There’s perhaps no more influential opinion on the value of law blogs than when a U.S. Supreme Court Justice chimes in. Let alone that the Justice taught constitutional law at my law school when I was there.
Justice Anthony Kennedy sat down with The Wall Street Journal’s Supreme Court correspondent, Jess Bravin (@jessbravin), on Monday before a student audience at the University of California, Washington Center to discuss matters ranging from the Court to pop culture.
Front and center from the Journal’s edited highlights released this evening is a discussion about law blogs.
Q: Chief Justice John Roberts, among others, has criticized law reviews for publishing articles on obscure subjects that offer little assistance to the bar and bench. Justice Kennedy agreed—but said he had found a substitute.
A: Professors are back in the act with the blogs. Orin Kerr, one of my former clerks, with criminal procedure [and] the internet area, Mike Dorf, Jack Goldsmith. So the professors within 72 hours have a comment on the court opinion, which is helpful, and they are beginning to comment on when the certs are granted. And I like that.
Q: So you’re reading blog posts after cert grants?
A: I have my clerks do it, especially with the ones when we’ve granted cert, to see how they think about what the issues are.
This wasn’t the first time Justice Kennedy discussed the value of law blogs.
As I blogged 3 years ago, Justice Kennedy explained to an audience at George Washington Law School then how law review case comments came out too late to be of use to the Court (especially in the context of deciding whether to grant certiorari in a case). As a result, when Justice Kennedy asked his clerks to look for commentary they read law blogs.
You can expect law blogs to have a growing influence with the courts as we move towards a day when law blogs will be more prevalent than law reviews. Editors will still play a role, but legal commentary has been democratized with open publishing available to practicing lawyers. Blogs don’t have the gatekeepers law reviews do that limit commentary to primarily law professors and law students.
In addition, immediate commentary and peer review among thought leaders in the law can only take place via blogging. As Justice Kennedy makes clear, traditional law reviews do not provide such commentary.
Lawyers in the United States who are blogging in a real and authentic fashion so as to provide legal insight and commentary ought to take tremendous pride in the role you are playing in advancing legal discussion in this country. Whether in large or small law, or appellate or consumer law, what you are doing is being recognized by the likes of the Supreme Court.
And we’re only scratching the surface when it comes to where we are headed with law blogs.