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

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Richard A. Posner, The New Republic, Modesty and Power

Classic Posner:

And how realistic is Hamburger’s picture of the deferential judge? He acknowledges that his history is one of judicial “ideals” rather than of judicial actualities, but the neglect of actualities weakens his case. He gives too little weight to the fact that judges (most of them, anyway) talk a deferential game even when they are playing a discretionary one.

For the less secure a judge’s authority–and judicial authority was far less secure then than it is in the United States today–the greater his need to represent himself as merely an oracle of the law. He does not decide cases; it is the law, speaking through him, that decides them. Rather than being a “decider,” he is merely a “discerner.” To criticize a judicial decision is to criticize the law itself.

The idea that law, whether in the thirteenth century or the twenty-first century, is a body of principles and rules that cover the entire landscape of potential legal disputes, so that the judge has only to find the principle or rule that governs the disputes that he is called upon to adjudicate, is (and probably always has been) either a ridiculous pretense or a rhetorical flourish.

Richard A. Posner, The New Republic, Modesty and Power Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Felten, Freedom to Tinker, Predicts Challenges to Discriminatory Algorithms in Admissions

Ed Felten has 39 predictions for 2009 up on the Freedom to Tinker blog. This one in particular caught my eye.

(12) An affirmative action lawsuit will be filed against a university, challenging the use of a software algorithm used in evaluating applicants.

Computer algorithms would seem to be the purest form of meritocracy. Of course computers don’t discriminate, people discriminate. Where there’s a program, there’s a programmer. It’s an astute observation I think. Time will tell.

Freedom to Tinker: Predictions for 2009

U.S. News Plans Part-Time Law Program Rankings for April

Robert Morse reports on the new features of the 2009 U.S. News Law School rankings, Finishing Up the New Grad School Rankings

We also plan to publish our first-ever ranking of part-time J.D. law programs. This new ranking will evaluate the approximately 87 American Bar Association fully accredited law schools that offer a part-time law program. U.S. News has defined a part-time J.D. program as a law school that has a separate admission process for part-time law students and specific part-time J.D. program curriculum offerings.

Mark Lanier on Torts


Mark Lanier on Torts (RealPlayer required)

Mark Lanier is a true communicator and his presentation to a Harvard Law School class is an indication of his appeal with juries. Mark somehow manages to combine a lot of seemingly contradictory attributes. Mark has that sense of self that exudes from so many of the top trial lawyers, but
retains a certain charm that many lack, or lose somehow.

Read the rest of this entry »

Harris County Creates Felony Mental Health Court

Harris County is seeking to expand its treatment of the mentally ill accused of crimes by turning Judge Jan Krocker’s 184th District Court into a specialized mental health court:

Harris County’s criminal district judges voted Wednesday to devote Krocker’s court, the 184th, to felony cases of defendants diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

It makes so much sense for so many reasons it’s hard to figure out why it’s taken this long. The probation numbers are particularly compelling:

In 2006 and 2007, the county studied whether mentally ill people on probation who were assigned to the two courts avoided getting into trouble and returning to jail. Most of these people were in the New START program, and 4 percent had their probation revoked, Ellis said. During the same period, 30 percent of the mentally ill not in the program had their probation revoked.

It’s a step in the right direction at least. The subtext is of course that many of the folks who are landing in the new mental health court have been falling through the cracks for years.

Houston Chronicle: Judge hopes mental health court will cut repeat arrests (archived)

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