The Standards Review Committee of the ABA will conduct a hearing this weekend on proposed changes to law school accreditation standards. The proposed changes have been sharply criticized in recent weeks-especially by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS)-for posing a serious threat to the quality of legal education in the United States. The proposal that provokes the most opposition would allow law schools to choose (if they so desire) to hire full-time faculty in non-tenure positions.
The purpose of the proposed changes is to allow law schools greater flexibility in finding cost efficient ways to train lawyers. According to the AALS, that’s an erroneous view of what law schools are about. “Lawyers are not ‘produced’ or even ‘trained’ by law schools,” declared former AALS President Reese Hansen in opposition to the changes (critics who excoriate law schools for doing a poor job of training lawyers would heartily agree, though Hansen undoubtedly did not mean to imply that). “What lawyers must ultimately deliver is judgment….That kind of mature judgment is primarily created by personal interaction between individual faculty and individual students in countless educational settings.” The argument of the AALS appears to boil down to the assertion that law students can obtain sound lawyerly judgment only if law schools are staffed by full time law professors with tenure.
Current AALS President Michael Olivas repeated this argument in his recent lengthy criticism of the proposed changes. We impart something more valuable and subtle than knowledge of legal doctrine and practice skills, Olivas insists:
The high quality and distinctiveness of American legal education are based largely on the work of career, full-time [tenure-track] faculty who engage fully in the law school’s teaching, scholarship, and service missions….Given that law is fundamentally a public profession, law school faculty should perform public service that both models for law students the selflessness encouraged for all lawyers, and helps fulfill the role of law schools in contributing to the improvement of law, lawyers, the legal system, and the system of justice. The scholarship and public service of career, full-time [tenure-track] faculty do not merely supplement their teaching role. Both scholarship and public service underlie teaching and give it an authority that teachers who merely pass on received understanding or transmit skills cannot match.
Frankly, these claims about what we do as law professors are embarrassing. I’m not selfless. Exceedingly few of the many law professors I know strike me as selfless. This is a fantastic job, for which we are generously compensated. Law school deans-many of whom earn between $ 200,000 and $ 400,000-are definitely not selfless. We don’t model selflessness for our students. And the truth, contrary to Hansen’s above assertion, is that many law professors engage in scant interaction with law students, so in reality we do very little modeling of any kind outside of the classroom. (I should add that lawyers today are anything but selfless, which further belies the assertion that we influence our students in this fashion.)
I also don’t see how “public service underlie[s] teaching.” Teaching in a law school is not a public service. A few law professors on every faculty work on bar committees and such, but not the majority of us. A legal aid lawyer and a public defender are doing public service, perhaps also prosecutors and judges, but not law professors. We teach, we write, we serve on law school committees, and we engage in consulting of various sorts. To claim that this standard package of law professor activities constitutes “public service” is false posturing or self-delusional.
Since we are not modeling selflessness to students and not engaging in public service (our claims of moral rectitude ring especially dubious when an ABA Committee recently concluded that law schools misleadingly report employment data), then, notwithstanding our claims to be imparting “mature judgment,” it’s not evident that we are doing anything more than teaching students legal doctrine and legal skills. If that is correct, it makes sense to allow law schools to explore ways to deliver legal training in more cost efficient ways.
Unfortunately, Olivas gave short-shrift to the issue of cost. Tuition for law school is spiraling ever higher. A half dozen law schools now charge $ 50,000 per year for tuition alone, with more poised to follow. As this sobering chart shows, tuition at many public law schools has doubled in the past 7 years, and tuition at many private law schools has increased by $ 10,000 or more in the same period.
Acknowledging concerns about cost in passing, Olivas responds, “We can all agree that a low-cost legal education that does not produce a good lawyer, capable of complex work, will be money foolishly spent.” Sure. But ten years ago, when tuition was substantially lower, were our graduates incompetent? Of course not. It is implausible to suggest that high-cost (in contrast to low-cost) is necessary to train capable lawyers.
It is essential to understand what drives tuition increases. Although faculty compensation and expenses typically comprise half or more of the annual budget, Olivas points the finger at other factors: “As the recent GAO Report suggested, it may be that current accreditation standards have not been the primary drivers of costs. Institutional advertising, scholarships aimed at raising a law school’s U.S. News ranking, and a variety of student services, may prove to be even more significant drivers of cost.” Olivas is right that these factors also fuel the rise in tuition, but the faculty portion of the budget must be controlled because it is a large percentage of the total.
In closing, Olivas suggests that the proposed changes may “lead to a ‘race to the bottom,’ as schools find that they can reduce their offerings and services while still remaining accredited.” That’s a stretch.
The likely consequence of the proposed changes is that law schools will become more differentiated in a way that better serves prospective students. Today, all non-profit law schools must follow the same (expensive) model. But consider undergraduate education, which consists of research universities as well as local teaching colleges. With the changes, law schools will likely shake out along similar lines: there will be research oriented law schools and law schools that focus on training capable lawyers at a lower cost. This would not be a race to the bottom. Schools that choose to serve local legal markets can opt out of the U.S. News rat race, which perverts incentives for law schools; schools can then reduce their expenditures on advertising and scholarships, while imposing an affordable tuition on students, the bulk of whom are likely to earn $ 40,000 to $ 60,000 upon graduation.
Many difficult and uncertain issues are involved, and I don’t pretend to know the answers. But it seems clear-given the rising cost and uncertain returns on a law degree-that law schools must change their economic model. Law professors constantly mention justice (as Olivas repeatedly does in his letter), while failing to consider the negative social consequences of erecting a huge economic barrier to entry to the legal profession. How many young people from the poor and middle classes will be willing or able to take on $ 200,000 in debt to attend law school?
What’s most disappointing about the opposition of the AALS is that, in the end, it sounds like we law professors are determined to hang on to the status quo, doggedly unwilling to consider changes in our working circumstances. To defend our current position, we spout self-aggrandizing claims about our selfless behavior and public service activities.
By Tad DeHaven
The U.S. Postal Service is in financial trouble. Undermined by advances in electronic communication, weighed down by excessive labor costs and operationally straitjacketed by Congress, the government’s mail monopoly is running on fumes and faces large unfunded liabilities. Socialism apparently has its limits.
While the Europeans continue to shift away from government-run postal monopolies toward market liberalization, policymakers in the United States still have their heads stuck in the twentieth century. That means looking for an easy way out, which in Washington usually means a bailout.
Self-interested parties – including the postal unions, mailers, and postal management – have coalesced around the notion that the U.S. Treasury owes the USPS somewhere around $ 50-$ 75 billion. (Of course, “U.S. Treasury” is just another word for “taxpayers.”) Policymakers with responsibility for overseeing the USPS have introduced legislation that would require the Treasury to credit it with the money.
Explaining the background and validity of this claim is very complicated. Fortunately, Michael Schuyler, a seasoned expert on the USPS for the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation, has produced such a paper.
At issue is whether the USPS “unfairly” overpaid on pension obligations for particular employees under the long defunct Civil Service Retirement System. The USPS’s inspector-general has concluded that the USPS is owed the money. The Office of Personnel Management, which administers the pensions of federal government employees, and its inspector-general have concluded otherwise. Again, it’s complicated and Schuyler’s paper should be read to understand the ins and outs.
Therefore, I’ll simply conclude with Schuyler’s take on what the transfer would mean for taxpayers:
Given the frighteningly large federal deficit and the mushrooming federal debt, a $ 50-$ 75 billion credit to the Postal Service and debit to the U.S. Treasury will be a difficult sell, politically and economically. Although some advocates of a $ 50-$ 70 billion transfer assert it would be “an internal transfer of surplus pension funds” that would allow the Postal Service to fund promised retiree health benefits “at no cost to taxpayers,” the reality is that the transfer would shift more obligations to Treasury, which would increase the already heavy burden on taxpayers, who ultimately pay Treasury’s bills. (The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prepares the official cost estimates for bills before Congress. Judging by how it has scored some earlier postal bills, CBO would undoubtedly report that the transfer would increase the federal budget deficit.) For those attempting to reduce the federal deficit, the transfer would be a $ 50-$ 70 billion setback.
Sounds like a bailout to me.
See this Cato essay for more on the U.S. Postal Service and why policymakers should be moving toward privatization.
Republicans have already begun to attack Tim Kaine as an ultra-loyal Obama cheerleader, and a reader points out that this line from Brad Woodhouse’s comment on his plans will almost certainly be used against him:
No final decision will be made or announced until the governor has had a final round of consultations with folks about how he can best serve the President, the people and the causes he cares about.
Writes my correspondent:
So if the President says you can serve me better in another role, Kaine doesn’t run? In a few months, if he says he’s the most qualified person to press Virginia’s interests in the Senate, why was he willing to forego a run if the President asked him? Sometimes serving Virginia won’t be exactly the same as serving the President. Is Kaine prepared to split those two issues?
By Walter Olson
As I note in a New York Post opinion piece published on Sunday, today marks an unusual milestone: the executive branch of the U.S. government is actually rolling back a significant burden imposed on business owners and others under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because the subject matter is an unusually colorful one — the widespread misclassification of household pets, including such exotic species as iguanas, goats, and boa constrictors, as “service animals” under the ADA — you’d think there’d be major press coverage. And yet with scattered exceptions here and there, public attention has been muted. And there’s a story in that too.
In the early years of the law (as I observe in the Post piece) the ADA’s mandate that businesses admit service animals caused little stir because dogs trained to help persons with blindness, deafness and some other disabilities are skillfully trained to stay on task while ignoring such distractions as food, strangers and the presence of other animals. But given the law’s lack of definitions, combined with lopsided penalties should a defendant guess wrong — $ 10,000 is possible for a first violation — shop owners began seeing more and more rambunctious spaniels and irritable purse dogs, to say nothing of rabbits, rats, ferrets, lizards and critters of many other sorts. Doctors obligingly wrote notes testifying that the animals were helpful for mood support or to fend off depression; you can buy “therapy dog” vests online with no questions asked.
The new rules toughen things up. With a minor exception for miniature horses, service animals will now have to be dogs; they’ll have to be trained to perform a service; and while that service can relate to an “invisible” disability, including one of a psychiatric nature, it cannot be based simply on mood support or similar goals. Also, they’ll need to be on-leash unless their service requires otherwise.
In revising the rule, the Obama administration was heeding the wishes not of frazzled retailers but of disabled-rights advocates themselves. As press coverage recounts, persons who employ well-trained service animals suffer not only from public backlash but also from more tangible setbacks such as disturbances that can arise when other, less well-trained animals challenge their dog in an indoor setting. If the new change counts as deregulation, it’s a sort of accidental and tactical deregulation not arising from any notion that it’s better to leave private owners free to set their own rules.
And that helps explain the absence of fanfare, not to say stealth, with which the Obama administration is letting the new rule go into effect. Knowing that the change will be unpopular with some of its own constituents, it seems happy to forgo credit with constituencies that might favor deregulation — notwithstanding the public fuss a few weeks ago about the President’s newfound interest in reducing regulatory burdens. That interest remains, to say the least, untested.
This from Union Plus.
With the attacks on workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, it’s more important than ever to show your support for union workers and employers that honor their workers’ desire to belong to a union.
Union Plus is now offering a one-time $ 50 credit if you switch your cell phone service to AT&T, the only unionized national wireless company. That’s in addition to the 15 percent union-member-only monthly discount from Union Plus.
The $ 50 credit is available only to new AT&T customers who sign up online for a monthly voice plan of $ 34.99 or more. This offer excludes iPhone, iPad and other tablets and expires April 29, 2011.
Not only will you save big on your wireless service, you’ll be sending a message to non-union companies like Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile that have fiercely resisted employee’s efforts to unionize. AT&T believes that fair treatment of its 40,000 union-represented employees is good for business and good for customers.
Visit here to start saving on wireless service today.
If you’re not in the market for a wireless phone, you can do your part to help your union brothers and sisters who are working hard to fight for the right to collectively bargain by buying other union-made products. For a full list of union-made products and services click here.
I’ve been in a kind of day-long twitter spat with the right-wing over the fact that the House Republican spending plan would involve cuts in tsunami warning programs.
So to pull out of the weeds for a moment on the blog, the point I want to make is this. If you insist on large cuts in “spending” what happens is that you need large cuts in what the government spends money on. That’s primarily the military, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. If you insist instead, as the House Republicans, on large cuts in non-security discretionary spending what happens is you get large cuts in all non-security discretionary spending programs. Cuts in schools. Cuts in tsunami monitoring. Cuts in hurricane tracking. Cuts in national parks. Cuts in financial regulatory enforcement. Cuts, cuts, cuts. That’s what it means to “cut.” If you want the government to spend much less money, it needs to do less stuff. If you want the government to spend much less money while avoiding cuts in the government’s most expensive programs, it needs to really scale back on all the other stuff. That’s what cutting spending is. The belief that spending should be substantially reduced requires the belief that the government should do substantially less stuff.
For those who aren’t aware, please go to this thread and read about RightHaven, or google RightHaven Suit:
Red is desperate, any donation at all would be hugely appreciated. You can write LEGAL FEES if you like in the Donation comment area. The smallest out of court settlements have been between 5-10K and there’s no guarantee that RightHaven will settle out of court.
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Yesterday Sens. Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal charged that changes proposed by Facebook could lead to the disclosure of the private details of millions of users’ lives.
Now the social networking site is striking back. Facebook’s Washington-based spokesman, Andrew Noyes, said the company “appreciate[s] all of the feedback we’re getting on this issue and that feedback will inform the decisions we make as we continue to develop the feature.”
But, Noyes added in an email, “we believe there is great value in letting people choose to share information about themselves on Facebook, just as they are voluntarily registering this information on sites across the web, and offline in ways as simple as a return address sticker.
“Despite rumors, apps and external websites cannot access a user’s address or phone number from Facebook without that user’s permission. People are always in control of what information they share through our service.”
The official Twitter Mobile account announced yesterday that "Twitter SMS on MTN Cameroon has been suspended by the Cameroonian government."
The country’s opposition had been planning "Egypt-like" protests against longtime President Paul Biya in February, but those were quickly disrupted and put down by the government’s security forces. This latest move seems ill-advised since, as Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande notes, if Biya didn’t have a problem with Twitter activism before, he likely does now:
"Before today’s ban, very few Cameroonians were even aware that Twitter
was available in Cameroon via SMS, and the majority of those who were
did not even grasp its potential as a tool for political activism."
Obviously, the government has failed to learn the lesson from North
Africa, particularly in Tunisia where the Ben Ali regime was still
toppled even though it had banned all social media sites for years and
had engaged in a sophisticated cyber-war with Tunisian digital
activists. The government has also completely misread the lessons of
the February 23 protests; even though Twitter played a prominent role
in informing the world of what was happening in Cameroon, over 95% of
the tweets which the international media relied on for updates did not
originate from within Cameroon. It was information obtained via mobile
phones, regular SMS and email which ended up on Twitter and not
real-time tweets from activists on the ground. Thus, banning the
Twitter short code does little to change the balance of power online.
Plus, as Evgeny Morozov argues and as Sudan and Zimbabwe have recently demonstrated, authoritarian regimes are often better off letting social networking sites stay active to gather information on the opposition.
JENNINGS, Mo. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine whether mummified human remains found in a suburban St. Louis home are those of the mother of the home’s hoarding elderly occupant, who died nearly three weeks earlier.
Police and a forensic investigator with the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it’s unknown how long the remains had been in the Jennings home.
The home’s occupant, Gladys Bergmeier, was 75 when she was found dead in her bed Feb. 7. A relative found the mummified remains of an elderly woman weeks later.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. One has to wonder what would be comforting in keeping bodies (preserved or otherwise) in the home. When death is the subject, reactions can be very different and very personal. Still, I admit I am curious to hear the results if they are able to determine the identity of the corpse.
Recently acquitted in Austria on charges of “incitement to hatred” stemming from comments made in a seminar series about Islam, Austrian citizen Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff now also has been subjected to lengthy questioning by the U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) service upon arrival in Miami, FL on 4 March 2011. Wolff, who lived in the U.S. as a child, now lives with her family in Vienna, Austria but returns regularly to the U.S. for visits. Although acquitted of “incitement to hatred,” Wolff was convicted in February 2011 of the lesser charge of “denigration of the teachings of a legally recognized religion” and assessed a fine. She is appealing.
When she arrived in Miami on 4 March 2011 en route to a West Palm Beach conference on shariah Islam at which she was to deliver a presentation, Wolff was pulled out of the line by ICE officers and subjected to lengthy pointed questioning. Her belongings also were thoroughly searched by hand. The questions focused on her purpose in visiting the U.S. but after the ICE officers had a look at the text of Wolff’s speech, which she showed them to substantiate her reasons for this trip, the questions from ICE officers became even more pointed and frankly inappropriate.
In addition to querying Wolff about her speech and the conference, the ICE officers wanted to know why she was traveling alone, where her husband was, how she earned a living, and most inappropriate of all, whether she were a “practicing Christian.” A Dutch colleague of Wolff’s, also to speak at the conference, was similarly subjected to lengthy and hostile questioning by ICE officials, both in Amsterdam and at JFK Airport upon arrival in the U.S. After looking at the text of his speech, one of the ICE officials in Amsterdam flatly told the Dutch citizen that his activism against shariah Islam “is discrimination.”
Both Wolff and her colleague ultimately were released and permitted to continue their travel in the U.S., but were sent off with the explicit warning to Wolff that she should “tone down the rhetoric.”
While ICE and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have the legal duty to scrutinize would-be visitors to the U.S. at points of entry, what appears to be gratuitous harassment on grounds apparently related to issues of free speech is inappropriate. Wolff was convicted in Austria under laws that are incompatible with the right to free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. No American could ever be convicted in the U.S. for “denigration of the teachings of a legally recognized religion.” Belief systems, Ideology, and religious teachings are not off-limits from criticism in this country. Not yet anyway.
Wolff’s conviction on such wrongful charges in Austria should have been no impediment to her U.S. travel; nor should her participation in a conference about defending American foundational principles against the encroachments of Islamic law against those principles. So, to see representatives of American national security community essentially reprising the Austrian court’s assault on Wolff’s right to free speech is deeply troubling. The separate but similar treatment accorded her Dutch colleague by ICE officials in both Europe and the U.S. furthermore would seem to indicate a deliberate, premeditated, and coordinated effort to intimidate these two champions of Western civilization.
The insidious expansion of the concept of “hate speech” directly challenges the rights of free citizens to speak truth and express opinions, especially when applied to speech about Islam, Islamic law (shariah), or even the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Islamic organizations such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and front groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), work ceaselessly to achieve the criminalization of free speech directed toward Islam. Enforcement of shariah laws on blasphemy, slander, and insult to Islam not only stifles the individual’s right to free speech, but also, as intended, destroys the ability of national security leadership to know and understand the nature of Islamic doctrine, history, ideology, and law.
The United States is the last true bastion of protected free speech in the world. We cannot allow the precious freedoms we hold dear to be eroded under the assault of an alien legal system that would replace them with a totalitarian world order. The ICE treatment of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolf and her Dutch colleague should sound a warning to all of us that shariah can happen here, too, if we let it.