: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Economist pulls issue in Thailand out of Concern for Lese-majeste Laws

In Thailand, Economist pulled again from Thailand newsstands after monarchy article citing concern for the local distributor under Thailand’s Lese majeste laws. Earlier this year, Harry Nicolaides, an Australian author who had written a novel critical of the Thai royal family, was arrested under the lese majeste laws. According to Wikipedia, the law is just about as broad as one could imagine:

“The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.”


“Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen or the Heir-apparent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.”

Despite pulling the magazine, the article is still available in Thailand on the internet as the site hasn’t been blocked by the government. As noted on the Thai Crisis Blog, the Thai government has shown a penchant for going after websites as well, last fall the “Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry has detected more than 1,200 websites that violated the Computer Crime Act – of which 344 had content deemed insulting to the monarchy.”

Eugene Volokh on the Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope

The Federalist Society hosted Eugene Volokh at the Law Center yesterday where his brother (and co-conspirator) Sasha Volokh is a visiting professor this year. The talk was a thought-provoking exploration of Prof. Volokh’s Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope. It’s well worth a read.

Exactly how, skeptics ask,would one step today lead to another, quite different step later? Why shouldn’t voters, legislators, and judges have the confidence to consider each proposal on its own merits? To accept a slippery slope argument, detractors claim, is to say that “we ought not to make a sound decision today, for fear of having to draw a sound distinction tomorrow.” It turns out, though, that the realities of the political and judicial processes can make the slippery slope—or, more precisely, several di≠erent kinds of mechanisms lurking behind the label “slippery slope”—a real concern.

Justice Tim Taft Stepping Down from 1st Court of Appeals

According to Texas Lawyer, Justice Tim Taft, who has served on the Texas 1st Court of Appeals in Houston for 14 years will retire from the bench on April 30. Among other things Justice Taft is known to anyone involved in the advocacy programs at University of Houston Law Center as being very generous with his time in judging moot court competitions. Among his reasons for stepping down, Taft says “I’m going to be a visiting grandparent rather than a visiting judge.”

Texas Lawyer, Justice hanging up robe, will make more money retired

Upcoming Conference: The Free Market Mindset: History, Psychology, and Consequences

Harvard Law is hosting their Third Conference on Law and Mind Sciences on March 7, 2009, with a very interesting topic: “The Free Market Mindset: History, Psychology, and Consequences.” It’s hard not to feel that Milton Friedman has done his work well and in some significant way we are free marketers in the same way that ‘we are all textualists now’.

At this year’s conference, leading social scientists and legal scholars will present and discuss their research regarding the historical origins, psychological antecedents, and policy consequences of the free market ideology that has dominated legal discourse and lawmaking the last few decades.

My only qualm is that it refers to “THE free market ideology” rather than the many variations of free market thought that should be accounted for such a discussion. Strawmen beware.

Some of the 2009 Conference Materials may provide a glimpse of what to expect.

Video from past conferences are available on the ever-stimulating Situationist Blog

Cognition, Law, Stories

Lorie Graham and Stephen McJohn’s Cognition, Law, Stories unpacks the linguistic concepts of Steven Pinker’s Stuff of Thought into a legal context. Or at least it begins to. Although they recognize – “Cognitive science will play an increasing role in the law, from litigation to refinement of doctrine to legal theory to legal education” – it leaves it the application a rather open question. Hopefully others will take them up on it.

For instance:

People do readily use complex concepts as fluidly as simple ones. But that arises through “chunking.” Once someone has learned a more complex concept, it can be treated as a single chunk, and readily used. We use “buy” as easily as “give” because it has become a single, chunked concept. Here, as throughout the book, the discussion of cognition lends itself quickly to law. Law school, in large part, consists of assembling chunked concepts. A tort, like battery, is composed of several elements, each of which breaks down into sub-elements. After enough practice, students and lawyers use “battery” as fluidly as “give.”

Consciousness of chunking would seem necessary whether you’re practicing in a courtroom, boardroom or classroom. Natural communicators recognize the elements necessary to convey understanding and build with these intuitively. For others, their existing understanding of complex concepts might block their ability to perceive potential confusion or fall back on clumsy analogies that are simplistic rather than simple.

The paper is being published in the upcoming issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.

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