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Article III Groupie Disrobed: Thoughts on Blogging and Anonymity

A3G.bmp“Article III Groupie” is the pseudonym for the mysterious author of a wildly popular blog about the federal judiciary, Underneath Their Robes. The blog is a lighthearted and witty discussion of the federal judiciary, chronicling the lives of judges and law clerks. Article III Groupie (or A3G for short) describes herself as an attorney from a Top 5 law school who works at a “large law firm in a major city, where she now toils in obscurity.” She writes: “During her free time, she consoles herself through the overconsumption of luxury goods. Her goal in life is to become a federal judicial diva.” Her identity has long remained shrouded in secrecy.

As she describes her blog:

This weblog, “Underneath Their Robes” (“UTR”), reflects Article III Groupie’s interest in, and obsession with, the federal judiciary. UTR is a combination of People, US Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tigerbeat, focused not on vacuous movie stars or fatuous teen idols, but on federal judges. Article III judges are legal celebrities, the “rock stars” of the legal profession’s upper echelons. This weblog is a source of news, gossip, and colorful commentary about these judicial superstars!

Her blog has become a regular read among the legal blogosphere. Even federal judges enjoy it. According to a New Yorker article:

The blog has many fans, including Richard Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals-court judge in Chicago. “The beauty contests between judges can’t be taken very seriously, but I enjoy the site,” he said. “It presents good information about clerkships and candidates. It’s occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005.”

People have long wondered who A3G is. The drawing she supplies on her profile page is of an attractive Sex-in-the-City-type diva . . . and one who purports to be starstruck by the nerdy world of the federal judiciary. How exciting that someone–anyone–-is even interested in this lonely corner of the world in the same way that groupies are into rock stars!

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3

On Rankings Bias; or, Why Leiter’s rankings make Texas look good — and why that’s not a bad thing

Recent blog posts by Paul Caron and Gordon Smith note that creators of alternate law school rankings often seem to create rankings systems on which their own schools excel. A possible implication — not an implication that Smith or Caron make, but one that various Leiter critics have been making for some time — is that these alternative rankings are merely a form of naked self-promotion by their creators. In its simplest form, this argument would go something like this: “Brian Leiter promotes his rankings because they rank Texas higher than the U.S. News, and this makes Leiter look better.”

In response, Leiter has asserted through blog posts and comments that his rankings do not necessarily make Texas look better. His recent statements focus on the fact that he lists student quality on his new rankings page. He writes:

My institution, Texas, ranks 8th in faculty quality measured by reputation, 9th in faculty quality measured by impact, and 16th or 18th in student quality, depending on the measure used. Texas ranks 15th in US News, as it has for quite some time now. Texas thus ranks both more highly and more lowly in my ranking systems, depending on the measures used.

This is a singularly unconvincing fig leaf. Everyone knows that the 2000 and 2002 Leiter rankings did not weight student quality particularly heavily; they measured mostly faculty reputation, and they clearly gave an edge to Leiter’s school. (This is readily apparent from a look at Leiter’s archives section). Thus, for some time now, the Leiter rankings have placed Texas higher than the U.S. News list.

Is this cause for concern? Does this suggest that the Leiter rankings are simply self-promotion? Actually, there is a much more innocuous explanation.

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6

Law Professor Blogger Census (Version 3.1)

census.jpgUPDATED! This version of the census (Version 3.1) incorporates changes and additions to Version 3.0 of the census released last week. Thank you to all readers who pointed out omissions and errors. As a result of the comments, 20 new bloggers have been added to the census. In addition to the chart, the stats below have all be updated. Based on these changes, there are 202 law professor bloggers, a greater percentage of female bloggers, and three additional schools in the schools with the most bloggers list: American, Case Western, and St. John’s.

Back in June of 2005, I decided to do a census of law professor bloggers. I released Version 1.0, and after receiving comments from readers, released an updated Version 2.0 on June 16, 2005, which is available here.

In Version 2.0 of the census, on June 16, 2005, I listed 130 bloggers (28 female, 102 male), and schools with the largest number of bloggers: San Diego (7), UCLA (5), George Mason (5), Cincinnati (4), Ohio State (4), GW (3), Georgetown (3), Stanford (3), St. Thomas (3), Chapman (3), Villanova (3).

I’ve decided to update the census for this fall, creating Version 3.1.

Current statistics for Version 3.1 are:

Number of Bloggers: 202 bloggers.

Growth: Since the last census on June 16, 2005, the number of bloggers has grown from 130 to 202, an increase of 55%! That’s a big increase in less than 5 months.

Gender: Of the bloggers, 50 are female and 152 are male. Thus, about 25% are female and 75% are male. There are 22 new female bloggers and 50 new male bloggers. Female bloggers increased by 78.5% and male bloggers increased by 49%.

Schools: Schools with the most bloggers include:

Chicago (14)

UCLA (7)

San Diego (7)

GW (5)

Cincinnati (5)

George Mason (5)

Stanford (4)

Northwestern (4)

Ohio State (4)

U.C. Davis (4)

American (4)

Case Western (4)

St. John’s (4)

Schools in the U.S. News Top 20 rankings account for 61 bloggers

1. Yale (3)

2. Harvard (2)

3. Stanford (4)

4. Columbia (2)

5. NYU (2)

6. Chicago (14)

7. Pennsylvania (0)

8. Michigan (3)

8. Virginia (1)

10. Northwestern (4)

11. Cornell (3)

11. Duke (1)

11. Berkeley (1)

14. Georgetown (3)

15. UCLA (7)

15. Texas (3)

17. Vanderbilt (1)

18. USC (0)

19. Minnesota (1)

20. Boston University (1)

20. George Washington (5)

There are 61 bloggers from Top 20 schools. The number is roughly a third (30%) of the total number of bloggers (202). It thus appears that the Top 20 schools have a disproportionately large representation in the blogosphere. Only 2 schools in the Top 20 have no bloggers.

The Chicago Law Faculty Blog partly accounts for the disproportionate numbers among Top 20 schools. Without Chicago, there are 47 bloggers from the Top 20 schools, accounting for 23% of the total number of bloggers. Not including Chicago, the average Top 20 law school has 2.35 bloggers.

If we use Brian Leiter’s Top 20 law faculties based on scholarly citations, we must include 3 different schools (Colorado, Emory, Illinois – 4 bloggers) and exclude 3 schools (Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, Minnesota – 2 bloggers total). This results in a net increase of 2 bloggers, thus yielding 63 bloggers from the Leiter Top 20.

The schools with the most bloggers generally fare quite well in the Leiter rankings.

Chicago – Blogger Rank = 1, Leiter Rank = 1

UCLA – Blogger Rank = 2, Leiter Rank = 15

San Diego – Blogger Rank = 2, Leiter Rank = 23

GW – Blogger Rank = 4, Leiter Rank = 16

George Mason – Blogger Rank = 4, Leiter Rank = 23

Cincinnati – Blogger Rank = 4, Leiter Rank = Unranked (outside Top 30)

Stanford – Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = 4

Northwestern – Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = 12

Ohio State – Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = 28

U.C. Davis – Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = Unranked (outside Top 30)

American — Blogger Rank =5, Leiter Rank = Unranked (outside Top 30)

Case Western — Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = Unranked (outside Top 30)

St. John’s — Blogger Rank = 5, Leiter Rank = Unranked (outside Top 30)

New changes and additions to the census are indicated with the word “NEW.” This designation either means that the blog is new or the blogger is new or both.

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Saddam’s Host of Lawyers

saddam.jpg

Via Drudge, I hear that 1,100 lawyers are leaving Saddam Hussein’s defense team because of security fears. But Saddam’s trial will go on.

I lack expertise in the Iraqi security situation and legal system, and so I’m left with a (perhaps naive) question: why does Saddam need over a thousand lawyers? [And how did the team apparently grow by 1,089 lawyers over a few weeks?] Only three explanations come to mind.

1. Saddam plans to mount a meticulous defense to the charges on the merits, and needs hundreds of attorneys to comb through the evidence against him, interview witnesses, and develop a coherent legal strategy.

2. Saddam plans to win at trial by hook-or-crook, and has employed a host of lawyers as a first step in rebuilding his empire of patronage and client relationships.

3. Saddam is not in control of his legal team. The person who is plans to use the opportunity as first step in building an empire of patronage and client relationships.

Possibility #1 is a joke; #2 is delusional; #3 is just sad.

4

Rating Academic Reputation

book17a.jpgThere’s lot of talk recently about how to rate an academic’s reputation. As scholars, we’ve devoted extensive thought and discussion to the issue. Some ingenious techniques we’ve devised:

1. Count citations to a scholar’s work. Of course, for the reasons Brian Leiter documents, citation counts aren’t an indication that a particular article is any good. Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson have a hilarious discussion of the foibles of citation counts in their article, How to Win Cites and Influence People, 71 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 843 (1996). They write, for example:

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1

Sony DRM: Singing the Blues

sonybmg2.jpgTalk about a backfire. A brief update on a story I previously blogged about a week ago. Sony attempted to install hidden DRM software into the computers of its CD users. A blogger criticized the software, setting off a firestorm of attention that has had Sony reeling ever since. The latest news:

1. Hackers and virus makers have been exploiting the Sony software as a vulnerability because it’s hidden.

2. Sony has stopped using the software.

3. Microsoft will update Windows to delete the Sony software.

4. Lawsuits are on the way.

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2

FTC: Letting Experian Keep the Spoils

ftc.bmpSuppose a company engages in an unfair and deceptive trade practice. It makes about $1 billion. The FTC investigates. A settlement is reached for a fine of $1 million and refunds to only some customers — yeilding a net penalty of several million dollars — just a fraction of the spoils. That’s deterrence . . . FTC style!

I recently blogged about how the credit reporting agencies were attempting to use their legal obligation to provide people with free annual credit reports as a profit-generating tool instead. Apparently, the rather extreme measures I described in my post are tame compared to what privacy expert Bob Gellman describes in a DM News column:

The FTC charged that, starting in 2000, Experian deceptively marketed free credit reports by not adequately disclosing that consumers would automatically be signed up for a credit report monitoring service costing $79.95 annually if they didn’t cancel within 30 days. The settlement was reported in the Aug. 15 issue of DM News. The case began with a complaint filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and with a report from the World Privacy Forum.

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3

Images of Property in American Landscape Art

For a number of years I’ve been giving a lecture at the end of the year to my property students about images of property (and particularly development of property) in landscape art. It’s a fun talk, which I give when I realize that folks are tired after nearly a year of law school and need a break from the typical routine. I got the idea from Leo Marx’ Machine in the Garden and then refined it while reading Angela Miller’s Empire of the Eye. I often begin with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature. Something along the lines of:

The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.

Then I begin to show some ways that American artists have depicted (and celebrated) our development of land. I use George Inness’ Lackawana Valley (shown below). Look at the machine going through the the fields of cut-stumps; the railroad roundhouse in the background; the smoke stack even further off; what a strange juxaposition (it seems at first) of humans and nature. While it seems strange at first, my point is that landscape art is part of the celebration of human’s use of land.

innesslackawana.jpg

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Does Yale Law School Owe Anything to Alito?

yls.bmpA New York Times article queries whether Yale Law School has been institutionally too harsh to its former professors and alumni who are nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Bork was a former Yale Law School faculty member and Justice Thomas was a Yale Law School alumni. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito is also an alumni.

According to the article:

Faculty members testified on both sides both times. But the school was generally opposed to their nominations, said professors, students and alumni. Justice Thomas was thought to be unqualified, and Judge Bork’s views were considered too extreme.

In his 14 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas, of the Yale class of 1974, has refused to return here, and Judge Bork, who was on the faculty for 15 years, chortles during speeches when he cites “a bit of populist wisdom” he once saw on a bumper sticker: “Save America. Close Yale Law School.” . . . .

The two earlier conservative nominees may never overcome their anger at what they considered the school’s disloyalty, said Steven Brill, a legal journalist, entrepreneur and law school classmate of Judge Alito’s.

“They both think,” Mr. Brill said, “that the law school betrayed them.”

I find the suggestion here rather odd. Is Yale Law School supposted to support every graduate nominated for the Supreme Court or running for political office? Is this a duty that a law school owes its alumni?

I think not. The faculty and students of a law school should decide on the merits of the Alito nomination without putting a special thumb on the scale because he has a connection to the school. This isn’t a betrayal because I don’t believe there’s any duty owed. Each professor and student is an individual who can make up his or her own mind. And just because many professors at a school take a particular position doesn’t mean that this is the institution’s position. In fact, if things were different — if professors and students were to feel any obligation (however slight) to support a nominee because he or she has an institutional connection — then I’d be very worried about the independence of thought at the school.

Hat tip: Althouse