In a radically new interactive approach to legal scholarship, more than 100 leading scholars are debating the fundamental questions of modern criminal law through a law professor’s version of the TV show American Idol.
Professor Stephen P. Garvey of Cornell Law School, along with Paul Robinson of Pennsylvania Law School and Kimberly Ferzan, professor and associate dean at Rutgers School of Law-Camden, are the guiding professors in a 10-month online effort to create a new method of processing scholarship. In this new project, called Criminal Law Conversations, authors of the top-rated essays can defend their ideas against criticism from the judges, who are other law professors. The essays that receive too few votes get kicked off the stage, which in reality is the University of Pennsylvania Law School Web site, which hosts the Criminal Law Conversations project.
The selected essays will be included in an Oxford University Press book to be published next year.
“Too often opposing advocates talk past each other,” said Paul Robinson, lead editor of Criminal Law Conversations. “You could say that this brings peer review to legal scholarship but it’s more like peer-in-your-face.”
Robinson with co-editors Ferzan, and Stephen Garvey, are guiding professors in a 10-month online effort in which, so far, 120 scholars are participating. They are nominating several dozen scholarly works for discussion, based on the relevancy and compelling nature of the pieces. The author of a nominated work will produce a 4,000-word core text that summarizes his or her thesis, to which four to 10 scholars will then write 800-word criticisms. The original author will reply to the critiques, with these “conversations” making up the published book. ...
The response has been so positive, Oxford University Press is considering applying this model to other areas of the law and other fields of scholarship.