Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Law Reviews Irrelevant to Judges

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law "hosted a roundtable discussion between seven judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Law School’s faculty. Together they examined the declining influence of law reviews. Guided by Vice Dean Michael Herz, Cardozo students examined citations from the 1960s to present of five prestigious law reviews. Their findings show that courts cite law review articles less today than in the '70s and '80s, content is more theoretical than practical, and there is an increase in citations from specialty journals." Cardozo news release, March 8, 2007.

A New York Times story is getting some buzz: Adam Liptak, Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant, N.Y. Times, March 19, 2007. (You need to subscribe to TimesSelect to see the whole thing on the Web; it should also be on LexisNexis.)

"I haven't opened up a law review in years," said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the federal appeals court in New York. "No one speaks of them. No one relies on them."
That's overstating it, of course. Law reviews might not be cited with the same frequency they were 20 or 30 years ago, but they are still cited.

Some possible reasons that judges use law reviews less now:
  • There are more research tools available. In 1970, a law review article was an efficient way to get a survey of cases from many jurisdictions. Now judges (and their clerks) can use a law review article or full-text searching on LexisNexis or Westlaw.
  • Fewer law review articles are strictly doctrinal. "The asembled judges pleaded with the law professors to write about actual cases and doctrines, in quick, plain and accessible articles."
  • Judges are too busy -- with heavier caseloads, who can bother reading law reviews?
  • Judges lack intellectual curiosity. "The claim by judges that they have no use for law review articles seems to me an anti-intellectual know-nothingism that is understandable but regrettable, Professor [Michael C.] Dorf said."
  • Law reviews are too slow -- the quickest legal commentary is in blogs.

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