Archive | Metablogging

The Rise and Fall of Law Faculty Blogs

A few years ago, it was all the rage for law schools to start up faculty blogs. All the professors at the school could post to the blog, making the blog a good place to go to know what a faculty was doing. At the time, I wondered if the new blogs would challenge more traditional law professor group blogs organized among friends or subject areas or rough ideological categories. A few years later, I think it’s safe to say the answer is “no.”

Looking around the blogosphere at law school faculty blogs, they seem pretty quiet. Some just petered out. Georgetown’s faculty blog was last updated in 2009, and has only a single one-line post in the last two years. Chicago’s faculty blog was last updated more than three months ago. University of Houston’s faculty blog was last updated in July.

Other faculty blogs are updated more frequently. But the frequency is on the order of once a week or once a month, not once a day. Some of the posts are administrative or general law school news rather than scholarly posts. For a few examples, see Chicago-Kent faculty blog, the UC Davis faculty blog, the Louisville faculty blog, and the Tulane faculty blog. The only exception I’m aware of is the Marquette faculty blog, which is updated pretty frequently. But on the whole, law faculty blogs don’t seem to be active.

What happened? I think faculty blogs ran into two problems. The first problem is that blogs require a ton of time and effort. They’re very easy to start: That part takes about five minutes. But the actual writing is quite time-consuming, and professors generally don’t have an incentive to take the time to write for a new blog with no established traffic [...]

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Using Hypotheticals When Debating Law in the Blogosphere

Lawyers often explore legal arguments by offering “hypotheticals,” or “hypos” for short. A hypothetical is a “what if” scenario designed to question a legal principle. The idea is to change the facts to something very different than the one before us to see how the offered legal principle would apply to that set of facts. In many cases, the goal is to show that the rule under consideration isn’t workable or has some problem that isn’t obvious from the application of the rule to the facts that presently exist. In that sense, hypos are ways of criticizing legal rules by showing problems with how they apply.

As common as they are in discussions of law generally, I find that hypos often fall flat when debating law in the blogosphere. The problem, I think, is that a lot of people who argue about law in the blogosphere tend to draw different lessons about hypotheticals than what would be intended in an oral argument in court or in in a law school setting. In particular, those with legal training recognize that the facts of hypoetheticals often are intentionally very different from the existing facts, and that the point of the hypo is to test how the legal rule works or doesn’t work. On the other hand, those without legal training — and that includes a lot of blog commenters — sometimes think that the purpose of the hypo is to make a claim that the facts of the hypo are similar to the known facts.

Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re debating animal rights, and Commenter #1 passionately favors legal protection for animals. Commenter #1, thinking about what law might be used to protect horses, farm animals, and pets, proposes the following rule: It should be a crime to kill any living [...]

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The Answer is 1,281

The Question: What is the maximum number of comments permitted by VC’s blogging software? (As determined by the “ultimate legal blog comment” thread.)

You might think reaching the maximum of 1,281 comments as we did in that thread shows that the Internet is one grand waste of time. But I ask you this: Have two countries in which adult men regularly spend lots of time commenting on blogs ever gone to war with each other? Someday we may look on our current era as the time of the Pax Blogospherica, I tell you. [...]

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Justice Kennedy on Blogs

On August 19th, Justice Kennedy gave an address that included an interesting passing remark about the role of blogs. Justice Kennedy was talking about how law review case comments generally come out too late to be of use to the Court (especially in the context of deciding whether to grant certiorari in a case). As a result, when Justice Kennedy asks his clerks to look to see what the law reviews have said about a particular case, there isn’t any commentary yet. Justice Kennedy adds: “I’ve found, what my clerks do now, when they have interesting cases — They read blogs.”

Thanks to Shon Hopwood for the link. [...]

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The Lesson of 585 Comments

The comment thread to Monday’s post, The Ultimate Legal Blog Comment, is now at 585 comments. Many are by “Mick” himself, who left the original comment on Jonathan Turley’s blog. And it’s still going: It was at 583 comments when I started writing this post, and I had to update the number when I was finished.

I think there’s a lesson about legal education in that comment thread. One major skill taught by legal training is how to put sources of legal meaning in context. To the new law student — or, as pertains here, to the blog commenter who is new to legal analysis — all sources of meaning seem equally valid. They’re all “law.” Dicta from a footnote in an 1912 state appellate court decision has the same force as yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court majority holding. After all, they’re both there in black and white.

One of the skills learned by studying law is how to put those sources in context. That training often emphasizes the role of different sources of law in ascertaining meaning — the role of text, of analogy, of precedents, of higher court versus lower courts — and how to evaluate the significance of those sources for or against legal positions. To be clear, I don’t mean that there is some magic to formal training like attending law school. A person could teach himself the same thing by studying on his own. But in general, the more you know about law, the more attuned you are to the role of context in evaluating the significance of particular legal sources.

That doesn’t mean that legal training always leads to agreement as to a “correct” answer. Obviously it does not. Sometimes the sources of law are roughly balanced, and in other cases different people will [...]

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The Ultimate Legal Blog Comment?

I found this gem in a comment thread at the blog of my collegue Jonathan Turley by commenter “Mick” at 4:42 am, May 22, 2010:

How do you live with yourself? A supposed Constitutional expert that doesn’t know what a Natural Born Citizen is? I would say that you probably do. You know, and are obfuscating the fact that Obama is not an eligible Natural Born Citizen, NO Matter if born in the White House, in JFK’s lap. Obama Sr. was not a citizen when Obama 2 was born. You and Obama both know that makes him ineligible. Destroying the Constitution for the benefit of your Leftist agenda. Fraud!!!

Awesome. [...]

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Comparing Left and Right Blogospheres

This new study looks interesting. The study is sort of hard to read, but its basic finding seems to be that prominent liberal blogs are more often based on a community group model while prominent conservative blogs are more often based on a single-blogger no-comments model. I suppose that’s true, although I wonder if there’s a historical explanation. My vague sense is that the prominent conservative blogs have been around longer, while the prominent liberal blogs are newer. (Remember, five years ago it was common to hear that popular political blogs usually leaned right — few say that anymore.) Given that successful blogs tend to stick to what works, I wonder if the different styles reflects the technologies common in the period when the blogs became popular.

Thanks to Crooked Timber for the link. [...]

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Supreme Court Briefing in the Year 2030

I had a dream last night that it was 2030. I was doing a virtual-reality-cast about how briefing Supreme Court cases has changed since the 20th Century. Here’s what I remember saying in the dream:

Robot45, thanks, it’s a pleasure to be here! I’m one of the old-fashioned dinosaurs from the MSB — Main Stream Blogosphere — so trying out a virtual-reality-cast is a new experience for me. What they say is true. It really does seem real.

You’ve asked me to talk about changes in how Supreme Court cases are briefed. Back around the turn of the century, most of it was on paper. Hard to believe, but true. The parties would write little books called briefs, and then submit them on paper. The only interaction between the lawyers and the Justices was the one-hour oral argument.

That changed around 2015, when litigants started to regularly host websites that would present their views of the case and respond to questions. The idea started as a place to host briefs, newsclippings, and generate media interest in favor of a case. But it soon evolved and expanded. Eventually, lawyers started regularly creating podcasts to explain their arguments. This let litigants both have short summaries of their cases (for the public) and also to go into remarkable detail about their cases (for lawyers and those interested).

The practice became regularized as it became clear that such websites were a way to communicate with the Court itself. The turning point is widely thought to be United States v. Grouse, handed down in 2018. In Grouse, an inexperienced advocate named John Hendelberry struggled greatly at oral argument and was widely thought to have lost the case. The next week, however, Hendelberry started writing a series of updates to his website — blog

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Rethinking Blogging-as-Scholarship

Back in 2005 and 2006, a lot of law-professor bloggers wondered whether blog posts could and would serve as ways to advance scholarly ideas about law. At the time, I was very skeptical:

Can blogs help advance legal scholarship? I think the answer is that they can, but that the format isn’t well-suited for the job. The key problem is the tyranny of RCO, reverse chronological order. RCO means that blog visitors see the most recently posted material at the top of the page. A visitor may see one or two posts on the screen, but needs to scroll down to see earlier posts. This isn’t the only way to visit a blog. Readers can follow direct links to earlier materials, and can search through archives (or query search engines) for particular materials. But this is relatively rare. For the most part, blogs direct readers to the most recent post first.

RCO helps ensure that the difference between blog posts and law review articles is something like the difference between short term and long term memory. Blog posts tend to be about what happened today, yesterday, maybe last week. They are quick reactions to current events and current issues, and for the most part are forgotten a few days after they have been posted. In a sense, blog posts end up as an online equivalent to faculty lounge conversation: They tend to be quick thoughts, comments, and perspective that offer an interesting tidbit about a broader question. Posts might plan the seed of a future article, or stimulate readers to think of old questions in new ways. But the time horizon is short. Blog posts may support and influence traditional scholarship, just as short term memory can work its way into long term memory. But the two are usually

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