, released a statement that a majority of the 80 college presidents attending its annual meeting had declared their intent not to participate in the U.S. News rankings. The move follows on the heels of similar efforts by college presidents earlier this year, and of a widely-publicized critique of the rankings system last month in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Has the liberal arts world finally decided that enough is enough? The Times quotes Judith Shapiro, president of Barnard College: “Frankly, it had bubbled up to the point of, why should we do this work for them? … [T]his is not our project.” Of course, the jury is still out on whether the liberal arts colleges’ nascent rebellion will have legs. Not surprisingly, some schools at the top of the food chain – e.g., #2 Amherst – plan to continue to cooperate with U.S. News, and want further “discussion” of the issue. Still, this latest move by liberal arts colleges seems to be more than mere window dressing.

All of this has me wondering: If U.S. News loses its undergrad rankings cash cow, will the law school rankings be far behind? Or might the law school rankings survive, even if the undergrad rankings collapse? Put differently, are there reasons why the law school world will (and perhaps should) continue to “do U.S. News’ work for them”?

I can think of a couple of reasons why law school rankings might survive, despite the collapse of undergrad rankings.

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Another AALS Call for Papers

This one is for my fellow civil procedure enthusiasts.

The AALS Section on Civil Procedure has issued a Call for Papers to be presented at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York on January 4, 2008. The topic for this year’s program is “The Revolution of 1938 Revisited: The Role and Future of the Federal Rules.” Here’s the summary:

70 years ago, the Federal Rules changed the landscape of civil litigation. Procedure in the federal courts became uniform and adopted a flexible, notice-based model that contemplated liberal access to discovery. Over time, most states followed suit. Some have called this the Golden Age of Rulemaking.

What will the next 30 years of rulemaking look like? What should they look like? From pleading standards to discovery to summary judgment practice, there is no shortage of critics of the federal model. And, increasingly, questions are raised about the extent to which state practice should continue to follow the lead of the Federal Rules. States might adopt different practices out of a belief that the state and federal courts hear different types of cases and are designed to do different things. States might adopt different practices in a spirit of local experimentation, supplementing or even displacing the federal rulemaking process as the leader in innovation and reform. Or, states might simply depart from the Federal Rules model out of a belief that the federal model proceeds from flawed first principles. Different models of judicial federalism could support very dif ferent conclusions about the proper interaction between state rulemaking and federal rulemaking.

Sounds like a great topic! (And for all you civ pro skeptics out there, who think this all sounds mind-bogglingly dull, you truly don’t know what you’re missing.) More information below the fold.

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