Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

Jotwell Conference Program & Registration

We’ve posted a program for Jotwell’s 5th anniversary conference on “Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters” and also have opened up registration. The conference will be Nov 7 & 8, 2014 at the University of Miami School of Law.

If you are planning on coming, you can take advantage of the UM rate at local hotels. The main conference hotel is the Sonesta in Coconut Grove, but the UM discount also applies to the other hotels on the list.

In case you are rationing clicks, here’s the program:

JOTWELL 5TH anniversary Conference

Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters

University of Miami School of Law
Nov 7-8, 2014

Register To Attend
“Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters”

Friday Nov 7

1pm Welcome
Dean Patricia White, Welcome
A. Michael Froomkin, A Little About Jotwell

1:15 – 2:00
Raizel Liebler, Jessica de Perio Wittman and Kim Chanbonpin. Collaboration, Knowledge Production, and Legal Scholarship

2:15- 3:00
Patrick Gudridge, Past Present

3:15 – 4:30 Counterpoint
Jeanne Schroeder and David Carlson, Improving Oneself and Ones Clients; Not the World
Neil Buchanan, Legal Scholarship Makes the World a Better Place

4:45 – 5:30 Keynote Address
Margaret Jane Radin, Then and Now: Developing Your Scholarship, Developing Its Audience

5:30- 6:30
Reception, Student Lounge

7:00 ->
Conference Dinner

Sat Nov 8

9:30 – 10:45 Counterpoint:
James Chen, Modeling Law Review Impact Factors as an Exponential Distribution
Patrick Woods, Stop Counting (Or At Least Count Better)

11- 11:45
Benjamin Keele, Taking Lessons from Science to Improve Digital Legal Scholarship
[via remote participation]

12-12:45
Steven L. Winter, When Things Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong Part II

12:45-1:45
LUNCH

1:45 – 2:30
David Millon, Legal Scholarship and the Delaware Judiciary

2:45- 3:30
Frank Pasquale, Reviving Political Economy: A Case Study in Legal Academics’ Dialogue with the Social Sciences

3:45 – 4:30
James Grimmelmann, Scholars, Teachers, and Servants

4:30-4:45
Envoi

 

Accepted papers from scholars unable to attend:

Angela Mae Kupenda, Personal Essay–On the Receiving End of Influence: Helping Craft the Scholarship of My Students and How Their Work Influences Me

All papers will be posted at Jotwell.com

Posted in Jotwell, Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment

Peter Cook’s Coal Miner Sketch

Something reminded me of Peter Cook’s Coal Miner Sketch today. The first time I heard it I was literally gasping from not getting air due to laughing so hard.

I suppose I should warn the sensitive that there are occasional mentions of nudity.

(Here’s a different, later version. It’s funny too, and shorter. I think it may be closer to the version I first heard.)

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment

Four Levels of Empowerment

  1. Someone will show me what to do.
  2. I can make the rules work for me.
  3. I can get an exception to the rules.
  4. I can change the rules.

Sometimes I want to ask my students, “Which are you?” or “Which do you want to be?” But the one time I tried something of the kind, it didn’t go over all that well.

Even so, they’re probably good questions in many situations.

Apologies for sounding like Seth Godin.

Incidentally, there’s arguably a fifth level of empowerment — “I can destroy the system” — but that’s either a special case of #4, or out of scope for the law-abiding. And I suppose there’s a zeroth level too, something on the order of “I’ll sit here alone and starve,”1 which could be clinical depression. OK, that was less Godin-like.


  1. Not to be confused with “I’ll just sit here alone in the dark,” which is the answer to the question “How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?” and is probably an example of level 2. []
Posted in Law School | Leave a comment

Weird Water Comes to Coral Gables

This strange sign popped up on an official signpost less than two blocks from where I live:

smartwatercsi

In case it’s too small to read you can click for a bigger one, or take my word for it that at the top it says, “Working in partnership to deter crime.”  Then it has a Coral Gables Police badge next to the seal of the City of Coral Gables, along with the logo for “SmartwaterCSI”.  And the sign says, “Theives Beware.  You are entering an area where Property is forensically protetcted by SmartWater®.”

If you follow the URL on the sign and click around about, eventually you get to the “about” Smartwatercsi page which informs me that,

SmartWater is an asset protection system in the form of a clear liquid which contains a unique forensic code that is extremely robust and guaranteed to last a minimum of 5 years within all weather conditions. It is applied to items of value – personal, commercial, and industrial – which are frequently the target of theft.

The non-hazardous patented liquid leaves a long-lasting identifying mark that is invisible except under ultraviolet black light. Law enforcement officials take the smallest micro-fragment of SmartWater from stolen property and send it to SmartWater’s forensic laboratories, where it is scientifically analyzed to identify the owner.

As a result, thieves who make the mistake of targeting SmartWater marked-assets face a far greater risk of successful prosecution. Ultimately, as the statistics over the past 15 years exhibit, crime is reduced and the public enjoys a safer environment.

More clicking brings me to the price list: $100 (well, $99 before tax) for a bottle of the stuff and a one-year license — apparently you have to keep paying the $100 every year to maintain your entry in their database, even though the coating is supposed to last for five years. Or you could pay $200 (per year!) for a what I suppose is a larger bottle that does your car, or at least key parts of it that don’t have a VIN. Oh yes, you also get stickers to show off you think you have lots of valuable stuff worth stealing deter really up-to-date thieves.

Nowhere on the Smartwatercsi site (that I got sent to by the sign on public land) does it reveal a secret disclosed in this video that I found by doing some Googling: apparently by calling 305-441-5760 Coral Gables residents can get a “smartwater kit” for $30 (no mention of the annual fee after that, though). I called that number and got a recording telling me I’d reached the Coral Gables Citizens Crimewatch, they were unable to answer the phone but they are there to serve and assist me in any way, so I should my name and number and they’d get back to me.

More Googling revealed a Coral Gables police press release dated Feb. 12, 2014 that says you should call 305-476-7957 for the $30 offer. (It may have come out in February but this is the first I ever heard of it.) That number took me to what proclaims itself as the Coral Gables Police Department Smwartwater hotline. I’m going to rate the hotline water temperature at only lukewarm, given that this too was a recording that wanted my name and number and would get back to me.

So what I want to know — since both Wikipedia and Bruce Schneier tells me it’s for real1 — is

  1. Are these guys paying the City for the right to put up these signs? Or is the idea that we get the 70% discount in exchange for a lot of publicity on official buildings and spaces
  2. How many people in Coral Gables have actually signed up for this?
  3. Is the $30 Coral Gables price a one-time fee, or will there be annual charges too? Is there enough to cover your car? Or at least those headlamps that get stolen so often? Do you get all the stuff in the $100 pack or just a bottle and applicator?
  4. If there are ongoing annual charges, does the City have any guarantees about future price increases? Is there a danger Smartwatercsi will raise the price of the required annual user fee (if there is one) once they have a big installed base?
  5. Does the fact that a sign appeared nearby mean someone around here actually bought the stuff?
  6. If so, did they pay the $30 or the $100?
  7. Has anyone ever paid $100/year for this?
  8. Why don’t the signs–on public land, presumably set up with the City’s permission–direct you to a web page which discloses the Coral Gables discount?
  9. If someone from Coral Gables goes to the Smartwatercsi site not knowing about the discount and tries to make a purchase, will Smartwatercsi tell them about it?
  10. Does the Smartwater beverage company know about this?

Actually, I’m kidding about the last one – a drink and a crime deterrent are sufficiently dissimilar to make a likelihood of confusion as to the mark highly unlikely, and of course the website (but not the product) has “CSI” at the end of it. Wait, does the TV show know about this?


  1. Although Bruce also came up with a great hack to misuse it:
    The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership. I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police.

    []

Posted in Coral Gables | Leave a comment

CFP: An Uncomfortable Conversation

Three of my colleagues are organizing what looks like a super conference to be held here in Miami on November 14-15 (just a week after the Jotwell conference about which more soon).

An Uncomfortable Conversation: The Universal and the Particular — Vulnerability and Identities II” is organized as part of series of workshops on ‘Vulnerability and the Human Condition’. The full call for papers is online and responses are due by July 28. Here’s part of the CFP:

In recent years, key legal decisions in voting rights, gay marriage, and affirmative action have destabilized the identity-based anti-discrimination frameworks long used to pursue equality and social justice in the United States. The Supreme Court, for example, has been deregulating race, declaring in Schuette and in Shelby that the state’s involvement in the eradication of racial inequality and the protection of marginalized identities is now less imperative. Moreover, the Court seems reluctant to use the language of identity, instead framing gay and lesbian claims in the language of privacy, liberty and dignity. Yet, popular arguments for redistributive and reparative public policies remain steadily focused on traditional identity categories. For example, The Atlantic magazine has featured a series of essays on racial reparations to Blacks. Similarly, the #YesAllWomen twitter trend has drawn attention to normalized violence against women, even as the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen created virtual space for feminists of color to question what they perceive to be the dominance of white feminist voices in mainstream culture and gender politics. Amidst these complex legal, social and political changes comes a shift in academic discourse as well, with some critical theorists suggesting that “traditional” identity categories based on individual characteristics, such as race or sex, are inadequate to capture social problems that transcend such categories. Instead, they argue that focus should rest on paired social identities, such as employer/employee or parent/child – categories or statuses that are forged in social and institutional relationships and convey the allocation of legally sanctioned and shaped power and privilege.

These legal and social developments highlight the importance of building on the first Vulnerability and Identities Uncomfortable Conversation to further consider and assess specific identitarian frameworks (including both traditional and social identity formations) as well as more universal paradigms, such as human rights or vulnerability. This second conversation continues an investigation of the relationships between particularity and universality, with an emphasis on the ability of concepts like vulnerability and identity to deepen existing critiques of legal liberalism and advance our understanding of substantive justice. Central to this investigation is an evaluation of the impact of critical theory on understanding the state and its institutions, particularly their role in promoting human resilience through the provision of education, employment and training, healthcare, family structure, cultural recognition, and social welfare more broadly. In considering both the universal and identitarian approaches, we ask how they differently frame systemic disparities in access, opportunity and resources.

I wish I had time to do a paper for this based on my ongoing research on regulation of identification, but what with the Jotwell conference being a week earlier, realistically it’s not going to happen. I’m definitely going.

Posted in Talks & Conferences, U.Miami | Leave a comment

The Basement Is Safe

The Misguided Freakout About Basement-Dwelling Millennials

More than 15.3 million twentysomethings—and half of young people under 25—live “in their parents’ home,” according to official Census statistics.

There’s just one problem with those official statistics. They’re criminally misleading. When you read the full Census reports, you often come upon this crucial sentence:

It is important to note that the Current Population Survey counts students living in dormitories as living in their parents’ home

Spotted via Calculated RISK.

Of course, living in South Florida, we don’t even have a basement…

Posted in Econ & Money | 1 Comment

I’m Back

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but now I’m back–and even over jet lag.

I used to announce when and where I was going before I left, but a commentator here once chastised me for inviting burglars to the house. Despite my doubt that any readers of this blog are potential burglars or that burglars clever enough to do searches on blogs looking for ‘away’ type posts would bother burglarizing me, I’ve been shy about announcing everyone-in-the family departures ever since. Watch what you say in the comments – I’m paying attention.

Caroline and I had planned to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by going to Paris, but life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and just before we would have gone, her father, who had suffered a long illness, died. There was a lovely service in a (partly) 13th-century edifice.

We will figure out some way to celebrate our whatever-you-call-it in due course. (She still got her present.)

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment