Academic journal article Texas Law Review

Legal Scholarship at the Crossroads: On Farce, Tragedy, and Redemption

Academic journal article Texas Law Review

Legal Scholarship at the Crossroads: On Farce, Tragedy, and Redemption

Article excerpt

by Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr.*

For some time, multiple constituencies within the legal community have waged a pitched battle over the direction of legal scholarship in the United States. Historically marginalized groups within the legal academy have demanded-and in some measure have received-voice through the nation's preeminent national law reviews. Although doctrinal scholarship continues to fill the pages of many law reviews, persons of color, women, and gays and lesbians have offered alternative visions of the scholarly project, establishing a beachhead within the mainstream of the American legal academy. Providing a variety of postmodernist critiques, these groups have challenged more traditional legal scholars to re-examine what counts as scholarship and to consider the possibility that alternative conceptions of the scholarly project possess both utility and quality.

This evolution in legal scholarship has not been without controversy. Just as the Legal Realists faced opposition from those wedded to the notion of legal science,' so too postmodernist legal narratives have been subjected to attack and vilification.2 At the moment, the ultimate outcome of the conflict has not yet been determined. Although a perusal of a recent issue of the Current Index to Legal Periodicals immediately demonstrates that "outsider" scholarship is becoming increasingly mainstream,3 some prominent academics and jurists openly call for a counter-revolution.4 In sum, an ongoing Kulturkampf5 presently exists within the legal academy regarding both the direction and meaning of legal scholarship.

Conflicts inevitably breed casualties and sometimes even atrocities. In my view, a recent volley fired by Professor Dennis W. Arrow should be deemed a war crime.' Open and honest debate about the wisdom of nontraditional legal scholarship is both desirable and healthy. From time to time, academics from both sides of the divide can and should raise the "Admiral Stockdale" question: "Who are we, and why are we here?" Ad hominem attacks, on the other hand, do not represent a form of constructive engagement. It seems to me that the contribution to the debate offered by Professor Arrow constitutes the latter rather than the former.

Discerning readers must immediately have wondered what had transpired simply from the cover of the December 1997 issue of the Michigan Law Review ("MLR"). The presence of four sets of quotation marks around the word "Article" suggested rather strongly that something strange was afoot. After all, how could such an obvious glitch make it past the MLR's editorial staff? Rather than an error, it constituted a kind of foreshadowing device.

For reasons that largely escape me, the MLR editorial board dedicated over two hundred pages (228 pages, to be exact) to a clever prank. Perhaps the articles staff, tiring of a steady diet of Foucault, Derrida, or, for the less Eurocentric, domestic deconstructionists like Stanley Fish,' decided to signal its sense of frustration with the collective output of the legal academy.

Giving the student editors the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they considered Pomobabble a logical continuation of the project that the MLR began in 1992 with its publication of Chief Judge Harry T. Edward's The Growing Disjunction Between Legal Education and the Legal Profession.8 In this widely read and highly controversial article, Chief Judge Edwards argued that U.S. law schools are in danger of losing sight of their core institutional mission: the preparation of lawyers for practice and the indoctrination of young lawyers as members of a profession.9 Legal scholarship, according to Judge Edwards, should bear some relationship to this core mission, by (at least potentially) being of some use to lawyers and judges.10

In 1993, the MLR continued to contribute in a constructive way to the ongoing debate about the nature of legal education and legal scholarship by publishing a symposium dedicated to legal education. …

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