Monday, January 23, 2006

Ideological Players

In an otherwise sad post commenting on the demise of the print version of Legal Affairs, Orin Kerr also points me to the latest debate on their site, this one between Yale Law Professor Peter Schuck and Texas Law and Philosophy Professor Brian Leiter. The subject is one of my favorites, whether law schools should strive for more ideological diversity. So far the debate has largely tracked traditional lines, with Schuck citing all sorts of studies saying that there are more Democrats than Republicans on law school faculties, and Leiter indicting the credibility of the studies (or at least, the ability to draw the conclusions Schuck does with the data presented).

Leiter also argues that ones general political orientation is a poor indicator of what one feels about legal issues. He asks "what exactly is the 'white Republican female' viewpoint on the analysis of causation in tort law, default rules in contract, the empirical foundations of the hearsay exceptions, the scope of the dormant commerce clause, the relevance of behavioral law and economics, or the professional responsibilities of insurance defense lawyers?" I'll admit I probably couldn't answer those questions because I don't have any formal legal training. But I'm still not convinced political ideology has no bearing on any of these things. Presumably, all have normative implications--that's why we're debating them. And the process by which we determine what issues or positions or arguments are correct seems relatively constant across various issues--even esoteric ones. Obviously, people do break from the "mold" in their beliefs, and I'd even be willing to concede that there is a significant portion of persons wgo, for a variety reasons, conduct normative legal analysis using a separate value system than their political analysis receives. But I don't think that the way politics interacts with law and legal teaching can just be dismissed, or minimized to the degree Leiter does.

Anyway, the debate is on-going at the site. So we'll see how it plays out.

1 comment:

Pooh said...

There is also the possibility that one takes their policy preferences as a given and chooses the mode of legal intepretation that best conforms with those results. I'm certainly guilty of that to a degree.