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Private Accrediting: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

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US News’ rankings are exerting powerful influences over law school practices, in areas like admissions (and presumably hiring and promotion of faculty, to enhance reputation scores). They’re beginning to look like an accrediting agency that operates parallel to the ABA. US News arguably sets benchmarks for such areas as admissions, faculty-student ratios, and library size.

(Jeffery Stake’s article “The Interplay Between Law School Rankings, Reputations, and Resource Allocation” and posts like this one by Brian Leiter explore how US News is affecting (or might affect) class size and other admissions decisions. My (admittedly impressionistic) sense is that a great many law schools are bending their behavior to US News factors.)

In the spirit of “If you can’t beat them, join them,” maybe what we should be doing is lobbying US News to change the factors that count in their rankings. Perhaps, for example, we should encourage US News to take diversity of student body into account. If US News gave (even small credit) for diversity, perhaps it would cause (major) shifts in law schools’ admissions decisions. I wonder if US News is already poised to do this? In 2005 they began publishing a diversity index, but it doesn’t yet count towards a school’s overall rank.

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VisitorVille 3D: Site Meter Heroin

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I hope, pray, plead to the heavens that I will not use VisitorVille 3D. VisitorVille 3D is a visitor tracking software, akin to Site Meter, but that displays web traffic as a three dimensional city:

What makes VisitorVille unique is immediately clear: VisitorVille does not represent website visitors simply as numbers or graphs, but as real people in a real environment. You can watch your site traffic as if you were people-watching in a big city.

As a blogger, I understand the obsession over visitor stats. But VisitorVille 3D is just taking things too far. It strikes me as too addictive to be legal.

More pictures and information about it can be found at Google Blogoscoped, where Philipp Lenssen writes:

The Google bus arrives whenever a visitor searched Google and found this blog. The search terms will be announced to you by a female voice (like “Search term: Google Base”). In VisitorVille, you can listen to your traffic – every event has its own sound.

Definitely too addictive to be legal.

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FBI Virus

fbi1.bmpI just got a humorous virus email. It’s from admin@fbi.gov with this message:

Dear Sir/Madam,

we have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal Websites.

Important:

Please answer our questions!

The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,

Steven Allison
Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3220
Washington, DC 20535
phone: (202) 324-3000

Of course, the list of questions attached is a file containing a virus. I’m dying to see the questions, but alas . . . my email program stripped out the virus-laden file.

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More on Pseudonymous Litigation

redact1.jpgHoward Bashman offers these further thoughts about the issue of pseudonymous litigation and the sex tape case I blogged about earlier today:

In terms of assessing blame, however, in my view it is the attorney for the pseudonymous party who bears the responsibility to ensure that the appellate briefs posted online — and surely the Seventh Circuit’s practice of posting briefs online comes as a surprise to no one — does not reveal the actual identity of the lawyer’s pseudonymous client. . . .

There is no way that an appellate court’s clerk’s office can review filings for the purpose of making appropriate redactions; that is the job of counsel for the parties.

While I don’t believe that the court should be held blameless, I definitely agree with Bashman that the lawyers are also to blame in this case.

Lawyers often are not devoting adequate attention to the issue of client privacy interests in the course of litigation. One reason why many privacy cases involve the real names of plaintiffs is because many lawyers don’t even think of raising the issue of the plaintiff proceeding pseudonymously. Courts often will deny plaintiffs the right to proceed under a pseudonym, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. You rarely get anything without at least asking.

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Of Sex Tapes, Pseudonymous Litigation, and Judicial Bungling

videocamera1a.jpgLior Strahilevitz (law, Chicago) has a wonderful post over at the Chicago Law Faculty Blog about a very problematic Seventh Circuit opinion — and blunder. The case, Doe v. Smith, involves a teenage girl whose boyfriend secretly videotaped them having sex and then emailed the video to his friends. The issue is whether the plaintiff could proceed on federal Wiretap Act claims. The court said yes. But then the court stated:

On remand, the district judge must revisit the question whether the plaintiff should be allowed to proceed anonymously. The judge granted her application to do so without discussing this circuit’s decisions, which disfavor anonymous litigation. The public has an interest in knowing what the judicial system is doing, an interest frustrated when any part of litigation is conducted in secret. Plaintiff was a minor when the recording occurred but is an adult today. She has denied Smith the shelter of anonymity – yet it is Smith, and not the plaintiff, who faces disgrace if the complaint’s allegations can be substantiated. And if the complaint’s allegation’s are false, then anonymity provides a shield behind which defamatory charges may be launched without shame or liability.

Lior Strahilevitz persuasively attacks the court’s reasoning:

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Swiftly Shrinking? Toward the Lilliputian Law Review Article

book-tiny1.jpgThis law review article submission season, a bunch of law reviews banded together to create a page limit for law review article submissions. According to the policy as announced by the Harvard Law Review and followed at several other law reviews:

In an effort to address the growing length of law review articles, the Harvard Law Review has adopted a new policy limiting the length of articles we will accept or publish.

The Review will give preference to articles under 25,000 words in length — the equivalent of 50 law review pages — including text and footnotes. The Review will not publish articles exceeding 35,000 words — the equivalent of 70-75 law review pages — except in extraordinary circumstances.

Eugene Volokh of the VC has some data on the effectiveness of the policy:

Here’s an early data point: Jean-Gabriel Bankier of Berkeley Electronic Press’s ExpressO submission service . . . reports that, based on “more than 1,000 unique submissions in both 2004 and 2005,” the averages were:

2003-69.1 pages

2004-73.3 pages

2005-64.0 pages

So that’s about 9 pages shorter on average. Thus, in total, this season saw over 9000 fewer pages of law review article text. Where did those 9000 pages go? That’s roughly 2.7 million words . . . vanished. They are lost forever, gone, never to be read and enjoyed. Oh, the verbosity!

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On Blawg Comments

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Now that this blawg is a little over two months old, we’re starting to get spammed with some frequency in the comments. I take this to be sort of like a toddler learning to crawl. It is chaotic, messy, and time-consuming in the short-term, but signals long-term progress.

However, it got me to thinking about a comment policy. Although we, unlike some, allow comments, we don’t exactly have an easy to find comment (removal) policy. Nor do we have a “diary” system which would permit our visitors to create their own content. With respect to the former non-policy, we’re like ACSBlog, Althouse, Opinio Juris, among others. No blawgs to my knowledge have a diary system.

Before discussing why, it is worth canvassing the field.

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Faculty Recruitment Practices

Brian Leiter has this interesting recent post on some high-pressure AALS faculty recruitment practices. Coincidentally, I just received an email from the “AALS Special Committee on Faculty Recruitment Practices,” which states, in relevant part:

The special committee’s specific charge was to determine whether, in light of [certain] complaints, something like a statement of good practices in faculty recruitment was appropriate. Of course, a prerequisite first step in fulfilling that charge is determining what practices are occurring and whether or not they are sufficiently problematic in frequency and type that a statement of good practices is necessary or appropriate. To that end, a survey of current practices seemed appropriate. Hence, this email message, which is being sent to faculty members who participated in the faculty recruitment conference within the past two years and are now full-time faculty members at an ABA approved law school/AALS member law school. We know that you are very busy individuals.

Busy, yes. But not too busy to blog.

My guess, based on anecdotes from the law clerk hiring process and discussions about international norms with colleagues, is to doubt that AALS will succeed at stamping out abuse in the absence of a real enforcement hammer. But you’ve got to give them credit for trying, because the current market is set-up to produce some unhappy marriages between candidates and schools.