Category Archives: Personal

Not the Lifetime Achievement Award I Was Hoping For

A couple of years ago I was honored to receive the 2020 University of Miami Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award in recognition of my writing.  Little did I know what was yet to come.

What my name was used to publicize.

Now comes Mashable to identify my highest and best contribution to the world:

The name Michael Froomkin likely doesn’t mean anything to you. That’s because his biggest and most important contribution to the world is a post on Discourse.net where he states, “If You Wait Long Enough, Everything Comes Back Into Style.” It’s not clear if this is true or not, but it seems common enough.

A backhanded compliment, perhaps, but does it mean it’s all over now and I should retire?

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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.

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Anniversaries

Today is the 5th anniversary of the UK’s decision to pull out the EU. I remain convinced that in the long run this will clearly be seen as one of the dumbest decisions a democracy ever made. Maybe not quite as dumb as electing Donald Trump, but one with much greater long-run consequences.

Meanwhile, however, views on the ground still differ: BoJo is still gung-ho — while many pro-Brexit voters say even if it did hurt them, it was worth it. Analysts and interest groups say it has harmed the UK, including importers, exporters, exporters again, UK expats in the EU, UK TV and filmakers, UK touring bands, pigeon fanciers, you name it; yes it’s all very complicated. Meanwhile the EU view is somewhere between ‘meh‘ and ‘good riddance’, although Timothy Garton Ash argues that the EU is worse off without the UK.  (FWIW, I half agree, but note that the EU also reaped great benefits, in that the disaster in the UK destroyed all the nascent EU separatist movements in other EU members.) Lurking in the future is the unresolved status of Northern Ireland — will it be in the EU economic zone and hence outside the UK (as agreed in the Brexit deal), or outside the EU thus avoiding a border with the rest of the UK…but creating one with the Republic of Ireland in violation of the so-called Good Friday agreement.

For the UK this anniversary also raises the specter of divorce — or divorces: If the UK can’t sort out the Northern Irish trade issue, there’s a chance that re-unification with the Republic might become more popular.  Meanwhile, Scotland likely will have another referendum on independence in the next few years, and the argument that leaving the UK would allow Scotland to rejoin Europe might well carry the day.  In the end all that would be left of the UK would be England and Wales.

In local news, today is also my 32nd wedding anniversary. Still going strong.

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Home Again, Home Again

I’m home, having had a symptom-free period of ‘observation’ at the hospital. Lots of poking and prodding, stupid quizzes (yes, really), and bad food.

Happy to be out, but now I have a long period of strict quarantine — about 80 days — while we wait for my immune system to settle down. And we don’t even get to find out if the treatment worked for some time either.

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Off (and On)

Posting may be erratic in the next couple of weeks as I shall be enjoying one of the recent fruits of modern medicine. Nothing to do with COVID, I promise, except that the entire building I’ll be residing in has been closed to all visitors including family.

Apparently, during the first week after treatment I will be monitored for various possible and fairly common complications.  And in the second week, I’ll still be monitored even though the chance of complications is then greatly diminished.

“Monitored,” by the way turns, out to be a euphemism for “attached via an unreasonably short cable to an electronic monitor the size of a small TV which is affixed to the wall.”  When the doctor said I would be free to move around,  I’d envisioned something more wireless.

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Reminder: Faculty Senate Event 5pm Today

UM Faculty Scholarship Medal (reverse)It’s not too late to register for the (Zoomed) Faculty Senate awards ceremony this afternoon at 5pm. (It was supposed to be in-person last semester, but it got postponed to all-Zoom this semester.)

As the recipient of this year’s Faculty Scholarship award, I’ve been invited to give a 10 minute talk related to my work, that I’m calling “Disruptive Technology and the Law”.

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