Saturday, January 20, 2018

Weekend Roundup

  • "On Sunday, Jan. 21 at 4:30 p.m., Greenwich Library partners with the Yale Alumni Association of Greenwich to bring Yale Professor Rohit De to Greenwich Library. De will discuss India’s Living Constitution. The event will be held in the Library’s Cole Auditorium.”  H/t: Greenwich Sentinel.  
  • The Historical Society of the DC Circuit has announced the opening, twenty years after his death, of its oral history of Charles R. Richey (1923-1997), a Nixon appointee, in 1971, to the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  The Association of Trial Lawyers of America named him Outstanding Federal Trial Judge in 1979.  According to the Historical Society website, “Poverty shaped him....  His parents were so poor that the best they could afford for Christmas was a used basketball. In his first year at Case Western Reserve Law School, he worked five jobs, including at a funeral home, to make ends meet. He only took courses whose books he could afford.”  Judge Richey's oral history is available here.
  • Michael Stolleis has posted an appreciation of Marie Theres Fögen, a Romanist and Byzantine legal historian who edited Rechtshistorisches Journal and directed the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History.
  • Over at Concurring Opinions, Ronald K. L. Collins devotes one of his First Amendment News posts to legal history, including Leonard Levy, Murray Gurfein, and Gilbert Roe.
  • C-SPAN will air two panels sponsored by the National History Center at the recently concludied annual meet of the American Historical Association, “History and Public Policy Centers” and “Documenting the History of the First Federal Congress.”  Check here for listings.
  • Stanford Law turns 125 this year.  Here's news of the celebration.
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Malveaux on the Civil Rights Roots of the Modern Class Action Rule

Suzette M. Malveaux, Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, has posted The Modern Class Action Rule: Its Civil Rights Roots and Relevance Today, which appears in the Kansas Law Review 66 (2017): 325-396:
The modern class action rule recently turned fifty years old — a golden anniversary. However, this milestone is marred by an increase in hate crimes, violence and discrimination. Ironically, the rule is marking its anniversary within a similarly tumultuous environment as its birth — the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. This irony calls into question whether this critical aggregation device is functioning as the drafters intended. This article makes three contributions.

First, the article unearths the rule’s rich history, revealing how the rule was designed in 1966 to enable structural reform and broad injunctive relief in civil rights cases. The article tells the story of how the drafters were united in creating a rule that would enable litigants to respond effectively to the fierce resistance to desegregation following the seminal Brown v. Board of Education decision. They deliberately crafted a rule to address desegregation obstructionism.

Second, the article examines the seminal role the modern class action rule has played in the private enforcement of statutory and Constitutional civil rights. The article analyzes Supreme Court jurisprudence interpreting Rule 23(b)(2) over the course of the last fifty years, identifying three primary periods in which the pendulum has swung: from a heyday of liberal class certification for broad injunctive relief for newly created rights; to a heightened critique and retraction of class certification; to a complex gauntlet of contemporary barriers.

Finally, the article critiques modern class action jurisprudence and concludes that it fails to sufficiently fulfill the drafters’ intent of creating an efficient and just procedural mechanism for challenging systemic inequality. The article urges a contemporary judicial interpretation that honors Rule 23(b)(2)’s strong civil rights mission.
H/t: Legal Theory Blog

Lee on the "Natural Born Citizen"

Thomas H. Lee, Fordham University School of Law, has posted Natural Born Citizen, which appears in the American University Law Review 67 (2017): 327-411:
Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that a person must be a "natural born Citizen " to be eligible to be President. This Article surveys relevant evidence and explains what the phrase likely meant when the Constitution was adopted between 1787 and 1789. The phrase at the time encompassed three categories of persons: (1) persons born within the United States; (2) persons born outside of the United States to U.S. citizens in government service; and (3) persons born outside of the United States to U.S. citizen fathers who had resided in the United States but went abroad temporarily for a private purpose, like merchants who traveled on business. This definition corresponded with contemporaneous English law understandings of "natural born subjects," the natural law birthright principles of jus soli (the law of soil) and jus sanguinis (the law of blood or parentage), and the law of nations-the key jurisprudential sources consulted by Americans on matters of citizenship in the late eighteenth-century world order. This novel interpretation of the original meaning of "natural born Citizen" departs from the conventional wisdom that the phrase refers to a person who is a citizen under the U.S. naturalization statutes in effect at the person's birth, a view recently espoused by two former Solicitors General of the United States, Paul Clement and Neal Katyal. My interpretation also differs from the leading alternative view of the original meaning of the phrase, namely that it refers to persons born in the United States or outside of the United States to U.S. officials only. A brief conclusion explores the implications of the recovered original meaning of "natural born Citizen "for presidential eligibility today.
Here’s Professor Lee’s chattier version, in the discursive style of Facebook:
It's taken me a couple of years, but it's finally done and published. Everything you ever wanted to know about why the US Constitution requires a “natural born Citizen” to be President. It starts with a monumental 14th century English statute with a Latin love-song title--“De Natis Ultra Mare”; John Jay's July 25,1787 letter to George Washington; Alex Hamilton's August 10, 1787 motion at the Constitutional Convention which Jimmy Madison vigorously seconded; a 1784 Maryland statute making the Marquis de Lafayette “and his male heirs forever” starting with George Washington Lafayette natural born citizens; the 1790 Naturalization Act--it's all in there, and more. There are convention debates about why we want immigrants, why we don't, foreign influence on the selection of the US President, and what it all means today. If you want to skip the first 85 pages, here is the last sentence: “Words, after all, are only as perfect as their creators, and so is our written Constitution.”

An Essay Collection on "Florida's Other Courts"

The University Press of Florida has published Florida's Other Courts: Unconventional Justice in the Sunshine State, edited by Robert M. Jarvis, professor of law at Nova Southeastern University.
Pushing past the conventional understanding of federal and state courts and the judicial system, this volume examines eight little-known Florida courts. Part 1 details general jurisdiction courts from 1513 to 1865 while part 2 profiles modern-era special jurisdiction courts.  
Beginning with the state's colonial history, Florida's Other Courts challenges narratives that paint Spain's administration of its New World holdings as corrupt, inefficient, and tyrannical, using research into archival records scattered across Spain, Cuba, and other New World sites. Contributors to the volume also demonstrate how British authorities later molded the courts after their own justice system, introducing grand juries, jury trials, and the positions of chief justice and attorney general. Examining the changes instituted under General Andrew Jackson while Florida was a U.S. territory reveals a shift toward American sensibilities, though progress was slowed by clashes with Congress over funding and questions regarding the limits of self-rule. Under the Confederate Constitution, after the state seceded, the courts were in disarray and military commanders would even ignore court orders.

Today, Florida is still home to alternative forms of tribunals. Military courts have played an important role in the state's criminal justice system, but significant differences--from terminology to the role of the jury--exist between these courts and their civilian counterparts. Religious courts are also plentiful in the state, including Baptist, Jewish, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic courts, which provide adherents with a forum for resolving business and marital disputes.

In a state that is so culturally diverse, mainstream courts often fail specific subgroups, especially racial minorities, leaving them no choice but to create their own dispute resolution processes. From 1950 to 1963, Miami was home to the Negro Municipal Court, which remains America's only all-black court. The Miccosukee and Seminole Indian tribes also have established their own judicial systems. While the Miccosukee court relies heavily on customary law and is closed to outsiders, the Seminole court has been designed to resemble the state courts, with trial and appellate judges, a court clerk, and a bar association.

Featuring extensive notes and an index of court cases, this volume offers a new and compelling look at the development of justice in Florida.
TOC after the jump.

Professor of Legal History (Zurich)

[We have the following announcement.]

The University of Zurich invites applications for the position of Professor in Legal History (Succession Prof. Marcel Senn) starting  fall term 2019 (1 August 2019).

The holder of the professorship will represent the academic discipline of Legal History (broadly conceived). The successful candidate will contribute to the delivery of high quality teaching on undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, and to engage in world-leading and internationally recognised research. A published research record of international distinction within the field of legal history is required. This will be demonstrated by an outstanding doctoral thesis and a habilitation thesis or equivalent research publications. Ideally, the research focus should be on early modern and/or modern European Legal History, with possible topics including Swiss, comparative or global legal history. Scholarly experience in a doctrinal legal discipline is not strictly required but highly appreciated. For applicants without a background in Swiss Law, a willingness to become familiar with it is expected.

The successful candidate will be expected to be an active contributor to the wider academic community through journal editorships, appointments to research councils and other public bodies, leadership of professional organisations, and fostering links with institutions beyond higher education.  Depending on the candidate’s qualification aa full or extraordinary professorship could be awarded. For candidates who are still engaged in a habilitation project, an appointment as assistant professor with tenure track cis an option. the University of Zurich explicitly invites duly qualified junior researchers to submit their application.

As the University of Zurich aims to increase the percentage of women working in teaching and research positions, duly qualified women are encouraged to apply. Applicants whose native language is not German must be willing to familiarize themselves with the German language.

Applications should include a CV, a list of publications and presentations as well as a teaching portfolio  to be sent by regular mail to the following address: University of Zurich, Faculty of Law, Dean's Office, Rämistrasse 74/2, CH-8001 Zurich

The closing date for applications is March 14th, 2018. Submission of publications and research papers may be requested at a later stage.

For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Andreas Thier (

Details regarding the job requirements are available [here].

CFP: Monarchy and Modernity, 1500-1945

[We have the following Call. Deadline: 15 June 2018]
Image result for victoria portrait



University of Cambridge
8-9 January, 2019

Europe’s past is overwhelmingly monarchical, yet the monarchies that remained in place at the end of the Second World War hardly resembled those that governed Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. Modernity transformed monarchy from a matter of fact into one of opinion, and enabled moving from a world where everything was sacred to one where all was profane. If words, then, remained the same – along with many of the families, their properties and places of residence – their meaning changed profoundly overtime and across countries. This is so much so that, along the centuries, European monarchy as an institution seems unrecognisable to any attentive observer. Even so, the present academic literature seldom measures the distance between monarchy’s various historical meanings and manifestations.

Read more after the jump.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Taft, Hughes and the Travails of Progressivism: An ICH Seminar

[Not to belabor the point, but the deadline for registering for this seminar, to be led by Your Humble Blogger and Jonathan Lurie, is this Saturday, January 20.  Last chance!]

The Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce another seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty, “William Howard Taft and Charles Evans Hughes; the Travails and Contradictions of Progressivism within the Law: 1908-1941.”
Between them, Taft and Hughes served as Governor (H),
Governor General (T); Circuit Court Judge (T), Secretary of War (T), President (T), Supreme Court Justice (H), Nominee for the Presidency (H), Secretary of State (H), Chief Justice (T), Chief Justice (H), and this list is not complete.  It indicates, however, the impressive scope of their accomplishments.  In 1916, Taft had called himself a "progressive Conservative," while in 1935, the Taft's biographer noted of his successor that as Chief Justice, Hughes had "ruled against capital, against labor, against the farmer and for the farmer, against Congress and for Congress, against the president and for him."  Hughes' biographer described him as "an old fashioned progressive."  Alpheus Thomas Mason wrote that "Hughes's mind was singularly devoid of ideological content or commitment."  How had progressivism been transformed during their careers?  To what extent were both jurists "independent of rigid ideology?"  This seminar seeks to explore these questions through books, articles, and discussion.

Bessler's "Celebrated Marquis"

John D. Bessler’s new book, The Celebrated Marquis: An Italian Noble and the Making of the Modern World (Carolina Academic Press), is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
During the Enlightenment, a now little-known Italian marquis, while in his mid-twenties as a member of a small Milanese salon, the Academy of Fists, wrote a book that was destined to change the world. Published anonymously in 1764 as Dei delitti e delle pene, and quickly translated into French and then into English as On Crimes and Punishments, the runaway bestseller argued against torture, capital punishment, and religious intolerance. Written by Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), an economist and recent law graduate of the University of Pavia, On Crimes and Punishments sought clear and egalitarian laws, better public education, and milder punishments. Translated into all of the major European languages, Beccaria’s book led to the end of the Ancien Régime
Praised by Voltaire and the French philosophes, Beccaria was toasted in Paris in 1766 for his literary achievement, and his book—though banned by the Inquisition and placed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books—was lauded by monarchs and revolutionaries alike. Among its admirers were the French Encyclopédistes; Prussia’s Frederick the Great; Russia’s enlightened czarina, Catherine II; members of the Habsburg dynasty; the English jurist Sir William Blackstone; the utilitarian penal reformer Jeremy Bentham; and American revolutionaries John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. On Crimes and Punishments, decrying tyranny and arbitrariness and advocating for equality of treatment under the law, helped to catalyze the American and French Revolutions. In 1774, on the cusp of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress explicitly hailed Beccaria as “the celebrated marquis.” 
Called the “Italian Adam Smith” for his pioneering work as an economist in Milan, Cesare Beccaria—like his Italian mentor, Pietro Verri—wrote about pleasure and pain, economic theory, and maximizing people’s happiness. Once a household name throughout Europe and the Americas, Beccaria taught economics before the appearance of Smith’s The Wealth of Nations but died in obscurity after working for decades as a civil servant in Austria’s Habsburg Empire. As a public councilor, Beccaria pushed for social and economic justice, monetary and legal reform, conservation of natural resources, and even inspired France’s adoption of the metric system. In The Celebrated Marquis, award-winning author John Bessler tells the story of the history of economics and of how Beccaria’s ideas shaped the American Declaration of Independence, constitutions and laws around the globe, and the modern world in which we live.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ernst on the Campaign for a Federal Legal Service

With so many of the preconditions of liberal democracy in the United States under attack from the Trump Administration and its enablers, I was moved to consider what my ongoing research into New Deal lawyers might say about one institutional defender of the rule of law, the American legal profession.  The light I can shed falls mainly on lawyers in the federal government.  Like all professionals, they risk having their assertions of authority dismissed as the self-serving claims of a narrow elite.  Because they work within the state, they are also likely to be accused of harboring partisan motives or advancing a political ideology at odds with the will of the people. 

In an article published on-line today in the American Journal of Legal History, I tell what happened when New Dealers attempted to make their own notion of professional merit the principle for hiring and promotion in a “federal legal service.”  Spoiler alert: They failed, which is why you probably never heard of the episode (unless you encountered it on two pages of Jerold Auerbach’s Unequal Justice).  Because the politics of the late New Deal and World War II are not the politics of today, analogizing from the New Dealers’ campaign to our present predicament is not straightforward.  That said, I has a few implications for today’s defenders of the professional authority of government lawyers.  First, they ought to mobilize the legal profession as a whole by giving its members a stake in the process.  Second, their notion of professional merit should be flexible enough to accommodate the variety of tasks government lawyers perform.  Third, a strategy that requires the affirmative support of Congress presents obstacles more easily circumvented by proceeding agency by agency, within what Willard Hurst once called the executive “prerogative.”

The article is “In a Democracy We Should Distribute the Lawyers”: The Campaign for a Federal Legal Service, 1933-1945.  Here is the abstract:
Felix Frankfurter (LC)
To build its many unprecedented bureaucracies, the American New Deal heavily relied upon recent graduates of elite law schools, in a break with prior practice and to the increasing annoyance of congressmen and senators. To head off an attempt to entrust the selection of government lawyers to the Civil Service Commission, in January 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a committee, chaired by Stanley Reed and including two other Supreme Court Justices, Felix Frankfurter and Frank Murphy, to study the question. In April 1941, he accepted the recommendation of the lawyers on the “Reed Committee” and created the Board of Legal Examiners, headed by Solicitor General Francis Biddle (soon replaced by Charles Fahy) and managed during its first, crucial year by Herbert Wechsler, who was on leave from the Columbia Law School. As conceived especially by Frankfurter, the Board’s mission was to create an American counterpart to the British Civil Service, in which lawyers advanced to increasingly important posts throughout the executive branch. Although wartime conditions hampered the Board, it administered a national exam that provided greater access to government jobs than had the New Deal’s version of an “old boys network,” which drew heavily upon the law faculties of Harvard, Columbia, and Yale. Congressional hostility persisted, however, and was joined by the opposition of a powerful veterans’ lobby. The Board’s response to this pressure is instructive for a time when government lawyers and other professionals are being denounced as members of an anti-democratic Deep State.

CFP on Ottoman Law

[We were interpreted to see the following posting on H-Turk from Amir Toft, Research Scholar in Law and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at the Yale Law School.]

Dear Ottomanist Colleagues,

I would like to put together a panel on Ottoman law for one or more of the 2018 conferences listed [here.]. Depending on interest and feasibility, we can decide to submit versions to each one to fit the thematic or disciplinary focus. I will not say here exactly what I would like this panel to look like because that depends on the panel's composition. I will just mention my and a few possible thematic lines along which to run.

My research is generally interested in understanding how classical Islamic jurisprudence was received by Ottoman jurists and expressed through Ottoman legal institutions—in other words, how the law turns into legal system. My dissertation focuses on homicide in post-Süleymanic Istanbul. I look at court registers (and other archival material) but aso heavily at works of substantive and procedural Islamic law written by Ottoman (or Ottoman-era) jurists. Much of what I study, then, is less how Ottoman jurists practiced law so much as as what they said about their practice of law.

Possible themes for a panel include: 1) Ottoman criminal law; 2) Ottoman treatises on judicial practice, political sovereignty, and other legal matters; 3) comparative judicial practice between capital and provinces, between cities, between city and country, etc.; 4) state-employed versus state-independent jurists.

If you have something to present and are interested in putting a panel together, please write me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Amir Toft

2018 LSI Annual Graduate Student Paper Competition

[We have the following announcement. Deadline: March 1, 2018]

Image result for "Law and social inquiry"The editors of Law & Social Inquiry are pleased to announce our annual competition for the best journal-length paper in the field of law and social science written by a graduate or law student. Law & Social Inquiry publishes empirical and theoretical studies of sociolegal processes from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Entries will be accepted starting January 1, 2018 and must be received by March 1, 2018.

LSI invites direct submissions from graduate and law students and nominations of student work from faculty. The author must be a graduate student or law student at the time the paper was written and when submitted. Faculty nominations should include a short description along with the paper and contact details for the student. Submissions will be evaluated by our editors.  The winning submission will be sent to selected scholars for advisory reviews to aid with revisions prior to publication. All submissions (direct and faculty nominated) are weighted equally in the competition. The winning paper will be published in Law & Social Inquiry and the author(s) will receive a total cash prize of $500 (US).

Please send your article as a Microsoft Word document or PDF to  Please indicate that (1) you intend to be considered in the competition, (2) you are currently a graduate student, and (3) you have not submitted your article to other journals for publication. Submission is limited to one paper per student; articles may not be altered or resubmitted with corrections once they have been received by our office.

Submissions must include a title page with a mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number. The second page should include a 100-150 word abstract. Beginning on the third page, all pages should be paginated.  Text, footnotes, endnotes, and references should be double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point font and have 1” margins on all sides with no headers or footers.  Submissions must not exceed 15,000 words, including references and footnotes.

Questions regarding the competition can be directed to Willa Sachs: 988-6517. 

Finkelman's "Supreme Injustice"

Paul Finkelman, the new President of Gratz College, has published Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court, with the Harvard University Press:
The three most important Supreme Court Justices before the Civil War—Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger B. Taney and Associate Justice Joseph Story—upheld the institution of slavery in ruling after ruling. These opinions cast a shadow over the Court and the legacies of these men, but historians have rarely delved deeply into the personal and political ideas and motivations they held. In Supreme Injustice, the distinguished legal historian Paul Finkelman establishes an authoritative account of each justice’s proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to black freedom, and the incentives created by circumstances in his private life.

Finkelman uses census data and other sources to reveal that Justice Marshall aggressively bought and sold slaves throughout his lifetime—a fact that biographers have ignored. Justice Story never owned slaves and condemned slavery while riding circuit, and yet on the high court he remained silent on slave trade cases and ruled against blacks who sued for freedom. Although Justice Taney freed many of his own slaves, he zealously and consistently opposed black freedom, arguing in Dred Scott that free blacks had no Constitutional rights and that slave owners could move slaves into the Western territories. Finkelman situates this infamous holding within a solid record of support for slavery and hostility to free blacks.

Supreme Injustice boldly documents the entanglements that alienated three major justices from America’s founding ideals and embedded racism ever deeper in American civic life.
Here are two endorsements:

    “Paul Finkelman is by any account one of our leading historians of American slavery and the law. His incontrovertible and startling findings about the involvement of Justice Marshall in slave owning and selling, and Justice Story’s pro-slavery decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, are essential reading for anyone interested in American constitutional development in the antebellum era and its enduring influence on American law and society.”—Sanford Levinson, author of An Argument Open to All: Reading ‘The Federalist’ in the 21st Century

    “Scholarly, hard-hitting and relevant. Finkelman’s book is a must-read for those who seek to understand the permeating influence of slavery in the development of antebellum law.”—R. Kent Newmyer, author of The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr: Law, Politics, and the Character Wars of the New Nation

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

White, "Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean"

New from Stanford University Press: Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Nov. 2017), by Joshua M. White (University of Virginia). A description from the Press:
The 1570s marked the beginning of an age of pervasive piracy in the Mediterranean that persisted into the eighteenth century. Nowhere was more inviting to pirates than the Ottoman-dominated eastern Mediterranean. In this bustling maritime ecosystem, weak imperial defenses and permissive politics made piracy possible, while robust trade made it profitable. By 1700, the limits of the Ottoman Mediterranean were defined not by Ottoman territorial sovereignty or naval supremacy, but by the reach of imperial law, which had been indelibly shaped by the challenge of piracy.

Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean is the first book to examine Mediterranean piracy from the Ottoman perspective, focusing on the administrators and diplomats, jurists and victims who had to contend most with maritime violence. Pirates churned up a sea of paper in their wake: letters, petitions, court documents, legal opinions, ambassadorial reports, travel accounts, captivity narratives, and vast numbers of decrees attest to their impact on lives and livelihoods. Joshua M. White plumbs the depths of these uncharted, frequently uncatalogued waters, revealing how piracy shaped both the Ottoman legal space and the contours of the Mediterranean world.
A few blurbs:
"Through his exhaustive examination of the Ottoman legal strategies to confront violence at sea, Joshua White gives us the first cogent definition of the Ottoman Mediterranean in the early modern period. Moreover, he shows how these legal norms were disseminated and adopted by a wide range of actors, both European and Ottoman. White has put the early modern Ottoman Mediterranean on the map." —Molly Greene 
"Joshua White offers an elegant and sophisticated discussion of the Ottoman laws on piracy and tells a vivid story of swashbuckling in the early modern Mediterranean. Providing what has been, until now, a huge missing piece in the history of piracy, this book will engage and excite readers with interests in piracy, the development of the early modern state, and the formation of international law." —Judith E. Tucker
More information is available here.

Balancing feedback

One of the greatest blessings I’ve had in my journey to book publication is the feedback I’ve received along the way.  While feedback from others is invaluable to the scholarly process, it can also present some challenges on how to proceed when readers don’t agree.  Today’s post will attempt to offer some advice, or at least share some experiences, related to incorporating others’ suggestions for your work.

As someone who suffers regularly from imposter syndrome, I continue to ask for feedback on nearly everything I write.  I have benefitted enormously from the generosity of mentors, peers, and senior scholars who have offered suggestions for improving my work.  Writing my book’s acknowledgments section was a highlight of the publication process for me, and it ended up being pretty lengthy (and I’m still sure I missed somebody!).  But sometimes, receiving lots of feedback can present its own challenges.

Graduate students often face this dilemma when committee members disagree.  Sometimes the disagreements are loud and unpleasant.  Sometimes the student gets caught in the middle of personal feuds or professional differences.  Luckily for me, my committee members never reached this level of disagreement, though they did not always see eye-to-eye on how I should write my dissertation.  At a couple of moments during the writing and revision process, sets of comments from my different committee members even directly contradicted each other—i.e. “needs more historiography”, “historiography should be relegated to the footnotes”.  At my dissertation defense, I did my best to use these varying perspectives to my advantage by allowing the committee to debate some of their differing suggestions. 

Someone once told me that the best dissertation defenses involved the committee talking more about the future direction of the work than the student. If that’s the case (and in my experience at my own and subsequent defenses, it is), my defense was top notch.  At the time, I thought this was great because it got me off the hook. I scribbled furiously to capture as much of their combined wisdom as possible and had to say relatively little.  But this was more than an avoidance technique; I soaked in the feedback as much as possible, hoping to get a sense of how scholars from varying perspectives might respond to my work.  Bringing together a strong, diverse committee of interests helps your work speak to wider audiences. 

I followed my Ph.D. graduation with a memorable year in Madison as the Law and Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s law school.  My postdoc kicked off with the J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute, a gathering of junior scholars who spend a week reading and discussing various works of legal history together.  The group then uses a second week to read and comment on each other’s article-length writing samples (I highly recommend the Hurst Institute to any junior scholars who might be reading this!).  That week, I collected a giant binder full of feedback from my fellow “Hursties” and our fearless leader Barbara Welke. 

Shortly after the Hurst Institute, the supervisor for my postdoc, Howard Erlanger, convened a meeting with several Wisconsin history and law faculty who generously read and commented on my entire dissertation.  Once again, I soaked in lots of excellent advice, rushing to get it all down (thanks again to these excellent readers!).  The meeting felt a bit like a second dissertation defense—in a good way.  I learned so much from the broad perspectives represented. 

During my year in Madison, I followed the advice of my Duke mentors.  They recommended I spend the year reading broadly, working on broader conceptual issues, and digging into some of the new research I added to the book.  [side note: this advice might have been different if I did not already have a job at Auburn lined up after my postdoc!] I sat in on a graduate course in the African Diaspora, and I plowed through reading lists on various topics (legal culture, the history of the jury, etc.) with an assistant professor working on similar conceptual issues.  I also completed significant additional research in appellate freedom suit opinions.  At the end of the year, I drafted an article that I submitted to the Journal of Southern History and awaited the first anonymous responses to my research. 

If by this point, my experience with feedback sounds typical, the readers’ reports from the JSH are definitely not the norm.  Six months of waiting to hear news of my article resulted in six readers’ reports.  Sorting through comments like “this is a good but not great article” left me humbled but determined to guide the article to publication.  Digesting so many different sets of written comments left me with patches of hair missing as I struggled to make contradictory suggestions somehow line up. Some reviewers wanted additional detail about the statutes and particular legal forms of the freedom suits, while other comments suggested that I should streamline this information or cut it. All of the readers wanted additional historiographical context, but they varied in terms of what historiographies I should primarily address.

It would never have occurred to me at that stage to call the editor of the Journal. While I cannot remember who suggested that I do that, I can strongly advise anyone in a similar situation to ask for this type of conversation.  Sometimes when dealing with multiple sets of (contradictory) comments, the best thing to do is to try to bring in someone from the outside.  Whether the person is from the publishing side or a trusted colleague, mentor, or senior scholar, an outside perspective can really help you make sense of things.  More on this after the jump…

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rare Book School: Law Books: History & Connoisseurship

[Via H-Law, we have the following announcement from Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian & Lecturer in Legal Research, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.]

Rare Book School is now accepting applications for "Law Books: History & Connoisseurship," a week-long, intensive course that will be offered June 10-15, 2018, at the Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut.

This year marks my sixth time teaching the course, and the first time that I will be most ably assisted by Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Law Library.

This intensive, week-long course is about building focused, interesting, and useful collections of historical materials in Anglo-American, European, and Latin American law. It is aimed at individuals and librarians who collect historical legal materials, and the book dealers who supply them. Lively discussion and extensive hands-on activities are hallmarks of the course. A full description, preliminary reading list, and past student evaluations are available [here].

Details on applying for admission to the course are at The application deadline for first-round decisions is February 19. Applications received after this date will be considered on a rolling basis. Enrollment is strictly limited to 12 students.

I can answer questions about the content of the course. All questions about applications, admissions, tuition, and housing should be directed to the Rare Book School staff, at

Swanson on the Corset

Kara Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law has posted on SSRN "The Corset," her forthcoming contribution to A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects, edited by Dan Hunter and Claudy Op Den Camp and coming out with Cambridge University Press. Here is the abstract: 
Corset Sylphide (1899) (NYPL)
Two centuries ago, women and girls throughout the United States reached for one piece of technology first thing in the morning, and kept it with them all day long -- the corset. Although earlier men had worn corsets, the corset’s purpose by the mid-nineteenth century was to create the public shape of the female body. It emphasized (or depending on the whims of fashion, deemphasized), bust, waist, and hips in ways intended to accentuate differences between male and female. Today, the corset still fascinates, an emblem of femininity that appears on fashion runways, the concert stage (famously worn by pop star Madonna), and in blockbuster movies (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Gone with the Wind). Less visible are the ways the corset as an object of intellectual property has exposed the masculine assumptions in our understanding of technology, patents, and law.
For more on corsets, don't miss Ruth Goodman's How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-dusk Guide to Victorian Life and anything on Frida Kahlo's painted corsets.

H/t: The Faculty Lounge (on the book)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weekend Roundup

  • Patti Minter, history professor and former faculty regent on the Western Kentucky University Board of Regents [and ASLH stalwart!], said she plans to file to run for State Representative for the 20th House District of Kentucky, a position previously held by Rep. Jody Richards (D).”   H/t: College Heights Herald, here and here.
  • "On January 13, 2018, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will officially close the 'Images of Internment' exhibit with a 4:00 p.m. reception and auction event."  More
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, January 12, 2018

International Journal of Law and Public Administration

[We have the following call for submissions.]

International Journal of Law and Public Administration is a new journal on the subjects of International law, Constitutional and administrative law, Criminal law, Contract law,Tort law, Property law, Equity and trusts, Public administration, Public policy, Public management, et al.

We are recruiting reviewers for the journal. If you are interested in this position of reviewing submissions, we welcome you to apply for. Please find further details [here.]

We are also calling for the submission of papers. Please see the journal’s profile here and submit your manuscripts online. If you have any questions, please contact the editorial assistant at

We would appreciate it if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates.

CFP: Eleventh International Junior Faculty Forum

[We have the following call for papers.]

Sponsored by Stanford Law School, the International Junior Faculty Forum (IJFF) was established to stimulate the exchange of ideas and research among younger legal scholars from around the world. We live today in a global community– in particular, a global legal community. The IJFF is designed to foster transnational legal scholarship that surmounts barriers of time, space, legal traditions and cultures, and to create an engaged global community of scholars. The Eleventh IJFF will be held at Stanford Law School in fall 2018 (the exact date has not yet been fixed).

In order to be considered for the 2018 International Junior Faculty Forum, authors must meet the following criteria:
  • Citizen of a country other than the United States
  • Current academic institution is outside of the United States
  • Not currently a student in the United States
  • Have held a faculty position or the equivalent, including positions comparable to junior faculty positions in research institutions, for less than seven years as of 2018; and
  • Last degree earned less than ten years before 2018
Papers may be on any legally relevant subject and can make use of any relevant approach: they can be quantitative or qualitative, sociological, anthropological, historical, or economic. The host institution is committed to intellectual, methodological, and regional diversity, and welcomes papers from junior scholars from all parts of the world. Please note, however, that already published papers are not eligible for consideration. We particularly welcome work that is interdisciplinary.

Those who would like to participate in the IJFF must first submit an abstract of the proposed paper. Abstracts should be no more than two (2) pages long and must be in English. The abstract should provide a roadmap of your paper—it should tell us what you plan to do, lay out the major argument of the paper, say something about the methodology, and indicate the paper’s contribution to scholarship. The due date for abstracts is Friday, February 23, 2018, although earlier submissions are welcome. Please submit the abstract electronically to with the subject line, International Junior Faculty Forum. The abstract should contain the author’s name, home institution, and the title of the proposed paper. Please also send a current CV.

After the abstracts have been reviewed, we will invite, no later than end of March 2018, a number of junior scholars to submit full papers of no more than 15,000 words, electronically, in English, by mid-May 2018. Please include a word count for final papers. There is no fixed number of papers to be invited, but in the past years up to 50 invitations have been issued from among a much larger number of abstracts.

An international committee of legal scholars will review the papers and select approximately ten papers for full presentation at the conference, where two senior scholars will comment on each paper. After the remarks of the commentators, all of the participants, junior and senior alike, will have a chance to join in the discussion. One of the most valuable—and enjoyable—aspects of the Forum, in the opinion of many participants, has been the chance to meet junior and senior scholars, and to talk about your work and theirs.

Stanford will cover expenses of travel, including airfare, lodging, and food, for each participant. Questions should be directed to

Professor Lawrence M. Friedman, Stanford Law School

OAH Process blog explores legal history

Process, the blog of the Organization of American Historians, is running a series of posts on legal history. The posts so far --

Gregory Ablavsky (Stanford Law School) on "History, Power, and Federal Indian Law"

Alisha J. Hines (Duke University) on "The Entitlements of Freedom: A Mother's Pursuit of Mastery in the Antebellum South."

Gabriel Loiacono (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh) on "Using Poor Laws to Regulate Race in Providence in the 1820s."

Stay tuned for more . . . It looks like Katrina Jagodinsky (University of Nebraska) is up next!

Macalister-Smith and Schwietzke on Diplomatic Conferences & Congresses

Image result for macalister-smith schwietzke diplomatic

Peter Macalister-Smith, Assistant General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Public
 International Law, and Joachim Schwietzke, Library Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Heidelberg) have published Diplomatic Conferences and Congresses
A Bibliographical Compendium of State Practice 1642 to 1919 (Arbeitshefte der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für juristisches Bibliotheks- und Dokumentationswesen 25) with W. Neugebauer. From the press: 
A survey of diplomatic conferences and congresses convened from 1642 to 1919 with extensive references to their published documents and a synopsis of the resulting acts, agreements, conventions, declarations, treaties and other instruments adopted by each conference or congress.
The meetings of the conferences and congresses are arranged thematically in 111 groups starting at Münster and Osnabrück to prepare the Peace of Westphalia. In total 280 conferences and congresses are recorded. Over one third of the conferences and congresses were held from 1827 to 1919 at London and Paris. Other leading cities in order of diminishing frequency were Brussels, Bern, The Hague, Berlin, Istanbul, Washington and Vienna. The compendium closes with the peace of Brest-Litovsk (1917) and the Inter-Allied Conference of the Powers held in Paris and environs from 1919 to 1920. The Latin American and Pan American congresses are well represented, for example at Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Lima, Managua, Mexico, Montevideo, Panama, Rio de Janeiro, San José, San Salvador, Santiago and Tegucigalpa. Annexes supply further information on the Versailles treaty with Germany and the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Here is the Table of Contents. Further information about the collection is available here

Perino on the Lost History of Insider Trading

Michael A. Perino, St. John's University School of Law and the author of The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance (Penguin, 2010), has posted The Lost History of Insider Trading:
Common conceptions about the history of insider trading norms in the United States are inaccurate and incomplete. In his landmark 1966 book Insider Trading and the Stock Market, Dean Henry Manne depicted a world in which insider trading was both widespread and universally accepted. It was SEC enforcement efforts in the early 1960s, he contended, that swayed public opinion to condemn what had previously been considered a natural and unobjectionable market feature. For five decades, the legal academy has largely accepted Manne’s historical description and the vigorous debates over whether the federal government should prosecute insider trading have assumed, either explicitly or implicitly, the accuracy of those views. This paper challenges that conventional wisdom and shows that the shift in insider trading norms began earlier than has previously been supposed and substantially preceded governmental enforcement efforts. Insider trading, while generally believed to be ubiquitous in turn-of-the-century stock markets, was not universally condoned. In fact, the propriety of the practice at publicly traded companies was highly contested. Those debates coincided with the growth of public companies and an ongoing shift in views about how the stock market functioned. The early twentieth century debate over insider trading thus featured both modern arguments about property rights in information and the effect that insider trading has on stock market participation and older ideas about manipulation and market inefficiency that would generally not be accepted today.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

CFP: Legal History and Empires: Perspectives from the Colonised

[We're moving this post up because the deadline for submitting proposals has been extended to January 30, 2018.]

The conference "Legal History and Empires: Perspectives from the Colonised" will be held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, in Barbados from July 11 to 13, 2018. The conference is jointly sponsored by the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Humanities and Education of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and an international group of legal historians and historians of the law.  [The keynote speaker is] Dr. Maya Jasanoff, Coolidge Professor of History, Harvard University.

This conference follows the successful conference on the Legal Histories of the British Empire held at the National University of Singapore in 2012, and is similarly designed to bring together senior and emerging scholars working in the fields of imperial and colonial legal history. We invite paper or panel proposals addressing legal histories of empires broadly, and encourage participants to think in particular how their research connects with the theme of the conference: perspectives from the colonized.  Without in any way limiting the range of proposals topics and themes might include: relations between Empires; histories from the peripheries of empire; mobilities, networks and transplants; law and gender; Indigenous histories and the law; slavery and indentured labour; regulation of labour; histories of immigration law; administration of justice and rule of law; histories of public or private law; colonial law and local circumstances; settler colonialism; crime; the professions.

Individual paper proposals should be maximum 300 words (and include a bio of no more than 100 words); panel proposals should consist of an overall panel theme (300 words), the titles of individual papers and short bios (no more than 100 words) of each presenter. Panels may include commentators. Proposals should be sent to Prof Shaunnagh Dorsett, University of Technology Sydney ( by 30 JANUARY 2018.

General inquiries about the Conference should be addressed to Dr. Asya Ostroukh, UWI, Cave Hill (  The Conference website is [here.]  (Information, including accommodation options and additional optional activities on July 10 and 14 will be available soon.)

Landmark Cases in Public International Law

New from hart Publishing is Landmark Cases in Public International Law, edited by Eirik Bjorge and Cameron Miles
The past two hundred years have seen the transformation of public international law from a rule-based extrusion of diplomacy into a fully-fledged legal system. Landmark Cases in Public International Law examines decisions that have contributed to the development of international law into an integrated whole, whilst also creating specialised sub-systems that stand alone as units of analysis. The significance of these decisions is not taken for granted, with contributors critically interrogating the cases to determine if their reputation as 'landmarks' is deserved. Emphasis is also placed on seeing each case as a diplomatic artefact, highlighting that international law, while unquestionably a legal system, remains reliant on the practice and consent of states as the prime movers of development.

The cases selected cover a broad range of subject areas including state immunity, human rights, the environment, trade and investment, international organisations, international courts and tribunals, the laws of war, international crimes, and the interface between international and municipal legal systems. A wide array of international and domestic courts are also considered, from the International Court of Justice to the European Court of Human Rights, World Trade Organization Appellate Body, US Supreme Court and other adjudicative bodies. The result is a three-dimensional picture of international law: what it was, what it is, and what it might yet become.
TOC after the jump.

Lind's Dred Scott Reader and Bibliography

We’ve just learned of the the publication Dred Scott v. Sandford: Opinions and Contemporary Commentary, (Hein), edited by Douglas W. Lind, the Director of the Library and Professor of Law at Southern Illinois University School of Law.
The decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), that African Americans were unable to become American citizens and therefore lacked standing to sue in federal court, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the territories, was truly monumental in its impact on the nation and immediately generated widespread public debate. For more than one hundred and fifty years, there existed no single source containing the nine opinions that comprise the Dred Scott decision alongside the contemporary intellectual commentary.

Dred Scott v. Sandford: Opinions and Contemporary Commentary
not only fills that scholarly void but also includes Professor Lind’s bibliographic essay which traces the production and transmission history of Dred Scott and details many previously unrecorded bibliographic aspects of the separately printed decision. In doing so, Lind adds important elements to the historiography of a landmark in American judicial thought—a decision which provided the textual ammunition for both sides of a debate that further divided the nation as it marched toward civil war.

Because of the modern relevance and the interdisciplinary nature of the topic, the scholarly interest in this collection should appeal not only to law school libraries but also to general academic libraries.

Balancing interests

In today’s post, I will share how I ultimately landed on the research project that became my book.  Like many of your stories, I imagine, it is one that involves dedicated teachers, visceral reactions to the material they taught me, a bit of luck, and a willingness to make adjustments to my plans along the way.

Before entering Tulane as a bright-eyed undergraduate, I knew I loved history and wanted to major in it, but I also planned to go to law school when I finished college. My love for history only grew as I began my studies. I took a course during my sophomore year of college on slavery and freedom in the antebellum South taught by Dr. Betty Wood, a visiting scholar from the University of Cambridge.  I was hooked.  I remember feeling so frustrated by my history education to that point and angry that I knew practically nothing about the system of chattel slavery that existed for so much of the history of the European colonies in America and the United States.  I read Solomon Northup’s narrative, recently made famous by the movie Twelve Years a Slave.  I read scholarly analyses of slavery and debated its meaning in class. The indignation of not knowing the extent or the horrors of this topic lit a fire under me that lingered long after my initial exposure in Dr. Wood’s class.  I imagine that other researchers must have similar stories of being drawn to the topics left out of high school history courses. 

After a couple of years of college, my interest in law school waned.  I was still drawn to the study of law, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer.  If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure that I had a good sense of what being a lawyer was actually like, either.  I didn’t want to spend three years away from full-time reading and studying history (though I recognize now that law school does involve quite a bit of history, too!). While having these doubts about law school, I had the great fortune to take an American Legal History class with the late Dr. Judith Schafer.  Dr. Schafer made everything click.  I realized I could combine my interests in history and law by pursuing a graduate degree in legal history.

Dr. Schafer was also a scholar of the legal history of slavery, so her course introduced me to this particular sub-field.  While I was searching for a senior thesis topic, Dr. Schafer sent me to meet with the late Marie Windell (an archivist at the University of New Orleans, where the manuscript records of the Louisiana Supreme Court are housed).  With Ms. Windell’s advice, I wrote a senior thesis on a Louisiana Supreme Court case, Eulalie and her children v. Long & Mabry (9 La. Ann. 9 (1854)), which has since become the subject of the brilliant plenary address (at the ASLH meeting in Miami in 2013) and an article by the most recent ASLH President, Rebecca J. Scott (“Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status: The Puzzle of Prescription”, Law and History Review, 35:1(2017): 9-30).  My senior thesis was my first effort at archival research, and I loved it.

With some basic research skills in hand, and my newfound passion for issues related to slavery and freedom, I applied to graduate school.  I was delighted to be accepted to the Ph.D. program at Duke, where I planned to work with Laura Edwards and Peter Wood.  That part of my plan worked out.  My tentative dissertation project idea?  Not so much.  At the time, I had hoped to shift my interests in slavery, freedom, and law from the nineteenth century to the eighteenth.  I was fascinated with the seeming contradictions between the rhetoric of the Revolution and the existence of chattel slavery among the nation’s founders.  Like many students, I discovered that a few other scholars had thought about this issue, so I returned to the drawing board. 

The influence of my former mentor, Judy Schafer, made a major difference in the trajectory of my career for a second time.  She emailed me about the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project, which includes hundreds of freedom suit case files that had recently been scanned and made available online: a grad student’s dream! (As a side note, in addition to the freedom suits files, the Project also contains collections of cases related to Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, and the fur trade.)  Although I wrote my senior thesis on a nineteenth-century topic, I continued to want to look into the earlier era, but I also needed a masters’ thesis topic for the first-year research seminar I was taking that semester. 

I decided to give the project a try. I soon discovered that this nineteenth-century topic allowed me to dive into the same core issue that sparked my interest in the American Revolution: the relationship between slavery and freedom.  St. Louis was a border city on the Mississippi River with a relatively small—but powerful—elite slaveholding population.  Its location and its population made the city a crossroads between slavery and freedom.  The relationship of St. Louis to the free state of Illinois, for example, raised important questions for the courts. St. Louis judges and juries had to grapple with interstate comity issues in a region with wide variations in personal status.  The richness of the freedom suit files is undeniable. Its vast material on the lives and experiences of enslaved people continues to enthrall me to this day.  Once I read the case files and began writing about them, I knew I had found my long-term project.  Twelve years later, I published my book on the same topic.

In my next post, I will discuss the challenges of balancing feedback from a variety of sources in the writing and publishing process.