Stanford Law School's faculty continues to engage in scholarly work that is both important and relevant. From their pioneering research on vexing constitutional and intellectual property issues to their historical inquiries that upend conventional wisdom, our faculty members continue to push legal frontiers and influence policymakers and leaders throughout the world. Equally notable is how much of the work is located at the intersection of different disciplines political science, sociology, computer science, education, and neuroscience, to name only a few-advancing the law school's commitment to exploring multidisciplinary approaches to complex legal problems. A full listing of this scholarship can be found on individual faculty bio pages from the Faculty Directory. Here, we offer a mere glimpse into their many endeavors.
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The recriminations flying back and forth in the wake of the mortgage crisis were bugging Barbara Fried. Were the banks to blame? Were the people who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford to blame? “How about we don’t blame anyone?” she asks, discussing her recent Boston Review article, “Beyond Blame,” which laid out the disastrous public policy consequences of our fixation with assigning personal blame whenever anything goes wrong. “How about we talk instead about how to fix the problem?” • The article was a one-off piece for Fried, the William W. and Gertrude H. Saunders Professor of Law, but very much in keeping with her skeptical approach to philosophical and moral ponderings and her eagle-eyed evaluation of how general moral principles get translated into contemporary public policy decisions.
Fried studied English and American Literature at Harvard as an undergraduate and graduate student. But her heart was always in law, says Fried, a three-time recipient of Stanford Law School’s John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Michael McConnell has a keen interest in how history can help us understand current constitutional issues. His research frequently begins with unearthing early controversies over constitutional provisions and then analyzing how those discussions could inform contemporary debates. Moving past the politically charged debate over “originalism,” and whether we should be bound by early understandings of the Constitution’s meaning, McConnell says the past can provide “more grist” for examining today’s political debates.
“The past often gives us a greater purchase because it’s so hard to divorce ourselves from [today’s] partisan aspects,” says McConnell, the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law, director of theStanford Constitutional Law Center, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. “The past can liberate us from that kind of presentism.”
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar spent much of his childhood in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and then in California’s Imperial Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border. It was during this time, he says, that he first observed the power of law and the importance of public policy.
“The government had the power to establish legal rules about matters such as immigration and public safety, but the border was porous, making it difficult to reconcile theory and practice,” says Cuéllar (MA ’96, PhD ’00). “I learned the world is complicated and messy, and people’s lives are affected not only by how law is written but how it’s enforced.”
Those early observations deeply influenced Cuéllar and led him to a career that brings together law and policy, academic research and government service. It also led to publication earlier this year of his first book, Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies, an account of developments affecting the architecture of U.S. government and its approach to security. Read more »
The spark for Nora Freeman Engstrom’s interest in “settlement mills” came at an unexpected moment while she was watching the 2004 World Series. One law firm ad stood out because it ran over and over again—with the lawyer in the ad enthusiastically encouraging clients to bring their cases to his firm for a quick settlement. “I had to wonder how a local law firm could possibly generate enough profit to purchase expensive ad time during the World Series. What was going on there?”
Since then, Engstrom, JD ’02, has learned a lot about settlement mills, as she calls these high-volume personal injury law practices, and how they resolve a staggering number of claims each year—with virtually no meaningful client interaction, rarely filing lawsuits, and almost never taking claims to trial. Today, her research is filling a significant gap in existing scholarship on how legal services are delivered and marketed at these settlement mills and the profound implications they have on legal ethics, tort law, and the operation of the civil justice system.
Engstrom’s study of settlement mills led her from private practice to academia, from Washington, D.C., to Stanford. It also left her with a lingering question. Read more »
John J. Donohue III, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, has brought his economic expertise and empirical techniques to bear on a number of cutting-edge social issues. In stark contrast to many legal academics, whose work deals largely with the historical or theoretical, Donohue is renowned for his use of large-scale statistical studies that estimate the impact of law and public policy on a variety of areas, including everything from employment discrimination to school funding to crime control. Among his highly acclaimed articles are “Shooting Down the ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Hypothesis” (with Ian Ayres) and “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” (with Freakonomics co-author Steven D. Levitt). Read more »
Alison D. Morantz has an orange hardhat and a block of bituminous coal in her office—keepsakes from visits she made to a gold mine and a coal mine several years ago. "I found it interesting," she says, responding to a question about whether she was scared. The underground worlds were, she recalls, like underground cities—dark labyrinths of tunnels and off–shoots, extending for miles, hundreds of feet below the earth's surface. Read more »
Should black women be held hostage to the failings of black men? That’s the provocative question at the heart of a new book by Ralph Richard Banks (BA '87, MA '87), the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law. His book–Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone–has attracted attention from an extraordinary range of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and ESSENCE magazine, each publishing exclusive essays or excerpts just prior to the book's release. Read more »
Jenny S. Martinez, Professor of Law and Justin M. Roach, Jr. Faculty Scholar, shares an excerpt from her forthcoming book on slavery and the evolution of International Human Rights Law: "In the year 1800, slavery was normal. European countries used international law to authorize and justify the ownership of human beings. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, an estimated 609,000 slaves arrived in the New World. Within a relatively short time span, however, things began to change." Read more »
New York City's Special Services for Children was in the midst of a severe financial crisis in 1976, with shrinking resources and rising need. Mark Kelman, fresh out of law school, was the director of criminal justice projects for the Fund for the City of New York. Read more »
Barbara Babcock feels very close to Clara Foltz, though the two have never met. Foltz was famous in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a jury lawyer, public intellectual, leader of the women's movement, inventor of the role of public defender, and legal reformer.
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Uncomfortable shoes trouble Deborah Rhode. And not only because they hurt. She's concerned that ninety years after women got the vote and almost five decades after The Feminine Mystique was published—in a time dubbed "post-feminist" when women are now in the majority at universities and in the workforce (if not the boardroom)—there is a surgery specifically designed to sculpt a woman's foot so that it fits into pointed shoes. Read more »
Barbara van Schewick's recently published book Internet Architecture and Innovation is a modern-day Christmas Carol, with the ghost of the Internet past meeting a present and future much constrained by tinkering. Written for a broad, interdisciplinary audience, this is not an overly technical text. Read more »