Stanley Fish on a Justice with Empathy

From the NYTs:

What Kind of Judges Do We Want?

Last week I participated in a discussion of judging under the auspices of the Brennan Center for Justice. The event was held at the New York University School of Law, where an invited audience of about 80 interacted with three panelists – John Payton, head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Burt Neuborne, professor of law at NYU and me. We were held in check by moderator Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.com and Newsweek.

The question we were there to take up was, “What kind of Supreme Court justices do we want?” The topic was set before the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, but of course the upcoming hearings of the Judicial Committee were on everyone’s mind. And so there was a lot of talk about empathy against the background of President Obama’s praise of it and Judge Sotomayor’s now famous or infamous speculation that a wise Latina might know something an old white guy did not.

At one point moderator Lithwick asked, “Is empathy a useful term? Is it helpful?” I replied that it’s probably a bad idea to use a word that has to be explained or explained away five times a day. It’s been useful and helpful to conservative bloggers but not to either Obama or Sotomayor. Of course it’s too late to retire it; we’re stuck with it.

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Stanley Fish on Ward Churchill Case

Missed this the first time around….

from the NYTs:

Last Thursday, a jury in Denver ruled that the termination of activist-teacher Ward Churchill by the University of Colorado had been wrongful (a term of art) even though a committee of his faculty peers had found him guilty of a variety of sins.

The verdict did not surprise me because I had read the committee’s report and found it less an indictment of Churchill than an example of a perfectly ordinary squabble about research methods and the handling of evidence. The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him. Which is good, because if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs.

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Stanley Fish on Religious Freedom

Stanley Fish, as always, has something interesting to say about the law. In this post (“Monkey Business“) on his NYT’s blog, “Think Again,” Fish describes a case in federal court (S.D. N.Y.) about a claim that the importation of “bushmeat” for religious purposes that otherwise would violate the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

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