Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ephemera? C'est moi.

Scott Greenfield, distinguished member of the inaugural (and so far only) class of the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame,* notes that he and his blog are part of the dearth.  As, I suppose, are we all.

At least, we are if Justin Bieber Peters is to be believed.  Justin is the blogger (not blawgger, you'll notice) at Slate's new blog, "Crime." The blog is necessary or at least justifiable, Justin explains, because
there's a dearth of smart, non-sensationalistic crime coverage on the Internet these days.

Oh. And it appears that Slate's brought Justin in and started this blog to make sure that the internet will continue to have no actual "smart, non-sensationalistic crime coverage."

But I digress. Or more precisely, I wandered off track before ever really getting on track.

Justin and Slate are, of course, wrong.  There's plenty of first-rate coverage and discussion, smart and not sensational, of crime and criminal justice and related issues on the internet.  (There's also plenty of twaddle, but that's a different post.)

See, it's not just crime bloggers and their (our?) ilk.  It's all of us who are out there (here?) on the web.  Including Scott and the others in the Hall of Fame.  We're not just dearth, we're trivia.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Ohio Supremes issued amendments to the Rules governing the practice of law in Ohio. In particular, they dicked around with the state's mandatory continuing legal education requirements.
Now, MCLE is inherently a bullshit scam.

Ohio lawyers are required to obtain a minimum of 24 hours of approved continuing legal education every two years.  Among those hours must be "Thirty minutes of instruction on substance abuse, including causes, prevention, detection, and treatment alternatives," sixty minutes on Ohio's ethics rules, and another sixty on "professionalism."  That leaves 21½ hours every 2 years for lawyers to gain substantive education in something somehow related to law or legal practice or running an office.  My god, it's a wonder there's a lawyer anywhere in the state who isn't spectacular.

It's nonsense.  I do nothing but criminal law.  I can satisfy my requirement by spending those hours reading the newspaper while sitting in an auditorium listening to someone drone on and on about the "residential real estate transactions," doubling my "work enjoyment and productivity," Ohio oil and gas law, "demystifying" retirement plans, financial planning for lawyers, and the like.  (Those are just a few of the CLE programs offered by the Ohio State Bar Association during December; there are lots of other providers in Ohio and around the country, and of course other programs offered throughout the year.)

Sure, I can and do take CLE programs related to what I do, that are relevant and useful. That's not the point, the point is that I could satisfy the requirements without being taught (forget learning, which is something altogether different) anything of value to my practice or my clients. What we know, of course, is that every lawyer who cares makes serious and continued efforts to stay current and to learn new and relevant stuff. The lawyers who don't care won't be any better practitioners because they fulfill CLE requirements.

Anyway, the Supremes issued revised CLE rules to take effect in 2014, and I was reading them over earlier today and discovered, well . . . .

You've always been able to get CLE credit for legal publications designed primarily for lawyers or judges. The publications have to be about the law (or something within a short plane ride's distance of the law). Nothing new there.

The new part is that the articles or books are supposed to be substantive. You know, not pure bullshit. It's right there in Regulation 403(D).

The article or book shall be of substantial or scholarly quality.
If the CLE requirements are to mean anything at all, that's fair.  You shouldn't be able to get special credit for complete and total rot.  (Say, for the kind of stuff Justin Peters is churning out.)  Still, how do they decide what's substantial or scholarly in its quality?  Ah, to learn that, you have to read the second sentence of 403(D), the one that lists the stuff that doesn't qualify because it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi

Well, I might not know quoi, but the Supremes do.
Insubstantial articles or books, such as self-published materials or blogs, shall not be eligible for credit.
Look, it's easy to make too much of this, and frankly it doesn't matter to me since I routinely get far more hours of CLE than the overlords demand.  And I really don't take it personally.  It's not me the court's dissing.  It's the enterprise.

To be told that what I do is "insubstantial" not because it actually is insubstantial (hey, who am I to judge) but because it's a blog . . . .

As my mother rarely actually asked, What am I? Chopped liver?

I've been at this a bit over three and a half years.  I've put up more than 900 posts containing god only know how many hundreds of thousands of words.  I've been praised and damned.  I've been sued.  I've cited court opinions and scholarly works.  I've parsed statutes, discussed constitutional theory (and theories).  Publishers (including some academic presses) send me books to review on the blog.

Russ Bensing, a Cleveland blawgger, writes a mini CLE program every damn week on the criminal law opinions that have come from the Ohio courts and on criminal justice topics generally. 

Rob Brenner writes about appellate decisions.

Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy has been cited by the Article III folks in the fancy building in DC.  (OK, Doug's not licensed in Ohio, but he lives and works here, and he's got a fucking blog.)

And that's just Ohio and just criminal law types (and actually an incomplete list).

As I said, I don't need any more CLE credit.  That's not why I write this stuff.  And there are days when it is insubstantial.  Not because it's a blog. But because I'm not writing things with substance. 

I'll take a share of the blame here.  I should have read the proposed regs and submitted comments.  So should Russ and Rob and maybe Doug.  And maybe we could have got Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBLOG or Howard Bashman from How Appealing.  Maybe Jonathan Adler at Case could have sent a comment and even published something on Volokh that would have got his co-bloggers there to write. 

On the other hand, the Supremes claim to have been at these revisions for a year.  You'd think in that time one of them (or one of their staffers) might have noticed that there's some serious stuff out there along with the piffle.  

Of course, there are many things you'd think.  You might even want to blog about them sometime if you have a blog.

If you do, remember that it will be "insubstantial."

* As opposed to me, who once again failed to find a place in the 100. Hall of Fame be damned. I'm stuck in the minors, can't make it to the show.


  1. I was chatting with Eric Mayer yesterday, and we talked about how absurd the whole beauty pageant was given that you weren't in there. But, it doesn't matter. We know who is important in the blawgosphere, who writes stuff that matters and whose blawgs make us better for reading them.

    And Jeff Gamso is center stage.

    1. Really, I'm not jealous of you and Eric and the other 98 finalists. Honest I'm not. Really, nope, not me. I wouldn't even want to be in the group. Nope. No way.

      It's just that after I spent all that money on call girls and whiskey and trips to Fiji on private planes for the Blawg 100 panel and I get bupkis. Sniff.

      (I nominated the Squawk, by the way, and you notice that he didn't make the list either, which shows how much attention they pay to me.)

      Thank you for the kind words.

  2. It's funny that you say that. I spent all that money on call girls,whisky and trips to Fiji on private plates for the Blawg 100 panel too, and they put me in there anyway. Sniff.