Even Lawprofs Get the Blues, by Scott Greenfield

Even Lawprofs Get the Blues, by Scott Greenfield

Postby admin » Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:17 am

Even Lawprofs Get the Blues (Update)
by Scott Greenfield

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I know. It’s not like it’s real law, but sometimes these lawprofs have some really interesting stuff going on. Two in particular are worth the effort this morning.

Bully Pulpit

The “kerfluffle”, which is a polite way of saying Rain o’ Feces, started by Feminist Lawprof Ann Bartow who argues that anybody who doesn’t do things her way is a “bully”, has gone on to new heights. Over at Scatterplot, via MoneyLaw, Belle Lettre rolls up her sleeves and gets into the mix.

For what it’s worth, I believe that once you release words to the wind, aether, blogosphere, you own them in the sense that your name is attached to them, but they are no longer completely yours. While I highly value civility and collegiality, I also greatly value the free and spirited engagement of ideas and debate.


Now, us trench lawyers may find this entire “discussion” curious, because we’re inclined to start swinging when someone utters a “vituperative remark.” The academy frowns on such conduct. The lawprofs have an unwritten code that everyone is supposed to mask their disdain in subtle language to elevate the level of discussion above attacks and name-calling. You really have to squint a bit when you read their posts to realize that they are getting down and dirty, but in a fashion far too polite for our brutish ways.

Trying not to be my normal snarky self for a moment, i find the civility and subtlety quite charming, if not just a bit forced at times. Unfortunately, it only works when all parties to the conversation appreciate that level of subtlety. Around here, a good club to the head often fails to do the trick.

But what eludes me is that this code of civility seems to apply to all lawprofs, except Bartow. Why is she alone entitled to engage in ad hominem attacks, up to and including name-calling by leveling the epithet “bully”, but no one else dare indulge in a facial challenge? If you read some of Bartow’s posts, she’s quite vicious, even against other feminists who don’t tow her line with sufficient precision, and brutally clear about what scum they are should they challenge anything she says. Why is this okay?

The initial thought is that Bartow can throw the “S” word at anyone who challenges her, striking fear in the hearts of all men who might even consider disagreeing. No one in the academy wants to be branded with the “S” word. But does Bartow have such strength that her attack is sufficient to emasculate all comers?

Civility amongst the lawprofs is a worthy goal, and we would all do better by emulating this. So why does Bartow alone get a free pass?

Update: I’ve shamelessly stolen this from a comment to Dave Hoffman’s post, but I’m leaving the name out so that I don’t bully anyone. As Randazza notes, this pretty much captures the underlying issue perfectly:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’


I wish I was as erudite as this. Maybe then I could be more civil, yet effective.

It’s good to have Your own cop on hand.

Dave Hoffman at Co-Op posts a video which is like one of those optical illusions, where you see either a dancing girl dancing turning right or left, according to which side of your brain dominates. Except this one deals with you cultural cognition, whether you’re inclined to perceive the police to rightfully be in control or not.

Howard Wasserman at PrawfsBlawg keeps the discussion going. Why do you care? This is at the heart of the recurring issue of our seeing a video of a cop doing something (as in the “don’t tase me bro” video) and having two totally irreconcilable perspectives on who is right and wrong.

Just like I argue to my police buddies around here to consider the other point of view, it’s worthwhile for all of us to consider what we see when we watch these videos and to understand why someone else sees something completely different. We try to be fair-minded, right?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2008 by SHG.
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