Welcome to Blawg Review #315, the initial Monday edition of the resurgent Blawg Review, the weekly blog carnival for everyone interested in the law.
Launched originally in April 2005, and overseen by the still-anonymous Editor, Blawg Review ranged about across the legal blogging landscape, appearing each Monday in a new and different exotic locale for the next six years before seemingly going silent following its 314th edition this past August.
It has been my privilege to host Blawg Review here at Decs&Excs on five prior occasions, beginning with Blawg Review #51. Since April 1, 2006, I have also hosted a series of April Fools' extra editions, in the same week as the Decs&Excs editions, on my personal/cultural blog, a fool in the forest. Yesterday, as an amuse bouche in preparation for today's edition, I posted yet another, the Blawg Review #315 April Fools' Prequel.
While the original installments of Blawg Review were simple collections of links to the prior week's best or most interesting or most curious legal blogging, it early on became common, albeit never mandatory, for each host to adopt a Theme for his or her presentation. In 2011 and again this week, I constructed the April Fools' edition around a reworking of lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan. The creation of the thing required no little energy expenditure, so as I turned my attention to crafting this post, I found my thematic inspiration swiftly ebbing.
"Whatever shall I do?" said I to myself. "I have a good quantity of top grade links to share, but no proper idea of how to present them most entertainingly. Perhaps I should just hark back to the distant origins of Blawg Review and just list them out with a remark or two? A sort of 'plain vanilla' approach, perhaps?"
And then, as if a lightbulb had incandesced in an environmentally friendly manner above my head, it came to me....
BLAWG REVIEW #315 - THE PLAIN VANILLA EDITION
The use of the seed pods of the orchid Vanilla planifolia as a flavoring can be traced to pre-Columbian Mexico, where it developed among the Totonac people in the region that is now Veracruz. The Totonac were conquered by the Aztec, who promptly developed a taste for vanilla themselves and who had large quantities of the stuff transported to their capitol at Tenochtitlan as tribute from the subjugated Totonac. The Aztec, in their turn, fell to the invading Spanish and the European fondness for vanilla was born, eventually spreading throughout the world.
Legendary versions of vanilla's origins come to us from the Totonac people, and exist in both kissy-cuddly and blood-soaked versions. Chacun à son goût, as the Totonac used to say, albeit they said it in Totonac. The tale is commemorated by a statue in Papantla, Veracruz:
It's a nice legend, as they say, and rather more romantic than simply attributing vanilla's attractive qualities to millions of years of fortunate natural selection.
Now, you may be asking yourself what tasty vanilla might have to do with the law. To which question, my answer is in two parts.
First, when one is going about theming a Blawg Review, it is never a requirement that the theme actually relate to the subject at hand.
Second, the contemporary practice of law in the United States is conducted largely in non-traditional environs, often with the use of sophisticated and highly mobile technologies. No longer tethered to a desk, a land line, a fax machine, or the material world, the contemporary lawyer is freed to commune with the delightful by products of V. planifolia whilst still practicing law.
And on that refreshing note, how about some links?
Criminal defense blogs have for some time been producing much of the best in legal blogging. A few choice examples:
- Mirriam Seddiq meditated on "Innocence" and the eternal question whether its presence or absence does or should make any difference to a criminal defender.
- Unwashed Advocate Eric Mayer brought his experience in military justice to bear with an "Azimuth Check: Getting Tough On Military Sexual Assault"
- The U.S. Supreme Court recently determined, with much snarling in dissent by Justice Scalia, that the right to effective assistance of counsel must apply to certain aspects of the plea bargaining process. Among the CrimBloggers weighing in on that decision were Rick Horowitz ("Such a Deal!"); the pseudonymous Gideon of a public defender ("To Plead or Not to Plead: a critical question"); and Scott Greenfield ("Please Plea(se) Me").
Somewhat related: from Santa Clara Law prof Kyle Graham, "Advice for Interviewing for a Prosecutor Position"
The dominant criminal law story in the public eye this past week was the continuing investigation in to the investigation in to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. No surprise, it generated plentiful commentary in the blawgosphere. A few examples:
- Florida's own Brian Tannebaum points out that "Stand Your Ground" has consequences of many kinds extending far beyond this incident: "Unintended Consequences, Again"
- A more professorial take from Michael Mannheimer: "Trayvon Martin and Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law"
- Two from defense attorney turned appellate judiciary candidate Mark Bennett: "Trayvon Martin: Strange Bedfellows" and "Trayvon Martin: A Little Florida Law"
- And of course, no discussion of anything in this country is complete without looking into the Intellectual Property angle. Above the Law is happy to oblige: "Trayvon Trademark? An ATL Debate".
The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument over the course of three days on the constitutional legitimacy of the health care/insurance reform edifice erected by the Affordable Care Act. Insights in to the difficult and sophisticated legal issues tended to be drowned out by the political commentary, horserace -style handicapping, and a flood of arrant nonsense. As a palliative, a selection of some of the more nuanced analysis around the blawgosphere:
- Three examples out of, perhaps, dozens in the comprehensive coverage at SCOTUSBlog: Amy Howe ("Today’s argument in Plain English: Will the mandate squeak by?"); Lyle Denniston ("Argument recap: Moving on to the mandate (FINAL UPDATE)"); and Tom Goldstein ("A tale of two great arguments").
- Edward Hartnett at Concurring Opinions considered Justice Anthony Kennedy as the particular target of the argument and briefing by anti-ACA advocate Paul Clement: "Paul Clement and Justice Kennedy"
- Tom Smith of The Right Coast perceives the ACA structure as "An insurance scheme that is not insurance paid for by penalties that are not penalties"
A related link, via the Twitter:
Keith Lee's An Associate's Mind has been expanding its offerings recently to include timely, well-made videos. This past week Keith delved into the collision of the personal and impersonal with "GPS, Drones, and Your Coming Complete Lack of Privacy in Public."
[This space was almost occupied by links to a story that I have convinced myself was/is an April Fools' prank not of my making. If it proves to be real—which I suppose is possible in this ever-changing world in which we're living—you'll all know about it next week, and I will confess my doubts were misplaced.]
[Update 0725 PDT: My instincts have proven to be correct on this one. Hoaxing mastermind Eric Turkewitz explains all here.]
Expert witnesses, their credibilty, and attempts to end-run causations were under consideration by John J. Sullivan at the Drug and Device Law Blog: "Any Exposure ≠ Enough Exposure"
That law school favorite, the peppercorn as a unit of compensation, earns a mention from Brett Trout at BlawgIT: "Judge Rules Bloggers Do Not Have to Be Paid". A vanilla bean would be equally acceptable as a metaphor.
The Founders' intent: did it include extra cheese?
And to conclude our catalog: Jamison Koehler wants to talk to you about your shoes.
Wait a moment, one more: there is an ample repository of excellent links to be found here. But for that guy getting to them first, I would have included them above.
And now, a look in to the Future:
Blawg Review #316 is scheduled to be hosted by Jamison Koehler, supra, at the Koehler Law Blog. This week and every week, Blawg Review HQ has information about future hosts and how you can become a host, and instructions on how to get your own blawg posts considered in upcoming editions.
All illustrations via Wikimedia commons, used in the expectation that they are either in the public domain or otherwise licensed for this use.