Dave Schwartz (Northwestern) asked me to alter readers to the following and I am delighted to do so. Please note the Feb. 12 proposal deadline. Proposals (and any questions) should be directed to: CardozoIPIL@yu.edu
"We are pleased to announce the third annual Roundtable on Empirical Methods in Intellectual Property. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Cardozo Law School, and the United States Patent & Trademark Office are negotiating an agreement to co-host the event. The roundtable will take place in Washington, DC at the USPTO on April 29-30, 2016.
The roundtable is intended to give scholars engaging in empirical and experimental studies of IP a chance to receive feedback on their work at an early stage in their research. Accordingly, the roundtable will be limited to a small cohort of scholars discussing projects that are still in their developmental stages. Projects that will have substantially begun data collection by the time of the roundtable are inappropriate. Pilot data collection is, however, appropriate.
The roundtable will be organized around a modest number of projects. Each project presenter will be expected to circulate a description of the project of no more than 10 pages by April 8. Each project will be assigned to an expert commenter and will be allotted 45 minutes of discussion by the attendees.
We welcome applications from scholars in the social sciences and law. Travel and lodging support for presenters will be provided.
Applications are due by February 12. We will notify applicants by March 1."
In the first of a promised 3-part series, Mitch Abdon summarizes RDD in a helpful (and brief) post (here). As the post makes clear:
"RDD is a quasi-experimental method for evaluating program impact when observation units (example, households) can be sorted using some continuous metric (example, income) and program assignment is based on a pre-determined threshold or cutoff point of the sorting metric. Observations just below the cutoff are deemed similar to, and therefore, compare well to those just above the cutoff. In the absence of the program, one would expect that any shifts in outcome variables would happen smoothly alongside minor changes in the running variable. Thus, a large jump in the outcome variable, observed precisely at the threshold value of the running variable, after program intervention can be attributed to the program itself."
Whether parallel lawsuits relying on state law but arising out of federal securities class action are merely duplicative or value-adding (for shareholders) continues to attract both theoretical and empirical attention. A recent contribution to the empirical literature includes a paper by Stephen Choi (NYU) et al., Piling On? An Empirical Study of Parallel Derivative Suits. The paper presents results from a sample of public companies named as defendants in securities actions between 2005 and 2008. A summary of the paper's findings follows.
"We find that while some parallel suits are filed first, potentially providing value in identifying wrongdoing, most are filed after a securities class action (termed “piggyback” parallel suits). Most piggyback parallel suits target cases involving obvious indicia of wrongdoing, indicating that parallel suits do not add value by devoting resources to cases where a securities class action may not already provide sufficient deterrent value. Although we do find that piggyback suits correlate with the targeting of individual officers not already named as defendants in the securities class action, this expansion of defendants is not positively correlated with an increase in settlement incidence, monetary recovery amounts, or attorney fees. One possible way a parallel suit may add value is by imposing different forms of sanctions for wrongdoing. We find that piggyback parallel suits often result in non-monetary, corporate governance settlements, particularly for frequent filing plaintiffs’ attorneys filing a piggyback parallel suit. Corporate governance settlements correlate with significantly lower attorney hours and attorney fees for the plaintiffs’ attorneys. We conclude that such settlements do not represent the product of extensive work by attorneys but are instead used to justify fees in cases where there is no monetary recovery."
As the Supreme Court struggles, once again, with diversity and affirmative action issues in the undergraduate admissions context in Fisher II (click here for the ScotusBlog summary), James Phillips (JD/PhD. cand. -- UC Berkeley) boldly and carefully assesses questions concerning ideological diversity in legal academia. Exploiting data on faculties at the 16 highest-ranked law schools, in Why are There so Few Conservatives and Libertarians in Legal Academia? An Empirical Exploration of Three Hypotheses Phillips engages with three standard explanations for the relative dearth of conservative law professors. The paper's abstract follows.
"There are few conservatives and libertarians in legal academia. Why? Three explanations are usually provided: the Brainpower, Interest, and Greed Hypotheses. Alternatively, it could be because of Discrimination. This paper explores these possibilities by looking at citation and publication rates by law professors at the 16 highest-ranked law schools in the country. Using regression analysis, propensity score matching, propensity score reweighting, nearest neighbor matching, and coarsened exact matching, this paper finds that after taking into account traditional correlates of scholarly ability, conservative and libertarian law professors are cited more and publish more than their peers. The paper also finds that they tend to have more of the traditional qualifications required of law professors than their peers, with a few exceptions. This paper indicates that, at least in the schools sampled, conservative and libertarian law professors are not few in number because of a lack of scholarly ability or professional qualifications. Further, the patterns do not prove, but are consistent with, a story of discrimination. The downsides to having so few conservatives and libertarians in the legal academy are also briefly explored."
A new user-written Stata command, classtabi, generates helpful summary statistics for a standard 2x2 Chi-Square table where only summarized data are available. Values from a 2x2 table can be entered into classtabi to produce the additional classification statistics. To access classtabi, launch Stata and execute "findit" to locate and download the program.
classtabi stores the following in r(): Scalars r(P_corr) percent correctly classified r(P_p1) sensitivity r(P_n0) specificity r(P_p0) false-positive rate r(P_n1) false-negative rate r(P_1p) positive predictive value r(P_0n) negative predictive value r(roc) ROC curve r(ess) effect strength for sensitivity
While evident to most property folks, NPO activity on the conservation easement front during the past few decades has revolutionized land preservation norms. Recently, judges and policymakers have considered whether and, if so, how to modify conservation easements. A paucity of helpful data precluded meaningful analysis and, as a consequence, public debate typically generated more "heat than light." An Empirical Study of Modification and Termination of Conservation Easements: What the Data Suggest About Appropriate Legal Rules, by Gerry Korngold (NY Law) et al., brings much-needed and helpful data to this question. An excerpted abstract follows.
"This article provides and analyzes a previously uncollected dataset that offers guidance on the appropriate rules of law for conservation easement modification. It examines policy goals in light of the data to suggest various modification rules that would be more effective than current practice. The dataset represents a significant sample of easement modifications that have been made during a six year period (2008-2013) and indicates several findings: first, modifications have actually been taking place, despite claims that conservation easements are “perpetual,” apparently indicating that NPOs need flexibility in at least some areas; most of the changes have been “minor” and have been either conservation neutral or conservation positive, though one would expect pressure for more significant alterations over time due to shifts in the environment and human needs; there is a range of types and degree of modifications to this point, suggesting that there should be a spectrum of procedural and substantive requirements for the different varieties of modifications; and, a mandate for a stand-alone, state registry of conservation easements and modifications would allow for improved policymaking.
The article suggests that a doctrine that requires different procedures and substantive rules for various categories of modifications — a sliding scale — may yield the best, policy-based results. The work also identifies and analyzes existing doctrines — federal tax law, specific state statutes, charitable trust doctrine, standing rules, and director liability — that would need to be altered or clarified to adopt effective modification rules."
The University of Arizona College of Law is hosting its third-annual Quantlaw workshop, scheduled for February 12-13, 2016. The theme for this year's workshop in The Empirical Constitution, and the workshop's lead organizer, Chris Robertson (Arizona), invites paper proposals. The organizers describe this year's theme to include: "any empirical/experimental study of issues relevant to constitutional law or procedure, as well as non-empirical studies of constitutional doctrine relevant to data and public access thereto. The program will include works-in-progress sessions for extensive feedback, as well as methods sessions focusing on datasets and analytical tools."
Also noteworthy is that travel stipends are available for "junior scholars" accepted into the workshop ("junior scholars" are defined to include: "those not yet in tenure-track positions, or within five years of appointment.")
More information for those interested is found here. The deadline for submission is January 6, 2016. Specific questions and proposals should be addressed to Prof. Chris Robertson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Given the popularity of a handful of statistical platforms (e.g., Stata, SPSS, R, SAS, etc.), it is sometimes helpful to import code written in one platform into another. A recent post on the Stata Forum list makes just such an inquiry. The first response (from Prof. Richard Williams, Notre Dame, Sociology), emphasizes GNU PSPP software which has the virtue of being free. For those willing to spend $179 (or only $49 for a two-year student license), however, I've used StatTransfer for years. And their are certainly other products on the market as well. Regardless of the solution that one selects, existing products make migrating among various statistical platforms seamless.
A Seventh Circuit panel upholds a warden's interception and confiscation of a number of pornographic magazines, but in extended dicta questions the wisdom of the prison's pornography ban on policy grounds (click here for the opinion; Judge Posner wrote for the court).
What drew my attention to this decision, however, is Andrew Gilden's (Stanford) commentary on how Judge Posner incorporates social science into the judicial decision. "Judge Posner points to a number of studies showing little (or even inverse) correlation between violence and pornography in prison. Now, I have no idea what the prison's past experiences with inmate pornography have been, but I do think the nudge towards empirics and social science is an improvement over the common sense fears that tend to drive regulation of sexual content."
Among the many aspects of the criminal justice system amenable to criticism, "life sentence without the possibility of parole" ("LWOP") has received particular attention recently, principally due to claims about its increased use. LWOP was conceived decades ago as a substitute for the death penalty. Consequently, while capital punishment wanes in the United States, a steadily increasing number of defendants is sentenced to LWOP. The surge in LWOP sentences has attracted critical attention. For example, a recent ACLU Report, critical of LWOP, asserts that "over 3,000 of the 50,000 inmates serving LWOP were convicted of nonviolent offenses."
"... In a few states, it is impossible to find a single inmate sentenced to LWOP for any crime other than murder or the most serious violent crimes. Even in jurisdictions that impose LWOP for crimes labeled “nonviolent,” the inmates are few in number and often present aggravating factors, such as extensive criminal histories or previous violent crimes. Inevitably, criminals sentenced to LWOP will vary in culpability, and some will appear not to merit this punishment. Drawing attention to their plight can spur executive clemency in individual cases. But accusations that the American legal system is rife with “ugly disproportionalities,” at least insofar as this claim is applied to LWOP sentences in the states, appear to have little merit.... Even in jurisdictions that impose LWOP for crimes labeled 'nonviolent,' the inmates are few in number and often present aggravating factors, such as extensive criminal histories or previous violent crimes."
At Jim Greiner's (Harvard) good suggestion, I pass along the following request.
Jim, along with Andrea Matthews, a recent HLS grad, seek assistance on a research project. They are attempting to find as many examples as possible of what they call “randomized field experiments in the United States legal profession.” They define their search as follows: A field experiment conducted in which randomization (or something close to it) was done for the purpose of gaining knowledge in a setting in which randomized (or approximately randomized) assignment replaces a decision/judgment that would otherwise have been made by a member of the U.S. legal profession. To be sure, Jim and Andrea understand that their definition does not correspond to all studies in which randomization (particularly randomization done for another purpose, such as to maintain an appearance of fairness, as when judges are randomized to cases) can be used to gain important knowledge. They have focused on the set of studies identified above because their current research interest is in the way that randomized studies challenge the prevailing epistemological norms and professional identity of those in power in United States law.
To help illustrate what they're looking for, a draft 3-pp bibliography (embedded below in separate pages) illustrates what they've gathered thus far. Jim and Andrea hoping blog readers might know of others and ask that anyone who might know of more email Jim directly at: jgreiner(at)law.harvard.edu
Empirical studies seeking to assess the influence of ideology on judges' decisions are comparatively well-developed in the literature. Less tested, however, is the assumption that the political party of the nominating president and the relevant state senators (who share the nominating president's political party) influence federal district court judges' decisions. To get at this more narrow research question, Jonathan Nash (Emory), in Interparty Judicial Appointments (JELS, 12:4, 2015), exploits a natural experiment. As Nash explains, "[B]etween 1977 and 1998, New York was represented in the Senate by one Democrat and one Republican who had an agreement to divide appointments to the district courts in the state: the senator who shared party affiliation with the president would be allocated three of every four appointments, while the “out‐of‐party” senator would be allocated the rest." An excerpted abstract follows.
"The article employs a novel data set - consisting of all federal district judges appointed to the federal bench in New York during the time period in question, and the senator who recommended each nominee to the nominating president. If the dominant theory - that the party of the recommending senator affects judicial decision making - holds, then one would expect the theory's explanatory power to be at its apex where senators of different parties recommend judges at the same time to the same president. Yet, using median prison sentence length as a proxy for ideology in decision making, the empirical analysis finds no evidence that senatorial ideology has a statistically significant effect on district judge decision making. At the same time, it finds that, indeed, the nominating president's ideology does have a statistically significant effect. The findings are instead consistent with the minority view of lower federal court judges’ ideological leanings - that a lower federal court judge's ideology is in large part a function solely of the nominating president's ideology."
Robert MacCoun (Stanford) and Saul Perlmutter (Berkeley) recently published a fascinating comment in Nature, Blind analysis: Hide results to seek the truth, in which the authors urge empiricists to employ “blinding” at all levels of study, including data analysis. As the authors note:
“Many motivations distort what inferences we draw from data. These include the desire to support one's theory, to refute one's competitors, to be first to report a phenomenon, or simply to avoid publishing 'odd' results. Such biases can be conscious or unconscious. They can occur irrespective of whether choices are motivated by the search for truth, by the good mentor's desire to help their student write a strong PhD thesis, or just by naked self-interest.
We argue that blind analysis should be used more broadly in empirical research. Working blind while selecting data and developing and debugging analyses offers an important way to keep scientists from fooling themselves.”
I am delighted once again to pass along information from Joe Doherty (UCLA) about the 5th Annual Western Empirical Legal Studies (WELS) Conference at UCLA on March 12, 2016. Insofar as WELS is consciously pitched to "law and graduate students," (emphasis added) it fills an important need and presents a wonderful opportunity for interested students. Click here for more information. (Please note the 1.8.2016 proposal deadline.)
Call for Papers: 5th Annual Western Empirical Legal Studies (WELS) Conference at UCLA School of Law
Proposal Deadline: January 8, 2016.
The UCLA School of Law's Empirical Legal Scholars Association (ELSA) is proud to announce the 5th Annual Western Empirical Legal Studies Conference, on March 12, 2016, at the UCLA School of Law.
This is a conference for students (Masters, PhD, and JD) who are conducting empirical research on law, legal actors, and legal institutions (judicial behavior, access to justice, bankruptcy, crime, etc.). It provides a unique forum for junior scholars to present original research and to receive focused feedback from students and law school faculty engaged in similar projects. The first four conferences attracted participants from over a dozen campuses across the U.S.A., Europe, and Asia.