Friday, October 31, 2008

New Orleans Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $30,000,000 from Former Firm

This case has been bouncing around the local federal court recently, and the local news just announced this morning that Jamie Perdigao has probably struck a plea deal to charges of defrauding his former law firm, Adams and Reese, and their clients of thirty million dollars. Luckily, he’s not one of our alum, and I won’t mention what law school he went to, but I’m sure he got a great education and only missed that one day’s class in professional responsibility where they discussed the illegality of submitting phony invoices to your clients and pocketing the remitted fees.

Funny - if you look him up on Westlaw’s Legal Directory (database ID: WLD), it says “Current Firm Information Unknown” but still gives his e-mail address at and what is, presumably, his old phone number there.

The more colorful aspects of this story are the civil suit and counter-claims Perdigao filed; the details sound like a Grisham novel. He tried to get the local U.S. Attorney’s office to recuse itself, because he said they were unwilling to persue some of the leads he gave them which, he claimed, would have lead to overturning former Governor Edwards’ multiple convictions for fraud and other misdeeds.

He also filed suit against Adams and Reese, alleging that they were involved with Worldcom’s financial shenanigans and other sundry shady activity. Neither of these suits or claims got very far.

Thirty million dollars. That’s not like petty cash from the cigar box under the cashier counter. What kind of person does this sort of thing and thinks they can get away with it?

Full blog post...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Habitat for Humanity and the Corporate Conscience of American Companies

Saturday morning I went along with my wife and a group of her students to work at one of the many Habitat for Humanity houses still going up here in New Orleans. Then Sunday morning I woke up and immediately called my mother to thank her profusely for the effort she and my late father took to instill in me and my brother the importance of education. I only spent four hours helping to lay tarpaper on a roof, but since that involved what was essentially a half day of deep-knee bends and multiple trips up a sixteen-foot ladder carrying heavy rolls of tarpaper, Sunday morning my legs and lower back felt like knots of twisted steel. I’ve never been happier to be a law librarian and not a manual laborer.

But working on the Habitat homes is a worthwhile endeavor. They’ve been active all over the world since their founding in 1976, but since Katrina, they’ve been responsible for hundreds, maybe now over a thousand, homes here in New Orleans. We only pitch in every couple of months, but even over three years after the hurricane, there is still a non-stop stream of volunteers coming to town to help out for a day or two or a few weeks during the summer.

Besides my wife’s students, many of the other volunteers Saturday were employees of the GAP from all over the U.S. and Canada. I believe they mentioned that both GAP and Banana Republic employees (both chains are apparently part of the same corporate hegemony, along with Old Navy and maybe other stores - what the hell is Piperlime?)

have been coming to New Orleans recently to work with Habitat, and that the GAP has both donated money and underwritten, at least in part, I believe, their employees’ trips to New Orleans. Yeah, GAP! In appreciation, I promise from here on out to only buy my underwear from you. Yes, GAP brand men’s briefs are the most comfortable, stylish, and durable underwear I have ever had the pleasure of wearing.

And, from the Times-Picayune today we learn that for the first time in its corporate history, Starbucks is holding its annual sales meeting outside of the northwest and while they are here, two thousand or so of the employees attending will be helping out with various volunteer efforts in the city. The story mentioned that they needed something like forty-five buses just to get all their people out to the different places in town where their volunteering. Go Starbucks! Their Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino® is detectably delicious (and is basically, come on, a coffee milkshake, right?). I don’t indulge regularly; in fact, I only have them once a year, and that’s because CALI editor extraordinaire Deb Quentel has started giving us CALI authors a giftcard as a reward for working the CALI booth at the AALL annual meetings. I usually gain about two pounds in the weeks after the meeting while I reap my Frappuccino® rewards.

If I hype up any more corporations and join Google AdSense, will ads for those companies start appearing here in the margins? I do have a lot of space in the layout that is going to waste and I need to bling it up.

Full blog post...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Towards the Licensing of Clowns

On that trip to Texas I mentioned in a few earlier posts, I picked up this business card at the counter of the little diner where we had breakfast every morning:

The first thing that bugs me is the name of the national association that Piccolo above belongs to: "Clowns of America International". Huh? Is it an international association of clowns from America? Or an American association of clowns with international aspirations?

Writing and blogging about scary clowns, fear of clowns, etc., has almost become a cliche, so forget about all that - the people who work as clowns have their own professional associations with bylaws, professional ethics, and annual conventions! I'm torn between the surprise of learning this and the realization that I shouldn't be surprised at all by this enlightening fact.

And - LOOK - its the Clowns of America International Code of Ethics! Called "The Eight Clown Commandments", most of them are a middlin' paragraph in length and not of a concise, "Though shalt not use sub-standard cream pies" commandment style like other, more well-known sets of commandments. Part of the second one is a bit puzzling:
I will provide my own costume.
As opposed to, what? Stealing someone else's costume? Performing naked? Along those lines, parts of commandments 1 and 3 are:
1) I will keep my acts, performance and behavior in good taste while I am in costume and makeup. ...
3) I will neither drink alcoholic beverages nor smoke while in makeup or clown costume.
Reminds me of the idea I had to be a rude, slovenly, drinking and smoking clown for Mardi Gras. Of course, the better sense of my better half prevailed, although the idea would be great. My initial inspiration for that idea is the old Evil Clown comics that National Lampoon published back in the late 80s and early 90s (at least that's when I subscribed and read them). The creator, Nick Bakay, has some stories at his web page, but they're scaled-down images and kind of hard to read. I wish he could get an anthology of all the Evil Clown comics published.

So Piccolo is also a member of the Texas Clown Association. I haven't perused this and other clown association web pages, but I would bet that somewhere some of them talk about the importance of only hiring a clown subscribing to the clown Code of Ethics and that some have even proposed, if not the licensing, then at least the certification of clowns. How many annual credits of CCE - Clown Continuing Education - should a professional clown have to keep its certification current? And do they have cautionary tales of parents who hired an uncertified clown and the tragedy that ensued when little Johnny say Bucky the Clown taking a smoke break out behind the garage during his birthday party? The horror!

Well, to wind this back to some semi-professional point; AALL has proposed the licensing of law librarians in the past. (Yes, yes - I'll dig up the references later - not that anyone is reading this....) Living in the one state that licenses florists (to protect consumers against the dangers of sub-par birthday bouquets) Louisiana and florists are a perfect example of how licensing often serve primarily as a barrier to entry into a given market.

Similarly, with law librarians, if we were required to be licensed in all 50 states, then what? Would we be paid more? If licensing attempted to manipulate the market to raise librarian salaries - by making librarians a more scarce commodity by making it harder for people to become librarians by forcing us to become licensed - we all wouldn't get a raise, but when a firm, school, or court needed more labor in the library, we would see more secretaries, paralegals and student workers filing looseleafs, re-shelving books, and conducting research. Would we then try to pass statutes against the un-authorized practice of librarianship so that only we - the actual, certified/licensed librarians could perform these and other tasks intrinsic to the operation of a library? Then, how would you define those tasks? Would you make it so that NOBODY but librarians can re-shelve the books? Even the patron who pulls the book off the shelve for two seconds to glance at the back cover? What if one patron asks another patron where the U.S. Reports are? Unauthorized practice of librarianship! Licensing isn't needed for clowns, florists, or librarians.

Full blog post...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bluebook Follies

One of our students was working on a paper that has been submitted to our maritime law journal. Half of those articles, including this one, seem to deal with the “Jones Act”. That’s the common name for the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 which, as I understand it, is basically workers compensation for maritime workers. The main provision of the Jones Act used to be 46 U.S.C. §688 and practitioners who work in this area and professors who teach this subject refer to “section 688” by rote.

And so this student was checking all the citations for the article and was looking up 46 USC §688 and couldn’t find it. That’s because, as of October 2006, the Jones Act was amended and re-codified as part of the entire revision of Title 46. What used to be §688 is now found in §§ 30104 and 30105 of Title 46. But because the United States Code itself is only re-published every six years and the feds are still in the process of issuing the 2006 edition, this re-codification is not in the U.S.C. but can be found in the U.S.C.A and U.S.C.S. (the two commercial and non-official editions of the code).

The student was very conscientious and wanted to find out the best way to indicate that the law had been re-codified, so that all the old-timers who see this article and don’t see their familiar “46 U.S.C. §688” will understand that this provision is now in two new sections. But the Bluebook isn’t clear on this, and as I told the student, its not really a question of citation format, but one of style. The Bluebook doesn’t require authors to note when a law has been re-codified, it just requires them to cite the current law. So because it would really be only a courtesy to readers to note this, I told the student that perhaps a parenthetical statement noting this fact would be appropriate. (And, since the author of this article has passed away since he drafted it, the journal staff has a bit more leeway in adding things like this than they normally do.)

And, like I often do when helping students with citation quandries such as this, I suggested we look and see how other law reviews have treated this situation. For example:
“...the Jones Act [46 U.S.C. §30104, (formerly §688(a))]...”

David W. Robertson, The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Sct's Provisions on Jurisdiction, Remedies, and Choice of Law: Correcting the Fifth Circuit's Mistakes, 38 J. Mar. L. & Com. 487 n 161 (2007)
But for every good application of citation rules to an unclear situation like this, there are citations like this:
“...[t]he Jones Act also allows injured sailors and the next of kin of deceased sailors to obtain damages from their employers for the negligence of the shipowner, the captain, or fellow members of the crew. See 46 U.S.C. § 30104 (2000)...”

Bin Wang, All Bark and No Bite: A Modern Evidentiary Argument for the Retirement of the Age-Old Pennsylvania Rule, 49 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 2309, 2329, n. 121 (2008)
No, no, NO! Bad law student, bad, bad law student! ... What happened here is that the student editor probably saw that the current Jones Act has indeed been re-codified at §30104 of Title 46 of the United States Code. But that codification has only been published in the U.S.C.A. and the U.S.C.S. and NOT in the U.S.C. The purpose of citing all this stuff in such detail is, in part, to guide the reader to where the resource the author is citing can be found. And readers are going to be perplexed when they go to the 2000 edition of Title 46 of the U.S.C. and DON'T FIND a section 40103.

The Bluebook does NOT require citation to the U.S.C. in all instances. Rule 12.2.1 says “If possible, cite statutes currently in force to the current official code or its supplement” ... “[o]therwise cite a current unofficial code”. So in this instance citing to the U.S.C.A. would have been entirely appropriate as its impossible to cite the statute currently in force - the revised and re-codified Jones Act - to the official code because it is not IN the official code. So, instead, they got the cite from U.S.C.A., lopped off the “A”, and created an incorrect citation.

And not to pick on the William and Mary Law Review - this sort of thing happens all the time in most law reviews. Someone probably erroneously told the staff that they had to cite to the U.S.C., which at one time, I believe, was a strict requirement of the Bluebook.

God, is there anything less worthwhile to get all worked up about these days???

Full blog post...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Texas Religious Supplies

Another photo from our Texas trip:

We kept passing this place and could never figure this out. Was it a joke? Were they just a VERY THOROUGH religious supply store? Or are the fireproof shirts and caps a side business and separate from the religious supplies?
Full blog post...

Signs of Optimism for Obama

On our trip to central Texas this past weekend, I took this picture:
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Three things are notable: 1) This wasn't in Austin or another big city in Texas, but in Eden, where the only industry is apparently a prison; 2) this wasn't the only Texans for Obama sign we saw; and 3) the sign wasn't on fire. If Eden, Texas is tolerant enough to let this person keep an Obama sign on his yard unimpeded, there may be hope for us yet.
Full blog post...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Research and Information Needs of Presidential Campaigns

(I.E., "The Article that was Never to be Published")

Over the summer, I worked on an article for American Libraries magazine. My "pitch" was basically "who does research for presidential campaigns?" and the editor at A.L. liked the idea. A quick literature search confirmed that nothing - as far as I found - had been written on this. The hook for the article would be a scene from the 1992 documentary "The War Room" and if I could get a brief phone interview with someone in each campaign who did that sort of work, it would be a decent article.

But both campaigns blew me off, preferring to only deal with more "mainstream" and "serious" media outlets like Blender magazine.

So, with three weeks until the election, here is the article I WOULD have written (well, a lightly-polished draft of it). Everything in brackets is my notes, possible text, and where I had reserved places for the quotes I never got.

The Research and Information Needs of Presidential Campaigns

     Many librarians are used to high-pressure research situations where information has to be found quickly and accurately, with no excuses allowed. Few if any settings are more high-pressure than a presidential campaign in the final months of an election. Saying “I couldn’t find it” or “I’ll finish this tomorrow” is not an option in the world of twenty-four hour news coverage where every fact and claim is checked by reporters and double-checked by a legion of amateur pundits in the blogosphere.

     The 1992 documentary “The War Room” is a detailed look into Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Sixteen years later, it is still the best “inside the crucible” documentary about a presidential campaign ever made. For librarians who are familiar with it, one scene may stand out. At about the thirty-three minutes point, James Carville and the staff of the titular war room are watching the broadcast of George Bush the First’s acceptance speech at the 1992 republication presidential convention. The camera is close on Carville and as Bush attempts to rebut Clinton’s critique of the 91-92 recession you can tell that Carville’s mental wheels are spinning around at full speed. Carville had made “It’s the economy, stupid” one of the campaign’s internal mottos and, knowing the fiscal concerns of voters in the slumping economy, he turns and talks to someone off screen in his lilting cajun drawal, “Liz, I want to know if I can say this is the first time an incumbent president has given an acceptance speech and not mentioned his economic record.” The camera pans to a young staff member - presumably Liz - who nods and confidently heads off to answer this question. [WATCH THE SCENE HERE.]

     Yes, it’s a reference question in the middle of the 1992 presidential campaign. If you listen to the speeches of the current two candidates for president, they are full of detailed facts and claims and so, obviously, they must have people whose job it is to conduct research, provide these facts, and double-check the assertions of their opponents. But who are they? How do they fit into the campaign organization? And how did Liz tackle that assignment during the 1992 campaign?

     For the first time in American history, both major party nominees are current members of the Senate. As members of congress, they have access to the staff and facilities of the Library of Congress for conducting research in their capacity as Senators. But Janine D’Addario of the LOC’s Congressional Research Service confirmed that Congress has internal guidelines governing members’ use of facilities and services for campaigns; just as Senators and Representatives can’t used their offices for campaign purposes, they can’t use the Library of Congress for research related to their campaigns. [JANINE WAS THE ONLY PERSON TO RETURN MY CALLS; THANKS, JANINE!!!]

     So how do presidential campaigns conduct research? I had two opposing visions in my head. Maybe the campaigns actually had skilled information professionals, maybe even - gasp - librarians with degrees and everything - who were masters of their domain and wielded resources both digital and traditional with amazing dexterity under immense daily pressure. Or maybe they only have low-level interns with Google and Wikipedia book-marked on their laptops. I set out to find out which vision was the closest to the truth.


[INSERT NOT-SO-GREAT QUOTE FROM ONE CAMPAIGN HERE] I was disheartened. It sounded like my fear of junior flunkies with laptops was not far from the truth. But then I asked [WHOEVER] how comfortable they were with assertions like [INSERT EXAMPLE OF SOME STATISTIC OR FACT IN RECENT CANDIDATE SPEECH.] [FOLLOW-UP WITH ANOTHER DISMAL QUOTE.] With all the phone calls and follow-ups, I had started to feel like a reporter with a hot lead. Research-gate? Will the election of the next leader of the free world depend on sound-bites researched by [WHOEVER, WHATEVER, ETC., ETC., ETC.]

[Was the [OTHER CANDIDATE]’s campaign organized for research just as effectively?] OR [Maybe things were better at the [OTHER CANDIDATE]’s campaign.] [DISCUSS OTHER CAMPAIGN’S ORGANIZATION AND HOW ITS SET UP FOR RESEARCH, COMPARE AND CONTRAST, MORE QUOTES, ETC., ETC., ETC.]


     So what about James Carville, the 1992 campaign, and Bush Senior’s non-mentioning of his economic record during his acceptance speech? The Clinton campaign apparently never used that iota of data and regardless of the answer to Carville’s “War Room” query, Bush senior lost the election. But what was the answer? I had to find out.


     Since there were probably more important things to work on, Carville may have never received an answer. And if he did, its clear why it was never used in the campaign. Of the 40 previous chief executive before Bush the First, 35 of them ran for re-election (FDR doing so three times). But acceptance speeches presented at a party’s nominating convention are a modern innovation in the political process. As late as 1932, Herbert Hoover did not even attend the election that re-nominated him as the Republican candidate. He was notified of his nomination by telegraph and replied, presumably in the same manner, with a brief, two page message.

     In “The War Room” Carville specifically asked about acceptance speeches. Part of being a good reference librarian is understanding why a question is being asked. Carville obviously hoped that the history of presidential nominations would enable Bill Clinton to say something like “My opponent was the first president to accept his party’s nomination without mentioning his economic record in his acceptance speech”. Perhaps Liz’s research led to this realization that only a minority of presidents have actually made acceptance speeches at their party’s convention. Then the strength of the potential claim falls apart under a mound of clarifications - the “modern nominating process”, “modern convention acceptance speeches” or “of those presidents who actually made speeches,” etc., etc. None of those have quite as much rhetorical heft.

     Since I am not a reference librarian in a presidential campaign, and I’m looking at a question that arose during a campaign sixteen years one, I have the luxury of being able to research a question just for the sake of knowing the answer. In the modern presidential era, starting in 1939, executive orders and other documents issued by the presidents have been published in the Federal Register. Starting in 1957, the Office of the Federal Register has published the series “Public Papers of the President” for all chief executives since then, and retrospectively back to the aforementioned Mr. Hoover (the one exception being FDR, whose public papers had already been privately published).

     Thus compiled sets of all the presidents’ papers since Hoover have the acceptance speeches for those who have run for a second term. And indeed all of them up through Reagan in 1984 mention their economic record in some way. So Carville’s instincts, at least for the modern era, were correct and Bush Senior was indeed the first President to give a renomination acceptance speech and not tout his economic record.

Neat, huh? It would have been a nice article. But they blew me off. I kept throwing around things like "100,000 readers who, as librarians, are very politically savvy and vote at a higher rate than many other profession" when I e-mailed and called. The 100,000 figure is correct, but I didn't bother with researching the voting rates among professions. I imagine we vote more than some professions.

Full blog post...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spanking Tulane Law Review and the Limitations of Student Law Review Editors

I know this will sound like sour grapes coming from someone at a rival law school, but I’ve never heard of a state supreme court taking a law review to task for an article critical of how the court conducts its business. But, if you stick your neck out like this and make such a dramatic claim, you’d better have your numbers correct. (Just to be fair, I will also show an instance where our law review should have been publically spanked, but it was such a minor article and it didn’t take on any giant public institution like the Louisiana Supreme Court, so no one noticed.)

It all started with an article last spring in the Tulane Law Review by a Tulane law professor and an economics professor over on Loyola’s main campus. The article,
Vernon Valentine Palmer and John Levendis, The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function, 82 Tul. L. Rev. 1291 (2008)
made headlines throughout the state and beyond by purporting to be a definitive statistical study of the Louisiana Supreme Court that, as the authors say in their preamble,
demonstrates that the court has been significantly influenced--wittingly or unwittingly--by the campaign contributions from litigants and lawyers appearing before it. In a statistical sense, campaign donors enjoy a favored status among parties before the court. Facing an aggregate of $1.3 million in political donations in the cases under review, the justices did not find reason to disqualify or recuse themselves.
Down here in Louisiana, we, along with thirty-eight other states - see Judicial Campaigns: Money, Mudslinging and an Erosion of Public Trust (PDF) - elect our judges. Your average man on the street and the typical cynical professorial type thinks that the judicial game is rigged by these campaign contributions and that if the evils of money were removed the judicial process would be... what? More fair? Less corrupt? The man on the street and the professor would probably say yes to both of those.

Local Times-Picayune columnist James Gill nicely summarized the fallout when two separate rebuttals to the Tulane article pointed out errors in the authors’ statistical methods:

James Gill, Professors Collaborate on a Giant Goof-Up, Times-Picayune, Sep. 18, 2008, at B7.

Gill notes that drafts of the article were circulated prior to its publication, including to the New York Times (which published a short article on it back in January), but that Chief Justice Calogero essentially had to beg to look at it. Tulane did address some initial errors that Calogero pointed out, but apparently many remained.

The Tulane article is a variation on the argument that politicians are influenced by campaign contributions. But, obviously, consider causation vs correlation. Yes, politicians vote in the particular way that their contributors prefer, but perhaps they inspire those contributors to donate money in the first place because they promise to vote in that particular way. This is the main objection that the two rebuttals bring up, and which are posted on the Court’s web site:

E. Phelps Gay and Kevin Tully Rebuttal (PDF), Newman, Speyer, and Terrell Rebuttal (PDF)

They use statistical jargon to explain both the causation/correlation fallacy and to point out a few other statistical errors. And both of them note that in footnote 14 the authors actually say, quote:
It is worth observing that this article does not claim that there is a cause and effect relationship between prior donations and judicial votes in favor of donors' positions. It asserts instead that there is evidence of a statistically significant correlation between the two.
Well, there is also a statistically significant correlation between sunrise and a rooster crossing, but I don’t think we’ve seen a law review article about that. Post hoc ergo prompter hoc and all that (which is the only other latin phrase I know by heart after the de rigeur cogito ergo sum).

But - and this is what I think is unprecedented - last month Tulane Law School Dean Lawrence Ponoroff issued an apology to the Court that is now on both Tulane and the Supreme Court’s web pages:

Apology at Supreme Court

(At least I think it WAS on the Tulane web page.) As Dean Ponoroff says, you can’t expect law students to be responsible for examining the sort of statistical analysis that the authors did in this article. Palmer has, according to a New York Times note, said “the corrected data appear to continue to support the study's general conclusions ... [and] ... that he was seeking an independent review of the study.” Editor’s Note, NYT Sept. 20, 2008, p4 (available at the bottom of the original article). But, again, given their disclaimer in footnote fourteen, their "general conclusions" aren't that earth-shattering.

So now, just to be fair, here is an article that our law review published a few years ago. Both of these articles - Tulane’s and ours - point out several weaknesses in the American law review system, the main one being that legal novices are ill-equipped to decide what topics have legal merit and whether those that have merit are addressed in any given article in a thorough, scholarly manner (law is unique in that the majority of its scholarly journals are run and edited by students in the second and third year of their legal education; medical students don’t edit journal articles about new surgical techniques, do they?). A second weakness is the sheer volume of material that law reviews must produce. There is at least one “flagship” law review at all of the 195 ABA-accredited law schools and typically one or several more “specialty” law reviews at each school. Each of these publish an average of four or so issues a year, thus requiring, in the aggregate, as one commentator notes, about 7200 law review articles per year.

Long story short, many law reviews are hurting for content and will accept just about anything that has a scholarly facade on it. Which is what our law review did back in 2003:
Ellis Washington, The Nuremberg Trials: The Death of the Rule of Law (In International Law), 49 Loy. L. Rev. 471 (2003)
Where to begin? Mr. Washington starts with a page and a half of acknowledgments, which is a common game as I understand it, allowing the author to engage in some big-time name-dropping. So if you shoved your manuscript under the men’s room stall at the AALS meeting hotel when Larry Tribe was heeding the call of nature and he yelled “get that thing out of here”, you can then include in your acknowledgments “Special thanks to Professor Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School for his comments on this article”.

But Mr. Washington goes beyond the pale here. He says:
This article's significance has been recognized by many institutions throughout the world, including: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The collected papers of all nine present Justices of the United States Supreme Court, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, The Helen G. Simon Hillel Center at Indiana University, Yad Vashem Library (Jerusalem), State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Leo Baeck Institute (New York), Harvard Law School, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Jerusalem), The Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Today.
For one, this article is just now being published, so how can its significance have already been recognized by so many institutions? And, not to pick nits, but present Justices of the United States Supreme Court do not actually have “collected papers” because, ahem, they are using their papers since they are, yes, the PRESENT Justices. I actually checked this one out and found that none of the Justices at the time this article was published had collected papers and that in the Court’s entire history, only one Justice - I forget which one but its in my notes somewhere - donated their papers while still on the bench, but it was when he was about to retire anyway.

So that should have been a red flag but law students - and not just here at Loyola but I imagine at many schools - are so eager to have material that they’ll pretty much let an author say whatever they want in these prefatory acknowledgment footnotes.

But then, what really got me mad, as a law librarian, was footnote two, a brief biographical note about Henry L. Stimson, who served as Secretary of State under Hoover and Secretary of War under F.D.R. It is a biographical note to explain who Stimson is because he is the source for the second of two epigraphs at the beginning of the article, which Mr. Washington presents as:
[W]ar . . . is an illegal thing.
- Henry Louis Stimson 2
Yes, that is a correct Bluebook use of ellipses, but Jeez - you think maybe the words left out might be relevant? Or the context? A more extended version of this statement is quoted a lot and is typically cited as being in one of the collected documents from the Nuremberg Trials, which we don’t have, but it was also cited in full in a 1941 volume of the American Journal of Comparative law, where it is a footnote in a speech given by the U.S. Attorney General at that time, and which cites a speech that Stimson himself gave in 1932 which is apparently the original source of the quote. Which, in full, is:
      “War between nations was renounced by the signatories of the Briand-Kellogg Treaty. This means that it has become illegal throughout practically the entire world. It is no longer to be the source and subjects of rights. It is no longer to be the principle around which the duties, the conduct, and the rights of nations revolve. It is an illegal thing.”
That is - count them - fifty-six words that Mr. Washington left out! But that, no THAT isn’t what bothered me. What really bothers me is that the footnote that he provided, and which our law review apparently signed off on, is to just a biographical note about Mr. Stimson, and not an actual source for the quote. The footnote, which is a muddled mess, is:
2      Henry L. Stimson, [Secretary] of War 1911-1913, 1940-1945, Secretary of State 1929-1933, was very influential. In fact, he recommended the use of the atomic bomb to Truman (as chair of the Interim Committee). Stimson was encouraged by Conant to publish an article in Harper's Magazine explaining the decision to drop the bomb. Stimson and Conant were both concerned that w/o public support for a willingness to drop the bomb in the future and the decision to drop it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the past, the US would lose clout against the Soviets in UN negotiations and in vies for attracting 3rd world nations (this is also a reason nuclear power was encouraged commercially, to increase U.S. international prestige).
      Henry L. Stimson, Essay 1, at ejk4e/hius316/answers.htm#Stimson (last visited Oct. 15, 2003). See also Robert H. Jackson, Opening Address for the United States, Nuremberg Trials, in David M. Adams, Philosophical Problems in the Law, 7, 12 (1992) (describing Henry Stimson's views on war).
The initial indented text is a quote in full from the web page at the University of Virginia, which doesn’t include the quote, doesn’t say where the quote is from, and which is, in fact, a SAMPLE MIDTERM ANSWER to an undergraduate history course!

Then there’s the misleading point of having someone say “ an illegal thing” when the speaker's comments were from 1932 and made in reference to the Kellog-Briand Pact which, yes, technically outlawed war but, as we know, was not really a resounding success.

I presume Mr. Washington was trying to be ironic or funny. But since the full context of the quote wasn’t provided, no way would most readers know that Stimson was referring to the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

This being the second footnote of this forty-six page article, things can only get better, right? Well, no. Besides some awkward sentences, minor citation errors (which I promise you just about every law review article has, no matter how careful the editors are), and a random first-person point of view in one section, we get to the one part of the article that our faculty DID notice and which, collectively, we held our breath and hoped no one else would find. At page 491:
Under the United Nations, governments and nation states were seeking to formulate a one-world government.53
53 Melvin Sickler and Myron Fagan, Thirst for Justice: A Satanic Plot for a One World Government, at (last visited on Oct. 7, 2003).
Yes, finally! A law review article that recognizes the Illuminati as a valid scholarly authority!

This reminds me - has anyone ever tried to pull an Alan Sokal in legal scholarship?

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Marcus Eriksen's "My River Home": War Memoirs, River Tales, Cataloging Quandaries and the Value of Browsing the Stacks

Just finished reading "My River Home: A Journey From the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico" by Marcus Eriksen". He was a Marine back about the same time I was. A reservist from here in New Orleans whose unit was activated for the first Gulf War ("G.W.I."? - the war and the president - hahaha...), he spent the following decade "buried in books" getting a doctorate in science education, an option, as he notes, a bit more healthy compared to being "buried in the bottle" like so many other vets end up. But, according to him, it was just as much of an escape.

On the eve of "G.W.II" in 2003 he followed through on a promise he made to a fellow Marine to raft down the entire length of the Mississippi River together. It turns out he couldn't track down the other guy, so the flashback to his time in the Gulf doesn't lead to the tragedy you expect, in which his friend dies under fire and his dying words are about the journey they planned (but if Hollywood options his book, that is the narrative the suits may impose).

"My River Home" is the book Erikson wrote about his trip. It's a great book in many aspects. A story of growing up admiring war heroes he sees in movies and in his neighborhood and then enlisting to try and realize that fantasy, an honest memoir of learning the hard lesson that the reality doesn't live up to the fantasy, and a great story of how one Marine found some sense of resolution with both his epic journey down Old Man River and his involvement with Veterans for Peace during the run-up to the sequel of his own bit of military history.

One of my favorite passages is his description of the ritual that occurs every time two Marines meet:
   "You were in the Marine Corps, huh?" I ask. Stan wears a camouflage cap with the Marine Corps emblem stenciled on it.
   "Yup," he says with a smile. When two former marines meet, they typically begin by identifying their unit and years served. They automatically resume a mental program of camaraderie. I particularly enjoy this deep sentiment and ignore the battlefield function of this type of training.
(Marcus Eriksen, My River Home, at 9.)

I guess members of other services have comparable exchanges, but because the Marine Corps is the smallest of the branches of the military its members have, I believe, the most in common with each other no matter when they served. Hell, our dress uniforms still look like what John Wayne and his platoon wore on liberty in "The Sands of Iwo Jima", and different Marine units don't deal with all that frou-frou that the Army deals with. Maroon berets? Jeez... But I digress.

Of all the elements in Eriksen's book, my favorite are the stories of the people he meets on the river. After an initial stretch in a canoe, he makes the bulk of the journey on a home-made raft made out of empty soda bottles lashed together. His raft works as an instant conversation starter wherever he ties up for the night and in every little town he inevitably finds an offer of a meal, a place to stay, and/or a ride to the hardware store for supplies to fix his rickety makeshift conveyance.

But after reading this, the librarian in me asks, how do you catalog a book like this? The Loyola's undergraduate library when I was looking up some titles on Louisiana history. I wasn't looking for any memoirs of the first Gulf War, and I had never thought to read about riding a home-made raft down the Mississippi. Thus I became my own perfect example about how browsing the physical stacks at a library led me to a book I otherwise would never have found; sometimes I can be such a "teachable moment" cliche!

Full blog post...