January 27, 2004

Professor Yin linked to my Bush v. Gore post and--his blog takes comments (you have to email me)--fended off a critic. Hmm... is that a critic of me or, technically, him? Thanks Prof. Yin! I agree with his response to the critic: the time needed to comprehend the underlying legal texts is truly unreal. (I accidentally wrote "techs" for "texts"--because they're so technical!)

I know of no other important case that is like that. I have taught a course where we spend hours doing that background and spoken in public a couple of times trying to explain each statute and constitutional provision systematically. That was extremely hard to do even in early 2001, when people were quite fired up and had a fresh memory of some of the information. I doubt whether the details were absorbed even then.

People have had their minds made up for a long time. With respect to some things, many things, taught in law school, you can open minds and bring in fresh perspectives, and I love to do that and am not generally cynical about law. It is the combination of the complexity of the legal texts and the firmness of the audience's conviction that makes for the impossibility of studying Bush v. Gore.

When the litigation was unfolding, many of us had plenty of incentive to learn--and be amazed by--the legalistic particulars of election law. Now, knowing how it ends, a student asked to engage with this complexity has got to have the normal, human reaction of impatience, irritation, and annoyance, if not outrage.

Still, it is important, and it was for most of the students in the class a major, formative experience with the law and the Supreme Court. You've got to engage with that. But it's an absurd business!

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