Tag: law school

YouTube, Facebook, and the responsibilities of intermediary gatekeepers

YouTube logo, via YouTubeIn my previous post, I argued that, as a matter of principle, the controversial American anti-Islamic video should not be censored. The most obvious form of censorship comes from government action, such as legislation banning speech, but that does not arise in this case. Less obvious, but no less insidious, was the White House request to Google to re-consider whether the video breached YouTube rules. This was not a formal ban, and Google declined to take the video down in the US, but it did block access to it in in Egypt and Libya. This raises two important questions about the structure of free speech. First, in the online world, where most of us access the internet through a range of intermediaries, government censorship does not necessarily need to target the disfavoured speech; it need only target the intermediaries. Very few US companies would feel able to decline a request like that from the White House, and Google are to be commended for standing firm in those circumstances. Second, these intermediaries now have a great deal of practical power over online expression – not only can they be co-opted by government as agents of state censorship, but they also have the capacity to act as censors in their own rights, as Google did in their unilateral action to block access in the Middle East.

Such intermediaries are effectively gatekeepers are those who enable – and control – our access to that information, and this raises profound issues of principle about the role of intermediary gatekeepers in the structure of free speech about which I have written on this blog (here | here | here). At present, such intermediary gatekeepers are all private entities, operating to their own rules, and it is not at all clear how they can be made accountable to their users or the wider public for their private actions. Given the practical, social and legal issues that arise in policing content in such a quasi-public sphere (pdf), it has been argued that search engines and other intermediaries should have public interest obligations, perhaps by analogy with common law duties that govern public utilities (pdf). In particular, free speech norms should not only be about protecting speakers against a heavy-handed state but also about protecting speakers and readers against heavy-handed intermediate gatekeepers. (more…)

Another Top 10 Online Free Speech Resources

Censorship jpg via ReadWriteWebAs regular readers of this blog will know, the right to freedom of expression – broadly interpreted – is one of my main areas of research and teaching. Many of my favourite internet resources relating to free speech can be seen in my blogroll and the list of badges in the sidebars on the right. Via Kate Sutherland on Twitter, I see that Kurt Hopkins has a great post on ReadWriteWeb about his Top 10 Online Free Speech Resources. In particular, he listed institutional resources which are accessible to anyone, provide original news or analysis, and are frequently updated. It’s a great idea; indeed, it’s such a good idea,

I’m going to copy it, and – without overlapping Kurt’s choices – list another top 10 online free speech resources below the jump (in broadly alphabetical order): (more…)

Too many guides, not enough style

New Zealand style guide cover, via the NZ Law Foundation websiteMy previous post on the advent of the Irish Law Journal led to some quite interesting discussion about the nature of citation styles and how crowded the market for legal journals in Ireland is.

By way of supplement, I see that 15 Lambton Quay records the final publication of New Zealand’s uniform style guide. I blogged about it at the proposal stage here. Up until now, Law schools, law firms, publishers and courts have been using their own idiosyncratic and confusing styles when referring to legal material. Now, New Zealand’s six law schools, three main legal publishers, major law reviews, and a number of courts, including the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, have adopted the guide this year. From the 15 Lambton Quay website [with added links]:

The Guide was launched by Justice John McGrath. A uniform guide has been a long time coming! .. The new guide is the result of the combined efforts of many across the profession. Justice Chambers of the Court of Appeal spearheaded the project … The guide was only made possible through generous funding from the New Zealand Law Foundation. …

A web-based version of the guide has been made available on the New Zealand law Foundation’s website. In my earlier post, by reference to the New Zealand rugby team, I proposed, not quite tongue in cheek, that since the dominant US style is the Bluebook, perhaps we should call the New Zealand style guide the All Black Book. This is even more likely now that it has been published with an All Black cover, above left.

As for the the Bluebook, its 19th edition has recently been published, along with the 7th edition of the McGill Guide, and the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. In my view, there now are far too many style guides world-wide, and some consolidation would be very beneficial.

More practice needed in legal education

Larry Donnelly, NUI Galway, via their websiteThe title of this post comes from the headline in an interesting and provocative article by Larry Donnelly of NUI Galway (pictured left) in Monday’s Irish Times. His core argument is that the preparation of students for law practice should play a greater role in legal education in Ireland:

Historically, law study at third-level institutions in Ireland and in other common law jurisdictions was theory-based and took place exclusively in lecture halls. Law, however, is both an academic and a vocational discipline. Accordingly, law schools in every other common law jurisdiction have embraced the role of practice in legal education, but Irish law schools still lag far behind.

I entirely agree. Clinical and experiential learning centers on providing students with hands-on opportunities to understand how the law works in the real world. Along with the legal skills traditionally taught by law schools (legal research, legal analysis, and sometimes the ability to engage with policy and theoretical literature), the modern law degree should also seek to inculcate written and oral communication skills, interview skills, team-work, legal drafting, negotiation, advocacy, case management and practice management. 2007 saw the foundation of two very exciting Law Schools committed to this appraoch. The School of Law in the University of York began life with a bang, offering a completely progressive, clinical and experiential undergraduate curriculum, with problem-based learning modules centred on what they call the student law firm. The curriculum at School of Law at the University of California, Irvine self-consciously focuses on preparation for practice in the 21st century. Other successful start-ups, such as Bond in Australia and Northumbria in the UK, have built their programmes around legal skills as well as legal doctrine. Indeed, many established law schools the world over are in the process of adding important clinical elements to their curricula: the market leader in the US is the new third year program in the School of Law in the University of Washington and Lee in Virginia (even staid Harvard has made some moves in this direction). Moreover, the importance of this kind of development has already been appreciated in Ireland: NUI Galway has a Director of Clinical Legal Education, UCC established a degree in clinical legal education in 2004, whilst UCD has just announced a similar degree. Unsurprisingly, therefore, at the recent Legal Education Symposium, the most exciting plenary was on the topic of Law Schools and Clinical Legal Education, whilst the session on Experiential Learning was well attended and provoked lively debate. (more…)

Judicial Activism

Image of Chief Justice Balakrishnan, via Indian Supreme Court siteThe Hon. Mr. Chief Justice Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India, will deliver a Guest Lecture at the School of Law, TCD:

Judicial Activism Under the Indian Constitution

It will be held on Wednesday, 14 October 2009, at 6:00 pm in the JM Synge Theatre, Room 2039, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin (map).

If you would like to attend, please contact the Law School, by email, by mail to School of Law, House 39, Trinity College, Dublin 2; by phone to (01) 896 2367 or by fax to (01) 677 0449.

It promises to be an interesting evening. The label “judicial activism” is often used loosely, sometimes to describe the judicial process, sometimes to castigate judges as failing to confine themselves to reasonable interpretations of laws, and instead substitute their own political opinions for the applicable law. I particularly reocmmend the posts on Balkinization. The issue, a long-time staple of constituitonal jurisprudence, came to the fore again during the confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. But the debate is not confined to the US: rather, it arises where-ever there are Courts – so judges in Canada, Australia, the European Court of Justice, and Ireland are all routinely praised and criticised accordingly. The perspective from another court and another country will be fascinating indeed.

International and European Perspectives in Legal Education

The theme of the afternoon plenary session of the third Legal Education Symposium was on

International and European Perspectives in Legal Education

As if she didn’t have enough to do as one of the organisers, this session was chaired by Prof Blanaid Clarke, and the session examined the ongoing the Bologna Process, which aims to create a common European Higher Education Area (to which her co-organiser referred in the first plenary session this morning).

The first speaker was Dr Attracta Halpin, Registrar of the National University of Ireland on the topic of European Higher Education post-Bologna 1999: Napoleonic tendencies?, discussing how much standardisation is likely to be achieved by 2020 and how much could be considered desirable. She gave a whistle-stop tour of what the Bologna process is all about, where it came from, where it is now, and where it is going. It was built on the concept of student and teacher mobility, and comparability of degree programmes. The second speaker was Prof Frans Vanistendael of the Centre for a Common Law of Europe at the Katholieje Universiteit Leuven on the topic of Ten Years of Bachelor – Master Reform in Legal Education, and in effect, he looked at Bologna in practice in law schools. (more…)