Canadian Law Profs Gaining Persuasive Authority

A new site launched less than a month ago was brought to my attention recently. Persuasive Authorities is a blog by faculty at various American law schools. But it was the Canadian contributors that I’ve encountered previously that really caught my attention.

I know Richard Albert of Boston College through political activities in Canada. With an impressive resume that includes law degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Oxford, he also clerked in the Supreme Court of Canada. His latest post on the site is about his first class at Harvard, where Duncan Kennedy described how law travelled around the world.

Comparative legal studies seems to be a popular subject on the site, and the post from this past Friday by Faisal Kutty of Valparaiso University examines what we can do when the “Islamists” are here to stay,

We cannot simply wish them away or bomb them out of existence. We can choose to dismiss and ignore them at our own peril, or we can take the road of constructive engagement and empower the moderates among them in ways that respect their right to self-determination and try to work toward peaceful co-existence.

Kutty is currently completing his PhD at Osgoode in anti-terrorism legislation. In my experience with him, he’s probably one of the foremost scholars in the world on that subject, and comparative Islamic law generally. Constitutional Islamic law reform is an enormously complicated subject, and few do it justice. The subject is of paramount importance given the recent Goldstone report and Obama’s upcoming meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas, as well disclosures by a Canadian Senator and a deceased soldier that the Afghan mission is a failure.

I haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with the other Canadian contributors, but they are no less interesting. Joel Colón-Ríos of Osgoode Hall recently wrote about constitutional reform as well, but in Latin America. He presents the interesting dillema of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, and the “judicial impossiblity” in their ability to assess their own constitutional validity.

Joshua Karton of Queen’s focuses primarily on contract and commercial law, but his last post on the site discusses the background knowledge needed to study law before law school,

Law schools generally assume that students will simply pick up this kind of knowledge along the course of the first year. That may be true—we do all manage to get the hang of things sometime before the end of 1L year—but I think it would be worthwhile spending some time actually teaching this knowledge right at the beginning of law school.

This would have been a useful post for me when I was starting out recently.

Jonathon Penney, a former Fulbright Scholar at Columbia who is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University, has a technology streak to him. Originally from Nova Scotia, he asks a provoking question about whether illegal art has any legal rights,

…local public officials in Wellington, New Zealand, painted over 28 year old wall graffiti memorializing the death of the late, great, Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

…hadn’t this memorial, over time, become something more than just graffiti? Wasn’t this a piece of local rock history? And even if this wasn’t “historical” — with some kind of special historical value — wasn’t it still art and worthy of preservation?

Finally, Adam Perry, a graduate of UVic Law pursuing a DPhil candidate at Oxford covered the Democracy Watch case against Stephen Harper for the 2008 election. There’s an appettite for the dysfunction of Canadian politics internationally, it seems. Perry points to the real basis behind the case, and suggests that on a technical basis alone the Prime Minister did not actually violate his own election laws. That may be, but our House has turned into somewhat of a gong show for now.

Group blogs tend to do better in my opinion, both in maintaining regular postings and maintaining longevity. We do have our share of faculty blogs in Alberta and Calgary, for example. But the sites in the U.S. with contributors from different schools like Faculty Lounge tend to do better than institution-specific blogs like Georgetown or Chicago.

Call me an easy sell, but I’m persuaded.

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