Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.
“As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of . . . access to the legal system. . . . A lawyer should be mindful . . . that the poor and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. . . . A lawyer . . . should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest.” Lawyers who lie or steal can face disciplinary consequences for those misdeeds, as they should. They have duties to their clients, to the courts, and to the public; those duties are inconsistent with misrepresenting fact or law, and they are inconsistent with misusing the money or property that others have entrusted to their care. But what about lawyers who “present another person’s ideas, information, expressions, or entire work as [their] own,” thereby engaging in plagiarism? Plagiarizing lawyers have been disciplined based on the notion that they lied, misrepresenting someone else’s ideas or language as their own; they can also be declared copyright infringers for misusing another lawyer’s intellectual property by copying that person’s legal writing without permission.
I began writing this Essay at the foot of the Ko‘olau Mountain Range on the windward side of the island of O‘ahu while on my summer break from teaching. That setting inspired, shaped, and guided the arguments in this Article. Hawai‘i was once an independent and sovereign nation. The native inhabitants of the archipelago enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, which they consumed on a communal and subsistence basis, leaving ample time for the pursuit of social and cultural activities such as surfing and hula. After Hawaiians first interacted with Europeans in 1778, however, the native population began to fight disease, high infant mortality rates, and housing and healthcare inadequacies. Military personnel, missionaries, capitalists, and laborers recruited to work on sugar plantations migrated to the islands en masse, and by the end of the nineteenth century, the native population had been overwhelmed and substantially diminished. Then, in 1893, the U.S. military participated in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The indigenous population continues to experience the ongoing harms of colonialization—today Native Hawaiians in Hawai‘i occupy the bottom rungs of the islands’ socioeconomic ladder.
Professor Kevin Bennardo’s article entitled, Legal Writing’s Harmful Psyche, challenges the core values of the legal writing community. While his fundamental argument is that the legal writing community should focus less on legal writing equity issues and more on scholarly debate, he neither supports this argument nor examines the interrelationship between the two. Moreover, following Professor Bennardo’s advice would likely undermine many of the strides legal writing professors have made over the last two decades; indeed, legal writing professors would once again become isolated, alienated, and silenced, possibly destroying the discipline. By way of background, the legal writing community is comprised of professors who teach legal writing, the vast majority of whom are women. As Bennardo concedes, “legal writing faculty are generally afforded lesser status in legal academia.” When the ABA required that law schools offer “at least one rigorous writing experience” to secure accreditation, they began to adopt formalized legal writing programs4 but did not offer teaching and scholarship support for legal writing faculty. In response, those in the legal writing academy formed the Legal Writing Institute (“LWI”) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (“ALWD”) to provide such support and to advocate on behalf of their membership.
The Unending Conversation: Gut Renovations, Comparative Legal Rhetoric and the Ongoing Critique of Deductive Reasoning
Elizabeth Berenguer, Lucy A. Jewel and Teri A. McMurtry-Chubbs’ Gut Renovations begins from the premise that deductive reasoning, if it is even mentioned at all in the scholarly arguments about the law’s bias, is largely discounted as being a minor player and a neutral organizational tool. This is, the authors argue, not only misguided but also counterproductive. Deductive reasoning, they posit, is not objective or neutral; rather, it is one of the central villains working to perpetuate bias in law. In other words, no matter how much we critique legal doctrine, law will continue to be an ineffectual tool in the fight for social justice as long as we teach deductive reasoning, uncritically, as the way to reason in law. This challenge to one of the most enduring orthodoxies of legal writing and rhetoric alone would make Gut Renovations worth reading and considering.