Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

For My Russian Readers

If the map in the right column is to be believed, I have eight recent Russian readers (representing under 0.2% of the total recent audience). As I understand Twitter is blocked in Russia, I’ve taken the liberty of hosting a copy of a video originally posted by this Tweet (crediting @ZelenskyyUa) [Warning: graphic scenes]:

Feel free to share.

Posted in Ukraine | Leave a comment

Teaching Plans (Herein of Jurisprudence)

Ignoto, c.d. solone, replica del 90 dc ca da orig. greco del 110 ac. ca, 6143.JPG

Bust of Solon, via WikiCommons. Photo subject to Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It seems to have been almost two weeks since I last posted something here. That is largely a function of bearing down on work, and on other urgencies. Plus I’ve had multiple interesting often all-day online conferences to go to, some including Saturday sessions; next Friday there are two I’d like to go to that almost completely overlap. And, not least, the psychological effect of war in Europe: the not-utterly-theoretical chance of a third World War, or worse a nuclear exchange, cannot be discounted. It’s an attention-grabber and a source of anxiety.

Work itself has certainly been copious. I had a bunch of mid-term papers to grade. Creating the final tranches of the syllabi and notes and questions for my two classes this semester, Information Privacy Law and Robots & AI Law, is also eating me alive. These are areas where there is such a great wealth of material that trying to boil it down to readable class-size chunks is just very hard. It’s the first time in many years that I’ve had to do this for two classes at once–usually I’m smart enough to rely on a casebook for at least one class if I’m teaching two. And usually I’m smart enough to do more of the detailed preparation  over the summer or the Xmas break; again, circumstances intervened.

Speaking of teaching, my schedule for next year will be different. Next year I’ll teach Robots & AI in Fall, and then have a tough Spring with Administrative Law and Jurisprudence (a first-year elective, with a parallel section for 2Ls & 3Ls). Administrative Law has a book, but the Supreme Court’s activism in this area rapidly outstrips any casebook’s supplement. Keeping up is a chore, albeit one I find satisfying if not exactly enjoyable as I tend to disagree with the new rulings. And the eight-hour take-home exams take quite a bit of time to grade.

I have not taught Jurisprudence in many years, but the person who took over the course from me retired a few years ago, and it threatened to fall out of the curriculum. I think any law school with intellectual pretensions should offer it, and I look forward to taking it up again.

I tend towards the Analytic Jurisprudence school over the, I think, more popular ‘history of legal philosophy’ model. You can tell if it’s a History of Legal Philosophy course if it starts with Hammurabi; I start with the Lon Fuller’s classic The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. The course’s theme, as is common in the Analytic Jurisprudence model of intro courses, is how do we identify what the law is, and secondarily (somewhat Fullerishly) why do we owe this law fidelity or obedience, and (only) thirdly normative questions of what the law should be–although that is inevitably commingled with obedience/fidelity issue. I tend towards trouble cases which I hope give students interesting things to chew on. And I do try to give readings reflecting the Positivists (especially Hart), the Realists (the classics and them sometimes a little from the New Haven School of international law), the Sociological school, and even the Natural Law school–although for me the only way to get there would be sociological or anthropological, which no doubt betrays my Analytic bias.

I have my own materials from when I last taught it, which on the whole do most of what I want, but they do have some soft spots. For one thing, I’ve never figured out how to teach Dworkin right: his thought seems such a moving target, and the best works are long. I have tended to use secondary sources but never found one that does the job in an acceptable page count. In my perfect course I would end up considering the ways in which International Law is “law” or a “legal system” in a meaningful way. My view, increasingly ratified by history, is that international law is indeed as much a form of a law as is US domestic law, so the differences are more of degree than kind–I am not a positivist!– but that is a big topic and including it means leaving out something else. To those who say Putin proves international law is not law, I would counter both with the very strong trans-national response, and the observation that there are some pretty big domestic law-breakers too, but (other than in CLS) we rarely say this proves that what we teach is pure mystification. Hmm. Maybe I should assign Duncan Kennedy’s ‘little red book’?

There is also a substantial number of quality jurisprudence books written in the last decade, of which I could conceivably assign perhaps one or part of one; I’ve read fewer of them than I like to admit, and even fewer with care, so catching up is going to be a summer project, one I look forward to.

The medium-term plan is to teach Jurisprudence and Privacy in alternate years, given that neither grabs enormous enrollments. We’ll see how that works out.

Posted in Law School, Personal | Leave a comment

A Number I Can Grasp

The US is planning to send $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, about half of it military.

I like to divide federal spending by the number of US households (c. 130 million in 2021) to help me grasp what it means.

So that $13.6bn becomes $104.62 per US household. Of course that’s just an average as federal tax incidence is not uniform. Personally I’m happy to pitch in, but it’s easy for me to say that.

Posted in Econ & Money, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Perils of Online Grocery Shopping

For health reasons, I’ve been doing almost all the grocery shopping online.

It isn’t more convenient, because the shopping process involves a fair amount of following along as the shopper ignores one’s fallback instructions and either does or doesn’t text for instructions. (I think of it as “the world’s worst video game”.) Unlike in-person, I don’t get much control over timing, as the shopping will happen some random time up to 3 hours before the delivery time. And the delivery window is also only notional; I suspect that the ratio of would-be shoppers to customers has gone down and as a result my often sizable orders with good tips get grabbed early. Indeed, they are often delivered well before the window I set, which can also make for conflict with online meetings and the like.

And it is expensive: I figure between the app’s markup over the store prices, and the tip, I’m paying at least 25% more than if I went myself.

And it’s frustrating when some types of things that I think I could find in person are not offered on the app. [Yes, there’s a ‘special requests’ mechanism, but it is a bit of a pain.] And it’s also frustrating when stuff theoretically on the app turn out to be not available, although I imagine that this likely would be equally frustrating in person too, given supply chain issues.

Today, however, I experienced a new online grocery shopping problem–or at least one new to me.

Amidst an order with several items, I asked for this:
chicken

I got most of what I asked for, but in addition to the chicken I asked for (or meant to ask for?), I also got (and got duly charged for), this:

chickenchickenchickenchicken

Yes, I got FIVE chickens. Five. I didn’t save a copy of the original order (I sure will from now on) so I can’t prove I didn’t do something to cause the app to record an order for a record number of chickens, although I can’t see how I could have done that.

So now I have five chickens. Guess I know what we’re eating this week. And next.

Plus I have a new appetite for chicken jokes. (Bonus: Painful chicken jokes from Iraq 2004.)

Posted in Shopping | 1 Comment

Accountability, Just Maybe

65 project logoOne more item like this and I’m going to declare a trend.

According to Axios, a bunch of Democrats are planning to play ethics offense against lawyers who signed complaints or phony electoral returns in the meritless attempt to overturn the last election.  They’ve created the “65 project“, so named because the courts kicked all 65 lawsuits filed on Trump’s behalf unceremoniously to the curb.

The 65 Project is targeting 111 attorneys in 26 states who were involved to some degree in efforts to challenge or reverse 2020 election results. They include lawyers at large national law firms with many partners and clients and lawyers at smaller, regional firms.

  • It will air ads in battleground states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
  • It also will push the ABA and every state bar association to codify rules barring certain election challenges and adopt model language stating that “fraudulent and malicious lawsuits to overturn legitimate election results violate the ethical duties lawyers must abide by.”
  • It plans to spend about $2.5 million in its first year and will operate through an existing nonprofit called Law Works.

[David] Brock [, founder of Media Matters for America] told Axios in an interview that the idea is to “not only bring the grievances in the bar complaints, but shame them and make them toxic in their communities and in their firms.”

And, indeed, the 65 project filled its first wave of ethics complaint yesterday, against Jenna Ellis, Joseph doGenova and seven others.

Posted in 1/6, Law: Practice | Leave a comment

Accountability, Perhaps

Accountability has rarely been a key feature of US politics (see, e.g. Kissinger, Henry), at least not in a sensible way (see, e.g. “Who Lost China?”).

But Priorities USA is trying to gin up some accountability with this pair of new videos:

There’s Off the Hook:

And there’s the even more blunt Chosen a Side :

Posted in 2022 Election, Trump, Ukraine | Leave a comment